Photo: Protesters march through Portsmouth, NH, July 10, 2020. Credit: Omar Taweh
In response to the mobilization of tens of thousands of Palestinians defending the right to live in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and worship at the Al-Aqsa mosque, Israel has unleashed murderous actions all across occupied Palestine. Al-Aqsa is an iconic national symbol of the Palestinian people and one of the holiest sites in Islam. It has been repeatedly targeted by Zionist extremists who want to take it over.
The latest escalation by Israel are air strikes May 10 in the Gaza Strip that have so far killed over 20 civilians. The Israeli government indicated it is prepared for a drawn out military campaign against the Palestinian people. Earlier in the day, a brutal raid into Al-Aqsa left more than 300 Palestinians wounded, with 250 suffering injuries serious enough to require hospital treatment.
Hamas, the Palestinian organization administering the government in Gaza, issued an ultimatum to Israel to stop the assault on Al Aqsa and the eviction campaign in Sheikh Jarrah. After another round of attacks on Palestinian worshipers by Israel, Hamas launched dozens of rockets into Jerusalem, forcing the evacuation of the Israeli Knesset. The corporate media in the United States is pushing the line that the Israeli airstrikes were an act of self-defense. But what they were “retaliating” against was in fact proportionate retaliation by Palestinian fighters to the terrible crime at the Al-Aqsa mosque.
This comes on top of a ratcheted-up campaign by the Israeli government to remove Palestinians from Palestine. Ultra-right Zionist forces rampaged through Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of East Jerusalem, attacking Palestinians while chanting “Death to the Arabs” under the protection of Israeli police and military.
Coinciding with the month of Ramadan, Israeli police closed access to the Damascus Gate plaza, a gathering site near the mosque used during Ramadan. This provocation rightfully enraged Palestinian worshipers and led to clashes between worshipers and Zionist police forces. On May 7, in another major act of repression, approximately 200 people were injured and 90 sent to the hospital.
A long struggle against colonial displacement
David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, stated in 1948: “We must do everything to ensure they (the Palestinians) never do return. … The old will die and the young will forget.” The 73 years of resistance by the Palestinian nation since he uttered those words must haunt the Zionist leaders.
In a development that further dispels Ben Gurieron’s expectations, the current mobilization to defend Sheikh Jarrah has drawn tens of thousands of Palestinians, mostly young people, into action from areas that have not previously participated in the struggle in East Jerusalem. According to the liberal Zionist newspaper Haaretz: “No one remembers, however, such a vast involvement of [Palestinians] in East Jerusalem rallies. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, dozens of buses of worshippers, some of whom partook in the recent clashes with the police, arrived to the capital from northern and central [Palestinian] towns and cities. To many Palestinians, this marks a dramatic shift.”
Under the Trump administration, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the U.S. embassy was relocated to the city from Tel Aviv. The move added fuel to the fire for fascistic Zionist political groups to escalate their campaigning of ethnic cleansing. It was a gross violation of international law and defies the many international bodies that regard the 1980 Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem as illegal.
Without the economic, political, military and diplomatic backing of U.S. imperialism, the state of Israel would not last long. Israel, from its inception to its establishment was a colonial project that looked to solve the question of European anti-Semitism at the expense of the Palestinian people. Israel plays the role of a rabidly anti-Arab and racist servant of U.S. imperialism that threatens any movements of self-determination by the people of the Middle East.
The Biden administration had called for “restraint on both sides,” putting an equal sign between unarmed Palestinian protesters and armed units of the Israeli police, military and settlers. Not surprisingly, the administration denounced the use of rockets by Hamas as an “unacceptable escalation” — rationalizing Israeli terror raids of Gaza. At the same time, it is clear that U.S. leaders — along with those in Jordan, the European Union and Israel itself — are worried by the scope and intensity of the Palestinian resistance. Bigger and bigger cracks are emerging in the once rock solid pro-Israel consensus in mainstream politics.
The Palestinian people have not gone away nor forgotten their history. They are an example of what a determined people can do in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. As this new round of deadly Israeli attacks unfold, it is more important than ever that major pressure be applied to demand that the U.S. government stop arming Israel with billions of dollars of weapons every year and providing diplomatic cover for their crimes.