The Dome of the Dictatorship
“We’ll meet under the dome of the dictatorship” says Ghassan Monayer to Israeli Jews who talk to him about the mass protests in Israel. Ruth Lukom reports
On the morning when his wife and two daughters were taking photos of themselves at Madame Tussauds with the Royal Family, Ghassan met with the East London Unite Community Lydd Solidarity Group. (see below for details).
Lydd or Lod lies between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. An ancient and strategically important town that has been home to Ghassan’s family for 900 years. On 11th July 1948 Operation Dani began. The town was bombed from the air and then the soldiers from the Palmach moved in. Ghassan’s grandfather has told him stories from that time, as have those who have survived, and can still speak of it. Many could not. A relative of Ghassan’s wife’s family remained tight lipped until he died. Ghassan asked his wife if he ever shared with her the horrors he’d experienced. “Only when I lie next to him and he is dreaming,” she replied.
We were told of the Dahmash Mosque massacre where 176 Muslims who had taken refuge there were massacred. A total of 426 people were killed that day. We heard of the March of Death to Ramallah. We heard of looting, forced labour, ethnic cleansing, ghettos and pogroms.
A release of army archives has validated this spoken history. “The Jews,” said Ghassan in his re-tellings. It was always “the Jews”. Not the IDF or Israeli state. Not the extremist far-right Irgun or Stern gang. It was ”the Jews” that had made his grandfather go into that mosque and take out the dead bodies who that had lain there in the blistering heat for many days. “The Jews” went into houses and made the owners burn their possessions but not before they had looted the valuables. “The Jews” and their courts of law that had shrugged with indifference when in 1951 Ghassan’s grandfather produced the deeds to his house, now inhabited by a Jewish family from Europe. I wouldn’t have mentioned my discomfort, but Ghassan directly asked me how I felt after the meeting when I’d spoken to him about my membership of the Jewish Socialists’ Group. We exchanged our thoughts and another Jewish comrade also joined in to explain that generic descriptive terms are a constant battle for all minorities, not just Jews. These fraught debates of the left are semantic abstractions for Ghassan and the discussions on whether Jewish sensitivities have been ignored when a non-Jewish Irish actor plays Robert Oppenheimer are as relevant to the lives Ghassan and his community lead as the correct way to eat a cream tea (We took the family out for a cream tea and attempted to explain the jam-or-cream-first debate.).
Ghassan watches the mass protests in Israel with detachment. I tried to inject a crumb of hope for those tiny few who held up Palestinian flags or chanted about democracy for Palestinians. These are extinguished immediately by the massed Israeli flag wavers that surround them, I’m told.
Instead he is awaiting the shocked outrage of the liberal world as the Israeli state forces muster their brutally efficient machine to crush their own. Only that morning the Guardian had reported that police had used the foul-smelling skunk gas to disperse demonstrators “for the first time”. Ghassan tells me the story of his heavily pregnant niece who was knocked out by the butt of an IDF soldier’s rifle in her own home. When her father registered a complaint, he was dismissed and told to leave. Days later a tank rolled down their street and stopped outside their house. Their window was smashed and skunk gas was sprayed inside their home.
The Palestinian rap singer and activist, Tamer Nafer, was asked about “‘co-existence’” with his Israeli neighbours.
Racism, misogyny, homophobia, corruption by the rich and politically powerful, and punishment of the poor and disenfranchised crosses the Green Line and travels through the Wall. “We want co-resistance,” says Tamer.
The Lydd London Solidarity Group is a twinning project with the al-Lydd (Palestine 48) Solidarity Group and members of East London Unite Community.. In September 2022 the group organised a showing of two films: ‘The Nakba of Lod’ – a documentary shown on Israel’s Social TV Network detailing the events of 1948 and the forced removal of most of Lydd’s population;. Aand Junction 48 – an award-winning feature film starring and based on the life of Tamer Nafar who lives and is politically active in Lydd. There has also been a quiz evening. Both events have raised funds that will go towards building a community centre for the people of Lydd. To participate or learn more, contact: Lydd London Solidarity Group on Facebook or email LyddLondon@gmail.com.
Posted: 30 July 2023