International Solidarity Movement Updates Reports
International Solidarity Movement Updates and Reports:
1. Non-violent resistance to the Wall continues as Palestinians, internationals and Israelis block bulldozers
2. Residents of Beit Awwa and Internationals activists succeed in stopping construction during non-violent protest
3. Freedom Summer in Palestine: "I know that I have learnt many things" Lorna, UK
4. Links to protests during Madonna's visit to occupied Palestine and Israel _______________________________________________________________
1. Olive Trees and Tear Gas: A report on non-violent resistance to the Wall
Report from the Field Written by Lokabandhu, 16/9/04
On 14/9/2004 about 15 people from ISM joined forces with villagers from Deir-Samit and Israeli peace activists to try to bring work on the Wall to a halt. The Wall in their case is being built 1 km inside the West Bank away from the `Green Line', right through a large area of olive groves. The villagers, naturally, hadn't had a Wall built through their land before and didn't know quite how to oppose it. Nonetheless they didn't want it and they had asked ISM to come and help them. When we got there we found contractors had already started work some days ago and had gone along chain sawing the trunks of the olive trees and scooping up their roots with a JCB - it was shocking to see how little a scoop was enough to dispose of a tree. And to know how much olive trees mean to the Palestinian people - an olive tree is not just a tree, it is a symbol of everything - culture, economy, relationship with the land...
The work that day involved the construction of the Wall's foundations as it ran diagonally up a rocky hillside, a pneumatic digger was breaking rocks while another behind it smoothed them out. There were two diggers guarded by about 15 soldiers, all armed with the usual M16s or equivalent, plus the rest of a soldier's armory. More and more villagers arrived, several hundred in all, some Israeli peace workers, and about 20 `internationals' as we are called here, quite a few of us actually pretty new to such things, others more experienced and unafraid of confrontation. None knew quite what to do, there was a lot of jostling as ourselves and the locals pressed forwards to where the machines were working and the soldiers pressed us back, occasionally pushing or hitting anyone they considered a trouble-maker, sometimes roughly - at which point the young man would clearly not know what to do, knowing very well that if he did the same back he'd get a very hard time. It was noticeable that it almost always was the young men who came in for rough treatment - rarely us, or the elders, or the women. I also realized just how rare it is for most of us in the UK or elsewhere to see raw physical force in operation; it is everywhere here in Israel and Palestine. Of course behind every law in every country there is always the threat of physical enforcement, but it rarely gets to the point that we actually see it in the lives we live. But here there was a good deal of brute force being used and a lot more held in reserve. More and more villagers arrived, mostly standing at a safe distance up the hillside and looking on, a much smaller group including many of the Internationals (not me!) in the forefront trying to push close to the digger - which had never paused in its work, despite the crowd sometimes getting very close.
At some point, for no reason I could see, the soldiers either experienced something they really objected to, or were ordered to disperse people, and suddenly tear gas started to fly. I was caught by surprise and turned around to find myself breathing in this horrid paralyzing stuff which in some strange way first makes everything round your eyes sting madly - so of course you cry - and second destroys one's natural instinct to breathe - naturally creating a reaction of panic, though once you realize "Actually, I CAN still breathe despite the tears etc" it's OK. Nonetheless I did panic for a few moments, largely through not knowing what else might be about to happen. I ran a little, getting separated from the others in the process - they'd run another way - and had to sit down to get my bearings and of course my breath back. After that first use of tear gas the same continued for a while - jostling, pushing, intermittent use of tear gas and sound bombs. A lot of people had like me got been caught up in the gas and I saw several being carried away on stretchers, mostly older people. I also saw quite a lot of young children who'd been caught in it, who were naturally much more distressed, not understanding what it was or how to cope with it.
Happily none started to throw stones which would surely have escalated things and led to the soldiers replying with gunfire. Broadly it fairly quickly seemed that the villagers had had enough for that day and they slowly retired up the hillside, the soldiers of course following them though not aggressively. Before that happened however I saw a group of local schoolgirls sitting down with some of us as close as they could to the bulldozers, right in between the soldiers' legs who were clearly having trouble moving them. After most people moved back up the hillside the Internationals were much more divided on what to do next, some wanting to stay and continue the protest, others (again, like me!) feeling we'd seen enough and done enough for one day and wanting to go away and digest it. Our role however is to follow the Palestinians lead and therefore we followed them as they left. I was especially impressed with one of the village elders who was clearly going out of his way to make sure everyone did leave without doing anything stupid that would escalate the violence. An old man and a youth were especially 'charged up' and unwilling to go quietly, he was really exerting himself to make sure they did, successfully in the end. And so we were able to return to the various vehicles we had come in and go in triumphant procession back to the village where lunch was waiting and there was a chance for everyone to tell their stories. The following day we saw the main Arabic newspaper Al Quds had carried extensive reports on what had happened, with no less than four photographs. Whoever had planned the demonstration had clearly done well in alerting the media - there were also local TV cameras, Reuters, the Washington Post, and others I did not identify.
Reflecting on it afterwards, I was very glad that I and the other Internationals and the media had been there - when I imagined how it might have been if it had just been the Israeli army and unarmed Palestinian villagers confronting one another on a hillside, a shiver ran down my spine. Not to say anything would definitely have happened but the two sides are so grossly imbalanced in their ability to be violent and their ability to manufacture a story about events that the soldiers could have done anything and there would have been none watching.
For photos go to: http://www.palsolidarity.org > From the field>Photos>2004>Hebron
And make sure you have registered on the new website!
2. Residents of Beit Awwa and Internationals Activists Succeed in Stopping the Bulldozers
Report from the field Written by Jason, ISM On Sunday, September 19, over 200 residents from the village of Beit Awwa, and Sikka, lead by the youth of the village and joined by international peace activists gathered to peacefully protest the destruction and theft of Palestinian land. They were met with violence by the Israeli army and border police. At around 10:00AM, men, women and children gathered in the center of the village to prepare for a march to the site where the Wall is being constructed on land belonging to the villagers. While marching peacefully to the site, Israeli occupying forces began firing tear gas canisters and concussion grenades from the top of the hill. In spite of the violence from the occupying forces, the villagers, ISM and Israeli activists continued toward the site where the land is being prepared for construction of the Wall. They reached the construction site and were met by a large line of soldiers. Several Palestinians and internationals were able to reach the bulldozer and attempted to place themselves in front of the blades in order to halt the work. The Israeli soldiers reacted to this with extreme violence, punching, kicking and attempting to arrest them. They began to lob tear gas canisters and concussion grenades at us and randomly. The soldiers were sharing jokes and seemed to be entertained. The group of protesters moved back away from the bulldozers and immediately the bulldozer began digging the ground to prepare for the Wall. The Israeli and International activists responded by jumping down into the hole where the bulldozer was digging. They managed to stop the construction.
Several soldiers tried to move the activists. After this failed, the soldiers resorted to throwing tear gas and percussion grenades into the hole with the protesters. At one point, a tear gas canister rebounded and the cab of the bulldozer filled with the nauseating gas. Construction of the wall was stopped for two and a half hours.
At 2:00PM a very large presence of Israeli border police and special forces arrived with the aim of arresting people. Palestinians decided that the protest should end at this point and all walked back to the village.
However, as the protestors attempted to return to the village the Israeli special units and Israeli soldiers surrounded them and tried to divide the crowd of at least 200 men, women and children. They did not succeed and the protestors continued their march back.
Four protestors were reported to have been injured. I received a concussion grenade to my head and my leg. I was unable to hear properly for some time after being hit in the back of the head. It was clear the Israeli soldiers were shooting these grenades directly at people.
This was the first demonstration made by the villagers, and they are determined to continue with protests in order to halt the illegal construction of the wall.
It is important to note in this report and contrary to media reports, there was no stone throwing. Residents of the village made it very clear that this was a non-violent protest in every way. When a small group of children began to through stones they were stopped by villagers.
For photos go to:
www.palsolidarity.org > From the field>Photos>2004>Hebron
For additional photos of the protest against the Wall, September 19 in Beit Awwa see:
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?ei=ISO-8859- 1&c=news_photos&p=Beit+Awwa http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news/?ei=ISO-8859- 1&c=news_photos&p=Beit+Aawa
3. Reflections on Freedom Summer in Palestine
"I know that I learnt many things..." from Lorna, UK After two days of intensive training with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), I joined the Freedom Summer March with Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals along the apartheid wall. On Sunday afternoon we joined the march and as we approached Beit Amin checkpoint saw 15 Palestinians being detained in a field at the side of the road. We asked the soldiers why and for how long and asked that they return their IDs and let them go.
Palestinians approaching to welcome us from the next village were prevented from doing so by soldiers. We told the young male soldiers that we would continue when they release the Palestinians. As we sang and chanted, suddenly the soldiers were grabbing and pulling ISMers and we rapidly piled onto each other trying to hang on to those being dragged away. 4 were taken, 3 returned to the group and 1 was arrested (soldiers cannot legally do this, it should be police but as one quickly sees and hears in Palestine, human rights and laws are of little consideration - as Internationals our privilege is that we abused to the extent Palestinians are abused and therefore it will always be better that we are arrested than Palestinians).
We continued to ask for the release of the detained Palestinians and the arrested International and continued to be told we have 5 minutes to move on. We sit, arms linked, preparing for tear gas and sound bombs as the soldiers distance themselves from us. After we have been at the checkpoint for maybe an hour and a half, all but one of the Palestinians are released with their ID, (the remaining one is driven away - the soldiers tell us they are giving him a ride home and our negotiators are unable to obtain his name or ID number). Two of them had been detained since the morning of the previous day.
They report that typically 100 people are detained at any one time but they think that because the military knew of our route they kept the numbers down and moved people more quickly through the checkpoint. Locals leave for work at 5am but still they are regularly detained till midday - the economic, social and psychological impact of the occupation is sickening....I don't have words for it. Villagers of Azzun Atma (the next village we pass through) were imprisoned until they signed to say that their land didn't belong to them.
The wall is separating Palestinians from Palestinians, communities and families are being split, huge amounts of land are being confiscated and thousands of olive trees have already been destroyed. The International Court of Justice has declared the wall illegal but for the occupiers and oppressors of Palestine this counts for nothing. If the wall is to do with Israeli security then why is it not on (what is considered) Israeli land?
One of our women hosts on Sunday night tells me about her experiences studying at Nablus University. Because it is so difficult to get through the checkpoint people take mountain paths. One night before an exam she was carrying her books and papers and because there is no light it is difficult to see if there is a soldier sleeping or a group of soldiers - on this occasion she was stopped and has to take every piece of paper from her bag, she explains that she has an exam and must pass but they won't allow her. She has now graduated and teaches math and science.
The march is now along the path of the wall not yet built. The farmers in the villages and towns show us how the wall will split their land. People are encouraged and empowered by our presence in their struggle and the generosity of their hospitality is amazing. On Monday we walked for 9 hours with soldiers sometimes blocking our route, then letting us through, then turning us round - general antagonizing behavior that is obviously so frustrating on a daily basis for Palestinians. We were joined by many Muslim sisters and women's peace groups and it was wonderful to walk and talk and demonstrate with them.
Today I spent some time with a U.S. Save the Children Summer Camp (for 6 - 12ish year olds). The children have a well practiced and loud chant and clapping that they do which is about their desire to return to their land, about their hope and strength and asking for their childhood and for peace. Every day they have an hour of what is called [Curriculum] Based Intervention (CBI) developed at Boston University. We saw the children in creative and co-operative play, using relaxation, visualization, art and movement. After the visualization they were asked to draw what they had seen. None of them have ever seen the sea and yet nearly all the drawings featured the sea or rivers - their dream is to go.
So for me, my initial impressions are of a strong people with a determination to stay in what is left of their land in spite of all the pressure to leave. People who, like me, struggle to imagine how the situation can change while the U.S. is behind the Israeli Zionist project. People trying to maintain hope after 56 years of occupation (since we, Britain first gave their land to another people).
Thanks again for standing with me at this time.
Peace, Lorna -------------------- Since I last mailed from Deir Ballut we've continued to walk through towns and villages in the West Bank. We walk hot, dusty, rocky paths through a beautiful land where we pick figs, grapes and cactus fruit (did get quite prickled by the later - technique to be developed!). We are welcomed as Palestinians and the communities are hopeful that the world will know the truth and join them in their struggle for peace, justice and freedom.
I have been shocked to see the maps showing the extent of the illegal Israeli settlements. 40% of West Bank is off limits to Palestinians. The settlements have Israeli-only connecting roads and surrounding 'security zones'. Settlers are known for their extreme fundamentalism and violence (often carrying guns). They look down from hilltops onto many of the Palestinian places we visit. They take the water (for their swimming pools and sprinklers) and sell it back to the Palestinians (in Deir Ballut at nearly 20 times what the settlers pay for it). Their sewage pollutes the Palestinian water supplies. Settler children are taken to separate schools and colleges with military escort while Palestinians are blocked from developing their educational opportunities, tourism potential, sewage systems ......
There are 380,000 Israelis in West Bank settlements, the establishment and expansion of which has been ruled illegal by the UN Security Council. The settlements violate the rights to self- determination, equality, housing, work, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.
"The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
- Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. The drastic change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the Palestinians' right to self-determination.
To see the maps and the impact of the settlements on the lives of Palestinians is frustrating enough - to consider the way that they kill possibilities for peace....the sense of injustice is overwhelming..
There is so much I want to share, I'll be in touch.
love Lorna -------------------- Qalandia checkpoint, Ramallah/ Jerusalem 19th August – the final day of International Solidarity Movement Freedom Summer Campaign 2004 This is last day of our protest march from Jenin against the occupations' illegal apartheid wall. The action aims to protest at the imprisonment of Palestinians; imprisoned socially, psychologically, geographically, politically, economically and literally by the behavior of a selfish and abusive occupier. By passing the checkpoint as a group of Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals without anyone showing ID we will demonstrate the right to freedom of movement.
After the prison solidarity march 150 internationals and 150 Palestinians walked from Ramallah to Qalandiya at 4pm on another hot and dusty afternoon. The usual activities – chanting, singing and grape eating. Our affinity group is carrying the big banner and trying to be the front, which is hard with the shebab running past. Trying to walk slowly to help keep the march together just means we get overtaken and periodically have to run back up the side to regain front position (which is a planned part of the checkpoint plan of action).
Near Qalandiya it is decided that we'll become the back group and we moved through marching and music-making girl and boy scouts, dressed in red and white, with berets. They had lined the road and saluted us before joining the back of the march. The march moves in the path of oncoming cars – but there wasn't much traffic moving. We walk closely in our groups, surrounding Palestinians.
Stone throwing by shebab from Qalandiya refugee camp makes a surprising amount of noise. They fly in rapid succession at the paint splattered watchtower on the illegal apartheid wall which is built on raised land opposite the vendors selling birds, bowls, watches, and clothes, whatever. The soldiers are unprepared and distracted from us as they move to fire live behind us, just sound bombs and tear gas in front… Palestinians are running towards me, I can't see my group or even any other ISMers so I move to the side of the road and wonder what is happening! Soon T and D come and we group to go forwards and soon join the others, through the checkpoint, no identities shown. Multi- lingual paintings and graffiti are decorating the checkpoint in many colors.
We unroll our banner again ("Freedom from Prison and Wall") as Palestinian flags are secured around the checkpoint and dance against the blue sky and the faces of the ISMers. Tea is being served by the street tea seller man in full fez hat costume wearing plastic flowers and a tall teapot.
Before everyone has joined us it is decided to return to the Ramallah side to reunite. M is lifting razor wire as some come back through and people are banging the corrugated roof of the pedestrian route through the checkpoint. Still on Ramallah side are F and her daughters, from the youngest 8 year old with curly dark hair who carried her banner so proudly at the front on the day we tried to reach Mas'ha but were stopped by the soldiers.
They are feeling that it's too dangerous to make the journey through the checkpoint now and there is a group of ISMers on the hill by the watchtower where Israeli occupation soldiers are shooting live ammunition and shebab (young boys) are running around. The decision is made to try to de-escalate the worsening situation and F and her daughters are accompanied towards Ramallah and away from the firing. We link arms to make a long line blocking all roads (deserted now except for military vehicles); the only sign of the roadside sellers is some broken plates on the ground and the only other person I remember is the ice lolly seller with his curly hair and yellow t- shirt still trying to make trade.
We stop occupation army jeeps from passing (on one side with a sit down), we chant, standing facing different directions…we move slowly to the hill where ISMers form a large half circle between the soldiers and the shebab. We ask the soldiers not to shoot, I make eye contact and ask what have been the most frequent words from my mouth to the soldiers `non violence' but they continue to shoot over our heads.
Community leaders continue their communications with the shebab who co-operate enough for the soldiers to stop shooting and us to retreat.
Shebab sing and dance, clapping out the rhythms to their tunes as they make the front of the march. As we move back up the road, they pull Ted in to lead the chanting. T dances enthusiastically…… chanting "FREE FREE PALESTINE!"
Dried apricots, nuts, halawa, sesame snacks, grapes, water and juice are shared as we walk the end of our Freedom Summer March against illegal apartheid wall. -------------------- In Palestine we have heard, and now carry the human stories of lands and hopes lost, children, women and men martyred and made prisoners. We have seen damaged communities and dying dreams. We have felt pain at the injustice that stops the peace from being made.
We have been welcomed into the lives and struggle of Palestinians in the West Bank. People have been encouraged that some truth might reach the world through us, grateful for an international presence which seeks to stand alongside in their Intifada (also Intefadah or Intifadah; from Arabic:"shaking off").
-------------------- We have made noise together – bone music brought to life an exhausted afternoon when an abundance of bones and rocks provided play things. (this was also a sustained communication with V which was a first given that I don't speak Spanish and his English is very shweya).
We've shared many falafel and humus meals, chicken and rice, yoghurts, cheeses, salads, pickled things, sweet teas with mint or sage, pita, flat bread, oily, herby bread and spinach bread and zater.
We have looked out for each other, laughed together, worked together and not worked together, de-arrested each other, listened, disagreed, disrespected and tried to learn. I know that I learnt many things... I've lent my hands and feet, voice, eyes and ears to being in solidarity with Palestinians and being in the truth of their struggle.
We have witnessed something of the pain of the slow ethnic cleansing and destruction by a violent terrorist state – Israel – created by a racist empire England and backed all the way by USA superpower, with rich and powerful Christian Zionism supporting the 'vanishing' of the Palestinian people, land, history, and future. -By Lorna, UK
For a collection of photos on Freedom Summer in Palestine see:
http://www.palsolidarity.org >From the field>reports and journals>2004>Freedom Summer 2004