When talking to a group of visiting Harvard students last week about a future division of Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority leader Abbas declared that “the holy sites will remain open to the three [monotheistic] religions at all times. It will be forbidden to prevent any person—Christian, Jew, Muslim—from going and performing his religious rituals.” (Official P.A. TV, March 24, 2019).
Palestinian Media Watch has shown that these remarks directly contradict previous statements made by Abbas, in which he explicitly called for Palestinian violence to prevent Jews from going to Judaism’s holiest site—the Temple Mount. The P.A. chief has repeatedly said that the entire Temple Mount belongs to the Muslims alone, and that the Jews “have no right to defile [it] with their filthy feet.” (Official P.A. TV, Sept. 16, 2015 and official website of P.A. chairman Abbas, Sept. 16, 2015). In 2015, he explicitly called for violence to prevent Jews on the Temple Mount, saying he blessed “every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem.”
In 2014, Abbas called for Palestinians to “prevent” Jews from “defiling” the Muslim and Christian holy places, urging his people to “prevent them” (the Jews) from entering the Temple Mount. Official P.A. TV, which is controlled by Abbas, emphasized the importance of this statement by rebroadcasting it 19 times in three days. Fatah rebroadcast this speech again on July 15, 2017 and Nov. 28, 2018 on their official Facebook page.
Abbas’s tolerant statement to the American students also contradicts the policy of his advisor on religious and Islamic affairs, the PA..’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash. Just last month, Al Habbash condemned the European Union for using the term “Temple Mount,” thereby acknowledging the Jewish connection to the site and the existence of a Jewish Temple in the past, instead of only referring to the location with the Muslim name “Haram al-Sharif,” the Noble Sanctuary.
He demanded that the “E.U. re-examine this statement, avoid harming the Palestinian people’s rights, and retract this term that inherently implies recognition of the occupation state’s right to Jerusalem’s Noble Sanctuary (i.e., Temple Mount), to which the Palestinian people and its leadership firmly object.” (WAFA, official P.A. news agency, March 25, 2019).
P.A. government spokesman Yusuf Al-Mahmoud stressed this fundamental P.A. ideology that the P.A. does not limit its “Muslim ownership” to the Al-Aqsa mosque structure but rather claims the entire Temple Mount compound as part of “the Al-Aqsa mosque,” and “belonging to Muslims only.” (Official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 19, 2019)
On Feb. 18, 2019, Muslims stormed the “Gate of Mercy,” an area on the Temple Mount that had been sealed off by an Israeli court order after being used by Hamas and the banned Islamic Movement to teach hatred and incite violence. In response to the arrest of several people who participated, the following day, P.A. Jerusalem District Governor Adnan Ghaith proclaimed that the “blessed Al-Aqsa mosque belongs to the Muslims only, and that the steps of escalation against the Al-Aqsa mosque harm the sensibilities of the people of Jerusalem.” (Official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 19, 2019)
Echoing this claim, Al-Aqsa mosque preacher Sheikh Muhammad Salim, repeated that “the Al-Aqsa mosque belongs solely to Muslims.” (Official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 2, 2019).
‘We will never accept them’
Rejecting Israel’s rule of law, the P.A.’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash, called Israel’s enforcement of its court decision “a war against Islam.”
He added: “Our people will defend the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque with what is most precious of all to it, and no one will ever have sovereignty over it except the Palestinian people. These steps will never pass, and we will not accept them, regardless of the price … the Arabs and Muslims [have] to act to save Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa mosque, and [Jerusalem’s] Islamic and Christian holy sites.” (Official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 19, 2019).
“The recent P.A.-supported storming of the Mercy Gate compound demonstrates the true nature of the P.A. approach, contradicts chairman Abbas’s overtures of peace to his Harvard guests and underscores the P.A.’s anti-Semitic policies in rejecting Jewish rights on the Temple Mount,” explains Maurice Hirsch, head of legal strategies at PMW.
Last month, P.A. Supreme Shari’ah Judge and P.A. leader Abbas’s adviser Al-Habbash, went even further when he said “the Jerusalem Noble Sanctuary (i.e., the Temple Mount) with all of its parts, including the Al-Buraq Wall (i.e., the Western Wall of the Temple Mount) and Plaza and the area of the ‘Gate of Mercy,’ is a pure Islamic heritage, despite all of the occupation’s attempts to take control of it and carry out its Judaization plots in the holy city.” (Official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 23, 2019)
Nan Jacques Zilberdik, senior analyst at PMW says: “The P.A. goes as far as to reject Jewish rights even to the Western Wall and its plaza, claiming them as well to be exclusively Islamic heritage, and issues almost daily denials of the historical fact of the connection to Jerusalem and the two Jewish temples that stood on the mount, while P.A. officials and media constantly refer to the existence of a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount as a ‘myth.’ Furthermore, Abbas’s remarks to an international audience continue to completely contradict what he is saying to his domestic audience. One has to wonder why, and to whom is he telling the truth?”