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Palestinians in Israel: between the hammer of the state and the anvil of co-existence.

Palestinians in Israel have faced decades of Israeli rule, and during the May uprising protested along with Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Jerusalem24 speaks with Rami Younis to find out.

Jerusalem24 – Israel, has witnessed massive protests throughout the first half of May. The protests which began in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, expanded into the Old City and as Hamas launched rockets into Israel thousands of Palestinians across Israel, the West Bank and Jerusalem took to the streets. Protesting police brutality, forced displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the occupation’s policies in the West Bank.

For some, this looked like a new intifada; similar to what happened across the territories in October 2000. The difference in 2021, Palestinians in cities like Lydd, Ramlah and Umm alFahem protested as well.

Rami Younis, Palestinian journalist and activist.

Sitting on some balcony in the city of Haifa, Rami Younis, a Palestinian smoked a cigarette as the city he called home was no longer safe for him and other Palestinians. Younis, originally from Lydd, witnessed the violence first hand. Jerusalem24 contacted him, and in a conversation spoke about the reasons the Palestinians in these cities were hitting the streets. “Well, the thing is, with the with being the Palestinian citizens of Israel, is that we are living in a state where not just the establishment is obviously against you,” says Younis. He adds “the public is obviously against you because most of them brought up in a very with a very racist ideology.”

Protests in the city of Lydd, May 11th.

After an Israeli settler shot 25 year old Mousa Hassouneh during a protest, the protests only intensified in Lydd. As the protests escalated, more Israeli settlers arrived in the city; many of them were carrying weapons. As the Israelis patrolled the streets with automatic weapons, they enjoyed police protection. To that, Younis said that the “Police not only allowed them to do so, but also in some cases, especially in Lydd and Haifa, escorted them, protected them and even attacked with them, allowing them to break curfew and attack Palestinians.” Attacks against Palestinians were occurring in other cities.

For years, Younis spoke of anti-Palestinian incitement against Palestinians in the Israeli media. “The media is inciting against you,” he said. He continued, “one case happened with me when I was in an interview with an anchor who openly incited against Palestinians. They incite to shoot and kill Palestinian citizens of Israel.” He was referring to an interview he had done with Dov Gil-Har, an anchor on the Israeli television station Kan.

Below is the interview Rami Younis had mentioned.

Protests in the Palestinian city of Umm alFahem.

“Living in an environment that is very, very hostile is something that is very hard to describe what it does to you,” says Younis. However, he is still optimistic saying “what gives me hope is the unity we’ve been seeing in the Palestinian street. All of a sudden teenagers, in Lydd, not only identify as Palestinian.. But, also take to the streets with the Palestinian flag, chant for Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza and sing all these beautiful songs that we know from demonstrations in Jerusalem or, you know, the West Bank.” Younis made comparisons of what was happening to the Second Intifada, which was sparked when Ariel Sharon broke into the alAqsa Mosque in October 2000. He says that, “this was something that is almost unprecedented. We saw something similar in October 2000, but in October 2000, it wasn’t, you know, teenagers.” He goes on to say, ” This is the tiktok generation and this is astonishing. So, this gives me a lot of hope that people in Lydd, Ramlah, Akka, Haifa, Nazareth, Sakhnin and Umm alFahem.  See themselves as Palestinians, living under oppression.”

As the protests slowed down across the region, calls for co-existence were spreading throughout social media. According to Younis, “coexistence isn’t really something it’s not a term that I would say. It’s an empty phrase to us, as Arabs living in Israel.” He continues, “to them, coexisting is living without tension with Arabs, without knowing of the hardship we face on our day-to-day basis.” Palestinians in Israel face many challenges, among which include Israel’s Nation-State Law which explicitly states that “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people.”

Younis says that, “the problems we face, Israelis know nothing about. And yet, because they are the privileged side, they dare to speak of coexistence.” He adds that “while we as citizens of the same state are fighting merely to exist.”

“That’s not coexistence. That’s just the privileged maintaining the status quo.”

According to Younis, Israeli society is struggling to understand Palestinian frustrations. ” Israelis are having a hard time to deal with that. Even now like this. This is so obvious. I mean, people just don’t just, like, take to the street and clash with the police. You need to understand why.”

On May 18th, Palestinians in the West Bank and Palestinian communities across Israel announced a general strike. This itself was met with resistance from several Israeli groups. With Israelis in some communities calling for the replacement of Palestinian workers with Jewish ones. Younis says to that, “the right to go on a strike is a basic civil right. And that’s a given.”How is this Israeli Arab, quote unquote, dares to call himself Palestinian?” He continues, “this is unacceptable. So, imagine when we do have a rare display of unity and when all of historical Palestine goes on a strike for the first time since 1936.”

“For some reason, they feel it’s a threat. Now they feel that because they know very little about us, about their own narrative, about their history. And to them, we are not really connected to the people of Gaza and Jerusalem. They have no idea that we have family and friends in Gaza and in Jerusalem and a lot of us see ourselves as part of the same people.”

-Rami Younis, Palestinian journalist.

“I have a friend who was an architect,” says Younis. He added that, “she’s not a political person, but she decided to go on strike.” He described how she was called for a disciplinary hearing at work, and was threatened to be fired. “that’s something that is totally unacceptable, extremely racist. And this is the reality we live in;” says Younis.

“In the past two or three weeks there is a joint effort from all the tools that the state has to fight us,” says Younis.  After agreeing to a cease-fire with Hamas, Israel organized “Operation: Law and Order.” The operation was jointly operated by the Israeli police, special forces units as well as military reserves troops. The declared goal was to arrest people who participated in the protests. The Israeli forces arrested over 1500 people, with over 70% of them being Palestinians. According to him this is “political punishment,” as Younis sees them having a hard time adjusting to the idea that they have lost, and they have lost to the street.

“They call it law and order. We call it terror. This is the Israeli police terrorizing our people.”


Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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