Standing beside every world leader he possibly can, and when meeting Israeli prime ministers too, Jordanian King Abdullah defiantly declares his self-anointed “custodianship” over the Temple Mount and “all holy sites” in Jerusalem.
Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that no Jordanian “custodianship” or “jurisdiction” in Jerusalem ever has been agreed to by Israel nor does it exist in any international accord. All Israel acknowledges is that the Hashemite Kingdom has a “special role” to play on the Temple Mount.
The Jordanian 'special role'
But let’s delve for a moment into the responsibilities that devolve from such a Jordanian special role at the Temple Mount (Har Habayit in Hebrew, or what the Muslims call al-Haram al-Sharif or The Noble Sanctuary).
One would think that “special role” would mean that Jordan has a special responsibility to help maintain the site as a holy place of prayer, brotherhood and tolerance. At a minimum, one would expect the Jordanians to do everything possible to help keep the peace by blocking attempts to turn the site into ground zero for violent Arab insurrection, wild Palestinian rioting and the most antisemitic and genocidal anti-Israel incitement.
Alas, the Jordanians have done no such thing. Despite their purported joint control (with the Palestinians) over the Wakf, the Islamic trust that runs al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine on Temple Mount, Jordan allows the Wakf and its Palestinian preachers to insanely inflame nationalist passions and provoke hostilities against Israel.
Using al-Aqsa as a base for physical assaults on Israel (like storing weapons) and as a platform for the ugliest education about the evils of Jews and Israel is not an occasional thing. It has become the Jordanian-sponsored standard of behavior on the Temple Mount. This has been the contribution of Jordan’s much-ballyhooed “special role” condition.
Al-Aqsa Mosque Imam Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former chief mufti of the Palestinian Authority, often has used the Friday sermon pulpit on the Temple Mount to spout lies and historical distortions like this: “The Arabs are among the earliest peoples that settled in Jerusalem, 7,500 years before the Christian era…,” and “There is no evidence of a historical Jewish presence in the city.” He also claims that “the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque is everything that surrounds the walls, whether roofed or not,” including the “Al Buraq Wall” (meaning the Western Wall).
Sabri also constantly repeats the blood libel that “the Jews are trying to destroy [sic: the] al-Aqsa Mosque, just as they did in the 1969 arson.” (This distortion refers to an incident when an Australian Christian with a mental health disorder named Michael Rohan tried to torch the place.) Every year, the PA and the Wakf with Sabri at the helm commemorate this incident and repeat the dangerous lie that an “extremist Jewish settler terrorist” was the perpetrator.
Sabri regularly calls for “Ribat” (religious conflict over land claimed to be Islamic) against any Jews who wish to visit or pray on the entire Temple Mount Plaza or its vicinity. “Their arrogance will burn them,” he thunders.
Incitement from the pulpits
SABRI ALSO has sermonized from the Mount that any person who sells or mediates the sale of Jerusalem property to Jews “will not be buried, will not be purified, will not be prayed for and that whoever interacts with them is a traitor… ”
Credit for tracking and translating these sermons and the remarks below goes to Palestinian Media Watch.
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the “Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories” and chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s “Supreme Fatwa Council” has backed-up Sabri with a Shariah law fatwa (Islamic decree) to this effect.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s personal adviser Dr. Mahmoud Al-Habbash, sometimes referred to as the “Supreme Shariah Judge of Palestine,” often gives Friday sermons on the Mount and almost always delivers the main Friday sermon on PA TV.
He rants regularly about “the daily crimes that the occupation state is committing against the Jerusalem Noble Sanctuary,” and “the escalation in the pace of the settlers’ daily invasions of the mosque, and the desecration of it on baseless pretexts of ‘Jewish religious holidays and festivals.’”
Al-Habbash also explicitly calls for violent assaults against Jews, recycling Mahmoud Abbas’s 2014 call for violence and martyrdom for the sake of Jerusalem. “Every Palestinian from among the factions, forces, and election lists must participate in the battle for the Palestinian right in Jerusalem by escalating the popular resistance” (– “resistance” being code for violence and terror). He goes on to teach that the Koran “commands” fighting and permits killing Israelis.
Here is PA Shariah Judge Abdallah Harb in an al-Aqsa sermon: “The occupation is still making all efforts day and night to Judaize [sic: the] al-Aqsa Mosque, in order to defile it. It has harmed the structures, harmed the people, and spread drugs and other things.”
Here is Shariah Judge Hatem Al-Bakri in an al-Aqsa sermon: “Muslims soon will purify The Noble Sanctuary and liberate the land and the people from the defilement of the criminal infidels.”
HERE IS Sheikh Khaled al-Mughrabi, who for years has taught Islam twice a week in al-Aqsa Mosque: “Jews worship the Devil, and at the End of Time, Muslims will seek out the Jews everywhere and exterminate them all.” He regularly refers to a hadith foretelling that one-day Jews will hide from Muslims, but the rock and the tree will call out: “O Muslim, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
By spreading such libels and demonizing Israelis and Jews, PA leaders are making sure that Palestinians are ready to “fight the evil ones,” again, meaning the State of Israel and any Jew who claims patrimony in Jerusalem.
But why is King Abdullah of Jordan party to these exhortations, excretions, fictions, and incitements to violence? Where is Jordan’s moderating influence? Where does Abdullah’s well-massaged image as a “moderate” find expression in management of the Temple Mount?
After all, let’s remind ourselves, Jordan claims a “special role in all holy sites” in Jerusalem (which in Jordanian propaganda also includes Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.) And everybody in the world is now very, very worried about a third intifada erupting in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria over the coming Ramadan holy month – as CIA director Nicholas Burns warned this week.
So where are Abdullah’s efforts to prevent such an explosion? Judging by the type of violent rhetoric he allows to erupt from the mouths of preachers on the Mount that he presumptuously has “custodianship” over in some sort of partnership with the PA – Abdullah isn’t trying too hard.
No criticism against King Abdullah
It is not like King Abdullah can’t control things if he wanted to. I can assure you that not a single word of criticism against Abdullah is heard on the Temple Mount from any Palestinian preacher, just as not a single mild word of criticism against Abdullah is allowed out of the mouths of any sermonizer in mosques across Jordan.
Abdullah could take an example, if he wanted to, from the Emiratis. They exercise the tightest controls over sermons given in mosques across their seven Emirates to make sure that no radical Shi’ite or radical Sunni messaging is heard, along with no criticism of the regime.
No preacher in even the tiniest neighborhood mosque in the most remote location can deliver a Friday sermon without running it first through the Emirati Ministry of Religious Affairs. This censorship is how the Emiratis keep seditious Iranian and radical Islamist influences at bay.
But apparently, at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, no such censorship exists. At the most sensitive, explosive, holy site in the world, everything goes, especially antisemitic and genocidal anti-Israel incitement – under the allegedly benevolent and hypothetically moderate watch of King Abdullah of Jordan.
The writer is a senior fellow at The Kohelet Forum and at Israel’s Defense and Security Forum (Habithonistim). The views expressed here are his own. His diplomatic, defense, political, and Jewish world columns over the past 26 years are archived at davidmweinberg.com.