Palestinians in East Jerusalem rose up last week and pushed back a pogrom-like assault by Israeli fascists, along with Israeli occupation forces, at the old city’s Damascus Gate.
In addition, on April 26 their militance and determination forced the Israeli occupiers to open the Damascus Gate allowing Palestinians to gather there during Ramadan. The gate, an entrance into the old city and its historic mosques, had been closed by the Israeli authorities.
On April 22, members of Lehava, an Israeli fascist group, similar to the KKK in the United States, led a violent rampage of around 300 through East Jerusalem and tried to enter the old city via the Damascus Gate. The fascist mob chanted “Death to Arabs” in Hebrew throughout the evening while burning and destroying Palestinian homes and property.
Palestinians gathered to defend their neighborhood, leading to large clashes with the fascists for days as crowds swelled in size.
Lehava is an extreme organization with an anti-miscegenation focus, denouncing marriages between Jews and non-Jews. Despite their fascist history and this pogrom-style assault, the Palestinian defenders of their land, not Lehava, were met with violent repression from Israeli occupation forces. This is very similar to how the U.S. police brutalize anti-racist protesters while coddling and even outright supporting fascist mobs both in the past and, for example, during the fascist-led assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The night of April 22 the Palestinian Red Crescent treated 105 Palestinians who were wounded by Israeli security forces and settlers; 20 requiring hospitalization. But the resistance from Palestinian demonstrators grew stronger by the day. In addition, solidarity demonstrations with the defenders of the Damascus Gate were held in Gaza with rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel.
The vehemence of the Palestinian response forced both Israeli soldiers and fascist to retreat. Israel even opened the Damascus Gate on April 26, which Israeli authorities had closed using the COVID pandemic as an excuse. This led to a victory celebration by the Palestinian people.
Hypocrisy of Israeli denunciation
Many saw this rightwing attack as the Israeli occupation’s further encroachment into East Jerusalem, the capital of historic Palestine, emboldened and enabled by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “capital” and Biden’s continuation of that policy. In violation of international law, Israel is escalating the destruction of Palestinian neighborhoods there in order to replace them with settlements.
Some Israeli politicians found the attack by Lehava to be such an exposure of the extreme nature of Israeli politics today that they denounced the mob’s actions as damage control. Among the denouncers was Avi Mayer of the American Jewish Committee, a major Israeli lobbying and PR group in the United States. Mayer, however, has himself attended similar mob actions in the past and used to be a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces.
Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada highlighted this blatant hypocrisy. He said, “In 2014, I caught Avi Mayer attending a Death to the Arabs rally in Jerusalem himself, and then attempting to whitewash it.” Abunimah continued, “Mayer claimed that those participating were merely ‘protesters demanding stronger action against terrorism.’”
“Far-right” politics are mainstream in Israel
It is impossible to separate terrorist organizations like Lehava from mainstream Israeli politics. Israeli settlers and other extremists have always been used by the Israeli government as shock troops to further encroach on Palestinian territory and destroy the livelihood of indigenous Palestinian people. Much of the rhetoric and sentiments espoused by Lehava are shared openly by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Israeli rabbis, among other political figures and celebrities.
Additionally, violent Zionists regularly terrorize Palestinians out in the open. On April 19, Palestinian writer Mohammed el-Kurd posted the following on Twitter:
“[First] day back in Jerusalem: my friend [and] I sat in a park and 200+ Israeli youth surrounded us asking us if we were Arab. We said no in Hebrew [and] they started reassuring each other that we were Jews. Shortly after they started chasing a Palestinian teen with stones. Terrorist nation.”
The role of U.S. imperialism
The U.S. State Department also participated in this damage control with a statement that it was “deeply concerned by escalating violence.” The truth is that Israel is only able to continue its violation of human rights and its ongoing apartheid regime thanks to its close ties to the United States, which unconditionally funds and supports the Zionist project.
Part of the U.S. relationship with Israel is a 2016 agreement under the Obama administration to provided Israel with $38 billion in weapons over a ten-year period. Prior to this agreement, Israel was able to spend a quarter of its U.S. weapons funding on its own domestic weapons manufacturers as “offshore procurement,” something that no other nation can do and which has allowed Israel to become one of the top arms exporters in the world.
While the U.S. continues to support the crimes of the Israeli apartheid regime, people are becoming increasingly aware of the atrocities being committed there with U.S. taxpayer money
Human Rights Watch calls for sanctions against Israel
The rising consciousness in support of Palestine and the increasing repression of the Israeli government, has even caught the sensibilities of the often pro-imperialist Human Rights Watch. This U.S.-based group just released a report accusing Israel of international crimes of apartheid and persecution. It accused Israel of committing “crimes against humanity” and said the United States and the international community have “turned a blind eye.” It advocated an international commission of inquiry and sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against “officials and entities credibly implicated.”
The atrocities committed by the Israeli apartheid regime and the United States are clearly visible to the international community despite attempts to whitewash, silence, or otherwise stifle reporting from inside Palestine and the voices of the Palestinian people. U.S. complicity and unconditional support continues to allow Israel to commit war crimes under a false narrative.
The response to these war crimes needs to be international solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to regain all of their stolen land, increased organizing to help make this happen, and increased support for Palestinian-led initiatives including the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement.