Ahmed Tibi: The right to be free

By Ahmed Tibi, YnetNews.com – 6 Oct 2009
www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3786600,00.html

Latest Jerusalem riots merely a reaction by slave fed up with occupier’s rule

Ahmad Tibi

MP Ahmed Tibi

“The Arabs are ungrateful,” muttered Jerusalem Police District Commander Aharon Franco while addressing the Muslim and Palestinian protests in eastern Jerusalem. “We even allowed them to go ahead with Ramadan prayers,” he added.

What the master in the blue uniform meant to say, with a great measure of patronization, was: “We showed kindness.” “They are simply not nice,” said another one. “After all they get National Insurance, the Jews give them everything, and at the end of the day they throw stones and protest. What else do they want?”

It’s a discourse of arrogance and haughtiness, by those who settle in someone else’s home, repress him, and try to “Judaize” the place – once through confiscation, another time through the razing of homes, and yet another time by holding back construction permits and by closing down official Palestinian institutions in the city.

We are talking about a city that has been occupied since 1967, rather than a neighborhood in a united city. Even the Barak and Olmert governments recognized the fact that this is occupation and agreed to withdraw from large parts of it, both in Camp David and in talks held in recent years.

However, there is something beyond National Insurance and beyond the blue ID. I am talking about the deprived right to be a free people, and the right of any Muslim to pray any time he wishes, regardless of his age.

The Jerusalem Police under Franco’s command forbids men below 50 years of age to arrive at the al-Aqsa Mosque in order to pray. It also closed down the area in recent days and prevents Palestinians and Muslims from arriving at the site. There is no graver blow to the freedom of worship than this limitation. Even God did not impose an age limit on praying.

The pent-up anger and frustration are apparent recently, with the rightist government going too far in terms of expelling Palestinians from their homes and replacing them with settler families in Ras al-Amud, Silwan, and Sheikh Jarah.

These acts undermined the dignity and mostly the rights of every Palestinian. The same is true for the ongoing declarations about the “Judaization” of Jerusalem and the apparent dead-end under the Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman government, which pushes away the two-state vision. On top of this we have seen rabbis’ declarations and the “visits” of Jews at the al-Aqsa compound.

All of the above prompted the current angry outburst. Some political sociologists say the outburst came later than expected.

You’re not doing them a favor

Those who think that through incitement or by blaming the Islamic Movement or the PA they can explain the current clashes are wrong. The anger and frustration are the fuel, and Israel’s aggression is the spark. Such aggression was never able to defeat an entire nation and annul its just aspirations.

I again stress that eastern Jerusalem residents are Palestinians just like their brothers in Ramallah and in Gaza. The blue ID perhaps makes movement easier, yet it does not change their sense of national belonging.

The Israeli discourse, that is the “National Insurance” discourse, is despicable, delusional, and ignores the feelings of a national collective fed up with Israeli occupation on any Palestinian land, including east Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque.

The same is true for the wall erected by Israel at the heart of al-Quds, which separates families and boosts the feeling of asphyxiation. To all those people who think they are doing the Arabs a favor by letting them pray or allowing them to walk the streets or go through a roadblock I say the following: Not only do we have rights in this country; we mostly have a right for the country.

Until this fact is internalized, the state of inequality and Jewish supremacy towards Arabs will continue to dominate, as a basis for expanding the political, diplomatic, and civil gaps between the two collectives living here. We have no interest or desire in a clash – the opposite is true. Popular protest is legitimate. However, we shall never accept a situation whereby one side feels like a knight while the other feels like the horse; one side is the master and ruler while the other is the servant and slave.

Eastern Jerusalem isn’t Israeli, and Israel’s sovereignty there is temporary – it is one of occupation through a draconian law that both Barak and Olmert in fact crashed a long time ago. The official Israeli refusal to hold talks that will prompt the natural division of this disunited city may prompt a greater flare-up that we can already predict in advance.

Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi serves as deputy Knesset speaker and heads the United Arab List – Ta’al

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