JERUSALEM – It doesn’t have a name, so what do you call it? And if you can’t name it, how do you deal with it?
There’s no question “it” is happening, the evidence overwhelming.
What started with stone throwing after the murder of 17-year-old Jerusalemite Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2 has been increasing exponentially, culminating in an attack Tuesday in a Jerusalem synagogue.
Two Palestinians attacked worshipers at Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood during morning services. Armed with a gun, knives and axes, they killed three and wounded at least eight worshipers.
Police killed both of the assailants.
On Nov 10, there were two attacks within six hours of each other. One took place at a train station in Tel Aviv, where a soldier was stabbed and died of his wounds that night.
The other attack occurred at a bus stop on Highway 60, a 15-minute drive due south from Jerusalem near the bedroom community of Alon Shvut. One woman was killed when the terrorist drove his car into waiting passengers, then jumped out and stabbed them. Near the bus stop is the hitchhiking station where three Israeli teens were kidnapped before being murdered in June.
The Tel Aviv terrorist was affiliated with Hamas, the Gush Etzion killer with Islamic Jihad.
In the two weeks prior, we’ve had two attacks in Jerusalem along the light rail tracks. The death toll included two Jews, an Ecuadorian woman on the path to converting, and a 38-year-old Border Police captain from the Druze Village of Beit Jaan.
As David Brinn wrote in The Jerusalem Post: “It used to be unsafe to board a bus; now it’s unsafe to stand at a bus stop or light rail station.”
In between those light-rail attacks, we had an assassination attempt on American-born Rabbi Yehuda Glick, an activist advocating for freedom of worship for Jews on the Temple Mount. He was shot four times at point-blank range. His condition at Shaare Zedek Hospital is improving.
And this list does not include Palestinians throwing rocks at passing cars or the light-rail train on a daily basis for four months; riots in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods; and clashes on the Temple Mount necessitating its closure twice in two weeks to all worshippers – something Israel has not had to do since the beginning of the second Intifada 14 years ago.
And now 11 dead in the last month.
So while there’s no denying Israel is under attack, the ongoing conversation is over what to call it, an attempt by Jerusalemites to wrap their arms around incidents that remind them of the second Intifada: What is its name?
The Palestinians first called it “the Abu Khdeir Intifada,” but that didn’t stick. Like the adding of “xxx gate” to any political disaster or scandal, the fallback moniker for Palestinian violence always leads to the “xxx intifada.”
What most Israelis are fearful to acknowledge is calling it the “third Intifada” – another Palestinian uprising. That phrase conjures up memories of suicide bombers, exploding buses and cafes blowing up every other week, if not every week, when more than 1,100 Israeli civilians were killed between 2000 and 2005.
Some disagree. Sima Kadmon, a senior political commentator at Yediot Achronot, wrote: “If it looks like an Intifada, acts like an Intifada and sounds like an Intifada, it’s an Intifada. But there are those who see the evidence before them, and hear the clamoring voices, and still refuse to call it by its name.”
She was pointing at police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino, who said at the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting last week that there was no Intifada in Jerusalem, that the public was just being intimidated.
The same denial has been repeated by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. But Aryeh Amit, former Jerusalem police chief, went the other way: What is happening in Jerusalem right now, he told Arutz 7, isn’t an Intifada but a war.
Some members of Knesset (MK) weighed in on the debate on Nov. 10.
MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, the American-born member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, declined to give it a name.
“I call it extremist leaders riling up the crowd,” the former Silver Spring resident said. “And we have to bring out the voices of the more moderate leadership and quiet things down. The moderate Arab leadership doesn’t want this.”
Do you see a third Intifada coming?
“No. First of all, the wording itself doesn’t matter to me so much. But I really believe that from everything we’ve seen, it’s little flare-ups.”
MK Ya’akov Litzman, of the Haredi United Torah Judaism party, doesn’t care. “I don’t know how they call it – Intifada, war, whatever it is. I know that people are getting killed, and the government has to do something.”
Litzman’s wrong. Yes, it’s not as important as the terrorist acts themselves. But the name becomes important because it’s part of the narrative, and that’s a major battle as well. Was it the Second Intifada, or the Oslo War?
Prof. Shimon Shetreet calls it “a wave of terror,” but that’s all. The 68-year-old Hebrew University law professor has lived in the capital since coming to Israel at age 3. He served as an MK from 1988 to 1996, holding three cabinet minister portfolios; and was a deputy mayor of Jerusalem and member of the City Council from 1998-2003.
Shetreet wouldn’t even use the term Intifada. “At the moment I don’t think it is justified to call it the name that is suggested by some. At the moment it’s a wave of terror, a wave of disorder, wave of protest.”
Asked what level it would it take to call it the third Intifada, he paused. “I think in terms of terminology, you need to have information that the Palestinian Authority is taking an active part in initiating these types of activities.”
For the last two weeks, the terrorism has taken on two brand-new, hip names: the “light rail Intifada,” and the “car driving Intifada.” And now the names come with cartoons visual aids, and a social media campaign to recruit others. Hamas and Fatah websites display caricatures, photos, and instructions on the best way to carry out such attacks.
There’s also a new song going viral, that urges Palestinians to use cars to commit terrorist attacks against Israelis. One video version of the song “Run over [the settler]!” has more than 385,000 views on the “Quds News Network” Facebook page, with lyrics like “Run [them] over, destroy, annihilate, blow them up,” and suggestions to “lay an ambush on the road and run them over.”
It’s not officially the third Intifada yet, maybe because it doesn’t involve suicide bombers. But it does have suicide drivers. And whether or not it is a third Intifada, it doesn’t look like it’s going away.