The tent of solidarity: demanding international protection for Palestinians immediately and urgently
Since April 2014, peace negotiations have been brought to a complete halt between Israel and Palestine. Following the elections in Israel, which strengthened right-wing parties' presence in the Israeli Knesset, land confiscations, settlements expansion and closures have increased.
In the same period, Palestine obtained membership in a number of international conventions, agreements and treaties, demonstrating its support to international standards of Human Rights and its will to take on more responsibility towards the international community. These memberships were reacted in an increase in Israel's policies against the Palestinian people, leading to the murders of three Israeli youth, followed by the burning of a Palestinian child (Mohammed Abu Khdeir), in July 2014. The Israeli policies and their impacts on both Palestinians and Israelis' lives brought tensions to an unpredictable spiral; the subsequent murders sparked an intensive wage of violence, culminating with the 49 days war on Gaza in July and August 2014, which concluded with more than 2,200 Palestinian casualties.
Following the end of the military operation in Gaza, numerous attempts unfolded from both sides to calm the tensions in Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem. However, at the beginning of 2015, the situation took a turn for the worst when Israeli settlers and soldiers increased their presence in the AlAqsa mosque compound, seemingly pushing into a religious conflict, drifting away from the deep down causes of the tensions, i.e the occupation and its increasingly discriminatory policies.
The situation then climaxed after Netanyahu's announcements of approved settlements expansion plans, and the blockage of an important road linking Ramallah to Nablus. Cases of settlers attacks on Palestinian farmers and the destruction of crops occurred regularly, ultimately leading to the arson attack on the Dawabsha family house, which killed the family's infant child in the fire and both parents, who succumbed to their wounds a month later. The subsequent rise in anger was exacerbated by a the opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 30th 2015, during which the world leaders addressed all contemporary diplomatic and security issues, but did not make even the slightest reference to the current situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even Obama ignored completely the urgency of addressing the halted peace negotiations and increased tensions in occupied Palestine, showcasing an overall disinterest of the world for the conflict, leaving Palestine isolated from the international support and left alone to face the ongoing occupation and its devastating, worsening consequences. In his speech, President Abbas called for Palestinians to take control of their own destiny and to get rid of the occupation through non-violent resistance and pressurizing for the implementation of the resolutions calling for 2 states for 2 people. This speech received important support throughout Palestine.
These events all contributed to ultimately leading to the current intifada, or uprising, characterized by largely baseless allegations of confrontations with Israelis in Jerusalem, and the subsequent systematic profiling of Palestinians by the Israeli army and police forces. Since the beginning of the Intifada in early October 2015, 19 Palestinian children were killed by the occupation forces, along with 4 women. All in all, more than 93 Palestinians lost their lives. In November, confrontations are still taking place in all districts, where incidents and deaths occur on an ongoing basis. In this context, the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy's role is to raise the awareness of Palestinian citizens, particularly the youth, on the danger for Palestine to be pulled into Israel's playground in confrontations, which includes the use of weapons and acts of violence against civilians. Considering the current events, non-violent resistance represents the only alternative to the occupation, drifting away from the escalation of violence and the growing number of deaths.
Therefore, to support this position, PCPD's Director General, Naseef Muallem, drafted a political paper that was forwarded to decision-makers and civil society representatives from all districts of Palestine. Political discussions took place in all districts, inviting civil society representatives, members of political parties and all relevant stakeholders to attend and contribute to the discussions. Thousands of people attended these sessions and discussed the content of the political paper, putting non-violent resistance back on the map as the only realistic way to achieve the end of the occupation.
But in this context, what does non-violent resistance encompass? It includes:
- Education on non-violent means of resisting
- Develop the Palestinian educational sector
- Develop the Palestinian economy
- Conduct free and fair elections and seek political unification
- Organize demonstrations in towns and cities' main squares for citizens to demand change
- Take shared responsibility for families of martyrs, injured or poor individuals
- Strengthen the effective response to emergencies created by the confrontations
- Maintain local governments' vital role even under siege, with the cooperation of civil society organizations
- Establish committees for media, first aid, conflict resolution, fight against prejudice
- Strengthen the public opinion to demand for the UN to develop an international regime that guarantees the protection of the Palestinian people through diplomacy, political ties and peace campaigns
Following the political discussions around non-violent resistance as defined in PCPD's political paper, the PCPD supporters initiated a 14-days advocacy campaign titled "Tent of Solidarity for the urgent and immediate international protection of the Palestinian people", which took place between November 12th and 26th 2015 in front of the UN Headquarters in Ramallah. The main purpose of this campaign is to demonstrate and advocate for an increased responsiveness of the UN to the daily threats faced by Palestinians, and to demand the immediate development of a regime of international protection for the Palestinian people. 2 youth representing the PCPD team was invited by AlFalastinia and the PA TV channels to come and talk about the initiative.
During the campaign, civil society representatives, decision-makers, political figures and community members, including families with young children are invited to visit the tent and to share their demands and requests in writing and drawing. At the end of the campaign, the gathered material will be forwarded to the UN representative in Jerusalem, who will be invited to participate in the closure popular and political gathering. It is expected that the campaign material including all demands will be sent to UN Headquarters in New York City, to the attention of the Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon. PCPD has contacted the UN Secretary-General Special Representative Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, and the representatives of the different Palestinian and international organizations and representatives, to attend and contribute to the event.
When asked "Why is international protection of the Palestinian people important, in your opinion?", young supporters replied:
Yasmeen Enayeh, 27: "This campaign sends a message to the world that Palestinians have a right to resist. We are also showing our support to Mr. President in his speech at the UN General Assembly".
Deena Abed, 20 : "We need to show the world that Israel commits crimes against Palestinians, and talk about the consequences. Young people like Ahmad Mazadra get killed without humanity, and we need to shed light on this."
Nimer Qawasmeh, 22: "We suffer from Israel's violations. The Palestinian Authority does not have the capacity to protect the people, and we cannot protect ourselves; we need the international community to protect us. It might not guarantee that the situation will get better, but we will be safer. I wish that I could leave my home without feeling scared."
When asked "Why do you think non-violent resistance is important?", young supporters answered:
Yasmeen Enayeh, 27: "Non-violence is a more effective voice for us at the international level. Using violence will create enemies in the world, rather than supporters".
Deena Abed, 20 : "We need to show to the world that Palestine is not about blood and violence; we do not want to recreate Israel's behaviors against us. We wish for peace, a peace that is fair and equal for both parties".
Nimer Qawasmeh, 22 : "Palestine has a history of armed resistance; 2 intifadas, the Nakbeh, the Nakseh, the expulsion from our land. Violent resistance led us only to failure and more pain. We have now only to the power of rights. More failure of peace would lead to an increase in fundamentalism, which explains why it is so important to strengthen and support peace initiatives".
Murad Abu Garbiyeh is a student in the 11th grade at the Lutheran School. He lives in Al-Ram with his family.
Every school morning, Murad leaves the house at 6:00, and reaches his school on the other side of the wall at around 8:30. Geographically, his school is located only 3 minutes away from his house; however, due to the Wall, and the consequent mandatory trip through the busy Qalandia checkpoint, his trip takes him more than 2.5 hours. These days, he needs to make sure that he does not bring a ruler to class, even if he has a geometry class that day. One of his friends has been in jail for weeks after being arrested at the checkpoint; the soldiers accused him of planning an stabbing attacked, and put him under administrative detention. In an attempt to help pupils cross more easily, the school provided them with an official identification, confirming that they are indeed students and need to cross the checkpoint in order to go to school. However, soldiers have ignored and destroyed these cards, making it as difficult as possible for students to attend class.
Despite the daily hardships that Murad faces, he is still very motivated to graduate and to pursue his studies in engineering. He encourages his friends to do the same, as he considers that getting a proper education is the best non-violent resistance tool they have.
When the campaign will end on November 26th, 2015, a new campaign will start on the same day; “16 Days Activism Against gender based violence”. These days will be marked by PCPD until the 10th December 2015, “the International Human Rights Day. One of the major activities to be conducted during these days is an initiative in the Jordan Valley related to the economical role of women which is neglected and ignored.