J Street Calls for Immediate, Strong American Engagement in Response to Escalation in Jerusalem and Beyond

May 10, 2021

J Street is deeply concerned by the escalating situation in Jerusalem and beyond.

The violence of recent days has deep roots in the ongoing, incendiary efforts of Israeli settler groups to evict hundreds of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem homes that they have lived in for decades and more broadly to stake exclusive control over Jerusalem for Israel. Sadly, the current crisis has been inflamed by the use of aggressive, violent tactics by the Israeli police against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. At Al-Aqsa, some Palestinians responded by throwing stones they had apparently stockpiled.

J Street urges the Biden administration to make clear publicly that Israeli efforts to evict and displace Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are completely unacceptable to the United States, as is the continued use of intimidation and violent, excessive force against Palestinian protesters and worshipers – especially during Ramadan. We’ve been encouraged to see many similar calls from Members of Congress.

Without sufficient efforts to de-escalate, the explosive situation in Jerusalem is igniting further violence not just in the city but beyond. Now, as we see, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza have begun to target Israeli cities with rocket fire, and the Israeli military promises a severe, days-long response.

We unequivocally condemn indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and support Israel’s need to defend its citizens. We’ve also seen over the years that terrorizing Israeli civilians with rockets leads directly to an Israeli military response that can be devastating for the civilians of Gaza. Multiple Palestinian casualties have already been reported. This horrific cycle can and must be stopped now before it spirals further.

J Street appreciates the efforts the Biden Administration has made to reduce tensions thus far — including making clear to the Israeli government the need to prevent aggressive Jerusalem Day demonstrations, reaffirming adherence to the Temple Mount “status quo” as US policy and conveying “serious concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.”

Once again, this crisis has underscored that the overall situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory is neither acceptable nor sustainable. As long as unjust occupation and de facto annexation continue in contempt of international law, extremists will feel empowered, and the potential for violence will remain constant.

The ongoing conflict and occupation cannot be ignored. Simply working to reduce tensions when violence boils over is not enough. This conflict demands bold, proactive and continuous diplomatic engagement from the Biden administration and the international community.