|Date: Oct 2, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Protests in West Bank, Gaza in support of 1948 Palestinians|
|RAMALLAH/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem joined 1948 Palestinians in a general strike Monday protesting Israel’s controversial Jewish nation-state law.|
Passed by the Knesset in July, the law declares only Jews have the right of self-determination in Israel and downgrades Arabic from its status as an official state language.
The legislation has come under fierce criticism at home and abroad.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the law, saying it is necessary in order to fend off Palestinian challenges to Jewish self-determination.
Across the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip Monday, schools, universities, government offices and shops were closed in solidarity with the 1948 Palestinian minority, which shut down its private sector.
Demonstrations were held in Ramallah, where minor clashes erupted by a checkpoint on the West Bank city’s outskirts. Clashes were also reported in Hebron.
Ramallah resident Khaled Abu Ayoush said the strike was “against the policy pursued by Israel in order to erase Palestinian nationalism and the displacement of citizens from their land.”
“It is the minimum we can do for our people against the racist nation-state law,” said Abu Jabir al-Iraqi, a resident of the 1948 Palestinian town Taybeh.
Mahmoud Hamed, however, kept open his bakery outside the walls of occupied Jerusalem’s Old City. “We are a bakery,” he said. “In wars, in strikes, people usually need a break.”
Some Palestinians questioned whether the strike would be effective.
“I don’t know if the strike we are holding in the West Bank is affecting the Jews or not, or whether it is merely shutting down all the services for nothing,” 34-year-old Diaa Rayan said as he drove his car through Ramallah.
“This strike will make no change,” said Ismail al-Saidi, a butcher from Gaza. “To make a change we need weapons to fight the enemy.”
Separately, the UNRWA relief agency withdrew some of its international staff from the Gaza Strip Monday, citing concerns for their safety.
“Earlier today, a number of staff were harassed and prevented from carrying out their duties by individuals protesting recent measures resulting from UNRWA’s challenging financial situation,” the agency said in a statement.
Hani al-Omari, an UNRWA employee, told Reuters dozens of people whose jobs were recently cut or reduced had gathered outside a hotel where they heard UNRWA international staff were meeting, some surrounding a member’s vehicle and lying down on the road.
“We wanted to send a message to them that they will not be comfortable while they plan to execute us by cutting our jobs,” Omari said.