Jerusalem, Palestine — There is much debate in the Israeli press regarding Itamar Ben-Gvir and his visits to al-Aqsa. Will he go, when will he go, or should he not go? Ben-Gvir is proving himself to be a shrewd politician and knows how to manipulate the press. The press, for their part, is obsessed with him. He can be placed in the same category as other dangerous and charismatic politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, both of whom play with the press, and the press, on their part, like a child infatuated with a glittery toy, cannot get enough of him.
He was recently quoted saying, “I will go up to the Mount, and I will notify you when I do. Until then, I am happy to see every news broadcast open with speculations as to when I might go there.” He is correct in assuming that the press will continue with this obsession.
I was viewing a recent video of Ben-Gvir walking in the al-Aqsa compound. His entourage included dozens of people, more than half of whom were armed – some openly and others covertly – security people. This racist, cowardly thug gets to walk through the hallowed ground of al-Aqsa with an entourage of forty people, guarded against all directions and making claims that it is his to walk through.
היה שווה רק בשביל לא לשמוע יותר את השמאל שואל “למה בן גביר לא עולה להר הבית”🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/KGpzhDnLB9
— ינון מגל (@YinonMagal) January 3, 2023
Why does he need bodyguards?
Seeing the images of Ben-Gvir and his enormous retinue of armed guards reminded me of a story that I relate in my book, “The General’s Son.”
Many years ago, while in Jerusalem with my children, we came upon Benjamin Netanyahu. He was not the Prime Minister at the time. We were at a café, and he came to sit there with his daughter, Noa. In his interviews, he never mentions her; he only mentions the sons he has from his current wife, Sarah. But Noa is his first child from his first wife, Miki.
Since our families have a history and used to be friendly, we said hello and chatted for a while. After he and his daughter left, one of my boys, who was very young at the time, asked why he had bodyguards. My sister Nurit was with us, and she replied that he probably had done terrible things and was now afraid for his life. This certainly applies to Itamar Ben-Gvir, although what he is about to do in his current position is far worse than anything he has ever done.
Children with bodyguards
Anyone visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, particularly entering through Damascus Gate, will notice an interesting phenomenon: children with bodyguards. Palestinian children run around the streets and alleys of the Old City like it is their own backyard. Because it is. They get pulled over and kicked around by the Israeli soldiers who hold positions in key spots, especially on that side of the Old City. Still, they run freely, as anyone would in their own home.
Then there are the Jewish settler children. When they walk around the Old City, exiting or entering the homes that their parents stole from Palestinians. One in front and one behind. This is always true; even if only one child is walking, there are always two hired guns. You rarely see them running freely as children might in their own neighborhood.
And so the question that my young son asked after seeing Netanyahu also applies here: Why do they have bodyguards? The answer is that their parents have also committed horrible crimes and think those crimes might endanger their children.
As a matter of fact, if anything proves the absurd reality that exists in the Old City of Jerusalem, the sight of these children says it all. Palestinian children, who are the ones actually in need of protection from settler violence and military brutality, run around freely without a care in the world. The Jewish settler children, much like Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir, always feel that the environment is alien to them.
It so happens that this same reality exists when Israelis and international tourists with Israeli tour guides visit the old city, taking one of the countless tours on offer.
There are two main characteristics to these tours. The first is that they all come with armed guards. The guards are civilians, and one walks in front, one in the back of the group with their handguns tucked in their belts and bulging from their shirts.
The second characteristic of these excursions is that the tourists are told not to purchase from Palestinian merchants, only from Jewish shops in the so-called “Jewish Quarter.”
There are plenty of options to travel in and around Jerusalem; one is Grassroots Al-Quds, which offers terrific tours and great content regarding Jerusalem both in person and virtually. I have taken their tours many times, and one thing I never saw on one of these tours – was a gun bulging out of the tour guide’s shirt.
Recently, a video of a local Washington, D.C. activist went viral. Capitol Police arrested CODEPINK’s Maya Garner, kicking her out of a U.S. Senate hearing where Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was testifying. One of her messages to Blinken was, “Cut the $3.8 billion to Itamar Ben-Gvir’s army.” Since that video appeared on social media and at the time of writing these words, the “Ben-Gvir Army” is now a reality.
ANOTHER activist with CODEPINK, Maya Garner, tells @SecBlinken to stop funding the oppression of the Palestinian people and send Netanyahu to the ICC! #FreePalestine! pic.twitter.com/XhTWGWCYo4
— CODEPINK (@codepink) March 22, 2023
Not only does the racist thug Ben-Gvir walk around with an entourage of armed guards, but now he has an entire “National Guard” made of armed settler gangs. The purpose of this army is to enter the so-called “mixed cities” within 1948 Palestine, cities in which both Israeli and Palestinian citizens of Israel reside, and terrorize the Palestinian communities.
We have seen the acts of terrorism in which armed gangs parade through Palestinian towns and neighborhoods. We saw this in el-Lyd, Hebron, Huwara and in Jerusalem. And this was before they officially became a national force and were supplied with weapons and a budget by the state. So we can fully expect they will perform their racist, vile duties with great dedication. They will march into al-Aqsa headed by the cowardly thug, Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”