These are fateful days.
I write today to share some basic facts regarding our current situation. This is a task of some great importance, because outside of Israel very few get it. But even more importantly, I want to share something of the mood and provide a broader perspective. For wars are fought on many levels.
As always, I implore you to share this information absolutely as extensively as possible.
I doubt that there is anyone reading this who doesn’t already know that Hamas began launching rockets at Israel late Monday afternoon, and that Israel has been responding with some force.
The launching of Hamas rockets began, I believe, because Hamas leaders overestimated their ability to push us. They were flush with their capacity to incite violent mobs in Israel. And wherever they looked, they saw Israel in a situation of weakness. There was no solid government here, only squabbling and indecision. What is more, it sure appeared as if in the end there would not be a right-wing government, but one that included Lapid, and Labor and the far left Meretz.
While in America, there is a president so incompetent that he is instructed not to take questions; his administration is chockful of anti-Israel lefties. Trump, with his strength and clear vision, is gone.
What is more, the Arab PR was going great. Israel, a nation of law, had proceeded with due process to remove Arabs who were basically squatters from houses that belonged to Jews. Yet the word went out that Israeli actions were unjust and the world bought it.
I want to stop here for a moment to share some of the key points of the excellent analysis of the situation by Avi Bell, Professor of Law, Bar Ilan University (emphasis added):
“The current dispute in Sheikh Jarrah involves several properties with tenants whose leases have expired, and in a few cases squatters with no tenancy rights at all, against owner-landlords who have successfully won court orders evicting the squatters and overstaying tenants. The litigation has taken several years, and the owners have won at every step…
“Critics claim that the Israeli government should (or even that international law requires the Israeli government to) deny the owners their property rights, but these claims are not based on any credible legal argument. Rather, the critics focus on the fact that the owners in the disputed cases are Jews while the squatters and overstaying tenants are Palestinian Arabs. The critics demand that Israel discriminate against and disregard the property owners’ lawful property rights due to their Jewish ethnicity.
“Ironically, if the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property had assigned title to the predecessors of the current Palestinian Arab holdover tenants over the lands it seized from Jewish owners, Israeli law would have respected the resulting title. The reason the holdover tenants in Sheikh Jarrah lack ownership today is not because the state of Israel has denied the Palestinian Arabs any rights they acquired, but, rather, because the government of Jordan declined to give the Palestinian Arabs title to the land Jordan had seized…
“Contrary to claims in some media accounts, Israel has not created different rules for ‘enemy property’ based on ethnicity. The ethnic dimension to the current-day property disputes is historic discrimination against Jews by a country other than Israel: Jordan denied Jews all ability to exercise property rights during its illegal occupation of east Jerusalem 1948-1967…
“Contrary to claims in some media accounts, the Israeli government has not decided to evict anyone in the current disputes. It is private parties, rather than the government of Israel, that have brought their claims to court. Landowners have done what they do throughout the civilized world—they have exercised their private rights to evict holdover tenants by going to court and winning an eviction order…”
Professor Bell in his analysis refers again and again to media distortion. That is a key dimension of what is going on, and the distortion inevitably reflects an anti-Jewish bias. This is a bias that the world happily accepts as fact.
And so the Palestinian Arabs did very well representing the squatters in those houses as victims, set upon by terrible Israelis. The rioting of the Palestinian Arabs was accepted by the international community because it was seen as a protest against Israeli injustice.
This statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with regard to the mobs protesting in the Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood vividly demonstrates the accepted bias: “Israeli authorities must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Peaceful assembly?? The Israeli police are supposed to step back and let the Arabs riot?
The Biden administration reflected the same attitude. On Sunday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke about “the United States’ serious concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood“.
Does the US weigh in on perceived injustices in other parts of the world, or is the assumption that there is a right to interfere restricted to situations that involve Israel?
That same theme was carried out with regard to the riots on the Temple Mount. It was made to seem as if the Israeli police were illegally invading the sacred space of the Al Aksa Mosque and that rioting ensued in response to this outrage.
But if this were the case, why would Arabs have stockpiled rocks and other weapons in the mosque before the fact?
And why would the world at large not have observed that if tens of thousands of Arabs were permitted on the Mount for prayer that they were being given enormous freedom of religious practice?
Yet, by showing videos of Israeli police using force, making charges about the actions of “settlers” and reporting on “injuries,” the Arabs managed to convey a negative international image of Israel.
The painful part of all of this is that, anticipating an international outcry, Israeli officials are forever on the defensive: Forever looking for ways to quell Arab violence by making (futile) gestures.
The greatest weapon the Palestinian Arabs have is that mob violence.
See “Hamas is undermining Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem” by Prof. Hillel Frisch:
“Hamas has expanded the scope of its ‘extortion racket’ from Gaza to include Israeli policy in Jerusalem. This dangerous trend is sadly abetted by Israeli officialdom and much of the media.” (Emphasis in original)
And it is this that is most upsetting and infuriating. Threats from our enemies can be handled, as long as – and only if – we are internally strong.
So, let us look at what happened here on Monday, Yom Yerushalayim:
The day began on a negative note: there was an announcement that Jews would not be allowed up on the Temple Mount (Har Habayit) on Yom Yerushalayim because of concern about mob rioting. This went over very badly. What we were celebrating was the day on which IDF Chief of Staff General Motta Gur had announced, “Har Habayit b’yadenu!!” The Temple Mount is in our hands!!
Well, either it is in our hands, or it isn’t. If Arabs are threatening to riot, hoping to keep Jews away, then allow the Jews to go up and send an IDF battalion to protect them. I have long felt this way about allowing Jewish prayer on Har Habayit. We are told it cannot be permitted for security reasons, which means they’ll riot. So, call for that battalion.
But no, the Arabs were given the upper hand yesterday on Har Habayit, further emboldening them.
The traditional Flag Parade was scheduled for later in the day and it was reassuring to learn that it was not being cancelled or its route changed because of the violence and threats.
As always, young people by the many hundreds gathered on King George Street with their flags. They came from around the country, filled with spirit and eager to celebrate Yerushalayim. A heartening sight, I thought. I was there in the very place where the picture below was taken. My spirits lifted as they danced and sang “Am Yisrael Chai!” “This is our future,” I thought, comforted that our future would be spirited and determined.
After the groups were gathered, and arranged, they were scheduled to march down to the Kotel, taking two different routes via two different gates to the Old City. One was the Damascus Gate (Sha’ar Sh’chem), which leads through the Muslim Quarter to get to the Kotel. Even this was scheduled to proceed.
Then something unusual happened: the young people were told by the announcer at the podium to sit down, and he spoke to them about what would happen if there was a tzeva adom (a siren alert, literally “color red”). I thought “uh oh, they are being prepared for something.” But a note of confession here: The noise on the street was so loud that it was impossible to hear anything else, and I was oblivious to anything that had come in on my phone. I was focused on the young people with their flags.
It was only after the young people had gotten up and had begun moving in the direction of the Old City that I saw messages that had come in to me: “Are you all right??” Thus did I realize something had happened:
Hamas, over-confident at this point, had issued three “ultimatums” to the Israeli government with a deadline of 6:00 PM: allow the Palestinian Arabs to remain in the houses in Sheikh Jarrah, bring all police down from the Temple Mount, and release all the rioters who had been arrested on the Mount.
They had very severely misjudged the situation in expecting Israel to comply with these demands! And so, at 6 PM Hamas launched seven rockets at Jerusalem. Sirens, which I and others standing on King George had not heard, went off in warning. (Those who had the app for announcing tzeva adom and had looked at their phones would have known.) An additional warning went off for Beit Shemesh
The rockets either didn’t reach their destination or were taken down by the Iron Dome.
The flag dance was ultimately cancelled – although there has been some confusion as to when. Apparently first there was talk about re-routing it, when the ultimatums were issued, and then it was completely cancelled on order of Netanyahu.
I have read criticism of his having done so, but I support this decision entirely. It is one thing to send the IDF to quell a riot – something that badly needs to be done, and another to send young people out into the Old City when there is risk of a rocket aimed at that locale getting through. I am certain a good number of the young people were disappointed or frustrated, but others may have been relieved.
But the fact remains that Hamas ruined our party – our celebration of Yom Yerushalayim. And we cannot continue this way.
Netanyahu issued a statement (emphasis added):
“…This evening, on Jerusalem Day, the terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem…
“We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, on our capital, on our citizens and on our soldiers…We will not fall into the traps of our enemies and we are not beholden to the keyboards of Twitter users.”
A special meeting of the Cabinet was called and an intensive aerial attack, but not a ground operation, was approved. Israeli citizens were advised that this would be an operation of days and not hours.
After the initial barrage of rockets on Jerusalem, Hamas focused on the south, with Sderot enduring the worst of it. Very quickly yesterday the rocket count was up to 150.
During the night, Hamas issued another ultimatum: All police had to come down from the Mount by 2:00 AM or there would be further repercussions. But there were none. Hamas announced that Israel had complied, and so they would curtail attacks. This was their way of attempting to bow out because they had had enough, while seeking to give the impression that Israel had backed down.
But this has been the pattern: Hamas decides when to begin hostilities, and when to call it quits. If they stop launching rockets and we continue to hit them, the world goes apoplectic. Egypt or some other party rushes in to negotiate quiet and we don’t do the damage to Hamas that we need to do.
This morning Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilead spoke about being “dragged into a conflict in which Hamas becomes an enormously powerful force, and they dictate to us.
“The operational echelon has no choice but to hit Hamas very hard. It’s a provocation which must be answered.” (Emphasis added)
Actually, the issue of whether Israel should hit very hard has been resolved by Hamas. Shortly after declaring that they were done with rocket launching, they announced that civilians including children had been killed by Israel and in retaliation they would bring hell to the coastal city of Ashkelon.
Sometimes when Hamas claims Israel has killed civilians, it turns out that they themselves have caused the deaths with an errant rocket. If indeed, Israel did kill civilians, it was collateral damage – unintentional.
The good news, as I see it, is that this time we are not playing the silly game of hitting empty buildings and launching pads. We are aiming for – and hitting – terrorists. IDF Chief of Staff Kohavi had given the green light to striking Hamas and Islamic Jihad members operating in Gaza. Among those we’ve killed have been three Islamic Jihad commanders, including head of the special rocket unit. This is good: aiming for the big guys. In addition, at least 15 Hamas members who were launching rockets at Israel have been taken out.
But, indeed, Ashkelon is being hit very hard. At one point Hamas declared it had launched 137 rockets at Ashkelon in five minutes. There have been several casualties, and at least two deaths. Other coastal cities, notably Ashdod, are also being targeted by Hamas.
The operation has been titled “Operation Guardian of the Walls.”
IDF spokesman Brig. Gen Hidai Zilberman says a ground operation has not been ruled out. “We have a foot on the gas [pedal].”
Eight companies of reserve Border Police officers have been called up. The IDF has sent additional artillery batteries to the Gaza border, indicating that the military is preparing for the possibility of wider conflict. And Defense Minister Benny Gantz has approved the potential call-up of 5,000 reserve soldiers, as they are need, from Southern Command, Home Front Command and Operations Directorate.
Chief of Staff Kohavi said all headquarters should prepare for a wider conflict, which has no time limit. And Prime Minister Netanyahu says, a decision has been made “to further intensify the severity and pace of the attacks.”
So, we are serious this time. It will not be pretty, but it is very, very necessary. The IDF says that Iron Dome units have intercepted upwards of 90% of the rockets fired at populated areas.
President Rivlin met with some dozen European ambassadors today, and told them, “…no country in the world would accept a similar situation.” Indeed. We must continue to make our case.
There is a great deal more to say, and I will undoubtedly post again in short order. Here I just want to call my readers’ attention to the fact that we continue to deal with terrorism at the same time that we are coping with the Hamas attacks.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.