When Donald Trump made the announcement that the US was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he did so in full knowledge that it would enrage Palestinians, with strike action and major protests taking place in Gaza, the West Bank and within the Israeli state. This anger has been echoed across the world.
The reaction of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has been sharp and brutal. They are not just shooting to wound but to kill. Their victims include a double amputee who was shot for holding a flag. Scores have been injured or arrested and many of them are children.
The arrest that has captured the attention of the world is that of Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old woman from the West Bank. She faces 12 charges, including attacking a soldier after a video of her slapping him went viral. The incident occurred after her 15-year-old young cousin was shot in the face. Another of her young cousins was subsequently shot dead on 3 January. Even though Ahed is only 16, and under international law should be tried as a child, she could face 10 years in prison.
There are currently more than 300 Palestinian children in Israeli jails, held under Israeli military law rather than the civil law which applies to Israeli settlers. This allows the state more freedom to abuse its prisoners. To make matters worse, there has been a recent vote in the Israeli parliament to move towards introducing capital punishment for Palestinians.
Another young man who has also been arrested on foot of Trump’s declaration is 17-year-old Abdul-Khaliq Burnat from the town of Bil’in. Abdul-Khaliq faces 17 charges. I met him whilst on a trade union visit to the West Bank in November. Bil’in is known for its weekly, non-violent protests which have taken place every Friday for almost 14 years. The protests began in 2004 when Israeli forces uprooted the village’s ancient olive groves and confiscated their farmlands to build a separation wall and an illegal Israeli settlement that is now 60,000 strong. Similar settlements continue to spring up across the West Bank.
On our visit, we met Palestinians in their towns and villages, we met trade unionists who are trying to fight back in the workplace and we met Israeli citizens who had served or refused to serve in the IDF. The ex-soldiers are now part of an organisation called Breaking the Silence, which aims to unite with Palestinians against the oppression and expose the actions of the IDF. They explained that the deliberate strategy of terrorising families and innocent children is called “making your presence felt”. The objective of the IDF action is to scare Palestinians into submission and to prevent young people from joining the fight against repression. The strategy is not only failing, it is having the opposite effect.
As we go to press, mass protests are now taking place in Iran (see article on this page). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has applauded Iranians “courageously risking their own lives for freedom.” Trump has also praised the protests and stated that “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever”. The contradictions in their words and actions are staggering. Israel, with the militarily and financial support of the USA, has been systematically denying the rights of Palestinians for 70 years. Palestinians face disgraceful poverty, discrimination, racist abuse, violence and the demolition and theft of their homes and land. Effectively, they live in an apartheid state. They are struggling against the occupation but, rather than being applauded, they are being condemned, killed, beaten and jailed.
There is no solution to the oppression of the Palestinian people within the framework of imperialism and capitalist exploitation. Only the re-building of a mass movement against the occupation and oppression which challenges this system, reaching out to the Israeli working class, can create the basis for a democratic, socialist solution which guarantees the rights of all the people of the region.
By Carmel Gates, NIPSA President (personal capacity)