By Jakob Stein
Over the past several weeks, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has spread across the region and escalated, echoing the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people and subsequent brutality from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in 2014. In the face of devastating air strikes from Israel and over 100 Palestinian deaths and hundreds more injuries, the monopoly media has either outright supported the IDF or condemned both sides of the conflict while ignoring the antagonistic contradiction between Israel’s colonial occupation and the Palestinian people, an occupation condoned and backed by US imperialism, which gives more financial and military aid to Israel than any other country.
The new wave of protests was initially sparked in mid-April after Israeli police barricaded the Gates of Damascus in Jerusalem, a popular meeting place for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan as Palestinians break their fast at sundown. The reactionary state has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for the second year in a row to deliberately restrict and insult the religious and cultural practices of Palestinians.
Additionally, a group of 300 extremely reactionary Israeli settlers marched to the area of the al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest places for Muslims, chanting, “Today we are going to burn Arabs” and “Death to Arabs.” In response, Palestinians clashed with the settlers and police, hurling stones and glass bottles as the police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons at the demonstrators, injuring over 100 and detaining at least 50. After three days of consecutive protests, the police were forced to allow Palestinians to gather outside the Gates of Damascus, where they destroyed police barricades and met further repression at the hands of the state.
Adding fuel to the fire, the eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem has also been a major flashpoint in the struggle. The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, an area which is supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the capitulationist Palestinian Authority, has continued unabated under every recent administration as Palestinians continue to be displaced from their homeland in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The final spark that ignited the combative protests into full-scale armed actions was on May 10, when the IDF invaded the al-Aqsa mosque, attacking the people there with tear gas and flash-bang grenades in an attempt to clear out Palestinian Muslims for ‘Jerusalem Day’ marches, which commemorate the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem.
As the Palestinian people continued to resist, Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip on the western side of Israel, gave an ultimatum to the Israeli forces to withdraw from the mosque by 6 p.m. When they did not, Hamas began launching dozens of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli settlements. Since then, the resistance of the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Gaza has only continued to intensify.
The IDF responded by launching brutal aerial bombardments which have left over 100 Palestinians dead, including many children, and decimated buildings throughout the Gaza Strip, in a display reminiscent of Israel’s merciless attacks in 2014. Hamas has been matching the airstrikes with further rocket launches as the battle rages on.
Even in cities that have been occupied by Israel for decades, and which rarely see combative demonstrations like those in the West Bank, Palestinians have risen up against the state, at times joined by some Jewish Israelis in solidarity. Cities like Lod, Jaffa, Nazareth, and more are now experiencing uprisings the likes of which haven’t been seen in years with fires and attacks against symbols of the Israeli state. Authorities issued a state of emergency for the area and have since instituted curfews while they consider bringing in more armed forces to suppress the uprising.
Both armed and unarmed combative actions continue to expand and escalate throughout the occupied region and the Gaza Strip, which has been under a state of siege for decades, as the Israeli state struggles to contain the fury of the masses inside and outside of Israel. Their only response has been a wave of savage repression and bloodshed, and yet all this destruction and death has not stemmed the tide of resistance. Across the world, thousands have demonstrated in solidarity with the Palestinian uprisings as the world’s people recognize Israel’s colonialism as another tool in the arsenal of US imperialism, and mark it with fire as the heroic Palestinian people have done.
The current wave of struggle evokes memories of the First and Second Intifadas, when widespread armed struggle was the rule and the flag of Palestinian national liberation was raised high. Over the past decade, Hamas has been a leading force in this national liberation struggle–unafraid to resist US imperialism, Israeli colonialism, and the brutal oppression faced by the people every day with arms in hand. The Palestinian masses, particularly in the West Bank, have once again shown their willingness to back this armed struggle with their lives, knowing the only way out is to fight.
While the monopoly media is quick to push calls for ‘peace dialogues,’ a two-state solution, or for the IDF to dial back its heavy-handed tactics, the truth is that nothing can resolve this conflict but open warfare. It is easy to point to the eviction of Palestinian families as well as the violent police repression at the Gates of Damascus and the al-Aqsa mosque as the source of these uprisings, but these were only the most recent sparks that lit the fire across the country. Only the relentless, militant struggle against Israeli colonialism and the imperialist powers of the US and the rest of NATO that support it can lead the Palestinian people towards their deserved liberation.
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