Colonialism in Israel has always been a state-run project, one that ultimately aims at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, must have never anticipated that a routine act of ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem could lead to a Palestinian Intifada, bringing together all sectors of Palestinian society in a show of unity unprecedented since the first uprising of 1987.
Let us not dwell on the technicalities. Those who are busy deciphering whether the resistance in Palestine at the moment is the “Third Intifada” or not, should stop and, instead, divert their attention to something else entirely: namely, the fact that the degree of unity among the Palestinian people is absolutely unmatched in years.
The Palestinian people have decided to move past all the political divisions and the factional squabbles. Instead, they are coining new terminologies, ones that are centred around resistance, liberation and international solidarity. By doing so, they are challenging factionalism, along with the shameful Arab normalisation of Israeli apartheid and military occupation.
Moreover, the Palestinian voice is piercing through the international silence, compelling the world to hear their chants for freedom.
They are also sending an unmistakable, resounding message to Israel and its right-wing chauvinistic society, that the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah and the rest of occupied East Jerusalem, the siege on Gaza, the ongoing military occupation, the construction of yet more illegal Jewish settlements, the racism and the apartheid will not go unnoticed; that Palestinians, though tired, poor, dispossessed, besieged and abandoned, will continue to safeguard their own rights, their sacred holy places and the very sanctity of their own people.
Yes, this is about the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah, but it is also about the entirety of Palestine.
The wound of Sheikh Jarrah has been bleeding for a long time. Hundreds of Palestinian families have already been ethnically cleansed from Jerusalem’s Old City and from various Palestinian neighbourhoods in and around East Jerusalem. This ethnic cleansing dates back many years, rationalised through a series of laws unique to Israel, laws that give a legal cover to outright theft and land robbery.
For example, the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970 allows Israeli Jews to claim Palestinian properties as their own. However, this is not the only one. The Absentees’ Law of 1950 and the Master Plan of 2000 have also been designed to achieve similar ends, where Israeli individuals, in coordination with settler organisations, work hand in hand to achieve the ultimate vision of the state, a sinister vision of racial domination of Jews over Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians.
So, while the popular anger in Palestine is fueled by an Israeli court decision to award Palestinian homes to Jewish extremists, Palestinians see Sheikh Jarrah as a microcosm of a much larger tragedy, one that extends back 70 years in history and involves other actors, aside from a few Jewish extremists.
Indeed, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 was not the work of a few extreme Zionists. Similarly, the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 – together with the massive settlement enterprise that followed – was not the brainchild of a few extreme individuals. Colonialism in Israel was, and remains, a state-run project, which ultimately aims at achieving the same objective that is being carried out in Sheikh Jarrah – the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to ensure Jewish demographic majority.
While the Sheikh Jarrah story is garnering some attention even in mainstream US media, there is a near-complete absence of any depth to that coverage, namely, the fact that Sheikh Jarrah is not the exception but the norm.
Sadly, as Palestinians and their supporters try to circumvent widespread media censorship by reaching out directly to civil societies across the world using social media platforms, they are often censored there as well.
Netanyahu’s foolhardy behaviour may have helped him acquire enough support in Israel to keep him at the helm for many years, but it has helped expose Israel for the violent, racist and apartheid state that it is; in fact, has always been.
The world is increasingly united behind the Palestinian call for freedom: #SaveSheikhJarrah and #FreePalestine are now interlinked and have been trending on all social media platforms for weeks. Israel’s attempt at presenting itself as a perpetual victim of some imaginary horde of Arabs and Muslims is no longer paying dividends. The world can finally see, read and hear of Palestine’s tragic reality and the need to bring this tragedy to an end.
In their spontaneous reaction and genuine communal solidarity, Palestinians are finally rising as one, from Sheikh Jarrah to all of Jerusalem, to Gaza, to Nablus and even to Palestinian towns inside Israel, such as Al Lud, Umm Al Fahm and elsewhere. In this popular revolution, no factions matter, no geography matters, no political division of any kind matters and religion is not a source of division but spiritual unity.
The ongoing Israeli atrocities in Gaza are continuing, and will likely continue as long as the world treats the devastating siege of the impoverished, tiny Strip as irrelevant. People in Gaza were dying even before the Israeli airstrikes began blowing up their homes and neighbourhoods. They were dying because of the lack of medicine, polluted water, the lack of electricity and dilapidated infrastructure.
We must save Sheikh Jarrah, but we must save Gaza as well; we must demand an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and, with it, the dismantling of the complex system of racial discrimination and apartheid.
International human rights groups are now clear and decisive in their depiction of that racist regime, with Human Rights Watch, and even Israel’s own rights group, B’tselem, joining the call for the dismantlement of apartheid in all of Palestine.
What is happening in Palestine is not a conflict and certainly not a war. Palestinians are not engaged in a ‘dispute’ with Israel, because human rights cannot and must not be disputed. It is a one-sided Israeli war that is met with humble, but determined Palestinian resistance. It is an Intifada, not only against Israel’s injustices, but for Palestinian national unity as well.
It is this unity that matters most, and will eventually hold Israel accountable for its innumerable crimes.
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