Palestinian Authority Security Forces at a checkpoint in the Samaria city of Nablus (Shechem), Nov. 3, 2007. Photo by Wagdi Ashtiyeh /Flash90.

By Moshe Phillips

When is it a crime for a Jew to pray at a Jewish holy site? When the Palestinian Authority’s police are in charge, that’s when.

Here’s what happened: a handful of Jews attempted to pray at the Tomb of Joseph, in Shechem (Nablus), on the Passover holiday—something that the Oslo Accords specifically permit.

Look at Appendix 4 of the Oslo II accord, which the Palestinian Authority and Israel signed in September 1995. It lists two sites in PA-governed territory as “Jewish Holy Sites”: “1. Joseph’s Tomb (Nablus); 2. Shalom Al Israel Synagogue (Jericho).”

Article V(2)(b) of the Oslo II agreement then explains that those sites “will be under the responsibility of the Palestinian Police,” who are required “to ensure free, unimpeded and secure access to the relevant Jewish holy site.” The PA police are obligated “to ensure the peaceful use of such a site, to prevent any potential instances of disorder and to respond to any incident.”

Yet what we saw last week was the exact opposite. In a video shown on social media, the arrested Jewish worshippers can be seen sitting against a wall, surrounded by heavily armed PA policemen. They are shouting in Arabic and kicking the Jews.

Imagine for a moment that a group of Muslim worshippers tried to reach some Muslim religious site within Israel—a site to which access was guaranteed in an Israeli-Palestinian treaty.

And imagine if, instead of letting the worshippers go to their site, the Israeli police arrested them, kicked them, and screamed at them in Hebrew.  It would be the lead story on CNN all day long. It would be front page news around the world. The United Nations Security Council would have an emergency meeting to denounce Israel.

Now what was the response to PA police officers violently assaulting Jews for trying to exercise their Oslo-guaranteed right to pray at a Jewish holy site on a major Jewish holiday?

Silence, of course.

Silence from the international news media. Silence from the UN, and the so-called human rights groups. Silence from leftwing Jewish groups such as J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and Partners for Progressive Israel—all of whom would be shrieking in protest if Muslim worshippers were treated that way by the Israeli police.

Perhaps most disturbing is the silence of the Biden administration and its Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt.

A year ago, the Biden administration published what it called its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. And Ambassador Lipstadt’s job, every single day, is to combat antisemitism. Yet when Jews are arrested and assaulted by police officers for the “crime” of trying to pray at their holy site, these so-called fighters against antisemitism are silent.

The Biden administration’s awful silence sends a message to the Palestinian Authority that it can violently mistreat Jewish worshippers, with no consequences. Biden continues to push for a Palestinian state, continues to pressure Israel to cease firing at terrorists, and continues sending hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayers’ money to the Palestinian Arabs—including to the very PA police force that is abusing Jewish worshippers.

Just this past week, U.S. officials said they are considering imposing sanctions on an Israeli army unit that they claim has been too rough on Palestinian terrorist suspects. Yet they did not say a word about the Palestinian Authority’s policemen who can be seen on video assaulting innocent Jewish worshippers. What an outrageous double standard!

(Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.)


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