Israel looked set to launch further violent repression against Palestinians after US president Donald Trump said he regarded Jerusalem “the capital of Israel” last week.
Israel has occupied the western part of the Palestinian city since it was split in 1949. It invaded and occupied the eastern half in 1967 and later annexed it.
Palestinians in Jerusalem have lived under a brutal and restrictive military occupation ever since.
In his speech last Wednesday Trump said, “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”
His words gave legitimacy to Israel’s claim to own the city—and tacit support to Israelis who want to grab even more Palestinian land.
At least four Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces since Trump’s speech as Socialist Worker went to press.
Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians protesting along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Two more Palestinians in Gaza were killed—and a baby seriously injured—by an Israeli airstrike on Saturday morning.
It came after Palestinian resistance fighters launched rockets at Israel from Gaza in response to Trump’s speech. No one was injured.
Israeli major general Yoav Mordechai threatened that more rocket fire would be met with a “severe and painful response”.
Thousands of Palestinians joined protests across the West Bank, including in Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Jericho and Hebron.
Palestinians living inside Israel in the city of Umm al-Fahm also protested and clashed with riot police.
Soldiers attacked protests with tear gas, foul-smelling “skunk water”, rubber bullets and live fire.
Two Palestinian protesters were shot in Bethlehem on Sunday, at the end of a weekend during which at least 300 Palestinians were injured.
Israeli police entered East Jerusalem to attack a peaceful march on Saturday. They tossed stun grenades into the crowd as police on horseback charged them, according to the Ma’an news agency.
Several thousand more people protested across the Middle East in solidarity.
Tens of thousands of people protested in Amman, the capital of Jordan.
A reported 5,000 people protested near the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatilla in Lebanese capital Beirut. Several hundred more joined a protest outside the US embassy in Beirut on Sunday.
Some 2,000 people protested in Egyptian capital Cairo, where they were confronted by riot police.
And there were big protests in Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria.
Provocation in Palestine upsets imperialists’ plans across region
The protests across Palestine and the Middle East showed that despite severe repression, resistance to the US, Israel and imperialism is still possible.
They also pointed to how resistance over the issue of Palestine could wreck the plans of US-backed Arab rulers to carve up the Middle East.
Rulers of countries allied to the US such as Saudi Arabia have been working more closely with Israel against shared regional rival Iran.
Yet many of those same regimes were forced to condemn Trump after his speech due to huge popular support for Palestinians.
The speech could also wreck the “peace process” that co-opted the Palestinian Authority (PA) into policing the resistance.
The peace process rested on promising the PA a Palestinian statelet alongside Israel, with at least part of Jerusalem as its capital. Now Trump’s speech has shown more clearly than ever that the peace process is a sham.
PA president Mahmoud Abbas was among those who called for “days of rage” in response to Trump’s speech.
The fact that the protests were smaller than expected reflects how the peace process has undermined the PA’s claim to lead resistance to the occupation.
Yet much larger protests in July, after Israel invaded and shut down Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, showed Palestinians are still prepared to resist.
And the solidarity demonstrations show that Palestine can still be a trigger for resistance that can shake other regimes across the Middle East.
Lebanon’s foreign minister Gebran Bassil led calls for Arab regimes to challenge the US over Trump’s speech, including even with economic sanctions.
Yet a protest outside the US embassy in Lebanon on Sunday was smashed up by riot police.
Al Jazeera news correspondent Zeina Khodr reported, “There is a lot of anger here. What they’re chanting is, ‘Palestine forgive us, they closed the door on us’, clearly in reference to Arab leaders.
“The protesters here feel Arab leaders have just been talking, but not taking any action. What people here are calling for is a new intifada and on the Palestinian Authority to end the peace process.”
Symbolic city of resistance
Mainstream commentators and politicians fret that Trump’s speech could spell the end for the “two state solution”.
They characterise the conflict over Jerusalem as a religious one between Muslims and Jews.
The city is hugely important to both religions.
But Palestinians’ anger over Jerusalem is so deep because for decades it has been a major site of their struggle against oppression.
Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem—and its relentless drive to push Palestinians out—is a symbol of Israeli domination and a direct cause of Palestinian suffering.
Today Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under a military occupation that dominates their lives and restricts their freedom in the city.
They face a struggle to even be allowed to continue living there.
Israel demolishes Palestinian homes if they’ve been built without permits that are notoriously difficult to get. Israeli law also allows for Palestinians to be evicted to make way for Israeli settlers.
Israeli settlements and government offices in Jerusalem are designed to cement Israel’s grip on the city and deny hope to Palestinians of ever getting it back. That’s why Jerusalem has been a focus of Palestinian resistance to the occupation.
Palestinians’ claim to Jerusalem as their capital is symbolic of their right to return to their homes after their expulsion in 1948.
That’s something Israel and a two-state solution will never allow.
The only solution is a single, secular and democratic state where people of all faiths and nationalities enjoy equal rights.