Monday, February 24, 2020

Palestinians of Israel divided on protests

By Eva Jael - July 12, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [protests]

Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shu'fat clash with Israel security forces on Thursday night, 3 July 2014, the day before the burial of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir Dylan Collins



Palestinian citizens of Israel are divided on the recent mass protests that ensued over the last week after Jewish Israeli extremists burned 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir alive in Jerusalem. The intensity of the protests has died down in recent days, but with the death toll from Israeli airstrikes on Gaza currently standing at nearly 100, Palestinian activists are ready to take to the street once more.


Abu Khdeir’s death, in combination with nationwide marches by Jewish Israelis chanting “Death to the Arabs,” has brought to light the deep-rooted racism Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem face every day. The 16-year-old’s brutal murder was the catalyst of the protests, and the escalation of the situation in Gaza will likely keep them going. However, the people that took to the street are acting on a feeling of injustice 66 years in the making. Since the establishment of the state of Israel they have been second class citizens in their own country, and now many of them can no longer be silent.


An older generation of political and business elite, however, has spoken out against the protests, or at least against the form they have taken in past weeks. Shopkeepers in Acre opposed protests in the town, not wanting to lose income during Ramadan.  Arab public officials in the town placed themselves between protesters and police on Tuesday in order to prevent violent clashes. The imam at a local mosque argued the protests were not in itself a bad thing, but violent clashes should be avoided. Many Arab mayors have also objected to holding rallies in their towns, out of fear that clashes may cause damage to both citizens and properties. 


“There’s not so much a discussion about whether there should be protests,” argued Nadim Nashif, director of Haifa-based Arab youth association Baladna.“The discussion is about whether they should be peaceful or not, and how one can guarantee that.” He believes the Arab civil society inside Israel may pay the price for violence at protests. “Many activists have been arrested, 300 since the start of mass protests, and 150 of them are still in jail with little chance of being released soon. Thirty of the detainees are children younger than 18. That is another reason not all people are happy with these protests.”


Najwan Berekdar, Palestinian activist and organizer of the Love on Time of Apartheid protests, believes the concerns local politicians have are more for themselves than for the Palestinian people.I believe the reason local councils and municipalities oppose these protests is the same as the PA has to oppose protests of Palestinians in the West Bank. They want to protect their high positions, chairs and the money they make at the expense of poor citizens. Their silence maintains the occupation. As for the governmental employees, they don't protest because they do not want to risk losing their job and sacrifice the delusional stability they live in.”


Berekdar is determined to go on protesting and hopes even the Palestinians that oppose the demonstrations now will soon be on their side. “People are afraid of losing their jobs because they can not afford to lose anything. Young people have stopped worrying about that. They do not make these calculations because they can’t accept to live normally seeing what is happening to Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank and even Israel. We speak out and show we are no longer out of the equation because we understand that we should play a main role in resistance. Israel uses us for its democracy show and we need to show its dictatorship


Arab officials are largely unable to regulate protests because they often start with just a message on social media, and thus don’t have a clear organization to stop. Therefore, their objection is not likely to be able to stop protests from taking place. 


On Saturday people will gather in the village of Kabul, and while they are usually announced on the day they take place, Najwan Berekdar believes many more protests will follow. Given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement on Thursday that talks of a ceasefire are not even on the agenda, as well as threats from the right and center of Israel’s political establishment of an impending ground offensive,  the next wave of protests may prove to be even more potent than the first.


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