Commentary. The expansion of the Palestinian protest to the heart of the Holy City and to other cities is waking up Arab governments from their slumber. What is of greatest interest, however, is not only the reaction from Jordan, Iran or Tunisia, but the one coming from the US.

Jerusalem is the heart of the international crisis

Yes, we are the ones making history. Like this new Intifada. Had we forgotten about the Palestinians? Here they are, with their arms in the air in front of the police. Our correspondent Michele Giorgio reports 20 dead, including 9 children, in the Israeli raids that followed the launching of rockets towards Jerusalem. We are not afraid to die, they are saying, because we have died and risen a thousand times. The message is a harsh one, tragic given the disparity of forces, but unequivocal: we will not surrender. It comes from times long ago, whether anyone likes it or not: we will not raise our arms in supplication to this unjust and unfair world. We are masses and individuals who refuse to give up.

The clashes in the “holy mile” of Jerusalem, where the first and second Intifada started in the ‘80s and ‘00s, have launched a third revolt triggered by the evictions in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

There were coincidences and also some fundamental elements that pushed in this direction. The former include the fact that the protests began while Israelis were celebrating the annexation of Jerusalem in 1967 and Arabs were preparing for the end of Ramadan. But the political picture is also agitated, on both sides. In Israel, Lapid’s attempt to form a new government is underway, which would mean the end of the current premier Netanyahu, an event that is terrifying the Israeli right and also the settler movement, more ferocious than ever. In the Arab camp, there was the decision of PNA President Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Jerusalem, thus riling the Palestinians up, angry with a leadership accused of being more and more subservient to Israel.

Faced with the explosion of clashes on the Temple Mount, near the Wailing Wall and not far from the Holy Sepulchre—places sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians—the Israeli authorities have chosen to postpone any decision on evictions. On Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court was supposed to give its verdict on the attempted eviction of 13 Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, but the decision was postponed due to the violence of the last days.

This is not the only cause of the tensions, but it is the detonator. There are many issues that fuel the conflict. In the middle of Ramadan, there is first of all the issue of access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, sacred places in Islam, where there were violent incidents on May 7. Then, there is the constant pressure by the Israeli authorities to separate the problem of Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian issue.

Extreme right-wing political forces linked to Netanyahu are active in Israel and are determined to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem. Last month, we witnessed a series of manhunts by Israeli religious extremists under the cry of “death to Arabs,” conducted with total impunity.

These incidents highlight the fact that the status quo is fragile, while those who believe that the “loss of centrality” of the Palestinian issue in relations between Israel and the Arab world is inevitable are mistaken. And they are perhaps even more mistaken if they think that the problem will disappear by itself. In addition, there is now the Biden factor. The new president has not questioned Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018 and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv, but the Democratic administration has some different ideas about the Middle East than the previous Republican one. It took a while for international chancelleries to even notice that something was happening in Jerusalem. A reality that appears frozen in place to the external onlooker is instead in a process of involution and evolution.

But there’s more: Jerusalem is in fact the very heart of the international conflict, not only in the Middle East. What seemed to be a land confiscation like any other—the Palestinian houses of Sheikh Jarrah in favor of the settlers’ movement—has now become a very worrying factor. The expansion of the Palestinian protest to the heart of the Holy City and to other cities is waking up Arab governments from their slumber. What is of greatest interest, however, is not only the reaction from Jordan, Iran or Tunisia, but the one coming from the US. While Italy and the EU have either remained silent or are repeating the mendacious mantra of “rejecting violence on both sides,” forgetting that there is a military occupation in place, by Israel over the Palestinian Territories.

So far, Biden has not taken a well-defined position and has not questioned any of the incendiary decisions of his predecessor Trump (from Jerusalem as the Israeli capital to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights), but has begun to worry Prime Minister Netanyahu by starting the dialogue with Iran for the return of the US to the nuclear agreement.

However, on the clashes in Jerusalem, the State Department has made itself heard and—as Chiara Cruciati pointed out in il manifesto—has used words that the American administration does not usually use. There was no official statement, but the spokesperson of Secretary of State Blinken said that the US was “deeply concerned” about the Israeli actions and about “the potential eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, many of whom have lived in their homes for generations.”

Furthermore, a letter signed by members of the House of Representatives addressed to Blinken calls for exerting diplomatic pressure to prevent the evictions and reiterates what international law and UN resolutions already set out: “East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank, and, under international law, Israel is in military occupation of this territory, notwithstanding its illegal incorporation of East Jerusalem within the Jerusalem municipality and its subsequent illegal de jure annexation of East Jerusalem.”

This is explicit and direct language the likes of which has never been seen before from American members of Congress. What about us, the Italians?

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