by Nadav Shragai
A “quiet intifada” has been taking place in Jerusalem for a few months now. It’s “quiet” because the media isn’t telling you about it.
Gaza, ISIS, and the Golan Heights are definitely important, but meanwhile, hush-hush, without anyone saying anything, Jerusalem is becoming divided. There have been thousands of incidents of attacks on Jews, with rocks thrown, fireworks shot as weapons (the newest thing), and Molotov cocktails hurled at Jews where the east and west of the city meet, as well as dozens of cases of frustrated Jews attacking Arabs. Not to mention isolated cases of shootings spattered throughout the city, reported on in the back pages of newspapers.
Jerusalem is now criss-crossed by the “geography of fear” (a phrase coined in the First Intifada). Many fewer Jews and Arabs venture out of their own neighborhoods to “the other side.” The everyday contact between Arabs and Jews, which in quieter times was never much discussed, is on the wane.
Islands of normalcy, coexistence and cooperation — hospitals, transportation, and the workforce — still exist, but are showing cracks. The Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital, where Jewish and Arab staff treats Arabs and Jews alike, is constantly the target of rocks and Molotov cocktails. Arab drivers who work for Egged or other companies are getting beaten for nothing by hotheaded Jewish thugs.
Even the Bedouin along the highway between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim have become involved.
In “border” neighborhoods like Armon Hanatziv, which faces Jabal Mukabar, or French Hill, across from Issawaia, Jewish residents have begun organizing self-defense. The small pockets of Jewish settlement in the City of David, in Kidmat Zion, in the Muslim Quarter, or in Beit Yonatan, find themselves under siege repeatedly. The dozens of wildfires in the city and its environs — even near the Knesset — are also related to hostile activity.
Two buildings, one in Armon Hanatziv and another in Neveh Yaakov in the northeast of the city, represent the breakdown in Jewish-Arab relations in Jerusalem and the implosion currently underway in the capital. Elisha Ben-Kimon of the Yedioth Jerusalem local paper has documented the deteriorating relations between the Jews and Arabs who live together in these buildings. It’s nothing to be proud of. There is a lot of mutual racism and loathing, but these are only symptoms of the general atmosphere.
The true litmus test that will determine the future story of the continued unification or eventual division of Jerusalem is the light rail, which crosses the city from the south (Mount Herzl) to the north (Pisgat Zeev) via the Arab neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina. Originally, the advanced system was intended to provide a solution to heavy traffic on the city’s roads and crowded public transport. In practice, the train has become a symbol of the fragile coexistence. The train expresses everything about Jerusalem that is sane. For three years it has served hundreds of thousands of Jews and tens of thousands of Arabs each month. The number of violent interactions was next to nothing. But the murder of teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in June, turned it into a symbol of the unrest when hundreds of Arab youths from the north of the city turned their anger against the light rail, destroying stations and vandalizing expensive equipment.
The train was back in operation a few days later, but ever since, nearly every day, rocks and Molotov cocktails are thrown at it — about 100 such incidents thus far, two or three a day. The municipality and the police insist — rightly so — that it continue to run through the Arab neighborhoods. Now the train has become the flag of a faltering coexistence, and anyone who lowers that flag is in effect waving a white one.
The police are proud of the enormous number of arrests they have made, over 600. Some 250 indictments have been issued, but the fact is that no deterrence has been achieved. The police, like the army, must demonstrate more creativity. Intelligence networks must be improved. The city should be flooded with police officers and soldiers to reach the ringleaders of the violence. If nothing else avails, those leaders should be kicked out of Jerusalem, the way arch-inciter Sheikh Raed Salah was. The court will allow it, if it is presented with evidence. If we don’t come to our senses quickly, it’s only a matter of time before the quiet intifada in the capital heats up.