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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #83 - Up Against the Wall: An Eyewitness Report from Palestine

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 17 Dec 2004 08:27:15 +0100 (CET)


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Despite the condemnation of the International Court of Justice and human
rights groups Israel is currently building a massive wall across Palestinian
territory. In August the Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (the
ISM) organised a three week long "Freedom March", from Jenin to
Jerusalem, along the route of the wall in support of the ongoing campaign
of civil disobedience and direct action against the wall. Dec McCarthy, a
WSM member from Dublin, and two Grassroots activists from Galway
travelled to the West Bank to take part in these protests.
It is impossible to visit Palestine without being overwhelmed by the
generosity and warmth of the people there. Nonetheless, everything we did
and heard was done in the shadow of the wall. Within hours of my arrival
in East Jerusalem I found myself in front of what is now known as the
"Apartheid Wall". It is an extraordinary structure made up vast, grey slabs
of concrete that measure over 8 m in height. Elsewhere the dull,
totalitarian monotony of the wall gives way to fences, razor wire, trenches,
guntowers and military emplacements.

It was only after a few days walking along the route of the wall that the
magnitude of the project became clear. When the 730 km wall is finished it
will snake through towns, cities and villages and cut through agricultural
land right across Palestine. Worse still the completion of the wall will
result in a number of towns being completely encircled- creating
Palestinian ghettoes surrounded by barbed wire and concrete.

Every day we met with Palestinians in school halls, olive groves, orchards
and people's homes and heard the human stories behind this massive
project of social control. People complained of land confiscation, damage
to agricultural equipment, the disruption and destruction of their
livelihoods and the breaking up of extended family networks. A particular
source of resentment and anger has been the uprooting of thousands of
much cherished olive trees. For Palestinian farmers the olive tree is more
than a source of income - it is a symbol of their relationship with their land
and culture, as one villager in Qubeida put it "these trees are like our
children". There can be no doubt after the testimonies that we heard that
the wall has led to the further impoverishment and greater militarisation of
the Occupied Territories. The Palestinians are also incensed that 16% of
the population of the West Bank will end up on the Israeli side of the wall
(1). Not surprisingly this has led many people to conclude that the primary
function of the wall is to divide and control the Palestinian population
rather than guarantee Israeli security.

Further controversy has arisen because the route of the wall has been
clearly chosen to legitimise and make permanent the illegal settlements
that have mushroomed all over the Occupied Territories. An estimated
98% of the settlers on the West Bank will live on land annexed by the wall
(2). The settlements, which resemble something you might expect to see
in a Las Vegas suburb with large semi-detached houses sometimes with
their own swimming pools, make for a bizarre sight in the middle of the
rolling hills of Palestine. Many settlers are religious fundamentalists who
think they have a god given right to harass and attack Palestinian villagers.
We also learned from villagers that the settlements have their own private
road system which Palestinians are forbidden to use and that in an often
parched region settlers regularly siphon off water from neighbouring
Palestinian villages. To add insult to injury in some of the villages we
visited we saw effluent from the settlements being pumped out onto
Palestinian land.

In most of the communities that we visited popular committees have been
set up to fight the wall. These popular committees have attempted to halt
construction solely through mass non-violent civil disobedience and we
regularly witnessed ordinary villagers courage and determination in the
face of overwhelming military might and intimidation. In one village we
visited, Budrus, near Ramallah, where the resistance has been particularly
strong there have been over 40 demonstrations over the past year. Often
the men, women and children of Budrus have sat or stood unarmed in
front of military bulldozers. Despite many injuries and arrests the bravery
of the villagers forced a temporary halt to building work and "glorious
Budrus" has become a beacon to other communities fighting the
Apartheid Wall (3). Support for this grassroots resistance has come mainly
from left wing NGOs, the ISM and perhaps most notably from Israeli
anti-Zionist groups such as the Anarchists against the Wall. Interestingly,
in the vast majority of communities that we visited the role of Israeli
activists was warmly acknowledged and clearly valued.

In many of the places we stayed non-violent civil disobedience has been
met with brutal and sometimes deadly force. In Beitunia a teenager was
shot dead on a demonstration. And in Biddu, where three people had been
shot dead and two others had died from the effects of tear gas, the grief
and anger was still palpable. The campaign against the wall has also
resulted in an unprecedented event - the shooting of an Israeli citizen by
the Israeli army during an attempt by anarchists to dismantle a fence along
the route of the wall. Because of the deep-rooted racism of the Israeli
military we, as Europeans, rarely received the sort of treatment that is
doled out to Palestinians on a daily basis. Nonetheless, we did get a small
glimpse of how peaceful protest is dealt with in the Occupied Territories.
Over the three weeks of the march the Israeli military used sound bombs,
arrests, beatings, tear gas and, after I left, live ammunition to intimidate
protestors.

We also witnessed on several occasions how arbitrary detention is used to
coerce and control Palestinians. There was a striking example of this
following the march to Budrus. While we were meeting locals an Israeli
snatch squad seized a 14-year-old boy who was sitting on steps close to the
edge of the crowd. He was blindfolded, tied up and put in the back of a
military vehicle. After a stand off he was released but nobody, including
the boy, thought that this situation was abnormal. I learned in countless
conversations that detention without trial, torture and arrest are a rite of
passage for most Palestinian men. Hashim, a political activist from Budrus
, has a tu[oca; story. A man in his early thirties Hashim explained in a
quiet and uncomplaining way that he had been detained several times
without trial and had been beaten in custody. Over the past fifteen years
Hashim has spent over seven years in prison, a year and half of which was
spent in solitary confinement (4).

For many of the people I met in Palestine history is a nightmare: a series of
barely comprehensible catastrophes the latest of which is the Apartheid
wall. In Beit Sira a small village north west of Jerusalem, a local man
brought us up onto a roof and pointed out where, on the plain below, three
villages were razed to the ground after the 1967 war. Then he pointed to a
large settlement on a hill established as a military base in the 70's that
became a settlement in the 80's and had grown ever since. Finally he
pointed at the route of the wall at the edge of his village-the most recent
encroachment on his land and freedom.

The wall along with the checkpoints, the roadblocks and the military
incursions has become part of the vast and complex machinery of
repression deployed against the Palestinians. Nonetheless, I left inspired
by the courage and solidarity of the Palestinian people and convinced that
their culture and history will not be wished out existence by the Zionists in
the Knesset (5) or their backers in the Pentagon or that any wall can
contain the desire for freedom.

By Dec McCarthy

Footnotes

(1) This percentage is from PENGON a Palestinian NGO
(2) This percentage is from PENGON
(3) Work on the wall has restarted in Budrus and the resistance continues
(4) Name has been changed
(5) Israeli parliament
===============================
This page is from the print version of the Irish
Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
We also provide PDF files of all our publications
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html for you
to print out and distribute locally
Print out the PDF file of this issue
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/pdf/ws/82.html


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