Every year, during the main Israeli holidays, large numbers of Jews visit the western wall, and tourist visits to the temple mount increase. Concurrently, a wave of incitement begins to take hold, and is not solely limited to social networks. The incitement is also spread by imams, and interested parties like the notorious Shiekh Raed Salah. The incitement takes like wildfire to brush and spreads rapidly across society. In contrast to the past where muezzins would deliver the call toaction through minaret speakers, today everything happens within the networks.
Stone-throwing is usually a byproduct of the temple mount riots. The outbursts by Palestinian youth and the barricading inside the Al Aqsa mosque, and the Israeli police’s attempts to bring back order to the area and prevent harm from coming to Jews, are intensively covered by the media – and not just from Arab countries, but Western ones as well. This leads to responses by governments, such as Jordan’s.
Jordan has been appointed by the World Supreme Council for Mosques (WSCM) to be a patron and guardian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, and so it is allegedly obligated to protect these places from any attempt by Israel to take control of them and change their status quo. The Jordanian clerks know very well what’s happening at the temple mount. They know there are organizations sent by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and inspired by Hamas, a men’s organization called “Murabitun” and a women’s organization called “Murabitat”, whose people get paid to riot in the temple mount area and prevent Jews from even freely moving about in the areas permitted to them.
They know that these riots and the youths’ barricading of the mosque are meant to incite the Palestinian public, but King Abdullah, who has already warned of the deterioration of ties between Israel and Jordan, needs to also think about the danger he, and his regime, face in an age when radical Islam is rising throughout the region, and so he publishes statements of condemnation.
The stone-throwing this year is a particularly powerful phenomenon, after the Jewish terrorist arson attack in the village of Doma (near Nablus), in which three members of the Dawabsha family were murdered. The recent death of family mother Riham Dawabsha, the latest victim, reignited the flames of rage. The unrelenting media coverage is further fanning the fire. But this time the stone-throwing has resulted in a loss of life, when Alexander Levlovich, a 64-year-old man from Jerusalem, was killed on Rosh Hashanah eve.
This murder makes it very clear that the stone and Molotov cocktail are deadly weapons, no less so than a firearm. The problem is that in western democracies, mostly in Europe and North America – the places that haven’t experienced a true intifada of stone-throwing – the act is seen sometimes as a prank, or a nuisance which is somewhat dangerous, but not one that justifies the use of deadly (or semi-deadly) force. It isn’t seen as something that justifies the use of live fire, even of rubber bullets, which are considered a legitimate tool for combating stone-throwers and cocktail-lobbers.
Drastic measures like the prolonged jailing of minors are met with harsh criticism in the international community, in a way that makes the effect of the de-legitimizing campaign against us more powerful. So what do we do?
The police handle the temple mount riots carefully and skillfully. A certain pattern has developed, in which the youths barricade themselves inside the Al Aqsa mosque, then curse and insult Jewish visitors to the temple mount. The Israeli police’s special forces then storm the mosque and evict the youths, despite the firecrackers and Molotov cocktails they are pelted with.
Things usually cool down between holidays, but the Jewish month of Tishrei is crowded with them, and so it marks a month of non-stop riots. What happens on the temple mount can be described as a closed playground where the police has enough experience to manage things with hardly any bloodshed. It should be mentioned that officers are often among those wounded in the riots. The tougher problem is the stone-throwing. The prime minister even gathered a special meeting in order to try and find new ways to better enforce the law, and punish stone-throwers and their guardians.
Most stone-throwers are kids, teenagers, and yong men, between the ages of 10-20. Those who do the most damage are the 14-year-olds and above. They have the strength to take a rock or heavy boulder, sometimes a block of concrete, and slam it into the windshield of a Jewish-driven car that passes by. That’s why these people need to be the targets of most law enforcement means. Heavy fines given to the parents, pre-trial arrests, and administrative detentions for the adult stone-throwers, might bring about immediate results.
Another means is the use of checkpoints on the entrances and exits of Palestinian neighborhoods that are likely problem areas, such as Abu-Tor, Zur Baher, Silwan, and others. The containment of these neighborhoods in places that will allow for what the IDF calls “breathing checkpoints” – ones that let residents move in and out by car and foot. Whoever goes in or out will be subject to searches, which is a very effective means, even though it significantly obstructs the local residents’ lives. This kind of action might lead the adult Palestinians in these neighborhoods to mollify, even slightly, the local youths.
It’s true that the youngsters can exit these neighborhoods through alternative routes, but that’s much harder and less comfortable. In addition, there will be patrols and cameras that will monitor the entire area from above. The balloon which served the Israeli police well during the previous riot wave in Jerusalem is an excellent means of tracking. I prefer not to address Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan’s idea of preventing the advancement of judges who punish stone-throwers lightly, out of respect for the minister.
The combination of a clear uniformed presence and undercover activity of officers in the field, monitoring by cameras, and blocking the entry and exit points of problematic neighborhoods, will no doubt calm the situation, but we can’t fall into delusion. The waves of riots and stone-throwing at the temple mount will come back again, and again, and again.