The ‘Jerusalem Awakening’ Is about Religion, Not Politics

The carnage in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel continued this week with an increased ferocity and barbarity, with stabbings, shooting, bombings, car ramming, rocket attacks, and other assaults on Israeli citizens claiming the lives of five Israelis and twenty-five Palestinians in the past two weeks alone. While the violence intensifies and seems to be spiraling out of control, not only touching Jerusalem but also the West Bank, Gaza, and other Israeli towns, officials are intent on identifying the inspiration for the latest escalation of jihad against Jews.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was quick to assign blame, not to the perpetrators of the deadly attacks — psychotic young men acting in the name of Allah to purge the land of Jews — but to the victims themselves, Israelis. Speaking at the Belfer Center at Harvard University, Kerry disingenuously observed in a question and answer session after his talk that, “There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years and there’s an increase in the violence because there’s this frustration that’s growing.” Blaming the settlements for being an obstacle to peace is a favorite refrain for this administration, of course, and it puts the responsibility for the outbreak of violence squarely on Israel, and Netanyahu, instead of where it more justifiably belongs: namely, with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and a culture of death where “resistance” and martyrdom are promoted as virtuous rather than inhumanly counterproductive.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was more accurate in identifying the inspiration of the current uprising, this so-called “Jerusalem Awakening,” that has increased the tension of everyday life for Israelis and Arabs alike. At a weekly cabinet meeting Netanyahu correctly observed that Israel is “. . . in the midst of a wave of terrorism originating from systematic and mendacious incitement regarding the Temple Mount — incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and the Islamic Movement in Israel.”

Secretary Kerry may well wish that it is the dreaded settlements that have motivated young Arab men to begin indiscriminately slashing and shooting Jews, but the prime minister’s view is clearly more accurate, and more believable, given PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s own words of warning when he spoke at the UN at the end of September. He was, he said before the morally-challenged audience, “. . . compelled to sound the alarm about the grave dangers of what is happening in Jerusalem, where extremist Israeli groups are committing repeated, systematic incursions upon Al-Aqsa Mosque . . , while preventing Muslim worshipers from accessing and entering the Mosque at those times and freely exercising their religious rights.”

These actions, Abbas claimed, are “in direct violation of the status quo since before 1967 and thereafter, [and are] aggravating the sensitivities of Palestinians and Muslims everywhere. I call on the Israeli government, before it is too late, to cease its use of brutal force to impose its plans to undermine the Islamic and Christian sanctuaries in Jerusalem, particularly its actions at Al-Aqsa Mosque, for such actions will convert the conflict from a political to religious one [emphasis added], creating an explosive in Jerusalem and in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Putting aside the laughable contention that Muslims care even the slightest bit about the sanctity and protection of Christian holy places, the claim that Israel is trying to destroy or undermine mosques on the Temple Mount is an oft-repeated charge, used by Arabs against Israel as a way of inciting hatred toward Jews for their alleged perfidy and guile. Israeli columnist Nadav Shragrai has referred to this tactic as the “Protect the Al Aqsa Mosque” blood libel — a propaganda tool that has been employed since the 1920s to cause mistrust of Jews when the then-Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, Hitler’s Middle East ally, exhorted Muslims everywhere to defend Islamic holy places in Jerusalem from the pernicious Jews, causing riots, bloodshed, and 133 Jewish deaths.

Abbas was surprisingly candid in admitting that the incursion onto the Temple Mount, where Jews and Christians have traditionally been barred from worshiping, changed the nature of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis from a political debate to a religious war. Of course, a holy war against Israelis specifically, and Jews in general, has been a core tenet of Islam since Jews rejected Mohammed in the seventh century, and animates the foundational charters of the PA and Hamas as part of a theological responsibility devout Muslims feel to purify the world through the extirpation of the rapacious, thieving Jews.

The perceived assault by Israel on the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Temple Mount in general, then, is yet another affirmation to the Muslim world that the scheming Jews seek to weaken and eventually destroy the House of Islam — here in Jerusalem at Islam’s third holiest spot — and replace it with a Third Temple. What seem like random, “lone wolf” attacks on Israeli civilians at bus stops and on streets are actually thought of as part of a religiously-inspired war in the defense of Islam, a holy war in the form of jihad.

The Hamas Charter, for instance, proclaims that the circumstances through which the “Zionist regime” was established through the perfidy of the Jews is, in the honor/shame culture of the Middle East, an open wound on the Islamic world, a situation which demands jihad to restore the sanctity of Islamic land and rid the world of the festering sore that is Israel. “[T]he land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Islamic religious endowment] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day,” the Charter states. “The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem,” stipulating that jihad is not only a tactical choice for ridding Palestine of the Zionist interloper, it is seen as a religious duty; in fact, it is demanded of true believers.

The Charter’s Article 7 also contains the oft-cited hadith which exhorts Muslims to seek out and murder Jews specifically as a sacred obligation. Islamic teaching depicts Jews as the descendants of “monkeys and pigs,” treacherous deceivers, manipulative barbarians and thieves who attempted to murder the prophets, and who are satanic, murderous, unlawful occupiers of holy Muslim land whose elimination is sacralized in Koranic and hadithic precepts.  “. . . The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes,” Article 7 reads. “The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: ‘The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: “Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,” except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.’”

It is no surprise that in a culture marinated in Jew-hatred, where Jews are debased, portrayed as a subhuman species, bacteria, a disease, fomenters of wars and strife — in fact, are portrayed as the enemies of Allah and mankind — the extermination of Jews, especially in defense of Islam and its holy places, would therefore become not only a reasonable goal but a desired outcome. Who would not murder Jews if they pose such threats to mankind and Islam specifically? Who would ever make peace with the eternal enemies of Allah, let alone negotiate a peace and borders for a new Arab state with them? And would not those jihadis who willingly sacrifice themselves to murder Jews in the name of Allah be celebrated as shahids, martyrs, and have town squares and summer camps named for them and their bravery, exactly as they are by Palestinian leadership now?

If Jews are the most wretched of humans, and the “liberation” of all of Palestine — including the Temple Mount, including Jerusalem, including all of Israel — is considered a sacred duty and religious obligation, then the murder of Jews must, and will, continue in this millennial apocalyptic struggle in which devote Muslims see themselves playing a central role.

Abbas’s disingenuous and lethal tactics in inciting rage against Jewish “interlopers” and “defilers” of Muslim holy ground on the Temple Mount are not new. Scholars and archeologists remember, for instance, the howls of outrage that arose from the Arab world in February 2007, when Israeli authorities initiated a project to rebuild a ramp to the Mugrabi Gate, an entrance to the Temple Mount plaza and the Al Aqsa Mosque platform that had been damaged in an earlier storm.  Riots and protests began immediately, with accusations against Israel coming from throughout the Arab world for its “scheme” and treachery in digging under and threatening to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque itself. The committee of Muslim scholars in Jordan’s Islamic Action Front, for one, “urge[d] … jihad to liberate Al Aqsa and save it from destruction and sabotage from Jewish usurpers” — a spurious claim, since construction was taking place well outside the Mount platform, some 100 meters from the mosque, and clearly posed no possible threat.

But false irredentist claims, Islamic supremacism which compels Jews and Christians to live in dhimmitude under Muslim control, and an evident cultural and theological disregard for other faiths — while troubling in the battle over sovereignty in Jerusalem — are not, according to Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, the most dangerous aspects of a diplomatic capitulation which would allow the Palestinians control holy places and to claim a shared Jerusalem. In his engaging book, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Gold pointed to a far more troubling aspect: in their desire to accede to Arab requests for a presence and religious sovereignty in Jerusalem, the State Department, EU, UN member states, and Islamic apologists in the Middle East and worldwide may actually ignite jihadist impulses they seek to dampen with their well-intentioned, but defective, diplomacy.

Why? Because, as Gold explained, “In the world of apocalyptic speculation, Jerusalem has many other associations — it is the place where the messianic Mahdi [the redeemer of Islam] is to establish his capital. For that reason, some argue that it also should become the seat of the new caliphate that most Islamic groups — from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaeda — seek to establish.”

In September, Abbas announced in Ramallah that “We will not forsake our country and we will keep every inch of our land,” reaffirming his belief that all of Jerusalem would, and should, be retained by the Palestinians as the capital of their new state. “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every shahid [martyr] will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God.” In fact, the establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is the first important step in the long-term strategy to rid the Levant of Jews and reestablish the House of Islam in all of historic Palestine. “Jerusalem’s recapture is seen by some as one of the signs that ‘the Hour’ and the end of times are about to occur,” Gold suggested. “And most importantly, because of these associations, it is the launching pad for a new global jihad powered by the conviction that this time the war will unfold according to a pre-planned religious script, and hence must succeed.”

So far from creating a political situation in which both parties — Israelis and the Palestinians — feel they have sought and received equal benefits, such negotiations and final agreements would have precisely the opposite effect: destabilizing the region and creating, not the oft-hoped for Israel and Palestine “living side by side in peace,” but an incendiary cauldron about to explode into an annihilatory, jihadist rage. Those in the West who are urging Israel “to redivide Jerusalem by relinquishing its holy sites,” Dore cautioned, “may well believe that they are lowering the flames of radical Islamic rage, but in fact they will only be turning up those flames to heights that have not been seen before.” If Kerry’s State Department and other Western diplomats are intent on mollifying the Arab street by pressuring Israel to divide Jerusalem as a peace offering to the Palestinians, it may well be setting into motion the exact opposite result — a jihadist, apocalyptic movement invigorated by the misguided diplomacy of the West that, once more, asks Israel to sacrifice its security and nationhood so that Islamists can realize their own imperial and theological ambitions at the Jewish state’s expense.

About the Author
Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, immediate Past-President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews (A David Horowitz Freedom Center book).
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