After violence took hold of Jerusalem at the beginning of October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that the fault lay with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Islamic movement of northern Israel. He accused them of inciting attacks against Israelis, and spurring demonstrations across the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza that have led to the killings of Palestinian protesters.
Many of his own citizens do not believe him. The 20-percent Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel believe that it is the Israeli government, and not the Palestinian leadership, that is responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, according to a survey published by the Haifa-based think tank Mada al-Carmel.
“The results of the survey indicate that the Arab public in Israel holds the Israel government responsible for the recent events,” said Dr. Ameed Saabneh, director of the Mada Survey Research unit. “The results also clearly indicate a sense of fear among the Arab population about violence by Israeli security services or the Jewish public, leading to an increased separation between the two communities.”
In a study conducted two weeks ago from a sample of 307 adults who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, 78 percent found the “Israeli government responsible for the recent outbreak of violence.” Within that group, 26 percent said Israel is attempting to divide access to al-Aqsa mosque compound between Muslim worshipers and Jewish-Israelis, a change of the status quo in the compound.
Five years ago the number of Jewish visitors to the Noble Sanctuary hovered around 200 to 300 annually. They walked through the holy sites complex that houses the Dome of the Rock, the al-Aqsa mosque and that is the location of two destroyed ancient Jewish synagogues. But with increased organization from Jewish groups that coordinate tours of the faithful, the number of Jewish visitors has catapulted to more than 10,000 per year.
Muslims still represent the majority of pilgrims, with around three million worshipers per year.
The holy plaza is considered one of the most sacred sites in Islam, but is also increasingly revered by Jews who hope to change Israel’s status quo agreement with the Jordanian caretakers to allow Jewish prayer, which is now forbidden. The presence of Jewish worshipers at the holy basin has been a factor in Palestinian protests in Jerusalem and across Israel. During the past month Israeli police arrested more than 200 Palestinian citizens of Israel during protests, according to Majd Kayyal from the legal rights group Adalah.
Fearing reprisal attacks
A majority of those polled said they felt unsafe following an announcement by Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat that Israelis should arm themselves and participate in stopping attacks against Israelis. In three separate instances this month, Israeli civilians shot or killed three people –an Eritrean national, an Israeli Jew, and a Palestinian citizen of Israel–and Israeli police later said the individuals were not attackers and had been targeted by “mistake.”
The Palestinian government has also criticized Israel for using live-fire in nearly 30 alleged attempted stabbings by Palestinians during the last month. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated the Israeli police carried out “extrajudicial killings” of the Palestinian attackers. Palestinians have circulated the same assertion over social media with a series of videos of some of the killings of Palestinian attackers, in which it appears that the individuals no longer posed a threat at the time of their shootings.
As a result of the quickness-to-fire, survey responses show that 66 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel feel “a high degree of insecurity,” fearing an Israeli could mistake them for an attempted attacker and shoot and kill them.
In order to ensure their personal safety, 70 percent of Israeli Palestinians said they have limited the amount of time they spend inside of Jewish Israeli cities and towns. Forty three-percent said they feared a revenge attack by a Jewish extremist inside of an Arab town in Israel.
In the first week of October the Palestinian government reported a record number of 117 settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, reflecting a sharp increase of violence carried out by Jewish extremists against Palestinians concurrent to the wave of attacks in Jerusalem.