What first began as a daily protest in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem against Israeli imminent ethnic cleansing of six Palestinian families there and Ramadan protests at Damascus Gate and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem spontaneously spread to the rest of Historic Palestine and has grown to become a massive uprising.
This is not a popular revolt only against the ethnic cleansing of six families in Sheikh Jarrah or the restrictions of Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. Rather, it is an uprising, or as Palestinians call it an Intifada, against decades of Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism.
Our ongoing Nakba has to end
What has been happening in Jerusalem since weeks is part of the ongoing and recurring Nakba [Catastrophe] of the Palestinian people. The Nakba is ongoing as it is a continuation of past Israeli actions and present implementation of settler colonial plans towards forging another future. Israel pushes forward the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the total obliteration of Palestinian existence and ghettoization of our people in ever-smaller enclaves punctuated by Israeli settlements, the apartheid Wall, military checkpoints and bypass roads.
Today, Palestinians of all generations, particularly youth, come together in astounding unity as one force demanding the liberation of Palestine.
In the occupied West Bank, the current uprising represents a rejection of layers of oppression. When youth go to the streets every day, they call for an end to the paradigm and policies defined by the Palestinian Authority (PA). They embody the rejection of the political framework of the Oslo Accords, which is nothing less than an obstacle on their path of struggle against Israeli three-tiered system of oppression: Settler colonialism, apartheid and military occupation. The PA, which was formed as part of the Oslo Accords signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, is seen by Palestinians as a quisling authority that maintains security coordination with Israel, helping the apartheid regime that oppresses them to suppress any youth movement.
The Israeli apparatuses of violence have always focused their repression of the Palestinian liberation movement on the youth. They understand well the essential role of youth in any uprising.
Thousands of Palestinian youth and children are imprisoned and tortured every year. Many youths are murdered during protests at Israeli checkpoints.
However, decades of Israeli oppression have created a generation of youth full of energy to rise up and call for their rights no matter what the consequences are.
Ramallah, the stronghold of the PA is one among hundreds of other areas across the West Bank, in which youth have risen up at Israeli military checkpoints. Every day, hundreds of young protesters gather at Beit Eil checkpoint and repeat scenes of the first Palestinian Intifada: tire-burning as a means to make it hard for Israeli soldiers to shoot protestors, chanting national slogans and throwing small stones at heavily armed Israeli soldiers that hardly reach them while standing on the top of a hill.
26-year-old Zaher (a pseudonym) narrates why he is motivated to protest every day at Beit Eil checkpoint saying:
“I come here every day because I want to defend our just cause. I also protest to support my people being massacred by the Israeli occupation in Gaza and my people abused and threatened with ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah.
Coming here no matter if I throw stones or not is important as we want to remind them and the world that there is a Palestinian people who exists and cannot be totally ignored or forgotten.
Although we are unarmed, Israeli soldiers use tremendous violence against us because they are cowards. They fear us since they know very well that this is not their land. They know that it is through the use of excessive violence they can strip us of our ancestral land and falsely claim it as theirs.
Today, we are proving to ourselves and to everyone who thinks that we are a weak and passive generation unable to defend our rights that we are strong and want an uprising to liberate our country.
The colonized, who are oppressed and whose identity is threatened with obliteration cannot give up on their rights. The uprising of my people in 1948 Palestine and other areas is just the perfect example of this.”
Yara (a pseudonym) is a secondary school girl who mobilizes people to come to the checkpoint and protest Israeli oppression. She says:
We have to protest every day until we fulfill our inalienable right of self-determination. We have to remember that our resistance is important to free thousands of prisoners being dehumanized at Israeli colonial dungeons.
A few days ago, we commemorated the 73rd anniversary of Nakba when Israel was created on the wreckages of my people.
Seventy-three years later, we are here not only to assert that our Nakba is ongoing; but also, to emphasize that time is now to put an end to this Nakba that has been inflicted upon us since more than seven decades.
This can be achieved through our resistance and sacrifices not through peace agreements with the colonizers of our lands that deny us the basic of our rights.”
Like Zaher and Yara, 23-year-old Rami (a pseudonym) believes that putting an end to Israeli oppression to fulfill the rights they and the entire Palestinian people have been denied, requires them to resist and continue to rise up. He states:
“The signing of the Oslo Accords has been detrimental for our anti-colonial struggle. We should never call them a peace agreement; rather, Oslo is just a capitulation agreement that has been only serving the Israeli colonization of our lands.
We have seen the consequences of this agreement and years of Israeli attempts to suppress our resistance: Entrenching Israeli settler colonial regime with what has been happening in Jerusalem is yet one example among others.
Yet, when I saw the Israeli occupation trying to obliterate the Palestinian existence in Jerusalem in different ways during the month of Ramadan, I thought to myself that the occupation is crossing a red line that should never be crossed without us expressing our rejection and outrage.
I don’t fear these soldiers and I am ready to continue rising up no matter how much violence they use against me. A few years ago, I was shot in the leg, pulled by Israeli soldiers and beaten for three hours although I was bleeding.
Then they imprisoned me for weeks. They thought that they taught me a lesson to learn from by never protesting against them again. Yet, they failed as I can’t see more catastrophes falling on our heads with no reaction.”
Resistance is the power of the oppressed
Full of energy, determination, and unshakeable fearlessness to resist Israeli apartheid, Zaher, Yara and Rami stand for millions of Palestinians all over Historic Palestine who have been enduring Israeli dehumanization, subjugation and humiliation.
In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel has been betting on its oppressive system to break the will of Palestinian resistance by creating a fearful and passive generation. In 1948 Palestine, Israeli programs to erase Palestinian identity and racist laws to suppress them and alienate them from the rest of the Palestinian people fail today amid a generation of youth that is ready to turn the table on their oppressors and deniers of their humanity.
Through their uprising, they accumulate on previous uprisings led by the previous generations and suppressed by Israel. Even in the darkest moments of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle, Palestinians have never given up on fulfilling their rights. In the absence of an uprising and direct confrontation with their colonizers, they have been doing everyday resistance to sustain their existence on their lands through the culture of sumud [steadfastness].
After the international community has failed them to end Israeli apartheid and settler colonial practices, the younger generation of Palestine who are rallying in the streets now have fully adopted what Martin Luther King once said: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”