Violence and rioting has been taking place almost daily in East Jerusalem since July. The current eruption -- one of the worst since 1967 -- neither came out of nowhere, nor can be linked solely to the murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir. Rather, it reflects a number of factors, including deeper and more personalized hatreds; a generational shift; growing despair of a political solution; and the Gaza conflict. For these and other reasons, there is an unprecedented rupture between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.
In recent days, the situation has gotten worse. The death
on September 7 of Muhammad Abd al-Majid Sunuqrut (declared clinically dead
on September 4) – a 16-year old resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz who was wounded
by Israeli security personnel during clashes on August 31 – sparked a serious deterioration
. There were violent clashes during and after Sunuqrut’s funeral (photos here
) and, overall, rioting has become more widespread, including an assault by Palestinians on a gas station in French Hill. The latter development represents a new dimension in the current conflict, reflecting what appears to be a degree of organization and planning. It is also one of the rare occasions where violence has spread beyond the contours of the Palestinian neighborhoods, into a settlement.
The situation of Israel’s light rail is emblematic of the overall situation in Jerusalem today. Until two and a half months ago, the light rail was held up as a symbol of coexistence
in Jerusalem. This portrait, always exaggerated, is now shattered. There have been 80 attacks
on the light rail since the beginning of July, 41 in August alone. A day does not go by without some kind of attack – the throwing of stones or incendiary devices – and on any given day at least a third of the trains are out-of-service as a result of damage incurred. Palestinians continue to refrain from using the train in West Jerusalem, fearing for their own safety.
With the violence not going away and with the Gaza war over, there is now significant and growing media coverage of the situation in East Jerusalem, both domestically and internationally -- something that was not the case only a short time ago. The response of the Israeli establishment to the continuing and growing unrest in East Jerusalem – and the growing attention it is getting in the media – is illuminating. After weeks without any acknowledgement of the situation, a small number of Israeli officials, like Mayor Barkat
and Minister of Public Security Aharonovitch
have in recent days finally weighed in – promising a forceful response against Palestinian rioters and vowing to protect Jewish residents of East Jerusalem. As of this writing, not a single Israeli official has addressed the 300,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem in any manner.
Finally, it is important to note that the general consensus is that these disturbances are spontaneous and genuinely popular in nature – reflecting deep anger and resentments that have been simmering and growing among Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem for decades, rather than being driven by any political or ideological “hidden hand.” This fact could make containing them more difficult. Having crushed almost every form of political expression in East Jerusalem, Israel is now discovering that there exists no local Palestinian leadership that can be engaged toward the goal of addressing grievances and putting an end to violence.