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Abbas’ advisor: A “war crime” for Jews to place a Hanukkah candelabra at Jewish/Muslim religious site

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
  • Abbas’ advisor about the Cave of the Patriarchs:  “The Ibrahimi Mosque is a pure Islamic heritage”

  • Abbas’ advisor: “Placing of a Jewish religious so-called ‘Hanukkah menorah’ on the roof of the Ibrahimi Mosque… [is] an additional ‘war crime’”

  • Abbas’ advisor: Israel commits “crimes… that desecrate our Islamic holy sites in Hebron”

  • PA’s Supreme Fatwa Council: “The placing of a Hanukkah menorah [at] the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., the Cave of the Patriarchs)… is a blatant violation, a true provocation of the Muslims’ sensibilities, and an… attempt to erase the Islamic history in service of the goal to Judaize the Ibrahimi Mosque and create a fake Jewish character for it”

The placing of a Hanukkiah – a special candelabra used during the celebration of the Jewish festival of lights Hanukkah – has been deemed a “war crime” by the PA.

The candelabra has been set up on the roof of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, a holy site for Jews. The site is also holy to Muslims who refer to it as the Ibrahimi Mosque. It is ironic that the PA rejects the Jewish connection to the site and claims that no one but Muslims has any rights to the site since Islam’s turning the Cave of the Patriarchs into a Muslim holy site is completely based on Jewish tradition. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron is where the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs other than Rachel are buried as related by the Bible. Its structure housing the cave was built by Judean King Herod roughly 2,000 years ago during the Second Temple period. After Hebron was occupied by Muslim Caliph Umar in 637 CE, the site was converted into a mosque. Islam co-opted the Jewish tradition regarding the site being the burial place of the patriarchs and matriarchs, and therefore called it the "Ibrahimi Mosque" after Abraham.

Ignoring the Jewish source for the Muslim tradition, the PA’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge and Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations Mahmoud Al-Habbash has condemned the Hanukkiah currently at the site as a “war crime” by Israel and a “desecration”:

“[Al-Habbash] described this step as an additional ‘war crime’ that the occupation regime is committing, and a blatant attack on our holy sites and our mosques.
In a press release, Al-Habbash said: ‘The occupation state… is exploiting every opportunity, and particularly the so-called ‘Jewish holidays,’ in order to commit crimes and plans that desecrate our Islamic holy sites in Hebron.’ He emphasized that the Ibrahimi Mosque is a pure Islamic heritage, to which those who are not Muslim have no right…”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, Nov. 18, 2020]

Before the Jewish holiday even began, the PA’s Supreme Fatwa Council condemned the Hanukkah candelabra as a “provocation” and attempt to “erase Islamic history” while creating “a fake Jewish character” for the site:

“The Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council… explained that this is a blatant violation, a true provocation of the Muslims’ sensibilities, and an additional aggressive attempt to erase the Islamic history in service of the goal to Judaize the Ibrahimi Mosque and create a fake Jewish character for it.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 20, 2020]

Palestinian Media Watch has reported that the PA has declared visits by Jews a “desecration” of the Muslim holy site. The PA also vigorously protests Israeli plans to install an elevator at the site to make it accessible to wheelchair users – Jewish and Muslim alike.

The following are longer excerpts of the statements cited above:

Headline: “The [Palestinian Supreme] Fatwa Council condemned the plans to steal the eastern part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the placing of a Hanukkah menorah at the Ibrahimi Mosque”
“The Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council… condemned the placing of a Hanukkah menorah (i.e. Jewish candelabra) on the grounds of the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron as preparation for the celebration of the Jewish holidays…
The council explained that this is a blatant violation, a true provocation of the Muslims’ sensibilities, and an additional aggressive attempt to erase the Islamic history in service of the goal to Judaize the Ibrahimi Mosque and create a fake Jewish character for it.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 20, 2020]

Headline: “Al-Habbash condemns the placing of a Hanukkah menorah on the roof of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron”
“Supreme Shari’ah Judge of Palestine and [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas’] Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations Mahmoud Al-Habbash condemned the placing of a Jewish religious so-called ‘Hanukkah menorah’ (i.e. Jewish candelabra) on the roof of the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron by groups of Israeli settlers under the protection of the occupation forces. He described this step as an additional ‘war crime’ that the occupation regime is committing, and a blatant attack on our holy sites and our mosques.
In a press release, Al-Habbash said: ‘The occupation state… is exploiting every opportunity, and particularly the so-called ‘Jewish holidays,’ in order to commit crimes and plans that desecrate our Islamic holy sites in Hebron.’ He emphasized that the Ibrahimi Mosque is a pure Islamic heritage, to which those who are not Muslim have no right, which the UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) resolutions have recognized (see note below –Ed.)…
Al-Habbash called on our people to increase the presence in the old city [of Hebron], to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque, and to carry out Ribat (i.e., religious conflict over land claimed to be Islamic) inside it in order to emphasize that the site is Islamic and Palestinian.”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, Nov. 18, 2020]

Mahmoud Al-Habbash also serves as Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari'ah Justice. In August 2019 PA Chairman Abbas dismissed all his advisors by Presidential decree. It is unclear what their status is today.

UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) passed a resolution in Krakow, Poland, on July 7, 2017, submitted by the Permanent Delegation of Palestine to the UN, inscribing the Old City of Hebron - which includes the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried - on the World Heritage List, acknowledging it as a Palestinian heritage site. It also inscribed it on the List of World Heritage in Danger, stating that it "considers that the property is faced with serious threats which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics and for which an immediate action by the World Heritage Committee is needed," said threats apparently coming from the Israeli military control of the area. The resolution was passed in a secret ballot with 12 countries voting in favor, 3 against, and 6 abstaining. This resolution is one of many UNESCO resolutions that are frequently passed condemning Israel, particularly regarding Jerusalem. It should be noted that according to the UN Charter itself, UN General Assembly resolutions are only "recommendations" and have "no legal power that affects the outside world." UN Security Council Resolutions are only binding if they were adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council are clearly prejudiced as noted by human rights expert Christine Cerna: “In my view Israel has a unique status in the UN Human Rights Council. Impartiality is not a requirement sought by the Council for the appointment of experts when it comes to Israel." UNESCO report on the resolution: http://en.unesco.org/news/two-new-sites-inscribed-world-heritage-list Draft of the resolution: https://www.unwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Amendment-to-41-COM-8B.1.pdf