During the last couple of months, the situation in Palestine has escalated into a generalized uprising against Zionism, colonialism and apartheid. All of Israel’s and the local far-right’s attempts to crush the spirit of the Palestinian people have resulted in a unified mass resistance, for the first time in decades. The following text is a ground level report from an occupied land, discussing the course of the insurrection, as well as the counter-insurgency tactics, and Hamas’ role in the events.
For starters, could we have some info about you? As it would help us to better understand from what position you are talking.
I’m an anarchist based in Haifa, Occupied Palestine, so-called Israel. I live in an historical Palestinian city, that faced a massive attack and terrorist aggression by Zionist militias in 1948, aimed at expelling the local indigenous population and colonizing the land. Since then, the Palestinians that remain live under an ethnic supremacy and apartheid system, and the refugees abroad are still aspiring to return. I come from a settler Jewish family, arriving on this land during the ’80s, and once I got the facts straight, I knew which position I should take.
Once again, bad news spread around the world from the Palestinian and Israeli territories. In a few words, what happened there?
We had a rough few months here. Not sure exactly where to start, but it’s good to concentrate on Jerusalem/Al-Quds that, as in many other uprisings, was the trigger. During April, settlers and cops provoked people in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian part of town, especially in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the Al-Aqsa compound. In order to get the background you need, know that from the Zionist occupation of 1948 to 1967, East Jerusalem was under the control of Jordan. Some of the neighborhoods were populated by Palestinian refugees escaping the Zionist invasion and Nakba of 1948. Sheikh Jarrah is one of them. After the occupation of 1967, the Zionist state is celebrating the “reunification” of Jerusalem each year, now a national holiday. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers arrived at the neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, much like the rest of the occupied West Bank, with clear plans of colonization and Judaization of the area. In Sheikh Jarrah, an old Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, settler organizations engage in legal battles against local residents in the Israeli apartheid court system, in efforts to evict local Palestinians and replace them with Jewish settlers, claiming the property used to be owned by Jews. A few families had already been evicted during 2008, 2009, and 2017, and now, a new court ruling puts an additional 8 families under a threat of eviction, which is roughly 500 people. Jewish settlements exist in other neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as well, such as Silwan and Abu Tor.
In the Al-Aqsa compound, one of the holiest places to Islam, Israel placed barriers in Bab Al-‘Amud, one of the entrances to the mosque, in the beginning on the month of Ramadan, in an effort to limit the number of worshipers and restrict movement. This act provoked outrage, and days of rioting ensued in Bab Al-‘Amud and the main streets in East Jerusalem. The barriers were eventually removed. Meanwhile, tensions in the city had escalated. Some Palestinian youth posted TikTok videos of them attacking Jews around the city, and Jewish far-right gangs mobilized to attack people suspected of being Arabs in the city center. Lehava, a far-right organization, led a racist ‘Death to Arabs’ march, from the city center to Bab Al-‘Amud during the riots, and were blocked by police on their way.
On May 10, during “Jerusalem day”, the national holiday celebrating the occupation of the eastern part of the city in 1967, the annual ‘flag parade’ took place in the city, and right-wing participants were expected to enter the Muslim quarter in the old city and shout racist slurs under police protection, as they do every year. Israeli police invaded the Al-Aqsa mosque, and in the intense riots, dozens of cops and hundreds of protestors were injured. Around 5 pm, Hamas announced that Israel has 1 hour to evict all of its police forces from Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa compound. As this deadline passed, Hamas launched rockets into Israel, reaching Jerusalem. Israel in response announced a military operation in Gaza, and began to bombard the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, in a massacre and destruction that lasted 12 days, until a ceasefire was reached on May 21.
Meanwhile, a generalized uprising took place amongst the Palestinians, including 48 Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1948 (i.e., so-called “Israel”), 67 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and refugee communities abroad. A united insurrection, with days of riots in Palestinian, Israeli and mixed cities and villages, refugee camps in nearby countries, and Israeli embassies and consulates everywhere. A general strike was also announced on May 18, involving all of the Palestinians, for the first time in decades.
What are the important facts or basics we need to know about the history of this conflict? Should we call it a conflict, actually?
It is a conflict as much as an attack by a nuclear superpower with one of the most advanced armies in the world backed by the strongest state on earth against a poor occupied civilian population without an army could be characterized as a “conflict”. This is an aggression, the ‘two sides’ are the oppressor and the oppressed, the colonizer and the colonized. The asymmetrical nature of the situation is so inherent, it’s completely ridiculous in my opinion that people struggle with ‘complexities’ while entire neighborhoods are being erased in Gaza by Israeli military airstrikes, killing 250 people in less than two weeks, while Gazans have primitive rockets, most of them falling in open fields, or being neutralized by Iron Dome- Israel’s defense system. The 9 people killed on the Israeli side came from the lower classes of society – mainly migrant workers, and even Palestinians, as was the case in the village Dahamash near Ramle.
To really understand the true nature of this ‘conflict’ one must understand the inherently racist and colonialist nature of Zionism. As the Zionist occupation armies invaded this land in 1948, it was rich with culture. In what’s known as the Nakba, literally ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, entire villages were erased, massacres were committed, and hundreds of thousands of refugees driven away off their land. In the conquest for the Jewish land, a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing was committed. The indigenous population abroad in refugee camps in nearby countries and all over the world are still aspiring to return. Those that managed to stay were subjected to realities of colonialism, racism, and discrimination. Laws such as the Absentee Property Act ruled that land and property of refugees fleeing Zionist aggression is now state property. The newly arrived Jewish immigrants were housed in those empty neighborhoods and towns. A military rule from 1948 to 1966 imposed on the Palestinians that remained on the land restrictions, expulsion from villages, curfews and detentions, and various other discriminatory actions, all with one aim: to increase Jewish presence and cleanse the land of Palestinians as much as possible.
After the occupation of 1967, unlike the one of 1948, Israel decided not to annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip to its official territory, but to keep it in an unclear, ‘temporary status’. Even though Israeli military control basically every facet of the Palestinians’ life there, they are not Israeli citizens, are under military law, and have no rights. The Jewish settlers living in settlements nearby are fully Israeli citizens and are under civilian law. Israeli settlement divides the West Bank into small cantons, and the separation walls since 2003 is another tool of land theft. The wall does not go through the 1967 “green line” border, but goes inside villages, in many cases annexing land in favor of nearby Jewish settlements.
Since 2007, The Gaza Strip has been under siege, as a tool of collective punishment for Hamas’s rule over the area. Despite Israel’s claim of withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it still controls its borders, water and airspace. Gaza, one of the densest areas in the world with a population of over 2 million, has already been bombed numerous times in military operations (massacres) in recent years, leading to thousands of casualties and deteriorating humanitarian catastrophe.
Israel is the leading front of settler colonialism currently in the world, one of the ugliest examples of a nation-state as a way of solving the problems of oppressed minorities. There won’t be an end in sight without decolonization, return of the refugees, and a truly shared and equal existence, without Zionism and apartheid. The time to start building the basis for such a future is now.
How do the Palestinian people live and/or survive? Is this apartheid taking the scale of an ethnical cleansing or a genocide? What is HAMAS’ role?
Hundreds of people are facing eviction in East Jerusalem. Gaza is in ruins, still under a siege, the largest open prison in the world. A complete devastation and human tragedy. 250 were killed during the latest Israeli aggression. Clean water is scarce. Health facilities were damaged, including the only lab in Gaza for testing Covid 19 cases. The pandemic is on the rise. Electricity hours are limited. Tens of thousands are displaced, with no home to come back to. Unemployment and poverty are blooming. Inside of so-called Israel, Palestinians are facing an intense state terror campaign, aimed at repressing any dissent and punishing those willing to resist. About 2000 were arrested so far for the protests this month, with more arrests expected. In the West Bank, settlements and racist separation walls continue to divide the land into small cantons, annex land from Palestinian villages and make life unbearable. The refugees are still unable to return. Palestine has been experiencing an ongoing, uninterrupted ethnic cleansing campaign since 1948, and the Nakba never ended. One settler in the Eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan made it very clear: “We won’t stop until East Jerusalem becomes like West Jerusalem. Jewish. The Palestinians have no place in this vision.”
But despite all hardship, people are still resisting. The Palestinians stood still during the last uprising, proved unity, and fought the Zionist state bravely, despite all the attempts to divide them and crush their spirit. The revolt proved to be courageous, and uncontrollable. None of the youth fighting the police in Palestinian and mixed cities, erecting barricades and defending against fascist invasion are obedient to any party or political faction. The new generation of fighters on the street are immune to the pacification efforts from the regular collaborator’s forces, in the form of political parties, NGOs, and respectable community and religious ‘leaders’.
Hamas’s role in the story is exactly what the “Palestinian leadership” did during every wave of popular uprising: take over the situation and kill mass appeal of the insurrection. Just like the P.L.O. (Palestine Liberation Organization) during the first Intifada, once the militarist militias took over, the ‘professional revolutionaries’, the people became passive spectators of their own ‘liberation’. During the insurrection, the focus turned quickly to rockets launched in Gaza flying over Israeli cities, and the riots and protests largely died out. One can’t help but feel that Hamas interrupted the birth of a popular mass movement, in the inner cities of the occupation, capable of creating real damage.
What about the Israelis? How do they react in this condition? Is there any far-right movement in society? Had Netanyahu the support of the people?
During the last uprising, there was a big far-right anti-Palestinian mobilization and fascists lynch mobs attacking Palestinians. In a now infamous incident in Bat Yam, racist lynch mobs that tried to reach Jaffa rioted, smashed windows of businesses owned by Arabs, and attacked an Arab driver, caught on live television. The police were not present. In Haifa, they stormed Palestinian neighborhoods, attacked passengers, damaged cars, threw stones at houses and shouted racist slurs. In Lydda, extremist settlers from the West Bank came to the city, armed with guns, despite the police announcing curfew in the city in the early days of the uprising, and shot people, threw stones, set stores on fire and attacked mosques and cemeteries. In a few cases the police stood by and did nothing. There is even documentation of them throwing stones on Palestinians from police lines. Those pogroms are well documented, but there are significantly more Palestinians arrested than far-right Jewish fascists.
To get into Israeli fascism and the local far-right movement would be quite a lengthy endeavour, let me just say the working-class here is generally very right-wing, and that Zionism has created a monster I’m not sure it can control. They are allowed to freely attack Palestinians to suppress generalized uprisings, but have to disappear and go underground once exposed. They are the direct consequence of Zionism, and it’s important for me to state that people use the far-right extremists as a way to avoid dealing with mainstream Zionism. It’s easy for liberal Israelis to get disgusted by right-wing assholes shouting death to Arabs in Jerusalem, and then support IDF soldiers attacking Gaza during airstrikes, actually putting ‘death to Arabs’ into practice. In a state founded on ethnic cleansing backed by inherently racist and colonialist ideology, one must not be surprised at the existence of racist pogromists and lynch mobs.
Netanyahu is quite a polarizing figure, but I’ll say he has the support of a huge chunk of the Israeli society. But not everybody of course. During the last summer, Jerusalem held some very big anti-Netanyahu demonstrations. The “Anti-Bibi (Netanyahu’s nickname in Israel) Movement” got its momentum after corruption allegations were made public and a police investigation is currently ongoing. Israel is currently in an electoral crisis, after 4 elections during the last 2 years, and despite Bibi winning the largest number of votes in all of them, he was time and time again unable to form a government, due to Israel’s electoral system, and new elections were announced. In the last elections held in March, Netanyahu once again got the largest number of votes, but again was unable to form a government, and the mandate went to his opponents- the right-wing Naftali Bennet and the centrist Yair Lapid, which would apparently share the government, 2 years each. So, for now, if things won’t change again, it seems as though the anti-Bibi movement reached its goal. But things are not expected to go about smoothly. Protests for and against the new government are polarizing the country, and things can go anywhere from here. There are even talks in the media warning about political assassination, as the pro-Bibi camp is very not happy about the course of events.
What about the persecuted and imprisoned people in so-called Israel? Who are they and what have they tried to do? Are there any movements against the state and the capital?
There was, actually, quite a long tradition of Israeli Jewish working-class communities that called for an end of the occupation. The Israeli Black Panthers, a group of young Mizrahi Jewish immigrants active in Jerusalem during the 70’s, were critical of Zionism, and combined calls for an end of the military rule in their demands for economic and social justice. Here in Haifa, there was also a famous Mizrahi revolt, in the 50’s, in the Wadi Salib neighborhood- by the way, an historical Palestinian neighborhood that got evicted during the Nakba. After a police officer shot and injured a person in a local café, the residents rioted for days, demanding an end to police brutality and the discrimination against Mizrahi Jews by the Ashkenazi elite. An end for the military rule over the Arabs was one of the demands. There was a time in which solidarity with the Palestinians was part of the radical Mizrahi working class conscience. But this tradition is long gone. The “Mizrahi discourse” today deteriorated into a liberal, “identity politics” nonsense, with demands like ‘representation’ of politicians in the parliament, more Mizrahi police officers and Mizrahi people on money bills.
It’s hard to explain how right wing the Israeli working class is. But people are still revolting. During the last years, there were a few incidents of police officers shooting and killing Ethiopian Jewish youth. People went out to the streets and rioted all over the country, in many cases connecting it with the Black Lives Matter movement in the so-called US. There weren’t any clear solidarity messages with the Palestinians, but a pretty significant movement against army conscription grew out of the Ethiopian-Jewish protests, under the banner “our blood is good only for wars”. That’s a big deal in a militaristic state like Israel, in which the army is above all. Also, connections are being made, and it’s hard to predict where social processes will take us. During the anti-Netanyahu protests last summer in Jerusalem, proletariat youth met each other on the street, with Ethiopians, Palestinians, Mizrahi, feminists, environmentalists etc. protesting side by side for the same interests. Despite how liberal the overall demonstrations were, in its far edges, communities that don’t usually get to see each other eye to eye and don’t understand their shared interests finally got the chance to do so. People are now making the connections between the deaths of Ethiopian Jewish youth, like Salomon Teka and Yehuda Biagda, with the deaths of Palestinians like Iyad Al-Halak and Munis Anabtawi, all of whom were murdered by police. It took a long time for this to happen. But of course, I don’t want to paint the picture in more romantic colors than it actually is. It’s too early to discuss any movement that is willing to give up the state and capital amongst Israelis, and I doubt it will happen any time soon. The Palestinian resistance will remail the only truly revolutionary movement in the region.
The conversation about antisemitism and anti-Zionism is starting every time this crisis is arising. Do you accept these terms and if so, what is your opinion on them? Are there any problematics you wanna note in terms of their use? Is the state of Israel using them in its blame-game and, on the other hand, is there such hate from any part of the Palestinians?
Just talked about it with some German comrades lately! I’m going to be completely honest with y’all here: I’m sick and tired of antisemitism being brought up every time the issue of Palestine is being raised. I doubt the honesty and integrity of anyone that while entire neighborhoods are being erased with airstrikes and people are being evicted from their homes to be replaced by settlers, all he has to say is “yes, but the Jews”. We need to really focus right now. People are dying. Ethnic cleansing and colonization campaigns are ongoing. State repression and terror is at an all time high. Gaza is a hell of earth, and the situation is unbearable. This is a human catastrophe. We don’t have the time to deal with false accusations. Don’t take the bait.
I’m not going to get into how anti-Zionism is different from antisemitism, it’s so old and well known that it’s really boring and cliché at that point. Most people already know that, and those who aren’t willing to listen for various reasons won’t listen anyway. The left goes in circles around it, because it’s apparently easier to deal with false ‘complexities’ and theoretical debates than notice what’s happening in front of your eyes. Jewish people were opposing Zionism since the very beginning, way before the state of Israel existed. The nation-state form is a project of reinventing the mechanism needed to ‘purify’ and simplify the land from any diversity and complexity, until nothing is left but a monolithic state identity. Just notice the language they use- Israel has the right to defend itself. States don’t have rights. They have “rights” insofar as they protect their citizens, and we all know states don’t do that. I honestly think that Israel is one of the worst things that has happened to Jewish people, it’s an extension of their historical ethnic cleansing from Europe, and a way backwards in many aspects. By Netanyahu’s relationship with figures like Trump and Bolsonaro, and Israel’s right-wing warm relationship with its European and American counterpart, you get that Zionism and antisemitism not only do not oppose each other, they go very well together. They complement each other.
Anyway, as for antisemitism in the solidarity movement, it exists and of course needs to be dealt with. Jewish and Palestinian comrades are aware of it and fighting it for decades. The BDS movement, for example, is strictly against any kind of racism, including antisemitism, and is enforcing this policy against any bigot abusing its platform. People need to gatekeep the solidarity movement against any kind of fascist bullshit, like I saw comrades in Germany confronting Turkish fascists infiltrating a pro-Palestinian demonstration. That’s good, and needs to happen more. And it’s different from simply labeling the whole movement antisemitic altogether. Fascists will take a hold in any platform they feel they can use to propagate their hate, and they infiltrate social movements constantly. It’s our job as antifascists to deny that to them.
Middle East: Could we have a “political map” on the converging and conflicting state-forces? Some Palestinians, for example, were requesting – on social media – the Pakistani help. On the other hand, the state of Israel has the support of the U.S.A. What is your perspective on the world’s response concerning the never-ending violence and massacre in the area?
Geopolitics, of course, play a big part in inflaming the so-called “conflict”. After the so-called US became a superpower in the 1940’s and Britain drew its forces out of the middle east, there was a strong need for a new ‘regional cop’, a western ally to keep the local interests in check. Arab nationalism was a strong force at that time, and a pro-western power was the logical “security” needed to keep the “stability”, meaning American influence and control over the resources of the region. Israel impressed the US during the Nakba, with American military describing it as “the strongest military force in the region after Turkey”. This perception received further confirmation in 1967, after Israel destroyed the power of Nasser’s Egypt, and eliminated Arab nationalism as a dominant power in the region. Even further confirmation came in 1970, when Israel protected Jordan from a Syrian invasion, probably in protection of oil fields. This tendency grew over the years. Today, Israel receives billions of dollars in military aid from the US annually, more than the aid the US grants the entire African continent. To keep a strong Israel is a significant US strategic goal, which is another reason why the US repeatedly vetoes and blocks UN decisions concerning the Palestinians.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, are completely alone, and constantly betrayed by their so-called ‘allies’. The Arab countries have long ago abandoned ‘Arab nationalism’ in favor of a neo-colonial order of puppet dictators and western influence. The “Arab spring” might have given hope for a second, but generally speaking, new dictators replaced the old ones. The latest ‘peace agreement’ between Israel and the UAE shows the lengths neoliberal monarchies in the middle east will go in normalizing Israel’s presence, as long as business and free trade are concerned. Other state powers are completely opportunistic: The Soviets gave their support during the cold war, whenever it suited their interests. The Palestinians can’t even count on their own “leadership”, as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are themselves corrupted dictators and opportunistic bureaucracies acting against their own people. The only real ally left is the people on the ground with the international solidarity movement willing to raise its voice and act against modern forms of apartheid, colonialism and state terror.
Is there any message you want to send to the anarchists and antifascists around the world? How can we all show our solidarity to the Palestinians or the peace and freedom fighters in so-called Israel?
The Palestinians need help and support. They need action and solidarity. Comrades loving freedom from all over the world need to raise their voice for them. Target Israeli interests in your region. Join your local BDS chapter and call for a boycott. Organize direct action. Do anything you can to get the message across. Internationalist revolutionary solidarity is our strongest weapon against state terror and repression. “Comrades” who are silent – your silence is deafening.
Anything about the future?
Fuck “co-existence”, we need co-resistance. We need a joint insurrection, of Israelis, Palestinians on the ground, and refugees and their supporters abroad, against colonialist Zionism and the apartheid regime. We need to create the basis of a new culture, of people capable of creating the autonomy in which people could meet each other on the streets, and reinvent living together. We need to share this land as equals, to smash the visible and invisible borders of fear and control, and imagine politics beyond state terror. We need all of this to not be a fantasy, but a reality of the struggle, with courage, and forming brave connections. May we see the day.
You can check the report I wrote to CrimetInc. concerning the last uprising, in which I dive to some of the topics I mentioned here in details.
Latest Update (End of June): As the last flag march was interrupted by Hamas rockets, the settlers decided to hold another one. After the riots and the last escalation, there was a big controversy, but the new government, held by the new prime minister Naftali Bennet, eventually allowed the march to take place on June 15, with thousands of settlers and right-wing activists raiding Jerusalem with racist slurs against Arabs and Muslims, under full police protection, as usual. Numerous ‘death to Arabs’, calls for burning of villages, a second Nakba, and slurs against the Muslim prophet Muhammad were recorded during the march. Small groups of Palestinian resistance on the outskirts of the route of the march were brutally suppressed by riot police. Hamas once again threatened Israel, and in response to the march launched explosive balloons to towns and agricultural fields near the Gaza border, causing fires. Israel in response attacked Gaza once again, this time under the new government, which is obviously the same as the old.