This week on FP Raymond Ibrahim published a short but powerful report on a Tunisian church coming under threats and abuse from Islamists. “Church members,” Ibrahim notes,
are described [in Al Quds] as “living in a state of terror…. Salafis covered the cross of the church with garbage bags, telling the church members that they do not wish to see the vision of the Cross anywhere in the Islamic state of Tunisia.”
Ibrahim also points out that Tunisia has long been considered one of the most “secular” and “liberal” Arab countries—while now “its very few churches are not tolerated, and their crucifixes abhorred…. More evidence of the true nature of the ‘Arab Spring.’”
But it is not only minority groups in the region, like Christians in Tunisia and elsewhere, who suffer from this sort of abuse, and by no means only Salafi elements who perpetrate it. Jews are a majority in Israel, and they grant full citizenship to non-Jews in the country including those in East Jerusalem (who mostly decline it). But it doesn’t necessarily help.
A recent Jerusalem Post editorial lamented a difficult situation on the Mount of Olives—the mountain ridge in East Jerusalem that has served as a Jewish cemetery for over three thousand years. In an incident late last month,
a young bridegroom wished to say a short prayer at his mother’s grave on [the] Mount of Olives…. He was driven up by his friend Dror Klein.
As they neared their destination, a bucket of white paint crashed into the front windshield, obscuring Dror’s view. A hail of stones followed.
In minutes some 30 to 40 young Arabs surrounded the vehicle, rocking it menacingly and hurling large rocks, cement blocks and broken pavement fragments at the two.
The bridegroom was dragged out of the car, a boulder was smashed on his head and he was beaten up to the sounds of Alahu Akhbar (God is great). Dror somehow managed to maneuver his Hyundai directly at the attackers. As they momentarily scurried, the bridegroom and his resourceful driver got away by the skin of their teeth.
The two—who felt that they were threatened with death and started reciting a Jewish prayer for that situation—got out with what the police defined as “light injuries.”
But as the editorial notes, the incident was by no means unusual:
An Arab boys’ school is positioned directly alongside the road leading to the…cemetery. The majority of incidents originate there. The attackers are generally teenagers and they often prepare ambushes well in advance. The fact that they had paint at the ready, along with arsenals of heavy rocks, betokens unquestionable premeditation.
And violent attacks on the road to the cemetery aren’t the only problem:
Predations occur daily. Headstones are hammered and graves daubed with paint and tar, smeared with human feces, covered in garbage and debris and defaced with hate inscriptions. Even the numerous graves of some of the most famous Jews throughout the generations aren’t spared this deliberate despoilment.
The editorial concludes by asking angrily why, given this state of affairs, a police station promised by the Israeli authorities is still to be set up on the Mount. The Post, of course, is right—though it is not easy to accept that, even in the heart of the Jewish state, a Jewish cemetery should need round-the-clock police protection.
The Mount, like other sacred Jewish sites in and near the Old City of Jerusalem, suffered even worse depredations from 1948 to 1967 when Jerusalem was a divided city and Jordan ruled the non-Israeli part of it. Gravestones on the Mount were ripped out and used to build roads and army barracks, and as walls and floors of latrines; parts of the cemetery were made into parking lots and a gas station.
In addition to such physical attacks and desecrations, Israeli Jews are subjected to what could be called a metaphysical assault—an ongoing campaign to deny their connection to Jerusalem and the rest of Israel and to appropriate their traditions.
In a recent case that made it from Palestinian Media Watch to primetime Israeli TV, a Palestinian academic perorated—a few days before Passover—that Moses was a Muslim, and so were the children of Israel who followed him out of Egypt to the Promised Land.
And shortly before that, a Hamas member of parliament put some of the physical and metaphysical aspects together, bellowing to a women’s procession in Gaza that
the Hamas woman in Gaza, the Palestinian woman, says that our blood is a sacrifice for Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem], and that we will give Al-Aqsa Mosque the blood, and pave the road with body parts, until we liberate it…God willing….
Yes, it’s a difficult region. Anyone who looks at it seriously and candidly will not be promiscuous with the words democracy and peace.
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