The Scent of Smoke in a Dry Field

Gershom Gorenberg

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.

10 thoughts on “The Scent of Smoke in a Dry Field”

  1. There would be peace if you guys werent there. Move back to your real homelands and give the Palestinians their land

  2. The threat of violence, at this point, is a requirement. No one moves an inch in this conflict until there are dead people to mourn– and even then it’s difficult. Many elsewhere and within ( using defense mechanisms) have simply tuned out, formed their opinions, one of which is that this is a blood feud that will just go on and on.

    Those who looked to Obama for some magic were bound to be disappointed.

  3. Am I missing something or are you saying that Palestinian leadership – the Abbas clique and the far from inconsequential Islamic Movement – and the admittedly fringe of the fringe Rebuild-the-Temple-Now! clique share equal responsibility for this specific spate of violence?

    Sure, there’s blame enough on both sides for the overall state of things, but just who do you think is manipulating the ongoing violence in this limited instance?

    Clarify, please.

  4. Peace negotiations as an alternative to violence? Does anyone deny that negotiations cause an increase in violence, at least in the short term, with the intensity of the violence being in proportion to the seriousness of the negotiations? I mean, we’ve got two decades’ worth of empirical data on this question.

    I liked one bit of subversiveness in the article, though: the bigotry of the quoted Palestinian Arab. It’s good to remind the readers of The American Prospect, nice upper-middle-class white people for whom the word “nigger” is unprintable, that the saintly, suffering Arabs are human too. I respect Gorenberg’s intellectual integrity and his refusal to dehumanize the Arabs as do most of those on the left.

    I think you might have been a little generous with the blame, taking in Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas. Ultimately this all seems to be a result of Obama’s stupid and inept handling of the situation. Neither Netanyahu nor Abbas had a whole lot of room to move once Obama put them in their corners.

  5. According to Lieberman the problem lies with those who dare to hope for a diplomatic solution:

    “Whoever says it’s possible . . . simply doesn’t understand reality and spreads delusions, ultimately leading to disappointments and all-out confrontation,” quoted in the L.A. Times,0,7198811.story

    There’s a lot of truth to this but it’s a fatalistic world-view that accepts reality rather than attempt change for the better. The U.S. Civil Rights movement sparked violence, too. 40 years later I’m glad they dared to spread their delusions.

  6. Jerusalem, which is holy to two religions, Islam and Christianity, was perfectly peaceful, until master real estate agent Herzl came upon “location, location, location” and created a false history to justify your occupation. The world is tired of your mythology. Go back to you true homelands in Europe

  7. Aaron is correct. It is the “peace process” that CA– USES the violence. The Arabs can NOT agree to a peace agreement with Israel and when the Americans, EU and Israel push them to the wall demanding political concessions they lash out in the only way they know…with violence. It pays handsomely for them and keeps the leaders out of trouble with their own people. It’s about time Israelis, particularly the so-called “peace camp” learn this lesson.

  8. It’s broad brush and very inaccurate to say that it’s the peace process that causes the violence. There was violence before the peace process. There is violence and will be in spite of the peace process.

    The violence of hardline extremists on the Palestinian side has been supported by those who did not believe that the peace process was sincere or just. That disbelief on both sides is the fault of both sides.

    The out and out objection to the peace process by hardline extremists and their fearful supporters on the Israeli side, the voters for Sharon and Netanyahu indicates that as long as Israel can prevail militarily, whatever the cost, that is better than giving up captured land and compromise for peace.

    The Arab people in other countries are more and more not so easily distracted by the I-P conflict and more focussed on their own issues.

    Ben-David’s argument is an old dog that does not hunt. This theory leads to the conclusion therefore there should be no peace process. That takes us down another road I don’t think you or anyone should want to go down. Although with comments like the above, the peace process has been and is being given such a bad name that that nightmare is where the situation seems to be headed yet again.

  9. A few shorts points:

    Gershom, couldn’t you check if Khatib was telling the truth about the flyer or lying?
    The Hebrew press pays little attention? Oh, please. They are full of stories, some even true. Even Haaretz which our elite read and then put on TV. Gershom, is Khatib’s claim that we Jews have no claim (see the idiot Maltsev here) believable? Why couldn’t you counter than in one-two sentences rather than leaving it open-ended?

    My full post is here: or try here

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