The Palestinian Intifada Turns into a Religious War

Spurred by a lie, namely that the Al Aqsa Mosque is in danger and that Israel wants to destroy the status quo, violence is escalating in Israel. Fatah’s leadership is capitalizing on such a lie: despite the enormous mess in Syria, the whole Islamic world must set now its sights on the tired Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this is also a dangerous lie, as it lights the fuse of religious fanaticism and brings the confrontation further away from any political solution.

After that dozens of people were hit in a week by stones and knives that killed and wounded, the stabbings on Friday have been three: a 14-year-old boy was injured in Jerusalem, an Israeli Arab woman has been hit in Afula to the north, and a soldier on guard was assaulted in Kiryat Arba.

In turn, a deranged young Jew wounded three Arabs in the city of Dimona out of personal revenge. The act was immediately condemned by Netanyahu. At the border with Gaza, while Ismail Haniyeh recognized the participation of Hamas in the clashes, the army killed seven Palestinians attempting to go into Israel amid a demonstration of four hundred people. Heniyeh asked his people to go and pursue terrorist attacks inside Israel, and some tenths succeeded in entering the border.

Abbas tries now to water down the situation, knowing that an explosion can significantly damage his position as well, and Netanyahu has banned ministers and parliamentarians from entering the Mosques Esplanade.

But the hashtag “Third Intifada” praises the “martyrs” and invites to join them: once again the hatred of terrorism bites the existence especially of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. It seems impossible that history can spill so much blood in this beautiful little town.

Now people in the street know that anyone can hide a knife. Silence has made its come back in the streets, the silence of those moments when, like in the Second Intifada, the suicide bombers emptied buses, malls, restaurants, cafes, cinemas.

However, even if today like yesterday the citizens of Jerusalem are reactive, determined not to give up. Every time that a terrorist attack occurs, not only the police comes running, but also the people defend their fellow citizens. The mayor of Jerusalem said: “Those who have a weapon shall carry it around”. Generally, a quiet character such as Nir Barkat does not invite citizens to self-defense, and this looks like an admission of impotence of the official forces that expresses the sense of anxiety in the capital. Some families keep children at home; those who have to go to the grocery store or to work rushes towards the goal.

While you are in a car, the stones may turn into killers, and who have is used to travel watches carefully and gives gas toward the aim. The fear for the most babies is a main issue, since the four children of the Helkin couple, who was murdered on Thursday, have been spared not out of mercy, but only because one of the two assailants shot to each other by mistake.

To be able to act against this situation, it is essential to analyze it well. It must be decided if it is politically manageable, or if it is necessary to face it directly as Ariel Sharon did with the “Operation Defense Shield” against the Second Intifada. Currently, the government hopes that things will calm down. Netanyahu keeps his hand extended to the Palestinians for new talks, and opens to the left for a national unity government even if from the right he is asked to use the iron fist because it is hard to live under constant threat.

The fact is that the Palestinian incitement appeals to chief shariah religious principles, which cannot be discussed. They fight in the name of Allah. Faith is in danger, Al Aqsa is under siege, repeat the new fighters in the field, it is faith that has to win, just las for Hamas, or ISIS, or the Ayatollahs’ Iran. Jamal Muhaisen of the Fatah’s Central Committee writes on Al Hayat Al Jadida that “the presence of the settlers is illegal and therefore any action against them is legitimate,” while Mahmoud Ismail of the PLO Executive Committee points out that the killing of Naama and Eitam Henkin, in front of their four children, “is a national duty”.

Compared to the days of the Intifada, the social profile of the terrorist is different: today, he does not necessarily belong to an organization such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, or to Fatah. The new terrorist is between 17 and 23 years of age, and is simply convinced that the Jews have decided to destroy or occupy the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Abbas incited such a standpoint and in doing so he fired up the wide religious Islamist wing, which is also excited by the events unfolding in the surrounding Middle East. This means that, facing the imperative of defeating the enemies of Islam, any appeal to a solution where negotiations and the prospect of “two States for two people” are included is simply impossible.

The fanciful assertion that the Al Aqsa Mosque must be defended because the Jews go up in droves to the Esplanade (actually, last year against 4 million Muslims entries there were 2 hundred thousand Christians and 12 thousand Jews) in order to take its possession, it is a trumpet of war throughout the Islamic world and a source of intractable aggressiveness for the Palestinians.

On the other hand, the fact that the young people involved in the murders are not armed with dynamite or other powerful devices typical of the Palestinian organizations, gives some slight hope that the state of conflict can be reabsorbed. The next few hours will tell the truth.

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (October 10, 2015)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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