- Created: Friday, 25 August 2017 11:01
- Written by Wesam Khaled
The Al Aqsa mosque in illegally-occupied East Jerusalem was at the heart of a recent surge of Palestinian resistance against the Zionist state. After a shootout on 14 July near the Al Aqsa compound between Palestinians and Israeli police that saw three Palestinians and two police officers killed, Israel installed new security measures to monitor Palestinians accessing the mosque, including metal detectors and security cameras. The move was widely seen by Palestinians as an attempt by Israel to further its aim of wresting the Al Aqsa mosque from Palestinian control; Israeli political and religious leaders regularly call for the mosque to be destroyed and replaced with a Jewish temple.
In response, Palestinians in East Jerusalem rose up and organised a campaign of civil disobedience, staging sit-ins and prayers in front of the gate to the Al Aqsa compound and refusing to enter until Israel acceded to their demand to have the metal detectors removed. The Israeli government initially refused and attempted to suppress the protests by force. Tens of Palestinians, including children, were arrested in overnight raids and demonstrators in East Jerusalem were fired on with tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated bullets. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, which is separated from Jerusalem by an illegal Israeli-imposed border, also protested against the Israeli measures. The Red Cross reported that over 400 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including many by live fire. There were also demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that over 20 Palestinians including six medics suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation as a result of Israeli attempts to disperse them. Three Palestinians protesters were shot dead by Israeli forces: 18-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Sharaf; 20-year-old Muhammad Abu Ghannam; and 17-year old Muhammad Khalaf Mahmoud Khalaf Lafi. Three Israeli settlers in the illegal settlement of Halamish in the West Bank were also killed.
Despite the attempts to suppress them, the Palestinian resistors refused to back down and pushed on with the demonstrations. Fearing that the uprisings might spiral out of their control, the Israeli government announced on 24 July it would be removing the metal detectors. That the Israeli state, with its superior military and technological advancement and its international support, was forced to back down in the face of popular resistance demonstrated the power of the Palestinian people to win their liberation. Following the victory, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) saluted the resistors, emphasising that ‘this victory sends a clear message that our people are the first and last lines of resistance’ and the ‘need to restore the role of resistance and intifada [the Arabic word for uprising]’.
International support for Israeli apartheid
The Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been illegally occupied by Israel since it conquered them militarily in 1967. Furthermore, the Jewish-majority state was only made possible by the ethnic cleansing in 1948 of 800,000 Palestinians from the land that currently comprises Israel, who along with their descendants are to this day denied any right to return to their stolen land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem regularly face legal discrimination, home demolitions and arbitrary arrest at the hands of Israeli authorities. Yet despite these relentless violations of international law and denials of Palestinian human rights, Israel continues to enjoy the support of western imperialist governments. Israel plays an important role for imperialism in the region, providing military, intelligence, and political support to western imperialist operations and wars in the Middle East including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. In return, imperialist countries in Europe and North America provide political, military, and financial support to the Israeli state.
Part of this support includes cracking down on resistance by people within their own countries to Israeli policies and the international support it receives. In the United States, on 23 March a group of 43 senators introduced a bill which would make it a felony to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, with a potential maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years imprisonment. On 17 August, PFLP activist Rasmeah Odeh, a US citizen, had her citizenship revoked and deportation ordered by a Detroit judge in proceedings that were widely seen as politically-motivated. Odeh was charged with unlawfully obtaining US citizenship for failing to declare a conviction she received in Israel for her alleged involvement in two bombings in Jerusalem in 1969. During the legal proceedings, Odeh had been disallowed from testifying about the fact that she had been kidnapped, tortured and raped by Israeli soldiers before being forced to sign the confession that led to the conviction.
The security cameras installed by Israel in the Al Aqsa compound in July were supplied by British multinational security firm G4S. Last year G4S gave in to pressure from the international BDS campaign and dropped some of its links with Israeli military and security agencies; however it still maintains some ties, continuing to profit from Israel’s crackdowns on Palestinian rights.
Resistance in Britain
In Britain, five activists were arrested and are facing potential prison sentences following a protest on 7 July outside a factory owned by a subsidiary of Elbit systems, which supplies drones to the Israeli army. Organised by Birmingham and Manchester Palestine Action, the protest shut down the factory for two days as protesters blocked the gates to the factory and set up displays of the names of Palestinians who had been killed by Israel, including children. The activists could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000. A protest in solidarity with them is being organised at their hearing on 13 September at 9:30am at Cannock Magistrates’ Court.
The battle lines of imperialism are being drawn. It is clear that the cause of Palestinian rights and self-determination stands on one side, while the forces of imperialism, apartheid, and occupation stand on the other. The working class in Britain must stand in unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli state and its imperialist backers in Britain and elsewhere.