With The Wall, The Settlers Will Have All Olives
With The Wall, The Settlers Will Have All The Olives
///////////////// Gush Shalom ////////////////////
May 3, 2003
"With the Wall, the settlers will have all the olives"
[report of today's action]
On Saturday May 3, at the approaches to the village of Mes'ha in the Qualqilia District of the West Bank.
What had been two and a half years ago a bustling highway is now completely blocked off by two piles of earth, at a distance of some fifty metres from each other, making it impossible to get by car in or out of the town - as is the situation at the entrance of virtually every Palestinian community in the West Bank, from tiny hamlets to the big cities.
The official reason is that if the movement of all Palestinians is hampered, the movement of suicide bombers will also be hampered. The unofficial reason is the assumption that disrupting the Palestinians' daily life would bring them to their knees.
Neither reasoning seems to be working out - and still the siege continues, and the earthen barriers have already been there long enough to sprout a lot of vegetation. In today's Yediot Aharonot, Condolizza Rice is quoted as demanding that "Israel restore the Palestinians' freedom of movement"; Mes'ha inhabitants do not seem to wait with bated breath.
The blockage of the entrance is anyway old news, a terribly heavy burden on daily life but with which they had to learn to live for more than two years already and to which they find some small practical ameliorations.
Nowadays, Mes'ha is faced with a more immediate and existential threat - the wall which Sharon is in the process of building, and which turns out to cut very big slices out of the West Bank; Mes'ha will be separated from 98% of its agricultural lands.
The Separation Barrier as it is officially called, the Apartheid Wall which is the common name hereabouts, or just The Wall - has become the most important fact of life for these thousands of villagers. It is the Wall which has brought us here, three busloads of activists from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, as over the past three weeks it has brought an increasing number of Israelis, internationals and Palestinians from other places to an ongoing protest encampment in the place where this village's lands are being stolen.
The earthen barriers make it impossible for our buses to get anywhere near the place. It would be a considerable walk. Making a virtue of necessity, it had been decided to make this walk into a demonstrative procession.
Crossing the barriers (there was only a token force of five or six soldiers, rather surprisingly no serious attempt to bar our way) we find a crowd of villagers waiting already, with a sprinkling of the internationals who had been here for quite some time already.
Together forming a heterogenous mixture: the emblems of half a dozen Israeli peace groups; the conspicuous two-flag signs of Gush Shalom; the shirts of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees recognizable by the green tree in a circle - and worn also by internationals and Israelis; the competing red flags of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People's Party; Fatah supporters bringing the Palestinian red-green-white-black and among them youngsters in the shirts of European Anarchists. One woman had a rather worn shirt with Down with the Occupation in Hebrew, English and arabic ("I am wearing this in every demonstration since 1988 and will continue to do it until the end of the occupation").
To the front, big signs are unfurled: "Israelis and Palestinians Together against Occupation", Gush Shalom's "The apartheid Wall - Prison for Palestinians, Ghetto for Israelis", the black triangular "Oppression of Palestinians is Our Oppression" of Kvisa Schora.
Slogans are constantly exchanged and translated back and forth between Hebrew and Arabic: Settlers Go Home / Two States for Two Peoples / Liberty for the Palestinian People / a Different Future Without Wars / No Killings of Civilians, Jewish or Arab.
As we walk through the town's main street there are smiling and welcoming faces. Little boys dart into the crowd with bottles of cold water, very needed under the blazing sun. a participating Israeli farmer takes out a nylon bag full of fresh fruits and hands it to one of the boys, and soon the fruit is also distributed by many little hands to the marchers.
Out of the last houses and into the fields and olive orchards. There is no shadow here at all, and the chanting is slackening. Going up and down several hills, and there it is: a white strip, some twenty meters in width, cutting through he whole landscape north to south. Three months ago there were there hundreds of olive trees which are now gone. Three months from now, approaching it might be a life danger from guard towers. At this moment, the Wall itself has not yet been erected in this sector and it is still possible to cross the strip of devastation.
On the other side, the side which will become inaccessible once the Wall goes up, is the protest encampment: four large tents, one used as kitchen and the other giving shelter to some twenty activists who come forth to greet us. Many of them are wearing a specific T-shirt with the picture of an enormous bulldozer destroying olive trees. all around is an exhibition of many such photographs, documenting in minute detail the ongoing ravage.
No less than three groups of international activists are present: the well- known ISM; the women of IWPS; and also the Ecumenical Accompaniers sponsored by the World Council of Churches.
A young villager gives guidance to the top of a hill. "You see on this side the root of the Wall. and all the land which it will take away from us. and there,on the other side, you see the settlements Elkana and Etz Ephraim; they were also build on Mes'ha land. Now in fact we already lost many of the olive trees near the settlements. The army does not let us go there, and the settlers harvest our olives. The trees which are here in this hill, we did harvest this year, but when the Wall will be there, the settlers will have them all."
The rally starts, with a big rock serving as improvised podium. After calling for a moment of silence to commemorate Rachel Corrie, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom details what he calls The Big Con Game": "The Israeli public is told that here is being built a security fence to protect them against suicide bombers. If it had been built along the Green Line, the old border, that would have been somehow plausible. When we can see that it is snaking around deep inside the West Bank, curving here and there to contain all the settlements, it is clear that this is just one more device for stealing Palestinian land."
"The Sharon who builds this Wall has nothing to offer the Palestinian people, except for killing and murder and robbing of land," Suhil Salman of The People's Party exclaims, and Razaq Abu Naser of the Democratic Front adds: "Twenty-three percent of the whole West Bank this Wall is going to consume, and this twenty-three percent includes 80 percent of the fertile land; 80 percent of the water sources."
He was followed by two internationals: Karen of IWPS ("thirteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall; nine years after the fall of South-African Apartheid")and Allison of the Nablus ISM ("The Israeli government and army threaten to expel us, but we will persist in our mission of solidarity").
Prof. Tanya Reinhart spoke of "the junta of the army generals and the ex-general ministers, who treat us to the myth of 'liberating' the land, liberating it from its inhabitants." Aharon Shabtai read his poem "My heart" written during the big invasion a year ago: (...) the roadside corpse that help couldn't reach / the empty oxygen tanks at the clinic in Nablus. "Our land is our honor. We want to live in peace with Israel.
Suicide bombings are not our way, but how can anybody expect us to live in peace when our land is stolen, our trees are uprooted, the last piece of bread is taken from the mouths of our children. Does the world accept this as justice?" - cried Nabih Shalabi, representative of the directly affected farmers, holding a sign in arabic and Hebrew: The Wall - over my dead body; not on my land.
And last but not least: activist Efri Shirman read out... the phone numbers of Victor Bar-Gil, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Defence, who is in direct charge of the Wall: +972-(0)3-6965944 (home); +972-(0)3-6976161 (office); +972-(0)50-917107 (mobile); +972-(0)3-6977818 (fax). (NB: use these numbers before they will b changed!).
for photos http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/gallery.html
NB: activists are very much needed to help maaintain a daay aand night presence in the protest encampment.
Contact: Yonatan, 066-327736 Naama, 052-235788
-- A map of the separation wall:
http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/hebrew.html http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/index.html (English)
-- Did you know (y)our protest was succesful? BBC was brought back to the Israeli screens.
-- Our site: http://www.gush-shalom.org/ (òáøéú) http://www.gush-shalom.org/english/index.html (English)