An Injustice Somewhere Is An Injustice Everywhere
"An Injustice Somewhere Is An Injustice Everywhere"
[Hebrew version (shorter) at request âéøñà òáøéú (î÷åöøú) òì ôé á÷ùä ]
"This wall which I see here reminds me of the Bantustans which the Apartheid regime in South Africa tried to create. It is my dream that one day Israelis and Palestinians in their thousands will pull down this wall which separates them".
The speaker was Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, himself head of the Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence. He was speaking in the shadow of the eight-metre wall bisecting the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem.
As soon as it was announced that the Mahatma's grandson would be addressing a rally at Abu Dis, interested phone calls and emails started flooding also our offices. There were quite a few mainstream adherents - people who, without the historical and ideological associations of the name Gandhi, may have hesitated to take an action so radical in today's Israeli context as going to a Palestinian city and participating in a joint demonstration with its inhabitants.
For the Palestinian Coalition for Peace and Liberty, which had invited Gandhi, his tour of the country is intended to launch a widespread campaign aimed at showing the Palestinian public the advantages of waging the struggle against the occupation by non-violent methods. Originally, among Palestinians non- violence was often confused with passivity and non-resistance. But the success of this year's strug gle by village communities mobilizing against construction of the Wall on their land has made the idea mor e concrete, and the virtual cessation of suicide bombings in the past half-year may among other thing s indicate willingness of Palestinian society to consider a fundamental change of tactics.
The idea of a joint demonstration by Israelis and Palestinians was not new; and knows its own routi ne: the bus cavalcade crossing the unmarked but very manifest border, the Israeli activists pouring down an d picking up their signs, the quick and smooth joining and mingling with the massed local demonstrato rs into a single crowd - as if we were not members of two societies which are locked in a daily, blood y conflict.
Still, there was something different about today's event - a feeling of hope, maybe a new beginning , despite the grim reality against which we were protesting. It was noticeable in the smiles, in the way that Abu Dis women, dressed in their best, carried small children along the line of march, in the noticeable det ermination of Palestinian demonstrators to chant slogans in Hebrew: "Peace Yes - Occupation No!" and "The Wall will fall, the Wall will fall!".
At the front, a giant Palestinian flag carried horizontally by four youths gave some welcome shade to those who walked behind, followed by the marching band with drummers and trumpeters which is almost inevitable at Palestinian demonstrations. The two-flag round signs of Gush Shalom were highly visib le, and Ta'ayush had produced special posters with the picture of Mahatma Gandhi and his words: "An eye for eye leaves the whole world blind", while an ubiquitous Palestinian poster showed photos from the fall o f the Berlin wall. And there were quite a few Peace Now flags fluttering in the wind - not a usual sight on such occasions - and the European rainbow peace flags, and a forest of placards and banners in Arabic, H ebrew, English (and a few in French): Together we will pull down the wall / Yes to the International Cour t, No to the Wall! / Freedom to the Prisoners of Freedom!/ Geneva Convention to the Palestinian Prisoners! / Walls = Ghettos = Apartheid / Liberty is the key to peace / One, Two, Three, Four - Occupation No, No Mor e!/ All Children have the right to live in peace / Non au mur! / To be silent is to be an accomplice to War Crime! / Freedom is a birthright!
Among the marchers, we suddenly noticed the figure of the Nuclear Whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu - after so many years in close imprisonment and isolation, free to walk a street among a mass of demonstra tors. He was not among the scheduled speakers - still, a Channel-1 TV crew singled him out for an interview ("I sympathize with the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, I know what they have to endure").
Finally, our destination : the Wall - an eight-metre high monster visible from afar, blocking off t he main street of Abu-Dis, blocking off view of the sky ahead. Like the Berlin Wall (which had not been nea rly as tall) it was covered with many layers of graffity, as well as posters with the faces of locals kill ed by the army. Many of the scrawled slogans, bearing the signature of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestin e and the distinctive Red Star, were in Hebrew: "Soldier, get out of your tank!" "Soldier, are you from Tel-A viv? Do you want a wall like this in Dizengoff Street?" "People of Israel, don't let Sharon destroy peace! Don't let the fascists win!"
There were also numerous copies of a poster in Hebrew, highly visible on walls all along the demons tration route as well as on the Wall itself, entitled: "Soldier, why did you kill Fadi?". Israeli participa nts paused to read: "It was on May 9, soldier. Do you remember? It was Sunday evening and the youths were going out of the club. Do you remember, soldier? Do you remember that they did not throw stones, they did not threat en you, they just wanted to go home. You got off the jeep, soldier, you took aim, you shot Fadi directly in the head. Do you remember? Do you remember Fadi? Fadi, yes, Fadi Baher, he was just 19 years old. And for a w hole hour you did not let the ambulance come near, you did not give the doctors a chance to save him. Do you remember, soldier? Do you still think of it sometimes? How long, soldier? How long until you unders tand that it is more clever to live without violence?"
(Many of these posters were half torn down, as if soldiers found them unsettling... )
In the shadow of the wall, a podium had been erected, draped with the flags of Palestine and India. As we were approaching, Abu Dis Mayor Na'im Ahmar was warmly welcoming the visitors to his city. Then, a blare of very loud music, followed by the passionate voice of Sheikh Al Tamimi talking in rapid suc cession about the cruelty of Sharon and Police Minster Tzahi Hanegbi, about brave prisoners hungering in th eir cells, about farmers quietly cultivating their fields, about destructive bulldozers relentlessly bu ilding walls and settlements, about President Arafat imprisoned in his headquarters, about freedom and independe nce and a glorious tomorrow... Hulud Badawi spoke for Ta'ayush, switching between Arabic and Hebrew: "We thank the Palestinian public for giving us this privilege, this chance to participate in a non-violent struggle against t he occupation. There are those who ask all the time 'Where is the partner? Where is the partner?' The partner is here, we are all each other's partners for peace and common struggle!".
Then Uri Avnery for Gush Shalom: "We are all opposed to violence. But what is violence? Is only th e act of a suicide bomber in West Jerusalem violence? Is it violence only when it is in opposition to the o ccupation - what about the occupation ITSELF? Occupation is VIOLENCE. Occupation IS violence. Building settlements is violence. Destroying homes, uprooting plantations, taking away land is violence. Thi s wall, this terrible wall which is cutting a town in two,is violence. It does not shoot, it does not kill, but it is violence! To put an end to violence means putting an end to the occupation, fighting by non-violent means until we achieve peace". Then came the speech of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu-Ala), himself an inhabitant of Abu Dis, whose own daily life is directly affected by erection of the Wall: "The Holy Land, this narrow land in which we all live,does not need walls of hatred which breed despair and pain - it needs bridges of peace and hope, of loving and hope. I welcome you, the Israeli seekers after peace, in my city of Abu Dis and my country of Palestine. We are together in this, the struggle to end the occupation and build a bette r future for both our peoples."
And then the moment for which everybody was waiting - Dr. Arun Gandhi, silver-bearded and serene wi th a Palestinian scarf around his neck, took the stand: "Greetings to you all, salaam, shalom, peace, na maste! I have come to this country and this rally to protest two kinds of injustice, the injustice of a wall which separates between people, and the injustice of prisoners being treated worse then animals. When I a rrived here, somebody asked me why did I come, why do I interfere with the problems of this country and th is region. I will answer in the words of Martin Luther King - an injustice somewhere in an injustice everywhere. The problem here is not a problem of Palestinians alone or of Israelis alone, it is a problem of the whole world, and it is up to the whole world to intervene and end it. The Twentieth Century was the most violent in the history of humanity - it is up to us to make sure the Twenty-First will be diff erent."
Already during PM Qureia's speech, an incredibly agile activist climbed the wall like a real-life S piderman, putting hands and feet into cracks between the huge concrete slabs. Reaching the top, he walked bac k and forth, waving a small Palestinian flag, then secured and let down a rope by which those a bit less nimble may follow.
During Dr. Gandhi's speech, some fifteen youths climbed to the top, drawing enormous cheers from th e audience (though many were afraid that something terrible would happen...). "This may indeed be w hat Mahatma Gandhi would have advised in a situation like this" remarked Avnery "An open non-violence a ct of defiance, without trying to hide or avoid the consequences, and showing the oppressor the futili ty of his measures - as these climbers have surely demonstrated the utter futility of the Wall.." [Report written by Adam Keller].
Attached photo of the climbers appeared immediately on the website of the not-often-friendly Jerusa lem Post (article hereafter). Photos of the demo soon at the Gush site http://www.gush-shalom.org/english/index.html ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~
Sari Cohen, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 27, 2004
Gandhi's son leads rally in Abu Dis
Over 2,000 Palestinians and Israelis marched Friday afternoon through the village of Abu Dis, on th e outskirts of Jerusalem, in a peace rally headed by Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Dr. Arun Gandhi and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.
The demonstrators called for non-violent action against the construction of the security fence, whi ch runs through Abu Dis, and against the Israeli military presence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
As they marched through the streets of Abu Dis, the Palestinian and Israeli demonstrators voiced sl ogans promoting peace and demanding liberty for both nations.
The rally is part of an extended campaign that activists are currently attempting to develop in ord er to promote non-violent action in the territories, said Anat, an Israeli activist with Tayush Arab-Isra eli Partnership group, who marched in the demonstration.
"One of the intentions of the demonstration is to prove that both sides are available partners for peace and diplomatic discussion," Anat told The Jerusalem Post.
Friday's rally was concluded with speeches by Qurei, Gandhi, Shawky al-Hatib, who heads the Israeli Arab Coordination Committee, and Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.
Qurei addressed the audience saying that the Palestinians will fight the construction of the securi ty fence "until death," and they would fight occupation until they gained independence, Army Radio reported.
Dr. Arun Gandhi addressed the demonstrators saying that the fence causes a great deal of grief and suffering to the Palestinian people.
"It is disturbing to see people being treated as animals," he said, referring to the Palestinian in mates who are on the 13th day of a hunger strike in prisons throughout Israel.
Gandhi arrived in the area from his home in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday following an invitation f rom Mohammed Alatar of the US-based grassroots group Palestinians for Peace and Democracy.
Alatar is hoping that Gandhi's presence will inspire Palestinians to choose the path of non-violent resistance.
However media comments that Gandhi made over the past week have already incited some anger from cri tics who accused him of speaking against Israeli military operations and the construction of the securit y fence, but not against the brutality of Palestinian suicide bombings.
Ghandi, however, defends that he supports stopping all forms of violence, including suicide bombing s, and that this should be implicit in word "non-violent".
Before the conclusion of his visit, Gandhi also plans to meet with the initiators of the Geneva Acc ord peace plan. In addition, he will be speaking at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The visit was partly fu nded by Norway and Sweden.
Gandhi was born in Durban, South Africa, in 1934. His father was jailed for 14 years in South Afric a for his work against its apartheid regime. Gandhi moved to India at age 23, where he worked as a journalist for The Times of India. He and his wife started India's Center for Social Unity that worked against poverty and caste discrimination. He came to the US in 1987 and opened the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence in 1991 in Memphis. He has also authored eight books.
# Daily updates prisoners' hunger strike at: http://www.mandela-palestine.org/en_strike2004/daily.htm
# Truth against Truth - opposite views on the history of the conflict in 101 steps
Hebrew / òáøéú http://www.gush-shalom.org/Docs/Truth_Heb.pdf
# Boycott List of Settlement Products (newly updated) Now also with list of settlements Hebrew / òáøéú http://gush-shalom.org/Boycott/boycheb.htm