By MICHAEL FREUND—
In recent months, Palestinian terrorists have transformed Jerusalem into a battleground, carrying out increasingly brazen attacks against Jews. The incidents have grown in both quantity and severity, putting Jewish lives and property at risk. While the media has largely ignored the story, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and it is time for the government to take concerted action to stamp out the unrest and restore security to our nation’s capital.
The latest incident in this ongoing saga of violence took place this past Sunday morning, when a bus filled with Jewish schoolchildren on its way to the Old City from the Ma’aleh HaZeitim neighborhood on the Mount of Olives was attacked by three masked Palestinians. These ostensible “partners in peace” proceeded to hurl stones at the bus, smashing the front windshield and sending the children into a panic. A woman who witnessed the episode said that a number of the youngsters burst into tears, adding that, “It was only because of a great miracle that they emerged unscathed from this incident, which could very well have ended differently.
These children will surely suffer from anxiety and nightmares for a long time to come.”
Is this how Jewish children have to grow up in the heart of Jerusalem? Every single Israeli should be outraged by this incident, which demonstrates the escalating impudence and audacity of Palestinian terrorists, who have no qualms about attacking a schoolbus in broad daylight in the nation’s capital.
Indeed, Jews throughout various Jerusalem neighborhoods have been enduring a range of assaults.
In Gilo, Israeli vehicles have been torched, while in Abu Tor, Molotov cocktails were hurled at Israeli homes.
On August 27, three members of an Israeli family were injured when stone-throwing Palestinians attacked their van after it came to a stop in a traffic jam in Wadi Joz. Last week, on September 16, an Israeli driving through Beit Hanina came under assault from a barrage of rocks which smashed his front windshield. He was cut by the shards of flying glass and had to be taken to the hospital.
And in French Hill, masked Palestinian teenagers attempted to set a gas station ablaze with firebombs.
The situation has become so bad that Citipass, the company which operates the Jerusalem light rail system, announced last month that eight out of its fleet of 23 vehicles, or more than a third, had been taken out of service due to Palestinian attacks.
Despite the fact that the light rail system serves all Jerusalem residents and benefits Arab and Jew alike, Palestinians have reportedly attacked it more than 120 times in the past two months, primarily in Shuafat and Beit Hanina, causing at least half a million shekels in damage.
Clearly, this is not just a matter of sporadic violence.
According to data compiled by the General Security Service, in March 2014 there were three terror attacks carried out in Jerusalem. In April, the number jumped to seven, while in May and June combined there were 22. This number soared to 152 attacks in July and August, or nearly a seven-fold increase, largely in the wake of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in the Jerusalem forest on July 2 by three young Jews.
But things have hardly quieted down in September, as the recent rash of attacks demonstrates.
This is simply an intolerable situation and it cannot be allowed to continue. If the quiet intifada in Jerusalem – “quiet” only because the media has for the most part kept it under wraps – is not quelled soon, it will simply continue to spiral out of control and end up resulting in more bloodshed.
To their credit, in recent months the police have arrested more than 600 Palestinians who were involved in the violence and unrest, but Jerusalem residents are growing weary of the violence and of the failure of the authorities to halt it.
Last week, Jerusalem city councilman Arieh King led a demonstration in front of Israel Police Headquarters protesting the government’s policies and calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to fire Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
On his Facebook page, King wrote, “Police have arrested 600, 700, 800 – perhaps it will soon reach 1,000 terrorists arrested.”
“There is no doubt,” he added, “that the policy of arrests being used by the police force is not working.
We have a great police force but no deterrence.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has publicly called for stronger measures to be taken to stop the violence.
After the Israeli website 0404 aired an audiotape last week of Barkat speaking at a Jerusalem city council meeting in which he seemed primarily concerned about the city’s image, the mayor posted a status update to his Facebook page in which he did not mince words.
“I want to clarify this decisively: a heavy and uncompromising hand should be applied against all those who employ violence of any kind,” Barkat said, adding, “We will not accept a situation in which stones or Molotov cocktails are thrown at the light rail, at Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem or any other kind of violence.”
While offering praise for the police, he went on to criticize the court system, saying, “It cannot be that after the police detain those who violate public order, the courts will free them with a ‘revolving door’ so they can return to committing violence. We must intensify the punishment and create deterrence,” Barkat added.
This is absolutely correct. Palestinian terror cannot be allowed to prevail in Jerusalem or anywhere else. The “quiet intifada” sweeping the eastern part of the capital must be defeated. The police need to increase their presence throughout the area and move quickly to detain and arrest anyone who hurls stones, tosses fire-bombs or otherwise engages in violence of any kind. And the court system needs to send a strong message by sentencing Palestinian rioters and stone-throwers to lengthy jail terms rather than just giving them a slap on the wrist.
Furthermore, the government needs to reinforce the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem, upgrading its security and continuing to build homes for Jews. This is the best way to disabuse our foes of any notion that they will chase us away through intimidation and fear.
But time is of the essence and action must be taken soon. If it isn’t, then instead of petering out, the burgeoning intifada in Jerusalem may prove to be anything but quiet.