Both during July’s Al-Aqsa fiasco as well as throughout today’s tumultuous events, formal and social media exploded with alerts and warnings of imminent violence, with calls for protests, with condemnations, and with celebrations.
Both then and today, Jerusalemites remained loyal to themselves; we didn’t join the celebration parties, nor did we participate in the calls for violence.
Both then and today, things are happening on the ground. The blood runs thick through the veins of East Jerusalemites, and there are those who see a war going on. Yet, when all is accounted for, it seems like there are more who see brotherhood and unity.
In March 2015, together with a few East and West Jerusalemite activists, I founded 0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem, a website and a Facebook page that translates a broad range of traditional and social media news sites from Arabic to Hebrew (and also English). 0202 takes great care in surveying and displaying a wide range of media coverage from across the city, explaining issues but not editorializing them.
We have seen before how 0202 has reflected real feelings on the ground. In the fall of 2015, just six months after going on air, we saw incitement, hatred, and violence in every spot of East Jerusalem. We barely found one place that didn’t publish a caricature of the Temple Mount and knives, and we didn’t want to amplify such voices. We thought, if this is East Jerusalem, we have no interest in bringing it to West Jerusalem. It disturbed us so much that we almost closed down our Facebook page. But very soon thereafter, the knife attacks began, what is now called the ‘knife intifada.’ We suddenly realized that the events that were unfolding were actually foreshadowed by social media, and we simply weren’t proficient enough to read the signs. This isn’t everyday East Jerusalem; this was tired, angry, pained, incited East Jerusalem; an East Jerusalem with nothing to lose.
In the end, we didn’t close down. But we did learn to read the signs more closely, and to look for a larger, more diverse community of voices to amplify.
During the summer, throughout the magnetometer protests, I avidly read East and West Jerusalem voices, as well as national and international media. Everyone spoke about the imminent intifada, and I kept going back to 0202 — Nu, where are those caricatures? Where are the violent hashtags? Suddenly we witnessed voices from West Jerusalem — hesitantly at first, but then confidently — saying that what we’re seeing in East Jerusalem is solidarity, not violence. Not terror attacks, not the dark, brutal fall of 2015 — rather a movement that closely resembled the social protests of West Jerusalem in summer 2011.
And so it was. Of course there were some riots and protests, and even some that turned violent — but we saw violent protests in the 2011 revolution, too, as we saw in the 2015 Ethiopian Israeli protests. In the summer of 2017 we saw, for the first time ever, the unification of East Jerusalem. East Jerusalemites, born into a complicated identity crisis (Jerusalem residents, but not citizens of Israel or Palestine), finally came together and found a unifying force. We saw them say, Al-Aqsa unites us. We will pray in the streets nonviolently, and we will hand out watermelons, and we will sing songs, and we will feel the blood of nonviolent, social activism run through our veins.
It’s not that Trump’s statement goes uncared for here in the city. Social media is exploding with hashtags hailing Jerusalem and we even see words such as “East Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine” intertwined with regular journalistic texts. But you know what? It’s quiet here, mostly, besides a few small riots and protests (some of which are instigated by Israeli security forces). And not only is it quiet here, there is a mini-war between different social media outlets, about the fact that it is quiet here. Some outlets decide to report violence, while others remind us that those reports are old, using videos from previous riots. Why? Because the world wants violence in Jerusalem. It expects and awaits it. And Jerusalemites are saying, not us, not now. There might be violence in the rest of the Arab world, and, while there are certainly calls for it, East Jerusalem uniformly refuses to heed these divisive calls.
And here’s the punch — the current response is a continuation of the response to the magnetometers just a few months ago.
Let’s look at ourselves for a moment:
Since the social protests of 2011, there have been several attempts to encourage the people to return to the streets, especially given certain political and economic situations in Israel — the gas riots, corruption in government, the Ethiopian-Israeli protests, and the current Saturday-nights-on-Rothschild protests.
Doesn’t it feel good? Don’t we love walking the streets, demanding and creating change? Aren’t we addicted?
That’s exactly what is happening now, on the other side of the city. East Jerusalemites had a taste of nonviolent protests in the summer, and now they’ve found another opportunity to taste a little more of it, and this is not trivial. It is not trivial at all. I hope I won’t be proven wrong.
A few months ago, my partner told me that Jerusalem does not belong to a specific religion or nation.
We, the Jerusalemites, belong to her.