by Rabbi Dov Fischer in American Spectator
The media of our day always coalesce around a narrative that fits their preconceived worldview. When viewed in a light that “Palestinians” all are “Victims of Color” and that all Israelis are White Supremacists or their next of kin, it is easy to misjudge the Mideast reality underlying present conflict coming from Gaza. That narrative thus preaches that Jews with legally valid property rights in the eastern portion of United Jerusalem are not entitled to advance their legal claims to oust trespassers, Arab or otherwise, from their homes. That same line of reasoning proposes that supposed Israeli belligerence lies beneath the barrage of some 2,000 rockets launched from Gaza and aimed by Hamas at Israel’s civilian population from Ashdod and Ashkelon to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The truth is that a property dispute in the Shimon HaTzaddik/Sheikh Jarrah community of eastern Jerusalem is not the cause of the present war. Jews there owned property since 1875. Their homes and land were stolen from them and their parents and grandparents in 1948, when Jordan’s armies, bent on “ethnic cleansing,” invaded and illegally drove them out. Local Arab squatters moved in, but Jordan refused to recognize the illegal squatters as the land’s new owners. After 1967, when Israel liberated east Jerusalem and reunited the city, the ousted Jewish owners went to court with their documentation to reclaim their seized property. Israel’s courts, which not only are fair but even lean over backwards to favor Arabs in such disputes, repeatedly have held that the Jewish claims are documented and legally valid. As the Jewish landowners were recognized legally, they did not try ousting anyone. Rather, the courts held they could charge rent to the squatters living in their homes, so they did.
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Relatively recently, Arab squatters stopped paying rent, so the landlords went to court finally to evict. This happens everywhere in the world when tenants stop paying rent and make clear they will not resume. The verdict on the matter, which has been argued and decided on by Israel’s highest court, was set for announcement on May 10th. That is the whole dispute. This property dispute over Arab Muslims not paying their rent has nothing to do with Hamas launching their current war of more than 2,000 murderous Iranian-supplied rockets aimed indiscriminately at Jewish population centers. The notion that the long-overdue evictions for non-payment of rent caused a war is as absurd as expecting Bulgarian immigrants in California to launch 2,000 rockets aimed at destroying the entire American country in response to local court rulings in Old Town Sacramento backing landlords trying to evict 20 families who won’t pay their rent in a Bulgarian ethnic enclave.
Against that backdrop, Israel is posed with the conundrum of defending itself in a manner that accords with woke expectations of elegance. If rockets are launched against Jewish civilians and other noncombatants from residential apartment buildings, elementary schools, ambulances, and hospitals that Hamas terrorists now control in Gaza, how does one stop the launches — elegantly? Israel cannot just dispatch an Uber or Lyft to the terror launch sites and unplug some wires from wall sockets. They have to extirpate the launchers, the rockets, and the terrorists determined to inflict unspeakable civilian tragedy against millions of Jewish civilians if unstopped.
Just as most observers outside Israel do not grasp the backstory behind Israel’s challenges in defending her civilian population, so it is that most Westerners have no clue as to the complex maze of factors and calculations that underlie why Hamas yet again has started a war with Israel. Despite Hamas’ narrative focusing on Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque and Jewish efforts to regain homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, here are a few of the less-reported causes underlying the current conflagration:
1. Ramadan comes out at a different time every year because, while the world now works on a solar calendar of 365 ¼ days annually, the Muslim and Jewish calendars are lunar and work on 354-day years. A new moon rises every 29 ½ days. Therefore, the lunar and solar calendars get “thrown off” by 11 days annually. It just so happens that this year’s Ramadan came out in May. Ramadan always is an occasion for Islamist terrorists to escalate tensions with Israel and with each other. This is as true in Afghanistan today and of Iraq in 2013 as it is in Israel.
2. The Israeli calendar, though also lunar, gets adjusted seven times every 19 years so that the Jewish holidays always fall out in the same seasons, give or take a month. It happens to be that Israel declared her independence on May 14, 1948 (5 Iyar) and that Jerusalem was liberated and reunited on June 6, 1967 (28 Iyar). This year the lunar anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification — 28 Iyar — happens to have fallen on May 11. The country of Israel celebrates that day as a national holiday. It also happens that, although Israel Independence Day — 5 Iyar — came a month ago on Israel’s lunar calendar, the Arab Muslim world notes it on the solar May 14 and marks the day after as a nakba, a catastrophe. Both occasions, Israel Independence and Jerusalem Day, annually give rise to Hamas upticks in terrorism aimed at spoiling Israel’s national celebrations.
3. Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) was elected president of the Palestinian Authority on January 9, 2005. Palestinian presidential elections are held every fourth year. Mazen now is in the 17th year of his four-year term.
That is, there has not been an election since 2005. Under enormous internal popular pressure, he finally acceded to holding new elections this spring. As sometimes occurs during a presidential campaign, polling turned against him and his down-ticket slate. He therefore decided — yet again — to call off elections. He sought a cover story to justify yet another cancellation. Israel, which regards all Arabs living anywhere in Jerusalem as denizens of Israel and no other polity, opposes having Palestinian Authority elections conducted in East Jerusalem. Mazen decided to leverage that issue to validate canceling the vote, saying that no elections can be held if Israel will not allow Arabs in Jerusalem to vote for the government of another polity. This is akin to an American president unilaterally canceling scheduled national November elections on grounds that Washington, D.C., residents do not get to vote for their own U.S. senator. When Abu Mazen canceled the vote, all Palestinian Arabs from Gaza to Nablus saw through the façade. To persuade Arabs that, no, really, the whole delay is only because of the Jerusalem voting issue, Abu Mazen launched a propaganda campaign encouraging Jerusalem Arabs to riot against Israel. The rioting included stabbing attacks against Jews. The Israeli police had to restore order. Quelling violence is never gentle — not in Portland, not in Seattle, nowhere.
4. As Abu Mazen sought to portray himself and his Fatah organization as the great “Defender of Jerusalem,” his main political opponents — the competing terror force, Hamas — saw themselves politically compelled to position themselves among Arab voters as even greater “Defenders of Jerusalem.” Over the past seven years since the 2014 conflagration they launched against Israel, Hamas has rebuilt its military terror capacity and is believed now to have 14,000 rockets as well as an entire underground-tunnel infrastructure. By launching seven rockets towards Jerusalem, they endeavored to signal that they, not Abu Mazen, are the true Arab Muslim force for a “Palestine Jerusalem.”
5. Israel — incredibly — has just gone through a series of four repeated national elections in only two years. Their election system can be described as “democracy on steroids.” Thirty or more parties contend for 120 Knesset (Parliament) seats. To winnow the balloting, Israeli election law disqualifies any contending party that fails ultimately to amass at least 3.25 percent of the total votes cast. Consequently, by the time the dust settles after an election, “only” a dozen or so parties emerge qualified to receive Knesset seats. After the most recent vote, four different parties each respectively won seven seats, four others each won six seats, one won nine, one eight, and one four. The two largest parties stand alone: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud won 30 seats, and his closest contender, Yair Lapid, won 17 seats for his Yesh Atid party. To govern, the various parties thereupon negotiate and horse-trade in an effort for some of similar-though-not-identical mind to carve out a mutually agreeable governing agreement that will allow enough elected parties to coalesce to comprise at least a 61-seat majority.
This time, for the fourth time in a row, the negotiations were stalemating. Netanyahu’s side, having won the most backers, was given the first 28-day opportunity to line up a majority, but he could get no more than 59 seats to coalesce. Because Netanyahu had failed, his opponents next were authorized to try, but they also lack a clear road to 61-plus seats. Both sides are challenged, if not stymied, because two anti-Zionist Arab Muslim slates together won 10 of the 120 seats. So the wild card in the mix has been an anti-Zionist Arab Muslim party, with associational ties to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, that won four seats and is considering cooperating with whichever of the two competing Zionist blocs will acquiesce to more of its demands.
Although that anti-Zionist party, Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am Party, will not join either bloc directly in forming a majority government, it has expressed openness to abstaining from voting against the bloc it chooses to support. Thus, a 59-seat minority bloc can govern by a 59-57 plurality if they gain the Arab party’s favor by abstention. That Arab Muslim party suddenly was wielding enormous influence — something that no other Arab Muslim party in Israel ever before had attained — by playing its cards off the two contending blocs. Most Arab Muslims oppose any Arab party assisting in the formation of a Zionist coalition governing Israel, and Hamas wanted to sabotage Ra’am’s role. To force Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas (no relation to Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazen) to break off coalition talks, Hamas has fired more than 2,000 rockets into Israeli civilian centers, reaching even outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv suburbs like Holon, Bat Yam, and Rishon L’Tzion. That onslaught predictably compelled Israel to strike back vigorously in Gaza. Hamas bases many of its leading command centers and launches its rockets from civilian locations like hospitals, residential apartment buildings, and elementary school campuses so that unavoidable civilian deaths will result when Israel strikes back. As a result, amid the chaos, that Arab party predictably has been forced by Hamas into breaking off negotiations for forming a Knesset coalition. This aspect of Hamas’s purposes in starting a war with Israel now should not be overlooked, but it is too complex for most media analysts to explain.
We all learned in high school that World War I, though triggered by the assassination in Bosnia of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, actually emerged because of many factors that came together in a tragically “perfect storm” that eventually even gave rise to World War II when another “perfect storm” of horribles coalesced. Here, too, although a sensitive property dispute over the rights to certain homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has been coming to a final showdown before Israel’s Supreme Court, the real causes of the present war now erupted in the Middle East are far more complex and multifarious, as Hamas and Abu Mazen’s Fatah jockey to prove themselves more worthy of votes in the next Palestinian Authority election by causing chaos for Israel and murdering more Jews than the other slate contending for governing supremacy in an election temporarily on ice.