The tour of Arab capitals being conducted by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh should throw cold water on the idea that the Hamas-Fatah unity pact will result in greater Palestinian flexibility and willingness to make peace with Israel. Haniyeh, who was in Cairo yesterday as part of his triumphant journey through the Middle East, made it clear that Hamas’ priority remains heating up the conflict with the Jewish state. By using the visit to call upon Muslims and Arabs to fight against what he called the “Judaization” of Jerusalem, the leader of the Gaza-based terror movement shone a spotlight on a new phase of incitement toward violence.
In attempting to rally Muslims to “defend” the city against the Jews, Haniyeh is following in the footsteps of past generations of Islamist leaders who sought to foment violence against Jewish targets. Considering that Hamas’ declared goal is the eviction of Jews from all of the Jewish state, his declaration that Israel is planning an “ethnic cleansing” of the city and, indeed, the whole country, rings false. But, coming as it did at the end of the festival of Chanukah, which commemorates the Jewish effort to hold onto their capital and holy places, his statements ought to sober up any Israelis who thought the unity pact might heighten the chances for peace.
This “anti-Judaization” campaign is part and parcel of a concerted effort by both Hamas and its “moderate” Fatah allies to deny Jewish history and the authenticity of the millennia-old claim of the Jewish people to their capital. This same week, the announcement that a tourist center might be built on the site of the ancient City of David in Jerusalem where archeologists have made important discoveries about the history of the ancient Davidic kingdom generated protests. Palestinian Arabs are offended that this significant historical treasure will be preserved not just because it sits in a part of the city where many Arabs live but also because its presence reaffirms the historical claims of Israel and the Jews to the place.
Last week, another proof of the authenticity of biblical history was provided when the Israeli Antiquities Authority put on display a rare clay seal that was used to authenticate the purity of ritual objects used in the Second Temple which was discovered near the Western Wall. Israeli Cabinet member Limor Livnat called the find “a seal of verification of our right to the Land of Israel.” Her colleague, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, also rightly pointed out “these excavations could not have taken place without Israeli sovereignty.”
The point here is not just that Hamas seeks to destroy the State of Israel but that it is also trying to eradicate Jewish history. Many conquerors in the past have attempted to strip Jerusalem of its Jewish identity, but the ancient capital of the Jewish state and Jewish life cannot be “Judaized.” Haniyeh claims he is trying to build support for embattled Muslims in the city but his listeners must know that the last 41 years of Israeli sovereignty over the city is the only time in its history when there has been full religious freedom there. His goal is to end that era and replace it with an Islamist reign of terror. To the extent that any shift in tactics on Hamas’ part causes the West to drop its designation of the organization as a terror group, they will be aiding his campaign against the peace of Jerusalem.