Opinion

The Palestinians Learn From History

When tens of thousands of Palestinians decide to resist peacefully, it sends an important message

Palestinians celebrate at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount after Israel removed all security measures there, July 27, 2017.
MUAMMAR JAMEL AWAD/REUTERS

How uncharitable! The Palestinians finally get a little joy, and the Israeli right went off the rails with rage. Guys, what’s up? After all, you won innumerable wars, every other day you’re burning the consciousness of some Palestinian town or village; humiliating women, children and old people at checkpoints and explaining to children in their beds in the middle of the night exactly who’s in charge. Why so much envy of the Palestinians?

All the Palestinians did was to restore the situation at the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem. Don’t Palestinians deserve to have a brief respite from their daily suffering in every place? What’s more, during the festivities at Al-Aqsa, furious soldiers — sitting at a higher level — didn’t miss the opportunity to toss a stun grenade into the crowd that filled the plaza; they have to remind the Palestinians who’s the boss and who has the monopoly on victories.

But still, here is some advice to our astonished friends on the right: Save your anger for the days yet to come, when the settlements will be dismantled and we really will have two states, not the bluff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On the other hand, it was amazing to hear the Palestinian roar of victory at Al-Aqsa, which was achieved through the extensive activity of King Salman of Saudi Arabia. In one of the caricatures one sees a handcuffed man, wearing a kaffiyeh similar to the king’s, with the following caption underneath: “King Salman is led to detention after clashes with the Israeli occupation forces in Al-Aqsa.”

Well, what happened at Al-Aqsa points to the sad situation of the Arab leaders, particularly those who placed their trust in U.S. President Donald Trump. About two months ago the Saudi king awarded Trump $400 billion in weapons contracts, and in the tumult of the dances with the honored guest the king forgot to ask the president to rescind the executive order barring the citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. If that’s the case, do you expect the king to remember Al-Aqsa?

A few commentators attempted to explain that what happened on the Temple Mount reflected an increase in religious fanaticism. Just the opposite. What happened in the past two weeks was the antithesis of the path of religious fanaticism and of nationalist extremism. When tens of thousands of Palestinians decide to resist peacefully, when they pray in the streets with exemplary order, when they engage in civil obedience against resolutions passed by the Israeli cabinet, it sends an important message from a community that is determined and nonviolent, and is willing to accept physical and emotional casualties without withdrawing its demands.

It could be said that the events that began with an attack at a holy site — which also violates religious precepts — turned into civil disobedience, so that the occupation, in the face of the just demands to preserve the status quo at the site, was forced to withdraw.

In other words, the attack on the Temple Mount led to a draconian action by the occupation to break the status quo, while the civil revolt prevented that. If we want to analyze the issue calmly, we could say that such attacks serve the occupation, while the popular struggle serves the Palestinians and their just cause.

On the other hand, we can say that although the struggle was over a religious symbol, that symbol also turned into a national symbol that unites all Palestinian and the Arabs and democrats in general. But even as a religious symbol, it turned out that the way to succeed in the battle over it was to engage in civil disobedience, which attracts masses of people, including women, the elderly and children.

At the start of the events there was an Israeli attempt to draw the Palestinians into a violent struggle that employed guns. It happened when the security forces killed four young men during the demonstrations. The Palestinians refused to enter the bloody trap and continued with their “salmiyah” (“peaceful” in Arabic) policy.

Seems that Palestinians do learn from history.