An Israeli calls for an end to the vicious cycle of tit-for-tat deaths

An Israeli calls for an end to the vicious cycle of tit-for-tat deaths

Two Palestinian teenagers fired on Israeli soldiers before being shot dead in the northern occupied West Bank yesterday, Israel's army said, the latest deaths in a months-long wave of unrest.

An army statement said the pair attacked an Israeli patrol west of the city of Jenin with rocks before firing on soldiers with a rifle. "The force responded to the shooting and fired towards the attackers, resulting in their deaths," it said. Both were aged 15 and were not thought to be closely related.

Since the current round of bloodshed erupted at the beginning of October, 169 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Most were carrying out attacks but others died during clashes and demonstrations.

I visited the Temple Mount shortly before the tsunami of attacks that hit Israel. Accompanied by a Christian, I felt safer walking along the tranquil courtyards and marvellous edifices. I ignored the furtive, resentful gazes of the Muslim monitors.

Walking so near to the birthplace of the world, the exact spot from which the world was created and expanded into its current form, I was overcome with intense emotions. Here is the location of the Foundation Stone, the Wells of Souls and the Holy of Holies -- which Jews and Christians believe is the spiritual junction of Heaven and Earth. Here was the place where two Jewish Temples once stood, where God allegedly gathered the dust to create Adam and the location of Abraham's binding to Isaac.

I'm not religious but I had a burning desire to pray, to enter into the edifice of the Dome of the Rock and to observe the "birthstone of the world". Yet my spiritual longings could not be fulfilled. Why? Because I'm not a Muslim.

Visiting privileges to non-Muslims are restricted only to the courtyards of the Temple Mount and are limited to five days per week for four hours only. Entrance to the Dome of the Rock, the most important religious site to Christians and Jews, and to the Al-Aqsa mosque, is utterly forbidden to non-Muslims, who are restricted to sightseeing only and are not allowed to pray or worship anywhere in the compound.

Five minutes before closing a boy not older than 13 approached us. "Closing time. Infidels must leave the premises," he said resentfully in a thick Arabic accent, motioning us to follow him out. We both looked at the boy astonished. He lowered his gaze semi-shamefacedly while escorting us out. I want to believe a boy so young still has some innocence in him to distinguish from right and wrong. Yet the attitude of the Muslim worshippers on the site had left no room to doubt: Our presence there was blasphemy.

While the dream of martyrdom is the main reason for pushing these youngsters to carry out attacks, it is not the only one. The security restrictions imposed by Israel, the lack of economic opportunities, incessant incitement against Israel and the Jews in every aspect of Palestinian daily life (media, schools), frustrations with their own leaders (who instead of working for the future of their youth embezzled millions in aid money for their own personal well-being), and the general feeling that they lack any prospering future and even personal issues.

But the religious aspects are without a doubt the ones that set the agenda. It is not surprising that many Palestinians and Israelis alike view it as a religious war rather than a civil issue. This is not surprising. For so long, the Muslim world almost as a whole disrespects the rights of other faiths to visit religious sites that are sacred to non-Muslims and supports Palestinian violence to "protect" the Temple Mount.

Despite the fact that the status quo at the Temple Mount wasn't altered for decades, Muslim leaders persistently incite their devotees with the false claim Al-Aqsa is in danger.

Even though in total, out of tens of millions worshippers who visit Jerusalem annually, only 12,000 Jews and 80,000 Christians visit the courtyards of the Temple Mount, as opposed to 3.5 million Muslims. Yet the Al-Aqsa libel keeps triggering new waves of violence.

Generally, when tolerance is not promoted, violence will come. Sadly, once a cycle of violence begins, political and religious leaders continue to fuel it to advance their interests. The current vicious cycle of Palestinian Islamic terror follows the same pattern.

First, Islamic leaders falsely claim that Al-Aqsa is in danger. Second, incited teenagers, utterly brainwashed, go out in the streets to commit terror attacks, mainly stabbings, vehicular ramming, or shooting innocent passersby. Third, Muslim leaders praise as "martyrs" the "heroes" who committed the attacks while Palestinian political leaders and the media portray the attackers as "victims executed by Israel". Fifth, more brainwashed and outraged teenagers carry out attacks. And so the cycle continues. Unfortunately, the violence pays off. In order to curb it, too often western leaders acquiesce to the demands of the Islamic leaders that fuel it.

Even the hawkish Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, not only acquiesced to continue the ban prohibiting non-Muslims to pray in Temple Mount, he went further, barring the entrance of every non-Muslim public representative. The impression to young Muslims and their leaders is unequivocal: Terrorism, violence, and vigilantism pay off.

If western leaders want to stop the cycle of Islamic violence spreading throughout the world, they must first understand that appeasement is not the solution. It is not the job of the west to reform Islam into a more tolerant and benevolent religion. Violence must be punished. Dialogue and negotiation, on the other hand, should be rewarded.

Otherwise, as history shows, the attacks on the Jews will ultimately spread elsewhere. Paris, London and San Bernardino already know.


Roei Kashi is a Bangkok-based analyst of Middle Eastern affairs.

Roei Kashi

Middle Eastern affairs analyst

Roei Kashi is a Bangkok-based analyst of Middle Eastern affairs.

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