On Tuesday morning clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli military and police forces across the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians hurled stones at police and burned tires and trash bins in several areas of East Jerusalem. Dozens of Palestinians were injured and many were detained.
These are only the latest and widest reactions to an escalating series of incidents, the most significant of which was the assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) on Sunday, March 14th. Thousands of Zionist soldiers and cops surrounded the Mosque in preparation for a joint settler/government dedication of a synagogue near the Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Zionist forces barred Palestinians from entering the Mosque compound, then raided the Mosque itself, arresting some worshippers and expelling the others. There are widespread fears that this is the prelude to an even more serious attack on the Mosque compound.
Every Friday for years there have been restrictions on worshippers attempting to enter the Mosque, and since last Friday only men over 50 and women have been allowed in. On Tuesday women were barred as well.
In response a variety of religious and political forces called for Palestinians to come to Al-Quds to defend their right to pray and to be present in case of a settler/government attack.
On Tuesday, hundreds of young Palestinians attacked a checkpoint at Shufat camp north of Jerusalem, throwing stones at Israeli forces, who fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in response. In Qalandiya refugee camp and the nearby checkpoint, north of the city, hundreds of students clashed with Israeli forces. Palestinian citizens of Israel were prevented from visiting Al-Quds, and Israeli forces prevented journalists from covering events in some areas.
Some 40 Palestinians were treated at East Jerusalem hospitals for injuries, and 31 people were arrested.
Galilee police set up roadblocks to prevent Palestinians from pre-1967 areas of Israel from traveling to Al-Quds to take part in the protests.
Meanwhile, rallies were held across the Gaza Strip in solidarity with Jerusalem.
These events follow a series of incidents heightening fears of a more massive assault.
On Sunday, right-wing Jews handed out Arabic fliers in Al-Quds calling on “non-Jews to leave the land of Israel,” which “belongs to Jews only.” Two weeks ago the Zionist government declared that two sites sacred to Muslims, Masjid Bilal bin Rabah (Rachel’s Tomb) and the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs), were now officially on the Jewish “heritage” list. Excavations under the Al-Aqsa Mosque, supposedly for archaeological purposes, have threatened the stability of the Mosque’s foundations, making its base so fragile that it could fall.
Thousands of graves in the oldest Palestinian cemetery in the world, the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem, are under threat of desecration by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for “Tolerance.” And Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Al-Quds have been expelled from their homes to make room for settlers.
Events in Al-Quds come in the context of increasing repression throughout Palestine. Israeli occupation forces sealed off the entire West Bank on Thursday, March 11th, and imposed a full curfew until Sunday, later extended until Tuesday.
Detention without charges of leaders of protests against the Apartheid Wall have mushroomed, as have night-time raids on homes, even detention of children. Weekly protests challenging the blockade and “no-go zones” in Gaza are met with violent repression and arrests.
Palestinian Christians face restrictions and oppression as well, inspiring church leaders to issue the “Kairos Palestine-2009” declaration, an appeal to churches worldwide to boycott Israel just as they had the South African apartheid regime. Says the Declaration: “Jerusalem, the city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace.”
A number of leading Palestinian Christians sent a letter on March 4th to the heads of churches in Jerusalem asking them to encourage all Christians in Palestine to enter Jerusalem for the Easter celebrations without applying for permits from the Israeli authorities. The letter condemns Israel for preventing most Palestinian worshippers from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during Holy Week each year.
Meanwhile the mainstream media’s attention is focused on the staged diplomatic spat between Washington and Tel Aviv over the announcement by Israel, made during US VP Joe Biden’s visit, that it would build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in Al-Quds. (Mostly ignored by the media was a report by Israel’s own Planning Ministry that 50,000 new housing units in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods were in various stages of planning and approval, and, said Haaretz, “Jerusalem’s construction plans for the next few years, even decades, are expected to focus on East Jerusalem.” This despite the supposed “partial freeze” agreed to by the US and Israel.)
US officials, including Biden and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, feigned outrage — not because they oppose settlement construction, but because the Zionists aren’t playing the diplomatic game of hiding their acts and intentions. Without Washington’s billions of aid each year, and diplomatic cover for Israel, not a single settler home could be built.
In the midst of this lover’s quarrel, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said plans to build homes for settlers in Al-Quds would go ahead.
Clinton, in a phone call with Netanyahu last Friday, asked him to make a “substantial gesture” towards Palestinians to help restart peace talks.
Gesture indeed. The US government — itself occupying land in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and elsewhere, and sitting atop an empire built on ethnic cleansing and occupation — has no quarrel with the deeds of the Zionists, only with their timing and rhetoric. It needs the Israeli government as an outpost in the Middle East.
Despite claims by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US, that the dispute had brought relations to a 35-year low, we can be sure Washington will not cut a dime of aid. Given the US’s shaky hold on world hegemony due to its adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has no intention of alienating its valued partner in crime. Further proof of its support are the US soldiers who train Palestinian Authority forces to repress protests against Israel, and who are helping Egypt design and build its wall to enforce the genocidal siege of Gaza.
The spat between Washington and Tel Aviv has no more substance than that between successive Israeli governments and the settlers who are its direct agents, and with whom Tel Aviv quibbles only about THEIR timing and rhetoric.
Al-Awda NY encourages all supporters of human rights to mobilize now to demand:
End All US Aid to Israel!
For more information: Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, www.al-awdany.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 718-228-8636