Then, in [East] Jerusalem two nights later

Following the clashes shpwn in the video in our previous post, Israeli forces made a number of arrests in East Jerusalem during the post-midnight to 5 am early hours on 29 May, , as Ma’an News Agency reported here

In the Old City:

“Twelve Palestinian teenagers and young men were arrested from their homes in the al-Sadiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem’s Old City. Police broke the doors of several homes in the raids and stayed in the area until 5 a.m.   A Ma’an correspondent said police arrested 13-year-old Issa Mteb, Aboud al-Jabari, 16, Muhanad Eid, 17, Abdullah Abu Diab 18, Hamoudeh al-Baytouni, 19, Mohammad Halawani, 19, Alaa Makieh,19, Maher al-Baytouni, 20, Mahmud al-Khatib, 20, Mohammad Ghousheh, 21, Anas Afghani, 21, and Mahmud al-Tiryaki.   Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some arrests were made in the last 24 hours but could not immediately say how many”.

In Eizariya [Bethany] + in Abu Dis:
Arrests were also made by Israeli forces in the early hours of the 29th in Eizariya and in Abu Dis, two suburbs of East Jerusalem which are now located on the “other” or [West Bank] side of The Wall being constructed [since 2003] by the Israeli Army to separate Palestinians from Israelis…

Continue reading Then, in [East] Jerusalem two nights later

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem [last night]

“The absence of peace is, in fact, perpetual war, even if it’s low intensity. Are we ready? Do we want to live with a permanent intifada?” — John Kerry on 26 May 2013

Not long after John Kerry said these words at the World Economic Forum meeting on the Jordanian coast of the Dead Sea, this video was taken of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is very visually-striking photography, beautiful –with the night lighting and the narrow alleys between stone walls, double-story green arches, and the clear plexiglass shields of the soldiers:

It seems to have been filmed and uploaded to Youtube here by Abdelafo Ba, and it was Tweeted this morning by @PalestinianVideo:  Palestine Video @PalestineVideo — #Palestine #Video Arrests and confrontation in occupied #Jerusalem  #Palestinian


In the heat of the day, the garden of the American Colony Hotel in [East] Jerusalem

This photo was taken by the talented Ahmad Nimer, from Nablus and working in Ramallah, who had a permit to visit Jerusalem for the day, for the first time in 12 years.

The photo, posted here shows the garden of the American Colony Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, bordering Wadi Joz, in [East] Jerusalem:

The garden of the American Colony Hotel - photo by Ahmad Nimer

A raid down the hill, last Sunday — this doesn't happen all the time, like this

I was driving to Ramallah last Sunday, a sunny day, about 1:30 in the afternoon.

The traffic is usually bad at that time in the narrow winding pot-hold streets of Dahiet al-Bariid, where there are two important private schools letting out students at the same time, just as students from the Israeli-run East Jerusalem public school system are coming home at the same hour, more or less.

You really have to plan your day carefully in Palestinian areas, and particularly to know when schools are letting out students.

But, last Sunday it was worse than usual.

Dahiet al-Bariid is a triangle of land in north Jerusalem, divided in two by the Israeli-built Wall which comes straight down the middle of what used to be the main street between Jerusalem and Ramallah, carving out an Israeli-run industrial zone [Atarot] on one side, and closing in the Palestinian suburb of Ar-Ram on the other side.   The route of the wall would have enclosed most of the area’s hill, Jabal as-Sumoud  — except that the Rosary Sister’s School and various other Christian institutions saw what was about to happen as the construction proceeded confidently and inexorably south.  They petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, and said they did not want to be cut off from Jerusalem, which was the center of their faith and life here.  The Supreme Court granted the petition, and in compliance with this Court decision, the Israeli Army re-routed the Wall sharply right at the lowest point in the area, to make a right turn and head up the hill, several hundred meters more north than apparently first planned.

Though the Supreme Court ruling has been made, the Israeli military has not yet incorporated the area into the Greater Jerusalem Municipality it defined in late June 1967… and most of this area is regarded, at least in military terms, as a “Seam Zone”.

When I got down to the traffic circle at the bottom of the steep hill, I suddenly saw why everything was blocked: in the midst of the normal chaos and traffic jam, there was a major Israeli border police raid going on.

It was not immediately clear which building was targetted — the building with multiple internal apartments separately housing all members of East Jerusalem’s most successful family of money-changers, whose office is located in downtown East Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare, Salah ad-Din Street, run down and crowded, un-posh to be sure, but the local equivalent of the Champs-Elysees, or Fifth Avenue.

Or, was it the office building next door, where a number of NGOs, lawyers, and other East Jerusalem entities have space?

There were many, many vehicles, and many, many men in combat uniforms with big guns standing out on the street. What looked like an armoured jeep was parked right up in the middle of the traffic circle, with a big soldier in combat posture + gun standing beside it, looking up at one of the buildings. Alongside the road, on what might in other places actually be sidewalks, there were more military vehicles, and more armed men in uniforms of various colors. What was going on? And, why?

It took me several days and a number of phone calls to find out.

Before the news was published, one experienced attorney told me it was just a “tax raid”, which happens regularly — it’s just that, to outsiders, he said, when these “tax raids” are in East Jerusalem, “they look like Chuck Norris movies”.

Finally, I called the offices of the Arab Studies Society — formerly, under the late Faisal Husseini, based in his Orient House further downtown, but relocated to Dahiet al-Bariid after Israeli authorities shut down the building housing a number of Husseini-backed organizations. Someone in that office said that the Border Police raided a nearby office rented out to the Northern Islamic Alliance, and arrested a man inside [Sheikh Raed Salah, who has Israeli citizenship and who is now fighting a deportation decision in Britain, is a member of the group].

News agencies and the Israeli media did not report the story right away. It took a couple of days, and the reports varied. It’s not clear why there was a delay in reporting.

Most of the few media reports said that not just one but two, or maybe even three, offices had been raided, and shut down [one of the offices was not in this area, but in Shu’afat village, more south, and closer to downtown Jerusalem], and one or more people arrested.

By Tuesday — two days after the raid — Agence France Presse reported that Israeli national police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told them: ” ‘The Israeli police closed down two offices… that were suspected of being used by the Hamas and the PFLP’ … The office which was allegedly being used by Hamas was in the northern Dahiyat al-Barid neighbourhood, while the premises being used by the PFLP were located in Shuafat, police said. But Khaled Zabarqa, who runs Jerusalem for Development, a local housing association which is based in the Dahiyat al-Barid office, said he was ‘surprised’ by the move and denied the organisation had any ties with Hamas. ‘We have no links to Hamas. We are a development institution which closes the (social) gaps left by the (Jerusalem) municipality in the Arab sector, which carries out renovations and helps families’, he told AFP, saying the organisation was seeking legal redress over the closure. ‘We are operating in accordance with the law’.” This story is posted here.

Haaretz, normally considered a left-liberal media platform, took a more serious and alarmist approach, reporting with a perfectly straight face that “Israeli police forces on Tuesday raided three buildings in Jerusalem allegedly being used by Palestinian militants for illegal activities. The raids were carried out based on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet security services. Two of the buildings, loacted Dahiyat al-Barid neighborhood in north Jerusalem, were suspected of serving as a center for Hamas militants, while a third building in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem was allegedly being used by militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Officers from the Border Police and Jerusalem district police found numerous documents in the buildings, indicating that illegal activity had indeed taken place there. Israel Police Commissioner Yonatan Danino signed an order immediately to seal the documents away for a month. The three buildings have been shut down The raids come two months after Jerusalem Police shut down a kindergarten in the Abu Tor neighborhood, citing classified intelligence that the site ‘was meant to serve as a place of terror activity’.” This Haaretz report is posted here.

UPDATE: More than a week later, Haaretz gave more details, and reported [on 1 November] — or, perhaps asserted is a better word, that “The first institution to close down was a Jerusalem branch of Al-Quds Development which was run by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Ra’ad Salah. According to intelligence, the branch was run in cooperation with senior Hamas operatives who are citizens of East Jerusalem [n.b. — excuse me, but no one is a citizen of East Jerusalem, which is still not an independent state. Israelis are often a bit careless with this word, at least in relation to East Jerusalem, where most Palestinians have permanent resident status, but no citizenship at all — and if they obtain any citizenship other than Israeli or Jordanian, their residency status is revoked]. The second institution was the company Jobs without Borders. According to intelligence collected by the Shin Bet, the company was operated by Hamas and the company directors are Hamas officials, citizens of East Jerusalem. Last, the security forces closed down the offices of Sa’ad, an educational development company in Kafr Aqab in northern East Jerusalem. According to the Shin Bet, the institution belongs to Hamas, which has been active in the neighborhood for more than a year and a half. The company’s managers are prominent Hamas officials, also residents of East Jerusalem”. This report, a week after the raid, is posted here

By chance, a Machsom [Hebrew word for “checkpoint”] Watch team was on its way, around 3 pm on the Sunday of the raid, to their usual observation tour at Qalandia checkpoint, perhaps a kilometer north of where the raid took place.

The women on the team, experienced veterans who have seen all kinds of things at checkpoints and along the roads in the West Bank, as well as at military courts and prisons, were astonished. They stopped their car, and got out to take a look…

Tamar Fleishman, a member of the team, reported that the raid took several hours, and she and her colleagues stayed until it was over.

Here is her account, with her photos:

    “During the afternoon hours a group of Mistaarvim [n.b. – Israeli undercover plainclothes police units, ususally of Arab origin. who are initially assumed to be “locals”] who had their faces covered, protected by the Yasam [the Special Forces of the Israeli Border Police], broke the office door of attorney Kaadan at Dahiat El Barid.

    Within seconds Attorney Kaadan found himself on the floor with two rifles’ barrels pointing at his head. His breath and complexion were back to normal only several hours after the attack. The invaders dismantled the alarm system, sprayed black paint on the security cameras, inspected the files and cabinets [n.b. – throwing a lot of things around in the process and creating a mess] and left the place after three hours and ten minutes.

    They took away with them:
    1. Two detainees (a person who works at the office and a client).
    2. The office computers.
    3. The memory from the cameras and the alarm system”.

Report and photos by Machsom Watch’s Tamar Fleishman, on the
23 October mid-afternoon raid of what Israeli police later said was
a “Hamas office” in north Jerusalem.

Discussion in Jerusalem: We are now in a period of unknown change

There was a “book discussion” Thursday evening at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem.

The book is almost unimportant, by comparison with the discussion.

In addition to the author [a young German], there were two panelists: Dr. Mahdi Abdel Hadi [PASSIA] and Amira Hass [journalist for Haaretz].

Abdel Hadi said, at the end of a description of four eras in Palestinian political life [we are now in the fourth, which is “change, led by the people”] that: “There is a madness in the changes occurring in Israel today, and there is fear among Palestinians… Anything can happen now, anything”.

Amira Hass was emotional, and strong. She spoke last, and said that what she missed in the discussion “is a small reminder that we are dealing with a subjugator people and a subjugated people. The word occupation is overused and worn out”.

She exclaimed — really exclaimed! — that “A people — us — have become expert in subjugation! We, of all the peoples in the world! The more I live here, and the more I see, the less I can write about this — there are so many sophisticated, sly, malicious details about this subjugation … What has been developed here for the past 63 years needs new vocabularies, if only for the simple fact that it’s us Jews, of all people, scheming in so many ways, so many incredible ways, to subjugate this indigenous people”.

She said: “I see [in the audience] many Westerners and diplomats in front of me, and I’m angry with you! What are you doing? Don’t you see this is going to a disaster? Why are you standing idle?

Continue reading Discussion in Jerusalem: We are now in a period of unknown change

Demolition of "Shepherd's Hotel" in East Jerusalem starts

At 5am today (Sunday — the first day of the Israeli work week), Israeli demolition machines that look like large mechanical dinosaurs arrived at the site of the “Shepherd’s Hotel” in East Jerusalem.

Just over an hour later, these dinosaur-like machines began their work:

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now writes on her blog, Eyes on the Ground in East Jerusalem, that today’s move was the “demolition of hope”.

Haaretz says ownership of Shepherd’s Hotel in East Jerusalem is “contested”.

The property has stood vacant for years, as a behind-the-scenes struggle was waged over its fate. It is not far from the Hyatt Regency Hotel that Israel constructed in the nearby Mount Scopus neighborhood, where a main campus of Hebrew University is located, as well as the Hadassah-Mount Scopus Hospital.

The demolition of this “iconic” building — which Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat reminded us today was originally constructed in the 1930s as the family home of the then-Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and nationalist leader, Hajj Amin al-Husseini — will make way for “a major new Jewish settlement…backed by American settler financier Irving Moskowitz”, according to the report by Hagit Ofran.

She adds that it will be the first settlement construction since the June 1967 war in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood (north of the Old City of East Jerusalem).

Husseini was exiled by the British, who seized his house and turned it into a military base. In the 1948 fighting that surrounded the creation of the state of Israel in the former British Mandate of Palestine, the property was under the control of the Jordanians, who allowed a trustee for the Mufti’s estate to “rent” it to “hoteliers”, Sa’eb Erekat’s message said.

However, a Palestinian source in East Jerusalem previously recounted that the Farwaji family, which operated several hotels in East Jerusalem, acquired control of the property during the Jordanian administration, and operated it as the Shepherd’s Hotel. Upon the death of the principal member of the family, some of his heirs — his sisters — decided they could not keep up the Shepherd’s Hotel, and it was sold.

In 1984 or 1985, Irving Moskowitz reportedly bought it…

The Los Angeles Times reported (perhaps at least partly wrongly?) here that “Israel took control of the building in the 1980s on the grounds that it was absentee property, meaning the owner did not live in Jerusalem or was a member of an enemy state. It later sold it to Irving Moskovitch, an American multimillionaire and strong supporter of the Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem”.

The Guardian reported here that “His ownership is contested by the Husseini family”.

The Guardian story added that “A handful of settler supporters witnessed the demolition. Daniel Luria of Ateret Cohanim, a rightwing pro-settler organisation, said: ‘There is no more beautiful sound than the destruction of the house of a notorious, not just Nazi sympathiser, but Nazi’. Haj Amin al-Husseini was an ally of Hitler”.

The Jerusalem Post reported here that “The building received a construction permit from the municipality six months ago, the last stamp of approval needed before construction can begin. Construction was delayed for six months over a dispute with [AbdelQader?] a son of Faisal al-Husseini (1940-2001), a cousin of Haj Husseini and a former Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs, who claimed that the family owned part of the parking lot that will serve as an entrance to the future complex. They lost the court case about a month ago, allowing Moskowitz to start demolishing the building”.

The JPost story added that “Moskowitz’s original plan included 100 apartments, but it was scrapped because it would have needed to go through a lengthy approval process by the Local and District Planning and Building committees. Since the plot had been zoned for up to 20 residential units under the a master plan for Sheikh Jarrah, by not exceeding the zoning plan Moskowitz was able to bypass the regular approval process, which includes approval from the Interior Ministry”.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said: “this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world. Ultimately, the lack of a resolution to this conflict harms Israel, harms the Palestinians, and harms the U.S. and the international community”.

Earlier, the EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement saying: “I strongly condemn this morning’s demolition of the Shepherd Hotel and the planned construction of a new illegal settlement. I reiterate that settlements are illegal under international law, undermine trust between the parties and constitute an obstacle to peace. Furthermore, we recall that East Jerusalem is part of occupied Palestinian territory; the EU does not recognise the annexation by Israel”.

And Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said “The demolition of Shepherd Hotel by Israeli settlement organizations in the Arab Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, which seek to impose new realities on the ground, runs counter to international law and the relevant UN resolutions”. He urged immediate international action.

Despite all the international comment, and all the local outrage, the site was quite quiet on Sunday evening. One — just one — police van was on stand-by across the street. And the two demolition machines were folded up like two great dinosaurs, sleeping on the front lawn… ready to resume work in the morning.

Quote of the day – 13th in our series: Israeli MK at press conference in Silwan

“It’s a shame and a disgrace that we have to travel in bulletproof vehicles inside of Jerusalem, the holy city, because of a few auto mechanics who are throwing rocks”.

Today’s quote comes from Israeli MK [Knesset Member] Ya’acov Katz, one of four members of the National Union Party who are presently serving in the Israeli Knesset or parliament, said at a press conference in Beit Yonathan in Silwan, East Jerusalem today.

Referring contemptuously to the adult male Palestinian residents of Silwan as “auto mechanics” explains quite a lot about the present conflict…

The Jerusalem Post, which reported on this press conference here, also wrote that “On Monday, the neighborhood saw the regular amount of rock throwing and tear gas”.

Meanwhile, criticism — and amazement — persist over the deal imposed by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who strategy seems to be based on his determined intent to pursue his own plan for the Silwan neighborhood, while the Israeli Attorney-General and an opposition member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council say the Mayor cannot ignore court orders.

Yesterday, Israeli commentators were worried about a “conflagration” erupting if orders to evacuate Beit Yonathan were carried out — or, if an order to evacuate the Palestinian Abu Nab family from their compound built on the site of what was a Yeminite synagogue in the 1940s, before the area fell under the control of Jordanian forces in the fighting that surrounded the proclamation of the State of Israel in mid-May 1948..

Crisis, talk of possible "conflagration", in Silwan today – defused by nightfall?

Israeli Border Police in large numbers were deployed in and around the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan today, as a constellation of pending events portended possible grave troubles ahead.

In the morning, the Police delivered a military notification to Silwan community activist Adnan Gheith that an order to expel him from his home for four months would be executed by 5 pm today. The measure was taken under emergency military orders issued in 1945, during the British administration of the Mandate of Palestine, prior to the proclamation of the State of Israel (in mid-May 1948).

Haaretz reported today that a letter handed to Gheith by the Police on behalf of the IDF Home Front Command a few weeks ago stated: “On November 25, security forces presented the military commander with defense-related material regarding your activities in the Jerusalem sector,” the letter read. “In light of the information contained herein, the military commander, the Home Front Commander [Maj. Gen. Yair Golan], is considering making use of the authority granted to him – and to order your removal from the Jerusalem city limits and its environs for a period of four months”.

According to Haaretz, Gheith was told earlier this week by the police “that he had two weeks to appeal the decision. ‘They claim to have classified information and all sorts of things’, he said. ‘But the truth is that I’m not leaving Jerusalem. Nobody can take a person away from his home and his family’.”

East Jerusalem Attorney Rami Othman said that a decision arrived this morning saying that the order would be carried out by 5 pm today. Othman then made an emergency appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court.

UPDATE: In the late afternoon Sunday the Court issued a temporary injunction against Gheith’s expulsion from Jerusalem by 5 pm.

Continue reading Crisis, talk of possible "conflagration", in Silwan today – defused by nightfall?

Abu Tir deported today from Jerusalem to West Bank

The UN’s Special Coordinator, Robert Serry, got it right: Mohammad Abu Tir was deported to … Ramallah.

Abu Tir, who spent four years in jail, then was released — and two weeks later rearrested and jailed on deportation orders which were carried out today, immediately, after a hearing in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court –

An appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court is still pending.

All of this, because Abu Tir was a Hamas-affiliated politician from Um Tubas (a village in East Jerusalem that was agglomerated by Israel into the Greater Jerusalem Municipality after the June 1967 war) who was elected in January 2006 as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council  The PLC has been unable to meet for most of the past four years because Israeli arrests of the Hamas-affiliated members deprived it of a quorum.  On top of that, the term of this PLC was for four years, and it expired in January 2010.

Still, it was decided to carry out this deportation anyway.

Serry issued a statement saying that “the potential precedent set by today’s Israeli court decision which led to the transfer of a Jerusalem Palestinian Legislative Council member to Ramallah is worrying. This case and that of three other lawmakers currently facing court proceedings continue to raise serious human rights concerns regarding Palestinian residency rights in East Jerusalem. I will be raising the UN’s concerns directly with the Israeli government and international partners. It is essential that all parties refrain from provocative actions, particularly at this time”.

I wonder why Serry failed to mention that deportation is a specific violation (it is listed right at the end of Phase One) of Israel’s obligations under the Road Map?

U.S. Statement on Palestinian position on "Al-Buraq Wall" – the exposed part of the Western or Wailing Wall – is itself insensitive + unhelpful

A few days ago, while still in Paris, I wrote a post about reports on the just-published Palestinian document about the “Al-Buraq” Wall.

This is the name used by Palestinians (Muslims) for what Israelis and Jews call the Western or Wailing Wall — the most sacred site in Judaism — which is part of the retaining wall for the plateau or esplanade that for the past 1,400 years has housed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of East Jerusalem. It is believed, however, that the Second Jewish Temple (destroyed by Roman troops in 70 A.D.) and probably also the First Jewish Temple (destroyed by Babylonian forces some 586 years B.C.) were previously located on the same site.

The Palestinian document was reportedly written by the Deputy Minister of Information, Mutawwakal Taha. It was posted in Arabic on the website of the Palestinian Ministry of Information. I have not seen any full translation of this Palestinian document.

It reportedly claimed that the Buraq Wall is Waqf property (held in Islamic trust) — which it was, before the Israeli conquest in 1967. And, it reportedly said something to the effect that this Wall was not sacred to Jews.

UPDATE: AFP and Ma’an News Agency (apparently relying on AFP) have just reported that Mutawwakal Taha said that he does not know who is responsible for removing the document from the PA website. He also said he does not know who posted the document in the first place. Taha says he still stands behind this document, which represents his personal views. [There are many Palestinians who support this view, which takes the arrival of Islam — meaning the specific message transmitted by the Prophet Muhammad — after 610 – 622 A.D., as the starting point for their legal analysis…]

Our earlier post, put online last week, appealed for outside help…

Over the weekend, U.S. officials commented that the report by Mutawwakal Taha is “factually incorrect, insensitive, and highly provocative”.

While that may be true, this U.S. comment is not — NOT— the kind of help I had in mind.

It did, however, have an effect. Today, it was reported that the Palestinian document has been removed from the website.

The U.S. statement, however influential, was not balanced — a word that successive American administrations have so loved to use.

Among its defects, the U.S. statement aimed at Muslim religious beliefs, and ignored legitimate Palestinian/Muslim positions.

The U.S. position correctly notes the Palestinian (Muslim) belief that the Western Wall has religious significance in Islam, because it is thought that a correct interpretation of verses in the Quran would indicate that the horse (Al-Buraq) that the Prophet Muhammad rode — in his dream, one night — was tethered at some (unspecified) point along this wall. In this dream. the Prophet Muhammad rode/flew on Al-Buraq from the Arabian peninsula to Jerusalem, tethered his horse Al-Buraq on the Wall, went up to the plateau, went to the rock which was later enclosed in the structure of the Dome of the Rock, and rose to heaven, where he had an experience with the presence of God. He later came back down from heaven, went to his horse, and rode/flew back to the Arabian peninsula, all on the same night, before he awoke from his dream.

Some Muslims and Palestinians are rather uncomfortable with a literal interpretation of this story, but few will say so publicly, or officially, because of the sensitivity of the matter, and of the overall situation, where Jerusalem is one of the main focuses of current attempts to impose an Israeli unilateral narrative.

It would have been better — and it is still perfectly possible — to respect religious traditions, while setting them aside, rather than taking a position either against one, or in favor of another…

The help that is needed here is something like this: continuous deliberations on the respective religious positions — with a massive effort at “public outreach” to help people learn a lot more about the views of both religious traditions. There is a shocking amount of ignorance and intolerance at play here.

There should also be strenuous collective political efforts to develop policies that will treat both positions, and traditions, with respect.

Otherwise, the alternative is nothing other than the ususal show of overwhelming superiority of military force — an unworthy and unjust exhibition of victor’s justice.

The very dangerous context in which this is all playing out is explained in an article published today on the Foreign Policy website (Middle East Channel), by Danny Seidemann, an Israeli-American lawyer who founded Ir Amim and who knows East Jerusalem like the back of his hand. In this article, Seidemann writes that “Settler takeovers in East Jerusalem are generally portrayed as a battle over real estate, but in truth they are much more. For the settlers, they are part of the not-yet-ended skirmishing of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence — a war that, in their eyes, will be won only when Israeli hegemony is imposed in East Jerusalem, with the re-creation of what the settlers themselves refer to as the ‘Realm of Ancient [Jewish] Jerusalem’ — a realm being established in the midst of, and in place of, the existing Palestinian neighborhoods … This mix of Biblical epic, historical role playing and contemporary conflict produces kitsch, but make no mistake: this is kitsch that can kill. These settlers of East Jerusalem — whether patrolling the hills of Jabel Mukabar or displacing Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah — are not marginal. They are deeply embedded in the policies of the Government of Israel, policies that are radically transforming the character of one of the most important religious and cultural sites on the planet. Their endeavors dovetail with official government efforts to incorporate the Old City of Jerusalem and its immediate environs into an untrammeled Israeli sovereignty, informed by the exclusionary settler visions of a pseudo-Biblical past and a mythical war of independence … But the policies unleashed in recent years render Palestinian neighborhoods communities-at-risk, and marginalize the Christian and Muslim equities in the city. In doing so, Israel is contributing to the transformation of a resolvable national-political conflict into an intractable mix of jihad, war of mitzvah, and Armageddon”… Danny Seidemann’s piece can be read in full here.