Security cabinet – just smash the protest

July 23, 2017
Sarah Benton

1) Chemi Shalev, Haaretz premium; 2) Al Jazeera,new control measures fuel resistance; 3) Hamas

Muslims pray in the street outside the Lions Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 21, 2017. Photo by Dov Lieber/ Times of Israel

Dear God, Not Again

Israelis and Palestinians are headed for another round of tragedy and destruction but seem helpless to avoid it

By Chemi Shalev, Haaretz premium
July 22, 2017

It’s like sleep paralysis. You think you’re wide-awake but can’t move a muscle to stop the nightmare that’s unfolding in front of your eyes. You shout out but no one hears you. You know the tragedy can be avoided, but no one seems to care. Your mouth goes dry, you start to feel nauseous, there’s a pit in your stomach, fear in your heart and desperation on your mind. Even if you’re not a believer you pray: Dear God, not again.

You’ve seen this movie before, and it always has a bad ending. Don’t tell me, you protest, that Israelis and Palestinians are at each others throats once again; that more innocent people will have to die before this is over; that the victims will be paraded as proof of the other side’s cruelty; that both sides will feel virtuous and noble and completely in the right while portraying the enemy as evil incarnate; that moderates will fade and extremists will reign; that, like always, some people will say there’s a silver lining of opportunity in the dark clouds of hatred and violence but, as usual, they’ll be proven wrong. People will grow bitterer, the conflict more toxic and hope, already on life support, might finally wither and die.

It’s easy to defend Israel’s decision to place metal detectors at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in response to last Friday’s terror attack in which three Israeli Arabs killed two Border Policemen. In real time, it sounded reasonable to all concerned. Israel’s automatic defenders are already busy comparing the so-called “magnometers” to metal detectors at airports and baseball stadiums and the Palestinian refusal to go through them as proof of their malicious designs.

But there’s a reason why the army and Israel’s security services urged the cabinet to reconsider, which is summed up in the Israeli cliché that it’s better to be smart than right. What difference does it make if the metal detectors theoretically make sense in a sterile environment, if they are bound to wreak more havoc and to cause more death and destruction in their presence than their absence in the hellhole that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Israelis may view the metal detectors as careful safety measures meant to prevent terrorism, but for Palestinians the narrow silver-colored gates that are manned by hostile Border Policemen are yet another bloody Israeli checkpoint on their way to their holiest site. It is a last-minute reminder of the occupation which they hate before they enter the one place in Palestine in which they rule. Their resentment, justified or not, is high-octane fuel for the inciters and the terrorists and the religious fanatics with which to inflame their followers and to start another fire that won’t liberate Palestine but could definitely burn it down.

If reason doesn’t prevail now, in the next few hours or days, it will be weeks or months before it returns, but reason is never the sole or even the main actor on the Israeli-Palestinian stage. There is national pride and perceived prestige that dictates that you never back down from previous actions, no matter how mistaken they may have been, because to do so means losing face. So you up the ante, increase the volume, apply more force, assuming that the other side will relent. It may, but only after many more tragedies occur.

And then there’s the politics, which, in this primitive neighbourhood, automatically translate into disdain for compromisers, admiration for bullies and the universal fear of those in power of being outflanked and outshined by the militants on their right. Benjamin Netanyahu is always desperate to keep the support of Jewish settlers, who agitate for a “proper Zionist response”. He lives in constant fear that Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett will outdo him in chest-thumping and depict him as a weakling. Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, realizes that a fanatic crusade to oust the Zionist infidels from Al-Aqsa and Al Haram esh-Sharif could sweep him out of power so he rides the tiger and deludes himself he’ll be able to get off in time.

In other, more normal times, one could at least count on Bill Clinton or Barack Obama or either one of the George Bushes to talk to the sides and to rush a John Kerry or a George Mitchell to the scene to try and put out the flames. But the U.S. president is Donald Trump, so give me a break, and we already know from his blistering harangue in Budapest this week how much Netanyahu trusts the Europeans. Perhaps Israel’s new allies in the Middle East from Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia could step in to fill the void, though they are just as fearful as Abbas of being perceived by their increasingly agitated masses of collaboration with the Zionist entity.

The illegal West Bank settlement of Halamish where three Israeli Jews were stabbed to death by Palestinians.

It’s a pre-ordained series of cascading measures, outrages, reactions and counter-escalations. Israel might have considered removing the metal detectors, but not in the face of violent demonstrations and definitely not after three Israelis in the settlement of Halamish were so brutally hacked to death on Friday night. So it will hang tough and increase pressure to placate the public and its populists. But the efforts to project strength and deter demonstrators will inevitably claim more victims, like the three teenagers who were also killed on Friday, who will be portrayed by the Palestinians as Shahids and role models for other foolhardy teens. And so on and so forth.

In the end, Israelis will grow more isolated and resentful and Palestinians more desperate and oppressed and both sides will feel like victims that the world has ignored or abandoned. And you are left to wonder how people who are so supposed to be so smart can also be so stupid, or at least wonder why their leaders are too obstinate and closed-minded to break out of these infernal cycles of violence and frustration. “We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?” asked Tevye in Fiddler in the Roof. If this is God’s Holy Land, you might wonder, why can’t He (or She) move somewhere else for a change, or at least go on vacation?

Palestinians stage a protest after performing evening prayer, Friday July 21st,  as they refused to enter because of the detectors installed by Israel outside the main entrances to the Al-Aqsa mosque. The mosque re-opened last Sunday for the first time since 3 Palestinians killed 2 Israeli police officers and were then shot dead themselves.

Israeli measures at al-Aqsa will ‘increase resistance’

New Israeli measures of control will fuel the uprising in the occupied Palestinian territories, experts say.

By Zena Tahhan, Al Jazeera
July 22, 2017

The new measures of control implemented by Israeli forces in Jerusalem’s Old City after a deadly gun battle will only lead to more attacks and an escalation in violence, analysts say.

The installation of metal detectors and turnstiles at the entrance to al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the site of the attack, has enraged Palestinians, who believe the new measures are an attempt by Israel to change the status quo at the holy site.

For a week, Palestinians have refused to enter the compound through the detectors and have resorted to praying on the streets. Over the weekend, Israeli forces responded to their protest with assaults and beatings. After Friday prayers, three Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured, further aggravating the heightened tensions.

The July 14 attack that killed two Israeli policemen, carried out by three Palestinian citizens of Israel who were shot dead, came in the context of what has been termed the “Jerusalem Intifada (uprising)”, which began in October 2015.

Since the uprising began, some 277 Palestinians have died in alleged attacks, protests and raids. Simultaneously, 42 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in car-ramming and knife attacks.

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man following clashes outside Jerusalem’s Old City, July 21, 2017. Photo by Ammar Awad/ Reuters

But the new measures at al-Aqsa, taken by Israel to confront such attacks – which are widely seen by Palestinians as legitimate armed resistance to the 50-year occupation – are expected to only feed the cycle of violence, according to those on the ground.

“Israel is restricting freedom of movement through security checks for all Palestinians as a punishment for the action of some individuals,” Zakaria Odeh, director of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, told Al Jazeera.

“We believe that this action by the Israeli government will lead to more violence rather than stability. It will increase the protest and resistance of the Palestinians to the Israeli occupation.”

Over the past two years, Israel managed to curb the wave of attacks against its forces in the occupied Palestinian territories by increasing its nightly raids of Palestinian towns, embarking on mass arrests, and maximising the number of soldiers in occupied areas. But the perceived quiet has started to crumble with the crisis over al-Aqsa.

Police arrest  Palestinian demonstrators, using blindfolds and handcuffs, in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood Wadi Joz, July 21, 2017. Photo by Oren Ziv/

Since the metal detectors were installed last Sunday, Palestinians have carried out three alleged attacks against Israeli soldiers. Following Friday’s events, a Palestinian stabbed three Israelis to death at an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Nisreen Alayan, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – East Jerusalem, believes the new measures will only add fuel to the fire.

“Thousands of Palestinians come in from the West Bank during Ramadan and on Fridays, so the metal detectors will lead to more congestion and more tension and pressure on people,” Alayan told Al Jazeera.

Israeli police officers detain a Palestinian man outside the Lion’s Gate, following an appeal from clerics to pray in the streets instead of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, in Jerusalem’s Old City, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. A dispute over metal detectors has escalated into a new showdown between Israel and the Muslim world over the contested Jerusalem shrine that has been at the centre of violent confrontations in the past. Photo by Oded Balilty/AP

“As we’ve seen in the past, these measures have only led to more attacks and deaths on both sides. In the history of Jerusalem, such measures have never calmed things down,” she added.

Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Israeli Knesset, agreed.

No one can rationally expect that the more than six million Palestinians who currently live in the occupied Palestinian territories will eternally endure dispossession, injustice, denial and humiliation without reacting to the violence they face.

Yara Jalajel, former legal adviser to the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs

“There is no way that tens of thousands of people will be able to enter through such detectors in reasonable time. So that people can enter, you will need long hours to enter – especially at times like Ramadan,” Zahalka told Al Jazeera. “Entry is already difficult through wide gates. So how do you think they would be able to coordinate passage through these detectors one by one?

Israeli police clash with Palestinian worshippers at the Lion’s Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City. July 19, 2017. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

“It is clear that what Israel is doing is causing popular anger among the Palestinian people in all the places they are present. And I think that this will continue to enrage Palestinians, whether or not that necessarily leads to more armed operations against the occupation,” Zahalka added.

On Wednesday, the Awqaf, the Islamic Authority in charge of the compound, warned that “the longer Israel delays the removal of the metal detectors, the worse it is going to get”.

Israeli authorities closed off the Old City, including al-Aqsa Mosque compound, for two days after the attack, barring anyone except those who lived there from entering. They also forced Palestinian shopkeepers to close their businesses, for the first time since 1969.

Plain-clothes police arrest a wounded Palestinian protester in front Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem on 16 July 2017 . Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency

While Jordan retains control over the compound itself through the Islamic Waqf that administers the holy site, Israel imposes control on areas outside the compound through its occupation of East Jerusalem, where the Old City lies.

Israel already restricts Palestinian entry to the site through its separation wall, which cuts off the West Bank from Jerusalem. Of the three million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, only those over a certain age limit are allowed access to Jerusalem on Fridays, while others must apply for a hard-to-obtain permit from Israeli authorities.

By adding the metal detectors, experts say Israel is further changing the status quo of the holy site and restricting freedom of worship. As an occupying power, Israel is forbidden from doing so under international law.

“It is much bigger than the issue of the electronic gates. Everything Israel is doing in East Jerusalem is a clear violation of international law,” said Khalil Shaheen, a Ramallah-based political analyst at the Masarat think-tank.

Under the 1947 United Nations partition plan for Palestine, Jerusalem was meant to be internationally controlled by the UN for its importance to the three monotheistic religions. But Israel claimed the holy city to be its “eternal, undivided capital” after it illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and extended its law there.

The illegal Israeli control of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, violates several principles under international law, which outlines that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.

Israeli border police clash with Palestinian men during scuffles that erupted after Palestinians held evening prayers outside the Lion’s Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City July 18, 2017.

“In those two days, Israel had full control over al-Haram al-Sharif; it had the keys to the mosque, and now it is taking control over the entry of Palestinians into the site. It is violating the freedom to worship,” Shaheen said.

Yara Jalajel, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, called the new measures of control discriminatory.

“The measure also limits the exercise of many human rights such as freedom of movement, and access to a place of worship. In consequence, it is safe to conclude that placing these electronic detectors on the entrance of al-Haram al-Sharif entrances is unlawful,” Jalajel said.

The issue of al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Israeli control over it is a red line for Palestinians, as was recently reaffirmed by Palestinian religious leaders – which means that an escalation in violence is not unlikely.

“The issue of al-Haram al-Sharif stands as a symbolic, but very strong catalyser of the routine of injustice and oppression that Palestinians in Jerusalem are facing, and that causes a continuous eruption of popular anger and uprisings,” Jalajel said.

“No one can rationally expect that the more than six million Palestinians who currently live in the occupied Palestinian territories will eternally endure dispossession, injustice, denial and humiliation without reacting to the violence they face.”

Zena al-Tahhan is an online journalist and producer for Al Jazeera English.

Haniyeh lashes out at Muslim world in speech calling for ‘action’ at Temple Mount

Leader of Hamas terror group demands emergency summit ‘to confront Israeli aggression and terrorism’ at Al-Aqsa

By Times of Israel staff
July 21, 2017

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh lashed out at the wider Muslim world on Friday in a speech in Gaza City for its inaction over the past week, following the implementation of new Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The upgraded security, including metal detectors and cameras at the entrances to the holy site, were put in place last week following a deadly terror attack in which three terrorists emerged from the compound and shot dead two Israeli police officers, having earlier stashed their weapons at the site.

Palestinians have been protesting the security measures introduced by Israel after the attack by clashing with Israeli police on a near-daily basis since the July 14 attack, near the Temple Mount and around East Jerusalem.

Muslim leaders have instructed those wishing to pray not to agree to pass through the metal detector gates posted at the Temple Mount. Only a few Palestinians agreed to security checks and entered the site on Friday, with thousands more praying or protesting at various sites around the city.

“Where are you, nation of a billion, while prayer is being prevented at Al-Aqsa? Where are the Arab summits while the mosque is being sullied by settlers?” Haniyeh said. Palestinians sometimes refer to any Israelis as “settlers.”

Haniyeh called for emergency action “to confront the Israeli aggression and terrorism at Al-Aqsa,” the mosque on the Temple Mount which also houses the Dome of the Rock sanctuary and is considered the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place to Jews as the site of the biblical temples.

“I say to the Zionist enemy that Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds [Jerusalem] are red lines,” said Haniyeh, adding that Israel’s “policy of closure and implementing punishment measures… will never pass.”

Haniyeh hosted a mass rally in Gaza on Friday against Israel’s stepped up security measures.

The Gaza-based terror leader had on Thursday called for a “day of rage” on Friday in Jerusalem. Friday prayers on the Muslim holy day are the busiest time in the week at the Temple Mount. Hamas is avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel.*

Israel initially closed the site after the attack last Friday as it searched for further weapons. The compound was reopened Sunday with metal detectors installed, a step Palestinians protest as a change to the longstanding status quo. Israel has repeatedly denied this charge.

The increased security measures were taken after police said the three attackers who emerged armed from the compound and shot at police on Friday had stashed their weapons on the holy site.

On Thursday, police released video footage showing how the killers and an accomplice got the guns into the Temple Mount compound.

Officials from the Waqf — the Jordanian trust that administers the Temple Mount — have boycotted the site in protest and have called on other Muslims to do the same.


*This is not true. See their revised charter, Hamas in 2017: The document in full

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