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Catalyst: Israelis and Palestinians Stand Together

26 July 2011 No Comment

By Patricia Smith Melton
Founder, Peace X Peace
Editor, Sixty Years Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women

On July 15, between 2000 and 3000 Israelis and Palestinians walked from Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem to the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.  The Peace X Peace video Non-violence in East Jerusalem: Sheikh Jarrah releases with this commentary.  It focuses on the citizens’ responses to the laws and pressures forcing Palestinians from their homes and supporting settlers to move into those homes. from Little Film Studio on Vimeo.

It is the first of ten video shorts in the Catalyst Series produced by Peace X Peace and scheduled for release over the next three months.  The series focuses primarily on Israeli and Palestinian women.

The July 15 demonstration was titled a “March for Independence” and brought together Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, protesting to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Participants in the march held signs quoting Nelson Mandela:  “Only Free Men Can Negotiate.”  Didi Remez, one of the march organizers, said that there is a constant growth in Palestinian involvement in nonviolent protests and in Palestinian willingness to cooperate with the Solidarity Movement, which to date has been primarily Israeli.

The urgency behind the march increased with the recent passage by the Israeli Knesset of its latest bill applying penalties to citizens who speak out against the occupation or who support the boycotting of goods from Israeli settlements — a particularly ironic (mild word) bill considering the boycott of Gaza, even if that boycott has lightened since the flotilla a year ago.

Last month, right-wing Israelis marched in the opposite direction, from Sheikh Jarrah to Jaffa Gate, in support of Israeli settlers and court rulings to remove the Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. A main fissure of the conflict is not between Israelis and Palestinians, but between factions of the Israeli society.  While the recent march was peaceful, with music, drums, signs, and chants, there were also confrontations by right wing activists who challenged the marchers.

The influence and coherence of the left is strengthening after a lull of years, even if its members are still a small minority.  Now that the Knesset has put itself on the side of people who believe that repressive laws are appropriate in nations that consider themselves democratic, the ante has been raised.

Independent thinkers, as most Israelis are, do not generally take to being told by their own government that they cannot criticize its actions.  Some social critics point out that these laws are typical of the entrenchment of governments that feel threatened in the face of change.  Certainly using Nelson Mandela references, deliberately or inadvertently, brings to mind the entrenchment of the apartheid government in South Africa prior to its inevitable end.

More resources:

Didi Remez of Hillel Ben Sasson, Solidarity Movement, also attended the march,  and recorded this video:

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