Over the weekend one Israeli Jew was killed and four others were injured. The Post reported on Sunday:
Palestinian police opened fire on a group of Israelis who sneaked in to pray at a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, killing one and wounding four others, officials on both sides said. Palestinian officials said that the worshipers, who were in three cars, had ignored warning shots after arriving in the early-morning hours for an unauthorized visit. The officials said that the policemen involved were held for questioning. The incident was under joint investigation by Israeli and Palestinian officials. The shooting occurred near Joseph’s Tomb, a site inside Palestinian-controlled Nablus where Jewish settlers and strictly Orthodox Jews arrive periodically to pray under Israeli army escort, in coordination with the Palestinian police. . . Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement calling the killing “a murder.”
A chilling report from Ynet news service provided some detail:
One of the Breslovers who was in the second car in the convoy and was lightly wounded told Ynet: “We arrived at the tomb like on many occasions in the past. Near the tomb we saw a spikes chain. One of the guys jumped out of the car and moved it aside.
“At this point a uniformed Palestinian police officer with a Kalashnikov in a jeep woke his colleagues up and they started firing into the air. . . . I was in the front seat. We started driving fast in the direction of the tomb; we got out of the vehicles and kissed the tomb.
“When we got back to the vehicles the police shot at the vehicles, they were screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. It was crazy, they were shooting to kill. I screamed at the driver to drive out of there quickly. When we got to Har Bracha we attended to the wounded.”
Many non-Israelis were surprised to learn that “groups of Breslov Hassids and settlers regularly sneak in to Joseph’s Tomb to pray in addition to those who arrive on the visits coordinated by the Israeli army, according to organizers of the authorized pilgrimages.”
The killing in turn set off riots. By the Palestinians. The Jerusalem Post reported: “Dozens of Palestinians rioted near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus on Sunday following an incident in which a PA police officer opened fire on Israeli worshipers, killing one and injuring four others. The rioters set tires on fire at the religious site, Israel Radio reported. Settlers claimed that Palestinians vandalized Joseph’s tomb in the wake of the attack.”
Despite the high-profile incident and subsequent violence the Obama administration was mute. No statement from the State Department. Nothing from the White House. No doubt the administration would prefer to ignore the incident as it vainly struggles to revive the moribund peace process and dangles before the Palestinians the prospect of a divided or internationalized Jerusalem, where, of course, holy sites would be protected and full access guaranteed.
I spoke yesterday with Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and an adviser to multiple Israeli governments. He told me, “What makes the attack all the more glaring on the issue of Jerusalem is the comparison of all the reports about religious freedom in the Old City on Good Friday and Easter. Jerusalem works — only those who want to divide the city will undermine the freedom that Jerusalem now enjoys.” Indeed, under Israeli control, freedom of worship is protected. When the Arabs controlled the city, it was a different story:
After the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem was captured, the destruction, desecration and systematic looting of Jewish sites began and continued. 57 ancient synagogues (the oldest dated to the 13th century), libraries and centers of religious study were ransacked and 12 were totally and deliberately destroyed. Those that remained standing were defaced, used for housing of both people and animals. The city’s foremost Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum. Appeals were made to the United Nations and in the international community to declare the Old City to be an ‘open city’ and stop this destruction, but there was no response. This condition continued until Jordan lost control of Jerusalem in June 1967.
On the Mount of Olives, the Jordanian Arabs removed 38,000 tombstones from the ancient cemetery and used them as paving stones for roads and as construction material in Jordanian Army camps, including use as latrines. When the area was recaptured by Israel in 1967, graves were found open with the bones scattered. Parts of the cemetery were converted into parking lots, a filling station, and an asphalt road was built to cut through it. The Intercontinental Hotel was built at the top of the cemetery. Sadar Khalil, appointed by the Jordanian government as the official caretaker of the cemetery, built his home on the grounds using the stones robbed from graves. In 1967, the press published extensive photos documenting that Jewish gravestones were found in Jordanian Army camps, such as El Azariya, as well as in Palestinian walkways, steps, bathrooms, and pavement.
Gold also dismissed the notion that the victims were to blame for the shootings. “In the case of Joseph’s Tomb, perhaps the Breslaver Hassidim did not coordinate their visit, but that might be a basis for detaining them for a few minutes to ask some questions and letting them continue — but that is no basis for killing them,” he said. Moreover, he reminded me that the Palestinians’ behavior is contrary to international agreements. He observed that “the Palestinians undertook to protect ‘free, unimpeded and secure access’ to Jewish holy sites in the West Bank, including Joseph’s Tomb. The international community expects us or anyone else to rely on them for protecting Jerusalem? This is before they re-engage with Hamas!”
Indeed, experience and facts keep getting in the way of the Obama administration’s Middle East peace process. Murder, incitement to violence and the Palestinians’ continued violation of their own existing obligations suggest we are not on the cusp of a new era of Middle East peace. Could it be that building mother-in-law apartments in East Jerusalem isn’t the root of the problem?