Today was the day many of us dreaded. Tension has been building all week since the murder of two Israeli police officers and the liquidation of their Palestinian attackers at the Haram al Sharif. Israel’s immediate response to seal off the entire Old City for three days along with the Muslim holy sites, and then reopen them with metal detectors and surveillance cameras, was a gross overreaction. Predictably, Palestinian Muslims refused to accept this unilateral shift in the status quo by Israel. They reacted with defiance and refused to re-enter the Haram al Sharif under the conditions set by Israeli security authorities. So began a stand0ff that lasted all week till today.
At Friday prayers in Jerusalem, the fuse was lit and exploded. As tens of thousands of Muslims made their pilgrimage to the holy city to worship, thousands of Israeli police and five brigades of IDF troops were waiting to meet them. As soon as the prayers ended, the worshippers arose and began chanting “Allahu Akbar” and other defiant chants. That was all the Israelis needed to begin their counter-offensive. They charged into the masses of Palestinian congregants and unleashed tear gas, batons and even live ammunition. One protester was killed during these clashes, another died in a separate incident in Jerusalem, and a third died in the West Bank.
Palestinians also shot photos of Israeli stormtroopers forcing entry into East Jerusalem’s hospital where they sought to kidnap the bodies of the dead. In doing so, they hold the body ransom in a sense, forbidding the mourning family to erect the traditional mourning tent and hold the traditional public funeral at which nationalist slogans are chanted. If the family agrees, then Israel returns the body (but usually demands a nighttime burial so as to avoid stoking popular rage). If not, it refuses to return it until the family relents. The goal is to suppress Palestinian anger by disappearing the bodies of those killed by Israeli forces. As a result, Palestinians have become adept at spiriting the dead out of the hospital so they may be quickly buried (and not fall into the hands of the Israelis).
Video shot by Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud clearly shows an armed settler (see accompanying still photo) firing a rifle directly into a crowd of Palestinian demonstrators. Maan declares the Palestinian who died in Ras al-Amud was killed during this time period and likely by this same settler. Still photos clearly show his face and the gun in his hands. An informed Israeli source tells me the security services are investigating the incident. Given the history of impunity settlers enjoy, we will have to wait to see if the alleged killer is questioned or charged. The odds, in this climate, are highly against it.
The Israeli government response to the Palestinian uprising has been predictably rigid and unyielding. Led by the police chief, former deputy Shin Bet head Roni Alsheikh and security minister, Gilad Erdan, they have put forth an implacable response. No compromise, no surrender. The metal detectors and spy cameras remain. Meet prayer with night sticks, chants with guns. Netanyahu has allowed them to take the lead. The informed source I mentioned suggested that the Shin Bet is not in agreement and has suggested climbing down from the high branch the police are perched on perilously. He told me before today’s murder of three Israeli settlers: “”I’m sure – 101% – this will soon lead to deadly terror attacks.”
Later in the evening, a Palestinian infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Halamish and stabbed a father and his two adult children to death as they ate a Shabbat meal. The attacker, from the nearby village of Khobar, was later shot and wounded. Israeli forces were preparing to demolish his family’s home. Of course, they will never demolish the stolen home from which the Jewish settler launched his murderous attack, just as the Supreme Court refused to demolish the home of the settler who burned the Dawabsheh home to the ground, murdering a father, mother and baby.
You want to talk about apartheid? This is apartheid justice. Justice (if you call it that–I’d call it state-sanctioned vigilantism) for Jews, nothing for Palestinians. That’s apartheid.