How could they be so stupid? That’s the question that keeps repeating in Jerusalem. The people asking it are Palestinians, and the question refers to the Israeli authorities, who have made decisions that even from the Israeli perspective are stupid because they have inflamed a divided city, or more precisely, the eastern half that includes the Old City.
There’s a positive side to this stupidity. It’s akin to a panicked diplomatic cable that informs the capital that lunatics in the guise of Startup Nation and music lovers have entered the code for detonating a warhead. The stupidity exposes the linkage between Israel’s nature to expel (in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, for example) and its deep, instinctive disdain for its Muslim subjects. The stupidity shows how the country that has maimed Palestinian villages and towns such as Bethlehem, Hebron’s Old City, Nebi Samuel and Jerusalem’s Mugrabi Quarter so that Jews can hold their religious ceremonies is showing contempt and disregard for Ramadan and Islamic holy sites.
The hope is that friendly countries such as Germany, the United Arab Emirates and the United States will realize how dangerous Israel is and restrain it. The danger is that these countries will again fail to act, the Palestinians will pay a heavy price and we will move closer to the next, even more dangerous explosion.
That’s how the stupidity of Ramadan unfolded – closing off the steps in front of Damascus Gate, attacking protesters in Sheikh Jarrah and scheduling a court hearing on the explosive issue of the neighborhood’s fate of all things on the day Jewish nationalists planned their victory march in the Old City. It then continued to the brutal police break-ins into the al-Haram al-Sharif compound and its mosques (one of these attacks, particularly frightening and shocking, occurred as I was writing this on Monday morning).
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Some 1.8 billion Muslims around the world are marking Ramadan. Only 7 million of them live in the Holy Land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and only a few tens of thousands could pray this year at the al-Haram al-Sharif compound. But for historical and political reasons, not just religious and aesthetic ones, the Dome of the Rock has become a high-profile Islamic symbol and the entire compound a universal heritage site.
And Israel spits on it. Hundreds of millions of Muslims will have a hard time forgetting the ugly images of the Jewish state’s police with helmets and rifles as they desecrated the compound and its mosques and attacked thousands of fasting Muslims with stun grenades, tear gas and a hail of rubber-coated metal bullets. Live broadcasts from scores of phones show the means of repression at the state’s disposal and how the Jewish state regards Al-Aqsa as a stage for demonstrating the police’s brutal force.
Israel portrayed its attack as the only logical response to young people throwing stones and water bottles, and to their ability to organize and likelihood to. But on Monday, it seemed the police’s main goal was to make up for their low public image (their more successful brothers in the Shin Bet security service, Mossad and Military Intelligence scolded them via the media) and to satisfy the Temple Mount faithful, who were for once barred from making their provocative ascent to the compound. In doing so, Israel’s police convinced more young Palestinians that rebellion is their only option and strengthened the appeal of Islamic-nationalist groups.
The stupidity is the hubris of a country convinced that it’s omnipotent and has finished building an iron wall to protect its realm from an uprising that was bound to happen. The ruler has scored an own goal and has given young Palestinians another opportunity to show that nothing here is normal, thus speaking in the name of their people. But if Israel’s friends don’t act quickly against the Israeli arrogance, the risk grows that the stupidity will hasten the day when the problem of the Israeli occupation turns into a religious war spilling over the country’s borders.