War present

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The escalation of the conflict over Sheikh Jarrah is helping Netanyahu, Hamas and Erdoğan alike.

By Thomas Schmidinger

An Israeli riot police officer in Sheikh Jarrah in January 2010. The conflict over property and housing rights in the district has been dragging on for a long time. Photo: Yossi Gurvitz / Flickr , CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Before the city was divided in 1948, the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah was a mixed Arab-Jewish quarter that was not built in front of the old city of Jerusalem until the middle of the 19th century. While Muslim and Christian Arabs had settled here who could no longer find living space in the cramped old town, Jews settled around the grave of Shimon Ha Tzadik a few years later. After returning from captivity in Babylon, the latter had played an important political and religious role in the Second Jewish Empire, which was a reason for a group of Orthodox Jews to buy up the grave and the surrounding land and to settle there from 1875. The small Jewish quarter within Sheikh Jarrah was predominantly inhabited by early Jewish immigrants from Yemen,

With the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Sheikh Jarrah came under Jordanian control as part of East Jerusalem. In the course of the war there were expulsions on both sides. The Jewish residents of Sheikh Jarrah, like many other smaller Jewish settlements surrounded by Arabs, had been evacuated from their homes by the British for their protection. The Jordanian authorities, who were confronted with a large number of Palestinians who had fled from the areas conquered by the Israelis after the conquest of the West Bank and at the same time wanted to prevent a possible return of Jews to the now Jordanian areas, settled refugees from the Israeli conquered areas in the Jewish houses and transferred the corresponding property rights to them.

Some arsonists …

When Israel conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967, these Jordanian property rights were not touched for the time being. However, the Knesset passed a law that Jews who had been expelled from their property in the West Bank by the Jordanians or British could get them back if they could prove their property.

This law was by no means always used by the former Jewish residents, who rarely had an interest in returning to a hostile environment. Rather, in recent years, right-wing extremist settlers, many of whom were not even born in Israel and often still have US passports, bought up the property rights of the original Jewish residents and then tried to enforce their property rights in court. Therefore, in the videos of Israelis who are now claiming “their” homes, there are no Yemeni Jews, but national-religious US Americans, whose claims were enforced in court with the support of well-organized settler organizations.

Although only a few houses in Sheikh Jarrah were affected by such a “restitution” to the Jewish owners, this is openly demanded by the Palestinian population in the context of the increasingly excessive settlement efforts in the West Bank and those of these settler organizations and right-wing extremist parties “Judaization” of Jerusalem perceived as a threat to its own existence.

It was foreseeable that the eviction notice for four houses in the neighborhood would ultimately trigger corresponding protests. It should also come as no surprise that the massive Israeli police operation during Ramadan on the grounds of Haram ash-Sharif, the Temple Mount, directly in front of the al-Aqsa Mosque, would further fuel these protests and almost invite them to interpret them religiously. Only the brutal police operation on Haram ash-Sharif finally made it possible for Hamas to lead the protests with an Islamic interpretation of the events.

… and many losers

Everything indicates that both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Hamas deliberately wanted to escalate. For Netanyahu, who, faced with his corruption proceedings, no longer has a parliamentary majority, the war is almost a gift that suddenly makes him the military leader of “threatened Israel” again and thus possibly helps him to regain popularity. For Hamas, which ran the risk of getting a competitor with the independently rebelling youth in Gaza and which had been confronted with a legitimacy crisis for years, there was the possibility of spearheading the “resistance” with its rockets. Hamas can also make up ground against Fatah. The President of the Palestinian Authority Abbas had only canceled the elections at the end of April, the first since 2006, on the pretext of the conflict with Israel over polling stations in East Jerusalem. Hamas will not emerge from the elections, but it will emerge stronger from the war.

It was foreseeable that the eviction notice for four houses in Sheikh Jarrah would trigger protests.

The losers in this war are the civilians in Israel and the Gaza Strip, who are desperately seeking protection from Israeli air strikes or Hamas rockets.

Turkey, which has spoken out loudest and most verbally radical of the Sunni states in the region, should also benefit from the war. President Erdoğan, who is under heavy pressure domestically, can once again act as the patron saint of Sunni Muslims in the region, gaining ground against his main rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as exploiting the Jerusalem issue domestically. While Saudi Arabia and its allies are unable to credibly pose as defenders of the Palestinians due to the recent rapprochement with Israel, the Turkish AKP, which maintains close ties with Hamas through its friendly Muslim Brotherhood, uses the Situation both domestically and regionally in order to maintain their battered power.

So far, Iran has hardly been able to take advantage of the situation: its leadership has tried to emulate Turkey’s speeches, but simply because of the sectarian differences between Shiite Iran and the strictly Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and the AKP, there is likely to be less to gain for Tehran than for Ankara.

Thomas Schmidinger

is a political scientist at the University of Vienna and in 2020 published a paper on Bahoe Books »Sudan. Unfinished Revolutions in a Fragile Country«

Source: A gift of war – ak analyse & kritik (akweb.de)

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