ISM: Update From Palestine
1. A Special Forces Fairytale, Bil'in, Oct 15
2. Everybody Must Get Stoned, by Joe Carr Injured in Bil'in, Oct 15
3. Every Inch Counts for West Bank Barrier, Ramit Plushnick-Masti, AP, Oct 14
4. Nablus, Watch towers and roadblocks, Oct 16
5. AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Demand Israeli Military Control Settler Violence Written by CPT, October 19
6. Police 'too busy' to come to scene of stoning of Palestinian schoolgirls, by Paul,Oct 13
7. Life in Tel Rumeida, by Chelli Stanley, Oct 17,
8. Speaking Tour against the Wall by Ayed Morrar and Jonathan Pollack, ISM
9. White Plains forum presents both sides of Israeli-Palestinian argument, Westchester Journal, Liz Anderson, Oct 16
10. Non-violent Resistance in Palestine, Znet, Patrick O'Connor, Oct 17
1. A Special Forces Fairytale, Oct 15, 2005
Friday, October 14th, the Israeli occupation forces placed several agent provocateurs in the West Bank village of Bil'in. Early on Friday morning, Israeli soldiers blockaded the village. Flying checkpoints stopped all vehicles attempting to enter, and any Internationals or Israelis were turned away. Four Israeli activists were arrested. However, this attempt to obscure from the eyes of the wider world the imminent use of brutal force failed.
During Ramadan the regular Friday demonstration begins earlier than normal. The protesters congregated outside the mosque after noon prayers, and set off towards the site of construction of the Wall. Many of the demonstrators were clothed in sheets emblazoned with words such as "life", "peace", co-existence", "humanity", and "freedom" and had large black snakes curled round their throats. Like the Wall, snaking its way throughout the West Bank, and strangling the life of the Palestinian people in its route, these snakes appeared to be throttling the "life", the "humanity", from the protestors.
Singing and chanting, the demonstrators marched right up to soldiers blocking their path a few meters from the construction site. There, for the next hour slogans were chanted. Eventually impatient with the standoff, the soldiers broke ranks, pushing into the crowd to target the demonstration's organizers. Eyad Bornat, a member of The Popular Committee against the Wall was beaten and sustained a head injury in the ensuing melee.
With the demonstration effectively dispersed, the soldiers followed the demonstrators back to the village. At this point, several undercover Israeli Special Forces masquerading as Palestinians approached some boys from Bil'in and tried to incite them to throw stones at the soldiers. Failing in this, they themselves began throwing stones in the direction of the soldiers. Immediately the military began firing rubber bullets and teargas.
Their mission complete, having successfully provided the pretext for this wanton violence, the undercover troops had to be removed. Springing from the undergrowth, and continuing with their farce, regular special-forces troops "arrested" their comrades, taking them out of the area.
Having set the scene, the Israeli army settled into the narrative they seem most comfortable with. Contrary to Major Levi's statement last Friday "We don't want violence, we don't want to provoke violence and we don't want to bother them in the village or the fields" (Quoted in the New York Times 8th October 2005) the military had sought violence, sought to provoke violence, and sought to "bother" the residents in their villages and fields.
Clashes ensued for the next three hours between the now infuriated youth of Bil'in, and the soldiers who made the most of the chance practice their marksmanship with live moving targets.
For press coverage of the use of undercover agents in Bi'lin see: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/634906.html
2. Everybody Must Get Stoned, Joe Carr, Oct 15, 2005
I'm still having trouble breathing, but they say the internal bleeding has stopped. I'm writing from a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah, I was injured while protecting Palestinian children from rubber-coated bullets at last Friday's anti-wall demonstration in Bil'in.
Unlike most weekly protests in the US, Bil'in villagers are incredibly creative, giving each demonstration its own flavor. Last week, demonstrators dressed in the colors of the Palestinian flag with words written on them like "Hope", "Peace", and "Freedom" in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and then wrapped snake puppets around their necks to demonstrate how Israel's wall is snaking through the West Bank and strangling any chance for positive change. I've made lots of puppets and done street theatre in the US, but this was my first time to do so in Palestine, and I must say, I learned a lot of artistic tricks.
Just after noon-day prayers, a large group of costumed Bil'in villagers, accompanied by Israeli activists and internationals from the International Solidarity Movement, set off for the wall site while chanting and banging on bottles and cans.
As usual, Israeli riot soldiers were waiting at the wall site forming a line to block us from walking any further. A standoff ensued, and eventually smaller groups went off the road to go around the line. Soldiers moved quickly to roughly push the nonviolent demonstrators back onto the road. Soldiers hit, kicked, and drug people through sharp cactus plants. I got repeatedly pushed into rocks, and received a nasty bruise when a soldier nailed me in the back with the barrel of his gun.
I wish that had been my only injury that day.
Eventually, the soldiers began pushing the crowd back towards the village, and tried to drive army jeeps through the crowd and into Bil'in. Shabab (young Palestinian men and boys) piled large rocks on the road to block the jeeps, and then began throwing stones and using slingshots to drive the soldiers out of the village. The soldiers fired teargas, rubber-coated bullets, and a new experimental bullet that contains chemicals and explodes on impact to cause a large bruise and internal bleeding. Several shabab were injured from this and other weapons.
Suddenly, we noticed soldiers taking four Palestinian-looking men away to jeeps. Several of us activists ran down the hill to make sure the soldiers didn't mistreat those in their custody. Turns out they weren't Palestinians being arrested, but agent provocateurs being evacuated. They were Israeli Special Forces placed there to provoke the shabab into throwing stones.
While down with the soldiers, another activist and I interfered with the soldiers firing rubber-coated bullets at the shabab. We yelled at the soldiers to stop and physically blocked their guns, a picture this appeared on the cover of Al Quds (Jerusalem) Newspaper, a leading Palestinian publication. The soldiers began pushing us out of the area.
While an Israeli soldier held me from behind and pushed me roughly, a large rock hurled from one of the Sheba's slingshots struck me just below the ribs. I effectively became a human shield for the soldier who would have barely felt the stone through his flak jacket.
The soldier quickly pushed me away and I ran from the area to avoid getting hit by any other rocks. Shabab quickly came over to me and apologized and tried to help me up the hill, but I insisted they stay and continue defending their village. I quickly found the paramedics who treated the flesh wound, and later took me to a hospital in Ramallah.
X-rays determined that my ribs weren't cracked or broken so I filled the prescription for an anti-inflammatory and went back to the ISM flat to rest. I found myself in an overwhelming amount of pain; I could barely breathe and couldn't sit or stand up without almost fainting.
After about six hours of anguish, I went back to the hospital and demanded they admit me and knock me out. Doped up on plenty of Tramadole and an IV, I slept like a baby. The next morning, an ultra-sound located a rupture in my spleen and internal bleeding. They thought it might heal on its own, but after a day of continued bleeding they had to operate to keep me from bleeding to death.
Palestinian surgeons were able to repair my spleen rather than remove it, and the bleeding has stopped. They hope I'll be out by next Saturday, so I'm set up with some movies, my computer, and plenty of Palestinian and international visitors. The medical care has been excellent. The nurses are cheery, playful, and frequently present. The doctor has been nice and frank, and even called my parents. The Palestinian healthcare system is mostly public, and this hospital is particularly known for giving free care for those with Intifada-related injuries. It's called the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, and specializes in trauma.
This probably means that I will not be participating in demonstrations in Bil'in for a while but I look forward to my next opportunity to support Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonisation.
3. Every Inch Counts for West Bank Barrier, Ramit Plushnick-Masti, AP, Oct 14, 2005 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1107AP_Israel_Barrier_Battles.html
BILIN, West Bank -- Protests, court challenges and U.S. pressure are increasingly reshaping the route of Israel's West Bank separation barrier, once drawn solely by the Israeli government.
Every Friday, Palestinians in this village, along with some Israelis and foreigners, march to protest the barrier's presence on their land. They hope the protests, along with a petition to Israel's Supreme Court, will pressure Israel to move it closer to the 1967 Israel-West Bank frontier.
In this battle, every inch counts, particularly for the Palestinians who say Israel is drawing its own border without waiting for peace talks. Israel insists the barrier is meant solely to keep out Palestinian attackers and that a future border will be determined in negotiations.
Yet Israel has been drawing the line inside the West Bank, rather than on the old frontier, to encompass the largest Jewish settlements. The barrier route slices off some 8 percent of the West Bank - land the Palestinians seek for their state - and hampers the access of thousands of Palestinians to farmland, jobs and schools. The Palestinians have had some success in getting the barrier moved closer to Israel and won a moral victory in 2004 when the world court at The Hague, Netherlands, said in a non-binding ruling that the structure is illegal and should be torn down.
Nearly three-fourths of the 425-mile barrier has been built. Segments amounting to about 10 percent of the total route are hung up in court, and the legal challenges are delaying construction of some adjacent stretches because the government can't start building until it knows the court's rulings, said a senior Defense Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.
In addition, construction of two large segments that would cut deep into the West Bank to encompass large Jewish settlements has been frozen under American pressure.
In a landmark ruling in September, Israel's Supreme Court ordered the army to tear down a section of the barrier encircling the Jewish settlement of Alfei Menashe and five Palestinian villages. The court said the barrier can extend into the West Bank, but cannot impose undue hardships on Palestinians. It asked that the loop around the Palestinian villages be removed.
Residents of Bilin hope the ruling will help their case. Some 575 acres in town - more than half of Bilin's land - have been confiscated by Israel for a wide barrier loop around the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Sefer, which is rapidly expanding with hundreds of new housing units.
Bilin's initial Supreme Court appeal failed, but the village of 1,700 has hired a new attorney and is preparing for a second legal battle, said Abdullah Abu Rahmi, a resident leading the fight.
On a recent Friday, three dozen Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners marched from the mosque toward an olive grove adjacent to the barrier, attempting unsuccessfully to harvest olives. Some carried ladders, and children held plastic buckets, using them as makeshift drums amid chanting.
Troops' loudspeakers warned that entering the grove would be considered an "act of aggression." A cat-and-mouse chase evolved into a shouting match. Eventually, the sides tired of the weekly ritual, and the bulldozers rumbled on. Construction of the Bilin segment is nearly complete, with less than three miles remaining. "We're hoping that if we continue with the same determination and with the same persistence, using peaceful means to resist, the courts might also come under pressure," Abu Rahmi said.
Elsewhere along the route, Palestinians in the West Bank farming village of Wadi Fukin, tucked into a valley next to Israel's 1967 frontier, have banded together with their neighbors in the Israeli town of Zur Hadassah to try to stop construction. Wadi Fukin residents say their livelihood is at stake. They rely on six hilltop cisterns that feed an underground aquifer and fear construction of the two-mile section of barrier there will disturb irrigation.
One cistern has already dried out due to expansion in Beitar Illit, a nearby Jewish settlement of some 26,000 residents, said Etai Hovav, a Zur Hadassah geologist who is fighting the barrier's route in court.
Despite the challenges, Israel expects the barrier to be completed by the end of 2006, said the Defense Ministry official. Israel is building high-tech terminals as crossing points, and soldiers operating them will be replaced by civilians within two years.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev denied Israel is unilaterally drawing a border. "We are committed to negotiations by which the final border will be agreed to between Israelis and Palestinians," he said. Other officials, however, acknowledge that while the barrier's route can change, it is likely to form the point of reference in future negotiations.
Dror Etkes, a barrier specialist at Israel's Peace Now group, said there's no going back: "The investment and the infrastructure they are putting into it screams, 'Border, border, border.'"
4. Nablus- watchtowers and roadblocks , October 16th, 2005
In the last month there have been three new watchtowers constructed in the villages surrounding Nablus; one in the village of Tel, another on Road 17 (the easiest route between Asira and Nablus) and the last built on land belonging to the village of Salem. These construction sights are carefully chosen to further obstruct movement and/or aid in settlement expansion. This is all being done in a period of supposed cease-fire or calm period. The construction of military installations in an occupied land can only be interpreted as an offensive maneuver. This is especially so in a "non-border" area such as Nablus. This type of construction cannot be justified as "security" for the Israeli people, but only as security for their illegal settlements. For the village of Asira, Road 17 is the way in and out for many people coming to Nablus to work.
At the beginning of the second Intifada, Road 17 was closed by earth mounds. While this had an extremely damaging effect on the export economy of Asira (famous for its olive oil production), pedestrian travel was still possible. On Wednesday, Nov. 5th a group from ISM went to the site to see if they could document the construction. While they were there, a unit of soldiers arrived in a border police jeep, exited the vehicle and fired warning shots into the air.
Constructing the watchtower in Salem has many villagers fearful of settlement expansion. This military outpost will control the movement of Palestinians on their land. Land that borders the Elon More illegal settlement, which is built on land confiscated from Salem and the villages around it. People from the village of Salem have problems going to their land due to settler attacks as well as military harassment.
The watchtower near the village of Tell is next to a "settler road", further legitimizing the road by providing another concrete military outpost. As it stands, this road is inaccessible to Palestinians. They are not permitted to travel on it (including walking across it to get to the other side). The watchtower will aid the military in enforcing this restrictive law by providing a lookout post with convenient sniper positions.
Such construction helps develop the settlements' infrastructure and makes future peace talks more problematic. US President, George W Bush, has stated that in terms of settlements in the West Bank, "realities on the ground" must be taken into consideration. So as long as Israel can make roads and settlements look as if they are a part of permanent established cities, then they are legitimate in the eyes of the USA. It does not seem to matter to the US government that Israel has been in construction frenzy in the West Bank, since the announcement of the Gaza "disengagement".
The construction around Nablus is just another attempt by the Israeli government to expand and legitimize the presence of illegal settlers in the West Bank. This is a particularly dangerous time for settlement expansion. With the Gaza "Disengagement" in the recent past, many within the settler movement as well as the Israeli government, are looking to the West Bank as open territory for sweeping expansion of settlements. With the next round of "peace talks", between Abbas and Sharon postponed indefinitely, settlement expansion is in full swing.
The military still enters the Nablus area multiple times a week. If the military are entering civilian areas to engage in what they claim are' essentially policing operations', they should be held accountable for their actions. There is no reason why the military should be making incursions into Nablus. In the last two months alone, there have been an estimated 500 new prisoners taken in the West Bank, with about half of them coming from Nablus, a devastating effect on the population of Nablus. The fear of imprisonment without any cause, evidence or trial is extremely high among the young men in the region.
It's true that the big invasions that Nablus endured during the beginning of the Intifada are no longer happening. But a new kind of military offensive, one in which they operate in smaller numbers, striking quickly and retreating, is now crushing the occupied territories. Extra judicial killings are still happening, as is the wrongful imprisonment of Palestinians in astonishing numbers.
This type of repression does not make international headlines, thus allowing the Israeli government's violent offensive to continue free of criticism from other countries. It also allows the military to continue their slow smothering of any attempt by the Palestinians to lead normal productive lives free from the oppressive occupation. --------------------------------------------------
5. AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Demand Israeli Military Control Settler Violence 19 October 2005 Written By CPT
On Sunday, 16 October three Israeli settler youths were killed and one was injured in a drive-by shooting on the by-pass road from Hebron to Jerusalem. All four youths were residents of Ma'on and two other settlements in the south Hebron hills, close to the village of At-Tuwani. These settlements are home to some of the most radical, violent settlers in the West Bank. The gunmen have not been caught, although two different Palestinian organizations have claimed responsibility. No At-Tuwani resident was involved.
The Jewish holiday of Succoth began Monday evening at sundown and in the following days CPTers observed more settlers in the area. On Wednesday morning, settler security from Ma'on approached CPTers Diana Zimmerman and Jenny Elliot while they were waiting on a hillside next to Ma'on for the children from Tuba. Settler security informed CPTers that settlers were gathering in Ma'on, that settlers were angry and looking for a fight, and that if CPT didn't leave the hill immediately "there would be violence". The Israeli military escort for the school children of Tuba was cancelled. Zimmerman and Elliot returned to the village of At-Tuwani and gave this information to the villagers.
At sundown Wednesday (about 5:15PM) CPTers spotted at least eight settler vehicles driving through At-Tuwani and up the hill toward the outpost of Havot Ma'on (Hill 833). None of the vehicles stopped in At-Tuwani.
At 7:00PM CPT received a phone call from the Israeli peace group Ta'ayush to pass on information from the Israeli military (this information was also confirmed by the Israeli organization Machsom Watch) that: 1. school security escorts by the Israeli army and police for the children from Tuba are suspended indefinitely due to "security reasons"; 2. the settlers are making plans to come down to At-Tuwani and start trouble this evening; and 3. there is no way the Israeli army can control the settlers if they attack the village.
CPTers and the villagers of At-Tuwani ask you to call the following individuals in the Israeli military to demand that the Israeli military fulfill its obligation to protect all people under its jurisdiction in the occupied West Bank. Ask them why the Israeli military made statements that they would do nothing to intervene in the case of violence against Palestinians. Work your way down the list of Israeli military numbers first, note that some may turn their phones off or be busy with other calls. Keep trying. Secondly, contact the Israeli embassy officials in your country.
Major Joseph Leazi, Head of International Organizations for the IDF cell phone: 011-972-506-234-090 office: 011-972-2-997-7744
2nd Lieutenant Roee Oren, Deputy Head of International Organizations for the IDF cell phone: 011-972-506-234-178
Lieutenant Colonel Alex Rosenzweig, Commander of the District Liaison Office of the Hebron District cell phone: 011-972-506-234-015
Lieutenant Colonel Ofer Mebtal, Head of Liason for the IDF in the Hebron District cell phone: 011-972-506-234-017
Lieutenant Moti Stolovitch, Liason for District Coordinating Office (DCO) Hebron District cell phone: 011-972-506-234-161
Israeli Embassy, Ottawa: Phone: 613-567-6450, Fax: 613-237-8865
Israeli Embassy, Washington, D.C., Defense and Armed Forces Attaché Phone: 202-364-5403, Fax: 202-364-5406
5. Hebron police 'too busy' to come to scene of stoning of Palestinian schoolgirls, Paul, Oct 13, 2005
Yesterday on the eve of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) police in Hebron refused to respond to a call that violence was anticipated from settler children outside Qutuba girl's school in the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron. At midday yesterday as the girls left school they were greeting with a barrage of stones from settler children as a soldier stood idly by. ISM volunteers intervened to shield the children while other international observers filmed the attack. This continued for 5 minutes until all the schoolchildren had reached safety. Fortunately none were badly hurt although the children felt clearly intimidated as many ran for cover. One settler child remained after the others had dispersed to taunt and throw stones at Palestinian schoolchildren from other schools as they returned to their homes opposite the settlement.
The Israeli police arrived some 30 minutes after the incident. When questioned why they didn't respond to the call made well in advance of the end of school they replied they were too busy with more important matters and only had one jeep to cover the whole area. This is a lie as it is well known that there are two police jeeps. The police then threatened to arrest one activist if they saw him on the street again. Obviously now not having more urgent matters to attend to the police continued to harass the activist by following him round all afternoon.
This episode is typical of the impunity enjoyed by settlers and the intimidation of those attempting to document and intervene in the settler attacks against Palestinian children in the Tel Rumeida district where some 500 settlers live amongst 20,000 Palestinians.
6. LIFE IN TEL RUMEIDA, Chelli StanleyTel Rumeida Project www.telrumeidaproject.org
Though each area of Palestine can be said to be unique, Tel Rumeida is truly a world unto itself.
Located in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron, Tel Rumeida is a small neighborhood living out the brutal extravagance of direct Israeli occupation. If Tel Rumeida is viewed as a microcosm of the Israeli plan for Palestine, the sometimes-subtle realities of Palestinian life under occupation and the type of Palestinian state Israel desires can be more easily comprehended.
Nearly every tactic used by Israel to create its merciless occupation is employed in Tel Rumeida: displacement, imprisonment, economic strangulation, extreme militarization, arbitrary detention, land confiscation, disruption of normal Palestinian life, settler violence, soldier brutality, government complicity with illegal settler acts, and daily humiliation.
The Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida never experience living a normal day. The nearly three years of curfew they have endured during this Intifada has permanently scared the lives of every resident and the community itself. The five soldier stations and recently modernized electronic checkpoint located on three streets make it nearly impossible for residents to walk anywhere unhindered.
The two settlements, Beit Haddasseh and the Tel Rumeida settlement, housing some of the West Bank's most extreme settlers (including members of Kach, designated by Israel as a terrorist organization,) and located at the top and bottom of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, ensure that Palestinians living here will, at the very least, have a daily reminder that they are no longer welcome in their own neighborhood. The endless abandoned homes and forcibly closed stores, many of them sprayed with violently racist settler graffiti, do their own part in contributing to the oppresive atmosphere of the neighborhood.
The living conditions in Tel Rumeida are that of apartheid. Palestinians are not allowed to drive their vehicles on the streets; they are for Israelis only. Palestinian residents must carry or cart everything to their homes while settlers take joyrides through the neighborhood.
Palestinians are forced to take winding, dangerous, secondary paths to reach their houses while Israeli settlers use the primary paths. Though the Palestinian residents do not participate in the violence, which is so unceasingly apparent in the neighborhood, it is they who are stopped by the Israeli soldiers and forced to lift their shirts and open their purses. Though it is mainly the settler children, immune by law from prosecution, who terrorize Palestinian children and adults and who attack soldiers, it is the Palestinian children who are constantly stopped, who have their schoolbags searched, who are yelled at and hit by soldiers. It is Palestinians who must wait in lines to enter the electronic checkpoint every time they enter or leave their community. It is Palestinians who are harassed and humiliated by nearly every conceivable variety of Israeli law enforcement official as are in existence.
Israeli settlers rule Tel Rumeida. Young settler boys saunter through the Tel Rumeida streets stoning or attacking homes and Palestinian residents at will under the indifferent eyes of Israeli soldiers and police. Damaged and destroyed Palestinian homes, gardens, water pipes, phone lines, and windows live as a testament to the wrath of the settlers' former deeds. The absolute impunity with which these settlers operate, combined with their overt camaraderie with the Israeli soldiers and policemen, are nothing less than a palpable message to the Palestinian residents of the neighborhood that their safety is not an Israeli concern.
Nearly every Palestinian resident of Tel Rumeida has a disturbingly devastating story, such as that of a young pregnant mother who has had two miscarriages in as many years as a direct result of Israeli violence. Last year, she was two months pregnant and, after Israeli soldiers came inside her home and fired their weapons, was found lying on the floor of her home, bleeding. She later lost her child. This year, only a month ago, pregnant with twins and home alone, seven armed settlers screaming death threats attacked her house. Soldiers stationed less than 30 meters from her home did not respond to her calls for help during the 20-minute attack.
Two hours later, lying again on the floor of her home, she lost her first twin. Later in a hospital operation, she lost the second. Since the death of her twins, she has suffered from nervous attacks and has been repeatedly hospitalized for collapsing.
The children of Tel Rumeida almost never play outside. Those who do venture out run off the streets at the first sound of an approaching settler vehicle and run into their homes when groups of settlers walk by. Even the youngest child of Tel Rumeida has learned indelible lessons about the type of people their Israeli settler neighbors are and their own place in the neighborhood, acting out these lessons on a daily basis.
Tel Rumeida is one of the few areas in Palestine living under direct Israeli occupation. The outcome of this occupation is a brutalized Palestinian community, economically devastated and imprisoned, living under the endless violence of their Israeli neighbors. Tel Rumeida is the Israeli occupation at large.
7. Speaking Tour against the Wall by Ayed Morrar and Jonathan Pollack.
>From October 14 – November 15, 2005, Palestinian Ayed Morrar and Israeli, Jonathan Pollak are touring the US speaking about Non-violent Resistance in Palestine. They will visit New York, North Carolina, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Olympia Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida and Philadelphia.
For a complete schedule and other resources related to the tour, see:
Ayed and Jonathan are friends and among the major figures in the Palestinian-led non-violent struggle against Israel's military occupation. Ayed, a community leader from the West Bank village of Budrus, and Jonathan, an activist from Tel Aviv, stand for a new vision of Palestinian/Israeli partnership based in human rights for all, regardless of race or religion.
While world leaders praise Israel's withdrawal from Gaze as a step toward peace, and demand that the Palestinian Authority harshly suppress armed resistance to Israel's military occupation, activists on the ground like Ayed and Jonathan report that Israel has stepped up its brutal repression of Palestinian and Israeli activists who are struggling non-violently against the escalating occupation in the West Bank.
Largely unreported by the media, thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis are waging a major grassroots non-violent campaign of resistance to the construction of Israel's Wall. Palestinian farmers, workers, mothers, and students, together with Israeli and international volunteers, are braving teargas, beatings bullets, arrest, and even death to block the construction of the Wall with their bodies. In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the Wall is a violation of international law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian villages to make way for further Israeli settlement.
Ayed led his village of Budrus in a victory for non-violence over the Israeli military in 2003-2004. Through a campaign of 50 protests, the village of Budrus pushed the Wall's path off village land and to the Green Line. Day after day, Budrus' men, women and children blocked the destruction of their land and construction of the Wall by marching to the land, despite soldiers' attempts to stop them, and placing their bodies in front of the bulldozers.
Hundreds of residents were injured during the campaign by clubs, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Ayed was jailed for eight days by Israeli authorities, but was eventually released due to international outcry and because his only offence was organizing non-violent protests. Two of Ayed's brothers were also arrested for organizing protests, but eventually released.
Budrus' resistance was supported by activists from ISM and from Israeli groups like the Anarchists Against the Wall. Budrus' strategy and achievements have served as a model for other Palestinian communities attempting to non-violently resist Israel's military occupation and the confiscation of Palestinian land. Ayed continues to work with other communities and organizations to support the development of a broader strategy for Palestinian non-violent resistance.
Jonathan was one of the first Israelis to begin protesting regularly in the West Bank with Palestinians and internationals against the construction of the Wall in 2002. He is one of the founders of the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall which has played a vital role in supporting Palestinians in non-violent protest over the last two years.
Since 2002 Jonathan has participated in over 200 West Bank protests, and mobilized hundreds of Israelis to join Palestinians in resisting the Wall and the Occupation. As a result, Israeli authorities have repeatedly jailed him. In April 2005 during a quiet protest in the village of Bil'in, an Israeli soldier shot him in the head with a tear gas canister fired from an M16 rifle. He had internal haemorrhaging and wounds requiring 23 stitches. Jonathan appears frequently in the Israeli media commenting on West Bank protests and non-violent resistance.
Despite Israeli government efforts to stop them, Ayed, Jonathan and their Palestinian, Israeli and international colleagues remain determined to continue their joint, non-violent campaign against Israeli occupation and the denial of rights of the Palestinian people.
8. White Plains forum presents both sides of Israeli-Palestinian argument, Westchester Journal, Liz Anderson, October 16, 2005 http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051016/NEWS02/510160341/1018/NEWS02
WHITE PLAINS — "The Wall" snakes between Israel and the West Bank, often wandering deep into Palestinian turf. As it is built, it cuts people off from their jobs, their schools, hospitals and even the fields where they tend their crops, forcing them to travel back and forth through checkpoints that can be closed at any time. Palestinian Ayed Morrar, 47, and Israeli Jonathan Pollak, 23, have found common ground in launching nonviolent protests of the barrier under construction in their native land. Yesterday afternoon, they brought their message of resistance to the Community Unitarian Church in White Plains as part of a New York City speaking tour. Morrar helped lead his village, Budrus, in more than 50 demonstrations that succeeded in pushing the wall's edge back from his village. Pollak has participated in more than 200 demonstrations in the West Bank. Ayed called Israel's presence in the area a "catastrophe." But he said Palestinians have two choices — to "keep all your life crying" or to struggle against it, which he called "easier for your spirit." Their presentation included a brief history of the region, film clips of several protests, and pictures of the barrier, which varies in its construction from razor-wire fences, earthen berms and other obstacles to concrete slabs. Pollak called the wall an "apartheid barrier." He said he believes Israel has built it on Palestinian land to further "cantonize" the area, seize control of its water resources, preserve many existing Israeli settlements, and grab as much land as possible. "You call it apartheid. I call it a security wall," Florence Glazer, 71, of Yonkers, told Pollak. She asked him if he would support the wall if it were on Israeli turf. "I personally don't think building barriers between people is any way to protect for the security of anyone," Pollak replied. Glazer said later that she had expected more of a debate between traditional Israeli and Palestinian positions. Still, she said, she learned something about the wall's intrusion past the traditional border and into Palestinian turf. "It bothers me," she said of that fact. Zuhair Suidan, 61, of New Canaan, Conn., a Palestinian, said speeches such as yesterday's are "a small seed" in promoting peace. "Unfortunately, I think they are working against major policies and powers that are opposing their message," he added. Morrar, he said, succeeded in moving a portion of the wall "in one little town." But overall, Suidan said, "the violations are pervasive." Cheryl Zuckerman of Scarsdale said she had tried to get other people she knows from synagogue to attend, but finds it hard to convince people to view their religion and politics separately. Still, "very gradually, people are coming out that want to listen," she said.
------------------------------------------------- 10. Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine, Znet, Patrick O'Connor, October 17, 2005
The fact that thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis are together employing nonviolent tactics similar to those of the US civil rights movement and the South African anti-Apartheid movement would come as surprising and welcome news to most Americans. Americans are largely unaware of the struggling but vibrant grassroots nonviolent movement in Palestine, because the US corporate media prefers a simple, flawed story of Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israeli retaliation.
In the US media, Palestinians generally aren't allowed to speak for themselves or to articulate their historical narrative. Israelis, however, are permitted to speak, to explain the Israeli experience and even to explain about Palestinians. As a result, the Israeli story is known in the US while Palestinians are dehumanized.
The reporting by the New York Times, often cited as the standard for US media, typifies the problem. The Times publishes daily news articles on Israel/Palestine, including countless articles about armed Palestinian resistance. However, the New York Times and the US media more generally almost never report on what 99.5% of Palestinians have done every day of their lives for the last 38 years, nonviolently resist Israeli occupation.
Over the last three years the New York Times has published only three feature articles on Palestinian nonviolent resistance. This despite the fact that Palestinians have conducted hundreds of nonviolent protests over the last three years throughout the West Bank against Israel's construction of the Wall on Palestinian land, and despite the fact that the Israeli army killed nine Palestinian protesters, wounded several thousand protesters, harassed and collectively punished villages that protested, and arrested hundreds of protesters, including nonviolent protest leaders.
The most recent of those three Times articles, last Saturday's "At Israeli Barrier, More Sound than Fury" by the Times' Jerusalem Bureau Chief Steven Erlanger is a good case study of how Israel/Palestine is typically misrepresented by the US media, and how Palestinian nonviolence is marginalized. Only six words in the 1,138 word article are quotes from Palestinians, though the article centers on a Palestinian-led protest against Israel's construction of a Wall cutting through the West Bank village of Bil'in. Erlanger seems to instead let Israeli protesters speak for the Palestinians. Nonetheless, he still quotes twice as many words from Israeli soldiers in Bil'in as from the Israeli protesters. Consequently, as is too often the case in US media, the explanations of the Israeli military dominate. A seemingly good-natured and oft-quoted Israeli General is the only individual who readers can get a feel for.
Palestinians from Bil'in simply serve as scenery, and are never heard. Perhaps because they generally don't allow Palestinians to speak, the Times and the US media generally leave out the broader context. Erlanger omits 80 protests in Bil'in, three years of nonviolent resistance to the Wall in the West Bank, the rich Palestinian history of nonviolent resistance and the Israeli military's brutal repression of nonviolent dissent.
Instead Erlanger mentions only that there are weekly protests in Bil'in, and that "There were some injuries and numerous arrests, and one soldier lost an eye from a rock." "Baton-wielding soldiers and police officers, whose use of stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas made it look as if Israel was repressing dissent."
If allowed to speak, Palestinians would have cited evidence showing that Israel clearly is violently repressing peaceful dissent in Bil'in and many other villages. Tens of protesters from Bil'in have been arrested, including protest organizer Abdullah Abu Rahme. Abu Rahme was arrested three times for a total of 35 days, and has now been banned by an Israeli court from attending protests.
361 protesters have been injured over seven months in Bil'in. One young Palestinian man almost died after being shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet. Three Palestinians and an Israeli were seriously wounded when hit by teargas canisters fired from guns at close range. However, the only specific injury that is noted in the article is one to the Israeli soldier who lost his eye, the single most serious injury to a soldier during three years of protests against the Wall.
The Times article does mention that Israel's construction of the Wall and settlements inside the West Bank in places like Bil'in violate international law according to the International Court of Justice and the United Nations. However, Israeli government responses to those positions are given equal space and weight.
With the US corporate media's tendency to silence Palestinians, it is no wonder that many Americans see Palestinians as the aggressor in the conflict, even though they live under Israeli military occupation. Alternative and non-US media are currently the only resources for Americans to learn about the Palestinian narrative and grassroots nonviolent resistance in Palestine Still, just relying on alternative media is not enough. The public needs to keep the pressure on the corporate media and newspapers like the New York Times through letters and critical articles, until they accurately represent both sides of the story in Israel/Palestine.
Patrick O'Connor is an activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).