Israeli police joined fascist mobs in attacking Palestinian neighborhoods, but this didn’t stop Palestinians in Haifa from joining the uprising taking place across Palestine
(This article was initially published in Mondoweiss)
Since Sunday, May 9, events in Haifa are moving so fast that I couldn’t write fast enough to describe them. Every night there are mass detention of Palestinians – activists and other residents that happened to pass in the police’s trail. Every morning dozens of relatives, friends and comrades gather in front of the Haifa court, hoping to see their dear ones released, or at least to know what is going to happen with them. Every night local hospitals accept groups of detainees and other citizens that were hurt by stun grenades, tear gas, police beatings or attacks by fascist Zionist mobs. Every evening everybody is tuning to social media or patrolling the streets to find where the next attack may come from.
I wanted to write a learned article, explaining the background and giving a political perspective, but I’m exhausted. We spent the day before the courthouse, where we heard that, in addition to 38 people that were arrested in Haifa’s streets last night, there are at list 7 more that were arrested in raids on their homes in the early morning. But there were also more than 50 political detainees from the nearby Palestinian towns that were brought for remand before the Haifa court, and the hearing of the Haifa detainees didn’t start until 3pm, even though it is Friday and the court was supposed to close by 2pm. We were sitting on the pavement before the court house, which we were not allowed to enter (only one from each detainee’s family was allowed in), discussing the next steps in the struggle. Luckily, in the best of Arab tradition, some good people brought us water, cold drinks and Falafel, so we didn’t all starve.
As we came back to our poor Arab neighborhood, we went to check what happened last night in Hussein St., where the police shot tear gas at residential buildings. In these days the neighbors were supposed to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the month-long Ramadan. But the neighborhood is quiet and there is no Eid. We find the house of the Bushkar family, and they tell us how a police unit that were stationed in the main street, on the other side of the garden, shoot without any provocation tear gas canisters toward the row of four-story residential buildings. One canister exploded in the stairway just in front of their door and another entered a room from the window. It is illegal to shoot teargas at people at closed spaces, as it becomes even more dangerous, but the police wanted to take revenge from the neighborhood at large after a police car was burned in the main street in the previous night. Everybody in the house has suffocated and the pregnant mother lost consciousness. They called an ambulance, but the police stopped it and didn’t let it enter the neighborhood. Only after a log delay, when more neighbors intervened and shouted at the police, they let a neighbor escort the ambulance in and the women was taken to the hospital. The neighbors, in the spirit of crowd-media, filmed their argument with the police and published it on Facebook.
Later we walked around the neighborhood to see what was going on. There was one group of police on the main entrance to the neighborhood. People told us that a patrol of the border guards just entered our street. There was hardly anyone braving to get out.
So, in short, what happened this week in Haifa?
Sunday, May 9
Five Palestinian movements called for a demonstration against ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrakh. The invitation included Herak Haifa, Tal’at (Palestinian Feminist initiative), The Student’s National Democratic Alliance (Tajamou), The Haifa Youth Movement and The Alternative Palestinian Path. A few hundred people, mostly youth, gathered in “Prisoners Square” in the German Colony, Haifa’s touristic center. The police didn’t wait long before it attacked the participants with a barrage of stun grenades and started to chase protesters and detain them.
Monday, May 10
Some un-organized youth called on Facebook for another demonstration in Prisoner’s Square. I was not there but heard different estimations of the number of participants, between a few dozens and the hundreds. Police wanted to disperse them and there were clashes all over the area.
Tuesday, May 11
The five movements that organized Sunday’s demonstration called for a new protest at 20:30 in Prisoner’s Square, now also against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. More Palestinian movements promise to join. Women in Black (which organize vigils against the occupation) called for a protest in the Bahai (UNESCO) Circle for 7:30, with big participation, and some of them join the Palestinian protesters. Some fascists organize a counter-demo in the German Colony, which is attended by only a few dozens, under heavy police protection.
As the Palestinian protest start, not even moving from the original gathering site, mounted police ride into the crowd, followed by a barrage of stun grenades. There are more protesters now and they hold their ground, disperse and gather again all along the main section of the German Colony. Clashes with sporadic detention continue in the main street for some two hours as the side streets are blocked with burning barricades.
The presence of the fascists, which chant “Death to the Arabs” and cheer the police when they attack the demonstrators is heating the atmosphere farther. After long time a big police force that was chasing the Palestinian protesters turn to the junction where they were located. To say the truth, I thought they might instruct them to disperse, to lower the tension. But, instead, the police organized the fascist in a small column and marched them through the main street of the German Colony, all with their Israeli Flags and their enthusiastic “Death to the Arab” chants. Some of them threw stones at Arab passers-by from behind the thick police wall defending them. If any Arab try to oppose them, he was chased by the police, like you can see in this video.
So, if I initially thought that the police came to prevent demonstrations or limit the freedom of expression, I proved wrong. They came to promote the right kind of un-licensed demonstrations. In fact, the police proved itself in the most open way to be the uniformed and armed vanguard of the fascist mob.
After their demonstration the fascist mob went on to attack random Arab civilians in the area. The police were defending them but at the same time there was an unprecedented popular uprising as hundreds or even thousands of Arab Palestinian youths took control of the streets, raised barricades and defended their homes and neighborhoods.
Wednesday, May 12
There was another Palestinian demonstration planned, this one by The Democratic Front, but it was abolished due to the tension. All the day we followed new in social media about a planned fascist attack on Arab neighborhoods. Toward the evening the youths took control of the streets again.
The fascists gathered in “Kiryat Eliezer” – a mostly Jewish neighborhood to the West of the German Colony (on its East is Wadi Nisnas, the center of the Palestinian population in Haifa). The police attacked the youth gathering in Wadi Nisnas and at the same time allowed the fascists to attack isolated Arab families and Arab businesses in Kiryat Eliezer and the German Colony. They chased and arrested any Arab that tried to come to the help of the attacked.
The Catholic Sun reports that “about 30 Jewish men attacked the three daughters of Wadie Abunassar, honorary Spanish consul and spokesman for the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land. The men beat the young adults with flag poles flying the Israeli flag and threw stones at their cars.”
The fascists didn’t come close to the Arab concentrations, but the police attacked there, also with violence and detentions.
Thursday, May 13
After last night’s events the Arab population was more tense than ever, everybody discussing what to do to defend against fascist attacks. At 17:00 there was an open-air meeting in the middle of the Wadi Nisnas market, with activists from the Arab parties and some maybe a hundred of the youth that were leading the action. They felt that the Arab neighborhoods are more or less safe, but the problem was how to defend Arab homes where Arabs are a minority in mixed neighborhoods. It was decided to gather in Kiryat Eliezer before the fascists come again, not in a demonstration, just stand quietly on the street side, in order to defend the residents.
The peaceful defensive gathering was promptly attacked with extra force by the police, which brought big reinforcement from the military “border guards”, trained on brutal oppression in the West Bank. Hundreds of youths dispersed all the way East to Wadi Nisnas and Hadar, and clashes erupted in many streets and alleys.
Throughout the evening the police and the soldiers were actively terrorizing the civilian population in their neighborhoods, streets and homes. Many soldiers were moving in the streets in civilian cars just to suddenly stop in the middle of the street, stopping the traffic, pointing their guns at the drivers and bystanders, pulling people out of their cars and searching them and the cars and performing random detentions. Walking patrols entered the streets, seeking violent “contact” and shooting teargas randomly at residents. You can see one such patrol, which I succeeded to film just as they shoot gas randomly in Wadi Nisnas, in this video. Later I heard how someone that was filming the soldiers nearby was shot by a rubber bullet in the chest and had three ribs broken.
This night the fascist continued their rioting in Kiryat Eliezer. Later they went to another neighborhood, Wadi Jamal, and shot live bullets at Arab homes.
Friday, May 14
The police and the army still concentrate forces to terrorize the Arab population. Now they invade houses and arrest people, day and night. The fascists are planning for a new demonstration in the German Colony for tomorrow
When I was in Barcelona in 2019, I’ve seen a writing on the wall: “When you don’t move, you don’t feel the chains”. Now that Palestinian Arabs in Haifa moved, the real nature of the Zionist state is crystal clear. Palestinian Haifa is an occupied city and its police is basically a hateful Jewish supremacist militia. The situation in other “mixed” occupied cities, al-Lid, Ramlah, Yaffa and Akka, is even much worse than in Haifa.
But when you struggle for your rights, for your freedom, you are also full of pride, solidarity, love and hope. These are historic moments and the people of Haifa moved like never before since the Nakba of 1948. And, more than ever since 1948, they are part of a united Palestinian struggle against their oppressors.
It is already 3am and I finish this report for now.