'Battle for Jerusalem’ is personal

The city of Jerusalem does not need to be fought for. It needs to be left as an open city for all the faithful to be able to worship freely.

By DAOUD KUTTAB
November 20, 2014 21:16
3 minute read.
synagogue attack

A bullet hole in a door of the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinian terrorists killed four rabbis and a police officer, November 19, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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It is not clear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s portrayal of the latest violence as the Battle of Jerusalem was a description of what was happening or an electoral wish. Whatever the case, the results of the “Battle of Jerusalem,” if it is that, will certainly be different from what Israelis predict.

One of the first indications that Jerusalem is different is the names.

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More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, but we know very little about them.

In Jerusalem, however, the names of both Palestinians and Israelis who are killed are given much more prominence in media coverage and public discussions.

The Israelis who were killed in the attack on the synagogue on Tuesday have been named: Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Kalman Levine and Aryeh Kupinsky.

Similarly, the press gave the names of the two Palestinian cousins who killed them, Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, from the Jerusalem neighborhood of a-Tur.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was killed by Israelis, and Yussuf Hasan a-Ramuni, the Palestinian driver for Egged who was found hanged, have become household names.



This high visibility of the various victims of the violence in Jerusalem is certain to raise the emotional and political temperature in a city that has been near boiling point since summer.

Israel’s planned punishments for the people of Jerusalem will do little to deescalate the tensions, but will certainly contribute to widening them.

While Israel’s prime minister and other ministers and politicians quickly accused the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and Gaza of responsibility for what happened, Israel’s security chiefs, including the head of the Shin Bet, publicly contradicted their political leaders and blamed the violence on the visit by members of the Knesset to al-Aksa Mosque and the killing of Abu Khdeir, rather than anything else.

The fact is that, unlike other areas in the occupied territories, Israel has full control over east Jerusalem and has created a wall separating Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories.

Israel uses legal and administrative means to further isolate Palestinian leaders.

Once, Israel used its emergency law to prevent a children’s puppet festival in Jerusalem’s Hakawati theater because it was funded by the Norwegian government via the Ramallah-based Palestinian government.

Israel’s obsession to cut off east Jerusalem from the rest of Palestine has meant that the Palestinian leadership has no leverage on fellow Palestinians. The result is that the city’s 300,000 Palestinian residents are leaderless political orphans who act as lone wolves that are neither influenced nor directed by any visible leadership.

The political temperature of Jerusalem is also raised when any side tries to shake the strong religious beliefs of the other.

Having Israeli security enter the third-holiest mosque in the world wearing their boots, as they did on October 29, is seen by Muslims around the world as a violation of their sacred religion and holy places.

This does not justify killing Jewish worshipers in a synagogue, but it goes to show that what has been happening on the grounds of al-Aksa Mosque left a deep scar on the population.

Press reports said that the four Jewish worshipers killed Tuesday were dual citizens.

Three Americans and Briton were killed.

A Druse soldier who came to their rescue, Zidan Seif, died from wounds in the exchange of fire.

The attackers were Muslim Palestinians from Jerusalem.

This multiplicity of nationalities and ethnicities attacked points to the importance of this conflict, especially the Jerusalem part of it. It should be removed from day-to-day politics and be given higher attention by the international community.

The US and the UK, along with Arab and Muslim leaders, must act with wisdom and conviction to find long-term solutions to this conflict and to institute policies that guarantee the freedom of worship and the protection of all holy places in Jerusalem.

Leaving an issue as volatile as Jerusalem in the hands of the Israeli settlers who run Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will only lead to more disasters.

It is time that the international community act in a decisive way and put an end to this vicious cycle of violence.

The city of Jerusalem does not need to be fought for. It needs to be left as an open city for all the faithful to be able to worship freely.

Making the current violence a battle for Jerusalem is pouring oil on fire and will escalate the violence.

For many people in the city and around the world, when it comes to Jerusalem, it is very personal.

The article originally appeared in The Jordan Times.

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