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(en) Israel/Palestine - Just a report on days of struggle

From "Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc)" <info@gush-shalom.org>
Date Sun, 31 Dec 2000 02:25:19 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

> GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 - http://www.gush-shalom.org/

This week, Gush Shalom participated actively in two events. 

"Remove Shdema - Soldiers Go Home."

"Shdema" is a military base built during  Jordanian rule on the land of Beit 
Sahour.  Since 1967, when the Israeli army took over, the place has been a 
military base for the IDF.
With the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada, this camp - a visible symbol of 
ongoing occupation - was the center of repeated confrontations manifestly 
unequal in strength.  Palestinian stones were answered by Israeli gunfire, and 
when the Palestinians started to use rifles as well the IDF responded by 
missile launchings and cannonades of tank artillery. 

Through the past three months,  many Sahourian homes were damaged, four
were totally burned and eight suffered severe damage and need to be rebuilt. 
Though most inhabitants of the targeted houses succeeded to flee in time, two 
women (mothers) and a young man got killed, and there were ten people injured. 

(...)  Thursday, December 28th, hundreds of  Palestinians, Israeli  and 
Internationals marched together demanding an immediate
evacuation and dismantling of this military base.  The march was
organized by the Municipality of Beit Sahour, Beit Sahour
Emergency Committee and the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement.
Israelis from Gush Shalom and Stop the Occupation, as well as internationals 
from the Italian Women in Black, the CGL Trade Union (also Italian) and the 
France - Palestine Association along with Palestinians from Beit Sahour marched 

The Israelis had a few adventures on the way to Beit Sahour. The chartered bus 
which brought them from Tel-Aviv stopped in Jerusalem. The Israeli driver 
didn't at all like the idea to drive over roads which had been the scene of 
shooting in the past months - all the more since he was evidently a right-
winger who didn't like the whole enterprise. But a Palestinian buscompany was 
fortunately ready to provide a replacement transportation at very short notice, 
and took the impatient activists to the checkpoint in Beit Jalla. (Though 
officially Israelis are forbidden by their own government to go over to the 
Palestinian-controlled areas, there were no soldiers to enforce this 

The march demanding the removal of this camp started from the Shepherds' Field 
in the town and reached the military base.  To eveybody's surprise the main 
gate was open and unguarded, as were the watchtowers. A sign in Hebrew 
proclaimed: Welcome to Shdema Camp...
The crowd went in chanting in Hebrew and English: Soldiers Go Back Home." 
A written demand of evacuation was delivered to an astonished Israeli major who 
meanwhile showed up. 

The march ended by putting up a Palestinian flag over the watchtower as the 
crowds cheered and clapped after which  the denmonstraters went to visit the 
most severely damaged houses  - some of them no more than burnt-out shells.
Gush Shalom used its press contacts and succeeded to convince the Israeli First 
Channel TV to broadcast the video footage which Rachel Zetland had made of the 
adventure. The flying of the flag was shown again and again. The next morning, 
the embarassed army spokesman was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying that 
no flag was raised in a camp, this site wasn't a camp; the camp which was there 
had just been evacuated and  moved 250 meters.

(For the report we made use of  the www.rapprochement.org report by: George N. 
Rishmawi & Neta Golan.)  

On the following day a Gush Shalom contingent marched for peace together with the
women's organizations.


Women came in droves from all over Israel -- Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and
Druse.  And despite the "closure" that Israel had imposed on the Occupied
Territories, Palestinian women and men also managed, by means only they know, 
cross the Green Line and reach us.
The day began in the Notre Dame conference center located on the
border of Jewish and Palestinian Jerusalem. After a morning with discussions 
between Israelis, Palestinians and internationals buses moved the entire crowd 
to Kikar Paris, the location of Jerusalem's Women in Black vigil, and an 
estimated 2,000 women filled the entire plaza and spilled over onto the side 
streets carrying the traditional black hand signs with "End the Occupation" 
painted in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.  This silent one-hour vigil was a  
dramatic sight, and TV crews from all over the world -- even from Israel --
were there to capture it.  The extreme right did their best to infiltrate
the ranks, to provoke and draw attention to themselves, and finally ended up
exchanging blows with the police, but they were overcome and moved behind
barriers -- out of sight, mind, and media.

At 2:00 pm, the crowd poured out of the plaza and from every corner and
sidestreet, we began our march toward East Jerusalem.  Men and women who had
joined us from other organizations -- Gush Shalom brought its own busload of
activists -- held aloft their own collection of banners and signs for peace and 
the street filled with marchers and voices. 
Nabila Espanioli from Nazareth grabbed a megaphone and led responsive chanting:
"Peace?" "YES!" -- "Occupation?" "NO!" doing renditions in Hebrew, Arabic,
English, and even Italian for the delegation of 35 who had flown in for the
action.  Flying high were signs and banners saying "Palestine Side by Side With
Israel -- On the '67 Borders", "Jerusalem - 2 capitals for 2 states", "The Age
of Generals is Over", "Fund the Poor, Not Settlers", and "We Refuse to be

It was breathtaking to be part of that march.  But the moment that brought 
tears to my eyes was when I greeted a man being pushed in a wheelchair beside 
me, and asked if he wanted to hold a sign.  In response, he unbuttoned his 
collar and pointed to a deep scar just below his neck.  The man pushing the 
wheelchair explained:  "We're from Hebron.  This is one of the victims of the 
massacre by Baruch Goldstein.  He wanted to join you today."  A victim of the 
violence who harbors no hatred in his heart.  I shook his hand wordlessly.

As we finally all assembled in the park beside the ancient walls of the Old 
City of Jerusalem, people spread out on the grass on this unusually warm and 
sunny winter day, exhilirated and awaiting the closing ceremony.  Because of 
the traffic jams we had caused, the sound system had not yet arrived, but the 
crowd waited patiently.  Meanwhile, four brave young women took banners and 
actually managed to climb to the top of the wall from inside the Old City -- 
some by stairs, but also by one quite daring leap -- and made their way to the 
top of the wall just over our gathering, beside two armed soldiers "protecting" 
>From here, they unfurled four banners down the height of the wall saying 
Shalom, Salaam, Peace, and End the Occupation in the three languages.  The 
crowd roared its approval and the Old City was crowned the city of peace for 
one brief moment --until the soldiers assaulted two of the women and their 
banners.  The women wisely threw the other two banners down to the crowd.  

Finally, the sound system was set up, and Halla Espanioli spoke movingly of our
longing for peace.  Nabila called for a minute of silence in memory of all 
those who had been killed in recent months, and the stillness in the crowd was 
palpable.  Following this, I made a slightly modified Jewish prayer: "May the 
Divine Presence give strength to all her peoples, and may she bless all her 
peoples with peace."  And we all ended by singing "We Shall Overcome".

P.S. A group of  Peace Now Youths (ranlior@hotmail.vom) joined the spirit of 
the day by  physically marking the 1967 border (The Green Line - as it is 
commonly referred to in israel) near Jenin in the northern West Bank. The 
activists aged 14-18 spread strips of green nylon along about 300 metres of 
border between the villages of Zububa and Rumana in Palestine and Kibbutz Givat 
Oz in Israel. 

Marking the Green Line - it had been for years one of those "too radical" Gush 
Shalom campaigns.

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