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Israel’s plan to make the Cave of the Patriarchs wheelchair accessible by installing an elevator has already been condemned by the PA as “Judaization,” as documented by Palestinian Media Watch.

But now, the PA is ratcheting up its rhetoric against this improvement – which will benefit not only Jews but also Muslims coming to the holy site – to a whole new level of incitement, to the point that the PA’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash threatened that such “aggression” will “have a cost” and warned that “the Palestinians are prepared to do anything.” He described Israel’s activities at the Cave as “tantamount to igniting a religious war in the region and in the world”:

“[Al-Habbash said] this oppressive decision against the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., Cave of the Patriarchs) is a strengthening of the Israeli aggression and a continuation of the provocation of the Muslims’ sensibilities. Al-Habbash added that the occupation state and its leaders will bear the consequences of this continued arrogant behavior, and that aggression towards our holy sites will have a cost. He warned that the Palestinians are prepared to do anything in order to protect our religion and holy sites and defend them – regardless of the cost, and regardless of the sacrifices. Al-Habbash described the Israeli ruling as an attack on our religion and holy sites, and [said] that this will have severe consequences and is tantamount to igniting a religious war in the region and in the world.”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, Aug. 4, 2020]

Al-Habbash sought to spark an international confrontation by asking UNESCO to “intervene and stop the Israeli aggression against the Ibrahimi Mosque,” citing a UNESCO resolution that the PA interprets as confirming that “the Ibrahimi Mosque is a purely Islamic heritage [site], and that there is no right to it for anyone who is not Muslim.” (see note below –Ed.) [WAFA, official PA news agency, Aug. 4, 2020]

Along the same lines, PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Malki called Israel’s improvement of conditions at the Cave of the Patriarchs a “war crime”:

“[PA] Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Al-Malki said that what the occupation authorities are carrying out… in Hebron and their harming of the Ibrahimi Mosque constitute a war crime and a violation of all the international laws… [and that] the occupation is attempting to strengthen the colonialism, occupation, and forgeries that it is committing on our land, our heritage, and our history.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 6, 2020]

Al-Malki also called on UNESCO to inspect “the deliberate Israeli destruction of the values of world art, heritage, and culture of the Palestinian sites,” and urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “hurry in launching a criminal investigation against the occupation’s leaders who are intentionally destroying the Palestinian heritage sites.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 6, 2020]

Indeed, Israel’s adaptions of the Cave for the needs of disabled visitors is such a problem for the PA that PLO Executive Committee member and Head of the PLO Department of Human Rights and Civil Society Ahmed Tamimi threatened to unleash a third intifada – a wave of Palestinian terror – over it. In a warning, he reminded Israel of “the Palestinian people’s willingness to go to the furthest extremes in order to defend its right and basic principles”:

“[Ahmed Tamimi] said that the Executive Committee… will discuss the occupation’s violations against the Ibrahimi Mosque…
Tamimi warned: ‘The Palestinian people doesn’t lack means to defend itself, its homeland, and its holy sites if the international community will continue to be negligent in upholding its obligations. The Palestinians have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of Martyrs and wounded and over a million prisoners over the course of the conflict with the Zionist movement and its occupying entity. The Palestinian revolutions and intifadas throughout the generations are proof of the Palestinian people’s willingness to go to the furthest extremes in order to defend its right and basic principles.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 8, 2020]

The following are longer excerpts of the statements cited above:

Headline: “Al-Habbash – the occupation government’s decision regarding the Ibrahimi Mosque is aggressive and we will oppose it in all ways”
“Supreme Shari’ah Judge of Palestine and [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas’] Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations (sic., see below) Mahmoud Al-Habbash condemned the occupation government’s decision to allow the settlers to build an elevator inside the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron (i.e., Cave of the Patriarchs, refers to a project for handicapped accessibility to the site), and giving the authority to supervise this to the so-called Israeli [Civil Administration] Planning Council.

He emphasized his absolute opposition to this bullying decision, since the authority to manage the Ibrahimi Mosque belongs to the Palestinian [PA] Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Hebron Municipality – and no one else.

Al-Habbash said in a press statement today, Tuesday [Aug. 4, 2020], that the occupation’s courts have no legal legitimacy, and they are one of the occupation’s wings that work diligently on legislation allowing the theft of our lands and holy sites and limiting our people’s freedom. [Israel] never was a symbol of justice, but rather always was a refuge for criminals and terrorists, including settlers and the occupation soldiers who are committing crimes against our people and its holy sites.
The supreme Shari’ah judge added that this oppressive decision against the Ibrahimi Mosque is a strengthening of the Israeli aggression and a continuation of the provocation of the Muslims’ sensibilities. Al-Habbash added that the occupation state and its leaders will bear the consequences of this continued arrogant behavior, and that aggression towards our holy sites will have a cost. He warned that the Palestinians are prepared to do anything in order to protect our religion and holy sites and defend them – regardless of the cost, and regardless of the sacrifices. Al-Habbash described the Israeli ruling as an attack on our religion and holy sites, and [said] that this will have severe consequences and is tantamount to igniting a religious war in the region and in the world.

Al-Habbash asked the international community, and particularly the [UN] Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – UNESCO, to intervene and stop the Israeli aggression against the Ibrahimi Mosque, particularly because this institution has already published an international resolution in which it emphasized that the Ibrahimi Mosque is a purely Islamic heritage [site], and that there is no right to it for anyone who is not Muslim (see note below –Ed.). At the same time, Al-Habbash demanded that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League immediately act to stop this attack and implement a policy of interests with the large states to pressure the occupation state, restrain its aggression, and [make it] recant before it is too late.”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, Aug. 4, 2020]

Mahmoud Al-Habbash also serves as Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice. In August 2019 PA Chairman Abbas dismissed all his advisors by Presidential decree. It is unclear what their status is today.

UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) passed a resolution in Krakow, Poland, on July 7, 2017, submitted by the Permanent Delegation of Palestine to the UN, inscribing the Old City of Hebron – which includes the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried – on the World Heritage List, acknowledging it as a Palestinian heritage site.It also inscribed it on the List of World Heritage in Danger, stating that it “considers that the property is faced with serious threats which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics and for which an immediate action by the World Heritage Committee is needed,” said threats apparently coming from the Israeli military control of the area.The resolution was passed in a secret ballot with 12 countries voting in favor, 3 against, and 6 abstaining.This resolution is one of many UNESCO resolutions that are frequently passed condemning Israel, particularly regarding Jerusalem.It should be noted that according to the UN Charter itself, UN General Assembly resolutions are only “recommendations” and have “no legal power that affects the outside world.” UN Security Council Resolutions are only binding if they were adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council are clearly prejudiced as noted by human rights expert Christine Cerna: “In my view Israel has a unique status in the UN Human Rights Council. Impartiality is not a requirement sought by the Council for the appointment of experts when it comes to Israel.”UNESCO report on the resolution: http://en.unesco.org/news/two-new-sites-inscribed-world-heritage-listDraft of the resolution: https://www.unwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Amendment-to-41-COM-8B.1.pdf

Headline: “Al-Malki: The harming of the Ibrahimi Mosque is a war crime”
“[PA] Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Al-Malki said that what the occupation authorities are carrying out… in Hebron and their harming of the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., Cave of the Patriarchs, refers to construction of an elevator for handicapped accessibility to the site) constitute a war crime and a violation of all the international laws.
In a statement, Al-Malki mentioned the occupation court’s order that permitted the settlers to change the appearance of the Ibrahimi Mosque, which appears on UNESCO’s (UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites List and List of [World Heritage] in Danger under the name ‘Palestine’ (sic., the Old City of Hebron appears on these UNESCO lists, not the Cave of the Patriarchs). He noted that in this way, the occupation is attempting to strengthen the colonialism, occupation, and forgeries that it is committing on our land, our heritage, and our history.
He called on UNESCO Secretary-General [Audrey Azoulay] to take all the steps that are made possible by virtue of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention. He also called on her to dispatch an international delegation to get to know the deliberate Israeli destruction of the values of world art, heritage, and culture of the Palestinian sites that appear on the World Heritage List.
Al-Malki urged International Criminal Court (ICC) General Prosecutor [Fatou Bensouda] to hurry in launching a criminal investigation against the occupation’s leaders who are intentionally destroying the Palestinian heritage sites.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 6, 2020]

Headline: “Tamimi: The issue of the Ibrahimi Mosque will be raised in the [PLO] Executive Committee meeting this Sunday”
“PLO Executive Committee member and Head of the [PLO] Department of Human Rights and Civil Society [Ahmed Tamimi] said that the Executive Committee meeting on Sunday [Aug. 9, 2020], as a completion of the previous meetings, will discuss the occupation’s violations against the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., Cave of the Patriarchs), which are being expressed by taking control of it and revoking the authority of managing and supervising it from the Hebron Municipality (refers to a project for handicapped accessibility to the site –Ed.)…
Tamimi warned: ‘The Palestinian people doesn’t lack means to defend itself, its homeland, and its holy sites if the international community will continue to be negligent in upholding its obligations. The Palestinians have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of Martyrs and wounded and over a million prisoners over the course of the conflict with the Zionist movement and its occupying entity. The Palestinian revolutions and intifadas throughout the generations are proof of the Palestinian people’s willingness to go to the furthest extremes in order to defend its right and basic principles.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 8, 2020]


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