- by Valentin Cartillier
- The Guardian
- Issue #1964
Under Israeli bombardment, Palestinians went on one of the biggest strikes in Palestinian history on 18th May. Throughout the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and inside Israel, Palestinians refused to go to work in protest against the recent attacks. General strikes are quite uncommon for Palestinian citizens, and the recent strike could foreshadow a greater political unity between geographically separated Palestinians.
The strike was called by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, who issued the following statement:
“From across colonised Palestine, we call on you to join our general strike and our action […]. Launched from Jerusalem and extending across the world, we call on your support in maintaining this moment of unprecedented resistance […]. Liberation is within our reach.”
The strike was supported by both Hamas, which has a political majority in Gaza, and Fatah, which control the Palestinian National Authority. The Palestinian National Authority is a self-governing body which ostensibly governs Palestine but only has effective control over parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Shops, business centres, civil institutions, banks and universities all closed their doors; workers refused to show up, revealing Israel’s dependency on Palestinian labour. Al Jazeera reporter Nida Ibrahim stated: “It’s the first time in decades that we see Palestinians across the political divide take part in such a general strike.”
While it is difficult to determine the exact number of people who went on strike, Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, reported that “only 150 of the 65,000 Palestinian construction workers [came] to work in Israel. This paralysed building sites, causing losses estimated at 130 million shekels [nearly AU40 million].” This latest action shows that general strikes remain an incredibly powerful tool in fighting all forms of oppression, their power can be taken far beyond the bounds of just the workplace and used to further political demands of any nature.
The strike was accompanied by protests that were largely peaceful, however, there were the inevitable outbursts of violence. In Ramallah in the West Bank, protestors burned tires and threw stones at Israeli military checkpoints. Soldiers responded by firing tear gas canisters, which some protestors were able to throw back. The clashes left three protestors dead and over a hundred wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Israeli Defence force claimed that two of its soldiers were wounded by gunshots to the leg.
While this strike was only intended to last a single day, it signals a new era of Palestinian political action. It has demonstrated a unity of Palestinian demands that has not been seen in decades. Given the success of this strike, we can expect to see more sustained strikes in the future. The CPA stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle to be free.