The Arrest

 

Returning from Hebron Wednesday afternoon, I glanced outside my window, only to see miles and miles of blue and white. Today was Jerusalem Day, and a parade of thousands marched through the streets celebrating, as if in an orgy of nationalistic fervor, the 44th anniversary of the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem. What shocked me initially was how eerily monolithic the procession was: it seemed as though the ocean of Israeli flags was meant to blur all distinctions between old and young, boss and worker, women and men, settler and 48er. In light of the events of recent days, I sensed a strong political undertone beneath the cheers and yells of the ecstatic crowds. Coming on the heels of Netanyahu’s defiant speech before Congress, it appeared to me that the marchers streaming down Sultan Suleiman St. that evening sought to echo their PM’s bold remarks, that all of Jerusalem was “theirs” forever. Indeed, it seemed that this display of triumphal nostalgia concealed a deeper, far weaker emotion, a lurking fear of a future in which nothing between the river and the sea would be exclusively “theirs” but would have to be shared with the other

After witnessing first hand, over the past week and a half, the many horrors the occupation has inflicted on the Palestinian people, my fellow delegates and I trembled with indignation at the chutzpah of these Israeli marchers as they boisterously paraded through East Jerusalem, brandishing their flags of conquest. Prompted by the traffic to walk the rest of the way to our hotel, we were inspired to launch an impromptu parade of our own. Donning our keffiyehs we had purchased at the Hebron Keffiyeh factory and our small Palestinian flags, we we’re met by spit, aluminum cans, and pure, unadulterated hatred. Police instantly set upon us, accosting me, demanding that I put away my 3 by 5 inch Palestinian flag. It was remarkable how so much as giving voice to the other, the “Arab”, the Palestinian, in 3 by 5 form in E. Jerusalem no less could ignite such visceral fear and hatred. 

Upon returning to the Holy Land Hotel, my comrades (Haneen, Amanda, Peter, Lydia, Tammy & Tiffany) and I decided that we would go back to the parade merely to hang out and observe, this time without our small Palestinian flags. In order to avoid any provocations, we simply posted up on the side walk, and, still wearing our keffiyehs, we proceeded to wave and make peace sign gestures to the paraders, who marched on the other side of the street, separated from us by a high gate. The initial reaction of the marchers was a combination of shock and disbelief. I myself had elected to wear, along with my keffiyeh, a kippah adorned with a small Palestinian flag. This last article of clothing on my head contributed, I believe, more than anything else to the climate of collective bewilderment, especially among the youth. For them, Judaism and its physical symbol, the kippah, were inseparably bound up with the particular strain of ethno-religious nationalism associated with the state of Israel. It simply never occurred to them that a Jewish person would, in the name of Jewish ethics, stand in solidarity  with the oppressed Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. I feel that it was precisely this cognitive dissonance on a societal level that formed the motivation for my arrest. 

As we walked up and down the sidewalk, waving our peace signs, many Palestinians of all ages approached to join us. With twenty or thirty people now gathered on the sidewalk facing the parade, we turned over leadership of what had become a demonstration to Palestinian activists, and we happily clapped and danced to their songs and chants. Standing on two feet high pylons, we tried to maintain our visibility as internationals in order to confer as much protection as possible to the Palestinians. The demonstration remained totally peaceful - just singing, whistling, and clapping. In fact, much to the chagrin of the paraders, we often danced to their music. Many Palestinians, fascinated with my kippah, approached me and exclaimed, “I love you”.  For a moment, a space was opened for Palestinians to freely gather in their own streets and protest, peacefully demanding their basic rights. We were soon to learn just how brief that moment would be. 

Suddenly, the police moved in without warning of any kind. Officers on horseback came so close to the sidewalk, nearly hitting some of the demonstrators. I stepped down from the pylon. In that instant, my impulse to flee was counteracted by the firm realization that, standing on a sidewalk waving a peace sign, I had every right to be there, and if I fled, who would stand with the Palestinians? I stepped back up on the pylon. Moments later, an Israeli police officer ran up, seized me, and dragged me to the other side of the street. He then punched me in the face, put me in a choke hold, and with four other officers, slammed me to the ground. I was eventually handcuffed and carried to the car; I allowed my body to go limp and refused to walk on my own in a gesture of nonviolent defiance. Throughout the whole affair, the only thing audible coming from the policemen was a constant stream of curses words, “motherfucker”, “piece of shit”, etc., which was to me a ringing confirmation of how infuriated and threatened they were by a 19-year old wearing a kippah and a keffiyeh standing with the Palestinians. 

To be continued in the next post: “In Israeli Jail” 

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    This is Lucas Koerner’s blog, the American-Jewish young man who spoke against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. You...
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    I feel this just needs to get out!
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    Subhanallah! This is the story of the 19 year old Jewish American boy who was attacked and arrested a couple days ago in...
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    This is an amazing guy.
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