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(en) Palestine-Israel, Iskaka 28-1-05 : they say they want peace - by kobi snitz

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 29 Jan 2005 11:49:48 +0100 (CET)

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While headlines celebrated a breakthrough and renewed prospects for
peace, the people of Iskaka had no illusions about what sort of peace
the celebrants have in mind for them.
Astbach and Dafni photo credit David Nir
While headlines celebrated a breakthrough and renewed prospects for
peace, the people of Iskaka had no illusions about what sort of peace
the celebrants have in mind for them. The Palestinian taxi driver who
drove us back after the demo has seen it before. He repeated such a
familiar complaint that one can complete it for him "they say they
want peace but where is the peace? is this peace ?"

Twelve years ago the celebrated Oslo accords brought the partition of
the west bank into areas A,B and C, an impossible permit system
regulating travel, the construction of hundreds of roadblocks and
checkpoints, Jews-only highways, long curfews and closures and
most of all, the fastest rate of settlement construction. Today's
celebration accompanies the deepest penetration of the wall beyond
the green line. At the edge of the Ariel settlement, 22 kilometers
beyond the green line, the wall is being constructed on the lands of
Iskaka and Salfit. Here is where the wall has met some of its most
determined resistance anywhere in Palestine. The people of Iskaka
have proved to be well organized and brave in their efforts, and have
repeatedly managed to stop the bulldozers.

Is is always the case in well organized villages, the Iskaka resistance
has a strong women presence. The women of Iskaka are organized in
three different committees which deal with issues ranging from
construction of agricultural roads to resistance to the wall.

At around 10:15 the procession left the village on its way to the
bulldozers. About 300 people from Iskaka and Salfit, 10 internationals
and 19 Israelis*. they were soon met by about 20 policemen and 40
soldiers. Some of the soldiers were snipers who had their clips in their
guns and were taking aim at people. When demanded "what are you
doing here! what are you doing with a sniper's gun!? " a soldier
names Shuki responded "Obviously, I am here to kill arabs". Another
soldier named Dafni was shooting rubber bullets at people from close
range. Their commander was captain Gal who said that they did not
violate his orders and in fact his orders were even more severe to
prevent anyone from reaching the bulldozers. Other soldiers were
shooting bursts of live ammunition but those were probably not
aimed at anyone. In addition shock grenades were thrown at the
crowd and gas would surely have been used had the wind not been at
the demonstrators back.

In spite of the shooting, pushing and shoving and beatings the
demonstrator were not provoked into stone throwing and manages to
get past the lines of soldiers and to a distance of about 10 meters from
the bulldozers. At that point the work stopped and a long stand off
began. After about an hour, with or without an negotiated agreement
with the army commanders the people of Iskaka moved a few meters
forward and climbed onto the path cleared for the wall. A few
speaches were made and the men prayed.

Small confrontation broke out between the nervous and angry
soldiers who failed to stop the crowd and the shabab (youth) who
wanted to move up another step or two. At this point a soldier who
had the name Astbach written on his helmet (who we suspect is from
the DCO office) announced that if a single stone is thrown he will
shoot live ammunition into the crowd.

His threats to shoot at unarmed people were deemed serious enough
for other soldiers to rush over to stop him from shooting when he
took aim a few minutes later.

On the way back to the village, the frustration of the shabab was not
contained anymore and stones were thrown at a passing truck. After
the truck got out of the shabab's range the driver stuck an automatic
gun out the window and shot a burst of live ammunition without

The day should be considered a success. A spirited demonstration
was mounted, the bulldozers were reached and stopped and no
injuries or arrests occurred.

At the very most, the peace currently celebrated in op eds in Tel-Aviv
and Washington will mean a relaxation of the violence and travel
restrictions inside Palestine but no mention is made of a pause in the
continuing process of Palestinian dispossession, let alone its reversal.
While some might celebrate, the people of Iskaka and Salfit and their
supporters will be struggling to hold on to what is left of their land in
the coming months.
truck from which shots were fired, photo credit David Nir
More photographs:

See also:
* Editor note: "Israelis...." are of the radical anti-occupation
activists spectrum - mainly from the Anarchists Against The Wall
initiative and Ta'yush.

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