The Palestinian Authority-Fatah attack on Jewish worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb

From incitement to attempted murder.

Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli soldiers near Joseph's Tomb in Nablus/Shechem early on Oct. 17, 2019, as thousands of Jews visit the grave during Sukkot. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli soldiers near Joseph's Tomb in Nablus/Shechem early on Oct. 17, 2019, as thousands of Jews visit the grave during Sukkot. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch
Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch is the director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; a senior legal analyst for Human Rights Voices; and a member of the Israel Defense and Security Forum.

As Palestinian Media Watch often reports, the Palestinian Authority continuously incites violence and terror. As a general rule, it is difficult to attribute specific attacks to a particular event, speech or publication—only to the general atmosphere of incitement. However, on some occasions, even if the incitement is subtle, the timing and geographical location of a specific attack leave little doubt that incitement was directly responsible.

The attack carried out by Palestinian terrorists on the night of June 29, in which they attempted to murder Jews visiting the site of Joseph’s Tomb, is a perfect example.

The tomb of the biblical patriarch Joseph is located in the city of Nablus, which is under the complete control of the P.A. It is one of the sites specifically mentioned as a “Jewish Holy Site” in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Peace Agreement. Article V, Annex I of the agreement states that security arrangements are meant to “ensure free, unimpeded and secure access to the site” and “ensure the peaceful use of such site, to prevent any potential instances of disorder.”

Despite this explicit commitment, Jews are only permitted to visit the site—usually no more than once a month—under the cover of darkness in organized convoys protected by the IDF. Jews who attempt to enter the site without prior coordination face potential death, as was the case with Ben-Yosef Livnat, who visited the site in April 2011 without coordination and was killed by members of the P.A. security forces.

In order to prevent even the organized visits, the P.A. rewrites history, claiming the tomb as an Islamic waqf—an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law. Visits to the site by Jews are condemned and referred to as “invasions.”

For example, official P.A. television stated on June 25, “This historical city [Nablus] contains in its neighborhoods a number of holy sites, and perhaps the most famous of them is the holy site of Prophet Yusuf [Joseph’s Tomb], which has gained great publicity because of the occupation’s recurring attempts to take control of the site, and [the occupation’s] scaring of the city’s residents through nightly invasions every week on the excuse that the extremist [Jews] visit the site under protection of the occupation army. … The site is registered under the name ‘the Holy Site of Prophet Yusuf’ in the Nablus Waqf.”

The P.A. uses the same terminology to refer to the Temple Mount and its Jewish visitors. The underlying message is clear: These sites are Muslim holy sites for Muslims only; Jews have no connection to them and have no right to visit them; and believing Muslims should do their utmost to “protect” these sites from Jews.

Just days after the P.A. broadcast the claim above that Joseph’s Tomb is an “Islamic waqf,” Palestinian terrorists attacked a convoy of Jewish worshippers entering the site and worshippers at the site itself. Apparently, the alleged holy status of the Tomb does not prevent terrorists from attacking it.

Gloating about the attack, which sent Jewish worshippers running for cover, the official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida declared on July 1, “Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus has stories and narratives and the city has its young people who are resisting the [Jewish] invaders and attackers who have come to it, and are competing among themselves over rejecting all appearances of the occupation. They are armed with the right of the land whose identity they bear and with the right of the homeland that they grew up on loving it and declaring rebellion against the sights of invasions of the city, which came this time on Talmudic [Jewish] religious pretexts” (emphasis added).

The Fatah Party, headed by P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, also gloated and took responsibility for the attack. On June 30, the official Fatah Facebook page posted a video of an Israeli bus entering Nablus under automatic weapons fire and stated, “Mere seconds reveal the cohesion and integration that leads the national movement to achieve what is possible in politics in order to impose all types of struggle and resolution.”

It added, “The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades: If they say [it] they carry [it] out.” The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is the internationally-designated terrorist wing of Fatah.

The internationally-designated terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also claimed responsibility for the attack on Joseph’s Tomb, saying that it was a response to the death of PIJ terrorist Muhammad Mar’i.

The independent Palestinian news agency Safa reported on June 30, “The Nablus Brigade of the Al-Quds Brigades [Islamic Jihad’s military wing] took responsibility for the shooting operation that took place in the morning hours today, Thursday [June 30], in the area of Joseph’s Tomb in eastern Nablus.”

“In a statement that reached Safa, the Nablus Brigade explained that the operation came in response to the death of Muhammad Maher Mar’i, a member of the Jenin Brigade, who ascended to Heaven as a Martyr yesterday, Wednesday, on the land of Jenin,” it added.

IDF Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch is Director of Legal Strategies at Palestinian Media Watch.

This article was originally published by Palestinian Media Watch.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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