The recent violence in Jerusalem erupted for one single reason: hatred for Israel and Jews. The call to murder Jews ("Oh Jews, remember Khaybar; the army of [prophet] Mohammed is returning") is a reminder that today, for many, this war from the seventh century is not over. Pictured: A crowd of Arab men shout slogans at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on April 25, 2021. (Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)
Those who claim that the recent violence in Jerusalem erupted because the Israel Police did not allow Arab Muslims to hold nightly celebrations during the fasting month of Ramadan have no idea what they are talking about.
Those who say that the violence erupted because Israel did not allow the Arab residents of Jerusalem (who hold Israeli-issued ID cards in their capacity as residents, and are not citizens of Israel) to participate in the Palestinian Authority elections also have no idea what they are talking about. What they all seem to have no idea about is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The violence erupted for one single reason: hatred for Israel and Jews. It erupted because many Muslims do not want to see Jews in Jerusalem or any part of Israel. Attacks on Israeli security forces and Jews in Jerusalem have been taking place for decades -- with or without a "reason".
When a young Jewish man riding the light train in Jerusalem is slapped on the face for no reason, or when a Jewish man walking his dog is severely beaten by a Muslim mob, it is only because of his outward appearance and religion. Welcome to modern-day Palestinian Jew-hate.
All one has to do is listen to what the Palestinians themselves are saying to understand that they see the violence in the context of their decades-old "battle to liberate Jerusalem and Palestine from the Zionist enemy."
The Jerusalem Arabs who took to the streets to attack Israeli police officers and Jewish civilians are saying that violence is very much part of the Arab-Palestinian-Muslim fight against Israel.
The Arabs did not say that they are throwing rocks and petrol bombs at policemen because of Israeli security restrictions during Ramadan, or that they are beating, stabbing, slapping and lynching Jewish civilians on the streets of Jerusalem because Israel was not allowing the Arabs to participate in the PA elections.
The message coming from the Arab rioters was clear: Muslims refuse to accept any Jewish control over Israel, over the Old City of Jerusalem or even Jewish holy sites, including the Western Wall. The wall -- a retaining wall, and all that remains of the Jewish Second Temple, destroyed by Roman legions under the Emperor Titus in 70 CE -- is, for the Jewish people, their holiest, most religious site.
If the violence was about Israeli security restrictions and Palestinian elections, why were the Arab demonstrators at the Damascus Gate (the main pedestrian entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem) chanting long-time battle cries such as "Khaybar, Khaybar ya yahood, jaish Mohammed saya'ud!" ("Oh Jews, remember Khaybar; the army of [prophet] Mohammed is returning!")?
The chant refers to the battle of Khaybar in 628, when, after the death of Mohammad, the Jews, who had been banished to the oasis of Khaybar, about 160 kilometers north of Medina, were massacred or expelled.
The call to murder Jews is a reminder that today, for many, this war from the seventh century is not over.
If the "protests" were about the right to celebrate Ramadan, why did the Jerusalem Arabs continue to attack police officers and Jewish civilians -- and Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel from Gaza -- after the restrictions were lifted?
The violence actually began long before the Israel Police placed barricades at the Old City's Damascus Gate to prevent Arab youths from gathering and harassing Jews who live in the area or were on their way to pray at the Western Wall. The barricades were placed there solely for security reasons, not to stop Muslims from celebrating Ramadan.
The violence also has nothing to do with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's announcement, in January 2021, that he intended to hold elections for the Palestinian Authority parliament and presidency. The violence also has nothing to do with the controversy surrounding the inclusion of Jerusalem Arabs in these elections.
First, Israel never said it would prevent PA elections from taking place in Jerusalem, even if it did not enthusiastically endorse the idea. Israel foresaw, as with the last PA elections in 2006, that winner would most likely be Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel's country destruction. Israel said nothing.
Second, the vast majority of Jerusalem Arabs did not even participate in previous PA parliamentary and presidential elections (in 1996, 2005 and 2006), although again Israel did not object to their participation. The Arabs stayed away from the PA elections because they did not want to be part of the Palestinian political system.
By boycotting the elections, the Arabs were signaling that they had no faith in the PA and its leaders, and that they were happier living under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem than under the control of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat and his successor, PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The overwhelming majority of Jerusalem Arabs have not shown the slightest interest in, or eagerness for, the upcoming Palestinian elections. They did not take to the streets to demand that Israel allow them to vote or run as candidates in the PA elections. They did not even sign petitions calling on Israel to allow them to participate in the elections. They never declared a general strike in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to be able to participate in the PA elections.
It seems, in fact, that the United Nations and European Union officials were more interested in Abbas's planned elections than most of the Arab residents of Jerusalem.
Abbas, according to many Palestinians, was never serious about holding the elections in the first place. Abbas announced the elections only because he had come under pressure from a number of European Union member states and other international parties that fund his government.
If Abbas was really serious about holding the elections, he would have worked to find a solution to including the Arabs of Jerusalem in them. Abbas in reality rejected a number of ideas presented to him by international parties, including the possibility that the Jerusalem Arabs would vote online or through voting centers located in PA-controlled areas that are located a few minutes' drive away, not far from their homes, and not under Israeli sovereignty.
Abbas evidently announced the elections only to appease his Western donors, specifically the Europeans. Since 2006, Abbas had many opportunities to hold elections; he did not do so because this was never a priority for him. He always managed to find an excuse for not holding elections. In the past he used to accuse his Hamas rivals; now he is casting around, trying to blame Israel for "obstructing" the elections.
On April 29, Abbas finally called off the elections, proving that he was never serious about holding the vote. As expected, Abbas used the Jerusalem dispute as an excuse to delay the elections indefinitely.
Abbas does not want elections: he knows that Hamas has an extremely strong chance of winning.
Moreover, his own Fatah faction is highly fragmented and was running in the parliamentary elections under three rival lists.
To be clear: Abbas's attempt to hold the Israeli government responsible for not holding Palestinian elections is simply the result of his and the PA leadership's ongoing, vicious incitement to violence against Israel and the demonization of Jews. Day after day, Abbas feeds his people poisonous lies, such as that Jews are "storming" the al-Aqsa Mosque and working to turn Jerusalem into a Jewish city. It is this type of deliberate and constant race-baiting that is driving young Arabs in Jerusalem to take to the streets to attack policemen and Jewish civilians, and to whip up Jew-hate among the Palestinians.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.