Jerusalem has been under fire, both literally and diplomatically, for a long while now, but in recent weeks the situation has deteriorated sharply. If the authorities, i.e Binyamin Netanyahu and his Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharanovitch don’t get matters in hand very soon I dread to think what might happen next.
Starting with the Silwan neighbourhood: contrary to the received wisdom, this is no “Arab East Jerusalem” neighbourhood. This was once a Jewish or mixed area, settled (oops, there goes that word again) by Yemenite Jews at the end of the 19th century.
The Jews were driven out in the Arab riots of 1929 and were finally ethnically cleansed in 1948 by the marauding Arabs. The area remained Judenrein until Jerusalem was liberated in 1948. Somehow, since those 19 years of Arab occupation, the “Arab identity” of the area stuck and it is considered unacceptable for Jews to live there.
However over the last few years, Jewish individuals and organizations have started buying property in Silwan, which in any other area literally anywhere in the civilized world (I do not consider most Arab countries civilized) would not even raise an eyebrow. In the last few weeks two properties were purchased by Jews and the purchasers moved in, thereby doubling the Jewish presence in Silwan.
The Arabs have been seething ever since. Because Silwan is designated nowadays as an “Arab neighbourhood”, these purchases have been called provocation, theft and generally outrageous and inflammatory. The condemnations have come in swift and sharp from the likes of the PLO and various foreign ministries.
The fact is that it is an outrage that these people consider it an outrage for a Jew to buy a house, and – gasp! – move into it, in his own capital city, or any other city anywhere in Israel. The outrage, faux or real, only encourages the Palestinian irredentists to entrench themselves in their rejectionist positions. If the world is so concerned about peace in the region, they ought to internalise for themselves, and then teach the Palestinians that Jews are allowed to buy property and live in it wherever they so wish, just as the Israelis are pushed to allow the Palestinians to live where they wish.
“Deebo” at Israellycool has an excellent take-down of the Palestinian point of view as reported by the Palestinian newspaper Ma’an, which illustrates so clearly how slanted is the view about Israel, Jews and Jerusalem. One small example – with Deebo’s remarks in brackets:
The (previous) owners of the buildings, Salah al-Rajabi and Imran al-Qawasmi, sold the properties to a Palestinian man identified as Shams al-Din al-Qawasmi, who in turn sold the buildings to Jewish settler groups, the center said. (Oh that guy is dead meat now)
The previous Palestinian tenants left the buildings over four months ago. (so they “raided” and “occupied” an empty home, that was legally purchased, but some will still claim the previous inhabitants were forced into homelessness)
For more background and history of Silwan, and Jerusalem in general, read this scholarly article by Shaul Bartal in Middle East Quarterly. One very important point that he makes is this:
The ultimate goal of the Palestinians and their allies is to advance the idea that Jerusalem in general, and neighborhoods like Silwan in particular, have no Jewish ties. Archeological remnants found in Jerusalem are thus presented as either Canaanite or Muslim.
On the Temple Mount, Arab riots and Muslim provocations continue against Jewish visitors. I use the word “visitors” advisedly because Heaven forfend that they should be worshippers for that is forbidden by the Waqf and the Israeli police.
In the latest incidents Mahmoud Abbas has called Jewish visitors to their holiest site “herds of cattle”, and has now called for Jews to be banned completely from the Temple Mount, using “all means”. If that is not a call to violence I don’t know what is.
This follows the shocking daubing of swastikas on the Temple Mount, discovered this week:
Avigdor Liberman got it right when he said that Abbas is an anti-semite trying to ignite a holy war in Jerusalem. The terrifying thing is that Abbas might well get what he wants. But he will be the loser – yet it will be blamed on Israel as usual.
The American blogger Meryl Yourish (so glad she has resumed writing) takes AP to task for calling Abbas’s inflammatory words “a suggestion” and concurs with Liberman’s accusations against Abbas:
In a speech quoted by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas said Jewish “settlers” should be prevented from entering the site “by any means.”
“This is our Noble Sanctuary … they have no right to enter and desecrate it,” Abbas added.
That is outright religious hatred. He’s not talking about the mosque. He’s talking about the entire Temple Mount. You know, the holiest site in Judiasm. And “suggested”? really? You know what a suggestion is? “Hey, I think you should try putting a purple streak in your hair and see how it looks.” That’s a suggestion.
This? This is outright saying Jews have no right to their own holy place. No right to the site where both Temples stood, where the Ark of the Covenant resided, where Jewish priests blew the shofar on Rosh Hashanah–the site, in fact, where Judaism was practiced for centuries before Islam existed. This is part of the Palestinian strategy to pretend that the area was wholly Muslim and Jews have nothing to do with it. It is, straight out, a lie. And the AP calls it a suggestion.
The Muslim desecration of Jewish holy places extends even to the dead, as Arabs vandalised over 40 graves at the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
Meanwhile, Arab anti-Jewish violence in Jerusalem continues, with lynching attempts, stonings, firebombings, not to mention the severe damage caused to the Jerusalem light rail, putting almost 40% of the line out of action.
It has taken until now, but PM Binyamin Netanyahu has finally lost patience with the incompetence of the police and their lack of response to the Arab violence in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday demanded Israeli police and security agencies take a harsher stand against escalating firebombing, stoning, and vandalism attacks against Jewish residents by pro-Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem in recent months.
Calling to bolster police presence in the streets of the capital as a show of deterrence, Netanyahu “instructed that forces be increased in the confrontation areas and that vigorous action be taken against those who disturb the peace.”
However, despite the staunch calls for a crackdown on crime, a government official told the 0404 news site that Netanyahu is “furious” at Aharonovitch over his inability to quell the burgeoning violence.
According to the source, Netanyahu has expected that Aharonovitch know what steps to take in order to get the streets under some semblance of control.
“Netanyahu is furious with Aharonovitch’s lack of treatment on the terrorist attacks in Jerusalem,” the official said. “The situation is catastrophic. Aharonovitch ‘fell asleep on his watch,’ and now everyone’s getting hit by the ricochets.
“This verges on scandalous,” the official said.
Eyewitnesses at the meeting earlier in the day between Netanyahu, Aharonovitch, Barkat, police officials, and others who deal with the attacks in Jerusalem, said Netanyahu slammed his fist on the table as he turned to speak with Aharonovitch.
Netanyahu, according to those present, gave Aharonovitch five days to boost forces and stop the violence.
But since Netanyahu was the one who appointed Aharonovitch in the first place, why does he not fire him and find a more competent replacement?
This is not a matter of mere politics any more.
Unfortunately, the battle for Jerusalem is not only in our own hands. As Shaul Bartal in the above-mentioned Middle East Quarterly article sums up with these sad words:
Sadly, the battle over Silwan (and for that matter the wider Palestinian-Israeli conflict) is likely to continue as long as Palestinian Arabs and their brethren refuse to recognize that another people, the Jews, have a claim to the Land of Israel.