PA official praises Palestinian “culture of coexistence and tolerance" that has existed "for thousands of years”
Headline: “Al-Habbash: Palestine is a model of coexistence, and peace will come by ending the occupation”
“Supreme Shari’ah Judge of Palestine [and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari'ah Justice] Mahmoud Al-Habbash… noted that the Palestinian people, despite all the pain and injustice that has been caused to it by the tyrannical occupation, still adheres to the religious and social culture of coexistence between all of its parts (sic., see note below) – the Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans (see note below –Ed.). He also noted that all of the occupation’s attempts to sow controversy among the members of the monotheistic religions in the State of Palestine have failed and crashed on the rock of Palestinian national unity and the culture of coexistence and tolerance that has been deeply rooted in the Palestinian people for thousands of years and will remain so forever.”
The PA often makes claims about peaceful coexistence with members of other religions and/or respect for all monotheistic religions. However, Palestinian Muslims frequently do not coexist peacefully and respectfully with their Samaritan and Christian compatriots, nor with other Christians or Jews. The following are a few examples:
a. The Samaritans now living in the Samaritan village of Kiryat Luza, on Mount Gerizim near Nablus in the West Bank, lived in Nablus until the outbreak in 1987 of the first Intifada - a Palestinian wave of violence and terror against Israel in which approximately 200 Israelis were murdered. At that time, their Muslim neighbors began to harass them, causing them to move to Mount Gerizim, where they established Kiryat Luza.
b. Although officially the PA claims to treat Christians equally, it has no laws to protect freedom of religion nor does it ensure equal protection to Christians in its judicial system; its forces have attacked groups of Palestinian Christians (e.g., Beit Sahur, August 1997); clause 2 of Article 4 of the PA Basic Law specifies Shari'ah law as that "The principles of Islamic Shari'a shall be the main source of legislation;" and it has broadcast through its official media sermons with statements such as: "Allah the Almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them." [Official PA TV, Friday sermon at a mosque in Gaza by Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, Oct. 13, 2006]
c. The Christian population in Bethlehem, a city of great significance for Christianity, has significantly declined - it has dropped from 85% in 1948 to 40% in 1967 and 16% in 2016. This drop in population has been caused in large part by the rise of Islamism and the systematic discrimination against and harrassment of Christians (see examples above) - factors that the Bethlehem Christian community cannot publicly speak out against for fear of repercussions.
d. Only Muslims can pray at the Temple Mount; Palestinians and the Jordanian Waqf do not agree to Christian or Jewish worship at the site.
Samaritans – A small ethno-religious group residing primarily in Holon (in Israel) and in the Samaritan village Kiryat Luza (near Nablus in the West Bank). The Samaritans claim ancestry from the ancient Israelites and adhere to the religious law of Samaritanism. While Samaritanism is closely related to Judaism, there are some fundamental differences. Samaritans refer to the Bible as their sole religious scripture, do not celebrate any Jewish festival that took place after the writing of the Bible (i.e., Channukah, Purim), and consider Mt. Gerizim near Nablus their holiest place (believing this is where Abraham bound Isaac and God instructed them to build the Temple), as opposed to Jews who consider Mt. Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem their holiest place. No Jewish community today recognizes the Samaritans as an expression of Judaism, and for Samaritans to wed Jewish partners in a traditional ceremony they are required to undergo a full conversion to Judaism. The Samaritan community numbers roughly 800 members today.