In a show of solidarity with Hamas, Arab Israeli shop owners in eastern Jerusalem shuttered their stores in a one-day strike on Jan. 3 to protest Israel’s targeted killing of top terror chief Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut a day earlier.
“An absolute majority of shops—not only in the Old City but in all of eastern Jerusalem—went on strike,” Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King told JNS.
He was one of the top Hamas leaders on Israel’s target list following the terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre.
“Just as there is a very large support for Hamas in Gaza, there is also a very large support for Hamas in Jerusalem, and this was reflected in the strike that took place after al-Arouri was eliminated,” said King, chairman of the city’s United Party.
The problem has been allowed to fester, he said.
“The Israeli police need to deal with eastern Jerusalem the same way they deal with Judea and Samaria—to go house-to-house and clean them of weapons, to arrest anyone who incites to terror and anyone who supports Hamas. Terrorists should be stripped of National Insurance payments and all other benefits and then deported from the country,” King said.
There is an enforcement problem in the largely Arab eastern parts of Jerusalem, King said. “If you own a restaurant in the western part of the city and place tables and chairs outside your business [property], the municipality will come and enforce the law. You’ll get a fine. Do that in eastern Jerusalem and no one says a word.”
King added that there are known “drug stations” in eastern Jerusalem and nothing happens to them, and “the same for illegal building.”
Maor Tzemach, chairman of Your Jerusalem, an NGO that focuses on sovereignty issues in Israel’s capital, agreed that more enforcement is needed. He notes that this is the second recent Arab storeowners’ strike. They also closed about a month ago in support of Hamas.
“First of all, Israel needs to fight any manifestation of incitement, any manifestation of radical threats,” he said. “It simply needs to tighten control on the eastern neighborhoods of the city.”
But policing isn’t enough, he said, adding that “radical structural and systemic changes” are needed in the education and court system.
There has been a positive “change in direction” since Oct. 7, with Israel more focused on fighting against open incitement, Tzemach said.
However, he fears that the newfound determination will prove temporary as the situation returns to normal and that Israeli policy will revert to what it had been.
King said the konceptzia, the strategic thinking, that Israel applied to the Gaza Strip with such disastrous consequences—that economic development would lead to moderation—is alive and well in Jerusalem.
“It’s the same disease,” he said. “Whoever thinks if we give them work, and invest in roads and infrastructure in eastern Jerusalem, that it will make them calm, normal residents is mistaken.
“There must be a stick, a painful punishment. There must be constant enforcement against those who support terrorism,” the deputy mayor said.