A new, disturbing feature has emerged from this year’s fierce Ramadan outbreaks over the last three days: Young Arab firebrands, citizens of Israel, actively spurred the Palestinians into rioting and assaults on the police in Jerusalem and on Temple Mount, before stirring up riots in their hometowns of Haifa, Nazareth and parts of the central Israel “Triangle.” These events overshadowed Israel’s annual Jerusalem Day rejoicing on Monday, May 10.
This new generation of agitators has begun to exhibit certain features:
- It is formless with no known leadership.
- The extremist Muslim Movement of northern Israel is attempting to seize influence in this still unstructured group.
- They operate mostly in local gangs who fight each other for territory.
- Some are trying to spread their wings to dominate whole regions.
- Some of them carry arms, which they hide in caves near their towns and villages.
- They grew up in families where the use of firearms was commonplace for a clan or individual to achieve its ends, a trend that is conspicuous in the Arab communities for setting disputes, often over turf.
- They are embittered over their lot in the State of Israel, whose authority they refuse to acknowledge. They are also up in arms not just against the army and police, but against the Palestinian establishment on the West Bank.
- Anti-establishment to the core, these young extremists also despise the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,
- The anti-Israel riots that spread to Haifa and Nazareth on Sunday night were ignited by the young agitators who were prevented from reaching Jerusalem by police roadblocks,
- Israel’s uncertain political situation offered fertile ground for restive Arab youth to go on a rampage. Before a competent authority was in place to deal with the problem, the ground was already burning in Jerusalem and igniting additional flashpoints.
By touching off rounds of violent clashes with police in Jerusalem, these young gangs managed to attract powerful international attention.
The UN Security Council is holding a special session on the crisis on Monday. And US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, to express “serious concern” about the situation in Jerusalem, including “violent confrontations at the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount during the last days of Ramadan.”
He reiterated serious US concerns about “the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Sullivan did agree that the launching of rocket attacks and incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel is unacceptable and must be condemned. (Sunday night, four rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, two intercepted by Iron Dome and two falling short inside the enclave.) Sullivan encouraged the Israeli government to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations.
Early Monday, Israel’s caretaker government announced that the traditional Jerusalem Day dancing Flag Parade would go forward and follow its usual route through the streets of the Old City up to the Western Wall but confined it to 3,000 participants. However, Jews would be barred from entering Temple Mount. After substantially beefing up its forces in Jerusalem, the police stated “We will continue to uphold the freedom of worship for every faith but will not tolerate disorder.