FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Power to the People: Why Palestinian Victory in Jerusalem is a Pivotal Moment

Neither Fatah nor Hamas have been of much relevance to the mass protests staged around Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. Neither have American pressure, half-hearted European ‘concern about the situation’ or cliché Arab declarations made one iota of difference. United Nations officials warned of the grim scenarios of escalation, but their statements were mere words.

The spontaneous mass movement in Jerusalem, which eventually defeated Israeli plans to change the status of Al-Aqsa was purely a people’s movement. Despite the hefty price of several dead and hundreds wounded, it challenged both the Israeli government and the quisling Palestinian leadership.

Israel shut down Al-Aqsa compound on July 14, following a shootout between three armed Palestinians and Israeli occupation officers. The compound was reopened a few days later, but Palestinian worshipers refused to enter, as massive security installation, gates, cameras and metal detectors were installed.

The people of Jerusalem immediately understood the implication of the Israeli action. In the name of added security measures, the Israeli government was exploiting the situation to change the status of Al-Aqsa, as part of its efforts to further isolate Palestinians and Judaize the illegally occupied city.

The Israeli army occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem in 1967, annexing it in 1981 in defiance of international law and despite strong UN objection.

For 50 years, Jerusalem has endured daily battles. The Israelis fought to expand their influence in the city, increase the number of illegal Jewish settlers and cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian Territories; while Palestinians, Muslim and Christians alike, fought back.

Al-Aqsa compound – also known as Haram Al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary – is the most symbolic element in the fight. It is a microcosm of the fate of the occupied city, in fact the fate of the entire Palestinian land.

The compound has been administered by Islamic Waqf, through an Israeli-Jordanian understanding. Many Israeli politicians in the Likud Party and the Netanyahu-led rightwing government coalition have tried to change this.

Palestinians understand that the fate of their mosque and the future of their city are tightly linked. For them, if Al-Aqsa is lost, then Jerusalem is truly conquered.

This fight, between Palestinian worshipers and the Israeli army happens every single day, usually escalating on Friday. It is on this holy day for Muslims that tens of thousands of faithful flock to Al-Aqsa to pray, oftentimes to be met by new military gates and army regulations. Young Palestinians, in particular, have been blocked from reaching Al-Aqsa, also in the name of security.

But the struggle for Jerusalem can rarely be expressed in numbers, death toll and televised reports. It is the ordinary Palestinians’ constant fight for space, for identity and to preserve the sanctity of their holy land.

In the last two years, the fight escalated further as Israel began expanding its illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and rightwing parties issued a series of laws targeting Palestinians in the city. One such law is the call for prayer law, aimed at preventing mosques from making the call for prayers at dawn, as has been the practice for a millennium.

Palestinian youth, many born after the failed Oslo Accords, are fed up as the Israeli military controls every aspect of their lives and their corrupt leadership grows more irrelevant and self-serving.

This frustration has been expressed in numerous ways: in non-violent resistance, new political ideas, in art, music, on social media, but also through individual acts of violent resistance.

Since the most recent Al-Quds Intifada – Jerusalem uprising – started in October 2015, “some 285 Palestinians have died in alleged attacks, protests and (Israeli) army raids,” reported Farah Najjar and Zena Tahhan. About 47 Israelis were killed in that same period.

But the Intifada was somehow contained and managed. Certainly, human rights groups protested many of the army killings of Palestinians as unnecessary or unprovoked, but little has changed on the ground. The Palestinian Authority has continued to operate almost entirely independent from the violent reality faced by its people on a daily basis.

The shootout of July 14 could have registered as yet another violent episode of many that have been reported in Jerusalem in recent months. Following such events, the Israeli official discourse ignores the military occupation entirely and focuses instead on Israel’s security problem caused by ‘Palestinian terror’. Politicians then, swoop in with new laws, proposals and radical ideas to exploit a tragic situation and remold the status quo.

Considering the numerous odds faced by Palestinians, every rational political analysis would have rightly concluded that Palestinians were losing this battle as well. With the United States fully backing Israeli measures and the international community growing distant and disinterested, the people of Jerusalem could not stand a chance.

But such understanding of conflict, however logical, often proves terribly wrong, since it casually overlooks the people.

In this latest confrontation, Palestinians of Jerusalem won, presenting an impressive model of mobilization and popular solidarity for all Palestinians. The Israeli army removed the barricades and the metal detectors, pushing Israel to the brink of a political crisis involving angry politicians, the army and internal intelligence, the Shin Bet.

The people’s victory was a massive embarrassment for Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. He tried to ‘piggyback off the protests’ but failed, reported the Atlantic.

Other factions, too, moved quickly to mobilize on the people’s victory, but their efforts have appeared staged and insincere.

“Today is a joyful day, full of celebration and sorrow at the same time – sorrow for the people who lost their lives and were injured,” a protester told Journalists, as thousands stormed the gates of Jerusalem armed with their prayer rugs, flags and voices hoarse from chanting for nearly two weeks.

“This is very much a grassroots movement – this isn’t led by Hamas or Fatah, the traditional political leaders of the Palestinians,” journalist Imran Khan reported from outside the compound.

This grassroot movement was made of thousands of women, men and children. They included Zeina Amro, who cooked daily for those who held steadfast outside the compound, was shot by a rubber bullet in the head, yet returned to urge the men to stand their ground the following day.

It also includes the child Yousef Sakafi, whose chores included splashing water over people as they sat endless hours under the unforgiving sun, refusing to move.

It also includes many Palestinian Christians who came to pray with their Muslim brethren.

Conveying the scene from Jerusalem, television news footage and newspaper photos showed massive crowds of people, standing, sitting, praying or running in disarray among bullets, sound bombs and gas canisters.

But the crowds are made up of individuals, the likes of Zeina, Yousef and many more, all driven by their insistence to face injustice with their bare chests in an inspiring display of human tenacity.

Of course, more violence will follow, as the Israeli occupation is enriched and relentless, but ordinary Palestinians will not quit the fight. They have held resolute for nearly 70 years.

Rational political analysis cannot possibly fathom how a nation undergoing numerous odds can still mobilize against an army, and win.

But the power of the people often exceeds what is seemingly rational. Almost leaderless, Palestinians remain a strong nation, united by an identity that is predicated on the pillars of human rights, resistance and steadfastness.

More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

November 20, 2018
John Davis
Geographies of Violence in Southern California
Anthony Pahnke
Abolishing ICE Means Defunding it
Maximilian Werner
Why (Mostly) Men Trophy Hunt: a Biocultural Explanation
Masturah Alatas
Undercutting Female Circumcision
Jack Rasmus
Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond
Geoff Dutton
Why High Technology’s Double-Edged Sword is So Hard to Swallow
Binoy Kampmark
Charges Under Seal: US Prosecutors Get Busy With Julian Assange
Rev. William Alberts
America Fiddles While California Burns
Forrest Hylton, Aaron Tauss and Juan Felipe Duque Agudelo
Remaking the Common Good: the Crisis of Public Higher Education in Colombia
Patrick Cockburn
What Can We Learn From a Headmaster Who Refused to Allow His Students to Celebrate Armistice Day?
Clark T. Scott
Our Most Stalwart Company
Tom H. Hastings
Look to the Right for Corruption
Edward Hunt
With Nearly 400,000 Dead in South Sudan, Will the US Finally Change Its Policy?
Thomas Knapp
Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago
November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail