In Show of Unity, Palestinians Hold General Strike to Protest Israel’s Attacks on Gaza
Arab citizens of Israel join Tuesday’s strike, to also protest unfair treatment of Arab Israelis, particularly in mixed cities
Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, and Arab citizens of Israel participated in a general strike to protest Israel’s continuing bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
The strike was initiated by activists, but on Tuesday the leaders of the Palestinian factions set aside their differences and united in their condemnation of Israel’s air campaign against Gaza.
One of the organizers told The Media Line that the strike was initiated to demand an end to Israel’s punitive measures against the Palestinians.
“We want to send a clear message that we stand together in saying enough to the aggression on Gaza,” said Essam Baker. “But we are also saying enough to the attacks on the Aqsa Mosque, enough to the occupation and settlement building, and enough to the unjust treatment of Palestinians,” he concluded.
Nine days ago, hostilities between Gaza and Israel erupted when Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Strip, launched thousands of rockets toward Israel. Meanwhile, Israel has pummeled Gaza with airstrikes, killing more than 200 people, including dozens of children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel’s army says it only targets Hamas military positions and fighters.
At least 10 Israelis have been killed in the current round of rocket attacks from Gaza. On Tuesday, two foreign workers were killed when a Hamas rocket scored a direct hit on a packing facility in southern Israel.
We want to send a clear message that we stand together in saying enough to the aggression on Gaza. But we are also saying enough to the attacks on the Aqsa Mosque, enough to the occupation and settlement building, and enough to the unjust treatment of Palestinians
Jad, a second-year student at Birzeit University in the West Bank, told The Media Line that the Israeli air strikes have united all Palestinians.
“It sends a clear message that Palestinians exist, and will put the Palestinian cause back on the world stage again. It will expose Israel as an apartheid state,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, allowed a large number of its employees to participate in the strike.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement called on Palestinians to adhere to the strike, describing it as a “day of rage” and accusing Israel of attempts to “ignite a religious conflict” through the upcoming forced expulsion of some 70 Palestinians from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
In Ramallah, a demonstration on Tuesday afternoon turned violent as hundreds of Palestinians protested Israeli’s military campaign in Gaza.
The PA Health Ministry announced that one Palestinian protester was killed by Israeli gunfire, and dozens wounded. The Israeli military says protesters shot at its troops, injuring at least two soldiers.
Palestinian protesters often clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank, but the demonstrators are rarely armed.
Yuval Steinitz, a cabinet minister from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, criticized the general strikes as “another blow to the delicate fabric of relations and cooperation between Jews and Arabs.”
The strike also was observed by the approximately 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Palestinian businesses in east Jerusalem were shuttered, including in the walled Old City, and along Salaheddin street, the only Arab commercial avenue in the city’s Arab sector.
Kamal Halawani, a store owner on Salaheddin street, named after the Muslim conqueror who seized Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, told The Media Line that he can’t remember the last time this happened.
“I’ve been here for more than 22 years; this is the first time we all closed and stayed closed. It’s worth it,” he said.
The government chooses a policy of suffocation and restrictions on its Arab population, especially in mixed cities
Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, co-executive director of the Abraham Initiatives, which promotes Jewish-Arab coexistence, told The Media Line that the Palestinians in Israel are participating in the strike for several reasons.
“The first reason is the aggression on our people in Gaza,” Abu Rass said. He adds that the continued policy of the Israeli government in Jerusalem is to blame for the continuing unrest. “The flagrant violations in Jerusalem, and the attacks on worshipers in Al-Aqsa mosque fuel the tension,” he said.
Abu Rass attributes the recent tension between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel to unfair treatment by the government.
“The government chooses a policy of suffocation and restrictions on its Arab population, especially in mixed cities,” he said.
Similar strikes took place during the first intifada, dubbed the “rocks intifada” of 1987-1993. During that intifada, Palestinians observed a general strike every week on Tuesday.