By Nina Butler, Special Correspondent | Palestine
Ramallah, Palestine: At noon today in central Ramallah expressions of anger sent static shocks crackling through the airwaves and crawling up spines. A diverse crowd of locals, spanning generational, religious, racial and national lines congregated in Al-Minara (‘Lion’) Square to display their solidarity with the people of Gaza who have fallen victim, yet again, to the brutal barrage of Israeli bombardment.
Since the start of ‘Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday 14 November Israel’s army has carried out some 700 airstrikes, killing 45 Palestinians and leaving 345 wounded. The army has counted 580 rockets over the border, 367 of which hit Southern Israel and 222 of which were intercepted by their Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israeli fatalities number at 3, and 18 wounded. At the time of writing media is rupturing reports of a further rocket fired at Tel Aviv that was successfully intercepted. In a heated frenzy, the Middle East is hurtling towards yet another war.
Although the international community appear to have forgotten ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in the winter of ’08 – ’09, Palestinians have not. Over 21 days Gazans desperately hung on to the razor edges of existence as Israel’s army carried out a full-scale assault that led to over 1,400 Palestinians deaths, 930 of which were civilians – mostly women and children.
The rules of the game out here are in no way even handed. No innocent Israeli death should ever be justified or played-down, however, in tit-for-tat rocket-exchange Palestinians come off far worse, and the morbid numbers recounted above stand testimony to that. Regardless, the practice of glossing over mounting Palestinian corpses in the slick rhetoric of ‘self-defense’ continues.
This is a symptom of the exceedingly more successful Israeli media campaign, which has been taken to new levels with twitter and facebook being fixed as a further arm of military strategy; the blatant bias in monopolising global media houses such as the BBC; and a contemporary milieu of anti-Islamic prejudice.[i]
Palestinians here in the West Bank are committed to not remaining silent witnesses. Chanting loud-speakers reverberated off Al-Minara pavements and the green, black and red of Palestinians flags – a colour combination deemed worthy of up to three years in prison if waved under Israeli jurisdiction – fluttered rhythmically. A Fatah representative held the microphone throughout.
Ahmed Moslh, smiling with satisfaction at the turn-out, was more than happy to explain that Fatah had called for this protest and the others firing up in locations across the West Bank simultaneously. He was unequivocal in his assertion that there was no political factional rivalry at play. Hamas are the ruling party in Gaza, whilst Fatah hold authority in the West Bank, but “today”, Ahmed said “we are all Palestinian, no more, no less”.
A fractured mix of desperation, exasperation, outrage and pride was pumping courage through veins as predominantly young Palestinians left Al-Minara and squeezed into transport to take them from Palestinian Authority controlled Ramallah to Ofer, a prison and checkpoint near-by.
In a game of cat and mouse boys and girls armed with nothing but keffiyeh scarves and stones approached the line of soldiers at the end of a straight double-lane road. As soon as they got too close for comfort rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets were fired and a frenzy of sprinting backward ensued, followed by a few breaths of recovery and then a resurgence. These very simple tactics, with a few positional variations on hill-sides or down-side roads, were replicated in numerous West Bank towns, and resulted in a number of injuries and two deaths, as being reported by Press TV.[ii]
A leading figure of the Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee present at Ofer was dismissive of Moslh’s organisational claims. He pointed out that Fatah regularly like to align themselves with protests such as these yet this is an opportunistic claim that takes away from the spontaneous and popular desires that underlie Palestinians’ struggle for dignity and freedom from occupation.
Moreover, there was clearly a larger representation of Hamas’ lawn green flags than Fatah’s yellow in the foreground to Ofer prison – a symbolic protest hot-spot given added importance after the thousands of Palestinian prisoners went on hunger-strike and struggled for their lives in Israeli prisons earlier this year.
Despite the unifying sympathy for Gaza, it would seem that the Palestinian political landscape for now is still as complex as the West Bank’s geopolitical boundaries. This of course is as Israel intends, however the longer Gaza is pillaged from the air and Israeli troops collect on its borders, the more opportunity for unification builds.
The Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee representatives are candidly winding up momentum for a third intifada.