Are we heading for a repeat of the violence we faced in May 2021? It certainly seems so, despite the analysis we hear from the so-called experts that neither Israel nor Hamas are interested in another round of warfare at this time. Israeli military correspondents have reported that the Israeli army is preparing for another round of violence in April.
The recent clashes between right-wing Jews and Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah is just the tip of the iceberg. With pyromaniacs like MK Itamar Ben-Gvir being blindly followed by a choir of Likud members of Knesset spilling fuel on the fire, and the police using violence against Palestinians and left-wing activists, the ground is already shaking before the earthquake.
What are the events coming up that will increase the tension and may lead to another round of violence? Sheikh Jarrah. The immediate threat of the forced evacuation of the Salem family from Sheikh Jarrah has been delayed by an intelligent decision by the Israeli court.
Sheikh Jarrah is a case of more than one family that has been living in a home granted to them by the Jordanian government prior to the Israeli conquest and annexation of east Jerusalem in 1967. The homes or the land on which the homes in question in Sheikh Jarrah were built most likely belonged to Jews prior to 1948.
The Jews were forced to leave those homes or ran away from their homes when Jordan succeeded in keeping east Jerusalem under their control. The Jewish claims of ownership are not without base; however, the Palestinians who were given those homes were themselves refugees from territories which became Israel after 1948, many of them from west Jerusalem.
There are three clear injustices here: 1) the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah have no legal right in Israel to claim their own homes and land inside of Israel from prior to 1948, while Jews are granted that right; 2) the Jews claiming ownership of the homes in Sheikh Jarrah are not descendants of the original owners, they are members of right-wing religious extremists settler organizations parachuted in as a move to force Palestinians from their homes; and 3) the Palestinian residents have been living in those homes for three generations or more, most of them have never known another home.
The Salem family which was expected to be forced from their home in the coming weeks is but one of tens of other families in Sheikh Jarrah that could make hundreds of Palestinians homeless.
Arieh King, a Jerusalem deputy mayor and key political activist working for years to move Palestinians from their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers seems to be busier than ever. Through his constant plotting against Palestinians, the Jerusalem municipality has asked the courts to reactivate demolition orders relating to dozens of buildings housing more than 1,500 Palestinians in the east Jerusalem al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan.
In the past, the municipality conducted back-door negotiations with these residents in an attempt to find a plan that would offer them alternative housing. In 2010, then-mayor Nir Barkat announced a plan to build a tourist-targeted archaeological park called The King’s Garden in the al-Bustan neighborhood, located in the lower part of Silwan. The park was intended to blend in with tourist attractions in the City of David.
However, the plan included the demolition of houses and the evacuation of dozens of Palestinian families who had built their houses in the neighborhood, on land they owned, but without obtaining building permits. The forced evacuations that will leave these Palestinians homeless is expected to begin in April.
FOR PALESTINIANS, the issues of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are reminiscent of the 1948 Nakba and keep alive the harsh memories of dispersion and the destruction of their lives into forced refugee status. This is why many Palestinians view Zionism and the settlement movement in the occupied territories, including east Jerusalem, as the continuation of the Nakba.
When a Palestinian is evicted from their home or homes are demolished by Israel, the entire Palestinian people feels the pain and identifies with the new refugees and homeless compatriots. Unfortunately, evictions and house demolitions are on the rise since the Government of Change has taken over power in Israel.
While these events are happening and leading to increased tensions, the so-called security coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown its real face by the Israeli assassination in broad daylight of three suspected terrorists in the heart of the city of Nablus. The three young Palestinians were issued a death sentence without being arrested, charged or standing trial, which was carried out by Israeli forces in Area A (under full PA control – ha ha!). Most Palestinians see the Israeli assassinations as further proof of the irrelevance of the PA and its security forces.
Palestinians are left with the feeling that their own security forces exist only to protect Israeli settlers and not Palestinians. Israeli military forces enter all Palestinian areas any time of the day or night and carry out arrests of thousands of Palestinians without encountering any significant objections from PA officials or security forces.
An important Palestinian personality told me last week “we have no objection to security coordination, any responsible Palestinian leader would continue to implement it, but coordination means that we should be given the information about suspects, if Israel has such information, so that we can arrest them, interrogate them and bring them to trial and sentence them if so warranted. But we would not assassinate our own citizens – this we can never justify”.
In April, we will celebrate the convergence of religious holidays: Ramadan, Easter and Passover. We already know that thousands of right-wing messianic religious Jews are planning to enter the Temple Mount (al-Aqsa) for attempts to pray, to ceremoniously slaughter a sheep and to lay the cornerstone for the Third Temple. Ramadan is a time when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians pray at al-Aqsa.
Every Friday during the month of Ramadan brings Muslim masses to the Mount and well over a hundred thousand on Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) that commemorates the night on which God first revealed the Koran to the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. It is believed to have taken place on one of the final 10 nights of Ramadan.
The Temple Mount (al-Aqsa) is the nuclear fission of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has been reported that this Ramadan the Jerusalem police will not cordon off the entrance to the Damascus Gate in the Old City and will allow Palestinians to gather there. Yet even now, there are repeated clashes between young Palestinians and Israelis there every week, often flag waving provocateurs who come there to incite violence and of course, the violence of the Israeli police and arrests are directed only at the Palestinians.
All of this is increasing the probability of violence, and when coupled with the declining economic situation of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas regime in Gaza, inflation all around and no political horizon, the chances of a new round of violence are very real. The situation requires cool minds and keen awareness that actions must be taken against those who incite and encourage the violence.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.