by Peggy Shapiro
April 25, 2011
Palestinian police shouting “Allahu akbar” opened fire on Jews praying at Joseph’s Tomb Sunday, killing one and wounding four. The worshippers were attacked as they were exiting the prayer site by PA policemen, who according to the IDF “were fully aware that the men they fired on were Israeli worshipers who were unarmed and posed no threat…” The murder was followed by Palestinians rioting and burning tires at Joseph’s Tomb
The attack is far from an aberration; it is an expectation of the religious intolerance Jewish worshippers have received and can expect if Palestinians gain their demands for control of Judaism’s holiest sites.
The incident is not the first Arab violence at Joseph’s Tomb. Under the Oslo Agreement, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was committed to protecting it and other holy sites, Jewish and Christian, and to ensure access by all. On October 7th, 2000, Palestinians mobs overran the site, killed a soldier, and ransacked the place, burning Jewish prayer books, and reducing the sacred site to a smoldering heap of rubble. An Associated Press dispatch reported, “the dome of the tomb was painted green and bulldozers were seen clearing the surrounding area,” as the Palestinian Arabs sought to transform the biblical resting place of Joseph into a Muslim conquest.
The Arab strategy is to claim that each and every Jewish Holy place is rightfully a Muslim site. (The western media usually acquiesce to this revision of history.) Once they seize control and deny Jews access, Arabs desecrate and destroy the very places they had recently deemed “holy.” After Jordanians captured the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in 1949, the local Arab population began a systematic desecration and looting of Jewish sites. Fifty-seven ancient synagogues were ransacked and defaced and 12 were totally and deliberately destroyed. This condition continued until Jordan lost control of Jerusalem in June 1967.
Last October, Palestinians won their appeal to UNESCO to convert two of Judaism’s holiest places, Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, to mosques. These sites, which for 3,800 years have been the focal point of Jewish history, have no religious significance to the Palestinians. Their only value to Palestinians is to destroy them and thus deny their existence and the long Jewish connection to the land.
The issue is not one of sovereignty or borders. It is not one of geography or politics. It is one of religious genocide and designed to erase a people and a religion from the face of the Earth. For those so accustomed to Muslim “outrage” at any demonstration of Jewish heritage, today’s murder might be explained away by permits and Arab sensibilities: however, to understand it is necessary to reverse roles for a moment. Arabs, Christians, Hindus, Ba’hais are allowed to worship when and how they please in Israel. Imagine if Muslims were attacked by Israeli police as they approached the Dome of the Rock for Friday worship and if afterwards, mobs threw burning tires on the prayer rugs and shattered every holy object. The ensuing riots would make the reaction to a Danish cartoon seem a picnic. Why are religious humiliation and intolerance against Islam condemned when they pass as normal against Judaism?
The gravest danger is if Palestinians prevail at the UN this September and receive a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State with the 1967 borders. Then all of Judaism’s holy sites would fall victim to Arab control. This Passover’s Palestinian shooting of Jews praying at Joseph’s Tomb foreshadows the devastation to all Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and the demise of Jewish religious freedom in the Jewish homeland.
Update – Leo Rennert adds:
During the Passover holiday, Palestinian police fired at a group of Jewish worshipers who had just prayed at Joseph’s Tomb in a West Bank area under complete control of the Palestinian Authority. One worshiper was killed; several others were wounded. A short while later, fires were set outside Joseph’s Tomb.
The media promptly fell in line with the PA’s alibi, blaming the victims. Their visit to the ancient tomb was not authorized; it had not been coordinated in advance with the Israeli army and Palestinian officials. Proper escorts for visits are arranged twice a month. But in this case, Jews “sneaked” into Joseph’s Tomb, as the Washington Post put it. The New York Times called it more delicately a “surreptitious visit.”
However, what neither the Times nor the Post bothered to ask is why Jews should be restricted at all from praying at Joseph’s Tomb. After all, Israel puts no such obstacles in the way of Christian pilgrims praying at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or Muslims praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque atop Temple Mount. Why shouldn’t observant Jews enjoy similar full access to their sacred sites? Where is it written that Jews should settle for less than people of other faiths?
The fatal incident involving Joseph’s tomb was by no means an isolated one. Since Palestinians gained autonomy in the West Bank under the Oslo Agreements, Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem became a shooting gallery for Palestinians intent on barring Jewish worshippers. An ancient synagogue in Jericho was desecrated. And, at the start of the second intifada, Joseph’s Tomb itself sustained massive damage from Palestinian attacks on the site.
Yet, under the 1996 Oslo Interim Agreements, Palestinians solemnly pledged that Jewish worshipers would have “free, unimpeded and secure access” to all sacred Jewish sites under Palestinian control. Tell that to Ben-Yosef Livnat, 25, a father of four, who was killed for reciting prayers at Joseph’s Tomb. What happened to his right to unimpeded and secure access?
By repeatedly and blatantly violating this so-called peace agreement, Palestinians have shot themselves in the foot — big-time. Because there is no more important test of their readiness for statehood than their respect for the sacred roots of Jews in their ancient homeland — or lack of same.
In recent years, Israel removed scores of roadblocks and checkpoints to facilitate Palestinian movement in the West Bank, along with other confidence-building measures. But there has been no Palestinian reciprocity. Just the opposite. PA officials have signaled that they’re intent on removing all Jews — and vestiges of Jewish life – once they attain sovereignty.
Palestinian leaders could have shown some smarts by responding with confidence-building measures of their own — by making it much easier, for example, for Jews to pray at Joseph’s Tomb. Just imagine the impact on Israeli public opinion if the PA unilaterally had put in actual practice “free, unimpeded and secure access” to this sacred site. In other words, if Palestinians actually demonstrated that a peace agreement is more than a disposable piece of paper.
But instead, as Abba Eban famously noted, Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.