Palestinian terror is raining upon Israel once again. Since Monday, approximately 1,000 rockets from Gaza have claimed the lives of seven Israelis, the most recent an IDF soldier who was killed as a missile hit his Jeep. An Israeli man driving near the Temple Mount was pelted with stones and nearly lynched by a mob. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared a state of emergency in Lod, a mixed Arab–Jewish city in Israel. This follows intense Arab rioting, including arson of synagogues, shops, and cars, which Lod’s mayor has called “too big for the police” and “an Intifada of Arab Israelis.”
Two events precipitated this violence. One was a real estate dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian tenants are refusing to pay rent to Jewish landlords and thus face possible eviction. The other was the Israeli police’s response to Palestinian rioting on the Temple Mount. Not surprisingly, Palestinians and Democrats alike have grossly distorted both events.
As they did recently on the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations, several Democrats have been quick to malign Israel on Sheikh Jarrah. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and André Carson all vocalized opposition to pending Palestinian evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, and Rep. Ilhan Omar called it “ethnic cleansing.” The State Department, in a recent statement, waxed poetically:
We are also deeply concerned about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, many of whom have lived in their homes for generations. As we have consistently said, it is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace. This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism…. We also urge the authorities to approach the residents of Sheikh Jarrah with compassion and respect, and consider the totality of these complex historical cases and how they impact real lives today.
But Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration neglect to mention that the issue in Sheikh Jarrah boils down to a landlord and tenant dispute. Sheikh Jarrah has religious significance to the Jews as it is thought to be the burial site of “Simeon the Just,” a Jewish high priest of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. In 1875, the local Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jewish communities purchased the land from Arabs, and the sale was registered in Ottoman records as purchased by two rabbis. Two Jewish organizations registered the land with the British Mandatory government in 1946. In 1948, Jordan took Sheikh Jarrah in Israel’s War of Independence, expelled the Jews from the neighborhood (as well as from all of eastern Jerusalem), and leased the property to 28 Palestinian families in 1956, yet did not transfer ownership or title to them.
Sheikh Jarrah was restored to Jewish sovereignty along with all of eastern Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria following Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of 1967. The two Jewish organizations referenced above again registered the land, this time with the State of Israel in 1973. The Jewish owners reached an agreement with the Palestinians living there, granting them “protected tenant” status in 1982, agreeing that they could continue to live there as long as they paid rent. While this arrangement worked for a time, starting in 1993 the Jewish owners began suing the Palestinians for not paying rent. In February 2021, an Israeli court held that if the Palestinians refused to pay rent, they could be evicted. When the fate of the Palestinian tenants was set to be determined on May 10 by the Israeli Supreme Court, the Court has delayed its decision.
After Friday night prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan, Palestinian rioters began attacking Israeli police with rocks and fireworks from al-Aqsa. The police responded by entering al-Aqsa, and using stun grenades and rubber bullets on the rioters. Several rioters had stockpiled rocks, fireworks, and stone slabs around the site, some of which were used in Friday’s attacks. Protesters are storing rocks in al-Aqsa as of today.
But like in Sheikh Jarrah, misinformation abounds. Because Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Israel’s actions a “brutal storming” of the Temple Mount, and Hamas says that Israel committed a “massacre” there, then it must be true! Rep. Rashida Tlaib accused Israel of “attacking” al-Aqsa, while Rep. Ilhan Omar criticized Israel for its actions “as Muslims pray tarawih & tahajud in Palestine.”
Through propagating this rhetoric, Palestinian and Democratic leadership has scored a victory in estranging Israel from its Arab partners, at least for the time being. The UAE and Bahrain, partners with Israel in the Abraham Accords, have condemned Israel “storming” al-Aqsa, with Jordan condemning the “barbaric” attacks on Muslim worshippers. The UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, the last of which has been warming to Israel, also issued statements condemning the pending Sheikh Jarrah convictions.
Additionally, the Ra’am party, an Islamist, anti-Zionist party in Israel that strangely has become the kingmaker in the elections in the Jewish state, used the Temple Mount violence to suspend talks with Israeli MKs Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in their efforts to form a government. Lapid and Bennett were reportedly planning to tell President Reuven Rivlin on Monday that they, with Ra’am’s help, had the votes necessary to build a government.
Crucial to understanding these events is the prior intense incitement in the Palestinian press against Jews. This incitement indicates that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas are merely using Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount as a pretext for laundering violence against Israel, much like the PA used Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 as a pretext for the Second Intifada. Indeed, a spokesman from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office claims that the Temple Mount riots were premeditated.
In early May, a senior Hamas official called for Palestinians in Jerusalem to “cut off the heads of Jews” with knives that cost “just five shekels.” In April, PA TV broadcast a video 20 times that stated, “I fired my shots, I threw my bomb. I detonated, detonated, detonated my [explosive] belts … My brother, throw my blood on the enemy like bullets.” Also in April, Fatah, long praised by the West as a secular party, defended rioting on religious terms, calling rioters “Allah’s hand” and an Arab who chooses not to riot “a mute devil.”
The Palestinian Authority is intimidating Arabs who wish to reconcile with Jews over the Sheikh Jarrah issue. A columnist for the PA recently wrote that selling land to Jews is “betrayal of the homeland” and “treason,” that any Arab seller should “be removed and isolated … to hell and to his evil fate,” and that those “collaborators” should be put on a blacklist. In April, after Arabs sold land to Jews in Silwan, the families of those Arabs publicly “disowned” them, and the former Grand Mufti stated that Arabs selling land to Jews will be denied Muslim burial.
Democrats and Palestinians alike are slandering Israel through false narratives surrounding the pending Sheikh Jarrah evictions and Temple Mount riots. The Biden administration should respond to the increase in Palestinian violence by threatening to withhold additional funding to the Palestinians and by walking away from the Vienna negotiations with Iran. But given that nine Senate Democrats have signed a letter calling the Biden administration to reopen the PLO office in D.C. as well as the U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem, appeasement abounds in the Democratic camp. Unless the U.S. pivots away from seeking a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran and the Palestinian Authority at all costs, it will continue to stoke the violence plaguing Israel.