Nearly 400 injured, among them 37 children, some of whom are in grave conditions, many Palestinian political prisoners and the desecration of one of the three most important sites in Islam: the Al-Aqsa mosque (in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan) have marked the last few days of life in Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic). But there has also been a wave of Palestinian resistance that is coming from all corners of a society that was fractured more than 73 years ago; the heavy hand of Zionism is upon them, but they do not bend.
by Soraya Misleh
In Gaza alone, nearly 20 people have died, including 9 children in a single day, following collective punishment meted out by the occupying forces. Vaccines against COVID-19 are nowhere to be seen, but there is no lack of bombs. In the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, according to Our World in Data, slightly over 43,800 of the five million Palestinians living under occupation have received vaccines––a mere 0.9% of the population. Apartheid for them has become a medical apartheid as well.
This time, the spark was Israel’s attempt to continue the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem. 550 of its 2,800 residents are at this moment being threatened with expulsion from their homes. Last week, Israel besieged the neighborhood and isolated it to prevent other Palestinians from coming to its aid. Among those arrested were eight children, in the middle of a brutal offensive to choke out Palestinian resistance and force them to leave their homes.
At the iftar, the fast-breaking meal at the end of each day of Ramadan, at the Al-Aqsa mosque on May 7th, the last Friday of Ramadan, Palestinians decided to stay in the mosque in support of the residents of Sheikh Jarrah. Jerusalem has been transformed since then by the Zionist forces into a war zone, with displays of brutal violence that the world has witnessed since then. On May 10th, explosions and fire were visible around the Al-Aqsa compound.
Tear gas has been used by Israel, even inside the Al-Aqsa mosque itself, hitting worshipers alongside barrages of sewer water shot from cannons. The soldiers of the occupation are armed with steel bullets covered in rubber, grenades and batons, and indiscriminately assault children, women, men and the elderly in the vicinity of Jerusalem’s mosques. Zionist settlers have mustered up all of their racism, marching through the gates towards Al-Aqsa. They made it as far as the Al-Qibli compound, where they were met with a barrage of stones. On May 10th, a settler drove his car into Palestinian teenagers in Jerusalem, running them over. “Death to Arabs!” is their preferred slogan, which is echoed in the graffiti that they spray throughout the walls of the cities and villages of occupied Palestine.
To some, the brutal violence inspires disbelief. But this is standard practice for the colonial, racist Zionist state since the beginning of the Nakba–the catastrophe which resulted in the creation of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948 in 78% of the territory of historical Palestine. It was carried out by means of a premeditated campaign of ethnic cleansing, with two-thirds of the local population (800,000 Palestinians) violently expelled and nearly 500 villages destroyed. In 1967, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of Palestinian land: Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. More ethnic cleansing. More colonization. Thus the Nakba continues.
One people alone
A fragmented society is uniting in resistance at this moment in order to prevent another chapter of ethnic cleansing from being written with Palestinian blood.
In Jerusalem, rocks are wielded against the fourth most powerful military in the world; destroyed sites are rebuilt; Al-Aqsa is protected and cleaned following the attacks; Jerusalem’s name is written out in Arabic letters using scraps from bombs and bullets shot by the Zionists; the defiant smiles on the faces of teenagers, men and women as they are arrested by Israel. The Palestinians bring to mind a saying by Brazilian actor Paulo Gustavo, a tragic victim of Bolsonaro’s genocidal COVID-19 policies: “Laughter is an act of resistance”.
Protests are continuing, a preamble to the Intifada (popular uprising) that is ready to bloom. Palestinians take over disconnected streets that never meet because they are blocked by Zionism. On May 9th, a symbolic scene was witnessed: cars and buses leaving from West Jerusalem, occupied in 1948, to the east, today the site of ethnic cleansing and Zionist cruelty. Blocked by Israel 15 km short of reaching the eastern side of the city (occupied since 1967), they decided to cross on foot. Palestinians from the eastern side came to meet them. Their heroic resistance symbolically mended a 73-year-old division.
From Gaza, which has endured an inhumane siege for nearly 14 years: “Hands off Jerusalem!” A new hail of Zionist bombs have fallen on their heads since then, and more Palestinian blood has been spilled. The words of the poet of the resistance, Tawfiq Ziyad, echo: “But we will not go. We are not stingy with our blood.”
From cities like Jaffa, part of the territories occupied in 1948, known to the world as “Israel”, where 1.5 million people live under racist laws, the cries from the streets take over social media: “Save Sheikh Jarrah!”
The resistance has united Palestinians and Arabs in neighboring countries as well. In Jordan, a protest was organized for May 9th near the Israeli embassy calling for its closure and the breaking of relations with the zionist state. Jordan, home to a Palestinian-majority population, signed a peace accord with Israel in 1994, normalizing relations between them. According to a report published on Alarabiya, nearly 1,500 protestors carried signs saying “No embassy, no ambassador”, “That which was taken by force can only be returned by force”, and “We can’t breathe since 1948”
Downhill from here
Israel finds itself more and more isolated; its internal crisis is deepening. Diminished, without even having been able to form a government, facing protests and breaks with Zionism the world over, it has shown its fangs in such a way that even its staunchest allies, in the Middle East and Europe, have felt obligated to condemn once more their crimes against humanity. There are signs that this is a deeper rupture this time around.
International organizations such as Human Rights Watch have finally begun to denounce Israel as an apartheid regime, following the Israeli NGO B’Tselem and Amnesty International in their classification, which criticized the racism of Zionism in its COVID-19 vaccine deployment plans that neglected the Palestinian population.
Facing a giant demonstration in solidarity with Palestine in London, the British daily The Guardian published a symbolic editorial on May 7th, offering a mea culpa for having supported the Balfour Declaration, which in 1917 established British support for a Jewish state in Palestine, calling it their “greatest error of judgement in 200 years”.
In the article, they explain: “In 1917, The Guardian supported, celebrated, and arguably helped to promote the acceptance of Balfour”. The British paper clarified that its editor in chief, C. P. Scott, was a Zionist and on that occasion “wrote an article which expressed the racism typical among the writers and politicians of the west of that era, in support of the Zionist project and to the frank detriment of the rights of the Palestinian people.” Among its orientalist arguments, it called Palestinians “uncivilized”, and neglected to mention that the non-Jewish population of Palestine was an overwhelming majority, nearly 94%.
The Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah will claim a victory if resistance does not fade. The zionist prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, refuses to relax his iron fist of colonization. And he won’t do it without first having spilled more Palestinian blood. Nevertheless, we should not discount the possibility that Israel, as on other occasions, may be forced to retreat from ethnic cleansing following international pressure and denunciations, victories which should be celebrated. But it is not enough to stop there. It will raise people’s spirits and give them hope to defeat the Zionist colonial project. “That which was taken by force can only be returned by force,” say the Palestinians.
The enemies of the Palestinian struggle––imperialism, Zionism, the Arab regimes and Arab/Palestinian bourgeoisie––are powerful, and hope that by forcing a Zionist retreat they will be able to interrupt the Intifada that is brewing. They know that any changes to the situation on the ground also threaten the status quo that they benefit from.
But the heroic and historic resistance, with its stones flung against tanks, are a testament to the fact that it is impossible to defeat someone with nothing to lose except their chains.
“Save Sheikh Jarrah” is the message that has unified the entirety of the Palestinian people and which can launch an Intifada. Still, it is important to demonstrate to the Palestinians that they are not alone in this struggle.
It is important for the oppressed and exploited to understand that this struggle is also a struggle for their freedom, that the weapons tested against Palestinian guinea pigs are then passed to the hands of the police that kill them each and every day. Whether in Colombia or in the genocide of the poor and Black people of Brazil, such as in Jacarezinho, Rio de Janeiro. Thus, answering the calls for international solidarity and joining the resistance of the Palestinian people is a key step in fighting imperialism, and with it capitalism, where racism is the rule. It is a step in the direction of a free Palestine, from the river to the sea, with the return of the millions of refugees to their lands. For a world without oppression or exploitation.
First published in Portuguese at https://www.pstu.org.br/a-partir-de-jerusalem-passos-para-uma-nova-intifada-palestina/ on 5/11/2021, translated to English by Carlos Jara