Updated: May 17
How to break the curse that brought this conflict
Imagine if America had a political party called the American Power party. Imagine that it was openly racist towards all non-European based ethnicities, including Jews, because despite mostly coming from Europe, they are … well … Jews. This would be the preferred party of the Klan, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
Well, Israel does have one party like that. They call themselves Otzma Yehudit (עוֹצְמָה יְהוּדִית) or Jewish Strength. If you had a party like that in the US it would never gain enough steam to elect anyone to national office (I hope!) because of the two-party system. However, in Israel we have a multi-party system. If you can get 3.25% (4 seats) of the vote, you can serve in the Knesset.
Fortunately, this racist party never gained enough votes to get seats in the Knesset. However, in 2019, seeking to remain in power, Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to get other right-wing parties to merge with Otzma Yehudit to form a combined list. Bibi is not a racist, but he is a brilliant political tactician—sometimes too good for his own good.
He was concerned that the smaller right-wing parties would not get any seats in the Knesset (by not breaking the 3.25% threshold, thus wasting 30,000 or so votes) and by bringing the three parties together, he would get them from zero seats, to a combined eight to ten seats. And they would prop up his coalition. And he has continued in the last two elections as well.
For the third election in a row, Netanyahu played an active role in working to convince other right-wing religious parties to merge with Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit ahead of the upcoming March 23 election. The goal, as Netanyahu put it, was to “ensure the victory of the right in the election, and to prevent the formation of a dangerous left-wing government.” —Haaretz
He was strongly criticized from other parties and by most Israelis. “That Netanyahu is doing everything he can to bring a terrorist supporter [and mass murderer] Baruch Goldstein fan like Itamar Ben-Gvir into the Knesset is a shocking national disgrace,” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid tweeted before the election. And both Yamina’s Naftali Bennett and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, right wing politicians themselves, have said that they would never invite Ben Gvir in their governments.
Ben Gvir center (YouTube)
Many felt it was a bridge too far. You can never legitimize racists. The moment you do, you are giving those on the fence permission to go radical. Something poisonous enters. It brings a demonic contamination, because we are all–Jew, Arab, Black, White—made in God’s image.
Trump and the first debate
President Trump made the same mistake. Many believe had he simply behaved with a little more grace after getting into office, he would have easily won reelection. However, he lost independents and even some Republicans because many grew tired of his bombastic personality (despite very good policy). So, instead of trying to win the middle, he went further right—not because he is a racist, but because he needed the racist vote.
Moderator Chris Wallace asked President Trump during the first, disastrous debate:
“You have repeatedly criticized the [Biden] for not specifically calling out antifa and other extremist groups. Are you willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and say they need to stand down and not to add to the violence in these cities as we saw in Kenosha and in Portland?”
“Sure, I’m willing to do that…But I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.” When pushed harder Trump spoke directly to the racist group: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
It was a confusing statement and certainly not the condemnation that most Americans wanted to hear. The Proud Boys took that to mean that Trump was saying, “Be ready guys…I made need you.” To the point that many of these racists that were involved in the January 6th event were convinced they were following the president’s orders.
They started the next day making promo gear with the phrase, “Stand back and stand by.” They were honored that the president seemed to call on them. I watched the debate, dumfounded that the President of the United States of America could not give a bold, full-throated condemnation of racism and racists. He gave the wink, wink to bigots.
I do not believe that President Trump is a racist. In fact, I think he did more for black America than any president in a long, long time when it came to job creation. But he had a hard time condemning the white supremacists because he needed their votes (IMO) and made no effort to bring Americans together in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Days later he gave a clearer rebuke, but by that time the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers knew the game; they knew their role.
It was pragmatic. But what it did was legitimize racist groups (to the point that some of you reading might be saying, “they are not racists, they just love America…”) It got Marjorie Taylor Greene elected, a promoter of wild, often anti-semitic conspiracy theories and opened the door to Qanon conspiracy lunacy that some supposed prophets are still peddling (the idea that Trump is about to come back into office—somehow).
My point is: President Trump may have done what he did for votes, but there is a spiritual dynamic that takes place when the leader of a country tolerates racism and bigotry. It brings a curse. The minute you say, “I know they are racists, but they do some good things…” you open the door to demons. Hamas builds schools and hospitals. But they also behead suspected collaborators without trials and teach their children hate and murder.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Bibi made this same mistake. He legitimized Jewish Nationalism. Before 2019, everyone shunned Otzma Yehudit. But when the Prime Minister seeks to help them because it helps him stay in power, it gives racists legitimacy. It gives them standing in the eyes of the rest of the country. And racists should never be seen as legitimate.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's role in brokering the deal with Jewish Home was widely condemned; AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee preemptively announced that even if Otzma Yehudit entered the government, they would not meet with them. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, noted that 'AIPAC has a long-standing policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party.’” —Wikipedia
So, all for sake of votes, Bibi embraced a party that AIPAC, Israel’s best friend in America, called a “racist and reprehensible party.”
In this last election they joined with two other right wing religious parties and formed the Religious Zionism bloc and won six seats. They are part of Netanyahu’s right-wing alliance.
Present Conflict at Sheik Jarrah
The present conflict started in the once Jewish neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah. According to the Council of Foreign Relations,
“Sheikh Jarrah is an area that Jews refer to as Shimon Hatzadik; it was a predominantly, but not exclusively, Jewish neighborhood before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which led to Israel’s establishment and the division of Jerusalem.”
In 1948, the Jewish owned homes were given to Arabs who had been displaced by Israel’s War of Independence. Jordanian forces and the Arabs fighting against the Jews, placed a deadly siege on Jerusalem. It took great effort and feats of bravery for the Jewish fighters to get food and water to the Jewish residents of Jerusalem.
In the end, Israel won the war, but Jordan took the Old City of Jerusalem and everything east (the West Bank). They immediately exiled every Jew living in Jerusalem. By all definitions, this was ethnic cleansing. That included all the Jews living in Sheik Jarrah. They lost everything.
Jordan, then gave the Jewish-owned land and houses to Arabs who had fled Israel during the war. Now before you think that these were poor innocent Arabs who just got caught in the fighting, let me stop you. Jordan gave them to Arabs from Lifta, the origin of murderous gangs blocking the Jerusalem Road in 1948, shooting at innocent Jews bringing supplies to Jerusalem. They had Jewish blood on their hands. And now they were living on Jewish-purchased land outside the most Jewish city in the world, Jerusalem!
But then Israel won back Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. The Israeli courts initially ruled that the Arab squatters could stay, but they had to 1) recognize the Jewish ownership and 2) pay rent. They recognized ownership but never paid rent. In 1982 an agreement was reached by the Palestinians and the Jewish owners to pay rent in exchange for protected status, but once again, they reneged.
“Perhaps under pressure from the PLO [not wanting any legal Palestinian testimony of Jewish ownership], along with monetary inducements, most but not all of the tenants soon renounced the agreement and once again claimed they owned the units and refused to pay rent.” —Camera
And what about the property that Arab’s left behind in 1948 when they fled Israel? Funds from the sale of those properties have been held in trust by Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property.
“Those registered owners are eligible to file for compensation from the Custodian, but Palestinians were pressured not to make claims, lest that legitimize Israel’s existence and sovereignty. Still, over the years at least 14,692 claims have been filed, claims have been settled with respect to more than 200,000 dunums of land, more than 10,000,000 NIS (New Israeli Shekels) has been paid in compensation, and more than 54,000 dunums of replacement land in Israel has been given in compensation. Israel has followed this generous policy despite the fact that not a single penny of compensation has ever been paid to any of the more than 500,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who were forced by the Arab governments to abandon their homes, businesses and savings.” —Camera
What happened now to cause a war?
Roughly 70 Palestinians in the neighborhood were set to be evicted for not paying rent. It could have been done quietly. But the Arab-hating leader of Otzma Yehudit, Itamar Ben Gvir, used it for a PR stunt.
[Itamar] Ben Gvir ceremoniously moved his office earlier this month to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where there has been international outcry due to Israeli plans to evict Palestinian families and hand over the homes to Jews who had proven their pre-1948 ownership —Times of Israel
Let me clear, Itamar Ben Gvir is a disgusting, horrible human being. He is a dangerous racist and bigot. He representants a small, but sadly growing (in light of Bibi’s legitimizing him and his party), part of Israel.
His provocation became a rallying cry to Palestinians. He set up a fake outside Knesset member office in Sheik Jabbar to incite anger. And from there it escalated. He now shows up with buses of young Israeli provocateurs from a group that many lawmakers what to label a terror group, Lehava. The national police have had it with Ben Gvir.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that extreme-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir is responsible for ongoing riots in Jewish-Arab cities, Israeli TV reported Thursday. During a briefing, Shabtai said that every time police appear to be getting an area under control, Ben Gvir, the Kahanist member of the Religious Zionism party, shows up to fan the flames, Channel 12 and Channel 13 news both reported. —Times of Israel