When Palestine was observed as a non-member state on the 29th November 2012, the international community in large celebrated. This news, however, was met by a cowardly retaliation from an anxious Israeli state, scared by their escalating isolation. They immediately halted the payment of $400 million in tax revenues and vowed to continue with their plans to build 4,000 new Jewish only housing units in the ‘E1’ area of the occupied west bank. Apart from building these illegal settlements in occupied lands, the new settlement would effectively cut the west bank in half, thereby allowing Israel to colonize and ‘cleanse’ east Jerusalem of the historic Palestinian population.
Far from standing by passively while Israel cowardly tried to demolish hope of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians responded by erecting 25 tents in the area. The tent city dubbed ‘Bab al Shams’ (The Gate of the Sun) soon saw Palestinians from all around gathering to help build the village.
Fearing an Illegal raid, the Palestinians petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to assess the situation- after all the tents were situated on private Palestinian land. The Court in response issued an injunction on a raid for six days while they considered the situation.
Fearing political embarrassment before the Israeli general election, Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately called for its removal. Alongside his lawyers he drafted a document stating that the creation of Bab al Shams was contrary to national security and should be demolished.
Only 24 hours after its birth, Bab al Shams was shut down by Israeli soldiers. The Palestinians that resided in the new town were forcibly evicted, resulting in 100 arrests and several beatings. This not surprisingly exposed Israel yet again as a lawless state.
Far from deterring the Palestinians they continue to try to revisit the site and have only this week created another tent city ‘Bab al Karamah’ (Gate of Dignity) near the village of Beit Iksa – subsequently demolished, the village faced the same fate as Bab al Shams.
This however, should not be seen as a defeat, with the erection of Bab al Shams and Bab Al Karamah comes a new form of resistance to the occupation and settler colonisation. Raja Shehadeh, lawyer and founder of Al Haq (and an alumnus of Glasgow Caledonian University) argues that the erection of Bab al Shams was a “breakthrough”. It represented a “daring action rarely seen since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the Palestinians weren’t just challenging facts on the ground. They were challenging their own consciousness.”
Much like Bab al Shams it appears to have been ephemera but the question still remains, is this the future of resistance to the illegal settlements?
Ramallah-based student Leila Abdullah* offers her analysis:
“I believe the construction of these villages in retaliation to settlements was a great initiative. It gave us Palestinians hope. Yes, Bab al Shams and Bab al Karamah were shut down. Yes, 100 of its inhabitants were arrested. However, that does not stop us. Settlement expansion is not likely to cease with the presence of the Zionist. Our land continues to need protection from theft.
However, I do not believe this method is the sole way to liberation. In my opinion, many different types of resistance must be implemented for it to have an effect, whether it being armed resistance, BDS, civil disobedience, etc… However, narrowing it down to the illegal settlement issue, I believe this method is a brilliant form of retaliation. It just needs to be continuous.”
Obviously, it’s too early to tell but there seems to be no sign of the momentum created by the construction of Bab al Shams and Bab al Karamah slowing. Elsewhere, over the last week and months, we’ve seen the youth of Aida, Dheisheh and Al Azza camps resisting the occupation forces based at Rachel’s Tomb adjacent to Aida camp. The weekly village protests still continue against settlement expansion and the apartheid wall. Palestinians are also engaged in and directing the growing BDS movement. Armed resistance still exists in Gaza and of course the resistance of the prisoners continues, perhaps as Leila argues, as important as this new form of resistance is, it must be used in conjunction with all other possible forms of resistance available to the Palestinians.
*An alias used to protect her identity.