“Thursday night may have been one of the darkest Israel’s ethnically divided capital, Jerusalem, has seen in a long time. Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police close to Damascus Gate of the Old City over what they deemed unfair restrictions during Ramadan; 21 were rushed to an East Jerusalem hospital for treatment, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. After midnight, hundreds of far-right Jewish activists, many affiliated with the Jewish supremacist Lehava movement, marched to the Damascus Gate, calling out “Death to Arabs.” Jewish extremists allegedly attacked a home in the Old City, seeking to set it on fire. In a video distributed on social media, Arab men can be seen beating a Jewish driver in Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood before setting his car ablaze.”
“Israeli police say 44 people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in a night of chaos in Jerusalem, where security forces separately clashed with Palestinians angry about Ramadan restrictions and Jewish extremists who held an anti-Arab march nearby. Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Residents braced for possible further unrest as police stepped up security and the U.S. Embassy appealed for calm.
There were concerns the violence could reignite following Friday prayers at a major holy site in Jerusalem, but thousands of worshippers dispersed peacefully after Muslim religious leaders called for restraint. The Islamic militant group Hamas meanwhile staged demonstrations across Gaza reiterating its support for armed struggle.
Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police on a nightly basis since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The tensions began when police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Muslims traditionally gather to enjoy the evening after the daytime fast. Late Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians hurled stones and bottles at police, who fired a water cannon and stun grenades to disperse them. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in the melee.
Meanwhile, a far-right Jewish group known as Lahava led a march of hundreds of protesters chanting “Arabs get out!” toward the Damascus Gate. The show of force came in response to videos circulated on TikTok showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. Other videos made in response to them appear to show Jews assaulting Arabs. Police used metal barricades to halt the far-right protesters a few hundred meters (yards) from Damascus Gate. Later, they used water cannon, stun grenades and mounted police to push them back toward mostly Jewish west Jerusalem.
Videos circulated online showed smaller clashes and fires elsewhere in the city. One video showed what appeared to be a group of Palestinians beating an ultra-Orthodox Jew near Damascus Gate. They could be seen punching, kicking and throwing him to the ground before police chased them off.”
- “‘Death to Arabs’: Chaos erupts in Jerusalem after far-right march” (Middle East Eye)
- “Israelis and Palestinians Clash Around Jerusalem’s Old City” (New York Times)
- “‘Death to Arabs’: Over 100 Palestinians wounded as Jewish extremists stage provocative march in Jerusalem” (The New Arab)
“It was the most violent night in Jerusalem since 2015, when the urban intifada that began with the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in Gush Etzion and the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir reached its peak. But at the time, unlike today, we could point to a cause that sparked the flames of hatred– a feeling of despair and fury over the murder of the teens. This time, the cause is a number of slaps, a few rocks and a cup of coffee poured on ultra-Orthodox passersby at the Damascus Gate. These incidents reverberated loudly in TikTok videos and were blown up out of proportion by the Kahanist barons of hatred, like Lehava’s Benzi Gopstein. Another important difference is that in comparison to 2014, this time the inflamed young people of Lehava are receiving a parliamentary backwind in the form of their own representative in the Knesset. They feel that they have gained legitimacy and are wondering why the police are not helping them attack Arabs…
Mostly, these were just delinquents: Young people, many of them Haredim, wearing black kippahs, alongside settlers. Right-wing extremists were looking for action after a year of lockdowns, but it seems that a year of the coronavirus has led to the expansion of this circle of youths. They are angy at the Arab community in the capital because of the TikTok videos, but there is no doubt that there something much deeper at play and that the latest videos of the attacks on Jews are just the excuse. After they failed to break through the police barriers and the mounted police, the water cannons pushed them back from the Old City’s gates toward Jerusalem’s pedestrian mall, where they looked for minorities or anyone identified with them in order to fight. Benzi Gopstein, an old man in comparison to the average age of the protesters, is a rising star for them. “I have no control over them,” he told the police officers. Police didn’t pay any attention to him on Thursday…
The end seems to be nowhere in sight. Ramadan has only begun and on Thursday night the hatred and extremism was fueled on both sides. During Ramadan in 2014, while hundreds attacked Arabs in front of media cameras in the center of Jerusalem, the three murderers of Abu Khdeir went on their personal campaign of revenge without anyone knowing about it. In the morning, we woke up to the sights of a burnt body in a forest and an outbreak of violence all over the city. The fear of a similar scenario, of a terrorist attack by lone individuals, Jewish or Arab, that would reignite Jerusalem and send us back to periods we would rather forget, will accompany us for the next few weeks. The hatred that broke out on Thursday, under the auspices of the cowardly leadership of the racist pyromaniac Benzi Gopstein, who is benefitting from all of this, could certainly fuel another round.”
“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the violent clashes late Thursday in Jerusalem, blaming far-right Israelis for inciting violence under “the protection of the Israeli army and police.” The Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, also condemned Israel for the clashes, calling it an Israeli plot against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites on the Temple Mount.”
More reaction from Palestinian leaders
“We are deeply concerned about the incidents of violence in Jerusalem over the last several days. We hope all responsible voices will promote an end to incitement, a return to calm, and respect for the safety and dignity of everyone in Jerusalem.” Also See – “US ‘deeply concerned’ over Jerusalem violence, doesn’t single out either side” (The Times of Israel)
“Jordan blamed Israel on Friday for a series of violent attacks targeting Palestinians in Jerusalem the night before, as the U.S. Embassy in Israel called for “an end to incitement” after a far-right march in the city, which followed days of escalating tensions in the city…A statement from Jordanian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Deifallah Fayez called on Israel, “in its capacity as the occupying power” in East Jerusalem, to respect international law and end “provocations and aggression” against the city’s Palestinian residents. ” Also See – “Jordan criticizes far-right Jewish extremists for Jerusalem riots” (Jerusalem Post)
Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights...and Violence
“A minor from Hebron was arrested Friday on suspicion of attempting the carry out a stabbing attack at the Cave of the Patriarchs, after being found with a knife. The youth arrived at one of the police checkpoints near the entrance of the religious site when police found the weapon.”
“On Thursday, 22 April 2021, Israeli authorities returned the body of Yousef Abu Jazar, 16, to his family in the Gaza Strip, nearly three years after he was shot and killed by Israeli forces…Nearly three years ago, on 29 April 2018, Israeli forces shot Yousef as he was approaching the separation fence, east of Rafah, ultimately killing him. His family sought legal assistance from Al Mezan after being informed by the Palestinian Liaison Office of Israel’s decision to withhold the body of their deceased son. Al Mezan engaged with the Israeli authorities for the release of the body for over two years without success. After exhausting all other legal avenues, in September 2020, Al Mezan petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice, demanding the return of Yousef’s body to his family for a proper burial in accordance with international law.
“Israeli forces Wednesday dawn detained at least six Palestinians, including a journalist, from various parts of the West Bank, according to security sources. They said that Israeli forces rounded up 43-year-old journalist, Alaa al-Rimawi, after storming his house in the city of Ramallah. Al-Rimawi works as a journalist for J-Media, which is a Palestinian media organization concerned with producing videos, photography and live broadcasting services for Palestinian events. Al-Rimawi’s wife confirmed that her husband has started a hunger strike since the time of his detention.”
“Israel’s Military Police said on Wednesday that it will not open an investigation into an officer who was filmed kneeling on the neck of a 60 year old Palestinian protester while arresting him. The video, released in September, shows the officer kneeling on the neck of Khairi Hannoun, whom he had arrested at a demonstration outside the village of Shufa near Tul Karm. Hannoun then entered his car and the officer was filmed breaking the car window with his rifle and pointing it at the head of another Palestinian.”
“Shin Bet personnel, IDF officers and an army medic and a clerk undertook a highly invasive search of a Palestinian detainee. She didn’t pose clear and present danger. Intelligence did not justify such an extreme act. Last week, the investigation on suspicion of rape and sodomy against all those involved was closed. Haaretz has obtained the transcript of their interrogation”
“The head of the Hamas list for next month’s vote, Khalil al-Hayya, said any postponement, however small, would undermine efforts to restore unity. “A postponement would push the Palestinian people into the unknown, and I warn that this will complicate the situation, perpetuate and reinforce the division,” Hayya said in an AFP interview. “This would cause great frustration among the population and young people, and could lead to serious reactions,” said Hayya, the second most powerful Hamas leader in Gaza after political chief Yahya Sinwar.”
“The United Nations and European members of the Security Council called Thursday for Israel to permit all eligible Palestinians in East Jerusalem to be able to vote in the first Palestinian legislative elections in 15 years. Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem are due to vote on May 22 ahead of a planned presidential election in July that various opinion polls have Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas losing.’
“The frequency of threats and attacks against candidates in the Palestinian legislative elections has increased over the past few days, and internal parties are most likely behind them. However, none of the concerned parties (security forces or public prosecution) announced any of the results of their investigations into these incidents.”
“However, there are several stipulations that make running disproportionately more challenging for younger Palestinians. Lists are charged a $20,000 registration fee, and candidates must be 28 or older. They are also required to resign from their jobs already as contenders, regardless of whether they win or not. This resignation demand is unjust and has discouraged many youth from running, said Salameh, as younger Palestinians are unlikely to risk their income while many have loans to pay. Veteran politicians, in contrast, have their hands in multiple projects and business ventures to profit from if they lose their PA salary, and can rely on their networks to secure other government positions if they are not elected….[Salem] Barahmeh and about a dozen other young Palestinians have decided to launch a progressive virtual parliamentary list called Jeel al-Tajdeed al-Democraty (JAD). Palestinians aged 18 to 45 from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem can submit their nominations online until the end of April, and between 16 to 32 candidates will eventually be elected by JAD members. The group received close to 30 nominations in the first days alone, noted Barahmeh — most of them from Gaza.
There was initially much excitement among Palestinian youth about running, said Barahmeh, but when the registration deadline came closer, many of them were not able to put together a list due to the restrictive election laws. Furthermore, President Abbas issued a decree changing the electoral system: whereas previously every district was guaranteed at least one seat, PLC candidates are now elected entirely based on proportional representation, which favors more established movements. “If you haven’t had the space to politically organize for 15 years, it’s very hard to put together a national list that can compete in two months. It’s virtually impossible,” explained Barahmeh. The fact that many of the candidates are young is also misleading, he added, as most of them occupy lower positions on lists that are unlikely to make it past the electoral threshold. Meanwhile, the lists that are projected to do well are largely powered by a cult of personality, which JAD resents and is trying to change, he said. “We don’t need a transformational leader, we need a new political system. Having one leader isn’t going to do that. We need a movement.””
Beth Oppenheim writes, “Even if Abbas stays on as president and postpones the presidential election, a renewed PLC would at least provide some oversight and accountability for the executive. The new parliament would have to review fourteen years’ worth of new legislation passed by presidential decrees. Abbas would consult the new parliament when appointing his government and prime minister. An election would also provide for Abbas’s succession because—at least by law—the presidency of the PA should go to the speaker of the PLC if Abbas dies or becomes incapacitated.
Democratic advances, including elections, would give the Palestinian leadership a more coherent, credible voice. That could be useful in negotiating with Israel and the international community, offering some way out of the political deadlock. The peace process is moribund, primarily due to Israeli policy, particularly settlement expansion in the West Bank and the closure of Gaza. But some responsibility also lies with Abbas, who has deliberately weakened Palestinian national unity to protect his own position, notably by refusing to reconcile with Hamas.”
Israeli Coalition Machinations
“President Reuven Rivlin will give Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid the mandate to form a government the day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate ends on May 4, sources close to Rivlin said on Thursday. Netanyahu’s associates have admitted that he has given up on forming a government but said he does not intend to return the mandate early and take the advice of advisers who told him it would catch Lapid and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett unprepared.’
“In a new ploy to prevent Yamina leader Naftali Bennett from potentially forming a government with the so-called “change bloc,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to sow division in his right-wing rival’s party, according to a report Thursday. Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked has been reported to be far more cool than Bennett about the prospect of forming a government that would include center-left parties. According to Channel 12, Netanyahu’s Likud is now focusing its pressure campaign on her.”
“The right-wing Yamina party announced on Friday morning that it will not boycott the ultra-Orthodox parties in the next government. The remarks came on the heels of a Channel 13 News report that aired Thursday night, according to which Yisrael Beiteinu had conveyed to the leaders of the bloc of parties hoping to replace Netanyahu that the fiercely secular, right-wing party would only join if ultra-Orthodox parties were left out of the bloc for at least a year and a half.”
“Ridiculous as it sounds, the “President Netanyahu” option is being seriously looked into by his political allies. President Reuven Rivlin’s term in office is soon coming to an end, and eager “Bibists” (a nickname for ardent Netanyahu fans in and out of political circles) see an opportunity. According to Israeli law, an acting president cannot be put on trial, so it sounds like the perfect solution to keep Netanyahu in power and out of the courtroom.”
The U.S. Scene
“Rep. Mark Pocan, one of the most vocal supporters of Palestinian rights in Congress, called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to immediately allow U.S. lawmakers entry into the Gaza Strip. The Wisconsin Democrat told a webinar for Americans for Peace Now, a nonprofit whose stated aim is to help find a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that he is particularly concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Strip. He described the coastal enclave as an “open-air prison,” and lamented the conditions he says are radicalizing Gazan residents.”