The chutzpah (gall, insolence) belongs to many of the Arabs inside of Israel and beyond. The stupidity can be attributed to those of our purported leaders who condone or tolerate that chutzpah.
What prompts this description (in this instance) is what happened in recent days with regard to the Damascus Gate.
This most beautiful sixteenth century gate is one of seven open to the Old City of Jerusalem (an eighth, the Golden Gate, is sealed). It is called in Hebrew Sha’ar Shechem, as it faces north towards Shechem (Nablus) and beyond that northwest towards Damascus in Syria.
The gate is situated in an Arab neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem (not “East” Jerusalem – it is part of united Jerusalem). The predominance of Arab residents there is the result of its occupation by the Jordanians from 1948 to 1967. Jordan rendered the area Judenrein, and today Arabs, who remain the majority in that neighborhood, consider it and the Damascus Gate to be “theirs.”
It is a hotspot, a prime location utilized by Israeli Arabs for registering a challenge to Israeli sovereignty.
But the Damascus Gate and the neighborhood within which it is located are part of sovereign Israel. When Israeli leaders are reluctant to fully claim sovereignty at that site there is a problem.
Saturday was the first day of Ramadan – a month during which Muslim Arabs here, in observance of their holy time, fast during daylight hours and frequently demonstrate an increased proclivity for violence at night. The rioting at the Damascus Gate on Saturday night, following the first day of Ramadan, was not unexpected: “nationalistic” slogans were shouted by some, bottles, firecrackers and rocks were thrown at the police and threats were made.
Police were prepared for the possibility of the rioting, and when difficulties began they conducted themselves in a manner that was intended to prevent wholesale escalation. Rather than disperse the entire crowd, they focused in their response on the pockets of rioting; four people were arrested. In the end the assessment was that the rioting was less severe than it had been a year ago.
The next day, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, accompanied by Israel Inspector-General Kobi Shabatai, escorted by a large police contingent, toured the Old City, including the Damascus Gate, to survey the situation. Lapid’s intent was a show of solidarity for the police there, who have to deal with a difficult situation; he congratulated them on how they had handled it:
“When we will all be with our families on Pesach eve, about 8,000 police officers will be outside protecting the lives of Israeli citizens…I’m proud of our police…”
It all went smoothly.
Yet as night fell, rioting began again, worse than the night before. There were attacks leveled at police, with one officer injured; ten rioters were arrested. The air was filled with smoke from garbage dumpsters that had been set on fire. (See video clips in link below.)
Operations Chief Superintendent for Eastern Jerusalem Amir Ben Kiki says that in the end, the Arab community must reject the violence.
“We will be tough against those who try to disrupt the public order and cause riots, but the Arab population itself must tell those who are responsible for the riots that they don’t want this, and that they only wish to celebrate Ramadan.”
Please, do not hold your breath waiting for this to happen. I say this with a reasonable degree of certainty even as I am sure there are Israeli Arabs who would prefer to celebrate peacefully: There is a climate in the air that would make it difficult for them to adopt this position.
There is little question but that the rioters had been incited:
The PA indicated on its “foreign ministry” website that it “condemns in the strongest terms the provocative incursion by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Bab al-Amud [Damascus Gate] area in occupied Jerusalem, and strongly condemns the promises he made to Jewish extremists to deploy more occupation forces and police in Jerusalem under the pretext of providing protection for them during the Jewish holidays.”
And Hamas referred to Lapid’s visit as “dangerous escalation and provocation… We and our people have pledged to defend Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa by force and by all means at our disposal.”
While these comments are most certainly not acceptable, they are precisely what would be expected. They serve as a rationale for increased violence.
It is the responsibility of everyone in the Israeli government to make it crystal clear that Israel retains full sovereignty in all of the land, and all of Jerusalem most specifically.
Thus, what is more unsettling than anything the Palestinian Arabs said is the comment made by Defense Minister Gantz when asked about Lapid’s visit to Damascus Gate. Lapid certainly has a right to go, said Gantz, but, “Without getting into this specific tour, I say that we should not do things that are provocative, let’s not do things that undermine stability, which is critical during this period.” (Emphasis added)
These words of appeasement, from the defense minister, yet! It is understood that he aspires to be prime minister (Heaven forbid). Better that he should resign, before he further undermines our strength and sovereignty.
As noted previously, Gantz refused to particpate in a joint statement issued by Lapid and Bennett criticizing the US for considering removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard from its terror list because of his desire to stay on good working terms with the US. As well, he is responsible for the alacrity with which unrecognized outposts are being demolished.
But let us look at another member of the current governing coalition: Mansour Abbas of Ra’am.
He had been scheduled to deliver “an important speech” condemning the recent spate of terrorism, but abruptly cancelled it without comment. According to Channel 12, this was because of “conflicting opinions” within his party.
According to Muhammad Majadele, a Channel 12 commentator, the Islamic Movement thinks that Abbas has been a bit over the top in his comments regarding terrorism. Majadele believes pressure from the Islamic Movement was a factor in the cancellation of his speech.
No great surprise there. Readers should be disabused of the notion that Abbas acts independently. That he is, in reality, the voice of the political wing of the (anti-Zionist) Islamic Movement makes his presence in the government an outrage.
In February, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs analyzed recent writings by Sheikh Ra’ad Badir, director of the Islamic Movement’s Institute for Rulings on Sharia Law and Islamic Studies.
“The JCPA found that Badir had declared that the widespread rioting in Arab communities in Israel during May 2021’s Operation Guardian of the Walls was ‘100 percent…a religious war.’
“Badir added that if tensions escalated in Jerusalem, ‘it will be worse than anyone can imagine and it will end with the eviction of all Jews from Palestine, from all of Palestine, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.’” (Emphasis added)
From the perspective of the Islamic Movement, then, the rioting is productive, not something to be criticized.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is now Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Yossi has just written “The Current Terror Wave in Israel: Main Characteristics and Implications” for the Center. You will find it in its entirety here:
I want to cite from one specific portion of this report that has particular relevance for my on-going consideration of terrorism, in the section on “The Totality of the Palestinian Struggle against Zionism and the Faulty Economic Assumptions” (emphasis added):
“The Israeli government and the security services wanted to believe, and they convinced themselves that by improving the economic situation in the Palestinian Authority’s areas and Gaza, they could gain at least temporary quiet and muddle through the sensitive period of the religious and nationalist holidays in April and May…Pouring money into the Israeli-Arab society was also considered a way of bolstering their interest in integrating into Israeli society and keeping them away from violent and criminal activities. Although these assumptions may be correct, they miss the point.
“The PA and Hamas, as well as elements of the pragmatic leadership of the Israeli Arabs, may take advantage of the economic gestures and deliver what is expected of them, but they are not in full control of the terror threats. In addition, more disturbingly, the PA and Hamas continue to stoke terror and hatred, and Hamas calls for terror from the areas not under its control, including by Arabs in Judaea and Samaria and within Israel. The distinction between different components of the Palestinian people regarding violence and terror is becoming less relevant. This may be attributed mainly to Hamas and its supporters in Israel, who promoted that message in May 2021 and ever since have made it a central plank of their propaganda, including the March 26, 2022, gathering in Gaza aimed at spurring Israeli Arabs to confront Israel. To sum up, most of the Palestinian people, including many Israeli Arabs who consider themselves Palestinians, are committed to the Palestinian narrative of an ongoing struggle against Zionism, and the economic benefits to the general public are not going to stop them, from time to time, from taking action when they see fit…
“…it is still not clear to what extent the government comprehends the meaning of the changed rules of the game; some of those changes happened almost a year ago but, although they were well-known, they prompted no change in the government’s policy and attitude. If the new reality is fully grasped, then the counterterror efforts should persist and include a wide-ranging campaign to seize illegal weapons, apply severe measures against inciters, and adopt a harsher approach by the courts to those involved in terror, reassert control in ungoverned areas [note: particularly in the Negev], and more.”
Yossi cites multiple reasons for the wave of current terror, including incitement by the PA, the heightened Islamist devotion to Ramadan, and “the growing frustration over the marginalization of the Palestinian issue on the international and regional stages.” The condemnation of the attacks by the foreign ministers at the conference in the Negev (and I will be writing about this) heightened that frustration.
We can expect: “The terror groups supported by Iran, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, may launch more organized attacks and call upon Arabs in the territories and Israel to participate in the terror campaign…the option of terror attacks and rocket barrages from Gaza may be in the offing, as well. Israel must maintain a very high alert on all fronts for the foreseeable future. Israel must also bear in mind that if the United States and Iran reach an agreement on restoring the nuclear deal, the Iranian resources available to the radical terror groups will grow substantially.”
Not a comforting picture, but we are required – all of us, but most particularly our ostensible leaders – to stay aware and be prepared. What is called for here is strength and resolve. It is not possible to take Yossi’s words seriously (and he is a very serious analyst) and imagine that appeasing the enemy via perks and softening of our stance is the way to go.
He does not address this, but one of the ways in which we must remain strong and resolved is with regard to resisting pressures from the US. The Biden administration is not a friend to Israel, and we must not embrace its deranged programs either because of duress from Washington or the mistaken notion that we are better off keeping the current administration happy. More on this to come.
It is also an excellent idea to pray daily for Israel’s safety and a strong right-wing government.
From a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Public Security Committee held on Monday:
It was announced that an additional 181 million NIS in emergency funding will be allocated to the police in two stages: 111 million now and 70 in August. Some 200 permanent officers are to be recruited, and a Border Brigade within the Border Police is to be established.
MK Orit Struk (Religious Zionists) and Ofir Akunis (Likud) are promoting legislation to revoke the citizenship of terrorists.
MK Zvi Hauser (New Hope) noted that there are between 200,000 and 400,000 illegal weapons in Israel. “This is a national plague…the result of years of turning a blind eye. There is no choice but to set up a unique task force for collecting illegal weapons.”
There is discussion about temporarily declaring a state of emergency that would permit use of administrative arrests and increase the punishment for incitement.
Are these serious measures? A beginning. We shall see.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner.