Archive for the ‘Turkey in Israel’ category

Turkish takeover in Jerusalem

June 2, 2017

Turkish takeover in Jerusalem, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, June 2, 2017

(Please see also, Report: Turkey Eclipsing Jordan in Old City, Temple Mount. — DM)

In short, the disintegration of Palestinian secular nationalist organizations and institutions in east Jerusalem, alongside Israeli torpor, has facilitated the rise of Islamist factions and hostile foreign actors.

The enlarged foreign presence in the heart of Israel’s capital touches the deepest chords of the issue of Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city. Koren and Avrahami warn that this presence cannot be easily eliminated. While significant security action and determined diplomatic maneuver are clearly mandated, Israel will have to do more to “recapture” east Jerusalem. It will have to assume full responsibility for the services that east Jerusalem Arab residents need, with major budgetary repercussions.

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The fireworks and fanfare of the Jerusalem liberation jubilee have shoved under the radar a blockbuster expose about the unruly situation in east Jerusalem. Alarm bells should be ringing about the nefarious intensifying involvement of Erdogan’s Turkey and other radical Islamist groups in Jerusalem political and social affairs.

Dr. David Koren and Ben Avrahami are the advisors on east Jerusalem affairs for the Jerusalem Municipality. They lead the municipal team that oversees all of Jerusalem City Hall’s interactions with the Muslim and Christian populations of the city. They are intimately familiar with the thicket of contradictory interests, tensions, and disagreements that inform daily life in earthly Jerusalem.

The two experts have just published a rare, breathtaking and shocking description of political trends in east Jerusalem. Their article, “East Jerusalem Arabs Between Erdogan and Israel,” published in the new, important Hebrew intellectual journal Hashiloach (Vol. 4, May 2017), offers a brief account of the fruits of normalization and Arab east Jerusalemites’ increasing integration into the Israeli scene, But mainly it serves as a wake-up call regarding countervailing toxic trends.

According to Koren and Avrahami there has been very significant erosion in the status of the veteran east Jerusalem mukhtars and the influence of Fatah political infrastructures and Palestinian Authority leaders. Into the vacuum have stepped elements identified with Hamas, with the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and with the Muslim Brotherhood in its wider context.

Through a series of civic associations, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations, sometimes at the neighborhood level and sometimes more extensive, they are investing tens of millions of dollars per year in dawa (missionary) activities, mainly charitable enterprises and educational programs to attract the young to Islamic values.

There is a direct line, say the article authors, from civic dawa to radicalization and active enlistment in the armed struggle against Israel. This includes active social networking which glorifies terrorists, martyrs, and prisoners, and explicitly calls for violent resistance to Israel. These networks were also the source for the libel that Al-Aqsa mosque is endangered by the Jews/Zionists, and for dissemination of an incredible volume of disinformation related to Israeli actions on the Temple Mount.

The authors ask for particular attention to the mounting involvement of Erdogan’s Turkey, which is the worldwide Brotherhood’s main patron. Turkey now enjoys unprecedented popularity among the Arab residents of east Jerusalem, the authors write. The Turks’ public support of the Palestinian cause and adoption of the Al-Aqsa issue, and their decision to inject millions of dollars into east Jerusalem, have won them great sympathy and support.

The Turks fund a great part of the dawa activities in the city, with Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri as the lead Turkish agent. (He is a former grand mufti of Jerusalem appointed by the PA and today the most prominent representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city.) The Turkish consulate in Jerusalem, the Turkish government assistance agency, and a string of Turkish organizations that have local branches in Israel or the West Bank, are directly implicated in this subversive activity too. As a result, Turkish flags today fly everywhere in east Jerusalem and prominently on the Temple Mount as well.

The Turks also have injected significant sums to those who do their bidding on the Temple Mount, for various activities such as Quran-recitation groups, transportation of worshipers to and from the mosque, iftar feasts in Ramadan, renovation and cleaning campaigns, and the like. In general, the Islamist forces on the Temple Mount operate, intentionally or not, to Turkey’s benefit and the detriment of Jordan. They may believe that the replacement of the Jordanian presence by a Turkish presence would be a positive and welcome development.

The main loser here is Jordan, which long enjoyed the status of Guardian of the Holy Places and protector of the Arabs of Jerusalem. This also is the context of the PA’s intensive activity in the international arena, and especially at UNESCO, ostensibly intended to protect the Islamic holy places against an Israeli takeover. This tactic allows the PA to convey to its critics that it is the true defender of Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem against the threat of “Judaization,” while at the same time gnawing at Jordan’s historic role as guardian of the Mount and seeking to counteract the emerging Turkish dominance in Temple Mount affairs.

Attention should be devoted also to another mounting force in Jerusalem, the Islamic Liberation Party, or Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has several thousand supporters in the city. This Salafist group, like ISIS, seeks to proclaim a global Islamic caliphate from Al-Aqsa. It has acquired growing influence on college campuses throughout the West Bank, including al-Quds University near Jerusalem. Sheikh Issam Amira of the al-Rahman Mosque in Beit Safafa is the group’s most conspicuous preacher, and he enjoys freedom of activity and speech on the Temple Mount.

While the Liberation Party does not advocate violent jihad, some party members could “advance” from a Salafi mindset to a Salafi-jihadist outlook and join the ranks of ISIS. This may explain, say Koren and Avrahami, the presence of ISIS cells and ISIS operatives in Jerusalem, such as Fadi al-Qunbar, who carried out the terrorist truck-ramming attack in East Talpiot in early 2017, and the ISIS cell that was apprehended in the Shuafat refugee camp several months earlier.

In short, the disintegration of Palestinian secular nationalist organizations and institutions in east Jerusalem, alongside Israeli torpor, has facilitated the rise of Islamist factions and hostile foreign actors.

The enlarged foreign presence in the heart of Israel’s capital touches the deepest chords of the issue of Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city. Koren and Avrahami warn that this presence cannot be easily eliminated. While significant security action and determined diplomatic maneuver are clearly mandated, Israel will have to do more to “recapture” east Jerusalem. It will have to assume full responsibility for the services that east Jerusalem Arab residents need, with major budgetary repercussions.

In a future article, we will look at the remedies for this situation being implemented by Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem (and more still required) in order to increase east Jerusalem Arabs’ sense of belonging to a united Jerusalem. Also to be considered are the complicated proposals coming from the political Left for redistricting of the city into independent boroughs or divesting some Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority.

Report: Turkey Eclipsing Jordan in Old City, Temple Mount

May 30, 2017

Report: Turkey Eclipsing Jordan in Old City, Temple Mount, The Jewish Press, May 30, 2017

Turkish Flag over the Temple Mount

The Jerusalem municipality’s eastern Jerusalem experts have revealed in recent days that Turkey has been competing with Jordan over influence among Arab residents as well as over control of the Temple Mount, Hashiloach—an Israeli journal for thought and policy, created by the Tikvah Fund—reported last week.

The city’s experts, David Koren and Ben Avrahami, also revealed that Turkey has begun pouring millions of dollars into NGO in eastern Jerusalem, in order to strengthen Ankara’s status among the Arab residents, at the expense of Jordan and Israel. Which explains why more and more Turkish flags are hanging in windows in the eastern part of the city.

The Arab population of Jerusalem numbers approximately 320,000, with another 50,000 residents of Judea and Samaria who are staying in the city illegally or through family reunification. Jerusalem Arabs constitute about 37% of the city’s population and about 20% of the Arab population in Israel. In fact, Jerusalem is the city with the highest Arab population density between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (excluding Gaza). Ramallah has 280,000 residents, and Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, has only 75,000.

The vast majority of Jerusalem’s Arabs are Muslim – the Christian population is estimated at between 10 and 15 thousand.

“The growing involvement of the Erdogan regime, which is now the main patron of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide, shows that the Turkish actions in Jerusalem are part of a wider process of creating regional Turkish hegemony at the expense of other players,” wrote the Jerusalem mayor’s advisers on the eastern part of the city, noting that “the biggest loser from the increased Turkish presence is Jordan, which for many years had enjoyed the status of Custodian of the Holy Places and the protector of the residents of eastern Jerusalem. The greatest threat to the Hashemite Kingdom on the Temple Mount comes from Turkey.”

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Israel for “massacring the Palestinians,” calling on the Turks to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and dubbing Israel’s control of Jerusalem “an insult.” He also attacked President Donald Trump’s plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and declared that “all Muslims must defend Jerusalem.”

The experts added that in May 2015, Muslim worshipers expelled the chief Jordanian Kadi from the Temple Mount, while at the same time receiving with great honor the Turkish minister of religious affairs. “In recent years, the Turks have poured considerable sums of money into the Temple Mount for a number of activities: Koran reading groups, transporting worshipers to and from the mosque, Ramadan meals, renovations, and cleaning. As a rule, whether deliberately or not, Muslim groups on the Temple Mount are acting in favor of Turkey and to the detriment of Jordan.

“In their view, replacing the Jordanian presence with Turkish presence would be a positive and welcome step,” Koren and Avrahami wrote.

“Erdogan’s Turkey now enjoys unprecedented popularity among the residents of eastern Jerusalem,” wrote the two wrote. “Turkish flags are often seen hanging from rooftops in the eastern part of the city and even on the Temple Mount, and Turkish culture is being revived, which is reflected in Turkish language courses, Turkish music and Turkish cuisine.”

One hundred years after the last Turkish soldier was chased out of Jerusalem by the invading British Empire, “Turkey’s public support for the Palestinian cause and the Al-Aqsa conflict, and their channeling of millions of dollars into eastern Jerusalem, bear many fruits in the form of sympathy and support,” the experts concluded, adding that the Turks’ “involvement is made possible by their cooperation with Muslim Brotherhood elements in the city, who are often being used as their allies and collaborators.”