This is a perilous time for the state of Israel. Yes, for as far back as I can remember, in the days leading up to and including Ramadan, there have always been vicious and unfounded rumors that “Al Aqsa is in danger” or that “The Jews will desecrate the Al Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet.”
Unfortunately, the Qatar-owned television station that goes throughout the world, Al Jazeera, prominently fans the flames of this rumor, as they customarily do in the days leading up to Ramadan.
But this Ramadan is different for several reasons. The geostrategic dynamics have radically shifted in the past two years. It is increasingly evident that the United States is no longer the dominant power in the Middle East and that Pax Americana which has maintained the liberal world order since the end of World War II has been eclipsed by authoritarian regimes with hegemonic ambitions.
The United States has receded into the sunset in the Middle East and has been eclipsed by Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing. That is why Beijing was able to broker an agreement between Riyadh and Tehran just one day after the Wall Street Journal had published a report of what Saudi Arabia would expect from the United States for a deal with Israel, taking Israel and the West by total surprise, and upending Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plans to have Saudi Arabia join the Abraham accords.
When the United States was the dominant power in the region and the world, and there was a perceived closeness between the United States and Israel, there was much more of an element of caution, inhibiting just how far a rival regime could go in its plans to eliminate “the Zionist entity.” There had been certain implicit “red lines” when it was that they had felt that there was very little or no daylight between the United States and Israel.
However, with President Biden vowing in the campaign trail that he would “end forever-wars in the Middle East”, his precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan and his absolute obsequies posture toward Iran, his lack of any “Plan B” besides diplomacy with Iran, even going so far as trying to.
King Abdullah of Jordan recently met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, vowing “Jordan will always be with you” and that “It is the duty of every Musli to deter Israeli escalations against …holy sites in Jerusalem”. Even though Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, Jordanian King Hussein has never refrained from using his bully pulpit to further inflame passions against the Jewish state.
Within the last 40 years, the struggle for Palestine has metamorphosized from simply a revolutionary struggle for the conquest of the land into something much more essential than that. It is that, plus the struggle for authentic Islamic identity. That is why the Palestinian cause and the regnant part that Islam plays in it has become an indispensable part of the Islamic psyche.
Jerusalem is not the holiest city in Islam but ranks far below Mecca and Medina. That is what Muslims turn to and face when they pray to Allah five times a day. However, with each passing year since the 1967 Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem, done by a tiny 19-year-old Jewish nation, had become a supreme humiliation to many Muslims throughout the world, the idea of the holiness of Jerusalem and Al Aksa has become reified in the hearts of many of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.
Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, this cannot easily be argued away by glib statements by Israeli cabinet members about Palestinian borders, culture, or history. Such flippant statements simply serve to inflame religious passions and increase the likelihood of further Palestinian violence. As a Zionist, one knows that throughout all the centuries of our exile, we still held onto a regnant faith about the return to our ancestral homeland. That faith has sustained us throughout the darkest hours of our history.
With the importance of the iconography of the Palestinian fighter etched into the identity of many Muslims throughout the world, traveling at the speed of light through generations of indoctrination from teachers and textbooks, through Doha’s control of Al Jazeera through the media, it is not a notion that can easily be dislodged by a few cynical words.
As has happened in the past on Ramadan, members of Palestinian terrorist groups barricaded themselves within Al Aksa, prohibiting worshippers from exiting and threatening Jewish worshippers who gather down below at the Western Wall in celebration of Passover. The Israeli police force responded with might. The videos of Israeli police entering and forcefully responding to the in Al Aksa have spread like wildfire, further inciting crowds against Israel.
Due mainly to the mass hysteria, the power of religion over religious identity and affiliation, and the one-sided narrative that has been spoon-fed to the Palestinian population for decades now, four innocent victims have recently fallen in terrorist attacks. On April 8th, 35-year-old Alexandro Perini, an Italian tourist, was murdered in a terrorist attack while walking along the beach in Tel Aviv, and Rina and Maia Dee, ages 15 and 19, two British-American girls, were murdered in a terrorist attack while traveling north to Tiberia for the Passover holiday. Their mother, Lucy, age 45has just succumbed to her wounds as I write these words.
There are no words to describe the agony of these losses, particularly for their families.
Israel is now facing a multifront war.
On April 6th, Iranian-backed Hezbollah launched a barrage of no less than 34 rockets from Lebanon. On April 7th, Israeli forces intercepted a drone launched from Lebanon into Israeli air space, and on April 8th, a barrage of 8 was launched from Palestinian terrorists onto Israel.
Israel’s enemies, particularly Iran, understand that with an Israeli populace radically polarized and divided against one another on the issue of judicial reforms, with an administration in the White House that is somewhat cool to Israel and has yet to invite the elected Prime Minister for an official visit, and with American turning its back on any viable option of military engagement anywhere, but particularly against Iran, now is the ideal time to strike at Israel.
Israel has absolutely no choice but to respond with force. The Israeli populace has got to understand that these are existential threats that Israel now faces and that the issues that divide them are much weaker than those that unite them.
Sarah N. Stern is the Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET.
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