Palestinian Authority police officers stand guard in the West Bank [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority security officers ripped out the beard of a Muslim preacher from a village near Hebron after he delivered a sermon denouncing the PA, according to Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), a radical Islamist group which seeks to re-establish the “Islamic Caliphate.”
The group said that Sheikh Yunis Raba’a, from Dahiryah in the Hebron Hills area, was arrested Friday by officers of the PA’s Preventive Security Force after he criticized the PA for agreeing to hand over to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) a monastery in Hebron.
The dispute dates back a century to the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Russian Orthodox Church split into the Communist Red Church in Moscow and the exiled White Church in New York.
The extensive Russian Orthodox properties in the Holy Land were disputed.
In 1997 Patriarch of Moscow Alexei II together with PA leader Yasser Arafat came to Hebron and attempted to visit the ROCOR-held Abraham’s Oak Holy Trinity Monastery.
Clergy there refused to let them enter the holy site.
Two weeks later Palestinian Authority police officers arrived and by “assaulting and cursing priests and nuns” they managed to evict the ROCOR clergy. They then turned over the property to the rival Russian Patriarch in Moscow, called the ROC.
While both the ROC and ROCOR have continued their separate existence in the Holy Land, the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion in Moscow on May 17, 2007 has improved relations between the two parts of the Russian Church.
Nevertheless some Hebron residents claim that the monastery actually belongs to local Muslims, and have come out against the PA’s flip-flop decision to hand the site back to the ROCOR.
Referring to the arrest of Raba’a, a Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman said that the PA security officers “attacked him and forced him into their car. One of them grabbed him by the beard, which he was wearing following the example of Prophet Muhammad.
This criminal coward plucked out the beard of the sheik, throwing the hair under his feet while his hands were handcuffed by the criminals.”
The group accused the PA of “giving up Palestine,” and pursuing security coordination with Israel. It said that the actions of the PA security forces “remind us of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons, the ripping of the Koran, and the infidels who work towards degrading Muslims and Prophet Muhammad.”