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Techno party at Muslim holy site draws censure from Palestinian leadership

Amid blame game, Palestinian Authority forms committee to probe who was behind party at Nabi Musa mosque, arrests prominent DJ; Hamas condemns rave as ‘despicable’

Palestinian and Arab Israeli rave attendees make merry at the Nabi Musa mosque in the West Bank on December 26, 2020 (Screenshot/Twitter)
Palestinian and Arab Israeli rave attendees make merry at the Nabi Musa mosque in the West Bank on December 26, 2020 (Screenshot/Twitter)

A Saturday night dance party by Palestinians at a West Bank Muslim holy site featuring alcohol and techno music has elicited condemnation from across the Palestinian political spectrum.

Videos from the Nabi Musa mosque between Jerusalem and Jericho showed a rave held at the scene, featuring young Palestinians and Arab Israelis dancing and drinking.

Prominent Palestinian disc jockey (DJ) Sama Abd al-Hadi led the festivities. Abd al-Hadi, originally from Ramallah, is considered a pioneering artist in the budding Palestinian electronic music scene, as well as one of the first female DJs in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field.

Abd al-Hadi was arrested Sunday night by Palestinian Authority police, the Kan public broadcaster reported, citing Palestinian sources.

The festivities appeared to have alcohol and men and women dancing together at the Muslim holy site. Most forms of Islam forbid drinking alcohol, and mixed dancing is also controversial in many parts of conservative Palestinian society.

A number of other Palestinians, apparently angered by what they considered to be the desecration of the site, arrived and confronted them. The partygoers told the newcomers that they had received permission from the Palestinian Authority Tourism Ministry in Ramallah to hold the event.

“Whisky! Alcohol! Women! Tourism Ministry, this isn’t religious morals. In fact, these aren’t morals,” one of the angry demonstrators said as he videotaped the site with his phone.

The Nabi Musa mosque — named after Moses, who many Jews, Christians and Muslims all revere as a prophet of God — is a prominent West Bank pilgrimage site. Each year in spring, Palestinian Muslims travel by foot to the mosque, which is situated between Jerusalem and Jericho.

Most of the revelers on Saturday night were either Arab Israelis or Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, and the matter is currently being processed by the Israel Police. A spokesperson for the police’s West Bank Division could not be reached for comment.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has assembled an investigative committee to look into the incident, PA government spokesperson Ibrahim Milhem said.

“I feel disgust and rage about what happened at the Nabi Musa mosque… I do not know yet who is responsible for this sin, but whoever is will receive a punishment to fit the atrocity of what was committed. A mosque is a house of God; its sanctity is the sanctity of religion itself,” said Mahmoud al-Habbash, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s advisor on religious affairs.

Nabi Musa lies largely in Area C, meaning that the Oslo Accords designates the area as under full Israeli security and civil control. Israeli security forces arrived at the scene during the night when the confrontation occurred.

“There were Israeli soldiers there, but the incident is being dealt with by the Israel Police and Palestinian institutions,” a spokesperson for the Israeli army said, without elaborating.

In the aftermath of the incident, Palestinian Authority ministries have engaged in a blame game in an attempt to avoid the wrath of the public from the perceived desecration of the holy site. The Tourism Ministry has sought to blame the Religious Affairs Ministry, which has denied any knowledge of plans to hold a rave at the site.

“I was surprised to hear the news that people had entered the mosque… the Religious Affairs Ministry was never asked for permission or consultation, nor did it ever issue a permit to hold a party in the mosque,” Religious Affairs Deputy Minister Hussam Abu al-Rabb told Ajyal Radio on Sunday.

The Nabi Musa mosque, in the Judean Desert, south of Jerusalem, on January 29, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

On Sunday afternoon, several dozen Palestinians went to the site to pray. Videos posted on social gathered showed the worshippers hurling the remnants of last night’s party from the walls of the sanctuary before setting them ablaze.

Officials from Hamas, an Iran-backed terror group that rules the Gaza Strip and opposes the PA, quickly took advantage of the anger over the rave in the West Bank holy site to criticize their political rivals for allegedly allowing the event to take place. Palestinian Authority police, however, are rarely permitted by Israel to enforce their laws in Area C.

“We condemn the fact that this was done with the formal approval and under the protection of Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, who called the rave “a despicable violation of the house of God.”

“This is a crime committed by riff-raff, at a time when the mosques are closed, and worshipers are pursued and arrested on the crime of prayer and violating the law and government orders… how can such a violation of the sanctity of mosques and of the law be permitted?” said Hamas West Bank legislator Nayef Rajoub.

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