Jerusalem Leader Addresses Recent Violence

Jerusalem Leader Addresses Recent Violence

Atlanta Israel Coalition and Americans United with Israel organized the virtual discussion featuring the deputy Jerusalem mayor.

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum credited Mayor Moshe Lion with quelling the violence that exploded in the city for a few days in April. Speaking to a Zoom audience in a virtual discussion April 28 co-sponsored by the Atlanta Israel Coalition and Americans United with Israel, the London-born politician said Lion met with faith and civil society leaders in East Jerusalem to reduce the tension in the city.

Riots broke out in the city after police placed barricades around Damascus Gate in the Old City during Ramadan, where Palestinians usually gather after prayers as they break their fast. At the same time, a far-right Israeli group called Lehava staged a demonstration with hundreds of young Israelis chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Arabs get out,” not far away.

Hassan-Nahoum called Lehava an “extreme fringe” group run by a “horrible man,” who, she said, “takes vulnerable youth and manipulates them and creates a vigilante force.” Israeli media say Lehava is led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads the Religious Zionism Party, an electoral alliance that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promoted and pushed into the Knesset in the recent election.

In her opinion, Israeli police made a mistake in placing the barriers near Damascus Gate in the first place, but “I don’t think that’s the only problem.” She blamed Hamas – the ruling government in Gaza – with provoking the situation.

Executive Director of AUWI & AIC Cheryl Dorchinsky, and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem discuss current events in Israel on April 28.

She also pointed out that when there are changes, people react, and the Abraham Accords “completely changed the region.” She was referring to the normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan last year. As part of her responsibilities as deputy mayor, Hassan-Nahoum is in charge of foreign relations, international economic development and tourism. She is the co-founder and founding member of the UAE-Israel Business Council.

Calling the Abraham Accords the “greatest accomplishments,” she noted that both business and educational exchanges are also “happening between our countries.”

Notably, in a rare rebuke of Israel by the UAE, the Gulf nation called on Israel to put an end to the violence during the battles between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Hassan-Nahoum, the mother of four, immigrated to Israel in 2001. She spent her childhood in Gibraltar, where her father served as both chief minister and mayor. Both her parents are of Jewish Moroccan background. After studying in London, she practiced law and became campaign director of World Jewish Relief, a British Jewish charitable group that works with both Jewish and non-Jewish communities.

The only British-born citizen currently holding a senior political role in Israeli politics, Hassan-Nahoum said that she preferred to focus on international issues rather than “more political issues like building and planning.” In answer to questions posed by participants or Cheryl Dorchinsky, executive director of the Atlanta Israel Coalition and American United with Israel, Hassan-Nahoum asserted that there’s a “good chance of fifth elections,” following the March elections, which have not produced a clear majority coalition.

“The political situation,” she said, “is destabilizing. The country is really divided.”

During the virtual conference, which was to be shown live on Facebook and YouTube as well, Hassan-Nahoum recommended that participants read a variety of news media, including The Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel, the English editions of Yediot Aharonot and Haaretz as well as Israel Hayom. She was more scathing about social media, including TikTok. “Social media has become an echo chamber,” with people only listening to what they already believe.

She also emphasized that Israel needs the support of Americans and Diaspora Jews. “Stand up and call yourselves Zionists,” she declared.

But for those who want to visit the country, she recommends waiting a month because there are still existing restrictions because of the coronavirus.

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