Paradise regained: Price tag attacks and the promise of radical politics

Palestinian protests after a price tag attack on Fureidis worried Israeli authorities enough to elicit a condemnation.

Israeli authorities have publicly condemned recent price-tag attacks on Arab property [AFP]

In late April, I was getting ready to visit my family in Fureidis (Persian for paradise) village, when I heard the news about a mass demonstration that was organised to protest the recent “price-tag attacks” by Jewish extremists on one of the local mosques. Overnight on April 28, hooded Jewish terrorist extremists spray-painted the Star of David and the slogan “close mosques and not yeshivas” on the walls of Mercy (Al-Rahma) mosque, all captured on the mosque’s security camera. These Jewish extremist vandals also slashed scores of tires of parked vehicles in the area.

The following day the town went on a general strike, and when I arrived there every store, restaurant, and coffee shop, which attract many patrons from the nearby Jewish settlements, was shut down. The village’s reaction took the Israeli authorities by surprise.

Then various Israeli officials, cabinet ministers and President Shimon Peres himself expressed their solidarity with the people of Fureidis and condemned these attacks. Some of them went so far as to label these attacks terrorist acts. Peres even issued a personal apology for Fureidisians on behalf of the “nation”, stating that “these vile acts are contrary to the Jewish faith and morals” and describing them as incompatible with “the interests of all citizens of Israel”.

Disingenuous apologies

There are two main things going on in this condemnation of the terrorist acts and the way in which they have been framed. First, they are meant to obfuscate the extent of the massive violence systematically perpetrated by the apartheid Israeli state itself against the indigenous Palestinian population in Fureidis and elsewhere.

After all, the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Dome of the Rock), for example, has recently been violated over and over again by the same Jewish extremists that state officials were condemning and, needless to mention, under the protection of the Israeli military and police forces. The apartheid Israeli state and its continued ethnic cleansing campaign is doing exactly what the Jewish extremist terrorists hope to accomplish, but in more politically correct terms.

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This can be no more obvious than in Benjamin Netanyahu’s disingenuous portrayal of these vile, terrorist price tag attacks as “unsettling” and as contradictory to “our essence and all of our values.” Just after the attack, however, Netanyahu made it clear that he will enact a racist law that will assert the absolute Jewishness of the state of Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”.

Such a move can only be carried out through the obliteration of the legal status, let alone the presence, of the indigenous Palestinians population within the Green Line such as the residents of Fureidis village who continued to reside on their lands after the 1948 Nakba. There can be neither equality nor genuine democracy for all citizens in an ethnocratic and apartheid state.

The rally of rage

The second point that we should not miss is that the official condemnations of the terrorist “price tag” acts were meant to displace the meaning and significance of the mass demonstration and the general strike of the inhabitants of this particular village. In its frantic reaction, the Israeli establishment hoped to contain as quickly as possible what a local infotainment website referred to it as the “rally of rage” (masirat al-ghadab).

This proves beyond the shadow of doubt the total failure of the Israelification policies that were designed to evacuate Palestinians of their national identity, collective memory, and history. In the case of Fureidis, in particular, these issues acquire a special meaning. Known as the “most acquiescent” Arab village within the Green Line, Fureidis has long been used as an exemplary showcase for normalisation in Israeli official discourse.

However, this mythic representation of Fureidis betrays the extent to which the traumatic history of the Nakba still looms over the consciousness of the village residents. This village is one of the only two Palestinian Arab coastal villages that were spared from the Zionist campaign of ethnic cleansing in Palestine during the 1948 Nakba.

From its location on the mountain, the village overlooks the remains of the coastal Palestinian town, Tantura, the site of a long-denied massacre that was committed by members of the Alexandroni Brigade on May 22-23 1948, only a week after the declaration of the State of Israel. Some of the Tantura residents, who were forcibly expelled from their homes in that prosperous town, relocated to the nearby Fureidis, but many had to seek refuge in the West Bank and other Arab countries.

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This traumatic history had unconsciously left its imprint on all future generations in Fureidis, making it possible for the “return of the repressed”. That is, the history of ethnic cleansing and expulsion policies continues to haunt the local population, precisely at such moments when the community falls prey to the violent attacks of Jewish extremist terrorism. All the recent efforts of the Israeli government to lure Fureidisi youth and recruit them into national service, and thus alienate them from the rest of the Palestinian people, seem to have gone down the drain.

With its visible political signs, the rally had set off the alarm of the Israeli establishment, which it tried to suppress and erase. In particular, the rally sent a clear message of radical political potential through different signifiers, including the Palestinian flag, the four-finger Rabaa salute, solidarity songs with Gaza, and the usual religious “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) chants.

As such, the “rally of rage” also invokes the return of the repressed memory of the history of local anti-colonial and anti-Zionist resistance in the mid-1930s. Moreover, it disinterred memories of the October 1998 Al-Aqsa Intifadah, in which residents of the village went to the streets to demonstrate against the brutality of the Israeli police and their violation of the human rights of the Palestinians.

With these specific signs of radical politics, nevertheless, the rally in its zeal could be associated with the Arab revolutionary uprisings, or the Arab Spring, and other social justice movements around the world. Indeed, one cannot disassociate the images of rage in the rally from the level of discontent in the village regarding the newly proposed housing project, Paradise Gardens (Zohor Al Firdous). Indeed, three days before the terrorist “price tag” attacks, a townhall meeting was convened in the village to discuss solutions for the exorbitant prices of real estate in this project. Local election campaign promises to offer the residents land for sale for “zero NIS” notwithstanding, the struggle to end economic injustice might turn out to be the underlying cause of these protests.

It is not that one might expect a radical revolutionary rupture anytime soon in Fureidis (the religious rhetoric of the rally itself obfuscates the fundamental antagonism in the struggle anyways). However, Fureidis might be regained to inspire future collective political work that Palestinians within the Green Line need to combat economic injustice and roll back the expansive Zionist settler-colonial project and its apartheid ethnocratic policies. 

Dr Jamil Khader, Professor of English at Stetson University, is completing a year-long Fulbright  Fellowship at Bir Zeit University, Palestine. He is the author of numerous publications on postcolonial feminism, popular culture, and literary theory.