The Al Quds meeting in Istanbul was inspiring, depressing and encouraging. It was extremely touching when we saw people from Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Palestine, who we only usually see on television screens being arrested by Israeli occupation forces on their way to prisons holding thousands of Palestinians whose only crime was that they aspire to be free of the humiliating Israeli occupation, as they were showered with hugs and kisses from all directions while camera lights were flashing. They sought to suppress their tears caused by this wave of emotion that has been hindered by cruel occupation.
I contemplated some of the men who spent years in the dark cellars of Israeli prisons and found them shrewd, brilliant, extremely humble and knowledgeable. Now I understand that Israeli occupation forces arrest the best of our young men in Palestine and the Golan Heights and accuse them of being “terrorists” in order to justify imprisoning, torturing or even killing them. This is what “Israel” has been doing in our region for the last few decades and yet it is called the “oasis of democracy,” which has cost the Arab nation our best men through wars, imprisonment and assassinations.
But the meeting was also inspiring because on that day at least 4000 of the best representatives of the Arab nation met in Istanbul to take one united stand against occupation and humiliation, and to support all that consolidates dignity and integrity. It was also inspiring because people met as if they had never departed and as if the Sykes-Picot agreement had never been implemented. Aleppo and Damascus embraced Jericho and Gaza, Baghdad embraced Nablus and Ramallah and both Algeria and Cairo were exhilarated to embrace the sons and daughters of Al Quds. This meeting was the ultimate proof, at least for some minutes, that no one can impose on these people the ethnic or sectarian theories that seek to divide the Arabs into different tribes or sects. The meeting was also inspiring because followers of the Islamic and Christian religions spoke as one, united in land, culture, education, suffering and destiny. It was so inspiring to see these men who were subjected to torture and imprisonment demonstrate the greatest determination to fight occupation till freedom and independence are secured. All their suffering only made them more determined to cling to their land and culture. They brought bottles of the divine soil of Jerusalem to give as presents for people who dream of reaching that holy land.
There was sadness however expressed in the meeting as people from Al Quds gave their testimonies and spoke about the daily destruction of Arab houses, the uprooting of olive trees and the continuous Judaization of Muslim and Christian quarters in Jerusalem without even being mentioned in international media. They also spoke about the social and human impact of these policies on Arab men and women who have suffered from unemployment, poverty and psychological ordeals resulting from occupation policies.
What was encouraging, however, despite the bitter reality, was the mature consciousness that has crystallized in the hearts and minds of people who understand today that the rights of the indigenous Palestinian people should be defended against movements to Juadize the city and its religious and historical monuments. What was also encouraging was that Jews, Christians and Muslims from all over the world have embraced the rights of Palestinian people for justice and dignity thus elevating the struggle of the Palestinian people to a human level. Some of them said that in every meeting we should call upon people to stand for “a minute of anger” in order to remind the world of the terrible Israeli measures taken against innocent and peaceful Palestinians who only want to live freely on their own land. “A minute of anger” would be the simplest form of solidarity and support for armless Palestinian people struggling against one of the ugliest cases of racist occupation in modern history.