When a high-ranking leader in the Palestinian Authority made a statement directly contradicting what he declared to the global media just three weeks ago, the question changes from “did he lie?” to “which time was he lying?” Considering the plethora of important Palestinian policies he has commented on, the question takes on enormous importance.
Palestinian Media Watch reported on Wednesday that Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the PA’s Supreme Shari’a Judge and Religious Advisor to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, declared that the current conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is religious in nature; the ultimate battle described in the Qura’an as the “final promise,” leading to great destruction for the “Children of Israel.”
“Jerusalem is the arena of conflict between us and the colonialist project [Israel],” Al-Habbash said on official Palestinian television on June 30. “Jerusalem’s [Al-Aqsa] Mosque apparently is the heading for the eruption of the conflict and The Battle of History between Islam and the enemies of Islam; between the Muslims and the enemies of Muslims; between the Islamic culture in all its splendor and human glory and the culture of Satan attempting to establish oppression and aggression at the expense of the culture of truth and goodness… This mosque is decreed to be the arena of the battle between good and evil. This mosque and this wonderful city – the city of history, religion, and culture, Jerusalem – are decreed to be the heading of the conflict… Jerusalem is the heading of this battle, this conflict, and this round, which I and many others see as the key, as the first step, as the spark of the battle of the ‘final promise.”’
When addressing foreign media, Al-Habbash stated precisely the opposite. Just three weeks ago, on the eve of Abbas’ address to the United Nations General Assembly, Al-Habbash insisted that the conflict is political and Israel, who he refers to in his speeches aimed at Arabic-speaking audiences as “Satan’s project,” is “marketing it as a religious conflict to the world.”
As its highest ranking religious leader, Al-Habbash is responsible for many of the PA’s major talking points. Al-Habbash originated the narrative that Palestinians lived in Israel 6,000 years ago, “before Judaism and Christianity”, which was adopted by Abbas. At the same time, he has accused Israel of “forgery of History.”
While warning the Palestinians that Israel was planning a “massacre at Al Aqsa”, he later called for a “Ribat” (eternal religious violent conflict) with Israel at the Temple Mount.
Al-Habbash has also been quoted as saying that Palestine is the “homeland of coexistence, tolerance, and rejection of violence.” In a disturbingly intolerant and threatening manner, Al-Habbash stated that “either the Palestinians will restore their right, their land, their dignity, and their Jerusalem to themselves, or there will be no stability or security for anyone – neither here nor anywhere in the world.”
Al-Habbash does not limit his creative rhetoric to Israel. He called David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel “an imbecile.”
The religious leader does sometimes reveal the truth. In April, Al-Habbash criticized Hamas for using Palestinian blood and suffering to earn points in the political arena and the media. He accused Hamas of “selling illusions,” “trading in suffering and blood, trading in victims” so that it could make headlines.