By Alex Kane
Palestinian non-violent resistance is set to switch a gear today, with protesters “knocking” on all four doors of Jerusalem – checkpoints in the city’s south, north, east and west. They call it the Olive Revolution.
Sitting outside a Tamimi family house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on a recent August evening, the conversation shifted from discussion of the previous Friday’s nonviolent protest to planned demonstrations for Friday, August 26. On normal Fridays in Nabi Saleh—if you can call it normal—residents of the village along with Israeli and international supporters attempt to march to a nearby spring that has been expropriated by the settlers of Halamish, whose red-tiled roofs and identical suburban houses overlook the village outside of Ramallah. The nonviolent protests are, without fail, met with extreme violence by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); some 30% of the population has been wounded since the demonstrations started, 60 of them children.
But the conversation that evening moved on to talk of a new campaign beginning on August 26. The shift in conversation was a precursor to the shift in focus, energy and activism planned for tomorrow.
Calling their campaign the “Olive Revolution,” a coalition of popular committees—Nabi Saleh’s included—and youth groups in the West Bank have planned mass demonstrations for tomorrow to take place at the “four doors” of Jerusalem. “We state that Jerusalem will remain the jewel of the Arabs and capital of our future country. Jerusalem is the symbol of our pride and our national dignity [and] that’s why we are going to knock on its doors by popular demonstrations and non-violent activities,” a recent statement by the “Olive Revolution” group reads.
Instead of the weekly protests in different West Bank villages, the popular committees and other activists are combining forces. The protests are planned to take place at the Qalandia checkpoint, the separation barrier in Biddu, Shuafat and the southern gate at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. The four areas highlight places where checkpoints and the separation barrier have cut off unimpeded Palestinian access to Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian life. And while access to Jerusalem has been made difficult to near impossible by Israeli policies, illegal Jewish settlements surrounding Jerusalem have easy access to what Israel calls its eternal and undivided “capital.”
The demonstrations are all part of a strategy that Bashir Tamimi, a popular committee organizer in Nabi Saleh, hopes will “smash the occupation” in order to “have our freedom.” In addition to highlighting the lack of Palestinian access to Jerusalem, the “Olive Revolution” also wants to draw attention to the religious restrictions the separation barrier and checkpoints place on Muslims who want to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s most holy sites. According to the group’s website, “four famous Islamic scholars will come” and participate in the protests.
The “last Friday of Ramadan is the holiest time of Ramadan, and the Palestinian people used to go to Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque at that time and now most of them will not go, so we want to pray and nonviolently demonstrate at the four doors of Jerusalem,” Ayed Morrar, an “Olive Revolution” organizer and leading popular committee activist in Budrus, said in an interview at the Fatah Central Committee office in Ramallah. Morrar provided more details on the planned campaign during the interview.
The idea of the movement, he told me, is to “make an independent movement, struggling against the occupation, not connected to the political parties or factions. We want to make an open movement to resist the occupation by unarmed resistance.”
Morrar also said that there has been coordination with activists, including some of them who organized the May 15 Nakba protests, in Palestinian refugee camps in surrounding Arab countries who will have their own demonstrations. In Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, “we are also keen to organize a demonstration…set to take place simultaneously with ‘the people knocking on the doors’ of our beloved Jerusalem demonstrations,” an “Olive Revolution” statement says.
The September UN bid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is also on the minds of the activists organizing tomorrow’s protests. While on the one hand popular committees in the West Bank have said they support the bid and are planning to mobilize around it, tomorrow’s rallies could also be seen as a rebuke to the PA’s stated plans of confining rallies in September to “city centers” so that no confrontations between the IDF and Palestinians will occur.
Those rallies “will not make pressure on Israel,” said Morrar. “We must also use the sources of pressure to put on the occupation, to force them to feel that this is a losing project.”
The “Palestine Papers” revelations about PA concessions on Jerusalem will also serve as a backdrop to tomorrow’s rallies. As Al Jazeera English’s Gregg Carlstrom wrote then, the documents revealed that the “PA offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem, an historic concession for which Israel offered nothing in return.”
Morrar and the “Olive Revolution” activists reject such moves by the PA.
Morrar said he “wants to knock on the minds of our leadership…If you want to do any step, and this step ignores this main issue, we will never accept that. Be careful, this is our capital, and this is the symbol of our freedom, and if you forget it nobody will follow.”
Tomorrow, Morrar and the “Olive Revolution” will be reminding Israel and the Palestinian Authority of that.
Alex Kane, a freelance journalist currently based in Amman, Jordan and a frequent contributor to the blog Mondoweiss, writes on Israel/Palestine at alexbkane.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.