Our bad bet on Hamas: the Sheikh Jarrah intifada

Updated Erev Shavuot

JERUSALEM – With Israel in the grip of domestic anarchy and under attack from Palestine-Gaza, it is difficult to maintain a dispassionate perspective. So, I tell myself that this conflict began before I was born before even Israel was reborn. That Arab opposition to the idea of a Jewish national homeland in Eretz Israel dates back over 100 years.

If you are Jewish and oppose political Zionism and believe Israel never had a right to be born or that we were born in original political sin of the Balfour Declaration, I have nothing to say to you. I do not engage in polemics with Jews for Jesus, Scientologists, messianic Chabadniks, or Jewish quislings. What’s the point? Disappointed? Get your relief here: https://youtu.be/ohDB5gbtaEQ

However, if you are stuck in the density of the forest and can’t see the wood for the trees, you need to know that the Arabs are engaged in a zero-sum, winner-take-all game. They do not countenance our presence. They utterly reject the legitimacy of our claims to any part of this country. No Arab leader says Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. The millennial generation of Palestinian Arabs was raised on a narrative of victimization, taught to demonize us by a generation that had already canonized the Book of Intransigence. The most moderate Palestinian Arab member of Israel’s Knesset sees us as colonial interlopers and as the “occupation.” An occupation, they’d say, that in 1967 we extended to the West Bank and Gaza.

In 2005, we unilaterally pulled out of Gaza, but their line is that we didn’t. Indeed, we supply Gaza with its electricity and water. Ours is a Kafkaesque relationship with Palestine-Gaza, which is simultaneously at permanent war with Israel and in permanent dependency to Israel. Through COGAT https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/faq/faq_gaza we try to square what really can’t be squared.

Palestine-Gaza should be the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead, it is more like Hezbollah-Lebanon. That is the choice of the Islamic Resistance Movement, popularly known as Hamas. And if free elections were held in Gaza and in the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, surveys show Hamas would win. So, the choice to turn Sunni Gaza into Iran’s rabid lapdog of Shi’ite imperialism is a price Palestinian Arabs are willing to pay in their vitriolic hatred of Israel.

Now, I want to zoom in on the events of the past several weeks.

This did not need to happen. It caught us with our pants down.

The conflict finds us at a point where tribalism is superseding Israelism. We have what amounts to a caretaker government. Many key ministerial positions are unfilled or are held by ministers who barely speak with the prime minister.

Voters keep going to the polls – in 2015, twice in 2019, in 2020, and in 2021. The Binyamin Netanyahu-led Likud keeps winning a plurality but can’t muster or maintain a governing majority. There are two main blocs: pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu. The anti-Netanyahu camp is comprised of disparate parties and personalities that run the gamut of Israel’s political spectrum.

Now, the country is on its way to a fifth round of elections.

If Netanyahu had the country’s best interests at heart, he would step aside so that Likud colleagues Nir Barkat or Tzachi Hanegbi, or Israel Katz could become acting prime minister and form a broad-based Emergency Unity Government whose goal would be to uproot the Islamic Resistance Movement from operating as a military force in Palestine-Gaza.

But Netanyahu’s biggest bet has been on Hamas. Every month he funnels $100 million of Qatari money into Gaza to keep Hamas afloat. “Success Has Many Parents, Failure is an Orphan.” His wager failed. It will go down in history as Netanyahu’s Oslo. Like Oslo, if the stars had been perfectly aligned it might have delivered de-facto peace for a generation. It is too bad Bibi’s gambit has proven a colossal mistake.

Zooming in further: Netanyahu’s appointment in May 2020 of the utterly incompetent Amir Ohana as Public Security Minister (he has paltry security experience compared to more talented alternatives) set off a series of unintended consequences that undermined the public’s faith in law enforcement during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Ohana and Netanyahu then selected Kobi Shabtai, a not-ready-for-prime-time policeman, to become Israel’s top cop. His primary qualification for the job is that he is not unsympathetic to the prime minister’s legal (i.e., criminal) predicament.

The Ohana-Shabtai team first brought us Meron, and now this.

Last night, Arab mobs driven by primeval religious fervor again ran murderously amok. These are Arab citizens of Israel, so the dilemma of containing their violence without resorting to live fire is real. Now Netanyahu is planning to empower the IDF to operate against the Arab insurrection inside the Green Line. An army is not a police department. If the IDF is fielded, it will not be to give out parking tickets.

No Arab Knesset member or sheik or imam seems to have any influence over the Arab youths who are on the rampage. They’ve tried. Some Arab analysts say the violence has been egged on by powerful Arab criminal syndicates that hold sway in many Arab townships and cities. The analysts point out that Israel allowed a criminal infrastructure to take root so long as it was only Arabs killing Arabs (and they were with abandon). Now the chickens have come home to roost.

Whether instigated or lobotomized, a violent genie has been released from the Seventh Circle of Hell intent on “defending” the hemispherical golden shrine known as the Dome of the Rock and the nearby Al Aksa mosque situated on the Temple Mount inside Jerusalem’s Old City meters from the Western Wall.

And if you’re wondering, no – Israel does not constrict Muslim worship at these shrines. However, we do not allow them to be used as staging areas for attacks against the Western Wall. To my knowledge, Islamic prayer does not call for rocks or bullets in any of its five daily services.

Historically, false Muslim Palestinian Arab claims that the Haram esh-Sharif or the Temple Mount compound is in danger have been exploited to set off anti-Zionist violence since the 1920s. These tempests sporadically erupt when burning politics mixes with scorching air over blistering terrain. To paraphrase Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan), “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

As for this particular eruption – why now? The answer is Sheikh Jarrah.

All of us are paying the price because a group of ultra-nationalist-orthodox true believers and their misguided financial patrons in the US (none of whom consider themselves fanatics) wanted to swing their dicks around (beg your pardon, ladies). Here is my earlier take on Sheik Jarrah https://onjewishcivilization.com/2021/05/07/sheikh-jarrah-because-we-can/

We were stupid. They are lying. There is no government policy to drive Arabs out of their homes or out of Jerusalem. Nearly 40 percent of the population is Arab. The city’s current mayor is trying to rectify the municipality’s laissez faire attitude about service delivery in the Arab sector. Yet it would help if the Jerusalem Arabs exercised their right to vote instead of boycotting as both the PLO and Hamas demand.

In ordinary times coexistence – sometimes cordial, other times grudging – prevails not just in Jerusalem and the West Bank but throughout Israel. It was a glimmer of hope, sometimes strongly felt sometimes less so. And, frankly, there’s no viable alternative. In fact, adding to the convergence of factors that has hurled us toward calamity, Hamas may have been worried that Knesset Member Mansour Abbas, a Hebrew University educated dentist and head of the United Arab List would lead his Islamist party into, or support from the outside, the next government. He was being courted by both Netanyahu and the anti-Netanyahu camp. Hamas needed to torpedo that because it undermined the narrative that Arabs who did not flee during the 1948 War of Independence were living under “occupation.”

But there’s no sugarcoating it – Sheikh Jarrah was the spark. The Arabs rioted atop the Temple Mount last Friday night under the mistaken conviction that Sheikh Jarrah was somehow the final bulwark before the Shrine itself was breached. That elicited a fathomable but imprudent police response. If the police had professional guidance, they might have found a better way to handle the violent onslaught. In the event, they lobbed stun grenades at Arabs who were throwing rocks (and worse) from inside the Shrine.

Let me pause to remind you that the Palestinian Muslims who manage the Shrine take the position that any Jewish presence in the compound is pollution and a desecration. It is a religious chauvinism that cosmopolitan Europeans and progressive Americans conveniently dismiss with a bat of an eye.

The Israeli Police response ignited uncontrollable rioting that spread throughout Israel and presented Hamas with an opportunity it was incapable of resisting – or maybe helped orchestrate from the get-go.

In any event, toward the end of Ramadan, it all blew up on Jerusalem Day shortly after Netanyahu dithered about whether it was a good idea to allow Jewish young people to have a celebratory march around Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

Further darkening our skies, in response to runaway and asymmetrical Arab violence, Jewish louts festering on the underside of our own society – whether in benighted football fan clubs or on hilltops where apocalyptic antinomian mindsets prevail and instigated by their duly elected Knesset representatives and God-inspirited clerics – took the law into their own vigilante hands.

They smashed Arab-owned shop windows, tried to lynch random Arab passersby, and taunted frantic and aggrieved worshippers outside their mosques.

In other words, these Jews signaled that they had no faith in the legitimate institutions of the Zionist state – if that is not post-Zionism, then what is?

Netanyahu gave the Haredim autonomy, and we saw the lamentable results during COVID. He gave the Arabs autonomy when he took a hands-off approach to “honor killings” and runaway criminal behavior within the Arab sector. He allowed Hamas to build its arsenal as long as it didn’t shoot at us. In the short term, all this bought quiet.

I am not finished….

On the military front, the IDF cannot stop Hamas from launching rockets on our cities and settlements. Unless we were to play by Assad Rules, doing so is militarily impossible. Now, Gulf Arabs wonder if their bet on us as a “strong horse” against Iran was smart after all.

Presently, a ground incursion into Gaza looks like it might be on the offing. Maybe that is what Hamas wants. We go in. They capture one of our boys (or hold on to a fresh body), and we are in another Gilad Shalit nightmare. Paradoxically, some of the Palestine-Gaza leaders now running the show were released by Netanyahu in a 2011 prisoner exchange.

We Israelis enabled Netanyahu’s bad bet on Gaza. It was quiet in most of the country. We turned away from our fellow Israelis who lived along the border with Palestine-Gaza and suffered the “occasional” booby-trapped explosive balloon, mortar, or rocket attack.

The Sheikh Jarrah intifada has allowed Hamas to make political strides at the expense of Arab Knesset members and the PLO in Ramallah. To the untutored it looks as if there are no Green Line/Israeli Palestinians or West Bank Palestinians or Gaza Palestinians or Diaspora Palestinians. There is only one Palestinian people with Hamas as its champion. By forcing the demilitarized PLO out of any political role in east Jerusalem, by forbidding Jerusalem Arabs to send in postal ballots in the now canceled Palestinian Authority elections Israel created a political vacuum filled by Hamas.

Moreover, do not discount the fact that the PLO in Judea and Samaria has not turned its guns on the IDF. Better to have a modus operandi with a faction that dreams of our phased destruction than with the Islamic Resistance Movement which is lobbing thousands of rockets at us. If we take Iran at its word why do we not take Hamas at its word?

As we approach Shabbat and the Shavuot holiday, the Biden administration has blocked a one-sided Security Council resolution sponsored by the Europeans. Thank you, Mr. President. But instead of appreciating their efforts, Netanyahu’s churlish UN diplomat said it was not enough because the State Department made some noises to which no one was paying attention.

Now, worryingly, the president, the German Chancellor, and other European leaders all say that “Israel has a right to defend itself.”  Whenever I hear that sort of Diplo-speak I know there’s a “but” coming down the line.

If you pray, pray the IDF has time to defang Hamas.

Erev Shavuot Addendum

The New York Times has an expose today (16 May) fed to it by an Israeli foreign-funded NGO operative. It turns out that on Israel Memorial Day Eve 13 April, which coincided with the first day of the violence-prone Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israeli officials blocked Islamist clerics atop the Temple Mount from blasting loudspeakers from “four medieval minarets” during a Jewish memorial service below.  The President of Israel was speaking, and authorities did not want his remarks to be drowned out.

Perhaps in an alternative universe the Times might carry a story headlined: “Muslim Clerics Lower Volume of Loudspeakers Out Sensitivity to Jewish Mourners.”

In this universe, we Israeli Jews engage in lots of soul-searching. And I do it in my blog above. It is crucial to keep an open mind … just not so open that your brain falls out.

Besides the Loudspeaker Expose, on Saturday, the Times and several other unfriendly-to-Israel media outlets expressed chagrin that the IDF spokesman may have fed them disinformation on Israeli troop movements — which they duly disseminated — only to discover that it might have been part of an Israeli ploy to expose the whereabouts of enemy forces

I know this is hard for the Woke Community to get their head around, but Marquess of Queensberry rules are not honored anywhere in the Middle East. Israel will not be the first to introduce Marquess of Queensberry rules to the region.

The US can pack up and leave Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam and abandon its former allies to fend for themselves. You gotta do what you gotta do. I get that.

And we gotta do what we gotta do.

Look at it this way:  If we hitched our survival to the whims of The New York Times editorial board the result would be that Jewish Americans might have to add extensions to their Holocaust museums and memorials – alas, another Six Million Jews gone. Tsk. Tek.

They’d recall, tearing up, that as the Zionists went down they recited Mahatma Gandhi’s catechism: “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Jewish America would be so very proud of the example Israel set.

Yet that is not our way. Israelis prefer to defend our homeland and peoplehood. This comes at a price. The UN Security Council — with the People’s Republic of China in the president’s chair — will denounce us as human rights violators. The Times and the Woke Community will get to enjoy the moral high ground from the slopes of Manhattan’s West Side. Our image as the neighborhood bully of the Middle East will be reinforced.

It is a price most Israelis are willing to pay.

Published by Elliot Jager

In my briefings and blog, I contextualize Israeli politics and explore Jewish civilization. As a collaborative editor, I make your writing clear & compelling.

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