Palestinian youth activists in Haifa, Akka: “Gaza is not alone in this struggle”

Palestinian students at Haifa University protest Israel’s assault on Gaza, 19 November.

Samer Khalifeh The Electronic Intifada

Following Israel’s brutal attacks on the Gaza Strip that began on 14 November, Palestinian youths with Israeli citizenship gathered for urgent meetings to organize their activism in solidarity with Gaza.

Last Thursday, 15 November, on the Haifa University campus, dozens of Palestinian students stood for a few minutes in solidarity with the people of Gaza. In response, some Israeli students gathered and started singing the national Israeli song.

On Monday, the Arab Student Board, which is the elected committee for Arab students at Haifa University, was told by the dean that they could not organize a solidarity gathering on the university campus. However, just the day before, the Jewish Israeli student board held their student activity to support the attacks on Gaza. In that action, Jewish Israeli students danced while chanting “Death to the Arabs” and praised the Israeli army for its “courageous” attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Familiar with and rather used to the university’s discriminatory policy towards Palestinian students, the Arab Student Board held their student activities and protested on Monday anyway at the entrance of Haifa University, outside its campus. The 500 students who gathered to demand that Israel stop the attacks on the Gaza Strip were joined by members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) Haneen Zoabi and Mohammed Barakeh.

“We are against the war on Gaza, and against the war on the Palestinian people that was declared in 1948,” said Weaam Baloum, a law student and a member of the Arab Student Board at Haifa University, referring to the ethnic cleansing which dispossessed Palestinians of their homeland, in a phone interview that day.

“We reject the siege policy, we reject the [starvation] and humiliation policy on the Gaza Strip. The war on Gaza shows the world the apartheid racist Israeli policy. We will not stand still while Palestinian blood is used as a part of the Israeli election campaign for [Avigdor] Lieberman and [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s government to win over a few votes. We reject Palestinian blood [to] be a part of a political game.”

Daily demonstrations

In Haifa city, an activist youth movement, Hirak Haifa, has organized demonstrations on a daily basis since the attack on Gaza began. On Sunday, 18 November, approximately 100 activists joined in protest to stop the attacks on Gaza.

They announced via their social media outlets: “Let us all make a stand to support our people, let it be a wake-up call for the Arab world and the world’s nations to take a stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza and pressure their governments to cut off all their diplomatic relations with the State of Israel to break this ongoing siege.”

Hirak activists also held a symbolic funeral for Gaza’s martyrs at the Prisoners Square in the German colony area, dressed in white and holding the names of those killed.

“We hold a demonstration and march every day since the brutal attacks [began], and we have been in contact with activists in Gaza to show our support and lift their morale that they are not alone in this struggle,” explained Thaera Zoabi, a member of Hirak Haifa. “I believe the reactions from the Arab world, whether demonstrations or diplomatic presence in the Strip strengthens our morale and our struggle.

“Here in Palestine ‘48,” Zoabi added, using the short-hand for the part of historic Palestine occupied in 1948, “demonstrations occur everywhere — in Ebilin, Shefa Amr, Nazareth, Akka, around the Galilee and triangle area, in Jerusalem everyday”. Zoabi also talked of 28-year-old Rushdi Tamimi, who was shot during a West Bank protest: “We have a martyr from Nabi Saleh, also demonstrations in the different universities in Palestine ‘48. The people are outraged. My heart goes out to all our martyr brothers and sisters.”

Akka activists arrested

On Tuesday, 20 November, a march began at al-Madfah Square in the city of Akka, and ended with 500 Palestinian demonstrators gathered around the old clock tower.

Dozens of activists from the Ghassan Kanafani Youth Movement participated. The movement, named after the celebrated Palestinian author assassinated by Israel in a 1972 Beirut car bombing that also took the life of his young niece, was formed a year ago by Akka youth activists influenced by the Arab uprisings, and as a response to the failure of the local parties to show sufficient solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners.

Young men with the movement have since been arrested for “disturbing public order” and summoned for investigation by the Shabak (or Shin Bet) Israel’s domestic spy agency acency.

Ahmad Odeh, a member of the movement from Akka, was due to give The Electronic Intifada an interview about his activism but he and eight others from the Ghassan Kanafani Youth Movement and the Akka community were arrested in the wake of a confrontation with police forces earlier in the day, as well as the previous day’s large demonstration.

The Ghassan Kanafani Youth Movement confronts widespread Israeli repression by holding their peaceful events in solidarity with Gaza, defiantly asserting their right to protest the massacre of their own people. They are citizens of the State of Israel, but they are deprived of their basic rights on a daily basis, threatened, investigated and attacked.

Though a ceasefire ending Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza was announced on Wednesday, young Palestinian citizens in Israel are not going to stop their patriotic efforts.

As Thaera Zoabi stated, “Even if there is a ceasefire, and the Zionist attacks stop, we are not going to stop our struggle and demand for freedom.”

Sawsan Khalife’ is a political activist and journalist from Shefa Amr in the Galilee region of Palestine.