Bad choices

If Palestinians were truly interested in improving their own lives, and not only in delegitimizing Israel, we would be seeing tens of thousands of Palestinians mobilizing in nonviolent ways.

Jerusalem suspected terror attack  (photo credit: TAZPIT)
Jerusalem suspected terror attack
(photo credit: TAZPIT)
Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem was horrifying.
A Hamas member driving at full speed plowed into a group of people on a light rail platform, tragically killing three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun. The terrorist was identified as Abed Abdelrahman Shaludeh, 21, a resident of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, which has been a focus of Jewish-Arab turf wars.
Mayor Nir Barkat has called the situation in the capital “intolerable” and urged law-enforcement authorities to act “unequivocally against all violence taking place in the city.”
Over the past three months, there have been almost daily incidents of vandalism, rioting, and stone-throwing by Palestinian residents of the capital, many of whom are minors.
This atmosphere of lawlessness has eroded deterrence and might have set the stage for Wednesday’s hideous murder, which like other “lone wolf” terrorist attacks that employ the use of vehicles instead of arms and explosives, are very difficult to prevent.
A number of measures to clamp down on the violence have been adopted and others are either in the process of being implemented or are being considered. In recent months, more than 700 Palestinians have been arrested and about 300 have been indicted for various acts of violence.
An observation balloon has been floating over the Ras al-Amud neighborhood, which borders on Armon Hanatziv, and a drone has been deployed in an attempt to preempt Arab rioters before they get a chance to gain force and reach Jewish neighborhoods. Jerusalem’s police force has been reinforced with Border Police and special units.
As Barkat has argued, much more needs to be done. Police presence needs to be felt, not just at the entrances to Arab neighborhoods, but inside them. Passage of legislation that would make stone-throwing a more serious offense has been delayed while the Knesset summer recess drags on. Admittedly, though, all these enforcement measures address the symptom, not the underlying problem: the refusal of Jerusalem’s Palestinians to accept Israel.
Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who make up about a third of the population of the capital, have a unique status. They are not Israeli citizens and therefore cannot vote in national elections. But they can, in principle, vote in Jerusalem’s municipal elections. Unfortunately, they have over the years chosen, or been scared into, boycotting elections.
Attempts in the past by individual Palestinians to garner support for participating in elections as a means of advancing Palestinian interests in the fields of housing, sanitation, education, and culture have been met with acts of violence.
For instance, in 1988, when Palestinian newspaper editor Hanna Siniora arranged to field a list of Palestinian nationalists who would run for the city’s municipal elections, his car was torched outside his home in Beit Hanina and leaflets were distributed denouncing him.
Undoubtedly, there have been many Palestinians who have believed, like Siniora, that it is in the Palestinians’ own interests to embark on a process of integration. And there probably still are many who secretly agree, but are too intimidated to speak up.
Instead, Palestinians have allowed the voice of extremists to dominate discourse. Violent struggle is the only course of action deemed to be legitimate. No practical Palestinian movement has emerged that focuses on making Palestinians’ lives easier.
It is no coincidence that the Jerusalem light rail, which in many ways symbolizes a vision of peaceful coexistence between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in a unified capital, has been the focal point for Palestinian terrorism and violence. Hardly a day has gone by over the past three months without an Israeli car being pelted with stones.
Wednesday’s terrorist attack took place as passengers were leaving the train.
Some on the Left have attempted to argue that rioting, stone-throwing, and terrorist attacks are the results of years of discrimination against Jerusalem’s Palestinians. But if Palestinians were truly interested in improving their own lives, and not only in delegitimizing Israel, we would be seeing tens of thousands of Palestinians mobilizing in nonviolent ways – such as by using their tremendous electoral power in municipal elections – to demand an equal distribution of goods, services, and land.
Had they chosen integration and cooperation, Palestinians would long ago have succeeded in advancing coexistence.
Unfortunately, they chose – and continue to choose – the route of violence and terrorism, and we are all paying for that mistake.