Solidarity with Palestinians rises, and so is risk for activists

Sean O’Neill writes:

An Israeli activist friend called me Thursday night with some parting advice as I left for my hostel after getting a beer with him. I had mentioned that Friday I would head down to the weekly protest at Sheikh Jarrah.

“Be careful,” he said, “it’s getting dangerous out there.” Then he added a clarifying point: “For people on this side.” He gestured with his head to the streets of West Jerusalem behind him, lined with bars and cafes. By “this side” he meant Israelis, and while I’ve never been part of any side, his point was taken.

Two years ago I was denied entry at Ben Gurion airport, putting an abrupt end to my work with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the South Hebron Hills. For most of 2006 to 2009 I worked on CPT’s project based in the village of At-Tuwani, supporting a nascent, grassroots Palestinian-led movement of nonviolent resistance to continued Israeli occupation and settlement expansion. Often on Saturdays, anywhere from a handful to several dozen Israeli activists would come to the area to be in solidarity with the Palestinians. It wasn’t always an easy relationship, but there was a sense on both sides that it was the nucleus of something important.

Back now for the first time since then, that movement seems to have taken some significant steps. For one thing, I used to be able to recognize the majority of Israeli activists that would turn up to stand with Palestinians at actions or protests. Friday at Sheikh Jarrah I recognized only one. Another Israeli activist friend, who I’ll call Eli, contends that the weekly Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations have helped get more Israelis involved. Showing up at Sheikh Jarrah, after all, is an easier first step than taking to the the hills south of Yatta.

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