Jerusalem – open city

There are two sides to the occupation of Palestine, one is the military industrial complex and the other is the propaganda supporting the occupation; both work to consolidate and extend control of land from Egypt in the south to Lebanon and Syria in the north and from international waters in the Mediterranean to the West Bank and the River Jordan in the East. These are the historic lands of Palestine, home of Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jew for thousands of years. Its capital is al Quds (Jerusalem), one of the oldest cities in the world.

Palestinian Arabs, Christians and Jews have lived in Al Quds (Jerusalem) for hundreds of years. The human genome indicates that people came out of Africa and up the rift valley and settled in modern Syria. This was the beginning of civilization as we know it. The dominant culture in the region (al Sham) is Arab. Later, Arab cities like al Quds, Damascus and Baghdad were established. Still later came Ottoman control spanning 600 years till shaken loose in the carve up under the secret Sykes-Picot agreement during World War I.

Al Quds (Jerusalem) predates all Abrahamic religions including Judaism. It was established during Canaanite period in the bronze age. Arab tribes lived in Yemen long before ‘The City of David’ (Jerusalem) was established. Of course there are other Abrahamic religions apart from the ones mentioned: Yezidi, Yarsani and Alevi faiths, Samaritanism, and the Druze.

Bombing of the King David Hotel
In 1946 Israeli terrorist militia, the Irgun, bombed the King David hotel in the centre of Jerusalem (Al Quds) killing 91 people and injuring 45. The hotel was the headquarters of British administrative and military rule over Palestine. After the bombing the Irgun and another terrorist group the Haganah drove Palestinians from their land in what became the Catastrophe (Al Nakba). The British left, and despite promises of independence, deserting Arab towns and villages to the brutality of Israeli militia. Hence the Israeli massacre of villagers at Deir Yassin, a small town near Jerusalem. Since 1948, under Israeli control, Jerusalem has become a closed city.

Jerusalem was built by many, no one group can lay claim to sovereignty over the city … its history is that of an open city, a multicultural place. I have Orthodox Arab friends whose grandparents walked to al Quds on their honeymoon from the Beqaa Valley prior to modern day Lebanon.

The 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem and the building of the wall by Israeli occupation forces is contrary to the democratic right of access by Palestinian workers who challenge the occupation. Claims of legal ownership by Israel does not make a brutal occupation of Jerusalem fair or just.

Military Industrial Complex
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” – US President Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation, January 17, 1961.

Military spending in Israel is out of sync with its gross domestic product (GDP). Recently the United States finalized a $38 billion package of military aid for Israel over the next 10 years. Added to this, Israel itself spends over $25 billion every year on the military which is about 5.2% of GDP. Israel exports much of its military software and hardware and trains despotic regimes around the world in the methods of putting down resistance by the people. By contrast, the Palestinian people have borne the brunt of the resistance not just against Israel but also against United States control in the Middle East. Russia does not spend even nearly this much on its military intervention in the region.
Despite this, Palestinians have been able to use peaceful means of resisting Israeli occupation forces but at great cost. Peaceful protest like the Great March of Return has been surprisingly effective.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla
A recent report suggests that Israeli occupation forces (IDF) would struggle to rebuff a concerted campaign to break the blockade of Gaza. This poses some political questions for the Israeli government. As long ago as 2010, Israeli forces had some difficulty stopping 700 activists on seven or eight vessels sailing out of Turkey and breaking the blockade of Gaza. Footage released by the IDF at the time suggests that the initial boarding of the MV Mavi Marmara was repelled by unarmed passengers. A UN report disclosed that Israeli forces murdered eight activists and two journalists on board the vessel before they could take full command of the ship and the remainder of the flotilla. The cost was high but it focused international attention on the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, a closed strip of land, overpopulated, poor, and defenceless against repeated bombing campaigns by the occupation forces.

The international community was outraged by Israeli pirates using brute force and weapons to take charge of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. But on the downside it frightened others from taking part in subsequent freedom flotillas. For example in 2018 only 34 people took part in breaching the blockade. Both Italy and Greece attempted to prevent the flotilla from getting to Palestine. In the following interview Chris Graham, editor of New Matilda, describes both ruthlessness and incompetence by Israeli occupation forces when capturing the Gaza Freedom flotilla 42 nautical miles from the coastline of Gaza in August 2018. He also makes brief mention of the IDF’s main spin doctor, Brigadier General Ronin Manellis.

During his talk to the newly formed Students For Justice in Palestine UQ Chris Graham called for greater participation in the flotilla and refuted Israeli spin that it is too dangerous.

Recently a Palestinian flotilla was shot at for attempting to exercise their right to free movement. Those on board need medical treatment which Israel denies them, breaking international law.

Great March of Return
The Palestinians have discovered their own ‘long march’, they call it the Great March of Return that occurred at the Gaza border from Land Day on 30 March 2018 till Al Nakba on 15 May 2018 and beyond. Estimates of people marching to the border fence during the marches vary from 30,000 people upwards.

The response by Israeli occupation forces is called ‘operation slingshot’ which is intended to maximise civilian casualties. By 15 May 2018, more than 3,500 Palestinians had been shot in the legs compared with 563 in the head and neck (surely an intention to kill).
The tactics of the demonstrators was clearly to reduce casualties; they do so by burning tyres for covering smoke and using the landscape for protection. They keep low where possible. They also use incendiary kites that set fire to grasslands and fields under occupation.

March on Jerusalem
Meanwhile repression by Israeli Occupation Forces on the West Bank is just as great. Between 7 and 27 December 2017, 4,690 injuries were recorded by the PRCS in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.17 In the Gaza Strip, the IOF escalated the situation over the past month by launching airstrikes that killed three Palestinians and injured some 21 others, including an infant. On 6 December 2017, the United States (US) President Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem, in contravention of international law and long­‐standing international consensus on the status of Jerusalem.

Perhaps a co-ordinated march on Jerusalem by land and sea from all the supporters of Palestine may help achieve democratic rights for Palestinians and the right of return. I am thinking of an international solidarity march from all border crossings: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt – highly co-ordinated to increase pressure on Israel. Until now there have been marches from Gaza and from Lebanon and Syria but not from all points of the compass, by land and sea. This would mean the freedom flotilla would have to coordinate with the march of return.

At the same time, the Boycott Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement would have to push hard to bring greater economic pressure upon Israel and its backers in the West.
The aim would be to show how, no matter how many soldiers, even backed up by nuclear weapons, Israel is weak and cowardly, and people are strong.

If nuclear armed Israel, fully supported by the US military industrial complex, were unable to stop a march on Jerusalem, that would be a revolution, real change, indeed. It is a mental fight as well as a physical one, we would have to march on our feet, sleep in this ancient land along pathways crossed many times before, to respect its people, till we, again, have made Jerusalem an open city once more.

Ian Curr
Justice for Palestine, Brisbane
Spring, 2018

Banner photo from Balcony Over Jerusalem – A Middle East Memoir by John Lyons

Balcony Over Jerusalem, by John Lyons with Sylvie Le Clezio

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