Date of publication: 31 July, 2017
Jerusalemites who were deeply involved in the daily protests explained in interviews that for the first time since their occupation by Israel in1967 they have successfully directed their communal capabilities, solidarity, and collective responsibility for the city towards a specific goal: continued, open access to the Al-Aqsa compound.
By praying at or near Al-Aqsa for two weeks straight, they quickly attacked two critical vulnerabilities that have defined their lives for decades: Their material and personal well-being in Jerusalem under the harsh thumb of the Israeli occupation, and their absent political representation as they floated between the Israelis who physically control them, and the Palestinian national leadership that has been powerless to improve their life conditions.
|Palestinians successfully rejected, defied, and ultimately reversed Israel’s security and control mechanisms|
In every aspect of their lives, these Palestinians live in fear and uncertainty that at any moment they could be arrested, shot, harassed or evicted from their homes by Israeli settlers. They are under constant threat of having their Jerusalem residence cards revoked, being prevented from travelling or denied construction or business permits, and they suffer many other acts of aggression that hinder daily life.
Full Palestinian Arab Muslim control of the built area of the entire Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock compound has been the agreed status quo for years; Israel, for its part controls the Western Wall of the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) or Temple Mount compound they revere as a remnant of an earlier ancient Jewish temple.
|In the BDS movement and the Aqsa prayer resistance episode, Palestinian society now has at least two models of nonviolent resistance that have proved more effective than the traditional political leadership||
When the Palestinians acted spontaneously and independently to protect themselves and their sovereign control of the Aqsa compound, four key actors, among others, converged to drive the mass protest under the broad leadership of the religious authorities who share responsibility for the Aqsa compound:
The hirak youth movement which comprises some 100,000 young men and women in Arab East Jerusalem who neither fear Israel nor respect the Palestinian official leadership they feel has abandoned them; the leadership of Al-Aqsa’s Islamic waqf (religious endowment) that manages the site with three other local Islamic religious officials; the activism and round the clock street support of the entire community that transcended pious Muslims to include Christians, secular, groups, civil society, and others; and the direct participation of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who travelled to join the Jerusalem protest.
Confronted with Israel’s new unilateral measures that constrained their daily lives, and virtually abandoned by the Palestinian leadership and other Arab states, the Palestinians protested and resisted as a means of asserting their presence and their rights in Jerusalem.
They say their actions reflect their determination to “resist to exist in dignity, for freedom and independence”.
The most frightening aspect of these developments for Israelis would see such effective nonviolent resistance link up with the Palestinian civil society movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel (BDS movement) in order to campaign against Israel’s treatment of all Palestinians – those in Israel, the occupied territories, and in exile abroad.
Follow him on Twitter: @ramikhouri
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.