My new piece on what’s behind the recent tension at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif – and where it could lead – is up at The American Prospect:
Five cops edged the Street of the Chain carrying riot batons and shields. A few meters away, in the shadows of a covered alleyway, four more cops were doing what police do so often, which is wait. The Street of the Chain is one of the main thoroughfares of Jerusalem’s Old City, a narrow, stone-paved walkway descending toward the entrance to Haram al-Sharif, a.k.a. the Temple Mount. It’s lined with Palestinian-owned shops selling scarves, t-shirts, the trinkets of three faiths, and anything else that might catch a tourist’s eye. On Tuesday afternoon, police reinforcements were deployed along the street, on the lawn outside Jaffa Gate, and throughout the Old City.
At a checkpoint a block from the entrance to the Haram, a police commander with a very small vocabulary insisted that non-Muslims, even those with press cards, could not go any closer to the holy site. For that matter, Muslim males under the age of 50 were also barred from entering the wide plaza where Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand. Somewhere high in the line of command, someone has decided that testosterone and sanctity are too dangerous a mix.
Once again, trouble is smoldering around the Temple Mount, threatening to ignite a new round of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. For a week and a half, there have been sporadic clashes at the Haram and elsewhere in East Jerusalem. There’s reasonable fear of a more serious blow-up during Friday prayers — at Al-Aqsa, or wherever Israeli police block worshippers trying to reach the mosque. The proximate cause of the tension is jockeying by extreme Palestinian and Jewish groups that fuse nationalism with religion. But when a fire begins at the Mount, it is always fueled by wider issues. Right now those issues include continued Palestinian disappointment with American diplomacy and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas’s precipitous loss of public credibility. …
Read the rest here and come back to SoJo to comment.