Steve Kramer

Ethnoreligious War in Gaza and Israel

My latest update about Operation Guardian of the Walls:

Luckily, our city, Kfar Saba, has been spared any damage. But because (3,000) rockets are still being launched  into Israel from Gaza, Israelis of all types have had to contend with ethnoreligious rioting in mixed Arab-Jewish towns, even to an actual pogrom in Lod, a city near Ben Gurion Airport, where synagogues, houses, stores, and cars were torched and residents attacked.

May 15: “In a statement with unusually strong language, President Reuven Rivlin said that, ‘the sight of the pogrom in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob… is unforgivable. The silence of the Arab leadership about these disturbances is shameful, giving support to terrorism and rioting and encouraging the rupture of the society in which we live and in which we will continue to live once all this has passed.’ said Rivlin, who has long worked to improve Jewish-Arab ties in Israel.”

In my previous article, I mentioned gangs of Jewish zealots screaming “Death to the Arabs” and many more numerous Arab mobs screaming “Death to the Jews.” Usually violence follows; mob violence and even worse have resulted. The fact is that the Jewish gangs are a very small minority among Jews. Their actions aren’t celebrated by the majority of Jews. Conversely, the jihadist Arab mobs have supporters among Israeli Arabs. These supporters are a sizable minority among Israel’s 2 million Arab citizens.

This intra-Israel violence is happening in Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab populations, primarily in Jerusalem, Lod, Ramla, Haifa, Acre, and Jaffa. Eye-witness accounts have decried the fact that many Arab neighbors of Jews have turned on their Jewish neighbors, sometimes even pointing out “Jewish” cars to be set on fire and Jewish-owned apartments to be ransacked and even worse. This is reminiscent of the horrific 1929 Hebron pogrom, which led to the Arab Revolt against the Jews and the British during the Mandate period. 

It’s not all bad though. There are solidarity marches by Jewish-Arab mixed groups, such as medical professionals, and large mixed events in city squares to proclaim affinity for peace and prosperity. The majority of the Israeli Arab population is satisfied or close to satisfied to live under a Jewish government. They fear that their progress toward nondiscrimination/inclusion will be set back by a generation.  

Let’s examine some of the causes leading to this conflagration, the most significant anarchy since 2014. Always there is Iran, in the background if not the foreground. It supplies money, training, propaganda, and materiel to conduct carnage against Israelis.

Internally, there is the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood housing dispute. A brief summary: the area the Arabs call Sheikh Jarrah is known to Jews as “Shimon Hatzadik,”  (Simon the Just), a revered, third-century BCE, Jewish High Priest whose tomb is located there. The mixed neighborhood is often visited by Jewish pilgrims and tourists. Jews lived there for centuries until being forced out in 1948 by the Jordanians during the War of Independence.

The pro-Palestinian community claims that Israel is unjustly evicting several Palestinian families (about 50 residents) from their homes in the neighborhood and that this exemplifies accusations against Israel in the context of the broader conflict with the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority has influenced the inhabitants not to make an amicable settlement, making this into a “national struggle.”

“It must be stressed also that this is a civil dispute over ownership rights and rent, and the Israeli government is not a party to the litigation. Over the years some of the Palestinian tenants have been evicted over non-payment of rent, but this is a private rather than a government matter. The Israeli government is not evicting anyone.”

Unfortunately, this legal battle was to be reviewed by Israel’s Supreme Court at just this fraught time. Thus a relatively insignificant real estate dispute has become a partial justification for rebellion, as the mob sees this as Jews kicking Arabs of their homes. 

Another factor leading to warfare was the conflict at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. There, Israeli police forcefully  entered the mosque (not for the first time)  to confront terrorists who throw rocks on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall, which the mosque towers over. This “holy” mosque is used as an ammunition dump for the violent mob.

From where does this Arab rage erupt? The Arabs of Israel have complained for years about the terrible violence in their own communities and the failure of the government and the police to stop it. This being the Middle East, one must remember that the Arabs in Israel identify, in general, with their family clan. “Honor” and “shame” are of supreme value. An analogy in the US might be the Hatfields and the McCoys, but raised to a higher, broader level.

Add to this propensity to violence, the huge number of illegal weapons secreted in many Arab residences, and the propensity for “honor killings” which are still frequent in the 21st century. This is stoked by the Muslim Ramadan festival, which requires a month of fasting, reflection, and prayer on a daily basis from sunrise to sunset. The evening is the time for huge family meals, then entertainment and socializing. The younger generation imbibes vast quantities of energy drinks, which hop up the excitable young men (Islam forbids alcoholic beverages). With the education they receive from their Palestinian Authority curriculum pumping them full of hatred of Jews, young people (and some older ones) are primed and looking for trouble. They find it when coming upon Jews or facing policemen who are charged with attempting to keep the public order. 

Finally, the timing. Ramadan often coincides with Israel Independence Day, Jerusalem Day celebrations and marches, Shavuot, and the Muslim Eid festival marking the end of Ramadan and the Naqba, the “disaster” of the Jews’ victory over the Arabs in 1948. All together, this is a recipe that results every year in violence and rioting. This year, there was the additional fact that Palestinian Authority ruler Mahmoud Abbas (in the 16th year of a 12-year term) canceled elections which Hamas seemed poised to dominate. All together, it was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Hamas’ bet that Israel wouldn’t react to some rockets fired into Jerusalem turned out to be a losing bet, one that has been devastating for Israel but many times worse for the Arabs.

What’s next? Inevitably, world opinion will be ramped up against Israel, which will be blamed for the violence by the mass media and many national and international organizations. More than 2,300 rockets have been fired at Israel, but Israel will still be called the perpetrator. Its efforts to shut down Hamas inevitably result in the death of civilians, victims of the cynical Hamas tactic of storing their weapons of war among the non-combatants. But Hamas’ dual war crimes atrocities (firing indiscriminately at Israeli civilians and firing from behind a shield of Arab civilians) will be papered over.

Calls for ceasefire are being heard daily, but are being ignored for the moment. Inevitably, the violence will cease, and there will be a return to “normality.”  The goal of Hamas to show resistance to Israel and to humiliate the Palestinian Authority will have been met. Israel’s goal, to change the equation of rocket launches at the discretion of Hamas perhaps will be met, but isn’t a sure thing. As to a ground incursion of IDF soldiers, that will hopefully not occur – unless there is an unhappy instance of major Israeli deaths, such as a direct hit on a school or a large Jewish gathering. Israel is loathe to sustain the loss of so many young people that would be its price to pay for sending soldiers into Gaza’s cities. 

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the contribution of Biden administration blunders in this horrific warfare. One, by negotiating with, and enabling, Iran to continue its drive to nuclear weapons capability while continuing its efforts as the leading sponsor of global terrorism. Two, by resuming funding to the Palestinian Arabs, which inevitably funds and sustains terror against Israel. Still, the administration is using it’s veto in our favor at the UN, for which we are grateful.

Let us all pray for the best possible ending to jihadist mayhem! 

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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