A general view of apartment blocks under construction is seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit in 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

6 Palestinians injured in West Bank clashes with Israeli troops


Six Palestinians were wounded in a series of clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

The clashes Friday came amid a so-called day of rage in support of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons, The Times of Israel reported.

In the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, three people were injured by live fire, the Palestinian humanitarian group said. Another three were injured in Beit Omar, near Hebron. All are in stable condition, a spokesperson for the group said.

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment, The Times of Israel reported.

Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have been striking for over a week over demands for better medical care and greater access to telephone calls.

Changing Three Cultures: A Q&A with Joe Domanick


We all feel awful about last week’s violence; we all wonder what can be done. Well, author and investigative journalist Joe Domanick has been feeling awful about police conduct and urban violence for decades. 

When I called Domanick to ask him to write about the tragedies that unfolded last week in Minnesota; Baton Rouge, La.; and Dallas, he said he couldn’t.

“Even though I knew I had things to say that most people don’t know, I have said it so many times that it just rang hollow to me,” Domanick said. “I guess I just shook my head and said, ‘Oh, not again.’ ” 

In a series of seminal articles and books, the Queens, N.Y.-raised Domanick has studied the failure of American police forces, largely by focusing on the cops in his adopted city, Los Angeles.  

Domanick began his career 30 years ago at the Jewish Journal — really. He wrote the first issue’s cover story on school integration and busing, but passed on a promotion partly because he didn’t think an Italian Catholic should be editing a Jewish paper.

Currently, Domanick is the associate director of New York’s John Jay College’s Center on Media Crime, and West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report. He’s written two books about the LAPD: “To Protect and to Serve” and “Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing,” out in paperback this August.  

When current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck read Domanick’s 1994 history of the LAPD, “To Protect and to Serve,” he told the author it was like reading an angry letter from his first wife — but Beck took the book to heart. 

“At least that’s what he tells me,” Domanick said. 

In his latest book, “Blue,” Domanick charts how the LAPD has changed — how one of the country’s worst and most divisive forces has gone from being an “occupying force” in minority neighborhoods to a partner in building community. 

I wondered how those lessons can apply to forces nationwide, and asked Domanick to explain how to untangle the knot of urban and police violence that all too often sends us all into anguish.

Rob Eshman: What was your reaction as the events of last week unfolded?

Joe Domanick: I wasn’t at all surprised about either one of the two killings by the officers, because [each is] just one of the string of shootings that have come to public attention, really, ever since Ferguson [Mo.], because of cameras and other technologies.

And then when the five officers were killed in Dallas, that made me very anxious because, No. 1, we had a chief of police in Dallas who was really doing all of the right things to alleviate these kinds of situations.  

RE: You’ve said there were 900 officer-involved shootings that led to fatalities in 2015, and 2016 is on track to have even more. Why? Iceland has one in 71 years. Germany has six.

JD: An even better comparison is Canada, which per capita has more guns than the United States, but has very few shootings. 

I just think that America is a very, very violent country. It was born in violence. It started with genocide. Then it followed up with the most brutal, dehumanizing kind of slavery, which was enforced strictly through brutality. Then you had the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, when it really became the job of the police to closely monitor African-Americans, and that became a tradition. And the whole country, of course, was racist —  it wasn’t just the South.

So I think that this is a very violent country. We worship violence. We see it everywhere in our advertisements. It’s hard for me to think of a movie star, man or woman, who I haven’t seen on a billboard off Sunset Boulevard holding a gun, holding a .45, wearing a police badge. So I think that we worship violence, we do, and I think that’s a big part of it.

REYou really can draw a direct connection from the Fugitive Slave Law to what’s going on now in these communities?

JD: You had decades of people living in very violent communities, and the violence becoming almost a norm. And the African-American people that could get out of the ghettos got out, but what you had left was a kind of social pathology that imploded. That’s what’s made our ghettos so dangerous. We refuse as a society to do anything about it, to take the steps to alleviate, to change the values in that subculture.

RE: Like what?

JD: Well, there’s so much that can be done. One thing that can be done is community policing, which Charlie Beck is trying to do, and good police chiefs like the one in Dallas are trying to do, which represents an entire change. 

The other thing is just the old liberal bromides, which happen to be true. You’ve got to put money into these communities. You’ve got to get the best schools and health care. All these things have to be done, and then you have to understand it is not going to change overnight. 

RE: A lot of people say that the focus on acts of police violence obscures the greater problem, which is Black-on-Black crime in places like Chicago, which leads to many more deaths.

JD: We keep hearing people say we have to have a conversation about race, but you notice that we never really have. My supposition is that we don’t have it because liberals and many African-American leaders don’t want that to be a subject of conversation, because it’s further stigmatizing an already stigmatized people. 

You have such a strong, vital African-American middle class and working class right now. So they’re trying to get out from under that stigma. But, at the same time, there is this rage at the police because the police have always, always, always screwed them over. And you have this inherent racism, and that exists in most white people in this country. It’s a difficult thing to get rid of.

What you need is to change three cultures. You need to change police culture. You need to change the value system that exists among these young Black guys in these communities — many of whom can’t even conceptualize a way out. It’s intra-tribal violence — powerless people warring with other powerless people, a rage turned inward on itself. 

And you need a change in the white culture. I would say that this generation, 35 and under, they get it. I think they are much more multicultural, much less tolerant of any kind of racism or sexism or ethnic prejudice. The coverage of Ferguson and then of Eric Garner [who died in police custody in 2014 in New York] and all the other shootings and killings that happened were amazing to me because it was so critical of the police — a far cry from the ’80s and ’90s. 

RE: So you agree with what Newt Gingrich said, that white people “don’t understand being Black in America.”

JD: Absolutely. White people tend to think that because of the Civil Rights Acts of 1963 and ’64, African-Americans suddenly had equal opportunities, and centuries of cultural degradation and extreme disadvantage would disappear overnight. The attitude was: “What more do they want from us?” Most white Americans have no idea of the killing nature of the Black experience. They really don’t.

Take Jewish Americans — sure there was anti-Semitism against Jews. There was discrimination against the Irish, the Italians, Mexicans and against the Japanese and Chinese. But I would argue that it’s nothing compared to what has been done to African-Americans.

They feel hurt and they feel enraged. If people would just read history and understand sociology and anthropology, they’d understand it. 

RE: Then why were there no riots in L.A. last week? 

JD:  Because I think the Los Angeles Police Department has done a good job of changing its culture and behavior. LAPD’s Charlie Beck has been working hard on that. 

He’s really built on all of the good things that [former LAPD Chief William] Bratton started, but he hasn’t changed one of the things that Bratton brought, which was an increase at stop-and-frisks. 

The one thing that the LAPD is still challenged by is the amount of people that they’re shooting. It’s way less than it used to be, but it’s still high compared to other cities like New York. 

I think part of that is because of stop-and-frisk. They don’t call it “stop-and-frisk” here and they might not be frisking everybody, but they’re stopping a hell a lot of people, most of them minorities.

So when that happens, officers get themselves in a position where people are pissed off after being stopped. They didn’t do anything, and one thing leads to another, and people end up getting shot.  

RE: In your book “Blue,” you documented how a policing culture in the LAPD that seemed so entrenched really could change. Why hasn’t that message gone out to other police forces?

JD: There’s great resistance to it. The criminal justice system in this country is criminal. It’s just awful, it’s terrible. It’s not just the police. It’s prosecutors and their political careers. It’s politicians, the jails, it’s the prisons. They’re  just hellholes. 

The whole system is not designed to salvage human beings, to stop people from committing crimes. It’s not designed to reform people. That used to be the goal. Now, no more.  

RE: Do you believe that when groups like Black Lives Matter capitalize on this legitimate hostility, they create a mentality that leads to events like the murder of police officers in Dallas?  

JD: It’s not for me to say how African-Americans should react to the police. There’s enough African-American leadership and enough African-American young people who understand everything that’s going on. They’ll decide on how they should act.

But to bring about change, you have to have all levels of pressure. Some of the pressure is from journalists writing about the police. Right now, Black Lives Matter is pushing from the grass-roots level and you need to have that. I do agree, however, that it’s really counterproductive to be violent. But for the most part, I think  Black Lives Matter hasn’t been violent. They’re speaking their truth.  

RE: And what about the rest of us?  We often feel so hopeless; what what can we do?

JD: I would argue now is the time to support Charlie Beck, because Charlie Beck and police chiefs like him are the best folks for solving this problem.

RE: You started by saying you feel burnt out writing about these issues. Are you at all optimistic? 

JD: I don’t feel the tension is anywhere near what it was in the ’60s, but I do agree that it’s a dangerous time. And I think it all depends,  so much depends, on this election. 

And I think that you see that things can be optimistic if you look at California, things are getting done. So it’s hard to say which way we’re going to go. Human nature is human nature, so I just don’t know. I’m hopeful but not optimistic.

This interview was edited and condensed

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

When Palestinians kill


My current foray into Israeli-Palestinian coexistence efforts began a year and a half ago, in the summer of 2014, when a group of Israelis and Palestinians in Gush Etzion marked a joint day of fasting on the 17th of Tammuz, which fell that year during Ramadan. At the height of Operation Protective Edge, a month after the abduction and murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, and two weeks after the revenge killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, groups of Jews and Arabs cropped up around Israel with a simple but powerful message: Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.

It isn’t that I’d never tried to get to know Palestinians before. I tried to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide almost immediately after making aliyah in 1994. In contrast to many Orthodox Jews, and especially to many Orthodox Israelis, I’d been an early supporter of the Oslo process and was hopeful that the political process would create the conditions to make real interpersonal relationships possible. But my efforts had consistently dissipated — I quickly discovered that “dialogue” in this part of the world consisted of Palestinians blaming Israel for every ill known to man, and left-wing Israelis agreeing with them. 

In that atmosphere, and especially in light of the Palestinian explosion of September 2000, I shared the view of most Israelis:  Israel’s peace overtures had been met with little more than Palestinian terror, and Israel was left with little choice but to construct the West Bank security fence and to wait for Palestinians to get sick of living behind it. As Golda Meir said, when they decide they love their children more than they hate us, they’ll come around to make the sort of peace that doesn’t include blowing up Israeli buses. 

Back to 2014: Six months before Gilad, Naftali and Eyal were murdered, I’d interviewed Ali Abu Awwad for a story about Palestinian nonviolence. I’d walked away from our two-hour interview deeply inspired and hopeful; now, the sight of Palestinians praying together with Israelis for the boys’ safe return filled me again with hope. Once again, I began spending time with coexistence activists, this time in Gush Etzion, and allowed myself once again to hope that Jews and Palestinians were not doomed by some outside power to be enemies forever. 

Since then, I’ve met terrific people and made important friendships with both Israelis and Palestinians who believe that a different future is possible. Ali and I have become close friends, and his generous spirit and deep understanding have allowed me to open up to Palestinian emotions in a way that years of reporting from the Palestinian arena have not. Sami Awad, founder of the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust, has challenged me to consider new lenses for Zionism (sorry, Sami, I know this was not your intention!) and models for coexistence. Abdallah (a pseudonym for a senior Fatah activist who I’ve become friendly with, but who does not want to become known for “normalizing” with Judea and Samaria Israelis) has asked serious, probing questions about the nature of Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish relationship to the Land of Israel. There are many more, too many to name here, but all have opened windows into Palestinian society and forced me to connect with a deep sense of empathy within myself, even as I have not become sympathetic to traditional Palestinian arguments about the ongoing conflict with Israel. 

And yet, despite the presence of many inspiring individual Palestinians, the realization that there really is no Palestinian society with which Israel can make peace has been devastating. Whereas Palestinian Israelis work and shop freely in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Netanya, my visits to Bethlehem and Hebron must be shrouded in secrecy by removing my kippah and bearing in mind at all times not to lapse into Hebrew. Palestinians insist there is a sharp imbalance of power between Palestine and Israel, and here they are correct: When Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians in cold blood in 1994, Israeli society was rocked to the core by the horrible thought that such a depraved terrorist could emanate from our midst. Same for the killers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2004 and for the Dawabsheh family last summer. 

Palestinian society has no such reticence about killers that emerge from their families. Poll after poll confirms one of Israel’s greatest fears: that Palestinian society as whole remains deeply supportive of murdering Israeli civilians. In December, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that two-thirds of Palestinians support knife attacks against Israelis, a sharp rise from a 2011 poll that reported one-third of Palestinians said they approved of the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar. The simple fact is that our society is defined by the revulsion and deep sense of soul searching that has followed each incident. Theirs, simply, is not. 

That realization (or, more correctly, that re-realization) is a thousand times more painful this time around, specifically because I know so many Palestinians with deep moral convictions and close relationships with Israelis. But too many individuals and peace organizations — including Israeli-Palestinian organizations in which I am active — have remained silent. Last summer, we Israeli settlers prayed for the Dawabsheh family, but the response by the Palestinian peace community to the murders of Dafna Meir, Yaakov Don, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin and more than two dozen more innocent Israelis has been silence. I’m not sure where to go with all this. 

And so we continue. Ultimately, there is little choice but to forge ahead, if only in the hope, however forlorn, that our Israeli commitment to justice and peace for all residents of our tortured, holy land, will one day create the necessary conditions for Ali, Sami, Abdullah and so many others to sound their brave voices, and that one day their messages of peace and reconciliation will penetrate the values of their society.

Inshallah.


Andrew Friedman is a member of Shorashim/Judur, a grass-roots movement of local Israelis and Palestinians creating relationships and friendships in Judea and Samaria, as well as of the Interfaith Encounter Forum.

You are an Islamophobe


Most thoughtful people recognize that the world is a complicated place. And most also understand that serious and stubborn problems are complex and not easy to solve. One of the most frightening and stubborn problems we face today is the terrible violence and suffering that we observe in the Middle East and North Africa, and which is being exported increasingly to many other parts of the world.

Why is it, then, that so many thoughtful people conclude that the root cause of this suffering is simply and entirely the religion of Islam? The horrific behaviors of some Muslims we observe today are hardly different from those of some Christians in other times. Think of the Crusades and the Inquisition, for starters. But most people do not assume that Christianity is inherently a violent and bloody religion.

There is a reason for our hyperbolic reflex. Violence perpetrated by Muslims triggers deep-seated anxiety about Islam borne of many centuries of cultural baggage. We are all Islamophobes. We come by it naturally.

Islamophobia has been deeply embedded in Western culture from nearly as far back as the birth of Islam in the seventh century. Here is why that happened (in a moment I’ll explain how it happened).

Monotheism engenders a religious perspective that assumes, logically, that because there is one God, there can be only one real Truth. Why would an all-knowing and all-loving God give different and contradictory revelations to different peoples? If different revelations appear to be inconsistent or contradictory, it seems impossible that they could have come from the same divine source. And they certainly can’t all be true. The logical religious response to this unimaginable situation is to conclude that only one can be correct. But then how does one determine which is the correct one?

That problem has never proven very difficult to solve. For most people, the answer is simple: ours is correct. All others are false.

1700 years ago and long before Islam came on the scene, Jews and Christians disagreed fiercely over this problem of conflicting revelations. Which of their communities was in possession of the real Truth? The argument remain unresolved for centuries; meanwhile both were persecuted severely by the pagan Roman Empire, which didn’t appreciate that believers in these religions refused to make offerings to the gods on behalf of the emperor.

Christianity finally won the competition when it became the state church of the Roman Empire in the year 380 with the Edict of Thessalonica. The change was drastic and very swift, and Christians at the time could still remember family members being torn by beasts at the “spectacles” in the Roman arenas simply for being Christian. The change from being a despised religion to becoming a beloved religion seemed miraculous. How could it be that within a generation, Christianity transitioned from a reviled religion to the official religion of the most powerful entity on earth?

Theologians and Church leaders at the time drew their own eminently logical conclusion: sic deus vult– “so God wills.” To the Church, history proved theology. The fact of Christian ascendency and domination proved that the Christian understanding of truth was the real Truth.

That perspective was a wonderfully satisfying way to see the world, and it was a successful worldview for some centuries.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, another group of monotheists emerged onto the scene. They came from the parched desert sands of Arabia in the seventh century and quickly became not only a successful competing religion, but also creators of a brilliant and expansive civilization. This new historical reality seemed to disprove the earlier Christian theology of supremacy. How could it be possible, Christians asked, that such an uncivilized people could become so powerful, so successful?

The Muslims, meanwhile, like monotheist believers before them, naturally assumed that their vision of truth was the real Truth. And given their amazing successes, they quickly came to the same conclusion that Christians had assumed for their triumph centuries earlier. The victory of Islam is the will of God. History proves theology.

The extraordinary success of Islam was a crushing blow to Christianity and the Church needed to find an explanation.

Various rationalizations were soon put forward to account for the extraordinary success of Islam. One of the earliest was penned by St. Theophanes, an eighth century Byzantine monk and chronicler who wrote that Muhammad was a clever and ruthless epileptic. In order to protect himself from ridicule when he fell into seizures, Muhammad invented the story that he went into trances in order to receive messages from a divine being.

Since Theophanes in the eighth century theologians and historians have come up with many scenarios to explain away the success of Islam, including the myth that the revelations Muhammad had received were not from God but from Satan. These and many other hurtful allegations have been circulating for centuries in traditional media ranging from Church histories to theological tracts, legends and folklore, art and music. The constant reinforcement of such falsehoods embeds them within the cultural assumptions of a civilization.  When they persist for long enough they seem conventional, natural “facts” of life.

And this explains how fear and anxiety about Islam became a part of Western culture.  When stories are told and retold countless times, they become part of the fabric of a civilization. They become, in effect an accepted fact.

The Chanson de Rolande is a classic example. It is a song and poem depicting the treacherous Muslim massacre of Charlemagne’s army when it had let down its guard after having accepted an offer for peace. The Song of Roland is the oldest work of French literature and became a template for the development of European literature in general. As it turns out, however, it wasn’t Muslims who caused the massacre, but a band of rebellious Basques. But no matter. Through countless stories, songs, turns of phrases and other means, the message of Muslim treachery became a basic part of European cultural assumption for centuries.

We Americans absorbed the bias through our cultural identity as an extension of European civilization. We come by it naturally, of course, but we have added to it as well. Our most obvious contribution has been through the movies.

Nobody in Hollywood sat down in the 1920s or 30s and planned to make Arabs or Muslims into villains. Their presumed villainy is simply an extension of cultural stereotypes. The first portrayal of an Arab hijacker in film, for example, was not about Entebbe in the 1970s, but a 1936 movie called The Black Coin in which an Arab threatens to blow up an airliner. And the 1920s Rudolph Valentino movies The Sheik (1921) and The Son of the Sheik (1929) already depict Arab Muslims as thieves and murderers.

So don’t be surprised at your Islamophobia. I have it too. It is passed on to us, as it were, with our mothers’ milk. But now that we recognize it, we need to think about how it affects our thinking about important issues.

As thoughtful people, most of us feel badly for those suffering in portions of the Muslim world, and we rightly fear the violence emanating from it as well. If we want to put an end to it we need to act effectively, and acting effectively requires smart analysis and good decision making. Attributing the problems simplistically to Islam is natural because of our cultural baggage, and it may be personally reassuring because it absolves us of all (even indirect) responsibility.

But that approach is doomed to failure because it does not explain what is driving the rage that fuels the violence. And it results in the demonization of an entire community. Succumbing to Islamophobia will not solve problems. It will only exacerbate them.


Reuven Firestone is Regenstein Professor of Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College, and author of Who Are the Real Chosen People? 

In wake of stabbing, Palestinians and Jews clash in Hebron


Hours after a Palestinian stabbed a Jewish man in the already tense West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians and Jews clashed violently there.

In the aftermath of the stabbing Monday that left the Jewish victim critically wounded, dozens of Jewish residents marched in protest to Hebron’s old city, where they threw rocks at Palestinians, the Times of Israel reported.

The clashes, in which the Palestinians sent rocks back in retaliation, occurred outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are believed to be interred. The site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, houses a synagogue and mosque.

Israeli security forces forced the Jewish protesters to retreat to Hebron’s Jewish neighborhood and restrained Palestinian demonstrators. There were no reported injuries or damage.

In the attack, a 21-year-old Palestinian man stabbed a Jewish man in his 40s near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, leaving several wounds to his upper body. The victim was moved to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he arrived in severe condition, according to the Times of Israel.

Israeli forces shot and killed the assailant, Ihab Fathi Miswadi.

Hebron, which is home to several hundred Jewish settlers and approximately 170,000 Palestinians, has been the site of several Palestinian terror attacks in recent days and has been the scene of some of the largest atrocities in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1994, Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire at Muslims worshipping at the Tomb of the Patriarchs mosque, killing 29 and wounding more than 125. In 1929, more than 60 Jews were murdered by Palestinians during a pogrom in Hebron.

On Europe trip, Abbas gets red carpet — and some hard questions


On his way to several meetings with Dutch parliamentarians last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage passed 300 demonstrators flying Israeli flags.

Like the Israeli government, the protesters, who convened outside at the urging of Dutch Jewish and Christian pro-Israel groups, accuse Abbas and his government of supporting deadly attacks against Jews. Incitement by Abbas and others, they charge, is a major catalyst for the recent wave of Palestinian terrorism in which 11 Jewish-Israelis have been killed and more than 50 Palestinians have died, including dozens identified by Israel as assailants, in Israel’s attempt to stem the violence.

Their argument echoes one that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his European envoys have been making regularly since September, when the latest round of unrest began. But neither appears to have had much impact on how the Palestinian leader is received by European leaders.

On his recent trip to the continent, Abbas visited Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, meeting with top EU leaders and receiving the honor of an audience with Dutch King Willem-Alexander. In September, the mayor of Paris bestowed the Grand Vermeil medal, the city’s highest honor, for Abbas’ efforts to achieve peace.

Such gestures have angered many Israel supporters in Europe, particularly in light of recent comments seen as encouraging violence against Jews.

“We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem,” Abbas said on Palestinian television in September.

The organizers of the anti-Abbas demonstration in The Hague wrote in a statement: “It defies logic that the Dutch government should receive with all honors the Palestinian Authority, which urges its population to kill Jews.”

European leaders remain willing to embrace Abbas because they fear the alternatives could be worse, according to Uri Rosenthal, who served as Dutch foreign minister from 2010 to 2012. It is “not because the Palestinian record is so great, but out of a political calculus in which Abbas is seen as the only [other] option to Hamas or to chaos,” Rosenthal told JTA.

Beyond this lies growing resentment in European capitals toward Netanyahu, who has alienated many European leaders with his hard-line stance on peace talks, his refusal to halt settlement construction and, most recently, his controversial claim about the role of a Palestinian leader leading up to the Holocaust.

“All of these things, all that mistrust toward Netanyahu, means his voice about Abbas and other matters is not heard in Europe,” said Gil Taieb, a vice president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities. “It just doesn’t count.”

That view was endorsed by a senior European diplomat, who spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity, citing regulations prohibiting officials from expressing private views. Netanyahu’s inflammatory rhetoric, including his warning on the eve of Israeli elections in March that “masses” of Arabs were coming out to vote, diminished European good will toward the Jewish state and its receptiveness to Israeli complaints, the diplomat said.

Adding to the problem is the perception that Netanyahu is looking for any excuse to avoid making progress toward peace.

“For a long time, this has been the one issue that Israel presented as the main problem to moving forward with peace talks — simply because it was the only thing Israel could think of to stall progress,” the diplomat said.

In his talks in Europe, Abbas used Netanyahu’s rhetoric and settlement policy to deflect criticism. Settlement construction and Israeli occupation “drive Palestinian violence — not any words spoken by a Palestinian leader,” Abbas told a delegation of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, the Dutch Jewish community’s main pro-Israel lobby and watchdog on anti-Semitism.

As for incitement, Abbas said at the Oct. 30 meeting, “it is not only coming from the Palestinian side,” adding that he would be willing to discuss “all incitement, Israeli and Palestinian,” with Israel and the United States, but that Israel is not interested.

Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator who also attended the CIDI meeting, described as “shameful and inciting” Netanyahu’s statement on Oct. 20 that Haj Amin al-Husseini, a pro-Nazi Palestinian leader, advised Adolf Hitler to “burn the Jews.” Netanyahu subsequently said he did not mean to diminish Hitler’s responsibility for the Holocaust.

The European official noted that Palestinian incitement is more prevalent and pronounced than in Israel, and added that EU leaders “repeatedly bring up this subject” in their talks with Abbas. Still, he said, there is a case to be made for examining Israeli incitement “also by Netanyahu, but especially from ministers around Netanyahu.”

At the CIDI meeting, the delegation patiently listened to Abbas’ complaints about Netanyahu. When he was finished, Joep de Geus, the 22-year-old chairman of CIDI’s youth department, read to him a quote from Fatah Central Committee member Jamal Muhaisen, who on Oct. 7 said that the murder of a settler couple the previous week in front of their children was a case of “one fulfilling his national duty voluntarily, as best as one can.”

Looking at Abbas, de Geus asked: “Your excellency, do we really need a trilateral committee to tell us whether this is incitement?”

“We the Palestinians are not perfect,” Abbas replied, “but these things need to be discussed as a whole.”

Vicious cycle of terrorism is madness


As I sit in my home in Jerusalem, venturing out only when necessary, shivering with each ping of the cellphone that alerts me to some new horror, I wonder how this place survives and how we come out of it on the other side of despair. I don’t have answers, I have questions.

How do children pick up weapons and strike innocent people on the street, at a bus stop, on their bicycles? Just kids, with ideas not fully formed, bred on despondency and humiliation; desperate acts caused by desperation. It’s hard to remember this when hour after hour there is another report on yet another stabbing, shooting, car ramming — not only in Jerusalem and other seam-line cities, but in the heart of Israel, in Raanana, Holon, Tel Aviv. It comes rushing back as in the past, the fear, the anxiety, a mother’s dread until her children return safely home each day. And the suspicion — everyone you pass a suspect.

How to maintain humanity alongside the desire for revenge? How quickly we become animals, kicking the terrorist who has been “neutralized,” lying on the ground amid shouts of “Kill him! Shoot him in the head, not the leg.” It matters not that the terrorist is a 13-year-old boy, and although he had just attacked another 13-year-old boy on a bicycle, he is still a child. What have we — what have they — become? What have our leaders offered in moral clarity and vision, denouncing and calling for moderation? What we do have is more power to suppress the powerless, more hatred to put down the humiliated. And yet, Israeli citizens must be protected: A 78-year-old man must be able to ride the bus with his wife without fear that two young men from the neighboring village will get on the same bus and shoot him dead. A child must be able to ride his bike without fear of landing in the hospital with critical wounds that threaten his life. Commuters must be able to ride the light rail to get to work or school without fear of being run over by a homicidal driver. This is legitimate, basic and essential to all citizens of a functioning society. 

And what is this neutral term “neutralizing” about? That is what we call here the taking out of a terrorist. But neutral suggests without an opinion, not on either side, without judgment. The neutralizing of the attackers, of course, is anything but. They are dead, and their neutral state is flashed across TV screens and social media posts across the territories and the region. They hold funerals where more and more young people rise up to cry for jihad and revenge. 

How can this interminable conflict be so misunderstood by both sides? How can we all cling so faithfully to our own narrative, not just regarding historical claims but in the retelling of events now occurring? Reality has flown out of the window and some weird parallel universe has arisen whereby Mahmoud Abbas is seen by the Israeli government as the primary instigator, directing the terror at all times; never mind the declarations by Israeli security officials who say that Abbas is in fact trying to quell the terror in spite of inciteful public rhetoric. Or the Palestinian contention that the women and young men who attack Israelis with knives are innocents who were merely holding a cellphone or candy in their outstretched hands; never mind the videos taken in real time that graphically show bloody knives raised against unsuspecting targets. This vicious cycle of murder and lies only serves to deepen the black hole of hopelessness, creating an abyss so deep that no one can pass. 

There are no answers; there are only tears. We are paralyzed by fear, existing in a fog of despair, unable to see how this ends well for anyone. As we approach 20 years since the death of Yitzhak Rabin, the only thing clear is that the assassin Yigal Amir murdered both the man and the vision for a peaceful resolution to this tragic conflict. For those living here now, and for the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians, this terrible cycle of hatred and murder threatens any hope for coexistence of any kind. Without another leader like Rabin willing to stand up in these horrendous days and state loudly the need for a political process, for an “intifada” of ideas and proposals rather than an intifada of rocks and knives, we will see more acts of terror; we will build more concrete obstacles to block off Palestinian villages; we will call upon more Israeli civilians to arm themselves whenever they leave their homes; we will watch more children on both sides become both victims and martyrs — and for what? This is not the Zionist dream.


Roberta Fahn Schoffman is Israel Policy Forum’s representative in Israel.

Palestinian security forces work to limit confrontations with Israel


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered his security forces to prevent demonstrators from clashing with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. Security officials told The Media Line that Abbas has ordered security officials to deploy in areas where there are often violent demonstrations “and talk to the demonstrators about the gravity of confronting the Israeli soldiers.”

Palestinians are angry over the 32 Palestinians killed this month by Israeli troops. Eleven of them were killed trying to cross the fence from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Of the others, some were killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers and 15 were killed after allegedly attacking Israelis.

Palestinians say several of these were “extra-judicial executions,” and that Israeli police and soldiers executed the Palestinian teenagers even after they clearly posed no threat to the soldiers. Security officials said that Abbas is worried that if he does not allow Palestinians to demonstrate against Israel, they will turn their anger against him.

There have been growing calls in the West Bank to end the “security coordination” with Israel. Abbas has clearly refused to do so. Israeli officials have said that coordination has stopped many of the Palestinian attackers from the West Bank.

“Many are calling for an end to the security cooperation with Israel,” Nidal Abu Dukhan, the head of National Security Forces told The Media Line. “President Abbas has given clear orders and refused.”

During the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, from 2000 to 2005, most of the Palestinian suicide bombers who blew themselves up on Israeli buses and public places came from the West Bank. In the current wave of attacks that have killed seven Israelis since October 1, almost all of the attackers have come from east Jerusalem, not the West Bank. Palestinians in east Jerusalem have Israeli residency and carry the same blue ID cards as Jewish Israelis.

Palestinian security officials say they have clear orders not to let an armed uprising break out in the West Bank, and in the past few days violent demonstrations have died down.

Yet Abbas has not condemned the knifing and stabbing attacks on Israelis and Israelis say he has even encouraged the violence. In a speech to Palestinian TV, Abbas decried the “execution of our children in cold blood, as they did with the boy Ahmed Manasrah and other children in Jerusalem and other places.”

Ahmed Manasrah is a 13 year old who stabbed a 13 year old Israeli, seriously wounding him, before he was shot by a policeman.  The PLO later sent out an amended version of the speech quoting Abbas as condemning the “shooting of our children in cold blood as they did with the child Ahmed Manansra and other children from Jerusalem.”

For its part, Israel released a video showing Manasra being fed jello as he lay in bed in Israel’s Hadassah hospital.

Hamas, for its part, has openly praised the attacks on Israelis.

“Everything that happens in the Palestinian territories is a popular spontaneous uprising and a natural reaction to the excesses of Jewish settlers,” Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef told The Media Line. He said the current wave of attacks is because of “Israel’s desecration of al-Aqsa”, meaning the reports that have engulfed the West Bank that Israel plans to change the status quo at the site that is holy to Jews and Muslims. Israeli officials repeatedly deny this intention.

“I expect the uprising to expand and become a massive movement in the Palestinians territories,” he said.

Did Jewish visitors to Temple Mount spark current tensions?


A leading Sephardic rabbi who advises the haredi Orthodox Shas party criticized Jews who have been visiting the Temple Mount, saying they “sparked all the current tumult.”

Rabbi Shimon Baadani, a member of Shas’ Council of Torah Sages, said Thursday on a Shas radio program,according to Haaretz: “Do not provoke the nations, even if we are in control here, there is a halakha. I don’t know on whose authority they permit themselves to provoke and cause an armed struggle like is happening now … they are forbidden.”

Israel’s chief rabbis first ruled in 1967, after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, that halakha, or Jewish law, forbids Jews from visiting the Temple Mount to prevent them from inadvertently stepping over the “Holy of Holies,” where the Ark of the Covenant was said to be stored in the First Temple.

The rabbis reaffirmed the prohibition in 2013. In addition, Israeli law bars Jews from praying at the site, which is administered by the Muslim Waqf.

However, a number of Orthodox Jews, among them Rabbi Yehuda Glick, have questioned the ruling and advocated for Jews to have the right to pray on the mount. Such activists have visited the Temple Mount, the site of frequent tensions between Jews and Palestinians, more frequently in recent years.

In his remarks Thursday, Ba’adani said that saving life trumps any mitzvah, and thus asked, “Why enter the Temple Mount?”

On Thursday, in an effort to calm tensions there, Netanyahu ordered members of his cabinet and members of the Knesset, including Arabs, not to enter the Temple Mount.

Israeli lawmakers banned from Temple Mount in wake of violence


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has banned government ministers and lawmakers from visiting the Temple Mount.

The directive was first issued Wednesday night and appeared to be aimed only at Jews. Following complaints from right-wing ministers, the Prime Minister’s Office reportedly issued a clarification on Thursday that indicated the ban also applied to Arab lawmakers and ministers.

“The decision stems from the intention to cool the atmosphere around the Temple Mount,” the Israeli daily Haaretz, which first reported the ban, quoted the Prime Minister’s Office as saying on Thursday.

Following the clarification, Arab-Israeli lawmaker Jamal Zahalka attempted to visit the site and was prevented from entering. He claimed that the measure had not yet gone into effect and that he was being illegally prevented from entering.

The order Wednesday night came following a day that saw at least six Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets.

The recent wave of Palestinian violence against Israeli targets has come amid a backdrop of tensions at the Temple Mount over non-Muslim visits and what the Arab world claims is an attempt to “Judaize” the site, the location of the Jewish people’s two Holy Temples.

Last week, Zahalka verbally accosted Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, shouting “This is not yours, get out of here, go home, you’re not wanted.”

Arab-Israeli lawmakers said they would attempt to visit the site on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that Netanyahu’s ban on lawmakers’ visits to the site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, “is of no value.” He added that such bans “should also be implemented against the fanatic settlers,” apparently referring to Jewish visits to the site.

Netanyahu has said that Israel will maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, under which Jews are allowed to enter the site but are not allowed to pray. The site is administered by Jordan under the direction of the Muslim Waqf.

Abbas tries to lower tensions with Israel


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas took steps to tamp down growing attacks on Israelis in both the West Bank and Jerusalem, telling a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that he does not want violent conflict with Israel.

“We tell them (the Israelis) that we do not want either military or security escalation,” Abbas said at the PLO meeting. “All our instructions to our (security) agencies, our factions and our youth have been that we do not want escalation.”

He spoke as heavy clashes broke out in several areas of the West Bank following the funeral of a 13-year-old boy killed by Israeli fire yesterday. Palestinians say he was shot in the chest on his way home from school, while Israeli military officials said he threw stones at soldiers. More than 1200 Palestinians came to the funeral, and Bethlehem held a general strike.

Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in the clashes throughout the West Bank, and at least one Palestinian was reported critically injured in Beit Hanina, a northern neighborhood of Jerusalem. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police are working hard to ensure calm.

“There are 3500 police officers in and around the Old City of Jerusalem,” Rosenfeld told The Media Line. “They are deployed to prevent any terrorist attacks or riots by Palestinians.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will install security cameras at all junctions in the West Bank, both on the ground and in the air to combat a rising surge of terrorism.

“We decided today to enact a major plan to employ cameras at all junctions in the West Bank both on the ground and in the air, with connections to the operations room,” Netanyahu said at the end of a tour of the area where a husband and wife were shot to death in a car, while their four children who were in the back seat escaped unharmed. “This is an important element of restoring security and foiling terrorist attacks.”

In addition to Naama and Eitam Henkin (a US citizen), two other Israelis were killed in Jerusalem’s Old City. In that attack, Adele Lavi, whose husband was killed, said she had cried for help after she was stabbed but Palestinian shopkeepers refused to help her, and even laughed at her.

“I asked that their stores be shuttered and they be brought to justice,” Netanyahu said.

Tensions are running high among both Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians were furious about the killing of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his mother in an arson attack, believed to be committed by extremist Israelis. There have been no arrests in the case. They are also seething over what they see as Israel’s efforts to change the status quo at a Jerusalem site that is holy to Jews and Muslims, by encouraging more extremist Jews to visit the site.

“Palestinians have entered the stage of an overall popular uprising,” Mustafa Barghouti, the head of the Palestine National Initiative told The Media Line. “What is happening in Jerusalem and the shooting which targeted radical Jewish settlers (Eitam and Naama Henkin) was a normal response after the Israeli government shed too much blood.”

He said that Palestinians have grown frustrated at the lack of a diplomatic initiative and have decided to respond with violence.

But other Palestinian officials said that it is too early to call what is currently happening an “intifada”, or uprising, similar to the first intifada which began in late 1987, or the second intifada of 2000- 2005/

“The most important guarantee for the success of this reaction is the immediate formation of a unified national leadership, as was done in the first intifada,” Wasel abu Yusuf Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Front told The Media Line.

On the Israeli side, thousands demonstrated against Netanyahu, saying that he has failed to ensure security in Israel. Israelis say that driving on the roads, especially in the West Bank, has become increasingly dangerous.

Erica Marom, a journalist, lives in the West Bank community of Tekoa. Last week, in the middle of the day, she was driving home from her parents’ house in another community called Efrat, when her car was hit with large stones, shattering the rear window. She was slightly injured from a shard of glass that embedded itself in her leg, and her children, although covered with glass, were unharmed.

“We’re still quite shaken up,” she told The Media Line. “It was a traumatic experience for everyone in the family to be a victim of what I have to call an attempted murder. As a mother, I can’t let go of the idea that the Henkin family (the parents killed while their children were in the back seat) could have been my husband and children, and it was a miracle that it wasn’t.”

She said that Netanyahu must do more to make Israelis feel safe. She said her six-year-old son, the oldest in the car, was especially affected.

“He knows that it was children on their way home from school who carried out the attack,” she said. “He can’t understand why a kid would want to hurt him and try to kill him.”

Violence has spiked in Jerusalem — here’s why


For Israelis, the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur have turned into days of violence. Unrest has swelled in Jerusalem following an Israeli ban on a protest group at the Temple Mount, the holy site known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif. The clashes have left one Israeli dead and dozens of Israelis and Palestinians injured.

The clashes have been matched by a war of words, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring “war” on Palestinian stone throwers and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowing that Jews will not be allowed to “dirty” the Temple Mount.

Here’s how the clashes started, what’s driving the violence and how Israel, the Palestinians and the world are responding.

Unrest followed Israel’s barring of a violent Palestinian group from the Temple Mount.

Clashes at the Temple Mount are nothing new, particularly around the Jewish High Holidays. The latest round broke out following Israel’s decision on Sept. 9 to bar an Islamist protest group from entering the site. Israel said the group, known as the Murabitat, and its corresponding men’s faction have been yelling at Jewish visitors and throwing stones at them.

“The aforesaid organizations strive to undermine Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, change the existing reality and arrangements at the site and infringe on freedom of worship,” said the Israeli statement announcing the ban.

Omar Kiswani, who directs the Al-Aqsa mosque on the mount, told the Guardian that Israel should not have the authority to restrict Muslims from entering the site.

“We call upon all Muslims to be present in Al-Aqsa,” he said. “It is the home of all Muslims and their presence in this place would intensify their connection to this place.”

Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters followed, leading to multiple injures and one death.

Three days later, Israeli police raided the mount on the eve of the Jewish New Year, uncovering a stockpile of pipe bombs, firebombs and rocks that they feared would be aimed at Jewish worshippers. That night, a Jewish-Israeli, Alexander Levlovich, 64, was attacked by Palestinian protesters in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv. They pelted his car with rocks, causing Levlovich to lose control of the vehicle and smash into a pole. He died the following morning.

Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters continued the following day, with two Israelis injured. On Tuesday, the third day of rioting, 26 Palestinians and five Israeli police officers were lightly wounded at the Temple Mount, according to Reuters.

On Sept. 18, police barred Muslim men under 40 from the mount in anticipation of unrest following Friday prayers. Some 200 Palestinians protested the move at the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City and near the site where Levlovich was killed. Overall, according to Haaretz, three Israeli policemen and 21 Palestinians were injured in the Friday clashes.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that since Friday, an increased police presence in eastern Jerusalem has tamped down the violence.

Neither side is happy about restrictions on the Temple Mount.

Controversy over who can do what at the holy site has been festering for decades. Although Israel has overall control of the area, a joint Jordanian-Palestinian Islamic religious body called the Waqf governs it.

Under current regulations, Muslims may visit and pray on the mount. Jews may also visit during limited hours, but are prohibited from praying or doing a range of things — kneeling, bowing, even crying — that resemble worship.

Jewish activists have called for greater access, but the Israeli government has resisted the call so as not to upset the delicate balance at the site. Some Muslims are also unhappy, claiming that Israel should not be permitted to control access to the Temple Mount.

“Israel will not be allowed to continue its steps,” Abbas said, according to reports. “The Al-Aqsa mosque is ours. They have no right to dirty it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to do that.”

Jews make up a small minority of visitors to the Temple Mount. Just 12,000 Jews visit per year, compared to 3 million to 4 million Muslims.

Israel has upped its police presence and increased penalties for stone throwers.

Israel has stepped up its rhetoric and police presence to combat the unrest. Israel added 800 officers to its Old City contingent, bringing the total number of police there to 3,500, according to Rosenfeld.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also declared “war” on stone throwers this week. Netanyahu is pushing through a new law that would allow police to fire more quickly on Palestinian stone throwers, as well as increase the stone throwers’ prison sentences and fines.

“We attest to the fact that we decided to change the policy and declare war on those who throw stones and firebombs, shoot and riot,” Netanyahu said Thursday. “In the State of Israel, people do not throw firebombs, or shoot at trains, or throw stones at will. Those who do so will pay a very heavy price.”

World leaders urge restraint.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department called on all sides to “refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric.” The United Nations Security Council used similar language in a statement Thursday, adding that “Muslim worshippers at the Haram Al-Sharif must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats and provocations.”

Neither statement explicitly cast blame on either Israelis or Palestinians for the clashes. But Jordan’s King Abdullah II criticized Israel’s actions, saying Monday that “any more provocation in Jerusalem will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel,” according to the French news agency AFP.

Israel insists that it is committed to maintaining the status quo. Its actions, Netanyahu said, have come only to prevent violence at the site.

“Israel will maintain the status quo,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday. “We have no plans to change them, but we also have no intention of allowing anyone to cause the deterioration of the arrangements on the Temple Mount by resorting to explosive and widespread violence.”

Israel cracks down on Palestinian stone-throwers


This article first appeared on The Media Line.

The death of an Israeli man in Jerusalem who lost control of his car after it was hit by a rock thrown by rioting Palestinians earlier this month, has sparked new efforts to crack down on stone-throwers.

“Stones and firebombs are deadly weapons; they kill and have killed,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet. “Therefore, in recent days we have changed the open-fire orders for police in Jerusalem. Already over the weekend they used the new measures under the new orders and immediately hit those throwing stones and firebombs. Today we will facilitate an additional expansion of the ability of the police to foil the throwing of stones and firebombs and we will continue to add forces in order to strike at rioters under a simple principle that we will begin to implement around and within its borders: Whoever tries to attack us, we will hurt him.”

Netanyahu said he is also advancing legislation to impose fines on the parents of minors who throw stones and firebombs. He also wants the courts to impose minimum sentences for stone throwing.

“We cannot accept the principle that in Jerusalem our capital, or in any part of the State of Israel, in the Galilee or in the Negev, that people will organize terrorism and begin to stone passing cars or throw stones and murder people,” he said. “This norm will not be established here; rather an opposite norm will – we will act against you and stop you, and we will punish you with the full force of the law.”

Tensions have been growing in Jerusalem over the past few weeks, and reached a peak over the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana, when police stormed a site that is holy to Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem’s Old City after they said they had intelligence that young men were planning to barricade themselves inside. The police action sparked clashes between young Palestinians and police throughout Jerusalem.

“There are extra police units – both border police and undercover units – throughout the area to both prevent and respond to any stone throwing incidents,” Jerusalem police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Media Line. “Over Rosh Hashana more than 150,000 people visited the Old City and we’re expecting the same numbers in the next few weeks. We have maneuvered a number of different units to make sure there’s enough security in Jerusalem.”

But some analysts say that Israel must take a broader approach to the tensions between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem. The population of Jerusalem is just over 800,000 and 36 percent of them are Palestinians. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, three-quarters of all Palestinians live below the poverty line.

Only about 10-12 percent of Palestinians in east Jerusalem are citizens of Israel. While Israel originally offered Palestinians citizenship, most refused as they do not recognize Israeli control over east Jerusalem, which they say must be the capital of an eventual Palestinian state.

“Increasing penalties for stone-throwing and more policing will only be partially effective,” Kobi Michaeli, an expert on Palestinians at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) told The Media Line. “The whole approach should be integrative. This is a multi-dimensional challenge with a political, civilian and religious dimension.”

He said that most of the incitement to violence is coming from the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the northern wing of the Islamic movement in Israel, both supported by Qatar. Israel should increase cooperation with Jordan which is in charge of the Waqf, the Muslim religious authorities which supervises the site that Jews call the Temple Mount and Palestinians, the Haram al-Sharif.

Beyond that, he said, Israel must do more to improve the quality of life for Palestinians in east Jerusalem including improving the infrastructure in Palestinian neighborhoods, building more classrooms, and improving the level of education in public schools there.

“We have to remember that there are 330,000 Palestinians in east Jerusalem and 99.9 percent of them are not taking part in this violence,” Michaeli said. “In fact they suffer from this violence. They do want to be harassed by the Israeli police or to see roadblocks and barriers in their neighborhoods. They want to improve their quality of life.”

UN Security Council urges restraint at Temple Mount


The United Nations Security Council expressed “grave concern” over violence at Jerusalem’s holiest site and is calling for restraint and calm.

The unanimous declaration — well short of a resolution, which would have the force of international law — was issued late Thursday after three days of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters and rioters at the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. The statement, posted by UN Report, a site that tracks U.N. statements, has yet to be posted to the Security Council website. 

The clashes began Sunday morning, with security forces seizing pipe bombs at the site in an operation carried out hours before Jews prepared to celebrate the Jewish New Year.

The police said its forces had entered the site after protesters began throwing stones and firecrackers at the Mughrabi Gate, the access point for non-Muslim visitors to the site.

According to an arrangement between the Israeli government and the Muslim authority administering the site, known as the “status quo” and in place since shortly after Israel captured the mount in the 1967 Six-Day War, Jews may visit the site but organized Jewish worship is discouraged. The site houses a mosque compound said to be the third holiest in Islam. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, but Jewish worship is confined to the adjacent Western Wall.

The council statement said Muslims at the site “must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats and provocations.”

It also said that “visitors should be without fear of violence or intimidation,” apparently an allusion to small organized groups of Muslims who have in recent years harassed Jewish groups visiting the site.

The members of the Security Council called for the “exercise of restraint, refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and upholding unchanged the historic status quo” at the compound “in word and in practice,” added the statement.

Police clashed with about 200 rioters at the Mughrabi Gate during Friday afternoon prayers, Israel Radio reported.

The unrest has drawn international attention; clashes at the site have in the past led to wider outbreaks of violence in the region.

President Barack Obama on Thursday spoke of the violence in a conversation with Saudi Arabian King Salman.

“They discussed regional issues, including Yemen and recent violence and tensions at Jerusalem’s Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” said the statement — notable because U.S.-Saudi cooperation has focused in recent months exclusively on the war in Yemen and the Iran nuclear deal.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, castigated the Security Council statement for not explicitly mentioning Palestinian violence at the flashpoint site.

“This statement, which only uses the Arabic name for the Temple Mount, affirms the right of Muslims to be present and to pray at the compound, but completely ignores the Palestinian violence, the deep connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount, and the right of all to visit the site,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke with the U.N. chief Thursday, telling him that Israel was working to end the violence. “Unlike the Palestinian side’s incitement, Israel is taking pains to preserve the status quo,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying in a statement from his office.

He added that Israel would respond aggressively to stone-throwing and firebomb attacks, which have caused the deaths of innocent Israelis.

Police said they would prohibit the entry of men under 40 to the compound on Friday.

Israel’s chief rabbis appealed to their Muslim counterparts to discourage violence at the site.

“We expect our friends, our partners in the council of religious leaders in Israel, to condemn all those who desecrate the holy places and bring into them weapons of various kinds, and to prevent such phenomena,” David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef said in a joint statement.

Four Israeli policemen injured in Jerusalem shooting, riots


Four Israeli officers of the police’s Border Guard sustained were injured from gunshots and firebombs hurled at them by Palestinian rioters in Jerusalem.

The incident occurred on Friday at the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabl Mukabar after the conclusion of Friday prayers by Muslims, Ynet reported.

The officer shot was evacuated with medium to serious injuries after a bullet hit his leg, according to Army Radio. Another officer sustained a minor inujry to his hand while the remaining two receive minor burns from firebombs hurled at them by the rioters.

The officers were evacuated for medical treatment as other policemen pursued suspects, arresting one young man. Several rioters were also injured, including one who was shot in the leg and evacuated with minor injuries to medical treatment.

On Thursday, a Palestinian man who hurled a firebomb at an Israeli car near a settlement was critically injured by soldiers who fired back at him, in one of several violent clashes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Passengers escaped injury in the incident Thursday night near the settlement of Itamar in the northern West Bank, where Israel Defense Forces troops lay in ambush for terrorists, the news site nrg.co.il reported. The passengers were not hurt. The wounded Palestinian was taken to a hospital in Nablus, the report said. Another Palestinian was apprehended nearby and is suspected of being involved in the attack.

There has been a rise in violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in and around Jerusalem.

On Friday morning, Border Police officers used crowd-dispersal means on rioting Palestinians near the Lions’ Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, nrg reported. Police also cordoned off streets and evacuated the light rail station near the Machane Yehuda market in the city’s west because of a suspicious object. Other disturbances were witnessed in A-Tur, where Palestinians said one protester was lightly injured, and across the Old City.

In Ras al-Amud in east Jerusalem, Palestinians set on fire an Israeli bus on Thursday night. Locals said that the bus, belonging to the Egged company, went up in flames after youths targeted it while it traveled through the neighborhood, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported. No one was hurt in the attack, according to Israel’s Army Radio.

The radio said the bus was pelted with stones, forcing the driver, who is Palestinian, to leave it parked and call police. It was set ablaze after the driver parked it and left.

Jerusalem tense after days of clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City


This article first appeared on The Media Line.

For the past three years Shai, an ultra-Orthodox man wearing a black suit and black hat despite the oppressive heat, has lived in the Old City of Jerusalem, where his children study. Last month, he was walking on Shalshelet Street in the Muslim quarter, when he says his path was blocked by a group of teenagers, one of whom spat at him.

“I just lost control and shoved him hard, and a fist fight started,” Shai, who asked not to give his last name told The Media Line. “The border police showed up, and they grabbed the teenager and really beat him up. He was knocked unconscious. It was really traumatic for me, and I decided to leave the Old City.”

Earlier this month, Shai said he packed up his family and moved them to the French Hill neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.

“I miss the Old City, but I just couldn’t take it anymore,” he said.

Tensions rose again this week, when police stormed the al-Aqsa mosque after they said that Palestinians had barricaded themselves inside.

“Over the last 72 hours there were disturbances by masked Arabs in and around the Temple Mount. The Israeli police had received specific information about disturbances including attacks on the Temple Mount itself,” Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told The Media Line. “Police units were organized and responded and entered the Temple Mount area, at about 6:30 in the morning to prevent those disturbances. We had a full scale riot on the Temple Mount. The Israeli police locked down and shut the entrances to the Temple Mount maintaining the disturbances within a few minutes and regular visits continued by both Arabs and tourists.”

He said two Palestinians, and five policemen were slightly injured.

Palestinians, however, say that the police entered the al-Aqsa mosque without provocation. Palestinian officials said they would submit a complaint to the United Nations Security Council.

“Israeli attempts at changing Jerusalem’s status quo will be met with more Palestinian steadfastness on the ground, including legal and political efforts to end Israel’s culture of impunity,” Palestinian senior official Saeb Erekat said in a statement. “Israeli attempts at turning Jerusalem into an exclusively Jewish city are part of Israel’s attempts at being recognized as a “Jewish State,” something the State of Palestine rejects for this being a clear step toward erasing Palestinian history, consolidating discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, negating Palestinian refugee rights, and in direct conflict with the principles of democracy.”

On the streets of Jerusalem, locals and tourists said they had not cancelled their plans because of the violence. Some had not even heard of the clashes.

“We’ve been totally out of the loop and haven’t even watched the news,” Sylvia Becker, who is visiting Israel for the first time with her fiancé at the tail end of a six-month trip through Europe, told The Media Line. “It is odd to see the police with heavy machine guns but I guess that means we’re protected.”

Her fiancée Daniel Stein, who has a lot of family in Israel, says his uncle told him to stay out of the Muslim quarter but that visiting Jerusalem and its holy sites was not dangerous.

“We hear bits and pieces but as my fiancée said the whole family is here and they keep us posted,” he said. “We trust them that if they say it’s safe to come, it’s safe to come, but we always have our wits about us.”

The Old City, with its Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy places attracts more than three million tourists each year from abroad, as well as millions of Israelis. Every Israeli soldier visits Jerusalem during his army service, as well as hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren.

Adelina Schanger, a Christian Arab from Nazareth studying to be a tour guide, said she had heard the news of the clashes but was not deterred.

“I had some things to do in Jerusalem and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the Old City because it’s very special to us,” she told The Media Line.

Tamir Rabina, a Jewish Israeli from northern Israel, was showing his girlfriend from Mexico the sights.

“I heard there were some demonstrations,” he told The Media Line. “But you see, everything here is peaceful and I trust our soldiers to protect us.”

Neither Trump nor ISIS is going away soon


There are three things most young men want – need really – so much so that it’s seemingly part of their DNA:  1) to feel relevant, to have status of some sort; 2) to be able to give vent to their aggressive tendencies, up to and including sometimes, killing; 3) to have sex, pretty much by any means possible.  In civilian society, there are a limited variety of ways to eventually get to a place where these three urges can be satisfied; mainly they involve succeeding at something either pretty high profile or that is inherently violent to begin with like say, law enforcement, the military, or pro football (Ray McDonald – late of the San Francisco 49’ers and Chicago Bears – was recently arrested for raping a woman he thought was dead).  Otherwise, music (seen “Straight Outta Compton” lately) and other entertainment industry pursuits often seem to fill the bill, as well as business success.  Between them all, there are enough scandalous anecdotes on the wires to start your own tabloid. 

So where do ISIS and Donald Trump fit into this equation? 

Let’s begin by stipulating that it would be worth a lot – perhaps even another world war – to obliterate ISIS.  They have megalomaniacal ambitions; they operate across borders and are a barbaric threat to destabilize several countries; they kill wantonly in the most brutal fashion; they obliterate cultural patrimony; they force women into sexual slavery; they commit terrorist atrocities.  That a world-wide armed operation hasn’t risen up to cauterize them from the body Earth is a testimony, sadly, to their current locale – the Middle East, where we’ve grown accustomed to both conflict and atrocity, and comfortable with the delusion that trouble there doesn’t threaten Western civilization (only its relics) – and the evolutionary divisions of 21st Century politics.  

I’m going to further stipulate that I am not equating Donald Trump with ISIS and therefore not calling for a world war to have him obliterated.  However, it’s pretty clear that just about everyone has underestimated the staying power of both.  Both are doing something that people did not expect – drawing people to them like a giant magnet – because both have tapped into something fundamental in the mass psyche – our motivational trifecta.  Admittedly, with Trump (entertainingly megalomaniacal in his own way), it’s not limited to young men (as are not, exclusively, those impulses themselves); the tea party crowd has adopted these aggressive motivations, from grey-haired ladies to soccer moms, to screeching adolescents, to feel relevant and give vent to their aggressive tendencies.  Has there been anything more aggressive in his campaign than Trump’s calling out an entire nationality as rapists and murderers or calling for the mass deportation of 11 million people.  What better way to feel relevant than being in the vanguard of cleansing your country and “restoring its greatness.”  As for the sex, well, you can choose your poll, women rank confidence and power interchangeably one/two for on the sexy scale, and as for the men, maybe it’s the vicarious identification of being the guy with the supermodel wife. 

Just as clearly, ISIS has tapped into something so fundamental in the psyche of young Islamic men, that God only knows what percentage of them you’d have to eliminate to destroy its farm system.  ISIS goes a conventional military one better in providing for our core motivations.  Any military will convey status: even a private wears a uniform and carries a gun for his country, and those upper ranks system, don’t get me started.  Venting your aggressions?  Check and double check.  But the only organization on Earth that offers virtually instant gratification in all three arenas is….ISIS. 

First, join up and you’re in a perpetual state of war (battle is actually the point) and not just any war – the war for world domination promised in the book.  Sure, some ISIS recruits come on board because they fervently believe in the brutal, ultra-conservative Islamic brand “Caliph” Baghdadi is peddling, and the glory of the Caliphate I’m sure stirs the imagination of more than a few.  After all, their dreary lives as marginalized young men in various Western European or Third World countries  don’t offer much to stir their emotions – as with the un- and under-employed white people backing Trump.  Join ISIS, and you’re an instant soldier for the cause, conferring instant status.  Your friends back home, suffering through school, toiling in dead-end jobs, surviving on petty crime – who are they compared to you?  Do you want news of them, or do they want news of you? 

But just as powerful, I’m sure, is the promise of a high caliber automatic weapon.  Come to Syria, be a soldier for the cause, and tote an AK-47, or a nice, American AR-15 looted from the Iraqis, or better yet, a .50 caliber mounted on a pickup truck.  (Donald Trump, by the way:  “I’m a big Second Amendment guy”)  You, young man, get to shoot at, maim, and kill people with impunity.  You are Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt and Napoleon Solo, and whoever Vin Diesel is this week, and if you’re blood is really up – yes, you may even get to cut off someone’s head.  Rare air indeed. 

Don’t think that’s a big psychological draw?  Re-examine movie billboards.  There is not one TV program or movie, that can possibly support the logic of an image of a weapon, that does not include one.  Ever.  Speaking of Vin Diesel, notice how the Fast and Furious franchise graduated from hot girls, guys, and cars, to a prominent display of weaponry as we got to “Fast Five” and beyond. 

But here’s the icing on the cake; here’s where ISIS puts the U.S. Army and the NFL to shame.  You get to be a gun-toting warrior for the cause, and it comes with your own sex slave.  You don’t have to worry about your parents narrow ideas of sex before marriage, meeting someone, overcoming resistance, moral qualms, societal taboos, the law, the cops – you can get a sexual slave and get laid all the time.  It’s sanctioned, dude.  The Caliph says it’s in the book.  This is even better than Trump, who merely disparages and degrades women, though admittedly, that seems to be working so well across his supporters’ demographics, he hasn’t yet needed to up the ante. 

And just as Trump makes it okay for the disaffected class to support someone more like Romney than they promised themselves they would ever put up with again, ISIS makes it okay to indulge those base, secret longings you always suspected were the core Islam now been validated by a rogue revolutionary that has actually claimed and held real estate – as Trump has claimed and held political real estate, despite the worst examples of public behavior in recent history for a mainstream candidate.  

If you need it in simpler terms, here it is from one Roger Stone, who worked with Nixon, Lee Atwater, and at one time, Trump, and the author of the still unpublished, “Stone’s Rules for War, Politics, Food, Fashion, and Living.”  Rule: “hate is a stronger motivator than love.”  By the looks of things, he knows what he’s talking about, and while a case can be made that for Trump, it’s more disdain than hate, it’s why we can expect both ISIS and Trump to be with us for quite some time. 

Mitch Paradise is a writer and producer living in Los Angeles.

Police reform isn’t always about confrontation


On May 20, 2014, two Salinas police officers shot and killed 44-year-old Carlos Mejia on Del Monte Avenue in the city’s east side. Within hours, a cell phone video was posted to YouTube that shows Mejia walking down the sidewalk and turning toward the police. You hear the sound of the bullet, the screams of the crowd, and see Mejia fall.

Mejia was the third person shot by police in three months in 2014—after Angel Ruiz (March 20) and Osman Hernandez (May 9). 

The night after Mejia was shot, a candlelight vigil grew into a protest with more than 100 young people filling the busy intersection where Mejia was shot. Someone had parked a white SUV in the intersection and people were standing on top of it launching bottle rockets, while others stood nearby carrying signs and shouting “¡Queremos justicia!” (We want justice!). 

I was there with a few other people who had just left a community meeting a few blocks away. The mood was very tense, and the video of the shooting, viewed over and over, had given residents a focus for anger and frustration that had been growing for years. As organizers trying to keep the peace, our deepest question was: Are we co-opting a legitimate protest and making the protestors’ anger illegitimate? Are we, in a sense, selling out? 

Violent protests, no matter how righteous their motivation, won’t create the concrete change East Salinas needs. If we continued on the path towards confrontation, we’d simply reinforce the fact that the police had all the power and the citizens had none.

And it was exactly this feeling of being disempowered that had led the youth to occupy the intersection. For us, the main question was how could we do something that had never been done before—reach out to the police and community to create a true, working relationship to build some lasting change?

It’s hard to organize anywhere, but particularly in East Salinas. Salinas became a city in 1874, but the east side remained unincorporated until 1963, and its representation, its infrastructure, and its opportunities still lag far behind. The 101 divides the city, and if you drive from one side to the other you can easily see the poor roads and crowded housing of East Salinas, but what you can’t see is even more significant. Power—who has it, and who doesn’t—hangs over everything here. It’s not just the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant in our heads. If we could work with the community to feel empowered and to hold the police accountable in a conversation, that would be revolutionary.

In late May, I was part of a group of organizers that held meetings every other week to create a space for community members to talk about their feelings about the officer-involved shootings. One of these meetings, organized by Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement, the United Farm Workers Foundation, and East Salinas Building Healthy Communities, brought in more than 100 people. People told us they didn’t trust the police. They said they wanted a voice, and told us how they wanted to organize—sin violencia, y con respeto (without violence and with respect).

One night, a reporter from the local TV news attended a meeting. At the time, I was an outreach coordinator for the United Farm Workers Foundation, so the reporter asked me for an interview—and if I was “for” or “against” the police. In that moment, I realized that the “us vs. them” narrative is part of the problem. It’s one thing to work on changing that narrative through community organizing, but another thing to explain it in a five-second news clip. On-camera, I said something about how it was easy for the media to perpetuate the “us vs. them” narrative because it’s filled with the drama and conflict that sells news.

I understand where the narrative comes from. I moved to Salinas four years ago for a job with the United Farm Workers, and the city immediately reminded me of the community where I grew up. Like Salinas, cities in the East Coachella Valley are full of people who have a bad relationship with law enforcement. One of my most vivid childhood memories from growing up in East Coachella Valley in the early 1990s is of the Border Patrol taking my aunts and uncles away to be deported; we didn’t know that we could deny them entry to our house, so inside they went. My family members were hiding, scared, my baby brother was crying. I did not understand why they were taking our family away. Experiences like that leave people with a deep fear and distrust of authorities that is hard to change.

As awful as they were, the officer-involved shootings in East Salinas provided an opportunity for us to pressure the city to listen and for the community to voice their concerns and fears. We began working to prepare for a meeting between community members and staff members from the city, including the police department. 

As organizers, it was very important to us that the community didn’t come in unprepared. We did not want a situation where people were yelling at the police, shutting conversations down, and leaving the community angrier.

I come from a traditional organizing background and worked with organizers with backgrounds in theater and traditional healing. On the evening before the big meeting in November, Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement, which uses teachings from across indigenous Mexico to promote a sense of culture and belonging, organized a healing circle. Community members were asked to name what makes them feel most oppressed. Some people said that, until talking with the police, they thought the police would never respect them. At first I was skeptical about the healing, but as people went around the circle articulating their feelings I saw a shift as they began to realize the power of their own humanity. This healing was necessary—it made the difference for community members that could not be in front of an officer without a rage building inside of them so strong that the only thing they could do was shut down.

The next day, the big meeting began—structured as a weeklong training. For the first two days, about 50 community members, mostly from nonprofits and community-based groups, met to talk about how to discuss racism in a constructive way without attempting to “identify the racist in the room.” Then about 50 members of the city staff—including the city manager—met separately for two days to look at how the city government’s policies might be informed, intentionally or unintentionally, by bias. On the last day, the two groups got together and made a plan to continue the discussion

After all that talking, we’ve seen results. While there was a fourth officer-involved shooting in 2014, there have been none in 2015. In June, Police Chief Kelly McMillan dismantled the Monterey County Joint Gang Task Force, and transferred officers back to patrol and investigation bureaus. We hope this means the department is moving toward a strategy of prevention and early intervention. And that police officers will work to create relationships with community members so it doesn’t seem like they only show up to arrest people. 

Other positive changes have occurred. Last year, Salinas voters approved an annual sales tax increase that could generate $20 million, which means more funding for public safety, as well as repairs to streets and public parks.

In June, the California State Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color held a formal hearing in Salinas—with organizers, city staff, and the chief of police—to hear about the issues impacting our community. 

The reality is that we do not know how this work on community-police relations will succeed in the long-term, but as we expand our efforts, we must also take a critical look at the deeper roots of the broken relationships between law enforcement and the people they are supposed to serve and protect. In Monterey County, 1 in 3 residents fall below the poverty line, and child poverty is especially high.

Mending relationships with the police is just one part of the work we have to do in Salinas. And residents of the community must be the ones driving that change. 

Jesús Valenzuela is a health equity organizer with the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, as well as a freelance reporter and member of Pacific Media Guild. He lives and organizes around health issues with the #Health4All campaign in Salinas and across California.

This essay is part of Salinas: California's Richest Poor City, a special project of Zócalo Public Square and The California Wellness Foundation.

Four Israelis wounded in suspected Palestinian West Bank shooting


A gunman opened fire at a group of Israelis near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Monday, the Israeli military said, in a suspected Palestinian drive-by attack.

A spokesman for Israel's ambulance service Magen David Adom said medics were treating four people in their twenties, one of them badly wounded. A military spokesman said forces were searching the area for suspected Palestinian assailants.

There has been an uptick of violence in the area in recent weeks.

Earlier on Monday, police said a Palestinian woman stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier at a crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. On Friday Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank after he opened fire on them at a checkpoint.

Earlier this month a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli paramilitary policeman outside the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The policeman shot back and wounded him and in the West Bank a suspected Palestinian gunman shot at two Israeli hikers and killed one. The assailant escaped.

Palestinian militants this month have fired rockets into Israel from Gaza, drawing Israeli return fire. That frontier has been largely quiet since the Gaza war last year in which more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side were killed.

Palestinians seek a state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. The last round of peace talks between the sides broke down in April 2014.

A night at First AME Church


The first surprise came when I typed 2270 S. Harvard Blvd into my phone, and discovered that it's only 4.8 miles from my synagogue, Congregation B’nai David Judea, in the Pico Robertson neighborhood. I had always assumed that it was much farther away than that. Actually, that it was infinitely far away. But – surprise! – it's right here. And this turned out to only be the first of several surprises on that the evening held in store. 

A handful of our shul-mates and I felt compelled to go to First AME of Los Angeles on Thursday night. The need emerged from a sense that the work of creation itself was teetering. That a brazen, calculated fully intentional attack upon decency, upon goodness, upon humanity, upon hope itself had been perpetrated. That a violation of everything that is sacred, indeed of the very notion of sacredness, had occurred. Indeed, as one of the pastors who spoke at the service noted, the very last thing that the nine victims had done in their lives, was to welcome a stranger into their church, into their prayer gathering, to demonstrate love for another person – a sacred act. We now know that the shooter almost changed his mind in light of the kindness that he had been shown. But in the end, he proceeded to gun them down. He gunned down the pastor. He gunned down an 87 year old woman, and seven others. And the earth seemed to stop dead in its orbit, waiting to see whether or not the decent, the good, the hopeful among human beings, would push back. And so I went, we went, to help push back.

And what unfolded there that evening, was remarkable in so many different ways. On the broadest level, it was the remarkable experience of being inside the kind of drama that we are accustomed to seeing only in the movies. We were, in real life, rising together in the name of Right and Justice and Truth in their most essential, irreducible forms, as pristine and as pure as they were on the day that God created them. It's not often that you can actually feel abstract ideas with your physical senses. And for that alone, Dayenu. That alone would have made it the best two hours I had ever spent in Church. 

But there was so much more. Two of the evening's recurring themes were hope and faith. Not bitterness – even as the history of the Black struggle in America was recounted. Not a lamenting of Black victimhood – even as the story of Mother AME Church in Charleston, a story that began 50 years before the Civil war, and included numerous episodes of racist violence and destruction – was recounted. For as Sari remarked,” the entire history of the AME church is one of hope for the future, belief in a better time to come, the spirit of never giving in or giving up, even when unspeakable horrors unfold.

And in addition to hope and faith, the evening was also about gratitude to God for his love, and trust in God, that He would with us as we continued the struggle. As the Pastor whose ministry is Skid Row remarked, “God may not always come when we call Him, but He'll arrive at the right time.”

And towering above all of these, was the importance of love. Love not as a feeling that one hopes arises spontaneously in one's breast, rather love as a conscious moral decision. A conscious moral decision – a conscious religious decision – that is made in the effort to alter the course of events, to change the course of history, to push violence back through the demonstration of love toward others. Though no one specifically quoted them, the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King were hovering in the air. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” And in a real-time expression of love and its importance, one speaker after another, expressed his love for the LAPD officers who had been assigned to protect the event, and asked that this love be conveyed to Chief Beck. As Joey reflected,” at a time when the relations between the black community and the police are somewhat fraught, only graciousness and appreciation were being expressed for the work the police are doing“. I noticed, that as the evening began the officers were standing, lining each side of the room. But at some point, they sat down, in the pews, and became part of the congregation itself. 

And the AME choirs, man alive, do they know how to sing! Not just to sing but to pray, and not just to pray but to soar. There is no way I can do justice in describing what was happening in the room when the choir reached the refrain of a song called “You are Important to Me”, a refrain that just kept getting louder and bigger and more insistent with each of its many, many repetitions, 

I pray for you; you pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
The choir began pointing at the audience, who soon began pointing back, 
I pray for YOU; YOU pray for me.
I love YOU, I need YOU to survive. 
It was spellbinding. And God was present in the room. 

And all this faith amidst struggle, and love amidst grief brought home to us again that living in our bubble we are missing out on a big piece of life's beauty and richness and calling. We live in a wonderfully diverse city, which abounds in opportunities to revel in the diversity of God's creation, to learn from one another, and to love in new and unexpected ways.

And though it can honestly be said that we received much more than we gave last night, what we gave was noticed. Residents whose homes we passed as we walked the few blocks from where we had parked, thanked us for coming out. As did the ushers at the doors who welcomed us in. And as we were leaving, a woman who seemed to be an AME regular threw her arms around my wife Sari and then around me. I was thinking about how much we appreciated it when people of other faith communities came to the Bring Back Our Boys rally in Pan Pacific Park, exactly a year ago. Showing solidarity is always worth more than the time or effort it costs. And it really requires nothing more than showing up.

These were without doubt, the best (and only) two hours I've ever spent in church. And the truth is that we do all need each other to survive. And that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”


Yosef Kanefsky is senior rabbi at B’nai David Judea, an Orthodox congregation in Los Angeles.  He contributes to the blog Morethodoxy at jewishjournal.com.

Rapper Ice Cube melts down, beats up rabbi


Ice Cube has never had the most cordial relationship with the Jewish community. In 1991, the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned his album “Death Certificate,” noting that many lyrics were racist and one of the songs called for the murder of a Jewish music industry figure. His song “No Vaseline” has been criticized for its line directed at his former group NWA, which he says “let a white Jew tell [them] what to do.”

However, this latest incident, if true, takes his Jewish relations to a new low.

The 45-year-old rapper and actor allegedly lost his cool outside the MGM casino in Detroit last Sunday when he and a rabbi —who went by the name P. Taras in TMZ — bumped into each other. Taras claims that after he told Ice Cube to watch where he was going, the rapper had his entourage physically beat and stomp on him.

Taras also says that Ice Cube unleashed a string of anti-Semitic epithets at him for wearing a yarmulke. He is suing the rapper for $2 million in damages.

Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson, told TMZ that the rabbi’s claims are not true.

Jackson is in the middle of helping publicize an upcoming biopic about NWA, but he might not be able to rap his way out of this debacle.

Three rabbis convicted in religious divorce ring


Three rabbis were convicted of planning to kidnap Jewish men in order to force them to grant their wives a religious writ of divorce.

The rabbis, who are Orthodox, were convicted late Tuesday in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Two of the rabbis also were convicted of attempted kidnapping.

The jury debated for three days following a two-month trial in the case of Rabbis Jay Goldstein, 60, and Binyamin Stimler, 39, both of Brooklyn, New York, and Mendel Epstein, 69, of Lakewood, New Jersey, CBS New York reported.

The conspiracy charge carries a possible life sentence, Reuters reported, citing the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sentencing was set for July 15.

The rabbis were part of a group of men, including at least one other rabbi, who operated a ring that kidnapped husbands and used violence, including beatings and stun guns, until the they agreed to the religious divorce.

Under Orthodox Jewish law, a wife cannot divorce without obtaining the writ, known as a get, from her husband. She also can not remarry in a Jewish ceremony without the get.

The ring was caught in an FBI sting operation in October 2013 in which federal agents posing as a Jewish woman and her brother sought the gang’s services. The “husband” was to be assaulted at a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey. When the other men arrived at the warehouse wearing masks and carrying rope, surgical knives and a screwdriver, they were arrested.

The convictions came three months after Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 56, of Monsey, New York, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. He will be sentenced on May 18.

Terrorism isn’t madness


Each time a terrorist act occurs in the world, the specter of madness looms on the horizon.

On Oct. 22, 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau fatally wounded a soldier on Parliament Hill in Ottawa before being shot by the police. A Muslim convert and a drug addict, he didn’t have any psychiatric record, but his mother confirmed he was mentally deranged. Two days later, Zane Thompson, a Muslim convert, described as a “recluse” with mental problems, attacked four policemen in New York City with a hatchet, a “terrorist act” according to the NYPD commissioner. On Dec. 15, 2014, Man Haron Monis, a self-proclaimed Iranian Sheikh, who was suspected of murdering his wife and had been charged with 40 sexual offenses dating back a decade, took hostages in a café in Sydney during 16 hours, before being shot dead by the police – two hostages died in the raid. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the gunman had “a long story of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability”.

This may sound like a modern epidemic, but, as I know from my experience studying French history, connecting terror and madness is a very old story.

In 19th-century France, psychiatrists and politicians were particularly quick to accept the analogy between revolutionary terror and madness, leading psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud to say later that the French were a “people of psychical epidemics, of historical mass convulsion.” Psychiatrists coined new diseases such as “political monomania,” “revolutionary neurosis,” “paranoia reformatoria,” and even “morbus democraticus” (democratic disease). Theorists and writers concurred. Addressing readers potentially nostalgic of revolutionary spirit, the diplomat and historian Chateaubriand wrote that the Reign of Terror (1793 to 1794), a policy of political repression, “was not the invention of a few giants; it was quite simply a mental illness, a plague.”

But what does systematically combining political violence and madness mean? Not much, since it takes two complex terms and, by combining them, offers a simple explanation.

Scientists can fall into the same tempting trap. Théroigne de Méricourt, a feminist supposedly leading a group of armed Amazons during the Revolution, ended her life in a lunatic asylum, where she was diagnosed with dementia due to her political convictions. This clinical demonstration was full of factual errors and approximations, and based on plagiarism of a sort, as a sick condition was portrayed as the result of sick ideology. Of course, Théroigne may have been insane. But was her madness necessarily related to her beliefs or did the doctor’s opposing political (royalist) beliefs orient the diagnosis?

Beside politics, religion (and the acceptable “limits” of its practice) often interferes in diagnosis. On February 14, 1810, Jacob Dupont, a famous thinker who had advocated atheism, was institutionalized at Charenton, a lunatic asylum founded in the 17th century. Dupont’s medical file reads:

Former Doctrinaire [i.e., former member of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine], former representative in the Legislative Assembly and the Convention; withdrew to a small village near Loches, where he lived for eight years with a sister who died six months ago. Metaphysical and revolutionary reveries, notorious advocacy of atheism in the Convention; publicly gave a course on that subject on Place Louis XVI seven years ago. Many writings full of the same madness. No violence, no delusions on other subjects.”

Here it is spelled out: atheism is madness. The assertion itself is not surprising in a society that shared Louis Sébastien Mercier’s opinion that atheism was “the sum total of all the monstrosities of the human mind” and “a destructive mania … that is very close to dementia.” This time, however, the judgment served as a diagnosis penned by a physician who, even though he was using the term “madness” in a colloquial sense, admitted that Dupont had “no delusions on other subjects.”

This point is crucial, because it proves, black on white, that religious beliefs constituted a sufficient basis for confinement. If the doctor, Antoine-Athanase Royer-Collard, had known that Dupont had been forced to resign his seat in the Convention 1794 due to his mental state, and was arrested the following year for raping a blind old woman, he would have felt even more justified in his diagnosis. Though Royer-Collard had only looked at Dupont’s openly declared atheism to make his decision, the background information would have underscored how it was only part of a larger pathology.

What do we learn from history? That a plausible conflation of terms, if not carefully scrutinized and documented, often turns to be a very harmful confusion.

If we go back to our contemporary examples, it appears that the three men (at least according to what newspapers tell us) share some common traits: Islam, violence and hypothetical madness. In other words: religion, political extremism, and medical condition. The three men are considered lone-wolf jihadists, who live “on the fringe of the fringe,” as the Sydney hostage-taker’s attorney characterized his client.

Isolated, frustrated, unable to join any terrorist organization, these so-called jihadists are first and foremost social misfits, galvanized by causes that get daily media attention. No anti-terrorist laws could ever apply to them, unless you could put the entire population of the world under continuous surveillance. Recent studies from Indiana State University and University College London have demonstrated that 32 to 40 percent of lone-wolf attackers suffered from mental problems, while, actually, “group-based terrorists are psychologically quite normal.”

What can we take away from this? We must be more careful about differentiating solo attackers from organized political forces – just as we must be more careful about using the word “madness.” In other words, let’s restore the full meaning of complicated concepts. And let’s remind ourselves that terrorism is a real threat of political thought, that religion is not fanaticism, and that madness is a very serious social issue that deserves more attention in countries that have failed to create effective mental health policies.


Laure Murat, a historian, is a professor in the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA. Her last book is entitled: The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon. Towards a Political History of Madness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). She wrote this for Thinking L.A., a project of UCLA and Zocalo Public Square.

 

Gunshots ring out, tear gas fired as violence returns to Ferguson


Gunshots rang out and police lobbed tear gas at an angry crowd that threw bottles outside the Ferguson Police Department in suburban St. Louis after a grand jury decided not to indict a white officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teen.

Outrage over the decision fueled what had been mostly peaceful protests across the United States on Monday, including in New York City where marchers chanting “Black lives matter” snarled traffic on Broadway through Times Square.

In Chicago, demonstrators walked up Lake Shore Drive carrying banners that read “Justice for Mike Brown” – the 18-year-old who was shot and killed in Ferguson on Aug. 9.

Police in Ferguson used smoke canisters and trucks to force waves of violent protesters down the street away from the police building soon after sporadic gunshots were heard. Flames from a burning car rose into the night sky.

Whistles pierced the air as some of the hundreds of protesters tried to keep the peace, shouting, “Don't run, don't run.”

Police who formed a wall of clear riot shields outside the precinct were pelted with bottles and cans as the crowd surged up and down the street immediately after authorities said the grand jury had voted not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

“Murderers, you're nothing but murderers,” protesters in the crowd shouted. One woman, speaking through a megaphone said, “Stinking murderers.”

Dozens of police and military vehicles were poised for possible mass arrests not far from the stretch of Ferguson streets that saw the worst of the rioting after Wilson shot Brown in August.

“They need to feel the pain these mothers feel at the (expletive) cemetery,” shouted Paulette Wilkes, 40, a teacher's assistant who was in the crowd at the police department.

A smaller, calmer crowd of about three dozen protesters gathered outside the courthouse where the grand jury had met. In that crowd, a white woman held a sign that read: “Black Lives Matter.” Many of the protesters looked stunned.

“That's just how the justice system works – the rich are up there and the poor are down here,” said Antonio Burns, 25, who is black and lives in the Ferguson area. The police “think they can get away with it,” Burns said.

A handful of Amnesty International volunteers in bright vests tried to maintain the peace. Brown's family quickly urged a non-violent response to the grand jury's decision.

Officials urged tolerance and assured residents that the National Guard would provide security at critical facilities like fire houses, police stations and utility substations.

“I do not want people in this community to think they have to barricade their doors and take up arms,” St. Louis County Executive Director Charlie Dooley said before the grand jury's decision was announced.

Death in a synagogue


They could hear the iron doors at the front of the synagogue clang shut behind them.  Crowded together with 2,000 other people inside the main sanctuary, the man and the woman looked at each other in panic. The woman gazed down at her five year-old-son and gripped the little boy’s hand. She saw fear on his face.  Outside they heard shouting and could smell the pungent reek of flowing gasoline.  From the open window a swab, glowing with fire, landed on the synagogue floor. Then another. And another.  Shortly, the vestibule next to which they stood caught alight.  The flames then spread so quickly that they barely had time to catch their breath as the synagogue was engulfed in confusion and panic.  Screaming and shouting, people tore at each other to get near the windows.  But the windows had been nailed shut. Crushed in the throng, the man motioned to his wife to a hidden stairway that he knew led to an attic.  Slowly, through the gathering fumes and smoke, they forced their way towards it.   Once there they hurriedly clambered up.   And at the top they saw it.  A window not yet boarded up.  The man thrust open the wooden shutters and looked down.  He was there!

” Chaim! ”  he shouted at the top of his lungs. ” CHAIM!!!”

From down below a young man looked up and saw his father’s face.

” Jump, father, jump!!”

The woman  looked to her husband and she back at him. She shook her head.

” We CANNOT. We will never survive it. Never!”

” Basia, we will die here too.

But it was too late. Someone had seen them make their way to the stairs and a group now stormed the wooden steps ,invading the narrow space.  They were crushed against the attic wall.

” We will all die!,” the woman wept.

The man looked down at his frightened son.

” GIVE ME HIM!” he shouted above the din.

She let go of his hand and pushed him toward her husband.  He lifted the boy by his armpits and with  a heave pushed his way  toward the open window.

He then set  him on the window ledge and looked below.

” Chaim, I am throwing him to you!, he shouted to the brother below. ” You must catch him!  You must break his fall!”

He turned to the boy and said softly:

” You will be alright. Chaim will catch you.  He touched  the boy’s face and kissed him.

” Grow, my son, to be a good Jew. “

” NO, Tati, NO!!!  the boy cried.

But in less than a second he was tumbling through the cold night air.

Below his brother stood breathing hard and as the boy came down he caught him and they both collapsed into the snow.

There they lay for a second, stunned, and then the boy turned and looked back to the window.  But his father’s face had disappeared.

” TATI!!!!” the boy screamed.

They waited for a minute, as the tumult grew –  but they could already see smoke pouring from the attic window.  The older boy looked around and saw the police riding towards them.  He knew they had to leave.

” Come.  We cannot stay.”

” I can’t, no”  the boy whimpered.  “TATI!, MAMMA!”  he cried as  he searched desperately for a sign of  his parents at the window.

“COME! ” the older boy finally commanded, holding back his own tears and pulling at the child’s arm.  ” YOU MUST COME!”

They quickly made their way out of the town and hid for the night in the fields under a blanket they had found.  They watched that night as the synagogues of Kiev burned to the ground.

Six months later  the orphan would be placed on a ship to Australia in the company of his aunt, never to see Russia again.  His brother would make his way to Canada and then America to begin a new life of his own.

The man and the woman were my great-grandparents.  Their five -year-old son, my grandfather.   Their story is scorched into my family’s consciousness and the memory of that night can never be erased.

                                                                                                              *****

Stories such as this are replete among Jewish families.  This event took place in 1919 during the Russian Civil War but could have easily been a scene taken from any number of episodes in Jewish history from the killing of the Jews of Medina by Mohammed in the 7th Century, to the rampages of the Crusaders along the Rhine in the 11th Century to the Chelminicki masscresmin  Russia in the mid 1600s.

The synagogue has always been a convenient place to find and kill Jews.  There, at prayer, they are most vulnerable and least likely to offer resistance.

And so, it is little wonder that two Arab cousins  decided to enter the Jerusalem synagogue  in Har Nof, Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.  How likely would it have been that these pious Jews were carrying weapons with which to defend themselves or would have any idea that their lives might be in danger?  How prepared could they have been for what overcame them that morning?B

This particular incident has yet another painful  familial association for me. My brother, his wife and six children live only a quarter of a mile from the synagogue. He has often prayed in the building  and his children have attended the school next door.

Jews began arriving in Palestine in the late 19th Century, fleeing attacks in Russia of exactly this nature.   The theory went that in the Holy Land, Jews would finally find safety and security building lives protected from the antisemitism and violence which swirled around them in Europe.  In the light of this most recent horrific incident it would be fairly easy to argue that the experiment has failed.  If Jews at prayer can still be butchered in a land they call their own, then what is the use of a Jewish police force, a Jewish army and all the benefits of a Jewish state?

The answer to this challenge is that there are no guarantees anywhere on Earth that Jews will not be targeted for attack.  Not in England, where Orthodox Jews fear wearing their yarmulkes in public; not in the United States where virulent anti Zionism, (of a form indistinguishable from antisemitism) has emerged as a fashionable attitude among academic elites;   and not in supposedly quiet Australia where Jews have recently suffered some deeply disturbing antisemitic attacks, unknown to me at any time in my childhood.

But unlike my great-grandparents, who had nowhere to go and nowhere to turn, Jews in Israel have much to be grateful for. It is not the existence of an Israeli police force, nor an Israeli army.   Nor is it even a Jewish majority government.  It is a sense that despite the antisemitism that again rages around the world and the growing diplomatic isolation of the Jewish state as it struggles against pathological murderers and debased liars, the wind of history is no longer blowing against  them;  it is now blowing at their back.

The Jewish birth rate in Israel is higher than it has ever been and despite all dire predictions, far exceeds that of the Palestinians or Arabs in any other Arab State; Israel’s pre-eminence  as a high-tech hub has elevated it to a position of tremendous importance for the world’s most successful corporations making the state’s eradication  economically unimaginable.  Jewish nationalism, long derided by the post-Zionist academics and secular intelligentsia is making a significant comeback, buoyed by the idea that the nation , for  all its fractured differences, must be united and strong in the face of such adversity.

But even more important than any of  this is the growing national sense  that Judaism, once relegated as an ancient anachronism by so many secular Israelis, may actually be the life blood of the nation. Four rabbis were butchered in a synagogue while praying.  A severed arm, found in the bloodied synagogue, still wrapped in tefillin, offered a stirring symbol of faith and commitment in the face of the terror with which our enemies wish to undermine our perseverance .

It would seem to reinforce the words of millions of Jewish fathers to their sons throughout the generations which perhaps offers the true key to Jewish survival:

“Grow, my son, to be a good Jew.”

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles. He blogs at The Intermediate Zone and  at the Jewish Journal in On the Other Hand

Timeline: Rising violence in Israel


Over the past several weeks, tension and violence have risen steadily in Jerusalem, culminating in Tuesday's attack on a synagogue in which four Israeli worshippers were shot and knifed to death by Palestinians assailants.

Three of Tuesday's victims held joint Israeli-U.S. citizenship and the fourth was a British-Israeli national, police said.

Following is an overview of major incidents in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank since June, when three Israeli seminary students were killed by Palestinian assailants, an attack later claimed by Hamas.

June 13 – Three Israeli teenagers abducted and killed while hitchhiking in the West Bank. The Islamist group Hamas later claims responsibility.

July  2 – Palestinian teenager seized in Jerusalem and later burned to death by Jewish assailants in suspected revenge attack.

July 8 to Aug 26 – Conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, with more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis killed.

Aug 4 – Palestinian worker used a construction vehicle to attack pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing one. Palestinian shot dead by police.

Sept 9 – Clashes in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem following the death of a Palestinian teenager shot by Israeli police during protests the week before.

Sept-Oct – Tension in Jerusalem grows over access to the city's holiest site, the Temple Mount. Almost nightly rioting ensues in Palestinian districts across the east of the city.

Oct 13 – Heavy clashes erupt on the Temple Mount between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters angry at Jewish worshippers visiting the site in increasing numbers.

Oct 22 – Palestinian driver rams his car into people waiting at a Jerusalem light-rail stop, killing two Israelis, including a three-month-old baby. Driver shot dead by police.

Oct 29 – Yehuda Glick, a far-right Israeli activist campaigning for Jews to be allowed to pray at Temple Mount, shot and wounded by a Palestinian. Gunman killed by police.

Nov 5 – Palestinian driver runs into people waiting at another light-rail stop in Jerusalem, killing two people. Driver shot dead by police.

Nov 8 – Israeli police shoot dead a Palestinian brandishing a knife in an incident captured on closed-circuit television.

Nov 10 – Israeli soldier stabbed and killed by a Palestinian attacker near a railway station in Tel Aviv. Attacker shot dead by police.

Nov 10 – Israeli woman run down and stabbed to death at West Bank hitchhiking spot by Palestinian driver. Attacker shot dead by police.

Nov 18 – Four Jewish worshippers shot and knifed to death in a synagogue in Jerusalem. Two Palestinian assailants shot and killed by police.

In Israel, no one’s backing down from a Third Intifada


On the platform of the central bus stop and hitchhiking post for Gush Etzion, a Jewish settlement bloc that spills over Israel’s eastern border into Palestinian territory, wet sand was poured on Nov. 11 to cover a human-sized blood stain from the night before. 

Israeli mother Sharon Katz, 52, examined the sand and the smashed vehicle barriers where Maher al-Hashlamoun had plowed his minivan into 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus before stabbing her to death on Nov. 10. “I wanted to get out of the car and go to her,” the witness told the Journal, dazed. When she spoke, Katz had returned to the scene of the attack, at the suggestion of a friend, seeking some kind of catharsis. “I thought maybe I could put my sweater on her and stop the bleeding.

“She was dying. She was dying,” Katz said of Lemkus, choking back tears. “I can’t get it out of my head.”

A first responder from Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, described the attack: “First, he knocked her down with the car. And when she crawled back up here,” the paramedic said, pointing to the bus platform. “He stabbed her to death.”

As the chaotic scene unfolded, Katz’s daughter Adi, terrified, begged her mother not to leave the car to intervene. And sure enough, just as Lemkus was taking her last breaths, Sharon and Adi Katz said they watched her Palestinian attacker stab two more passers-by who had tried to help — one in the cheek and one in the gut.

Miraculously, Lemkus had survived another knife attack at this very hitchhiking post (in Hebrew, trempiada) eight years earlier. The stop is also right across the street from the now-infamous trempiada where three Jewish schoolboys were kidnapped in June — igniting the 50-day summer war. But Lemkus didn’t let that stop her: At the young settler’s funeral, many of her friends and family remembered her as fearless, stubborn and determined not to let terrorists drive her off the Jewish homeland. As a tribute to Lemkus, they said, they would continue to do the same.

On the morning of Nov. 11, hundreds of Israelis — mostly settlers, many of them immigrants — gathered in Lemkus’ hometown, another hilltop settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc called Tekoa, to pay their respects. A Muslim call to prayer could be heard echoing through the valley of Arab villages below as young settlers carried Lemkus’ body, via stretcher, down Tekoa’s steep hillside to the town graveyard. Someone strummed a guitar; others hummed along. There were many tears.

“Dalia! Dalia!” wailed her mother, a native of South Africa, as Lemkus was lowered into a grave at Tekoa’s cemetery. “Thank you Dalia, just for being you. I love you so much. We won’t stop doing anything in this country — it belongs to us.

HaShem forgive me, but I hope he dies!” her mother added, sobbing, referring to the man who had killed her daughter.

The Gush Etzion car and knife attack came just hours after another fatal stabbing in Tel Aviv, in which Nur a-Din Hashiya, an 18-year-old Palestinian man, reportedly stabbed 20-year-old Israeli soldier Almog Shiloni to death outside a busy train station. Several more attempted stabbings were reportedly thwarted in Jerusalem that same night — a spike in violence that, for some, pushed recent unrest into Third Intifada territory.

“The second hit-and-run attack this evening proves without any doubt that we are in the midst of a Third Intifada,” Gush Etzion Mayor Davidi Perl said in a statement, calling for a harsher crackdown on Palestinians by Israeli security forces as well as for more Israeli building in Palestinian territory. 

“We are in an intifada,” Israeli Knesset member and former public security minister Danny Danon said in a politicized statement attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s weak response.

Not everyone is on board with the label yet, however, and there is a long history of naming the Third Intifada too soon. As a Palestinian shopkeeper in East Jerusalem said to Buzzfeed’s Middle East reporter a couple weeks ago: “I think you journalists think you get a prize for being first.”

“This is not an intifada,” Nabir Taha, 50, another East Jerusalem shopkeeper, told the Journal, speaking from behind the counter of his convenience store. 

“It’s the feeling of the people,” Taha said. “It’s the feeling that it’s not right what Israel is doing. That’s not an intifada. It’s just that we cannot take any more.”

Whatever its name, the recent escalation of Palestinian anger throughout Israel and the West Bank is the most dramatic of its kind since the Second Intifada a decade ago.

And it has a different feel to it. The First Intifada against Israeli occupation in the late 1980s and early ’90s was fought by Palestinians with stones and Molotov cocktails; the Second Intifada, with bombs and suicide vests. Now, the latest uprising may have revealed its hallmark: lone wolf attacks using everyday objects, impossible to ban, as deadly weapons.

Namely, cars and knives.

In a chilling trend leading up to the Nov. 10 spree, two Palestinians from East Jerusalem — Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi and Ibrahim al-Akari — rammed their cars into crowds of people waiting at a stop for the Jerusalem light rail. On Oct. 22, al-Shaludi careened through the light rail station near the French Hill neighborhood, killing an infant and an Ecuadorian immigrant. And on Nov. 5, al-Akari killed an Israeli border cop and a 17-year-old Israeli boy when he smashed into another station, even closer to the Old City.

A relative mourns near the coffin of Israeli border policeman Jaddan Assad during his funeral in his village of Beit Jann on Nov. 6. A Palestinian rammed his vehicle into pedestrians at a light rail station in East Jerusalem on Nov. 5, killing the Israeli police officer and wounding 13 others. Photo by imago/Xinhua

Combined with the Gush Etzion vehicular kidnapping in June — and a tractor attack on a Jerusalem bus during the war that followed — this car-as-weapon trend has inspired calls on social media for a larger “car intifada.”

One image being passed around, showing a sedan in the shape of a gun, is stamped with the message: “Achieve the objective — even with your car.” Another likens the white van driven in the Nov. 5 light-rail attack to the M-75, a type of rocket used by Palestinian militant group Hamas in last summer’s war with Israel. And a music video widely circulated on Facebook is encouraging lone wolves to “Run over the settlers! Run over the settlers!”

The uptick in stabbing attacks, too, has birthed a wave of “knife intifada” hype online.

“There is no other action we can do, because of all the security and checkpoints,” Hassan Awad, a 34-year-old from Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, said of the car and knife attacks. “I think there will be a lot of this in the coming days.”

Even if this new, low-budget Palestinian uprising assumes a different name each week — car intifada, knife intifada, urban intifada, silent intifada, post-intifada — the rage behind it has been on a steady rise.

Awad said he sees this uprising as “not something planned,” but more a series of outbursts from individuals in response to the constant “pushing and pressuring” from Israeli authorities.

Especially, he said, given recent events at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — a Muslim holy site at the center of Jerusalem’s Old City known to Jews as the Temple Mount. In the past weeks and months, in defiance of an Israeli law saying Jews can’t pray there, Israeli activists have been visiting the Temple Mount almost daily to demand their right to pray. (And, long-term, their right to replace the Al-Aqsa mosque with their own Third Temple.)

Alongside hundreds of other men under age 35, Awad was blocked from entering the Al-Aqsa compound on Nov. 7, as police tried to prevent rioting in the aftermath of the second Jerusalem light-rail attack. So Awad laid his yellow prayer rug on the street outside the Old City and prayed to a line of heavily armed Israeli policemen. “I would prefer to do it inside, but I have no choice,” he told the Journal.

An old family friend of al-Akari, the second light-rail attacker, guessed al-Akari had not taken the recent Al-Aqsa closures lightly either.

“I’ve known him since he was 2 years old. He’s a nice man — always goes to God to pray. Everybody here loved him,” said the family friend, a smiley 57-year-old business owner in East Jerusalem named Mohammed Bakri Abu Ashraf.

However, he said, “I think something snapped in his head. Everybody has cars like this — for family, for work, for holiday. I couldn’t do something like that, and I would have thought the same for him. But his mind went out. They didn’t let him pray. It changed his head.”

Abu Ashraf’s snack shop is located in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem, right near where it meets the Shuafat refugee camp — the pressurized community where al-Akari lived, walled in by giant slabs of concrete and Israeli watchtowers. On Nov. 7, clouds of black smoke mixed with tear gas billowed over the wall. Inside, Palestinian youth were caught in their routine dance with police: Kids would throw stones and fireworks at police, and police would fire tear gas and rubber bullets back. The clashes lasted for days.

An elderly Palestinian man who couldn’t get inside the Shuafat camp to see his family on Friday due to the riots, said he was sympathetic to the protesters’ frustration. “This is the first time in 1,400 years that anybody has entered Al-Aqsa with guns and shoes,” he said of clashes at the site earlier in the week. (An exaggeration, but one echoed often around town.)

Many East Jerusalem residents also said they were enraged by the fact that, in the scramble following recent terror attacks against Israelis, all but one of the Palestinian suspects have been shot dead, as opposed to apprehended or merely injured.

“Couldn’t they have shot him in the leg?” asked Abu Ashraf of his friend al-Akari.

Riots reached northern Israel over the weekend after surveillance footage showed 22-year-old Kheir Hamdan, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, shot dead by police officers after pounding on their car window while allegedly holding a knife. A disturbing video of Hamdan’s death further fanned the flames in Jerusalem.

“The urgent task of reinstating some calm to the city cannot be achieved by applying more repressive measures while at the same time mouthing halfhearted commitments to reviving the status quo in the Holy Basin,” wrote Naomi Chazan, former deputy speaker of the Knesset, in the Times of Israel. “What is needed now, more than ever before, is a return to reason: to an understanding that two peoples inhabit the land of which Jerusalem is the heart and that their destinies are irrevocably intertwined.”

Jerusalem’s new resting state is high alert. Clusters of armed police stand on nearly every corner — more than 1,000 officers have been added to usual deployment — and are backed up by the constant buzz of helicopters and surveillance drones overhead.

By last weekend, cement blocks lined each light-rail stop across Jerusalem, “in order to prevent vehicles from plowing into people,” Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. “After the second attack, police have mobilized new units at stops along the line that runs through Jerusalem … and in Arab neighborhoods, in order to prevent suspicious vehicles from leaving.”

However, he said, “Let’s get our terminology straight. No one’s talking about a car intifada.”

But the seed of fear has been planted. Jewish Israelis are now finding themselves, instead of watching out for someone dressed in a bulky jacket — as in the Second Intifada — scanning faces through windshields. When walking along busy streets, and especially near the rail line, many twitch at the sound of a revving engine. Crowds are standing a little farther back from the tracks. Nowhere feels safe.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian as clashes flare in West Bank


Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian during clashes on Tuesday in the West Bank, a day after Palestinian assailants fatally stabbed an Israeli soldier and a woman in attacks that raised fears of a new uprising.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would seek to crush the spiraling violence by meting out stiffer punishments, deploying more forces and destroying assailants' homes.

“We have defeated terrorism until now and shall do so again,” Netanyahu said in nationally televised remarks after consulting with security chiefs.

The military said soldiers killed a 21-year-old Palestinian man at a refugee camp after coming under attack by a crowd hurling petrol bombs and stones. Residents said he was on his roof, away from the clashes when he was shot.

Confrontations also erupted in at least two other West Bank areas, where the army said soldiers shot and wounded two Palestinians.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said “it's clear there is an escalation”, but that the violence was not organised and it was not clear if it would lead to an Intifada, like the last Palestinian revolt that began in 2001 and died down in 2005.

“We're not seeing masses pouring into the street. We're seeing, in certain places, young people using grassroots terrorism and lone attackers,” Yaalon told reporters.

With the rise in violence, Israelis wondered if they would again have to worry about security in their daily lives.

“This is the same soundtrack we all remember from the days of the Intifada: you haven’t had time to come to terms with the morning’s terror attack and you’re already wallowing in the next one,” military affairs analyst Alex Fishman wrote in the Yedioth Ahronot daily.

The last Palestinian uprising brought a surge in suicide bombings in Israel and crushing military operations in Palestinian cities.

The new bloodshed has been fuelled by tension over Israeli-controlled access to Jerusalem's holiest site, revered by Muslims as Noble Sanctuary, where al-Aqsa mosque stands, and by Jews as the mount where Biblical Temples once stood.

“We ask you (Israel) to keep settlers and extremists far away from al-Aqsa mosque and our holy places,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday, following recent visits to the site by far-right legislators. “Keep them away from us and we'll stay away from them.”

Last week, a Palestinian rammed his car into pedestrians in central Jerusalem, the second such incident at a light railway station in as many weeks.

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops again over holy site


Palestinian protesters fought with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday, the latest clashes in a fortnight of violence over access to Jerusalem's holiest site.

At the Qalandia checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem, troops fired rubber bullets as several hundred protesters marched, some throwing rocks and petrol bombs.

In East Jerusalem, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters hurling firecrackers and burning tires that sent up huge clouds of black smoke in Shoafat refugee camp.

Palestinian and regional anger, still simmering over Israel's war with Gaza's Hamas movement in July and August, has focused in the last two weeks on Jerusalem's holiest site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.

For decades, Israel has maintained a ban on Jews praying at the site, which houses the Dome of the Rock and the 8th-century al-Aqsa mosque and was also the site of ancient Jewish temples.

But in recent weeks, protests have gathered momentum against a campaign by far-right Jewish nationalists to be allowed to pray there.

Israeli security forces have clashed at the compound with Muslim worshippers angry at what they see as an assault on the shrine, which is administered by Islamic authorities, and last week Israel shut down all access to the site for the first time in more than a decade, after a Palestinian gunman shot an Israeli ultranationalist. Palestinian drivers have rammed into Israeli pedestrians in the city, killing four people.

RISK OF MORE VIOLENCE

The EU's new foreign affairs chief said the upsurge in violence made it all the more critical that Israel and the Palestinians resume peace negotiations.

“The risk of growing tensions here in Jerusalem … is that, if we do not move forward on the political track, we will go back, and back again to violence,” Federica Mogherini told reporters after meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during her first official visit to the region.

The last talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in April after months of largely fruitless negotiation, with the Palestinians angry at the continued building of Jewish settlements in occupied territory, and Israel furious at attempts to bring the Islamist group Hamas, which officially denies Israel's right to exist, into the Palestinian government.

Mogherini said it was time for the EU to take a bigger role in brokering peace talks, a task until now shouldered by Washington.

After meeting her, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that the status quo governing Temple Mount would not change.

At the same time as calling for calm, Netanyahu has accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of instigating the violence, putting the prospect of any return to negotiations even further out of reach.

HOMES TO BE RAZED?

An official in Netanyahu's office who declined to be named said the prime minister had sought judicial authorization to raze the homes of Palestinians involved in lethal attacks against Israelis.

Israel has often demolished Palestinian homes in the West Bank in retaliation for attacks, despite the protests of human rights groups who say it amounts to collective punishment, but it has rarely done so in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, for their part, are far from presenting a united front.

Abbas's Fatah movement and the Gaza-based Hamas, at daggers drawn since Hamas drove Fatah's forces out of Gaza in 2007, agreed in June to form a “reconciliation” government, but have so far failed to put the unity cabinet to work.

On Friday, around 15 small explosions targeted the homes and vehicles of Fatah officials in Gaza, causing minor damage but no injuries, witnesses and members of Fatah said.

One of the targets hit was a stage where the 10th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian president and Fatah leader, is to be commemorated on Nov. 11.

Fatah and Hamas blamed each other for the blasts.

“We will not allow the return of internal conflicts, chaos and anarchy to the Gaza Strip,” said Eyad Al-Bozom, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, run by officials loyal to Hamas.

“The security services will pursue anyone who had any connection to these criminal acts.”

The tension between Fatah and Hamas has hampered efforts to rebuild Gaza after the July-August war, in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, as well as more than 70 Israelis.

Mogherini was due to visit Gaza on Saturday for talks with Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Jewish-Arab violence in Jerusalem sends tensions spiraling


This post originally appeared on www.themedialine.org

Shimshon Halperin, an American citizen from Monsey, New York, is trying to find meaning in the death of his three-month-old granddaughter Chaya Zissel, killed by a Palestinian who drove his vehicle at a high speed into a crowd of people exiting the light rail at a stop in Jerusalem. She was returning from her first visit to the Western Wall with her parents. 

“She was a pure soul and she was murdered for no reason whatsoever – just because of hate,” Halperin told The Media Line. “That has to be stopped. People on both sides are getting hurt for no reason.”

Police shot and killed the attacker, 21-year old Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, who had served time in Israeli prisons for security offenses, and was a resident of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where nine Jewish families moved into the predominately Arab neighborhood earlier this week.

Halperin continued sadly talking about his granddaughter, whose ultra-Orthodox parents, also US citizens who had given birth to Chaya after eight years of infertility, are also searching for meaning.

“The parents’ message is that they believe everything comes from God,” he said. “This pure soul had a goal in this world, and she fulfilled her goal in a short period of time, and then God wanted that soul back. The lesson we have to learn is that we must do good deeds in this world to utilize our time here as much as possible.”

The attack comes a few days after an Israeli driver in the West Bank hit two young Palestinian girls in the West Bank town of Sinjil, killing Enas Shawkat, and seriously wounding the other girl. Palestinians say they are convinced that the killing was intentional – the driver insisted that it was an accident. Although that attack was in Sinjil — and not in Jerusalem — it fueled tensions in the city, where almost 300,000 Palestinians live next to almost 500,000 Jews. Some live in separate neighborhoods; and some, as in Silwan, live in mixed neighborhoods.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said “hundreds” of extra police have been positioned at sensitive points around the city.

“A number of different units have been deployed to deal with disturbances that took place after the attack (that killed the baby),” Rosenfeld told The Media Line. “Police are implementing a strategic program to heighten security in Jerusalem. They have set up observation posts in Arab neighborhoods and are gathering intelligence and working together with ground units to boost security.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat warned that there would be a “zero tolerance” policy for violence in the city.

“We must restore peace and security in Jerusalem- as I have said for months, the situation in Jerusalem is intolerable and we must act unequivocally against all violence taking place in the city,” he said in a statement sent out by his office. “Today, more than ever, it is clear that we must send police forces into neighborhoods where there are disturbances, placing them strategically and widely in significant numbers.”

Palestinian officials said they see the growing tensions in Jerusalem as a response to Israeli measures against Palestinians in the city. Most Palestinians there opt to remain residents rather than citizens because they do not want to recognize Israel’s unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians maintain that east Jerusalem must be the future capital of a Palestinian state, while Israel says the united city is the sovereign capital of a Jewish state. 

“Israel is taking measures in Jerusalem to drive the (Palestinian) Jerusalemites out,” Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, told reporters. He said he places full responsibility on what he described as the “racist, right-wing ISIS government of Binyamin Netanyahu.”

Israeli officials counter that most of the violence comes from the Palestinian side.

“Ninety percent of the incidents are done by Arabs who have attacked police officers and thrown stones on both the Temple Mount, and in Israeli Arab neighborhoods over the past few weeks,” he said.

Tensions spiked after Palestinians kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June. The day after they were buried, in early July, extremist Jews claiming retaliation kidnapped Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir from east Jerusalem and burned him to death. Those two incidents sparked angry reactions which have coalesced in Jerusalem.

There have been a series of angry confrontations surrounding the site that Jews call the Temple Mount and Palestinians call Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Holy to both Jews and Muslims, and located just above the Western Wall, there have been a series of confrontations between police and Muslim worshippers at the site, including earlier this month, when the Jewish holiday of Sukkot coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha. According to an agreement worked out with the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not to pray there. Several Israeli parliamentarians are trying to push through laws that would end the ban on Jewish prayer.

Palestinians see it as an effort by Jews to take over the site. They say that Israel is trying to divide the Muslim holy site into two parts – and take one part for themselves. They point to the situation in Hebron, where a similar site that is holy to both Jews and Muslims was divided after an extremist Jew opened fire on Muslims praying in 1994, killing 29 Muslim worshippers.

“The Israeli aim is to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque (located in the holy site in Jerusalem) to enable the Israelis to enter whenever they want,” Sheikh Abu Ali, a West Bank imam (Islamic clergyman) told The Media Line.

Another Palestinian official, Mohammad Erakat, warned that the situation is deteriorating in Jerusalem.

“This is the most serious escalation we have seen in years,” he told The Media Line. “If this continues and nothing is done, I am afraid Al-Haram Al-Sharif will be divided and given largely to settlers.”

As in any conflict, it is often the individuals who suffer most.  A group of Palestinians attacked Chanan Kupietzky, 26, as he was walking in Jerusalem’s Old City on Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year, with his 16-year-old brother.

“Someone came at me with a wooden two-by-four with nails in it and started hitting me on the back of the head,” he told The Media Line. “I put my hands up to protect my head, and my hand was crushed.”

He underwent surgery to repair his hand. Kupietzky says he actually had a gun with him, but was afraid to use it.

“The first think that entered my mind was that if I pulled out the gun, I would be questioned and could go to jail,” he said. “Israel will focus on you rather than on the terrorist.”

Samer Farouk, a 20-year-old plumber from the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, had a very different experience. Two months ago, he said, he was sitting on a bench near the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, when a Jewish man stopped and asked him for a light for his cigarette. Five minutes later he came back with a group of ten men. 

“They didn’t say anything,” Farouk told The Media Line. “One sprayed pepper spray into both of my eyes and started hitting us with metal objects. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital.”