Some are calling the protests that have swept across the West Bank and now Gaza a new intifada. And although the response from Israel has been brutal, Palestinians will continue resisting. Here are two stories that illustrate why:
Yara, 24, grew up in the village of Kafr Kana, in the Galilee in what is now northern Israel. However, today she lives and works in Jerusalem. At one point, Yara traveled to Egypt to pursue education and work and greater freedom of religious practice. However, she returned to her homeland. She went to Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate with other youth to protest the occupation and the planned eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. But Jewish settlers came and abused her because she is Muslim and wears a hijab. They hit her on her neck and told her to leave Palestine.
She tried to reason with them, telling they have chosen a wrong way to bring peace to their country. But the occupation’s policemen stood behind them, protecting the settlers. When the settlers tried to hit her again, she escaped.
Yara fell into a depression from the violence of the vicious Israeli forces and sank into a gloomy silence. She sat all day, thinking of all that had been said to her by the settlers at the Damascus Gate. But as she thought deeply, she became filled with the conviction that the people who were trying to kick Palestinians from their homes would be rejected themselves one day. And despite all that had happened to her, she says she remains committed to the cause. Why? Because with each atrocity committed against her people, a new consciousness of the need for a free Palestine grows and becomes stronger.
Nour Alshaer, 20, studied in the United States for three years. She vividly remembers a conversation she had with an Israeli colleague at her American university. When he first learned that she is from Gaza, he literally thought it was funny. Then Nour asked the question she has always wanted to pose, if she ever met an Israeli: How do you feel when Israel bombs Gaza and children die? His answer: “You have Hamas as your government, and they’re the ones responsible for your safety. As for our military, we believe that the life of an Israeli is worth that of 1,000 Palestinians.” Nour says she had never felt more belittled didn’t know how to respond. How do you communicate with someone who places such different value on people’s lives based on ethnicity?
Today, Nour is a determined activist against America’s support of Israel’s military, to the tune of $3.8 billion a year. She calls for targeted boycotts to undermine the existence of illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Most Palestinians have no weapons except our words, so she write. She posted an attractive photo of herself on Instagram, then wrote: “I’m glad I’ve caught your attention. Now let’s actually have some real talk. To my dear, self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ friends who have been largely silent regarding what’s been happening in Palestine, I am telling you, you really really really should re-assess the values and ideals you uphold and recognize that right now you are actually applying them selectively and in a sanitized way. If you don’t support the cause of Palestinians, not only are you not helping stop systemic racism, settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, you are actually supporting them, whether you asked to or not, through your tax money! May you never get into the position where you depend on a sense of humanity in this cruel world to save your own, your family’s and other people’s lives.”
Palestinians have survived 73 years of ethnic cleansing and 54 years of military occupation. The question is: How many Palestinians must die before that changes?