Israel, Hands Off Al-Aqsa!

Down with the Israeli Apartheid State!

by Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 5.11.2014, www.thecommunists.net and www.the-isleague.com

 

As I write this article, Palestinian medical officials have announced that a Palestinian was seriously injured in clashes which erupted Wednesday morning on the site of Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. According to reports (Haaretz, November 5), the man was wounded by a sponge-tipped bullet fired by Israeli security forces.

At the same time, a Palestinian rammed the car he was driving into several pedestrians (apparently Jewish settlers) in East Jerusalem, and at least three people were seriously injured. The driver, a resident of the Shoafat refugee camp, was shot dead by the police. Anyone who condemns the Palestinian struggle because of a Palestinian driver’s attempt to kill Israeli settlers should be asked to reflect on why these settlers are living in apartments built on land stolen from the Palestinians in 1967 while the driver was living in a refugee camp? Similarly, those who claim to be shocked by the behavior of the Palestinian driver should be asked whether they were and are as equally shocked by Israel’s killing of some 300 children in the last war in Gaza? Also, do they see any connection between the two events?

 

Growth of Militant Actions

 

Since this past summer and particularly following Israel’s political defeat in Gaza, we have witnessed the growth of militant actions by Palestinian youth in Jerusalem against their oppression. This should come as no surprise. On the one hand, the Palestinians feel that Hamas stood up to mighty Israel for fifty days and won the war despite the horrible destruction and killing Israel inflicted on Gaza. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza was more than 2,100 including some 300 children, with nearly 10,000 wounded. Thousands of homes were destroyed and heavy damage was caused to the strip’s infrastructure which will cost billions of dollars to rebuild.

On the other hand, Israel’s brutal repression and continued stealing of Palestinian lands to build new settlements has convinced many Palestinian youth that the only path to liberation is via confrontation with the armed forces of the Israeli state and the settlers. These youths do not trust Mahmoud Abbas, seeing as the road of the Palestinian Authority is one of collaboration with Israeli repression. They have more sympathy for Hamas, but ask why should Hamas be ready to form a coalition government with Abbas? Even more so, as Israel accuses the PA of standing behind the militant youths, President Abbas denies any connection.

It is a general law of history that the defeat of an imperialist state, and Israel is such a state, leads to an uprising of the oppressed. Of course, Hamas could not win the war militarily, but the heroic stand of the Gazans for 50 days against powerful Israel instills pride in the minds of the Palestinians.

Yet, it is no easy matter to rebel, not just because of the lack of leadership on a national level, but because most Palestinians are struggling in the daily fight for survival and many are unemployed. A report on the state of Palestinian youth in 2013 by the Sharek Youth Forum, the largest Palestinian civil youth institution, reports that of the 40% of Palestinians who live in poverty, a quarter are young people. Roughly 44% of young people are unemployed, even though just over half of them hold university degrees. (1)

 

Israeli Repression

 

Despite the difficulty of rebellion, around 7,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, including hundreds without charge, and more than 2,000 of whom were arrested by Israeli forces over this summer for protesting Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza. (2)

The current wave of clashes with the Israeli forces of oppression is for now focused on the question of al-Aqsa, on the expansion of settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods, and on the brutality of the settlers protected by the Israeli army and police. This round of clashes between Palestinian youth and the Israeli army and police began following the funeral of 16 year-old Mohamed Abu Khdeir, murdered by extremist Zionists on July 21, 2014. When the burned body of the Palestinian boy was found, initially it was followed by Israeli public incitement against Arabs which took the form of speculation about the identity of Mohammed’s murderers: “They must have been neighbors or members of his family who discovered his sexual orientation.” These rumors spread beyond the boundaries of social media, being referred to in mainstream news items characterized by innuendos such as “The boy’s family vehemently denies rumors that he was kidnapped by Palestinians due to a family feud.” (3)

The racist atmosphere began to spread even earlier, after the killing of the three Israeli Yeshiva students, for which the murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir was conceived of as revenge. During the butchering of the Gazans in the last war, over 90% of the Israelis supported the war. The main criticism of the Israelis of the army performance was not that the Israeli army killed and destroyed so extensively but rather that the carnage was not sufficient to “finish the job.”

Three days after the murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir, two Palestinians were killed in clashes between thousands of demonstrators and police in East Jerusalem. Over 200 demonstrators were injured, at least ten of them seriously. Thousands of police officers and border police deployed across the city in preparation for expected disturbances through the end of Friday prayers. Since then, the confrontations between Palestinians youth and the Israeli forces of oppression have escalated and armed police stationed in cars are visible on every corner of East Jerusalem.

Israel is detaining a growing number of Palestinian youths. On Tuesday of this week, November 4, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), as they are dubbed by the Palestinians, detained at least thirty-three Palestinians as clashes were renewed between the Israeli forces and Palestinians protesting the events surrounding the al-Aqsa mosque. A day earlier, clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in several East Jerusalem neighborhoods. Israeli forces raided the neighborhoods of al-Issawiya, Jabal al-Mukabir, Ras al-Amud, and al-Tur, as well as the Shoafat refugee camp, the same camp where the Palestinian driver who ran down Israeli pedestrians had lived.

On Sunday, November 2, the Israeli cabinet approved amendments to the Israeli penal code which enable more severe punishment of Palestinians convicted of violent attacks against Israeli targets. Among the approved amendments is one which will allow the imposition of a prison sentence of up to twenty years for those convicted of throwing stones or other objects at Israeli vehicles. Such modifications to the penal code demonstrate that the Israel is getting ready for another mass Palestinian popular uprising, or Intifada.

On Monday, November 3, a young Palestinian woman, Sahar al-Netsheh, was detained in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound after she protested the entry of an Israeli far-right lawmaker, Shuli Moalem-Rafaeli, into the holy site. Sahar’s crime was that she shouted “Allahu Akbar” in defiance of the Israeli Knesset member, who entered the al-Aqsa Mosque complex to show who controls the Mosques. (4)

Following the attempted assassination of American-born Rabbi Yehuda Glick by Moataz Hijazi, a resident of al-Tur who was subsequently killed by the police, the Israeli government closed the al-Aqsa Mosque for an entire day, the first time that this has been done since 1967. The next day the compound was reopened, but only men of 50 years or older are allowed to pray in the mosques there during Friday prayers.

Yehuda Glick was shot and seriously wounded after he and others attended a conference calling for the destruction of the al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third holiest site, and its replacement by a Jewish temple. Guests of the conference were prominent right wing members of the Israeli Knesset. According to Israeli authorities, the shooter, Moataz Hijazi, was killed after he had resisted arrest and opened fire on policemen, but there are reasons to doubt this version.

 

The Threat of Destruction of the al-Aqsa Mosque

 

The Palestinians fear that Israel wants to destroy the al-Aqsa compound and replace it with the Third Temple. Israel claims that this is a slander, but is it a baseless slander? In 1929, conflict erupted was over the question of who controls the Western Wall, the Palestinians or the Zionist settlers who claimed that this wall is a remnant of the Second Temple, an inaccurate claim, as the Roman legions completely destroyed the Temple itself. Even though, at the time, the Zionists denied that they wanted to own the wall and that the Palestinians were slandering them, in fact they were not satisfied with the right to simply use the place; they wanted to own it and have done so since 1967.

According to the Middle East Monitor, on January 24 of this year, Uri Ariel, the Minister of Housing and Construction, who’s ministry is responsible for the destruction of Palestinian homes told the Israeli radio station Kol Berama – controlled by Shas: “The status quo at the al-Aqsa Mosque cannot continue, as it was built in the place of the holiest shrine for Israel.” (5) Ariel added that the construction of a third Jewish temple at the site is the primary demand of the Torah “and is at the forefront of Jewish salvation.” In response to the rising tensions in Jerusalem surrounding the holy site, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “on all Knesset [Israeli parliament] members to calm tensions regarding the Temple Mount and show responsibility and restraint.” (6)

Essentially, in his response Netanyahu said that the politicians should keep their mouths shut, but did not deny that Israel has plans to replace al-Aqsa with a Third Temple.

Israel has a long history of destroying not only Palestinian homes but also mosques and Moslem cemeteries. In the 1950s alone, the state demolished some 1,200 mosques. Later, Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel, which stands on an area now known as north Tel Aviv, was built over the ruins of a Muslim cemetery. Another Muslim cemetery became a parking lot for Tel Aviv University. In Jerusalem, the municipality approved the building of the Simon Wiesenthal Center “Museum of Tolerance” over a Muslim graveyard. Previously the abandoned cemetery had been used as a dumping lot for several decades. (7)

On October 28, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat toured the al-Aqsa compound with a police escort, weeks after reports began to circulate that Israel is considering allowing Jews to pray at the site. Recall that it was in September 2000 that a visit to the site by Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked the “Second Intifada,” a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation and repression.

At the present moment, it is not clear whether a new Intifada is beginning. While there is a lot of anger among the Palestinians, there is no leadership and Israeli repression is very strong. But it is clear that, via its actions, Israel is pushing for a new uprising which, if it does not break out now, will in the not very distant future.

 

Israel: A declining but increasingly aggressive Imperialist Power

 

The more Israel’s status in the world declines the more brutal repression we can expect. Even the best friends of Israel, the US and European imperialist states, are distancing themselves from Israel. This recalls the case of Apartheid South African. Until the 1980s, the West supported the regime; but when these states realized that the regime cannot survive for long, they distanced themselves from it and denounced Apartheid.

This is what is beginning to happen between the US and Israel. Recently it was published in Atlantic Magazine that an anonymous Obama administration official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "chickenshit," while a second official told the magazine that the Israeli leader was a “coward” when it came to Iran. (8) It is true that, according to congressional sources, White House officials are reaching out to key lawmakers who deal with US-Israel relations and are denying that the first insulting quote came from the White House, implicitly suggesting that a State Department official was responsible for the remark. But this was not the impression of Israel’s Prime Minister. Otherwise, why would the article in the Atlantic prompt such a defiant response from the Israeli prime minister's office stating: “Netanyahu will continue to uphold the security interests of Israel and the historical rights of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, and no amount of pressure will change that.” Similarly, how else can we explain Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s recent public criticism of the Obama administration’s efforts to forge peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As the magazine Foreign Policy wrote: “The remarks reflect the latest turbulence in the U.S.-Israel relationship.” (9)

 

Perspectives

 

The real question is how can the Palestinians best prepare themselves for a successful uprising? To be victorious, it must be a popular uprising involving the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of men and women, young and old. Yet more so, for this to happen, in each neighborhood a popular elected committee must be established and a regional and national democratically elected national leadership based on these committees must be founded. The struggle can begin with democratically compiled demands like:

* Hands off our lands!

* Hands off al-Aqsa!

* Release all Palestinian political prisoners!

* For the right of the return of the Palestinian refugees!

*All Palestinians from the river to the sea, secular or religious, are part of the same struggle!

* For a revolutionary Constitutional Assembly of the workers and peasants from the river to the sea!

Naturally, the Israeli state will use great force to quell such a struggle. To combat this, committees for self defense must be formed. Thus, it is necessary to form workers’ and peasants’ militias led by the workers.

To win this struggle, other demands must be added as the struggle spreads and deepens, with the aim of building a workers’ and peasant’ government throughout all of Palestine.

Efforts should be made to recruit as many Israelis as possible who are ready to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians against the Israeli Apartheid state for a socialist state from the river to the sea.

Clearly the Palestinians alone cannot win the struggle against Israel. Rather, their struggle must be tied to the struggle of the masses in other Arab countries. A popular Palestinian uprising can reignite the revolutionary spirit of the Arab masses after their struggle, known as the Arab spring, was eventually stopped in its tracks due to of a lack of a working class revolutionary leadership. The RCIT is dedicated to the task of building such a revolutionary leadership – the Fifth International.

 

Footnotes

(1) Hazem Balousha: Palestinian Youth Suffer High Unemployment, Frustration, 5 March 2013, Palestine Pulse, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/03/palestinian-youth-unemloyment.html

(2) Al Akabar: Israeli forces detain 33 Palestinians in Jerusalem, November 3, 2014, 3. November 2014, https://english.al-akhbar.com/content/israeli-forces-arrest-woman-protesting-storming-al-aqsa-far-right-mp

(3) Mondoweiss: Palestinian teen abducted from East Jerusalem and killed in suspected revenge attack, 24 July 2014, http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/palestinian-jerusalem-suspected

(4) Mya Guarnieri: Long history of desecration of Muslim holy sites in Israel, Source: Alternative Information Centre, http://islam.ru/en/content/story/long-history-desecration-muslim-holy-sites-israel

(5) Israel to build temple in place of Al-Aqsa, minister says, 4 November 2014, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15064-israel-to-build-temple-in-place-of-al-aqsa-minister-says

(6) Jack Moore: Israel: Al-Aqsa Mosque 'Will be Replaced by Jewish Temple' Claims Housing Minister Uri Ariel, 4 November 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/israel-al-aqsa-mosque-will-be-replaced-by-jewish-temple-claims-housing-minister-uri-ariel-1473141#

(7) Mya Guarnieri: Long history of desecration of Muslim holy sites in Israel

(8) Jeffrey Goldberg: The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here, 28 October 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/the-crisis-in-us-israel-relations-is-officially-here/382031/?single_page=true

(9) John Hudson: White House Distances Itself From Netanyahu 'Chickenshit' Comment, Foreign Policy 29 October 2014, http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/10/29/white_house_distances_itself_from_netanyahu_chickenshit_comment

 

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