The Arabs of 1948 take up the torch of Palestine’s historical identity and bring down Israelization
Jerusalem-based Palestinian journalist Muhanad Abdel Hamid looks back at the Arabs of 1948 and their descendants, recent role in defending the city.
It is difficult to summarize the contribution of the Palestinians of 1948 in the battle to defend Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Bab Al-Amoud and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in confronting the Israeli ethnic cleansing.
Their role was crucial and decisive in protecting the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, controlling the Bab Al-Amoud square that connects the districts of Jerusalem and the Old City, and in repelling the policy of the secular and contiguous sharing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Those with knowledge of the Nakba were among the wave of angry youth that rolled out across the city. They gathered day and night in large numbers at the sites of the confrontations, benefiting from their Israeli identity – unlike the youth of the West Bank who were prevented by the occupier’s barriers.
When the occupiers stopped the vast convoy of buses of citizens coming from the Triangle, the Negev and Galilee, the young men of Jerusalem rushed to accompany them on foot and ferry them within their private vehicles. It was an epic scene. A mass of humanity and their will overcame the occupiers who were forced to retreat at Bab al-Amud and postpone the annual march in the Old City – organized by settlers for the benefit of the world’s media – to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Israeli Supreme Court postponed its decision to evict homeowners in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Their presence imposed substantial Israeli setbacks, in addition to the previous Israeli concessions, especially the retreat from placing the gates at the entrances to Al-Aqsa Mosque and the abandonment of annexing the lands surrounding the shrine of the Prophet Moussa.
Moreover, the Palestinians of 1948 participated in organized, massive and continuous protests in Haifa, Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm, and many towns and villages. For the first time, Palestinian citizens of Acre, Jaffa, Lod and Ramle joined the protests, reclaiming their identity and heritage, which the Israelis believed had gone forever.
It was remarkable that Palestinian flags were raised in the cities of Acre and Lod, its symbol underlined by the holding up of images of George Habash, much to the astonishment of Israeli authorities.
This brave show led the fascist fanatics and the occupation authorities to conduct a variety of attacks. They ranged from repression to dismissal from work through to a harsh crackdown involving a campaign of arrests of activists who were an essential part of defending Jerusalem and opposing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
The most significant event was a comprehensive Palestinian strike – the so-called “strike of dignity and unity” held on May 18. A response to the call issued by the Higher Follow-up Committee in the forty-eight regions to strike, it was observed by all citizens of historic Palestine, as well as within the Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Jordan, and observed in support of Jerusalem and in protest against Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian youth movements called for the organization of the “Week to support the national economy” initiative. It started on June 6, and to which Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian diaspora responded in support of the continuation of the unified Palestinian struggle.
The Zionist settler colonialists had treated the Palestinian population who remained in their homeland – estimated at the time about 150,000 – as a security threat or, as they are often described, an “internal enemy”. As such, it operated in a systematic and continuous manner to suppress their political aspirations and bring about a complete rupture between them and other Palestinians and the wider Arab world.
Now that the number of Palestinians in the forty-eight areas exceeds one and a half million (20% of the total population), Israel is working to transform them into anonymous individuals and integrate them economically while erasing their national identity.
However, the development of Palestinian society inside Israel was always linked to the revival of identity and their connection with other Palestinian entities and the wider Arab environment. According to the Israeli Al-Mashhad website, Amnon Abramovich, a political analyst at Channel 12 TV, said, “The Arabs inside Israel have destructive power, as their strike means that there will be no doctors, pharmacists, nurses, cleaners, drivers, and even goal scorers in football matches.
Many changes are taking place. In the interest of the Palestinian people inside Palestine, many Israeli plans for exclusion fail in return for a Palestinian presence that develops and grows. The Israeli authorities destroyed the village of Al-Araqib in the Negev one hundred and eighty-four times. The village was built by the Palestinians one-hundred-and-eighty-four times”.
It can be said that the ‘gift of May’ brought the Palestinian cause back to the forefront after Netanyahu, with American support and Arab silence, succeeded in putting it on the sidelines.
The intifada united the Palestinians at home. The scene was led by a young Palestinian generation who presented a new discourse and succeeded in rebuilding Palestinian national unity from below through specific demands and tasks.
It is certain that this gift bypassed the Palestinian political movement – the two authorities in the West Bank and Gaza and their political cant – and built bridges with the outside world, where global solidarity and support are growing through new movements.