Events in Jerusalem have dominated the headlines over the past few days. Hundreds of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque have been wounded in violent attacks by Israeli security forces, some of them seriously. In the nearby neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, meanwhile, Palestinian families are awaiting a judgement from the Israeli Supreme Court to see whether or not they are going to be evicted from their family homes, which will then be handed over to illegal settlers.
Protesters have been campaigning to save Sheikh Jarrah from the settlers. The protesters have also been attacked violently by the Israeli police.
All of this is happening during the Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan, which has created even more tension than usual due to the attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinians trying to get to the holy site for prayers.
Statements have been issued by Arab, Muslim and Western countries condemning the Israeli attacks on the Palestinians. Many of them are treating everything as if it is happening between opposing parties of equal strength. It is, in fact, an asymmetric conflict and always has been. Palestinian civilians are seeking to exercise their rights to live in their own homes and worship in peace without being harassed by Israeli settlers and police. The statements have changed since Friday’s attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque, with references to “ongoing violence” in Jerusalem, but without any context. Mainstream media have done the same, even though some of the incidents may amount to war crimes by the occupying power, Israel.
That was certainly the view of Moaz Al-Khateeb, who told South Africa’s Radio Islam on Monday that, “Dismantling field clinics inside Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, pushing firefighters and their equipment to leave the sacred yards and closing the gates of the holy site before starting their [Israeli police] attacks on unarmed worshippers, using rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition as well as tear gas and stun grenades is a full-fledged war crime.”
Apart from Arab and Muslim countries condemning the violence in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, others have called on Israel to stop its unjustified use of force against the Palestinian worshippers and protesters. US Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, tweeted: “The United States must speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and make clear that the evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward.”
On Saturday, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, condemned the brutality of the Israeli occupation police against worshippers and protesters in the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa. She called on the Israeli government to end its attacks on Islam’s third holiest site as well its illegal expulsion of Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah. “Attacking a place of worship at any time is reprehensible, but attacking a mosque during Ramadan is utterly indefensible,” tweeted Sturgeon. “It is also a violation of international law. Israel should heed calls to halt the violence immediately.”
Most observers commented on the incendiary balloons fired by the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip but ignored the fact that this was a token gesture in the face of the massive firepower available to the Israeli police, never mind the army, which is being used against unarmed civilians in a place of worship.“We are alarmed by the provocative statements made by some [Palestinian] political groups, as well as the launching of rockets and the resumption of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank,” said the International Quartet on the Middle East. “We call upon the Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days.”
The so-called Quartet clearly see the Israelis as the victims of Palestinian aggression, instead of the Palestinians as the very real victims of Israel’s brutal and decades-old military occupation. There is none as blind as those who can’t — or won’t — see.
Many Western governments and officials, in addition to the puppet Arab League, also condemned the “tension” in Jerusalem and called on both sides to calm down. Most of the Arab leaders did the same. Jordan said that “the ongoing violence is unacceptable.”
Such statements are meaningless and do not help the Palestinians under threat of eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, or the worshippers being attacked in Al-Aqsa Mosque. The discussions among the Israeli politicians and security officials are related to the token response from the Palestinians in Gaza who have no fighter aircraft, warships, tanks or armed forces with 170,000 soldiers and half-a-million reservists, as Israel has.According to the Israeli media, the police are working to implement the recommendation of the politicians to make the extremist settlers avoid Al-Aqsa Mosque in order not to provoke the Palestinians in the occupied territories, especially the resistance groups in Gaza. The latter have the means to turn warnings into action, which worries Israel’s generals.
A couple of days ago, following a warning by the military wing of Hamas that Israel should stop its eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, reported Israeli Channel 12 TV, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office urged a far-right parliamentarian, Itamar Ben Gvir, to end his provocative stay in the Jerusalem neighbourhood. There was a genuine fear that the resistance groups in the Gaza Strip could and would fire rockets at Israeli targets in Jerusalem.
“Our warning prompted serious international mediation, putting pressure on Israel to end its attacks and to halt the attempts to expel families in Sheikh Jarrah,” a Hamas military official told me. “If this mediation fails, we will definitely fulfil our promise and turn our warning into action.”
Will rockets be fired from Gaza? “When you see the holiest site in your country being defiled, your people being expelled from their homes and your land being stolen while everyone is watching silently, what else should we do?”
Statements from the Arab and Muslim world have no influence on Israel, added Al-Khateeb, speaking from inside Al-Asa Mosque. “We see what is going on,” he told Radio Islam. “They are condemning the violations, blaming us for them and then going back into hibernation. We have not seen any of the Arab governments at least summoning the Israeli envoy or allowing public protests in solidarity with us.”
Commenting on the emergency Arab League meeting scheduled for today, Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that there is unlikely to be any change in Israel’s behaviour unless Arab states, notably those that have normalised relations with the occupation state, decide to take meaningful action. Such states, he said, need to use their leverage with the Israelis, diplomatic or otherwise. “If not, I think we will see simply more statements.” Such statements, he added, may be heavy on condemnation, but very light on action to force Israel and its allies, not only the US, to stop the repression of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
It is sad but probably true that nobody but the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza are ready and willing to take action against Israel. The oppressed Palestinians in Jerusalem know this to be the case, so have been calling on Gaza to act.
And where is the Palestinian Authority in all of this? Neither PA officials nor its 70,000 security officers are anywhere to be seen. The solidarity shown to the Palestinians by concerned people around the world puts the PA to shame.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.