On Sunday night, the second night of the dreaded holy month of Ramadan, a few young Arabs began to attack police officers brutally at Damascus Gate, throwing objects at them and trying to hit them in every conceivable way. A Border Police force and additional police officers managed to take control of the rioters and arrested 10 of them who were taken for questioning at the local precinct on suspicion of assaulting police officers (Another Ramadan Riot at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, 10 Arrested).
But there was a kind of comic side to these terrible events, with MK Itamar Ben Gvir providing the clever punch line. So first, some inevitable exposition.
Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) visited the Jerusalem Police command center and toured Damascus Gate with Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai (Yesh Atid), and other dignitaries.
Lapid referred to the security alert a few days before Seder night––which marks 20 years since the 2002 Seder night massacre in Netanya––and noted that this year all three Abrahamic religions are celebrating at the same time (Easter, remember?). So, there’s bound to be friction, and Lapid reassured his guests on the tour that some 8,000 additional police officers would be patrolling the country during the Passover holiday. “This is a difficult and tense time, but we have a police force that can be trusted,” Lapid remarked.
Routine stuff, right? Well, someone over at the Palestinian Authority was offended (they’re very good at that). An official statement from the PA called the Lapid visit to eastern Jerusalem a “provocative invasion,” and then went ahead to condemn the Minister’s promise that additional police forces would be posted to prevent violence during Passover.
According to the PA, this was “incitement against the Palestinians,” blaming them in advance for riots they hadn’t carried out yet. “This is an apartheid regime in full swing,” the PA statement declared. “They act as if there are only Jewish holidays and protection should be provided only to Jews during those holidays, while completely ignoring the existence of Muslim and Christian holidays.”
Of course, it’s horse pucky, of course, Israel Police is just as vigilant in protecting Muslims and Christians – in fact, when it comes to Muslim holiday events it’s even more alert and present than on other occasions because when a few thousand fervent Arab get together, sparks fly. So the PA managed to “gotcha” the FM. But then came the glorious punch line I promised you.
Ben Gvir tweeted, with three laughing emojis: “Yair Lapid, don’t set the Middle East on fire, Jews must not be killed because of you!!!”
יאיר לפיד אל תבעיר את המזרח התיכון ??? אסור שיהודים יהרגו בגללך!!! pic.twitter.com/Zmqa3rkao0
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) April 3, 2022
OK, some context: on February 14, during a Yesh Atid faction meeting, following the Arab riots in the Shimon HaTzadik (a.k.a. Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood, Lapid blamed it all on Ben Gvir: “Ben Gvir is not in Sheikh Jarrah to protect the residents, but to set the region on fire. Just as he has done in the past.”
Now the foo was on the other shoot, and Ben Gvir took full advantage of the situation, lecturing the hapless FM and anyone else who cared to read: “Do you remember that Lapid shouted that I was igniting the Middle East?”
The most visible politician in Israel then explained the simple math of confronting bullies: “I set up a bureau in Shimon HaTzaddik, now there’s quiet. I ascended the Temple Mount and it went peacefully. He ‘toured’ the Damascus Gate – and there were riots all night. The issue is simple: he who shows determination and courage, the rioters respects. He who shows weakness – they ram into him.”
I said it before and I’ll say it again, once this government is toppled and a strong, right-wing coalition government is established, I want Ben Gvir to be Israel’s next Internal Security Minister. He’ll do a fantastic job and there will be quiet in the land.