Opinion |

Thank You, Residents of Al-Quds

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray during the Laylat al-Qadr, Al-Aqsa compound East Jerusalem, May 2021.Credit: Mahmoud Illean,AP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

When all is said and done, historians will write that fascism was held at bay in Israel thanks to the steadfast position of the residents of East Jerusalem. Suleiman Maswadeh, a reporter for the Kan Public Broadcaster’s Channel 11, asks a young settler if she identifies with the slogans “Death to the Arabs” and “We will burn the village down,” and she says she is trying to speak politely, but when Maswadeh pushes her a little further she simply replies that the Arabs must leave the village so we can live there.

The young settler’s remarks fail to leave an impression on veteran military reporter Ron Ben-Yishai, and his learned commentary on Ynet, for some reason, does not even so much as mention the increasing ethnic cleansing that is slowly creeping through Sheikh Jarrah. Not a word about the residents there who experienced the massive deportation in ‘48, and the specter of the second deportation that is currently hovering over them.

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On the contrary: Ben-Yishai praises the miracle of the “measured and reasonable” way the police are handling the incidents in Jerusalem – and says that after over 200 Palestinians have been wounded and 300 police officers invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and fired a tear gas-canister inside. Naturally, you will not hear the reporter utter a word regarding the persistent abuse of the residents of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, nor a word about the checkpoints set up at Bab al-Amud (Damascus Gate). Ben-Yishai spares his readers the headache of Lehava’s “march of horror,” the cries of “Death to the Arabs” and Itamar Ben-Gvir’s provocations

So why do I thank the residents of East Jerusalem? Because they are fighting with their heads held high. This is not something to be taken for granted: a city besieged by an occupation and checkpoints, with residents who suffer abuse at the hand of messianic extremists – and yet do not give in and serve up an epic portion of retaliation for those racists. Every racist chant is answered tenfold, and at the same time these individuals bravely withstand police oppression. This should not be taken for granted. Every youth there stands as a wall against fascism, every young woman who walks with her head held high through the alleys of the Old City, is a beacon of hope against the forces of darkness.

In the history books, we read that people who lived during attacks by fascists remained under lock and key in their homes, with the curtains drawn, as the fascists ruled the streets with support from the police. But in East Jerusalem, this is not the case. And this is important to democrats in Israel because every victory by fascists increases their appetite to continue their campaign against the “traitors,” within Israeli society. The heroes in East Jerusalem are the most important barrier against the fascists, who have already begun the work “within.”

We witnessed the buds of fascism begin to blossom in the attacks at the Balfour Street demonstrations and against people at all the intersections and bridges, demonstrating against the continuation of Netanyahu’s rule.

Imagine Benzi Gopstein and Ben-Gvir, patrolling the streets of Tel Aviv, after an ethnic cleansing, God forbid, in one place or another. Just thinking about it should arouse every Jewish democrat out of their complacency. They must roll up their sleeves and stand by the residents of Sheikh Jarrah.

On this occasion, it is important for me to say a few words about presumptive prime minister Yair Lapid’s provocative post, in which he expressed his support for the police forces that caused hundreds of casualties among the Palestinian community: In its day, the Yitzhak Rabin government relied on the outside support of the Hadash and Ra’am factions, the so-called preventive bloc. But when his government put the resolution to establish a neighborhood in Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa) to a vote, those two factions opposed the resolution and led to its failure.

Facing the new government, when it is eventually formed – and it is important that it will be formed in order to bring Netanyahu’s rule to an end – is a new equation: Every good decision must be supported, and every bad one must be opposed.

This is the added value of the preventive bloc: It obstructs Likud / Ben-Gvir, and also obstructs harmful proposals. The Joint List does not have to change its DNA to be palatable to Lapid and Naftali Bennett. Moreover, it does not need a certificate of approval from the most powerful, unenlightened rabbis in the country.

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