Arab World: Growing Momentum


Ein Interview mit dem Organisator der „Stop the Wall“-Kampagne gegen die Sicherungsanlagen in der Westbank…

A PALESTINIAN VIEW in an interview with Jamal Juma

bitterlemons: What do you think has been the impact of this year’s demonstrations held on the occasions of the 1948 Nakba, when Israel was created and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes, and 1967 Naksa marking the occupation of the rest of historic Palestine?

Juma: It is not distant from the Arab revolutions and the situation in the region. The momentum that has been created there is also affecting and influencing Palestinian society and the Palestinian people. The most important thing about what happened on Nakba day was the participation of Palestinian people from outside. This is [usually] very sharply restricted. The Palestinian people and this young generation came to tell the world and to tell Israel and even the Palestinian Authority that „we are still here and we want to come back to our homeland. We are practicing it this time, not just calling for it.“

The Naksa was a kind of continuation. They wanted to say, „we came with empty hands, just carrying the slogans that we want to return back to our homes and you killed many of us, but you won’t stop us from continuing the steps that we started, calling for rightful return.“ The Naksa day protest was to make sure this message continued.

bitterlemons: Were you on the ground in the West Bank? What was the feeling in the air?

Juma: The Campaign to Stop the Wall was one of the organizers of the demonstrations. First, many of the calls were to have a demonstration on the Manara [Ramallah’s central square], but everyone knew that there were going to be marches towards [Israel’s] borders [from other countries]. It was not logical that while they were going to the borders and gambling with their lives, we would go to the Manara and listen to speeches and watch popular dancing. We had to go with the heartbeats of our people. We had to go to symbolic areas, confrontational areas, on the borders that have been enforced by the Israelis to tell them, „we are in the same line. Outside and inside, we want the same thing.“ We had to practice our right to Jerusalem [at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah]. Hundreds of soldiers were there and this continued until nine o’clock at night.

In [the village of] Walaja on Nakba day, about 1,000 people broke through the wall and entered the areas of 1948, close to al-Malha. Many people were arrested and beaten and we were lucky no one was killed. Also, in Tulkarem, in Baqaa Sharqiya and Gharbiya where the Israelis demolished a big market and built a nine-meter-high wall between the areas of 1948 and the West Bank–all inside one town, dividing the people from one another–[there was a demonstration].

bitterlemons: What was driving the demonstrations and will there be more?

Juma: The momentum that was created came out of the clear Israeli government position over the settlements and its colonial project in the West Bank. They want to change the geopolitical situation in the West Bank to serve the occupation, and as you know, it is very cut off and divided into ghettos and isolated areas. Also, the American position has totally sided with Israel, using the veto in the Security Council against the project to denounce the settlements. This has raised so much anger among the Palestinian people and it also raises a question to the Palestinian Authority: until when will we continue this so-called peace process and negotiations that have done nothing but made the situation in the West Bank more difficult?

All of these things are feeding into these demonstrations and we feel that they will escalate and become stronger.

bitterlemons: How does this relate to the Palestinian quest to be recognized as a state at the United Nations in September?

Juma: In reference to the September UN statehood issue, the Americans were so clear with [President Barack] Obama’s declaration. Don’t dream,[he said]. That is going to add frustration and anger and should convince the Palestinian leadership to stop relying and counting on the Americans.

We have to manage things in a better way, with a clear strategy. We must focus on two things. The first is to create and support the popular resistance in the West Bank and Gaza: against settlements, against walls, against checkpoints, against confiscating the land, and in terms of the settlers. It has to be conducted in an organized way.

The second thing is to open wide the international law fight. I don’t understand why the [International Court of Justice] decision [on the wall] remains in the drawers of the PLO until today. It is one of the papers we could start with because it addresses the occupation, it addresses Jerusalem. There are many resolutions that condemn the crimes of Israeli officers and officials in the government, so the question is how to push this. Also, we must activate our diplomatic missions to promote the call for BDS [boycott divestment and sanctions against Israel]. It is the time to isolate Israel.-

Published 13/6/2011, © – Jamal Juma heads the Stop the Wall Campaign