Update from AIJAC
October 9, 2015
Number 10/15 #02
Today’s Update takes a close look at the ongoing wave of terrorism that has engulfed Israel in recent days, and in particular the undeniable and disturbing role that the Palestinian Authority’s leadership has played by inciting the Palestinian public to violence against Israelis.
First up is an expert overview of the situation by the UK organisation BICOM, including key points, a list of recent deaths caused by the violence, a timeline of events tracing the trajectory of the escalation, the contextual background for the violence and a list of recent examples of incitement to violence by Palestinian officials, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
For more from this excellent and concise briefing, CLICK HERE.
Next up is Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, who analyses the level of responsibility of Palestinian President Abbas himself for the escalation in violence. Horovitz concludes that, while there are some points that can be made in Abbas’ defence, ultimately Abbas has proved himself to be a failed leader who has “deliberately fueled the flames” of the current terror wave to score some populist points while avoiding making difficult and courageous moves towards peace that the Palestinian people desperately need. For more on Horovitz’s critique of Abbas, CLICK HERE.
Finally, writing for the Gatestone Institute, award-winning Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh looks at the escalating violence from the Palestinian perspective. Abu Toameh, like Horovitz, sees a direct correlation between the incitement coming from Abbas, PA and Fatah officials and official media organs of the PA and the wave of terror that has swept the country. Abu Toameh also identifies the two faces of the PA: “on the one hand, it is telling the world that it wants peace and coexistence with Israel; on the other hand, it is continuing to incite Palestinians against Israel, and driving some to take guns and knives and set out to murder Jews.” For more of Abu Toameh’s insights into the PA’s dangerous tactics that are endangering the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Isi Leibler writes about the Jewish tradition vis a vis refugees and the issues surrounding the Syrian refugee flows, especially in Europe.
- Bassam Tawil, a scholar based in the Middle East, rails against Palestinian leaders from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for inciting Palestinian youth to violence against Israel by, among other things, using false claims about Jewish activity on the Temple Mount.
- Bahrain has announced the withdrawal of its ambassador from Iran and ordered Tehrans chargé daffaires to leave, following the discovery of a 1.5-ton cache of explosives allegedly linked to Iran and Hezbollah.
- Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies examines the distinct possibility that the nuclear deal with Iran may lead to a devastating war between Hezbollah and Israel.
- Robert Satloff and James F. Jeffrey of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy write that US policy in Syria is failing because the Obama Administration is prioritizing the urgent (rolling back ISIS) over the truly important (preventing Iran and Russia from rearranging Middle East security to their benefit).
- Pre-eminent Israeli commentator Ehud Yaari sees Russias recent activities in Syria as part of a larger strategy to establish itself as a power in the Middle East.
- An examination of the significance of four suicide bombings perpetrated in Yemen by ISIS.
- Respected historian Victor Davis Hanson urges the US Administration not to trust Putin in the Middle East.
- A US State Department spokesman struggles to reconcile the accidental US strike on the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan with earlier Administration comments made during last years Gaza war implying that Israel shouldn’t have carried out strikes against militants located in civilian areas.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
Last updated: 07/10/2015, 15:44
- The latest round of violence, 1 October to 7 October, has seen an increase in stabbing attacks against Israelis.
- Rioting, stone throwing and assaults carried out by mainly young Palestinians in and around Jerusalem has increased since early September; the IDF has responded with force.
- Israeli officials have accused Palestinian officials of fanning the violence through incitement.
Recent deaths as a result of violence
- On 1 October an Israeli mother and father in their 30s, Eitam and Naama Henkin, were shot and killed in front of four of their children as they drove in the West Bank. A cell of five Hamas members was subsequently arrested by the IDF.
- On 3 October, two separate stabbings took place in Jerusalems Old City. In the first incident, 21-year-old Aharon Bennett and 41-year-old Nehamia Lavi were murdered near the Damascus Gate as they walked to pray at the Western Wall. Bennetts wife and two-year-old son were also injured before the assailant was shot dead by police. Just 12 hours later, a 15-year-old Israeli was stabbed and his attacker was shot dead at the scene.
- On 7 October there were two stabbing attacks: an Israeli man was stabbed near the Lions Gate in Jerusalems Old City and in Kiryat Gat an IDF soldier was stabbed by his attacker, who stole the soldiers weapon and was subsequently shot and killed by security forces.
- There have been violent clashes between Palestinian protestors and IDF forces in 64 separate incidents in the West Bank. On 5 October near Bethlehem an estimated 300 people protested near Rachels Tomb, IDF forces were attacked by stones and pipe bombs. On that day the IDF clashed with Palestinian protestors in 64 separate incidents in the West Bank; 13-year-old Abdel-Rahman Abeidallah was killed. The IDF said his death was accidental and the result of a bullet ricocheting off the ground near Bethlehem; another Palestinian was shot dead in Tulkarm on 4 October.
Current trajectory of events
- The increasing levels of violence are pushing both Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaderships to look at how they can de-escalate a dangerous situation, and Israeli and Palestinian security officials met on Tuesday evening.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to restore security in Jerusalem. Whilst he will want to avoid a further escalation, he is facing pressure from right wing groups, including his own cabinet members who participated in a demonstration outside his house, to take much harsher action to restore deterrence. Netanyahu and Defence Minister reportedly challenged right wing ministers in a Security Cabinet meeting over their public criticism of the governments handling of the situation.
- Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah that he had instructed Palestinian Authority security forces to prevent a further escalation in violence. These comments were described as contradictory as the PLO Executive Committee then released a statement which salutes the masses confronting the occupation.
- On 1 October, the Quartet urged both Israelis and Palestinians to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve unchanged the status quo at the holy sites in both word and practice. The Quartet is expected to take a more proactive role in promoting a renewal in the peace process between Israelis and the Palestinians, with representatives of Quartet members expected to visit in the near future.
Background to the on-going violence
- The deadly attacks come against the backdrop of several weeks of tension in the West Bank and especially East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount where Palestinians throwing rocks and firebombs have clashed with Israeli forces on a number of occasions. Meanwhile, projectiles have been routinely hurled at Israeli civilians and several Israelis have been stabbed, including security officers at checkpoints.
- The Jewish holiday period (mid-to-end of September) brought an increase in Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and spurred disturbances. Palestinian youths have repeatedly brought stones, firecrackers and in some cases small pipe bombs into the compound and barricade themselves in the Al Aqsa Mosque with the intention of provoking disturbances and preventing non-Muslims visiting the area. Israeli riot police then ascended the Temple Mount Haram al-Sharif to disarm them, leading to clashes. (For video footage click here.)
- Tensions are heightened by Jewish nationalist groups and politicians who have been seeking to challenge the status quo on the Temple Mount. Uri Ariel, Jewish Home MK and Agriculture Minister, has previously expressed a desire to see the construction of the third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. He was criticised by fellow coalition member and United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni for his recent visit to the Temple Mount. Gafni said, I think it does not make sense. He is the minister of agriculture. Let him be the states minister of agriculture and worry about these issues and not concern himself with Har Habayis [the Temple Mount].
- Violence in Jerusalem was initially spurred by accusations that Israel intends to change the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed that Israel is committed to the status quo which places the site under Islamic religious authority, and tightly restricts non-Muslim access.
- Israeli officials have accused Palestinian officials of fanning the violence through official incitement.
- PA President Mahmoud Abbas has praised Palestinian violence on the Temple Mount, saying, Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded. He said in a meeting with activists in Ramallah, Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [Israelis] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We wont allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.
- Israel has additionally blamed Hamas and Islamist groups inside Israel for this incitement. Meanwhile, the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement, led by Raed Salah, pays Muslim activists, known as Mourabitounto harass Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. The group has now been outlawed by Israel.
- In a statement, the PA accused Israel of escalation, and killing of two young men in occupied Jerusalem, without mentioning that the two men in question had been killed whilst carrying out stabbing attacks on Israeli civilians.
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Op-ed: While ostensibly warning against a religious war, the PA leader has deliberately fueled the flames of the new, murderous Al-Aqsa-centered terror wave
BY DAVID HOROVITZ
Times of Israel, October 4, 2015, 2:52 pm
Benjamin Netanyahu cant be an easy prime minister for Mahmoud Abbas to deal with. Unlike, say, Ehud Olmert.
Netanyahu hasnt offered to relinquish Israeli sovereignty in the Old City in favor of an international tribunal, like Olmert did. Netanyahu has at times intimated some readiness for compromise in Jerusalem, but he hasnt offered to divide the city into Israeli and Palestinian neighborhoods, like Olmert did. Hes indicated a readiness for West Bank territorial compromise, but not for a return to the pre-1967 lines with one-for-one land swaps, like Olmert did.
Except that Abbas didnt accept Olmerts dramatic, unprecedented 2008 peace offer. As Olmert subsequently detailed, Abbas failed to respond to it at all, even though it met all his professed territorial goals for a Palestinian state.
In a November 1, 2012, interview with Israels Channel 2 television, Abbas swore that, territorially, he had no demands on pre-1967 Israel. Palestine now for me is 67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever, he said. So why not take the Olmert deal?
In that same interview, Abbas declared that although he was born in Safed, in northern Israel, he did not feel he had a right to go back and again make it his home. Its my right to see it, but not to live there, he said. So why, in the ill-fated John Kerry-brokered 2013-14 attempt at peacemaking, did Abbas insist that a right of return be available to millions of Palestinian refugees and their second, third and fourth generation descendants, a right that, if exercised, would constitute the death of Israel as a Jewish state?
Finally in that TV interview, Abbas vowed that so long as he was in power, there would be no third armed intifada uprising against Israel. Never, he swore. We dont want to use terror. We dont want to use force. We dont want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. Thats it. So why, a year ago at the UN, did he falsely and despicably accuse Israel of pursuing a policy of genocide in Gaza a charge guaranteed to ratchet up Arab and especially Palestinian hostility to Israel? And why, last week at the UN, while disingenuously warning Israel against transforming the conflict from a political to a religious one, did he intensify his campaign to do precisely that with predictably murderous consequences?
Last Wednesday in New York, Abbas culminated a series of incendiary allegations in recent months about purported Israeli plots against al-Aqsa Mosque by telling the world and, most relevantly, his own watching people that, in Jerusalem, extremist Israeli groups are committing repeated, systematic incursions upon Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli government, he went on, is pursuing a scheme to impose a new reality at the Temple Mount, allowing extremists, under the protection of Israeli occupying forces and accompanying ministers and Knesset members, to enter the Mosque at certain times, while preventing Muslim worshipers from accessing and entering the Mosque at those times and freely exercising their religious rights. In fact, Israel, after capturing the Mount in 1967, capturing the holiest site in Judaism, chose to permit the Muslim authorities to continue to administer its holy places, and barred Jews from praying there. These are arrangements it maintains to this day; arrangements it is, to put it mildly, hard to imagine any other conquering force in such circumstances initiating and preserving.
Those who retain some sympathy for Abbas note that he is, at time of writing, maintaining his Palestinian Authority security forces coordination with their Israeli counterparts. They say its hard for him to condemn the latest acts of Palestinian terrorism because he is already widely seen by his public as an Israeli stooge. They argue that it is not Abbas inciting Palestinian terrorism, but rather Arab media reports and a relentless social media emphasis on alleged Israeli attacks at Al-Aqsa.
But the fact is that Abbas has never sought to counter his predecessor Yasser Arafats assertion that there were no Jewish temples in Jerusalem and thus, by extension, there is no historic legitimacy for Jewish sovereignty here. The fact is that Abbas has allowed no sense of Jewish connection to the Temple Mount to complicate the Palestinian narrative of Israeli-Jewish illegitimacy there. The fact is that Abbas never moved decisively to prevent vicious anti-Israeli incitement in the Palestinian media. The fact is that Abbass PA continued the practice of honoring terrorists and martyrs.
The fact is that Abbas, whom many in Israel have even after 2008 insistently wanted to believe is a partner for peace including Olmert himself, to this day has long since failed his people and ours.
The fact is that Abbas has quite deliberately fueled the flames of this latest Al-Aqsa-centered terror wave.
Bleak and bitter, paralyzed between his empathy for the settlement enterprise and his concern at Israel becoming a binational state, Netanyahu is not an easy prime minister for a Palestinian leader genuinely seeking a viable, lasting peace agreement.
But Mahmoud Abbas is no such Palestinian leader.
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The terrorists did not need permission from Hamas leaders to murder the first Jews they ran into. The inflammatory rhetoric of Abbas and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials and media outlets was sufficient to drive any Palestinian to go out and murder Jews.
Instead of condemning the murder of the Jews, the PA denounced Israel for killing the two Palestinians who carried out the Jerusalem attacks.
The Palestinian Authority and its leaders are in no position today to condemn the murder of any Jews, simply because the PA itself has been encouraging such terrorist attacks through its ceaseless campaign of incitement against Israel.
The PA is playing a double game: it tells the world that it wants peace and coexistence with Israel; meanwhile it incites Palestinians against Israel, driving some to set out with guns and knives to murder Jews.
Although Abbas has repeatedly stated during the past few years that he does not want another intifada against Israel, his statements and actions show that he is doing his utmost to spark another wave of violence, in order to invite international pressure on Israel.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas, cannot evade responsibility for the latest wave of terror attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
True, in the end it turned out that Hamas was behind the murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin in front of their four children, but there is no ignoring the fact that the anti-Israel incitement of Abbas and other Palestinian leaders in Ramallah paved the way for the terrorists to carry out this and other attacks.
The incitement, which has been around for many years, intensified after the arson attack that killed three members of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma in July.
Since then, Abbas and his senior officials have been waging an unprecedented campaign of incitement against Israel in general and Jewish settlers in particular, although the perpetrators of the Duma attack still have not been identified or caught. Palestinian Authority leaders have since accused the Israeli government of committing “war crimes,” and have told their people that the arson attack was actually part of an Israeli conspiracy against all Palestinians.
Abbas has even gone as far as accusing Israel of promoting a “culture of terror and apartheid.” That claim came in addition to threats by senior Palestinian officials to launch retaliatory “operations” against Israel in response to the arson attack.
The West Bank’s Palestinian media, which are controlled by the PA, have also played a role in the massive campaign of incitement against Israel and settlers. Jewish settlers are depicted in Palestinian media outlets as “gangsters” and “terrorists” and the Israeli government is dubbed the “Occupation Government.”
The recent tensions at the Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have also been exploited by Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership to delegitimize Israel and demonize “Jewish extremists and settlers.” For several months now, Abbas and his senior officials and media outlets have been accusing Jewish visitors to the holy site of “contaminating” and “desecrating” one of Islam’s holiest shrines. Palestinian officials and journalists have been telling their people that the Jews are plotting to demolish the Aqsa Mosque. Moreover, they have been urging and encouraging Palestinians to converge on the Aqsa Mosque compound to “defend” it against purported Jewish schemes.
The campaign of incitement reached its peak recently when Abbas was quoted as accusing Jews of “defiling the Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet.” Abbas also announced that, “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood.”
The Hamas terrorists who murdered the Henkins live in the West Bank, and were undoubtedly exposed to the incitement by Abbas and the PA. The terrorists did not need permission from the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip or Turkey to go out and murder the first Jews they ran into. The inflammatory rhetoric of Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials and media outlets was sufficient to drive any Palestinian to murder Jews.
The two Palestinian assailants who carried out last week’s stabbing attacks in Jerusalem wanted to kill Jews because they were led to believe that this was the only means to stop them from “contaminating” the Aqsa Mosque. After all, this is precisely what Abbas and other PA officials have been telling them for the past few months. Again, while the two stabbers were not Abbas loyalists (one of them, Muhannad Halabi, was affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad), there is no doubt that the incitement of the Palestinian Authority played a major role in increasing their motivation to murder Jews.
Halabi, who stabbed and shot four Israelis in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing Rabbi Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Banita, and wounding Adele Banita and her baby, wrote on his Facebook page hours before the attack: “What is happening to al-Aqsa Mosque is what is happening to our holy sites, and what is happening to the women of al-Aqsa is what is happening to our mothers and women. I don’t believe that our people will succumb to humiliation. The people will indeed rise up.” Halabi’s statements are not much different from those made by several senior PA officials in recent weeks and months.
The Palestinian Authority also bears responsibility for the wave of terror attacks: its leaders never condemned the murder of the four Jews near Nablus and in the Old City of Jerusalem. By refusing to denounce the attacks, Abbas and the PA leadership are sending a message to Palestinians that it is fine to murder Jewish parents in front of their children, or Jews on their way to pray at the Western Wall. Instead of condemning the murder of the Jews, the Palestinian Authority chose to denounce Israel for killing the two Palestinians who carried out the Jerusalem attacks. By doing so, the PA is actually inciting Palestinians to seek revenge for the “cold-blooded execution” of the two assailants.
The Palestinian Authority and its leaders are in no position today to condemn the killing of any Jews, simply because it is the PA itself that has been encouraging such terrorist attacks through its ceaseless campaign of incitement against Israel.
In this regard, the PA is playing a double game: on the one hand, it is telling the world that it wants peace and coexistence with Israel; on the other hand, it is continuing to incite Palestinians against Israel, and driving some to take guns and knives and set out to murder Jews.
The Palestinian Authority’s fiery anti-Israel rhetoric has led to a wave of terrorist attacks that could easily deteriorate into a third intifada. Although Abbas has repeatedly stated during the past few years that he does not want another intifada against Israel, his statements and actions show that he is doing his utmost to spark another wave of violence in order to draw the world’s attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and invite international pressure on Israel.