Yesterday, Palestinians protested against Israeli policies that deny Palestinians free access to Jerusalem. While the number of demonstrators was not large–over 200 participated at the Qalandia demonstration, according to Palestinian blogger Jalal Abukhater–Israeli forces still used excessive force on the protesters. The Los Angeles Times covers the demonstration here. Meanwhile, two days ago I wrote a preview of the demonstrations and the movement behind it for +972 Magazine:
Sitting outside a Tamimi family house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on a recent August evening, the conversation shifted from discussion of the previous Friday’s nonviolent protest to planned demonstrations for Friday, August 26. On normal Fridays in Nabi Saleh—if you can call it normal—residents of the village along with Israeli and international supporters attempt to march to a nearby spring that has been expropriated by the settlers of Halamish, whose red-tiled roofs and identical suburban houses overlook the village outside of Ramallah. The nonviolent protests are, without fail, met with extreme violence by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); some 30% of the population has been wounded since the demonstrations started, 60 of them children.
But the conversation that evening moved on to talk of a new campaign beginning on August 26. The shift in conversation was a precursor to the shift in focus, energy and activism planned for tomorrow.
Calling their campaign the “Olive Revolution,” a coalition of popular committees—Nabi Saleh’s included—and youth groups in the West Bank have planned mass demonstrations for tomorrow to take place at the “four doors” of Jerusalem. “We state that Jerusalem will remain the jewel of the Arabs and capital of our future country. Jerusalem is the symbol of our pride and our national dignity [and] that’s why we are going to knock on its doors by popular demonstrations and non-violent activities,” a recent statement by the “Olive Revolution” group reads.
Instead of the weekly protests in different West Bank villages, the popular committees and other activists are combining forces. The protests are planned to take place at the Qalandia checkpoint, the separation barrier in Biddu, Shuafat and the southern gate at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. The four areas highlight places where checkpoints and the separation barrier have cut off unimpeded Palestinian access to Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian life. And while access to Jerusalem has been made difficult to near impossible by Israeli policies, illegal Jewish settlements surrounding Jerusalem have easy access to what Israel calls its eternal and undivided “capital.”
The demonstrations are all part of a strategy that Bashir Tamimi, a popular committee organizer in Nabi Saleh, hopes will “smash the occupation” in order to “have our freedom.” In addition to highlighting the lack of Palestinian access to Jerusalem, the “Olive Revolution” also wants to draw attention to the religious restrictions the separation barrier and checkpoints place on Muslims who want to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s most holy sites. According to the group’s website, “four famous Islamic scholars will come” and participate in the protests.
The “last Friday of Ramadan is the holiest time of Ramadan, and the Palestinian people used to go to Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque at that time and now most of them will not go, so we want to pray and nonviolently demonstrate at the four doors of Jerusalem,” Ayed Morrar, an “Olive Revolution” organizer and leading popular committee activist in Budrus, said in an interview at the Fatah Central Committee office in Ramallah. Morrar provided more details on the planned campaign during the interview.