Israelis, Palestinians celebrate statehood bid

Combatants for Peace, Sheikh Jarrah solidarity Movement, 150 Israelis gather in Beit Jala; more demonstrations planned.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
September 23, 2011 02:05
2 minute read.
Israelis, Palestinians attend Beit Jala rally.

Beit Jala rally 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

More than 300 Israelis and Palestinians gathered in Beit Jala on Thursday night, on the eve of the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state on Friday at the United Nations in New York.

Though the attendants of the event, organized by Combatants for Peace and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, understood that the establishment of a Palestinian state is highly unlikely in the next few months, the event had a celebratory air as traditional Palestinian dancers performed in front of a giant Palestinian flag.

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“We came here today to say together that we want to be the 194th recognized state at the UN,” said Muhammad Amru, one of the heads of the Combatants for Peace, which is made up of former Israeli combat soldiers and Palestinians who were previously involved in violence.

“It’s important to say this today, to the world and especially to the UN, and it’s important that Israeli soldiers and Israelis and Palestinians say these words together.”

Amru added that the groups would continue to work together if the dream of a Palestinian state is not realized in the immediate future. “If we don’t get it tomorrow, we’ll come again and again, holding hands until we get it,” he said.

Around 150 Israelis attended the celebration, including one bus from Tel Aviv and two from Jerusalem.

“The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement welcomes the unilateral steps of Palestine because negotiations have proven to be a stagnant and dead end, and even a tool for continuing the occupation,” said Eitan, one of the organizers for SJSM. “We are happy, we hope this will shake things up and change the rules of the game for the better.”

The celebration was one of a series of Palestinian-Israeli demonstrations, including last Saturday’s women’s demonstration in Kalandiya and this Saturday’s demonstration in Jaljulya.

The main speakers of the night were Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of the PLO, and Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh.

“We came here now because the whole world is convinced this is enough for Palestine, and we are going to implement a real and just peace,” Zaki told The Jerusalem Post before he took the stage. “The extremist government of Israel is responsible for all this, we just want them to implement the international agreements of the UN,” he said.

Both speakers stressed the importance of a non-violent struggle, regardless of the outcome of Friday’s request for recognition.

“Our weapons are peace, non-violence, and democracy,” he told the cheering crowd.

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