Islam, Arab Public Opinion, and the Palestinians

March 8 2019

Palestinians—as well as Arab leaders and opponents of Israel in the U.S. and Europe—have often claimed that the Palestinian fate is a central concern, if not the central concern, of Arabs everywhere. Examining data from Google in various Arab countries, Hillel Frisch notes that the frequency of searches for such topics as “Palestinian resistance” decreases sharply the farther one goes from Gaza and the West Bank. Non-Palestinian Arabs, by contrast, are far and away more likely to search for “al-Aqsa mosque” than for information about the Palestinian resistance, and Palestinians’ own interest in al-Aqsa is similarly high. To Frisch, all of this makes clear that religion, far more than nationalism, motivates Arab attitudes regarding Israel:

[These data] underscore the importance of the religious dimension in the Arabic-speaking world, both within and without the Palestinian arena, in the Arab-Palestinian conflict. This is hardly new. Islam was a major if not dominant theme in the most tumultuous periods of strife between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land. In April 1920, attacks against Jews began during the religious Nabi Musa pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The 1921 riots began in Jaffa to protest the participation of immodestly clad Jewish women in the May Day demonstrations in Jaffa.

Seven years later, in 1928, Haj Amin al-Husseini coined the phrase “al-Aqsa in danger” in a pan-Islamic campaign against the Zionist movement that led to the most murderous onslaught against Jews to date in August 1929. This term has since been adopted by both Hamas and the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, which was banned by Israel in 2015.

During the second intifada, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah tried in vain to name the conflict the “independence intifada” in its struggle against a rising Hamas, which wanted to color the conflict with Israel in religious terms. Today, it is universally referred to in Arabic as the “al-Aqsa intifada,” even in Fatah and PA discourse. The same religious zeal regarding the Palestinian cause can be found in the Arab world.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Lawfare

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations