The popular resistance in the Galilee

Just as I write these lines, on the evening of October 9, 2015, the news keep coming about new clashes with the Israeli Occupation police flaring up in more and more towns, from Rahat in the Naqab desert in the South, through Taibeh, Ar’ara and Um-Al-Fahm in “the triangle” and till Nazareth, Kfar-Kana, Arabeh, Sakhnin and Majd-Al-Kurum in the Galilee. The picture above is from the entrance to Arabeh.

This wave of popular resistance inside the 1948 occupied territories shows again that Palestinians here are an integral part of the Palestinian people and the liberation struggle against Israeli Apartheid. You can easily spend all the day just following the news, and you still won’t see it all. The most dramatic views came today from Gaza, where Israeli soldiers performed a cowardly massacre, shooting in cold blood at unarmed demonstrators on the other side of the fence. They killed 6 people and wounded many others. In Al-Khalil [Hebron] there was another Palestinian martyr, and many were wounded in confrontations between demonstrators and the occupation army all over the West Bank.

One view that was seen again and again by most people here today is the cold blood shooting of a Palestinian woman, Israa Abed, a 29-old-mother, by Israeli racist police officers and soldiers in the central station in the Jewish town of Afula. Israa studies for her master degree in genetic engineering in the Technion and was on her way back home when she was spotted as “a danger” by Israeli racist police, probably because of her traditional Islamic dress. In the video you can see clearly that she posed no danger to anybody and was pleading for her life while she was surrounded by soldiers and policemen brandishing their weapons at her. You can also hear clearly some of the Jewish passers-by pleading the soldiers to shoot her – until they finally did just that. Fortunately she didn’t die, only was badly wounded… So it is the hunting-season and every Arab person is now a target in Israel’s streets.

How this wave of confrontation began?

As became routine in almost every Jewish Holidays season, the Israeli provocations started in Rosh Hashanah (September 14) and concentrated on the Al-Aqsa mosque, which the religious messianic Zionists still wish to destroy in order to build their “third temple” on its place on what they call “Temple Mount”. The right wing parties in the Israeli government compete between themselves in extremist declarations and provocations on the ground. And what is supposed to be “Left” or “Centrist” Zionist opposition only tries to be “stronger on security” than the government – attacking it from the right for not being harsh enough against the Palestinians.

The Israeli police and courts, just like the army, are not even pretending to keep “law and order” – but they are the vanguard of the colonialist policy of oppressing the Arab Palestinian population. Just as the government was calling for ever harsher punishment against Arab stone-throwing youth, even shooting at them and killing them at the spot, the minister of defense, Moshe Ya’alon, boasted that his people know who were the Zionists attackers that burned alive the Dawabsha family in Duma – but they were not even interrogated! The army, the police and the courts defend extremist settlers as they rob Palestinian private land and burn olive trees. Israel’s “High Court”, just like the Knesset, is now packed with ideological settlers that choose to live in illegal settlements at the vanguard of Zionist ethnic cleansing. Just in the middle of the latest holidays agitation campaign the government announced the appointment of another messianic settler (previously the vice-head of the secretive security services – “Shabak”) to head the police.

All these Zionists provocations push the Palestinian youth to try to resist the occupation – and as peaceful popular resistance is confronted with deadly oppression some prefer not to stay just victims but try to hurt their oppressors by any means.

Tamra - Palestinian youth confronting the police, October 8

The youth movements initiating the Nazareth demonstration

In the 1948 occupied territories there was little response until this week. Then some small demonstrations started in solidarity with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] in many towns. Herak Haifa coordinated a joint demonstration with local Arab parties for Monday, October 5. It started as a vigil and spontaneously developed into a small marching demonstration – but the police didn’t try to stop it. On the next day in Yaffa the police attacked a licensed demonstration organized by the Islamic movement – what caused many more local Palestinians to join a prolonged confrontation with stones and tear gas.

The youth movements, under the name of “Al-Herak Al-Shababi”, called for a bigger “National Demonstration” in Nazareth on Thursday, October 8. It had a wide echo in the youth activists’ circles, and buses were organized from many locations. It was another example to the leading role of the youth “Herakat” in the mass struggle, which appeared initially in the struggle against the Prawer plan (for ethnic cleansing in the Naqab) and was repeated later in the solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners and the protests against the massacres of Gaza’s people in summer 2014.

This time the police decided to be proactive and not let the demonstrators even gather in Nazareth. On Wednesday they started to arrest the “suspected” organizers, mostly those whose names appeared on the invitation as responsible for transport in different regions. On Thursday morning the Nazareth court extended the detention of most of the organizers until next Sunday.

Most buses were stopped on their way, before they could reach Nazareth, and ordered to turn back. Some of the demonstrators decided not to go home and gathered instead for two smaller spontaneous demonstrations, in the entrance of Um Al-Fahm in the Triangle and Tamra in the Galilee.

The demonstration in Nazareth happened anyway, with local people and many others that came from all over the country in private cars, not detected by the police. It was attacked by the police, prolonged clashes erupted in different regions of Nazareth and about 20 people were arrested.

Spontaneous demonstration in Tamra

Tamra - before the police attacked it was pretty quiet

While on our way from Haifa to Nazareth, we heard that the Haifa bus was turned back and decided to follow it to Tamra. Three buses full of demonstrators, most of them young, arrived at the entrance of this town of 30,000 people in the Western Galilee. As we arrived there, there was no presence of the police which apparently didn’t expect the demonstration. Some of the youth covered their heads and everybody was chanting slogans. When the traffic lights stopped the cars on the two lanes of “70 north” – many of the demonstrators stood on the crosswalk and simply stayed there. It was easy to stop the traffic and cause a long traffic jam… but most people stuck in it were just residents of neighboring Arab towns coming back from work – so there was no enmity between the drivers and the demonstrators and they were letting off some traffic from time to time – just waiting for the police to come.

A small police force started to gather on the other side of the “70”. As they felt strong enough they started to throw shock grenades without any warning. At first everybody ran away… then started to come back. The police started to throw tear gas and some demonstrators threw stones at them…

For the next few hours the “battle” continued along the main street of Tamra, in some distance from the main street that was occupied by the police. As you can imagine, the main street of this lively crowded town has shops almost everywhere on both sides. Some of the shopkeepers were hostile to the demonstration, fearing for their belongings, but many were sympathetic. In the beginning, still near the main street, the bravest youth were running toward the police, throwing some stones and running back.

Later, as the police gathered more force, there were mostly revenge attacks by the police, not only against the demonstrators but against the people of Tamra in general. I’ve seen one police force marching into the town without being provoked, throwing tear gas around and going back. Later they brought in the “Skunk” which simply went up the main street throwing its stink around in great  quantities on the street itself, at people that stood on the sides of the street and into nearby shops, including the “Tamra Mall”. The material damage to some shops may be devastating as stinking merchandise may lose all their value.

The Skunk takes revenge from the people of Tamra

Later on, as there were almost no demonstrators left, the police felt strong enough for an all-out revenge attack, coming back with a big police force and the Skunk together, spreading more stinking water and arresting youth that were unlucky enough to stay by the side of the street or not to run away fast enough.

Creative oppression

At my age you can think you’ve already seen it all – but just as today’s youth are always inventing new forms of resistance – the oppressive apparatus is also surprising us with some creative ideas.

In Tamra the police took control of the 3 buses (holding their drivers) and intended to arrest the demonstrators as they will come back to their buses to go home. Fortunately none of the demonstrators showed up as they appear to have evaporated in Tamra. So the police arrested the three poor drivers and accused them of attacking policemen and taking part in a riot, even as they were arrested sitting quietly in their buses. They even were not ashamed to bring them to the Haifa court on Friday’s morning and ask for harsh conditions for their release. The court, unable to disappoint the police, agreed to some of these conditions, including imposing house detention on the three poor drivers until Monday, October 12.

On Friday morning, in Nazareth district court, there was an appeal hearing against the detention of four of the supposed organizers of the Nazareth demo. As they were all arrested before the demonstration, it was hard to accuse them of the regular articles like attacking police or taking part in a riot. The police prosecutor found a new proof that they were conspiring for riot: He claimed that they advised the participants in the demonstration to bring onions with them [used by demonstrators to keep from counter effects of tear gas]. Their appeal was rejected and they will stay in detention at least until Sunday. If you can keep people in prison just for “conspiring to possess onions”, or “inciting to use onions” – what is the punishment for somebody like me that actually bought onions and used them?

This post first appeared on the Free Haifa blog today. Republished with permission of the author.

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