Another spate of violence has been brought to Israelis and Palestinians. Many simply reply “here we go again.” But that is not the way it has to be. The normalization of violence, incitement and hate in Palestinian society can and must end. It starts by holding accountable all leaders and media outlets that incite violence. In the Valley, that means holding accountable Bishara Bahbah, a Palestinian delegate at the Oslo peace talks and a member of the board of directors of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
“The spark of this intifada has been East Jerusalem and the endangerment of the status of Haram Al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, and what the Jews call the Temple Mount,” Bahbah wrote in an article published Oct. 12 in The Arizona Republic.
If you are a reader of many Arab media outlets or Palestinian Authority press releases, this statement seems normal. Of course, Israel is threatening Islam’s third-holiest shrine. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas himself laid the issue on the table last month stating, “They have no right to desecrate the mosque with their dirty feet.”
This fiction would be laughable if it did not stoke anger and terror.
The plaza housing the Al-Aqsa mosque, the beautiful Dome of the Rock, and the site of the ancient Jewish Temple is in no danger from Israeli action. The status quo banning non-Muslim prayer in the plaza remains, is enforced by the Israeli police, and will not change even under right-wing Israeli governance. Jordanian stewardship of the complex and local administration through the Muslim Waqf religious authority continues despite their own incitement.
There is, however, a problem of Arab rioters gathering stones and pipe bombs in Al-Aqsa for use against non-Muslim visitors. Yet the statements of the Palestinian Authority (which Bishara Bahbah helped create at Oslo), the religious Waqf and the Jordanian government are not condemnations of these rioters. The desecration of bringing pipe bombs inside the mosque is not the cause of a firestorm in Arab society. The firestorm is caused by the mythical Jewish endangerment of the status quo.
The result is weeks of terror in Israel. Shootings of parents in front of their children, a suicide car bombing stopped at a checkpoint, and much more. Over a dozen stabbing attacks in Jerusalem led Mayor Nir Barkat to encourage those with military training to carry their firearms to help protect the public. The government stepped up security across the holy city. The military increased its presence near Palestinian areas to meet rioters, arrest those leading the violence and, in rare cases, use deadly force to stop greater horrors. But this response is only a temporary fix while the Arab leadership and media’s glorification of terror and promotion of Israeli otherness festers.
Bahbah called for international action to end Israel’s response to terror and usher in the widely backed but elusive two-state solution. His call would be heeded in Israel if he and the Palestinian leadership would end the lies and incitement. Instead, Israel’s wide public support for two states is slowly eroded by normalized diatribes that beget a suicidal intolerance for one’s neighbors and their beliefs. We must hold the leaders accountable by calling for Bishara Bahbah and all of Palestinian society to stop incitement and terror.
Joel Taubman is a 2014 fellow of the Jewish Leadership Corps, a program of Valley Beit Midrash.