Over Seventy years of systematic deprivation of human rights, land, and identity, has Israel had a hands-on control of Palestine? Palestinians are now of one determined bond to self-declare and independence than any time past.
Nakba commemorations on 15 May will be like no other year that I can remember. The whole of historic Palestine is standing against injustice, apartheid, settler-colonialism, and occupation.
There is no need to hold back on describing what Israel has done to the Palestinian people in the name of a racist ideology. Zionism demands that Jews have a right to self-determination, which it has looked to achieve in another people’s homeland: Palestine.
The 1917 Balfour Declaration was a shameful undertaking by which Britain promised to give the Palestinian homeland – which it did not control – to other people, without consulting Palestinians.
And yet, despite the expulsion of Palestinians and the creation of a Jewish homeland, the Nakba is being played out all over again.
What started a few weeks before Nakba Day as a campaign by Palestinian families facing eviction from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has turned into a Palestinian awakening in all areas of historic Palestine, confirming that we are one people. Those behind the Save Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood Campaign, asking for solidarity from around the world to help pressure Israel to drop its eviction plans, could surely not have imagined how events would play out.
The story of Sheikh Jarrah is an example of the continuing Nakba. A group of peaceful families trying to live their lives and remain in their homes have come up against the colonizer’s wrath – not through massacres like the one at Deir Yassin in 1948, but through the legal system of an occupying power.
The colonizers paint this as a property dispute, rather than the continuation of a demographic push to turn the holy city of Jerusalem – home to Muslims, Christians and Jews – into a Jewish city.
Without a shadow of doubt, Sheikh Jarrah campaign brought Palestinian injustice back into the public spotlight. This, I believe, is what angered Israeli leaders and zealots the most. They figured the courts would find in favour of the settlers, and they could once again tout the “independent” legal system. Instead, as international pressure mounted, Israel’s Supreme Court postponed the cause.
The brutality of the occupier’s security instruments has been broadcast for all the world to see (minus the rotten smell of skunk water, with which Palestinian residents have had to live for days).
As the global campaign gained momentum in the West, Jewish Israeli extremists marched in Jerusalem during Ramadan, chanting “Death to Arabs”, without the Netanyahu government reining them in.
Confrontations between occupier and occupied escalated as the Damascus Gate steps became a flashpoint. Israel had installed steel barriers at the site, disrupting the normal flow of Ramadan socialization, but a sustained revolt ultimately led to their removal – a small but important victory.
Following this victory, the reality of the divided city was clear for all to see, despite Israel’s claims that Jerusalem was its “undivided capital”. Scores of security forces were needed to maintain the occupation of the city’s eastern portion; in what Palestinians saw as a display of bravery, youngsters mocked them, knowing that the consequences could be dire.
Constant news coverage captured many arrests, and a common theme emerged, with young Palestinians smiling as they were led away, many to soon be released. I wondered whether we were witnessing the “smiling intifada”. How brave these young Palestinians looked, and how dejected and beaten the occupying forces appeared.
It was also clear who the rightful owners of the city were, and who were the occupiers – a full 73 years after the Nakba. Yet, before I could try to normalise the notion of the “smiling intifada”, things escalated. There were no more smiles to be found.
As thousands of far-right Israelis prepared to celebrate the theft of Jerusalem on 10 May by marching provocatively through the Old City, Israel decided to flex its muscles and attack worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The grotesque and unprovoked attack on the holy site, and the ones that followed, marked a turning point – the start of an uprising across historic Palestine.
Hamas and other groups in Gaza responded with hundreds of Palestinians Israeli barbarism was there for all to see in its response, which included the slaughter of dozens of Palestinians, including many children.