Europe’s politicians have not decided to address the recent heated developments in Jerusalem yet, but the leaders lounging in their resorts know the full story. They know that Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are playing with fire.
Who would have imagined this? This arrogant opportunist politician is now the one making the decisions regarding opening and closing one of Islam’s most prominent sanctities and is expelling the worshippers inside. He is also issuing “fatwas” regarding performing, or not performing Friday prayers in one of the Muslims’ most holy sites. He also hasn’t hesitated in silencing Al-Aqsa Mosque’s calls to prayer whenever he desires. On top of all of this, Netanyahu’s forces have unashamedly attacked Jerusalem’s women protesting at the security checkpoints against these flagrant measures, all of which is captured by smartphone cameras. Attacks are also carried out against Al-Aqsa Mosque’s sheikhs, such as the attack on Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who was taken to the hospital to treat his wounds. He could’ve been the “Muslim Pope” if Islam had a religious authority similar to the Vatican.
Europe knew these facts early on. Their diplomats continuously sent successive reports regarding the danger of the situation in Jerusalem as a result of Israel’s policies. The content of some of these reports have found their way to the media, including warnings and true concern. The UN also monitored the policies of constantly seizing land and the continuous demolition of homes and establishments in Jerusalem, including historical buildings that have survived centuries. However, the timid verbal statements did not deter the successive Israeli governments, rather they opened their appetite for violation. When one of the UN committees, the ESCWA, dared to issue detailed reports describing the events in Jerusalem and West Bank as apartheid, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres intervened and withdrew the professional report. The head of ESCWA resigned in March in protest of the measure favouring Israel at the expense of the truth. This incident proved a matter that was already known, i.e. the concerned international parties are well aware of what is going on but they are unwilling to put an end to it.
However, the helpless Palestinians in Jerusalem’s neighbourhoods did not wait for the leaders of the international community to wake up and they lost faith in them some time ago. The Jerusalem public are pressuring the occupation government in the squares and are managing to disturb the Israeli government’s agenda, which received qualitative privileges from large capitals on both sides of the Atlantic. As soon as Netanyahu took his new, unprecedented measures against Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem’s squares were filled with angry protestors in large-scale sit-ins and demonstrations that would have been glorified and praised by Europe had they been staged in Istanbul or Moscow, for example. However, what will they do if they are targeted against an occupation authority that enjoys deep relations with European and Western countries?
Europe is still treating arrogant Netanyahu like it would treat a stubborn mischievous child, i.e. with more coddling. The European leaders did not reprimand him throughout the terms of former US President Barack Obama or that of his predecessors, so how would they dare reprimand him during Trump’s term, as he never smiled with anyone in the White House like he did with the Israeli prime minister. Europe knows that Netanyahu, along with his ministers coming from the camps of political discrimination, fascism, colonialism and religious extremism, are pushing matters to the edge.
However, the expected period of ignoring matters is linked to the severity of the events. With time or with the decline of the situation, the world will realise that what is currently happening in Jerusalem is not a passing incident. The city is boiling in an unprecedented manner and the public anger is raging over the city’s sanctities and historical sites after Netanyahu’s government released the angry Palestinian genie from the lamp with its plans that have waited in the wings for the right time to take complete control of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The right moment is the moment that the Arab world is preoccupied with its conflicts and has its sights on the situation in Mosul and the new crisis in the Gulf, while Europe suffers from political laziness in the summer. In addition to this, the PA president is growing weaker and more tired by the day which is very comforting for the Israelis. He seems busy with neutralising his opponents in the political arena, even within his own party. The Israeli government doesn’t want to pass up this rare opportunity, as it aspires to achieve large-scale expansion in Jerusalem that lives up to the memory of 50 years marking the occupation of the eastern part of Jerusalem. The government will look for justifications, i.e. the security incidents witnessed in Jerusalem in order to tighten its grip and continue its oppressive programme to erase Jerusalem’s Arab identity and continue to manipulate the city’s demography.
The occupation authorities are taking a “step by step” approach to achieve their comprehensive plans in the city by gradually seizing parts of it without any real international obstacles by employing a group of methods and measures that are unmatched anywhere else. The government continues to take parts of Jerusalem, while the international resolutions related to Jerusalem are merely ink on paper given Israel’s disregard for them. The Israeli occupation has developed a complex system of control and oppression in one of the world’s most important and sensitive areas.
The occupation did not want to see a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, so it shut down most of the Palestinian cultural, media and charity institutions that work in civil society. It also punished the Arab MKs from Jerusalem with prison and expulsion from the city, as well as depriving the Jerusalemites from construction permits to build homes. It demolishes anything they build on Palestinian land and has restricted their lives within depressing grey walls and successive security checkpoints. In light of this, the types of systematic oppression, institutional discrimination and silent pressure on the daily lives of Jerusalemites have escalated and increased, especially with the various expulsion policies implemented against the city’s inhabitants. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers are given the land, homes, infrastructure, freedom of movement and generous privileges. It is not exactly the same as apartheid, but rather a more advanced and developed version of it that does not grant the Palestinians their right to stay in their city or to return to it. This idea has gone beyond the past experience in South Africa.
The central influence of Jerusalem that has accumulated throughout history is still active today and any spark in this area is enough to unload enormous amounts of stored anger across the world. The Palestinian are confirming that they will not surrender and crumble under any of the occupation’s recent measures, including the imposition of a new mechanism to control, monitor and humiliate them as they enter Al-Aqsa Mosque in the form of electronic doors controlled by the Israeli forces. Large masses of Palestinians refrained from entering Al-Aqsa so they performed their prayers outside the mosque in an unprecedented message of defiance and popular commitment. This is how the electronic doors became the focus of the growing battle of wills in Jerusalem between the Palestinian Muslims and Christians and the armed occupation authorities. This was not expected by Netanyahu before he took this reckless risk.
The current developments have shown the inability of the “developed apartheid” government to contain Jerusalem seven decades after occupying its western half and half a century after occupying its eastern half. This half of the city, including the Old City and Muslim and Christian sanctities are turning into a stage of civil resistance capable of gaining the world’s interest.
The European leaders continue to relax on beaches far from the slogans and phrases hanging in their offices about supporting human rights and basic freedoms, as well as rejecting oppression and tyranny, but Jerusalem has started a new chapter in its history and perhaps in the history of a region that has remained capable of igniting the world.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.