What started as shock over US President Donald Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, turned on Thursday into a popular protest against the move.
What started with a small group of women who gathered at the Old City’s Damascus Gate plaza before noon soon became hundreds of people – men and women of all ages – crying out against the decision.
The only concrete move made by the Jerusalem Arab leadership was to call for a general strike on Thursday, with most shops, schools and universities remaining closed as an act of protest.
Besides the closed shops adjacent to the gate, which serves as the heart of Arab life in the eastern part of the city, the strike pushed young men and women – who did not have to attend classes – to join the protest.
Along with the usual “With blood and spirit we will liberate Al-Aksa,” and, “A million martyrs are marching to Jerusalem,” the crowd chanted, “Trump, Trump, you will see, Palestine will be free,” and continued with “Not Abu Dis, not Eizariya, Jerusalem is our capital,” referring to suggestions that one of the suburbs of east Jerusalem located over the security barrier would become the Palestinians’ capital.
Daud Abu-Libdeh, a political activist, told The Jerusalem Post that Palestinians in east Jerusalem feel they were left out.
“We were stupid for accepting that the US was the only party that was managing the conflict,” he said, referring to the US’s role of facilitating negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians for the past 25 years. “Today [we understand] there are new rules for this game. We need a new party to manage the conflict.”
Abu-Libdeh said it was wrong that the US president – who lives overseas – has the power to make decisions over the future of the city.
“Who is Trump to determine our future? Only we, the people living here – who lived here for hundreds of years – have the right to make such decisions,” he said, adding that as he sees it, the declaration is the end of the two-state solution.
“The US administration pushes us, the Palestinians, into not believing anymore in a two-state solution,” Abu-Libdeh said. “But it is not up to Trump to decide the future of east Jerusalem. It is up to us – the residents – to decide upon our future.”
When Abu-Libdeh was asked when the protests will end, he answered: “This is just a promo. Tomorrow it only will get bigger.”
He paused. “We might be on the verge of a new intifada.”