Palestinians in Israel Rally for Hamas-Fatah Cooperation
“We are calling on the Palestinian people to establish unity again,” said Mohamed Barakeh, one of 14 Arab members of the Israeli Knesset, who helped lead chants with a megaphone. “The separation between Gaza Strip and the West Bank is not in favor of the Palestinian people's interest.”
The rally was coordinated with others in the West Bank and Gaza, where thousands demonstrated in the largest protests in years. While the protests in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem were reported to be peaceful, some violence broke out among the tens of thousands who demonstrated in Gaza City. The event in Nazareth was organized by Hadash – the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – which is the only Jewish-Arab party in the Knesset. Four members are currently serving in the 120-seat body.
Protesters sang Fida’i, the national anthem of Palestine, and chanted while holding burning candles and holding signs. Drivers of cars passing by honked and smiled while singing along to the national anthem.
“It’s a call to end the occupation in the Occupied Territories,” said Rana Zihur, a resident of Nazareth. “It’s a call for the Palestinian bodies, especially Hamas and Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, to re-unite together and to stand behind their just cause.”
While the action, coordinated with others in the region, “might be affected by this wave of protests throughout the world,” according to Zihur, “we all know that it’s in the benefit of the Palestinians to re-unite.”
The protest took place at Mary’s Well, the site where the Annunciation, the event where the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would become the mother of God, is believed to have happened.
“We want the Palestinians to have their own country, their own land, with Jerusalem as the capital, said Mubada Jarjoura, a member of the Israeli Community Party. “Hamas, they are asking for a Muslim country. Excuse me? What about the others? We need all Palestine to be back, according to [United Nations Resolutions] 194, 242, and 338."
Those UN resolutions call for a right of return for Palestinian refugees, a “land for peace” arrangement that would establish two states divided along pre-1967 lines, and that the parties negotiate in good faith to find a solution to the crisis.
The Palestinian protests occurred on the same day that Israelis demonstrated for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli Defense Forces soldier who was captured by Hamas in 2006 and is still believed to be alive. The Knesset held a moment of silence for Shalit at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.
Young Palestinian activists used social media outlets Facebook and Twitter to coordinate the related events. They said that they were following the model of pro-democracy movements in Middle Eastern neighbors Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya – yet the Palestinians’ struggle, which has been going on for decades, has yet to find a solution to their crisis with the Israelis.