Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have long been the target of a campaign of harassment and intimidation by Islamist groups.
Muslim extremists regularly confront Jewish visitors with verbal – and occasionally physical – abuse, often in large crowds, with the aim of discouraging Jews from setting foot on the holiest site in Judaism – which also houses the Al Aqsa Mosque complex that is built atop the ruins of two Jewish temples.
A large number of the abusers are paid provocateurs and even receive salaries from Hamas-linked groups such as the Israeli Islamic Movement, including the all-female mourabitat, who are often filmed shrieking in the faces of Jewish visitors before, during and after they enter the Temple Mount.
That campaign of harassment is encouraged by the Palestinian Authority, and facilitated by the Jordanian-run Waqf Islamic religious trust (which under the terms of Israel's peace treaty with Jordan administers the Mount), both of which are leading the charge to deny and erase any Jewish connection to the site. While the PA actively encourages violence on the Mount, the Waqf turns a blind eye to it, while scrupulously tracking Jewish visitors to make sure they aren't praying.
However, that incitement appears to be backfiring – as a senior Waqf official found out last Friday.
Sheikh Ahmed Helayel, the Chief Islamic Judge of Jordan, visited Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers alongside Jordan's Minister of Waqf Affairs, as part of a larger Jordanian government delegation.
Helayel was due to deliver the weekly sermon, but was forced to abandon his plans after a large crowd of Islamists gathered outside the mosque and began chanting angrily for the Jordanian delegation – and him specifically – to leave.
The mob of mainly young men belonged to the radical Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) movement, a Salafist Islamist organization banned in many countries (though not in Israel), which calls for the establishment of a global "caliphate" or Islamic State. Though careful not to preach violence directly, the group is often branded a facilitator of terrorism, radicalizing young Muslims who later go on to join terrorist groups. Its literature and propaganda is fiercely anti-Semitic and anti-western.
According to veteran Arab-Israeli journalist Khalid Abu Toameh, the Salafists' main gripe was that the Jordanians had simply come to visit, as opposed to leading a full-scale invasion to destroy Israel and conquer Jerusalem:
One of the leaders of the mob shouted at the Jordanian cleric: "We were hoping to see you visit us at the head of an Islamic army that would liberate Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque, and not under the boots of the Israeli occupation." Another protester accused Jordan of "selling" the West Bank and Jerusalem to Israel in 1967.
Islamist Al Aqsa preachers regularly call on Muslim countries – and even ISIS – to invade Israel and "liberate" Jerusalem in the name of Islam.
Several senior PA officials were quick to condemn Friday's incident – which was caught on video and has been circulating on social media – including the PA's Supreme Sharia (Islamic law) Judge and close adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, one Mahmoud Al-Habbash.
Ironically, Al-Habbash has himself played a prominent role in encouraging violence and terrorism targeting Jews on the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem in general.
In November last year, following a spate of deadly terror attacks in the Israeli capital, Al-Habbash praised the attackers on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
"First of all, allow me to say that we kiss every forehead, every hand and even every foot that carries out ribat at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in Jerusalem…We are behind them. The leadership is with them…we are with them in every movement, in every action and every deed, and we welcome what they are doing at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque," Al-Habbash said.
Referring to Abbas's speech the previous month, during which he called to block Jews from "defiling" the Temple Mount by "all means necessary," Al-Habbash noted "a few days ago, President (Abbas) greeted them, reinforced them and requested more ribat from them."
And ironically, Al-Habbash has similarly experienced the results of his own incitement firsthand, having been chased off the Temple Mount during a visit last year at the height of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Watch: Islamists force Al-Habbash off Temple Mount:
It is noteworthy that Israel's Ambassador to Jordan, Daniel Nevo, recently told students at Tel Aviv University that the Israeli government was actively working to strengthen the Waqf, in order to combat the growing presence of even more radical groups on the Temple Mount, including Hamas.