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(en) Israel-Palestine, Media, 'The peaceful way works best'*

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 12 Feb 2004 09:35:36 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

The article is about the vilage and initiative the Israeli Anarchists
Against The Wall direct action initiative are involved with. I.S
THE PEACEFUL WAY WORKS BEST - By Gideon levy-A-haaretz.co.il
There's a remote little village in the West Bank that
decided to behave differently. A village whose residents
decided not to lament and not to blow themselves up. They
chose another way between violence and surrender. The
residents of the village of Budrus, west of Ramallah and
close to the Green Line, chose to wage a nonviolent struggle
against the separation fence that is being built on its
land. The whole village has pitched in -- the Hamas and
Fatah members, the old and the young, men and women, and for
three months they have been going down by the hundreds to
their olive groves every week, to demonstrate against the
uprooting of their trees and the encircling of the residents.

The IDF and the Border Police have been faced with an
unfamiliar phenomenon: What are they supposed to do about
hundreds of unarmed, nonviolent residents slowly descending
toward the bulldozers, with women and children leading the
pack, and a handful of Israeli and international volunteers
sprinkled among them, approaching to within touching
distance of the armed soldiers? Should they shoot to kill?
Shoot to injure?

So far, the IDF has fired, but less -- no one has been
killed, and about 100 people have been injured, most of them
lightly, in the course of about 25 demonstrations over a
two-month period. Most of the injuries were from batons and
rubber bullets, like in the old days. Twelve villagers have
been arrested, and nine of them are still in jail, for
participating in clearly nonviolent demonstrations. This,
too, is a violation of the IDF's rules, as one military
judge noted when he refused to send one of the leaders of
this pacifist revolt to administrative detention. The
arrested man's brother, however, was sent straight to
administrative detention by another military judge. But the
most important point is that the construction work on the
fence near the village has been stopped, for now.

Budrus against the occupation. Budrus against the separation
fence, which will encircle the village on all sides and cut
it off, like eight other villages slated to be enclosed in
fenced-in enclaves opposite Ben-Gurion Airport. The fence
could have been built along the Green Line, several hundred
meters from the present route, but Israel had other ideas --
about the vineyards, about the olives, about life. Today, or
tomorrow, the quarrying and paving work will resume, and so
will the protest demonstrations.

Will this remote village become a milestone in the struggle
over the fence? Will the residents of Budrus herald a change
to nonviolence in the Palestinian struggle against the
occupation? Or, in a week or two, will the separation fence
cut off life in this village, too, and show that nonviolence
doesn't pay, with the scene in Budrus soon becoming a
forgotten episode?

Cacti wherever you look. Old stone houses standing alongside
half-built ones that will never be completed. Things look
promising as you enter the village, but the further inside
you go, the more the reality hits you. After the last house,
from within the olive groves, is the sight that is
frightening the residents: the rising orange of the
bulldozers, blotches of color in the wadi cutting into the
rock, digging up and scarring, and after them the
steamrollers and the heavy trucks. Olive trees whose tops
have been cut off stand in mute testimony to the work of the
bulldozers so far.

This is where the fence will pass. Through these olive
groves. One fence to the west of them and another to the
east of them, leaving them stuck, imprisoned in the middle.
Why? Because.

"If the fence were on the mountain, it would give more
security," ventures Iyad Ahmed Murar, a leader of the
protest in Budrus, whose two brothers are in administrative
detention. "But they want a fence in the wadi. Common sense
says that if you want a security fence, put it on the
mountain and not in the wadi. But they want to destroy the
land and the olives. What difference would it make if they
moved 200 meters toward the Green Line?"

Before 1948, Budrus had approximately 25,000 dunams. Of
that, 20,000 went to Israel and the village was left with
about 5,000. Now, according to Murar's calculations, about
another 1,000 dunams will be stolen. The construction work
near the groves has stopped for now, but is continuing not
far away, toward the neighboring village of Qibiya. But it's
not just the fate of the land that is worrying the village,
which hasn't had a resident killed since 1993. What's more
worrisome is how the fence will effectively choke off the

Murar: "The fence will be around nine villages. Ramallah is
our mother and only one gate will lead to it. And what if
the soldier is on a coffee break? Or off smoking a
cigarette? Maybe he'll lock the gate so he can go to the
bathroom. Maybe there will be a problem in Tel Aviv and
they'll close the gate. And then you won't be able to get to
the university, to the hospital or to work, and in the end,
people will start to live where they work. If someone gives
me a job, and I come one day and not the next, in the end
he'll tell me to stay there where the job is or be fired.
People will start thinking about having to stay where their
job is. And the student and the sick person will start
thinking the same way."

This is what the village is the most afraid of -- a
"willing" transfer; of life being made so difficult that
they'll be compelled to move east. A 1,000-year-old village.
That's why the fence is here. In Budrus, they're convinced
that Prime Minister Sharon is continuing what Captain Sharon
began: In Qibiya, he tried it with dynamite, now he's trying
it with a fence. The objective is the same: to move them
away from the Green Line, especially in the vicinity of
Ben-Gurion airport. What can they do? "Demonstrate in a
peaceful manner," says Murar the rebel.

It all began on November 9, when construction work first
started here. Since then, they've been demonstrating and
demonstrating, always in a peaceful manner. Sometimes once a
week, sometimes every day; sometimes the entire village;
sometimes only the women and children. They walk down
through the groves toward the route of the fence and get as
close as possible to the soldiers and Border Police
officers. Murar likes to describe the little rebellion,
stage after stage, almost hour after hour. How they once
stood there for a whole day, how they brought lunch and ate
in front of the soldiers, how they were beaten with batons
and rifle butts.

He records every detail: During one demonstration in
December, he counted 15 humvees, six Border Police jjeeps,
two blue police jeeps and another two military jeeps inside
the village, 25 jeeps altogether. At another demonstration,
the officer declared the area a closed military zone.

Murar: "They had a letter in Hebrew -- maybe about this
area, maybe about the whole village, maybe about the whole
world, declaring a closed military zone. They said they'd
impose a curfew if we did anything." He also talks about how
they managed to go out to the land despite the curfew and to
demonstrate in front of the bulldozers.

We decide to go down now toward the route that has already
been paved. Murar remains behind. "If there are too many of
us, they'll think it's a demonstration." The last
demonstration was last Friday; tear gas canisters are still
scattered about. The residents know the work is going to
resume soon. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Here are the red
markings on the ground. They have scouts on the balconies of
the outer houses of the village, who will report if they see
something. The treadmarks left by the bulldozers are still
visible in the mud. From here, the route is supposed to
ascend toward the olive groves, another four kilometers. The
first trees have already been uprooted. Yesterday was Tu
Bishvat (Jewish arbor day).

A group of volunteers from the International Solidarity
Movement, along with two young Israelis, accompany us
through the olive groves, but they do not go down toward the
fence route. They are staying in the village now, preparing
for what is to come. Today they're here, tomorrow they'll be
in the next village that the fence is approaching. Young
dreamers and fighters who pay 20 shekels a night to stay in
a rented apartment in the village. Yonatan Pollak of
Anarchists Against the Fence, a 21-year-old with blue eyes,
dimples, acne scars, a worldview and a past: Europe is
already closed to him because of anti-globalization
demonstrations he participated in there. He pulls a black
sleeve over the tattoos on his arm. He won't buy an Israeli
soda in the village grocery store. While his contemporaries
are standing at checkpoints and deciding which woman in
labor to let pass and which not, he is here, with the Budrus
residents, in their struggle.

We return to the village. The Amhassein family's two-story
house: the family on the first floor, the chickens on the
second. The mother, Suriya, just returned from Mecca and the
house has been decorated in her honor. The children play
loudly at recess at the school at the edge of the village.
The fence will pass right behind the border of the school
and the border of the nearby cemetery. Mighty Israel is
spread out all around: Modi'in, Ramle, Shoham, Rosh Ha'ayin
-- and on a clear day, you can even make out the Shalom
Tower in Tel Aviv. And on the other side, to the east,
Kiryat Sefer, Nili, Na'aleh. "Tell me, could the fence go
into the cemetery?," Murar asks.

A meeting at his home: About 20 women sit in the yard of the
attractive house on the edge of the green valley and plan
the exhibition they want to stage here on the 23rd of the
month, the first day of hearings on the fence in the
International Court in The Hague. Half the women came from
Salfit and half are from the village. They sit in the shade
of the banana tree in Murar's yard and talk about the
exhibit of olivewood products they will present in a tent in
the center of the village. Maybe people from all over the
world will come to see. A Swedish member of parliament was
already arrested here by the IDF. Murar says that the
exhibition will include a dove carved out of olivewood.
They're also planning a demonstration of children soon.

Murar: "We've learned lessons -- where we did good and where
we did bad. They [the Israelis] have also learned lessons.
Maybe they'll strengthen the curfew more when they're
working. But our plan is to defend our land and our trees in
a peaceful manner. Sometimes among our people there are a
lot of ideas about what to do against the occupation. We
here have chosen a different strategy. Our strategy in this
small village is that we're turning things over. In the
north, from Jenin until Budrus, there were Israeli and
international demonstrators, supported by Palestinians. But
here, we think that it's our problem and that we have to
defend our land and do something, and the Israelis and
international protesters are only supporting us. First the
Palestinians, and then the internationals. We are very
grateful for Israeli and international support, but the
Palestinians have to make a stand. We're adopting a special
strategy, a peaceful strategy. The Hamas here, too. In the
beginning, they walked with their green flags in the
demonstrations. After the first three demonstrations, we
only carry the flag of Palestine. Everyone together. In a
totally peaceful way. We also all agreed on one thing: We
are not against the Israelis and not against the Jews and
not against the soldiers. We are only against the
occupation. We are against the bulldozers. And we in Budrus
believe that killing is easier than crying. But just crying
over the land isn't enough. A peaceful demonstration is
stronger than killing. If you stand before the Israeli
soldier, right beside him, you'll be stronger.

If someone asks: Why peaceful? I tell him: I've tried all
the ways and the peaceful way works best. The worst thing is
to kill the innocent. That's the worst thing in the world.
They kill day and night and say that we are terrorists. But
we need all the world to be on our side. I'm against killing
people. All people, Jews and Arabs. I'm not afraid or
ashamed to say that. That's why I'm demonstrating peacefully
against the fence."

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