TEL AVIV — In the wake of the July 14 terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, when three Israeli-Arab terrorists shot and killed two Israeli-Druze police officers at the Temple Mount compound, several prominent Arabic-speaking journalists condemned the attack and called on the Palestinians to abandon the path of violence.
The condemnations go against the spirit of Palestinian media and a decades-old trend of accusing Israel for any violence against the Palestinians regardless of context.
An Iraqi journalist called on the Palestinians to cease the terrorism that has caused them unnecessary casualties, while another Saudi journalist framed the need to focus more on solidarity with Palestinian refugees and less on the Aqsa Mosque since “men are more important than stones.”
An Israeli Arab journalist, meanwhile, warned the Israeli-Arab community that Israeli Arab youths are being swept up by “poisonous, fanatical sermons” made by extremist religious leaders.
Iraqi journalist Omar Al-Khatib, writing in the liberal Arab website Elaph, called on the Palestinians to abandon the paths of violence and religious fanaticism and to act with restraint. Khatib also called on them to invest in education and to produce an enlightened generation that cherishes life.
According to the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translated excerpts from Khatib’s column, Khatib wrote:
Writing on the liberal Arab website Elaph, ‘Omar Al-Khatib, who was born in Baghdad and immigrated to Western Europe where he lectures about the Middle East, called on the Palestinians to behave with restraint, to abandon violence and religious fanaticism, and to invest in education to produce an enlightened generation that loves life. In this way, he argued, the countries of the world will be persuaded to support them in the pursuit of their goals.
Al-Khatib wrote: “Several days ago, a crisis and violence broke out on the holy soil of the Al-Aqsa compound… If the Islamists and jihadis, as they call themselves, think that the Arab umma still has the mentality it had in the 1960s and 1970s, they are deluding themselves.
“Today, we are smarter and better understand the situation, having acquired knowledge, which is the basis for any victory. Moreover, today’s media and websites make it difficult for either the Israelis or the Palestinians to hide the details of the events…”
Khatib inquires how the murderers got into the mosque in the first place, asking rhetorically: “Since when do mosques and holy sites serve as murder arenas?”
He then notes that “Today the ‘wearers of turbans’ [i.e., the religious scholars] are not the only ones to make decisions, because any educated person who gained knowledge in some field can voice his opinion on various issues, including religious ones. I heard this once from the Saudi Mufti, and Al-Azhar thinks the same in this context.”
Khatib draws on the early history of Islam to criticize the current direction of the Palestinian national movement: “The Palestinians can be said to be in a situation similar to that of the Prophet Muhammad in the early stages of his mission, namely in the Meccan period, during which, despite all the harm done to the Prophet and his companions he called for one thing only: for restraint. But the thing is that today, if you call for restraint, the lunatics will pounce on you from every direction and accuse you of cowardice and submission. But being accused of submission seems a thousand times more honorable to me than casting the umma into perdition, as Saddam Hussein did to Iraq and [Mu’ammar] Qadhafi to Libya, and as the Iranian regime is now doing to its people…”
The Iraqi columnist then asks: “Here we come to the point and ask the Palestinians openly: What do you want? What do you aim to achieve, and are your goals attainable? How many sacrifices are the Palestinian people prepared to make? And if it makes these sacrifices will it [really] attain its goals, or is this an act of collective suicide that is totally unjustified? The Palestinians must answer all these questions, lest they find themselves one day completely devoid of [free] will and in the grip of an occupation even more despicable than the Israeli one, such as Hamas’s occupation of the Gaza Strip.”
Khatib notes that the suffering of the Palestinian people “does not concern Hamas and its supporters, because all the Muslim Brotherhood cares about is coming to power, and then it does not care what happens to the people.”
He notes that this happened to the Iranians “when the Islamists gained power and turned their lives into an insufferable hell.”
“Finally, I call upon the Palestinian people to unite under the PLO leadership and try act so that [this organization] and its demands become reasonable both from Israel’s perspective and from the perspective of the Palestinian people,” Khatib writes at the end of his column, noting that the PLO must also transform from a militant organization into a “wise political front that can invest in the Palestinian people’s science and culture, in order to raise an educated generation that is not dominated by religious insanity.”
He notes that such developments will bring more world countries to support the Palestinian cause.
“We too will stand beside such a people and support it – but we will never support those who fail to heed the voice of wisdom and reason, resort to violence, and kill women, children, and the elderly, regardless of their faith or nationality,” writes Khatib.
Another writer, Saudi journalist Mujahid ‘Abd Al-Muta’ali, wrote a column in which he called on the Palestinians to invest in the education of their children as a means to advance their national goals.
“As far as I’m concerned, solidarity with the refugee camps in the diaspora takes precedence to solidarity with Al-Aqsa, since for me a person is more important than a stone. This is how I see the world, and this is the way to regain Al-Aqsa: people [will liberate] Al-Aqsa, not the other way around.”
He then added that “sane people” are “tired of explaining” to the simple people that the road to regaining Jerusalem “does not pass through the jihad [against] the Soviets in Kabul, or through the invasion of Kuwait, the destruction of Baghdad, the conquering of Beirut with partisan weapons, the uprising against Damascus by means of the ISIS coyotes, the deception of Qatar, the false wisdom of Istanbul, or the Iranian [Shi’ites’] self-flagellation with swords and chains until blood flows.”
“The road to Jerusalem starts with shaking the dust off the feet of the [Palestinian] children in the refugee camps of the diaspora, so that they receive better education and then set out in study delegations to the best universities in the world,” wrote Muta’ali.
Attorney Jawad Boulos is an Israeli Arab lawyer and serves as legal advisor to the Palestinian Prisoners Club. In a recent column, he wrote that while it was convenient for Israeli Arab leaders to present the Temple Mount terror attack (perpetrated by Israeli Arabs) as a result of Israel’s so-called occupation of the Palestinians and the poverty and unemployment from which they suffer, these were not the only purported reasons. Israeli Arab leaders must fight this phenomenon to ensure peace within their own society and to protect the lives of their youth, Boulos wrote.
“Everyone who took a position on this event [the Al-Aqsa terror attack] connected it directly to the crime of the Israeli occupation, [claiming that] this is what motivated these young people to do what they did. Accepting this as the sole [explanation] is worrying, and the automatic and demagogic linking [of the attack to the occupation] – even if it is essentially or partly valid – reflects a somewhat unsatisfactory and superficial approach. It proves that the leadership chose the safest and most convenient option, while essentially avoiding the honest reckoning with the phenomenon that their position and natural responsibility obligate them to undertake for the sake of the lives of their population, in particular the weaker sectors within it.”
“The occupation,” Boulos wrote, “is no doubt the source of the evil and the greatest crime of all – that is an axiom. There is also no doubt that the accumulating actions and crimes of the occupation fuel the feelings of opposition, the oppression, and the impulsivity in the hearts of everyone […]
“Yet I have no doubt that these agitating deeds of the occupation alone are not enough to bring people to the point where they are willing to die or to kill, as was the case with the three Muhammads [all three terrorists were named Muhammad].”
But Boulos then warns that it is “neither natural nor obvious that such a person, bitter though he may be, should reach the emotional state where he is ready to take action and kill himself and others.”
“The leadership should investigate precisely this point and try to examine its essence and dismantle its infrastructure, in an effort to fight this phenomenon that is starting to spread quickly through our societies. I doubt they will find it difficult to expose the factors that are influencing these people… especially since these leaders have already mentioned some of these influences, among them poverty, unemployment, ignorance, and the repeated dissemination of poisonous, fanatical sermons, mainly calling for revenge in the name of religion and its holy symbols, first and foremost the Al-Aqsa mosque,” he concluded.