While many in the West seem to think the current fighting in Israel is about housing policy, or human rights, or the selective blockade of the Gaza Strip, the rhetoric of Palestinian leaders and on Palestinian social media makes clear that it is in fact about al-Aqsa mosque. This should come as no surprise: fabricated claims that “al-Aqsa is in danger” have been used to provoke anti-Jewish violence for a hundred years. In this particular case, explains Haviv Rettig Gur, both Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party exploited the claim in their rivalry for Palestinian hearts and minds:
The rockets raining down since Monday “in al-Aqsa’s defense” may have targeted Israelis, but, at least in the first day or two, battering Israel was at least partly a means to another end. The unspoken target was Fatah.
Palestinian public opinion was set aflame by the images from al-Aqsa mosque, while decrepit old Fatah was scarcely seen or heard. Here was Hamas’s chance to attain the influence denied it by Abbas. For two long days, Hamas fired rockets into Israel and absorbed painful retaliatory strikes in return. For two long days, Hamas officials could claim they were sacrificing in al-Aqsa’s defense, while Fatah had scarcely responded to the crisis.
And, after firing nearly 2,000 rockets, Hamas clearly has the upper hand in this rivalry:
The shockwaves from Hamas’s new conquest of the Palestinian political arena were felt acutely in Israel, more acutely than most Israelis realize. As it secured its victory over Fatah, Hamas also opened another front in its war for the Palestinian narrative: for the first time in memory, it actively sought to export its message of persistent violence to the [Arab] citizens of Israel.
The sudden spike in Arab-Jewish clashes in Israeli cities that followed the violence at al-Aqsa caught everyone by surprise—not just Jewish leaders and Israeli-law enforcement officials, but also the Arab Israeli community itself. Hamas’s new assertion of control over the Palestinian cause isn’t the sole reason for the violence now spreading through Arab-Jewish towns, but it’s a major one. Many of the rioters are eager to be counted in what [Hamas’s chairman Ismail] Haniyeh described on Tuesday as the “new balance of power” between a Hamas-led Palestinian nationalism and a confused, iniquitous Israel.
The social-media discourse among Arab Israelis, some of it conducted in Hebrew, is full of calls to reject this new pressure from Hamas.
Read more on Times of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-rocket-war-for-al-aqsa-hamas-has-already-won-the-palestinian-leadership/