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Olives Could Only Pass After A Sit-In Strike

GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 -

[1] How the sacks with olives could only pass after a sit-in strike

[2] Dear Amram Mitzna - by Uri Avnery


[1] How the sacks with olives could only pass after a sit-in strike

We got many sacks filled, and we even succeeded to let the Palestinians drive them home with their tractor. But let's start from the beginning:

It took us many hours to arrive at Salem village, the place of today's olive harvesting. After all publicity about brutal settler interference with Palestinian olive harvest the army apparently had instructions not to refuse us access. So, very different from past experiences there was not declared a closed military zone, and the three Gush Shalom buses with volunteers mostly from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem were let through.

But the army could not so quick change its nature, so they let us pass reluctantly several times letting us wait and wait at roadblocks, and insisting on twice investigating the place before we were allowed to go there. The activists had time to read the instructions; how to leave negotiations to the specific team, aand remain non- violent even under army or settler provocation, and a special instruction for today: no eating or drinking; it is Ramadan.

There were all the time new obstacles: the Palestinian farmers who had asked for our help had until today not be allowed at all to get to their lands close to which settlers had built a new "outpost for the Alon Moreh settlement". And today, the army which granted the Gush Shalom group access, initially again wanted to exclude the Palestinians. After negotiations, they agreed to let six of them accompany us. The Palestinians created a fait accomplis: together with the six men came a whole group of wives and daughters, bringing with them a horse, donkey's, sacks, buckets and big pieces of nylon - to spread out under the trees.

It was a long, long cavlcade which climbed the half-hour way to the hilltop where the olive grove was. At some point Uri Avnery was invited to climb the horse's "backseat" - a surrealistic duo guiding us towards our goal.

Two hundred impatient olive pickers started immediately to spread to the trees. Immediately nervous shouts: the army doesn't allow us in this direction, please go only in that direction. It haad been agreed in advance not to confront the army: our purpose was to get the olives from the trees into the village; anything else was secundary.

Many of the Israelis were already experienced: "you should especially pick the green ones, and you can beat the tree with sticks to get the olives which hang high to fall to the ground." And gradually the buckets and sacks started to be filled.

Again and again the soldiers showed how upsetting the situation was for them: don't go here, go there - and not always consistent. Some people started discussions, and the atmosphere became nearly relaxed. "We should make it closed military zone. You have cheated us: there are more than six Palestinians." "When you dont want the Palestinians to pick their own olives, why does Gush Shalom have to do it. Why not soldiers?"

When the sky started to darken the soldiers decided it was enough - it was difficult to leave behind so many ripe and fat olives, but we didn't want to spoil it t the last moment - the Palestinins would pay the price for that - and we embrked on the way down.

Then, upon arriving to the buses, it turned out that the Palestinian tractor, which was to transport the olives to the 3 kilometers away Salem village ws not allowed by the soldiers to use the only road (the same road over which it had rrived there) and they took the keys. That was the moment for a spontaneous sit in strike of a whole crowd blocking the road for all traffic. Our negotiators made clear that we hadn't wasted our day for letting the olives rot there, and that we wouldn't go away unless the tractor with the olive sacks was allowed to return to the village. It was agreed that one of us, Teddy Katz, would join the tractor - for the soldiers to be able to shrug off responsibility, but at the same time for us - to make sure thaat the tractor wouldn't be harassed at a further point.

When the tractor started moving the Palestinians were cheering and thanking us as they didn't during the hours of harvesting before.

It was as if the confrontation in the end with the army had turned us from goodhearted, naive people into respectable fellow strugglers - all this thanks to our "enlightened" occupation forces.

For photos: Rachel

For more information: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson ph: 03-5565804 / 056-709603

[If you decide to forward this message then, please, copy it and send it as a new mail - to avoid broken sentences.]

[2] Dear Amram Mitzna - by Uri Avnery


Dear Amram Mitzna

Uri Avnery


I don’t know you personally. We have never talked to each other. But I have been following your activities from afar - ever since, during the Lebanon war, you did something that impressed me deeply: you resigned your army post as a protest against Ariel Sharon’s mad adventure.

Senior officers, who sacrifice their careers on a point of conscience, are rare in any army, and in the IDF even more so. That needs moral courage, which, to my mind, is more important than physical courage on the battlefield.

After Menahem Begin (a man who respected integrity and decency) brought you back to high command, I was frequently angry with you when you tried, as Officer Commanding Central Command, to appease the settlers. In spite of that, I hoped against hope that you would become Chief-of-Staff, knowing that in the new army formed during the years of occupation and oppression, there is no chance for a man of principle to be appointed to the highest army post. That is reserved for the Mofazes and Ya’alons.

Now you are a candidate for another high office: chairman of the Labor Party and chief of its election campaign. I hope you will win. If you do, I shall not envy you.

You will inherit a party that has come to the brink of the abyss. During 20 terrible months, it was Sharon’s despised kept woman, the same Sharon you protested against when he caused havoc in Lebanon. Now the Labor Party has helped him to cause even worse havoc in the Palestinian territories. Shimon Peres has convinced the world that the Bad Sharon, the man of Sabra and Shatila, has become the Good Sharon, a real peacenik. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has done the dirty work, giving a Labor Party alibi to a policy of executions, destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure, demolition of homes, uprooting of trees, expropriation of land and setting up settlements at a crazy pace.

Such a party will lose the elections by a knock-out. Who needs a second Likud? Certainly not the pensioners and unemployed, invalids and one-parent families, whom the Labor Party is wooing now, after not giving a damn for them for years. Neither do the Arab citizens, whom the Party is trying to seduce by a lot of chatter about “a political horizon”, while not even bothering to wash the blood off its hands.

The Labor Party is courting disaster, and that would be a disaster for the nation at large. The extreme right will wield unbridled power. It will destroy any chance for peace for tens of years, perhaps for generations, perhaps forever. The Labor party will not even play the role of an opposition. It will leave a black hole behind it.

It you win the nomination, you will have to change this situation dramatically and rapidly, and in the middle of an election campaign to boot. That will be an immense challenge. No party creates new political assets during elections; it can only realize assets accumulated throughout the years. The voters have learned that election promises are worthless. And now you are called upon to do something without precedent: to change the substance and the image of your party in the middle of an election campaign.

That is unprecedented, but not impossible - on one condition: that your message be unequivocal, straightforward and sharp, without stuttering, without hesitation, without demagogy, without tricks, without gimmicks.

Election experts and all kind of “strategists” will tell you that you must first use left- wing language, so as to gain the leadership of the party, and later right-wing language, in order to win the voters of the center. If you do that, you will fail. Time is much too short. And that is not your way, anyhow.

Your only chance of passing the test is to be you, express you own truth and state it clearly and honestly.

The message must be simple and forceful:

- Israel has no future without peace.

- Peace is possible, if we are ready to pay the price.

- There is a partner to peace. The great majority of the Palestinian people want peace. Yasser Arafat wants peace. (If you run away from that name, like the cowards do, your message will lose its credibility.)

- Peace means a Palestinian state, the Green Line border with mutually agreed changes, Jerusalem the capital of the two states, evacuation of all the settlers from the Palestinian territory.

- All settlement activity must stop at once. The money must be used for economic growth and social services.

- Obligations and resources must be shared equitably.

- An immediate cease-fire must be achieved, the IDF must be withdrawn from the Palestinian towns and villages.

- The peace negotiations must be resumed from the point at which they stopped at Taba; final agreement to be achieved within a year.

This is a clear alternative. It will present the voters with a real choice. You must promise that if the right wins, the Labor Party will not join a “National Unity” government.

Will this assure you of victory at the polls? Of course not. But you will have a reasonable chance, while the present way will surely lead to inevitable, shameful defeat.

Even if the right wins this time, this clear program will allow the Labor Party to become a fighting opposition, whose banner will attract all those who will be disappointed by the right. It will be poised to re-conquer power. The opportunity will come when the public is finally fed up with the methods of brute power and oppression, which lead only to endless bloodshed and economic and social devastation. Many people, more than one would believe, are waiting for that day.

Much courage is needed for going this way. In the past, you have proved that you have this kind of courage. Let’s hope that you have it now.


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