Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem–As they do every Friday afternoon in occupied Jerusalem, the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement demonstrated July 8 against illegal Jewish-only settlements in Jerusalem that continue to displace Palestinians and diminish any remaining hope that a state of Palestine could have East Jerusalem as its capital.
What made this march slightly different, though, is that the hundreds of activists who marched in Jerusalem and chanted outside the homes of settlers who have evicted Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah were eagerly looking ahead to next Friday. On July 15, the solidarity movement is calling for a large, joint Jewish-Arab demonstration in support of a Palestinian state and the current effort for United Nations recognition of that state. Their call reads:
Today it is clear that genuine negotiation is not going to happen under the current government. Even if the Europeans and the Americans drag Bibi to another round of talks, there will be no outcome. For a long time now, negotiations have been nothing more than yet another means of perpetuating occupation. There is no choice for anyone advocating for an end Israeli control over the Palestinians other than supporting the only realistic way left to achieve this goal: recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
Applying to the United Nations for such recognition is not merely the Palestinian people’s right, it is the sole remaining constructive step for countering unending negotiation and the threat of increased violence. As Israelis who support the Palestinian struggle for independence, it is our duty to express our backing for the Palestinian initiative.
The leaders of the movement, in between Arabic chants of “From Sheikh Jarrah to Bil’in, free, free Palestine,” were busy inviting the demonstrators who showed up in the scorching heat to join them next Friday. Both the Israeli and Palestinian activists involved with the Sheikh Jarrah protests hope it marks a significant display of support for a free and independent Palestine. It’s part of many efforts across Palestine to prepare for September and what could happen next.
“We are looking towards September, and the possibility of a popular uprising around Palestine,” Daniel Argo, an Israeli leader in the movement, told me.
Similarly, Sara Benninga, a well-known Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity activist who spoke at this year’s J Street conference, said, “It’s an ongoing struggle. We have our high points, and next week is definitely going to be a high point–a big march of many Palestinians and Israelis together…It is the choice of the Palestinian nonviolent struggle to go down this road, and we in solidarity with them are supporting their decision.”
The July 8 demonstration also came on the same day that international solidarity activists attempted to fly to Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and declare their intention to visit the occupied West Bank. Israel deployed a beefed-up security presence, while civilian Israelis beat up and spit on the activists. The Israeli authorities also detained and deported many activists; some remain in Israeli prison currently.
“The fact that Israel is trying to deny access to peaceful activists coming to visit Palestine, to express solidarity, just shows how much Israel is threatened from the nonviolent, joint struggle. It gives us more power to continue because we know this is our right, and eventually, we’re going to win,” said Benninga.