“How wrong we were when we thought that Israel was preventing Muslims from visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” — Ali Al-Aslami, Emirati social media user, Twitter, October 19, 2020.
By Khaled Abu Toameh, The Gatestone Institute
In the past few years, the Palestinians have regularly condemned Jews for visiting the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) in Jerusalem. The Palestinians depict the visits by Jews as “incursions” and claim that the visitors “defile” the Al-Aqsa Mosque when they enter the compound.
The Jewish visitors, however, do not set foot inside the mosque; they only tour the outdoor compound under the protection of the Israeli police. It is also worth mentioning that Palestinians often hurl insults at the Jewish visitors and try to physically assault them.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the place toward which Jews turn during prayer. Among Sunni Muslims, the Temple Mount is considered the third holiest site in Islam.
The Palestinians are now saying that they are opposed not only to Jews visiting the holy site, but also to Muslims who believe in peace with Israel.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, a Muslim who believes in Israel’s right to exist is not entitled to enter the Temple Mount or pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Why? In the world of the Palestinians, a Muslim or Arab who makes peace with Israel is a “traitor” who does not deserve to enter the compound. Although the site is sacred to all Muslims, the Palestinians have somehow convinced themselves that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is their private property and that they have the right to prevent other Muslims from praying there.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction is currently spearheading a campaign to prevent Muslims from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — the two gulf states that recently signed peace agreements with Israel — from visiting the Temple Mount.
The PA mufti in Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, was the first to ban Muslims who believe in normalization with Israel from visiting the site. Hussein announced that Muslims who want to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque are welcome as long as they do not come through Israel.
He added that praying at the mosque is not permitted for Muslims who establish relations with Israel. In addition, he said, Palestinians are prohibited from receiving or dealing with any Muslim who believes in normalization with Israel.
Another senior Palestinian Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ekremah Sabri, said that the visits of Muslims who believe in peace with Israel to the holy site “are not less dangerous than the [Jewish] settlers’ storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Sabri pointed out that recent visits by UAE Muslims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem “are a clear result of the crime of normalization” with Israel. He added: “It is shameful for those delegations to come under Israeli protection.”
Monir al-Jaghoub, a senior Fatah official, warned that Palestinians would throw an “old shoe in the faces” of Muslims who enter Jerusalem under Israeli protection.
This is one of the few issues that Fatah seems to agree on with its rivals in the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas.
“This condemned visit is a disregard for the feelings of the peoples of our Arab and Islamic nation, and an encouragement for the Zionist occupation to make more and more continuous incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Abdel-Latif Al-Qanou, a spokesman for Hamas, told Anadolu Agency. “The entry of a Gulf delegation to the Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli protection is a stab in the back of our Palestinian people.”
Those threats are the reason why Palestinians insulted and expelled an Emirati delegation that recently visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Were it not for the presence of Israeli policemen and security guards, the visit would have ended in an ugly manner with violence or bloodshed.
The threats and abuse by the Palestinians have drawn sharp criticism from several Muslims, especially those living in the Gulf states. These Muslims, offended and humiliated by the Palestinians’ rhetoric and provocations, have retorted by condemning the Palestinian “thugs” who harass and insult Muslim worshippers during their visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
These Gulf Muslims are also demanding an end to the Palestinian “monopoly” over the Islamic holy site in Jerusalem. They are saying in effect: “The Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to all Muslims, and not only the Palestinians.” Others have gone as far as calling for “liberating” the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the hands of Palestinian “thugs.”
Saudi journalist and author Abdel Rahman Al-Lahim: “It is very important for the Emiratis and Bahrainis to discuss with Israel ways of liberating the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Palestinian thugs in order to protect visitors from Palestinian thuggery.”
Al-Lahim wrote defiantly on Twitter: “I will continue, with the help of God, to expose Palestinian thugs and confront them to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque from these bastards. We will remind the world of their (the Palestinians’) terrorist crimes in Jordan and Lebanon.”
Commenting on the humiliation of the members of the UAE delegation during their visit to Jerusalem, Saudi writer and media personality Abdullah Al-Bander accused the Palestinians of ingratitude toward Arab countries that supported the Palestinians. The Palestinians, he noted, “insulted and cursed Muslims inside a mosque. The UAE is one of the largest countries, after Saudi Arabia, that supported the Palestinian people in providing aid to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).”
Saudi political analyst Sattam Al-Harthi denounced the Palestinians’ abusive response to the visit of the Emirati delegation. He “expected,” he said, “the Palestinians to greet their Arab brothers with flowers and open their homes to them.”
Emirati political activist Laila Al-Awadhi asked: “Are these the Palestinian ethics of hospitality? Is it one of the fundamentals of religion to insult the mosque? Are these the morals of the Arabs?” Addressing the Palestinians, she added: “We will visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque because it does not belong to you, it belongs to all Muslims.”
‘A Malevolent Muslim Brotherhood Ideology’
Emirati writer Yaqoub Al-Rayss accused Hamas “mercenaries” of being behind the assault on the Muslims who visited the mosque in Jerusalem. “Here you see that the story is not about religion and ethics much as it is a malevolent Muslim Brotherhood ideology,” he remarked. (Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.)
Ali Al-Aslami, an Emirati social media user, replied to Al-Rayss: “How wrong we were when we thought that Israel was preventing Muslims from visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Ahmed Nasir, in an article published in the weekly UAE newspaper Al-Ain, accused Qatar, Turkey and the Palestinians of hypocrisy and “trafficking” in the Palestinian issue. Nasir pointed out that the visit of the Emirati delegation to the Al-Aqsa Mosque “came as one of the fruits of the peace treaty signed by the UAE and Israel on September 15, and as an Emirati message to the Palestinians and that the treaty supports their issue.”
Qatar and Turkey, Nasir added, “tried to disrupt the visit, distort its objectives and attack it as part of a despicable scheme to thwart and distort the UAE’s peace efforts.” He pointed out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a Qatari minister visited the mosque in the past but were not insulted by the Palestinians.
“The traffickers in the Palestinian issue are inciting against the UAE only because it has begun to search for practical solutions that contribute to the spread of security and stability, and the restoration of legitimate Palestinian rights,” Nasir argued.
The furious response of these Muslims to the Palestinian assault on the Emirati delegation is yet another sign of the deepening crisis between the Palestinians and the Arab world, particularly the Gulf states. It is obvious that the arrival of tourists to Jerusalem boosts the economy at a time when the city is facing economic hardship due to coronavirus restrictions. Yet, once again, the Palestinians have opted for hating Israel and any Arab who seeks peace with it over improving their basic living conditions.
There is an additional aspect to the angry reaction of these Muslim and Arab writers: some Muslims feel safer visiting a mosque under Israeli protection than without it. Israeli policemen have protected Muslims who were visiting a mosque from being attacked by other Muslims — for supposedly promoting normalization with Israel. No wonder, then, that Gulf Muslims are now demanding an end to the exclusive control Palestinians that wield over the third-holiest site in Islam.