Tearing down the Apartheid Fence in Tulkarem
Report by Ellis Brooks
Today, several hundred Palestinians rallied in the town of Deir Al Ghason and marched in an impassioned protest to a gate in Israel's so-called "security fence." They were joined by seventy-five internationals, principally from the ISM, but also from CCIPPP.
These internationals share the grievances of the local Palestinians over the construction of this 15-foot fence ringed with razor wire. It encroaches into the occupied West Bank where the Israeli Military is busy annexing sovereign Palestinian land, taking water, land, and orchards from the farmers there.
This particular gate not only separates farmers from their invaluable land, but also prevents contact with the nearby village of Ibthain, where strong family contacts have been severed .
This dramatic action follows two parallel demonstrations near the cities of Jenin and Qalqilya, showing the breadth of outrage at what many describe as an Apartheid Wall. The demonstration also represents the culmination of a month of protests north of Tulkarem, where farmers have been denied access to much of their land.
The conjoined group of Palestinians and internationals left at noon and marched downhill through the farmland that lies between Deir Al Ghason and nearby Attil. Before the final move toward the gate, the group halted in an olive grove, and an Iman led the Palestinians in midday prayer. He implored the people to continue to resist the occupation with all their might, and to have faith in their imminent deliverance from persecution.
Thus inspired, the whole crowd advanced on the gate, which stood open, but was piled with razor wire and manned by a large military force. The internationals, judging that they were less vulnerable to Israeli retaliation, cut the dangerous razor wire, then dragged it clear.
They then formed a peaceful defensive line so that the Israeli soldiers couldn't reach the Palestinians. The intent was to allow the Palestinians unhindered access to the gate and fence, so that they could dismantle it.
At this moment, the sheer intensity of rage felt by the population over the theft of their land and resources was graphically displayed, as boys began to hurl stones at the military's armored jeeps. As these bounced off, the soldiers used tear gas, sound bombs, then rubber bullets to force back the demonstrators.
In a few minutes, two Palestinians were hit. Then, eight internationals, who were standing peacefully arm in arm before the soldiers, were also shot. While the soldiers did fire at the heads of the demonstrators there were no critical injuries.
A group of Palestinians tried to move forward to take down the fence and the gate, but the threat from the military was too great.
After the situation had become calmer, internationals tried to negotiate with the military on behalf of the Palestinians to permanently open the gate. The soldiers refused to discuss anything. In the face of the dangerous level of violence from the Israeli forces, the Palestinians opted to withdraw peacefully while the ISM tried to maintain their protective screen by standing in front of the soldiers.
The entire event had taken place before the cameras of a substantial international media presence.
While the army was prompt in
closing the gap made in the razor wire, there was an
invigorated mood among the withdrawing Palestinians. They
had expressed their anger and defiance to the Israelis at
the injustice of the wall, and sent a message to the world
that the wall might be built, but it wasn't going to