On Friday, August 1, we participated in a solidarity meeting with the Nazareth branch of the Communist Party of Israel (CPI). The meeting was organized by the party’s Tel Aviv chapter, following the continued incarceration, without bail, of nine Palestinian youths who were among forty arrested – most of them members of the CPI or its youth organization – in a demonstration against Israel’s current military operation in Gaza which took place in Nazareth on July 21.
All arrests were apparently made under the flimsiest of excuses. For example, Said Barakeh – son of Member of the Knesset Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the CPI’s Hadash front – was reported to have been taken into custody when he began recording the police arresting his fellow demonstrators on his iPhone.
A court order extending the jailing of the nine until August 20 was subsequently appealed by lawyers representing the youths; towards the end of Friday's meeting, we received word that the regional court authorized to rule in this case had just rejected the appeal. As a result, the nine still being held will spend a month behind bars before being brought to trial. Informed sources estimate that, due to the fabricated and contradictory nature of the police evidence, all will be acquitted. Regardless, the arrest and holding of these youths will have served the larger goal it is intended to achieve: the further intimidation of Israel’s Palestinian population and a warning lest others insist on protesting the criminal war.
Such intimidation is certainly nothing new, neither historically or during the present round of violence. In the past weeks, several Palestinian protesters in the militarily occupied West Bank have been killed and injured since the start of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza. However, it seems that, within Israel’s 1948 borders, officials are – for the moment at least – committed to a more restrained approach based on proactive intimidation. This, apparently, is in order to decrease as much as possible the chances of a repetition of the October 2000 massacres, when twelve Israeli Palestinians and one Palestinian from the West Bank were killed by police during demonstrations which broke out immediately after the start of the Second Intifada.
And, doubtless, such intimidation works. Its results were reflected in the remarks made by the comrades from Nazareth during the course of Friday’s solidarity meeting (see below). Beyond expressions of solidarity with the nine incarcerated, with our Palestinian comrades in Nazareth, and with the Palestinian people in general, the practical purpose of the meeting was an attempt to arrive at a plan of action for alleviating what those with whom we met see as a purposeful policy of the Israeli establishment to increasingly isolate the Palestinian citizens of the Zionist state.
When reviewing the increasing incidence of violence being perpetrated by right wing proto-fascists during the past weeks against individual Palestinians and, in particular, against Palestinians and Jewish Israeli leftists during demonstrations against the war in Gaza, the comrades from Nazareth testified that: “We are unable to defend ourselves”… “We are entirely dependent on the police to protect us during these demonstrations” (with results that are often far from encouraging, as witnessed by July 19th’s Saturday night demonstration in Haifa, as well as by earlier and subsequent demonstrations in Tel Aviv and other locations). In this spirit, a prominent female member of the reformist CPI who came from Tel Aviv noted that it was “incumbent to place full responsibility on the police for the protection, or lack thereof, of the demonstrators, Palestinian and Jewish.” True, the demonstrators themselves have and do regularly delegate defensive roles to a number of young participants; but the effectiveness of such ad hoc organizing is mostly dependent on the ratio of demonstrators to counter-demonstrators (as was clearly illustrated in the Haifa march cited above), and the cooperation, or lack of it, of the police, and the actual number of officers who are assigned to accompany the demonstration. When one member of the Tel Aviv delegation asked about the possibility of organizing self-defense groups on a permanent basis, he was responded to unequivocally by a prominent CPI comrade from Nazareth: “There will be no such organization!... There must be no such organization!” The rationale which precludes any such organization, it was explained, is that the moment that such an initiative it is revealed by Israel’s internal security authorities (who of course, are always watching), its members and supporters are liable to face severe charges of sedition and organizing to harm Jews.
And so, with little more than expressions of solidarity and vague, undefined plans for Jewish presence at future Palestinian demonstrations, and Palestinian presence at Jewish demonstrations, Friday’s meeting ended. In light of the increased activity and organization on the part of Israeli rightist organizations to intimidate any potential protestors against the war, and Israel’s Palestinians in general, organizations which apparently do not fear facing charges of sedition or organizing to physically harm Arabs or leftists, for the time being all the initiative appears to be in the hands of the right and the proto-fascists. This does not bode well for the near and intermediate future.