AMMAN: Residents of Gaza and the West Bank held a historic general strike on Tuesday that reflected the unity of the Palestinian people.
The Haifa-based Arab Follow-up Committee arranged the protest as the call was picked up by all the Palestinian communities that have been targeted by unprecedented and unrelenting Israeli shelling over the past two weeks.
Palestinians laborers and professionals stayed home in an attempt to paralyze the Israeli economy. The Committee of East Jerusalem Merchants put out a statement calling on all shops to close as Palestinians of all walks of life adhered to the protest call.
Mohammad Baraka, head of the Higher Follow-up Committee of Arab Citizens in Israel, told Arab News that the strike idea was agreed upon in a meeting in Jaffa on Sunday.
“As soon as we announced our decision, we got calls from different Palestinian factions, led by Fatah, which wanted to join the strike call,” he said. “Others also followed and the strike encompassed all of historic Palestine.”
Officials said the strike was in response to the brutal Israeli attack on the Al-Aqsa compound, Israeli efforts to evict Palestinian families from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and the “attacks against our people in Israel.”
According to Baraka, more than 1,000 Palestinian youth have been imprisoned and 200 have been charged during the conflict while only 150 Jewish people have been picked up and none have been charged.
“The deeper meaning of this strike is that anyone who wants to break the Palestinian spirit because of the weakness of the Arab world will be disappointed,” Baraka said. “Armies may lose a war but people never lose.”
Vera Baboun, former mayor of Bethlehem and member of the Palestine National Council, called the strike historic.
“The May 18 strike is a protest of our dignity that shines the light on 73 years of violations to our people’s rights in the occupied territories and in the 1948 areas,” she said.
Khalil El-Halabim, whose son was jailed for allegedly diverting money to Hamas, told Arab News that the strike has united all Palestinians.
“Our goals are clearly united now,” he said. “This strike has illustrated the fact that the Palestinian cause has returned to center stage on the international community’s political agenda.”
Adnan Tarabshe, a Galilee-based theater actor, told Arab News that the strike reflected Palestinian anger but had a much more significant purpose.
“It destroyed the claims by (former fourth Israeli premier) Golda Meir that older people will die and the young will forget,” he said. “The Palestinian people are here to stay and will not forget.”
Ghassan Khatib, the former Palestinian minister of labor, said the strike was a rejection of the racist Israeli policy toward Palestinians.
“It is a reflection of the failure of Israel in absorbing Palestinians in the 1948 areas or oppressing Jerusalemites and Palestinians in the West Bank,” he told Arab News.
Khatib blamed the US for the Israeli arrogance “that we are witnessing now.”
Salah Zuheika, a political activist in Jerusalem, compared the strike to the Land Day Protest that was held on March 30, 1976, which is an important date on the Palestinian national calendar.
Jerusalem-based Orthodox Bishop Atallah Hanna told Arab News that the strike sent a message to all Palestinians to protest against unjust Israeli policies, especially the destruction in Gaza.
“Children and elderly, men and women are all being attacked,” he said. “This strike was a civilized and effective way to send a message to the world that we seek peace with justice.”
William Tarazi, a Gaza-based businessman, told Arab News: “The strike was a simple response. We do not need only a strike or protest. We need a holistic approach that includes political and military actions as well as protests.”
Radi Jirai, a Fatah activist who supports the one-state solution, told Arab News that the strike was another sign that the Palestinian national identity has survived despite Zionist attempts.
“This unity of Palestinians paves the way for a new Palestinian strategy based on the unity of the people and land in Palestine,” he said. “It is the defeat of the Zionist program and stresses the need for a single democratic state to be established on the ruins of the Zionist apartheid.”
Tourism businesswoman from Jerusalem, Margo Tarazi, believed the strike showed Israel that the Palestinian people are united.
“Israel and our leaders have seen that after 73 years, the people of Palestine are united from the sea to the river (the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea) and we will get our legitimate rights through our unity,” she told Arab News.