LIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER, TRNN: Over the past few weeks, protests in Jerusalem intensified, escalating this week. On Tuesday, riots took place in nine neighborhoods of East Jerusalem as a result of Israeli security forces closing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Solidarity protests also took place in various West Bank cities and in Jaffa. The demonstrations were called for Tuesday because of rumors that Jewish right-wing settlers would attempt to enter the mosque to lay a cornerstone. They try to do so every few years and are always met with Palestinian protests. In 2000, settlers rushed the mosque in an incident that helped propel the beginning of the second intifada. Therefore, this time, Israel security forces closed the mosque and large parts of the old city to Muslim men under 50. The military administration in charge of the occupied Palestinian territories also shut down the checkpoints to the entire West Bank for five days in an effort to suppress protests. Because the Al-Aqsa Mosque was barricaded, many men prayed on the streets, where they were promptly dispersed. The Real News spoke to Toufic Haddad, a Jerusalem-based journalist and author of Between the Lines: Israel, the Palestinians, and the US War on Terror.
TOUFIC HADDAD, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: What we’ve seen over the past couple of days in the occupied Palestinian territories is the sort of eruption of a lot of demonstrations, largely centered around Jerusalem. The reason for that is basically because Israel’s been continuing its annexation and land confiscation policies, and its colonization of Jerusalem in particular. Already Israel has around 12 major settlements in and around Jerusalem, which encircle it and cut it off from the rest of the West Bank. You have, you know, the announcement recently of building 1,600 apartments. You have the eviction of families inï¿½refugee families, by the wayï¿½in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. You have the impending demolition of perhaps 80 houses in the Bustan neighborhood [inaudible] which might effect somewhere around 1,500 Palestinians. You have, supposedly, excavation taking place beneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the compound, which is one of the most holy sites for Muslims. So you have basicallyï¿½and this in addition to Israel’s occupation policies in Jerusalem, where Palestinians there have absolutely no political rights there. Israel [inaudible] But what we really see now is the fact that there has been an entire collapse of the peace process, so that there’s no kind of cover that there’s any political horizon, as far as Palestinians are concerned. And what we also see is the fact that international communities, largely the Americans and the European Union, have not really done anything to stop Israel’s policies. They make sort of a political statement saying that they call for the parties to come back to negotiations and to not affect the status [inaudible] [Jerusalem] and things like that. But practical measures on the ground which would stop these policies we don’t see; and Netanyahu sort of knows that. And right now you have a strong right-wing government. It was elected on a platform that very clearly calls for the continuous colonization of Palestinian land. And he’s going about doing that, and in a way calling the Western world’s bluff on this. They’re not serious about stopping Israeli colonial policies. Basically, Israel has had a long-standing policy where the Palestinian population in Jerusalem cannot exceed more than 27-28 percent. That’s according to, like, people from Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem who have written books about stuff like that.
TARACHANSKY: The Western media reported 15 security personnel were injured. According to the Red Crescent, at least 118 Palestinians were also hurt on Tuesday.
HADDAD: The most important part of, like, colonialism is denying the humanity of the people that you’re oppressing because if people are really aware that you’re also oppressing and destroying the lives of humans, they feel like there’s something inherently seemingly unjust about that situation.
TARACHANSKY: The injured man in this incident in the Al-Issawiya neighborhood was hospitalized in critical condition.
EDO MEDICKS, PHOTOJOURNALIST, THE DAILY NUISANCE: A grenade thatï¿½it breaks into several other grenades. You could see one attacking.
TARACHANSKY: In response to the shot grenades, tear gas canisters, and rubber bullets, the Palestinian youth fired fireworks and threw stones. Many speculated whether these protests may be the beginning of a third intifada, or uprising, like those of the late ’80s and early 2000s.
HADDAD: I don’t think it’s helpful to speculate about the onset of a new intifada or not. What’s more important to notice is the fact that the Palestinians don’t have clear ways in which they can achieve their rights. Like, they’ve tried armed resistance, and that has failed. They have tried the international negotiations track. That has failed. And right now there’s not a clear way that Palestinians feel that they can achieve their rights.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): What we just saw, because we were with the ambulance, is that soldiers entered [the street], caught a few guys. One of them is injured. He’s in a really bad condition. His head, I’m sure, was hit with a stick. He has open wounds on his head and his face, and his eye is swellingï¿½the situation is really bad. And I asked from the chief of police of the soldiers to give him first aid, and he said, “You can’t, because we’re giving him a police treatment.”
INTERVIEWER: When the police ran into the street, what did they do?
UNIDENTIFIED: They entered and began threatening the youth. Surely none of the youth are older than 16, 17 years old.
TARACHANSKY: In this incident in the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, soldiers caught a pedestrian, and while three held him back, a fourth punched him in the face. At least 60 Palestinians were arrested on Tuesday alone. Many were detained by undercover police pretending to be Palestinians.
HADDAD: Israel has a wide arsenal of military means to suppress Palestinian opposition, dissent, protest, demonstrations, etc. And the use of undercovers, or what are known as [inaudible] is one of the most horrifying ones from the Palestinian perspective. What it entails is that Israeli military personnel dress up like Arabs. They’re armed. Sometimes they are masked, pretending to be Palestinian youth or whatnot. And in the middle of whereverï¿½it could be in the middle of a demonstration, could be in the middle of a Palestinian townï¿½all of a sudden whips out their guns and either kills or arrests Palestinians.
TARACHANSKY: The Jerusalem municipal police also approved for Sunday a contentious march into the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. It has been the site of frequent settler takeovers of Palestinian homes, as well as home demolitions. The march will be led by right-wing settler leader Baruch Marzel, calling for more demolitions of Palestinian homes. Municipal police promised tight security for the settler marchers. It is expected they will be met with mass resistance from the local Palestinians.