In Zionists’ eyes, these areas – and in particular East Jerusalem – should never be relinquished. In Israeli politics, Jerusalem is commonly referred to as the ‘eternal and indivisible’ capital of Israel. To reinforce these words, Israel has since the 1970s implemented an aggressive settlement policy. Apart from the settlements in the hills of the West Bank, some 200,000 Jews have also settled in East Jerusalem, under the authority of successive Israeli governments. Several hundred Jewish fanatics have even cracked houses in the Muslim and Christian neighbourhoods of the Old City.
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In the case of Khan al-Ahmar, the threat of demolition serves yet another goal, that of expanding settlements. The Bedouin village is situated in an area Israel has designated as ‘E1’, the largest planned settlement in the West Bank. With the Bedouins removed, Israel can control the entire centre part of the West Bank, from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and could cut the territory in half, denying Palestinians the possibility to travel from north to south or vice versa.
Cultural heritage can strengthen communities and their ties to the land they live on. The researchers repeatedly talked about putting their villages on the map, and making them part of a wider Bedouin community which extends through both time (to previous and future generations) and space. They have become visible to local, national and international audiences. Cultural heritage, and the actions taken to protect it, become a resource both to encourage equality and to share a different vision of what life could be in these embattled communities.
Some of the Bedouin children will be forced to live in a semi-urban environment next to a garbage dump, without their animals, in what the American social anthropologist Dawn Chatty has dubbed ‘cultural genocide’. Godfrey-Goldstein: “There’s no way they can maintain their traditional lifestyle over there. The Bedouins can’t graze their animals. So they are less sustainable. Their children are being urbanized. In essence, they won’t be Bedouins anymore. All the herbal knowledge is vanishing, the ability to track. They’re no longer out there. Dawn Chatty has said this is the worst case of forcible displacement she has witnessed in 30 years.”
While Saudi Arabia is normalizing its ties with Israel, the US still provides Israel with more than $3 billion annually in military aid. The coniuous builiding of illegal settelements, the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the killing of non-violent protestors in Gaza by the Israeli army, all these have killed the Arab Peace Initiative.
Hamas’ willingness to endorse and actively promote the so-called “Great March of Return” campaign, suggests that it might be shifting its tactics away from relying upon violence. If Hamas can continue to mobilize tens of thousands of Palestinians to protest against Israel on a weekly basis, then it can ensure that the blockade of Gaza receives much more attention in international media and is placed higher on the diplomatic agenda of the international community. However, Mass demonstrations and marches by Palestinians are a public relations nightmare for Israel.
It seems clear that the momentum that has been building will be difficult to stop. However, it remains to be seen what the final impact of the protests will be, and whether organizers will succeed in harnessing the anger into non-violent resistance or whether it will escalate once again into armed conflict.