Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Murder at Tomb Illustrates the Future of Jewish Holy Sites in a Palestinian State

Today’s attack on Jewish worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus needs to be understood as something more significant than just another unfortunate instance of violence between Jews and Arabs. It is nothing less than a warning of what will happen once Palestinians achieve full sovereignty, as the Obama administration appears to be demanding, over all of the West Bank.

The incident occurred when a group of religious Jews, members of the Breslov hasidic sect visited the Jewish holy site this morning unaccompanied by Israeli soldiers. The tomb is located in the city of Nablus, a place that is completely under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Twice a month Israel coordinates a visit by those Israelis who wish to pray there but religious Jews believe, not without reason, that restricting Jewish worship at the site in this manner is wrong and often attempt to go on their own. But rather than merely accommodate the presence of a few Jews in an Arab city, the Palestinian Authority police attacked the group that arrived today, killing one and wounding two others.

That this crime was committed by a member of the Palestinian Authority’s own security forces — which have been trained and vouched for by the PA’s foreign donors such as the United States — is telling. Rather than keep the peace and root out the terrorists who are a threat to the safety of both Jews and Arabs, the PA police have yet again proven themselves to be a group that is willing to commit acts of terrorism themselves. There is, after all, a precedent for the PA police to act in this manner around Joseph’s Tomb. In 1996, six Israeli soldiers were killed during a Palestinian attack on the site. Four years later at the start of the second intifada in September 2000, PA policemen stormed the holy site that was at that time the home of a yeshiva. An Israeli soldier was killed in the assault after which a Palestinian mob sacked the Tomb, demolishing it and desecrating holy books and Torah scrolls.

Since then, the Tomb has been partially restored but Palestinian Authority leaders have continued to deny Judaism’s connection to the site in spite of the obviously Jewish nature of this historical site (for example, the Tomb is oriented north to south which is inconsistent with Muslim tombs that are located north of Mecca).

While foreign observers routinely refer to the PA and its security forces as being committed to peace, this incident illustrates the problem that Israel faces. With the PA itself continuing to allow its media to foment hatred of Jews and Israelis, it is little surprise that their policeman use the weapons they have been given to commit acts of violence rather than prevent them. The Jewish man who was murdered today happened to be the nephew of Limor Livnat, a minister in Israel’s current government. At his funeral she spoke the truth when she said that “He was murdered simply because he was Jewish.”

But his death is a tragedy that should remind us that future atrocities await Israel if the PA is allowed to become fully sovereign. It should be remembered that if the Obama administration has its way and Israel is forced to retreat to the 1949 armistice lines, even more Jewish holy places would be placed under their control. The PA’s clear policy is to deny the Jewish nature of virtually every sacred place in the country including the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem. Those who believe that the PA can be trusted to guarantee free access and the right to worship in those areas where their police have unfettered control are kidding themselves. After all, although the West Bank is routinely referred to as being under Israeli occupation, today’s incident in Nablus highlights the fact that the PA police can murder Jews with impunity there with Israel being reduced to merely complaining about the crime after the fact.

Those who advocate the creation of more such no-go zones are setting Israel up not for a future of peace but one in which the Jewish heritage of the land will be erased and where blood will be spilled with impunity.