Umm el-Fahm residents link attack to fear that 'al-Aksa is in danger'

"This was done by three individuals. It’s not representative. You can’t say Umm el-Fahm is guilty. Umm el-Fahm is shocked by this attack. We still don’t understand the reasons."

July 17, 2017 04:27
Israeli Arab protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Umm el-Fahm.

Israeli Arab protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against the outlawing of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, in the northern Israeli-Arab town of Umm el-Fahm November 28, 2015.. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)


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Umm el-Fahm Vice Mayor Bilal Daher Mahajne took time from his hectic schedule Sunday when a reporter from The Jerusalem Post appeared unannounced at his office because he wants to get the word out that Umm el-Fahm should not be held collectively guilty for Friday’s Temple Mount attack carried out by three of its sons.

“We have 60,000 residents here,” he said in his well-ordered office after an aide served the customary coffee to his visitor. “This was done by three individuals. It’s not representative. You can’t say Umm el-Fahm is guilty. Umm el-Fahm is shocked by this attack. We still don’t understand the reasons.”

Two policemen were killed in the attack on the Mount, the site of the Aksa Mosque, by three members of the same extended family: Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabareen, 29, Muhammad Hamed Abdul Latif Jabareen, 19, and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabareen, 19. All were shot dead by police.

Israeli police remove body of one assailant from the Temple Mount compound (Reuters)

“These youngsters had plans for building futures,” said Mahajne. “The 29-year old was supposed to get married next month and was at the height of plans to build a house. Muhammad Hamed was a college student and athlete and only son. The third was also an athlete, from a good family, with plans for the future. They come from three normal families.

“When I visited the families they were in shock. We as Umm el-Fahm residents and leaders of the Arab community oppose any type of violence and use of weaponry. We have other ways of expressing our opinion – legal and legitimate ways – and we reject all killing from both sides.”

In interviews on the streets outside, however, some residents said the motive was not that mysterious.

Indeed, if one had to guess from where such an attack would spring, Umm el-Fahm would be a logical choice even though a clear majority of those interviewed by the Post criticized it. This is because many in Umm el-Fahm believe that al-Aksa mosque is endangered by Israel. The gunmen, some of those interviewed said, acted on that conviction.

“Al-Aksa is in danger” is the slogan of the banned northern branch of the Islamic Movement that ran the Umm el-Fahm municipality for 21 years and still has many sympathizers.

“They did this because of the feeling that al-Aksa is in danger,” said a young man who works in a computer store. “Every year we used to have a festival on the theme ‘al-Aksa is in danger.’ Since the government banned the movement, we no longer have it, but a lot of people still support the movement.

It built schools, kindergartens, it helped old people. It’s like a welfare society.” Asked what people thought of the attack, the computer-store worker said: “Some favor it and some are against it.”

A coffee-mill owner who has a picture of the Dome of the Rock in his shop said: “The majority are against it. There’s a minority who support it. I believe there is no benefit from it. It causes more harm than anything else. It was stupidity.” He added: “Al Aksa is not in danger. I pray there.”

Mahajne, however, believes it is.

“As long as it is under Israeli occupation it is in danger. There are indignities. Women who go there go through rigorous searches and sometimes they make age requirements that you have to be over forty and don't let people enter. They rule it and it is under occupation. And they allow right wing extremists to enter and this is something that provokes anger among the youths."

On assailant Muhammad Hamed Abdul Latif Jabareen’s Facebook page is a picture posted in July 2016 that shows northern branch Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah next to the haram al-sharif, the Muslim term for the Temple Mount that means noble sanctuary. Salah finished a nine-month prison term in January for incitement over a 2007 speech in which he called for martyrdom on behalf of al-Aksa.

Mahajne said he saw “no support” for the attack among Umm el-Fahm residents, adding that the families of the attackers “have been wrecked. Their world has been destroyed.”

The vice mayor also played down the use of a mourners’ tent by one of the families.

“They didn’t make a tent especially for mourning. This was a covering for a car that they sat under because of the sun. The police said to take it down. I spoke to the homeowner and he removed it in five minutes.”

Mourners' tent for terrorists of July 14 attack on the Temple Mount (Arab Media)

Umm el-Fahm resident Muhammad Mahameed called the attackers “terrorists.”

“Nobody wants this. People are against it,” he said, taking issue with anyone who would view the attack as resistance to occupation. “We live in peace. The occupation is in Gaza and Jenin, not here.

“No one understands this. The child that did this comes from a good family, from good people.”

A woman who works in a clothing store said: “I condemn it. We want peace for our children, only peace, not war. We want security for our children.”

In another clothing store, a young salesman said: “I don’t have an opinion. We are shocked.”

A young man working in a nearby store said he thought the gunmen "thought al-Aksa is in danger."

"When people go to al-Aksa they don't feel safe. There are a lot of guards with guns who are Jewish and who hate them. People don't like someone telling them when they can pray. The police hit our women in Jerusalem and speak in dirty language. Israel shouldn't be controlling al-Aksa."

"We are confused" about the attack, he added. "In a way we are proud but in another way we feel sad about what happened to these children. It is a tragedy for their parents."

"People are saying they are martyrs because they died for al-Aksa," he said. "I heard from people they were good kids. Everyone's surprised. No one thought this would happen."

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