For the past 24 hours, Hamas has been shelling large areas – in southern Israel, in Jerusalem and as of this evening, in Tel Aviv. Hamas has taken on the job of protecting Jerusalem from the evil Jews. So how has the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah become the cause of this latest round?
For a bit of context: Sheikh Jarrah is a residential neighborhood located on the road to Mount Scopus. In 1948, it became part of Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem, right next to the no-man’s land of the border with the Jewish West Jerusalem. On April 14, 1948, 78 Jewish doctors and nurses were killed by local residents when their convoy was attacked while traveling to Hadassah Hospital, which at the time was located on Mount Scopus. In 1967, the area was captured during the Six Day War and eventually annexed to the municipality of Jerusalem as part of the 1968 unification of Jerusalem.
The abandoned Jewish-owned homes in the neighborhood had been turned over to 28 Palestinian families by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Properties back in 1956 as part of a deal with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency renouncing the status of these families as refugees. In 1967, the Israeli Minister of Justice agreed that these families could remain in their homes. In 1972, the Sephardic community contested the ownership of these properties; the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in their favor and decreed that the Palestinian families may remain as long as they paid rent to the original owners.
This dispute re-ignited in 2001 as Israeli settlers moved into the neighborhood claiming the building they moved into was Jewish owned. Some Palestinian families refused to keep their rent payments, resulting in eviction notices. Since then, Israeli courts have ruled in favor of some Jews claiming ownership based on Ottoman-era deeds. Yet, these civil disputes have continued to this day, culminating in violence and civic strife between local Jewish residents and descendants of the original Arabs who settled there in 1956. Furthermore, the possibility of Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah accepting reasonable financial settlements for moving out was rendered impossible by the violent threats directed at Arabs selling properties to Jews.
So last week, just as the Israeli Supreme Court was scheduled to rule on this matter, a local civic property dispute escalated into a religious and national dispute, which gave Hamas a wonderful opening to become the defenders of Jerusalem from the Jews. Hamas, desperate for relevance in a Middle East that is moving towards normalizing its relations with Israel — where Israeli Arabs are exceedingly placing their Israeli identity ahead of their loyalty to the Palestinian cause — found the perfect rallying cry: Jerusalem.
After all, it is all about Jerusalem — the ground zero for the next holy war between the infidels and the believers.
By this evening, the embattled Israel leadership put aside their political shenanigans to unite behind the IDF and security forces. The Sheikh Jarrah disputes have expanded to catalyze another round of fighting between Hamas and Israel. The headlines of riots in Sheikh Jarrah have been overtaken by events on the ground where Gaza residents are, once again, being used as human shields by Hamas — and by Israel trying to mount an effective military response without killing innocent bystanders.
Tonight, the residents of Tel Aviv who were hoping to get through the night without more Sirens and Iron Dome interceptions, are once again heading to the bomb shelters.
The dispute between Arabs and Jews over control over Jerusalem is not going to be resolved anytime soon. There is no scenario where Hamas or even the Palestinian Authority will ever accept Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem. Nor is there a realistic scenario where Israel will ever agree to divide the city.
As the missiles are flying towards Israeli population centers, it appears that Hamas has miscalculated and may have created a level of unity among Israeli leadership that they had been unable to achieve on their own.