Alan Edelstein
Alan Edelstein

A night at the concert

Since Monday night Hamas has fired over 1,000 missiles at Israel, all aimed at civilians.  For some inexplicable reason, the authorities allowed an outdoor concert to take place last night at the Israel Museum here in Jerusalem, usually a beautiful night time venue. And for some stupid reason, my wife and I went.

In the middle of the concert, we could see a couple of the ushers looking toward the west, the Tel Aviv area. Those of us in the back seats stood up and could see fire, lights, etc. in the sky. I checked the alert app on my phone. Missiles in Rishon LeZion, just southeast of Tel Aviv.
Our daughter lives in Tel Aviv. She checked in on us and we on her. After a few minutes, we decided our 1950’s apartment with no shelter was still better than the Israel Museum outdoor theater. So we left.
On the 10 minute drive home, the radio station kept interrupting with a siren sound and a monotone voice saying a city, and then “take shelter” (my interpretation, which is not perfect).
City after city: Rishon LeZion, Herzliya, Holon (bus hit), Ramat Hasharon, Tel Aviv, Jaffa. It just kept going on and on. Every announcement my wife and I shuttered, paralyzed. Checked with our daughter again.
I’ve heard no condemnations from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the Squad, et. al. We are now hitting back hard. But, we’re polite.  We give out warnings before we target a building so that the “innocent civilians” can leave.  My question:  do the bad guys stay put so that they look like good sports?
Once the body count on the other side gets up there, we’ll start hearing about proportionality (a much misunderstood and misused military doctrine), the cycle of violence, restraint, and a host of other meaningless platitudes.
We’ll hear about how so many more Palestinians than Israelis have died. This basically sounds like our critics would be happier if only more Israelis were killed.  If only we wouldn’t use our resources and concern for life to build shelters and defenses, they’d feel better.
There is nothing positive about any of this. Just sadness, distress, and stress.  The saddest part of all this, in addition to the loss of life, the injuries, and the destruction:
–Arab citizens, not all but many, are now rioting, and some are being very violent.  Jews have been attacked, stores and restaurants trashed, synagogues defiled. They are in the process of destroying, or have already destroyed, 50 years of hard work by good people, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, to build a country where all citizens are treated equally. A Jewish nation, yes, but a nation that provides freedom and dignity for all of its citizens.
Had Israel made it to the mountain top? Of course not. What nation has? But we had made great strides as evidenced in our universities, the health care system, and other spheres of society. Israelis had taken great pride in the way in which the country had come together to tackle the coronavirus.
All of this progress has been serious damaged if not destroyed.  The bitter pill:  the silence of Israeli Arab leaders.
–The prospects of the “change” coalition coming together and the real possibility of Prime Minister Netanyahu staying in office. As I and many others, including former Netanyahu supporters, have written, it is way past time for the Prime Minister to go.  The possibility of extending his term is bad for the nation.
But the damage goes beyond Netanyahu. As I have previously written, there was the very real possibility that an Arab party, an Islamist one at that, would be key in supporting a coalition, and would be doing it in exchange for concrete, pragmatic gains for the Arab community.

And, there was a very real possibility that a good number of parties, including ones on the right side of the political spectrum, would serve in a coalition dependent on the Islamist party. There was even some chance of the party actually being part of the coalition.

Besides the usual police tactics, decisions, and overreactions, unfortunate occurrences that are endemic to policing everywhere but that can be particularly combustible in this region, there is a combination of causes. Among them:

–Final days of Ramadan, a reflective, community-minded month-long holiday that also brings with it heightened religious fervor and intensity, coinciding with Yom Yerushalayim, a day marking the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem after 19 years of illegal Jordanian rule during which Jews were prohibited from entering the Old City and during which many Jewish holy sites were desecrated and destroyed.  Unfortunately, some intentionally celebrate this day in a highly provocative, in-your-face manner.

Many in Israel’s security agencies urged that Yom Yerushalayim Day activities be greatly curtailed or cancelled. While there has been an effort in recent years by people with a more moderate political orientation to engage in activities promoting coexistence and goodwill, the day is still dominated by activities and people that are often obnoxious, overly nationalistic, and unnecessarily provocative. Still, people, even ones I don’t care for, have the right to gather and parade as long as they are not violent. In the meantime, 90,000 people came to Al Aqsa for Ramadan. We wouldn’t dare cancel that.

–Mahmoud Abbas, the 85 year-old President of the Palestinian Authority now in the 17th year of his four year term, cancelling the elections he had called. He laid the blame on a dispute with Israel over the participation in the election of Jerusalem’s Arab population, but it is doubtful that even his immediate family believed that was the real reason. Everyone, particularly the Palestinian “street,” knows that the real reason is that he feared losing the election.

Smelling an opportunity, Hamas capitalized on this embarrassment by stepping up its West Bank activities, particularly in “defending” the Al Aqsa Mosque from non-existent Israeli “aggression” and in supporting some Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah who are fighting eviction by a right-wing Jewish group intent on reclaiming houses owned and occupied by Jews prior to 1948.

–Iran. The region’s major exporter of terror and destabilization, supporter of Hezbollah and Hamas, never misses an opportunity to stir the pot. It has upped its hateful anti-Israel rhetoric and its trading in false accusations.

–Sheikh Jarrah. If this happened in any other country, few would care. Almost no one would know about it. It involves about 100 people. It’s wound its way through the Israeli court system for years.

But, because it’s Israel and the Palestinians, because it involves Jews trying to resettle in a neighborhood where Jews lived with Arabs prior to 1948, because it’s a right-wing group with an agenda asserting the property rights, because Israel has more Western journalists than any other country in the region, because the story ties in nicely with the far left’s fiction that we are nothing but colonizers in the land in which we are an indigenous people, it’s a big deal. The EU, the UN, the U.S. and a host of NGO’s, have to get involved.

In the meantime, a million Uighurs in China are imprisoned and everyone is planning for the 2022 Winter Olympics there, and Qatar, a dictatorship built on slave labor is getting ready to host the 2022 World Cup in stadiums built by slave labor, and no one cares. Perhaps that’s the key. Perhaps we need to host a world sporting event.

It is doubtful the government could stop the evictions even if it wanted to. It is private parties that are involved. Technically, legally, the Jews may have the better case. However, it is not the original families that lost their properties in 1948. They sold their interests to a right-wing group that makes a point of trying to move Jews into eastern Jerusalem.

On the other hand, why can’t Jews live in eastern Jerusalem? Why must it be Judenraiden? Even if the neighborhood was under control of a sovereign Palestinian state, must it be a neighborhood and a state sans Jews? And this is a neighborhood not far into eastern Jerusalem. This is a neighborhood right off the main road to Hebrew University. I and many others drive through it frequently.

While the objectives and some of the tactics of the group seeking the evictions are questionable, the Arab world does not have real clean hands here. Abbas, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and the Israeli Arab parties have used the dispute to heighten tensions and create friction.

And, while I might be sympathetic to the individual families, the Arabs yelling about the “judaization” of Jerusalem doesn’t exactly ingratiate them with me and many other otherwise sympathetic people. And it is not actually the original families in all cases. And they agreed a long time ago to pay rent, and now they refuse to, which could make one wonder if they’ve been put up to all of this.

Having said all this, I usually come to this: So, we’re right, or more right than they are. So, they may not be the most sympathetic “victims.”  Still, do we really need to do this? Can’t we just leave things alone?  My usual inclinations in this regard are a bit tempered because I know this is all being orchestrated and/or exploited and, as I said above, this is not an area deep into the West Bank or even into eastern Jerusalem.

It is difficult to feel a whole lot of concern regarding the evictions when Hamas clearly doesn’t give a damn about Sheikh Jarrah and is using it as an excuse to terrorize half of Israel.

Stress. Disappointment. Distress. Depression. Destruction. A deep hole. Not the best of times.  One thing is clear:  When this is over, the Jews and the Arabs will still be here.
About the Author
Alan Edelstein was a lawyer and lobbyist in California for 30 years. He currently lives in Jerusalem and Sacramento, California and consults on governmental affairs, communications, politics, and business development. He blogs at www.edelsteinrandomthoughts.com. Inquiries regarding speaking engagements: ae@edelsteinstrategies.com
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