Local Muslim group releases Gaza statement. We added a bit.

Piles of stones inside the Temple Mount mosques, in preparation for unrest against Israel. Photo courtesy Ambassador Gilad Erdan’s Twitter feed.

by Larry Brook

On May 12, our friends at the Birmingham Islamic Society issued a statement about the current conflict in Gaza. Reading over it, we felt there was something missing, so we figured we would provide it.

The content of their statement is in bold.

The Birmingham Islamic Society stands in solidarity with fellow humanitarians in condemning the brutal violence perpetrated against peaceful worshippers in the Al-Aqsa sanctuary in Jerusalem.

Israel and the worldwide Jewish community stand with humanitarians in condemning violence. But this opening sentence has a lot to unpack, as there is a lot of background that is left out, leaving an inflammatory false claim.

Of course, to most media and activists, the story begins with Israeli police, not any violence that came before, making it sound like Israel attacked peaceful worshipers who then pelted police in response.

Ramadan, of course, is a holy time for the Muslim world. Unfortunately, it is often marred by an increase in violence and incitement, and this year was off the charts.

For weeks leading to the current situation, Palestinian television has broadcast shows urging attacks on Israelis, extolling “martyrs” killed while murdering Israelis, and encouraging general unrest.

On May 7, days before the current fighting broke out, a senior Hamas official urged Palestinians to buy and sharpen knives that cost five shekels, and use them to behead Jews in Jerusalem.

For weeks, there was what became known as the “TikTok Intifada,” where Palestinian teens would attack random Jews on the streets of Jerusalem and upload TikTok videos in a perverse competition. That wasn’t widely reported until a Jewish fringe group marched in response, drawing condemnation from across the Israeli political spectrum when some of them chanted “Death to Arabs.”

As background to all this, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas cancelled the promised May elections for the Palestinians, their first in 16 years. Most feel it was because he knew Hamas was going to win in the territories and his 16-year reign for his 4-year term would be over. Hamas, naturally, was beyond annoyed at the decision, though under the Oslo agreements they should not even be eligible for the election as they refuse to recognize the existence of Israel in any form.

Israel is basically the battleground in a fight between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as they try to show their people who can be the better defender of al-Aqsa. Who can hit the Israelis harder? Add to the mix the four Arab countries that made peace with Israel last year, and with the Palestinian leadership feeling more isolated and irrelevant, this is a chance to get back onto the front pages.

Al-Aqsa is a tried and true rallying cry. Though Israel maintains a freedom of access and freedom of worship absent when Jordan controlled the Old City, there is a long history of demagoguery that “Israel is trying to destroy Al-Aqsa.” Those lies have led to thousands of deaths over the decades, but it is still used because it is pretty much guaranteed to raise ire in the Muslim world, true or not.

Al-Aqsa is also the locus of a battle for control between Jordan, which oversees the holy site, and Saudi Arabia, which wants to.

As to this round of violence, huge crowds did worship freely at Al-Aqsa over Ramadan. But there was something else in the mosque — a stockpile of rocks and fireworks, necessary items for any house of worship, no?

After prayers over the weekend, many came out with those rocks and started attacking police and Jews praying at the Western Wall below the Temple Mount. Only then did Israeli police have to intervene against these “peaceful worshippers.” And despite the highly-volatile situation, as Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan pointed out to the United Nations, there were no fatalities.

To claim that Israeli police barged in on peaceful worshipers at prayer in the mosques is gaslighting and incitement of the highest order.

Putting the root causes of the subject conflict aside, there is simply no justification for attacking people engaged in prayers inside a sacred place of worship. 

Israel agrees that there is no justification for attacking people in prayer in a house of worship, though there have been plenty of attacks in synagogues by terrorists over the years. And as Shavuot approaches, some Haredi rabbis are telling their followers not to go to pray at the Western Wall because it is too dangerous and might be seen as provocative. This is one of the three pilgrimage festivals where Jews are commanded to go to Jerusalem!

Can you imagine an imam saying “we’d best skip the visit to Al-Aqsa”?

Despite the conflict, on May 13 there were 100,000 Muslims on the Temple Mount for Eid al Fitr — and the gathering then became an anti-Israel political rally, held on the most sacred spot in Judaism. And those “brutal” Israeli police? They let it go on.

And yes, Al-Aqsa is a sacred place of worship. So why is it being used as a storehouse for stones and other weapons to use against Israelis?

The overwhelming assault on protestors and the residents of Jerusalem followed by indiscriminate bombing by Israeli forces in Gaza, killing Palestinian civilians, including children, is indisputably heinous.

Many of the Jerusalem demonstrations were violent, necessitating a forceful reaction. As for Gaza, remember that Hamas got involved first by lobbing rockets toward Jerusalem last weekend. These rockets have almost no guidance, they just land at random, and it matters not to them what gets hit. It is mind-boggling that they would launch rockets toward Jerusalem if they regard the city as so sacred.

Of course, the rockets launched by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad at Israel — now over 2,350 and counting — are not mentioned, let alone condemned in the BIS statement. It is these rockets, not the Israeli airstrikes in response, that are criminal. The rockets are aimed at civilians in Israel — and among the first deaths were a health care worker from India, and an Arab father and daughter. Hamas not only seeks to kill civilians, but they launch the rockets from civilian areas in Gaza to make it more difficult for Israel to take the launchers out.

Why is that? Their actions betray the slander of “indiscriminate bombing,” as Hamas knows full well that Israel scrupulously works to avoid civilian casualties, even on the Palestinian side. Hamas, and Israel, know that any Palestinian civilian casualty will be magnified by Hamas’ willing accomplices in the media and by human rights organizations to paint Israel as maniacal.

That shows Israel cares more about Palestinian civilians than Hamas does. For Hamas, every dead Palestinian is a publicity win.

Also, it has been demonstrated that about 20 percent of the Hamas rockets don’t even make it out of the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian human rights group has stated that many of the children killed in the current conflict were not killed by Israel, but by Hamas rockets that fell short.

In the West, the toll in Gaza may be described as civilians, but Hamas itself touts the martyrdom of so many of their operatives — enemy combatants, not civilians. It has been shown time and again that Israel targets those responsible for the violence and calls off strikes if civilians are around. Hamas knows this, too, and positions accordingly.

While part of war is the element of surprise, when Israel targets a building as having Hamas assets, it gives plenty of notice so civilians can get away from there. Conversely, Israeli civilians under rocket attack have about 15 to 30 seconds to reach a bomb shelter.

Does anyone doubt that if Israel did not care about Palestinian lives, Gaza could be a parking lot in a day? Would any other country be this restrained after having over 2,000 rockets launched at it?

All this, while already maintaining an illegal blockade that makes it impossible for more than two million people to access adequate supplies of life-sustaining resources like medicine, electricity, clean water, and food.

Gaza could have been a resort enclave, an attractive tourist area and tech hub. But when Hamas took over, it set up a kleptocracy whose priority wasn’t providing governmental services to Gazans or economic opportunity, it was to wage war against Israel.

Yes, there is a blockade — but the blockade also exists, even more stringently, on Gaza’s “forgotten” border with Egypt. Forgotten because nobody bothers blaming Egypt for Gaza’s plight.

All items mentioned — medicine, electricity, clean water and food — can freely enter Gaza. Israel restricts only dual-use items that can be turned into armaments.

Gaza has new shopping malls, a commercial sector and agricultural production, some upper class neighborhoods. But yes, chronic mismanagement and diverting resources to fight against Israel has led to all manner of shortages and problems. The money used to dig reinforced tunnels under the border into Israel — and the now-destroyed “Metro” used by Hamas fighters — could have built dozens of hospitals, schools, industrial zones. But no, Hamas’ priority is war.

This week, Hamas diverted electricity from residential use so they could power their rocket launchers. And those rockets have taken out half of the lines coming into Gaza from Israel, which supplies the bulk of the electricity (which the Palestinian Authority refuses to pay for, as is required by signed agreements, but that’s a whole different issue). During the last round of fighting, Israelis were repairing those power lines while the rockets zoomed overhead. They’re waiting this time.

The forcible displacement of Palestinian families from their homes in which they have lived for generations so that Israeli settlers can move in and occupy them, is not just a violation of international law but is immoral and wrong. 

Wrong is this characterization. The Sheikh Jarrah incident is being pointed to as a trigger for the current hostilities. On what planet would a real estate dispute involving four families would justify raining down over 2,000 rockets?

The dispute involves four families in a mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. The property itself was purchased by Jews in 1875, when Jews had already been the majority population in Jerusalem for decades. It’s near the tomb of Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish sage from the third century BCE (so much for the oft-heard argument that Jews don’t have ties to the land). The area remained a mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood (back then, the term “Palestinian” referred to Jews living there, not the Arab population) until 1948. When Jordan captured part of Jerusalem, all Jews were kicked out (ethnic cleansing) and Jordan took control of all Jewish properties, leasing them to Arabs.

In 1967, when Israel captured the area, those with proof of ownership could regain the properties that the Jordanian government had confiscated. The Palestinians living there clearly did not own the property.

In 1982, there was a ruling that the Palestinian families living there could stay as Protected Tenants, as long as they paid rent and maintained the property. In 1993, the trusts that own the property filed suit because of non-payment. Yes, it has taken this long for the case to make its way through the court system, and the Israeli Supreme Court — which is generally seen as very left wing — is set to rule soon. In fact, they delayed the ruling because of the current tensions.

The violation of law is expecting that a tenant can stay in a home that isn’t theirs indefinitely while refusing to pay rent. How is their eviction “immoral and wrong”?

And the Jewish owners are always referred to by the media and activists as “settlers,” a term that implies they don’t belong there. Such evocative terms do nothing to help clarify the situation, especially when talking about a property that has been Jewish-owned since the 19th century.

But real estate is a touchy issue — remember, under Palestinian law, selling land to a Jew is a death penalty offense, and the Palestinian Authority has declared numerous times that under Palestinian statehood, no Jews would be allowed to live there (again, ethnic cleansing).

Rather than it being Israeli settlers moving in on generational Palestinian properties in an effort to cleanse the area of Palestinians, this is a common, justifiable real estate eviction. But it has become the world’s most famous one, for no good reason.

We call on all people of conscience to condemn these events and demand upholding the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque and a cessation of all violence against the Palestinian people.  

Hopefully, people of conscience will condemn the current violence and see through the Hamas smokescreen, and urge the Palestinian leadership to stop the decades of abuse of their own people, who are weary of war, stop tilting at the windmill of eliminating Israel from the planet, and come to some sort of agreement that will give the Palestinians a better life.

Hopefully, the Palestinian leadership will underscore the sanctity of Al-Aqsa and all mosques and stop using them for military purposes. And may new Palestinian leadership emerge that does not abuse their own people, kill or imprison their political opponents, or jail those critical of their rule, and may the new leaders realize that their future is side by side with Israel, in peace — and that attacking Israel does nothing but bring more misery to both sides and prolong their own agony.