Activists Refuse to Acknowledge Illegal Checkpoint
ISM Activists Refuse to Acknowledge Illegal Checkpoint
Yesterday nine activists from Sweden, South Africa, Britain, Denmark, the United States and France resolved to pass through the illegal Azmut checkpoint where soldiers have been abusing Palestinians traveling between Nablus and the villages of Azmut, Salem and Deir Hatib. Over the past three days the soldiers at the checkpoint have become increasingly aggressive towards internationals monitoring the checkpoint in their attempts to drive them from the checkpoint.
This intimidation culminated yesterday when soldiers fired live ammunition at the activists, threatened to kill one of them and then beat up a Danish journalist who accompanied them.
Refusing to submit to such intimidation the nine activists resolved to travel from Nablus to Salem regardless of the force used against them. In support of their defiance ISM supporters were requested to telephone senior Israeli military and political figures responsible to demand that the non-combatant status of the activists be respected and that the army refrain from molesting them.
The activists arrived at the checkpoint at 4 pm and immediately the soldiers that had been stationed there got into their armoured personnel carrier and left, leaving only two border policemen in a jeep. Throughout the march, Denis Bernstein from America's Flashpoints Radio was in mobile phone contact with the activists. When the activists turned onto the path to Salem (just before the checkpoint) the border police challenged them.
"Come here!" they repeated several times on their megaphone.
When the activists ignored them they chased after them in their jeep, overtook them and blocked the road to Salem but the activists just walked around it.
The activists walked into Salem and Azmut villages and then began their journey back to Nablus. As they were approaching the checkpoint, they spied two Palestinian women descending a mountain track to bypass the checkpoint. When the border police saw the women they drove after them and threatened to shoot them unless they came to the checkpoint.
Two of the ISM activists went over the checkpoint to offer whatever protection their presence could provide to the women (the previous day several women had been beaten, insulted and detained for hours at the checkpoint by their Israeli guards). After checking their IDs and making a show of their humanity by giving the women water to drink, the border policemen let the women leave and the activists proceeded to Nablus.
Again the border policemen drove after them demanding that they "Come back. Come back."
When it was became clear to them that the ISM activists had no intention of acknowledging their illegal authority they retired to the checkpoint.
"Ugly! Ugly!" they called after the activists.
The success of yesterday's action is baffling to the peace activists in the Nablus area. It was truly the most humane behavior the Israeli occupation forces in the Nablus area have displayed in over a month. The activists in the area have attributed it to the calls made on their behalf by their international supporters. For three weeks now the activists in the area have been subjected to abuse, threats of rape, beatings and live ammunition fire being directed over their heads in a clear attempt by the Israeli Occupying Army to intimidate them into limiting their activities in defence of Palestinian human rights. ISM will challenge the checkpoint again when the APC and soldiers who have been most aggressive are present.
Thanks to all our supporters
who contacted the Israeli authorities in support of the