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(en) Palestine-Israel, Marda, Alt. media, Another take of Saturday action. Breaking through at Marda

Date Sun, 05 Jun 2005 11:07:55 +0300


"Where are you going?" asked the soldier at the checkpoint in the
West Bank entrance. "To Ariel" said Teddy Katz who sat behind
the driver of the mini-bus, and we were waved through. Indeed, this
highway was made mainly in order to serve the rapidly growing
settlement of Ariel, twenty three kilometres deep into the West Bank.
But a short distance before the settlement there was another
road-block, where the captain was much more suspicious. "To
Ariel? Who in Ariel?" "To the Judea and Samaria College. You
know, the one which is to become a university. We have a meeting
with the students there. They are waiting for us."

He didn't buy it. Either we didn't look the part, or somebody had
connected us with certain email alerts. "Ariel is a closed military
zone until 6pm, you can't pass." "What about the other cars, why
are you letting them through?" "That is my discretion, none of your
business." We had to keep our face straight when we saw several
cars with our fellow activists blend into the settler traffic and pass
on.

For us, the road to Marda Village was a bit more complicated - and
interesting. We had to take a side track, off the smoothly paved
settler road, and into another world. Driving over unpaved roads
which follow the contours of the hills, rather than smashing
through every obstacle; winding among picturesque olive groves
and small houses with their outer walls totally covered with... the
competing graffiti of various Palestinian factions.

A young man named Hisham was already waiting for us: "This
mini-bus with the Israeli plates is too conspicuous. These cars are
much better, they go back and forth among the villages all the time,
the soldiers hardly notice them."

We took a roundabout route, with the intention of getting to Marda
from a direction the army did not expect. But some commander had
been quite throrough, and there was a road-block also on that side.
We just went on past, as if bound for the next village. Then, as
soon as we were out of sight, the car stopped and on foot we
hurried through the olive groves and terraces, with Hisham pointing
out barely perceptible paths.

We passed houses with smiling children and old people waving
from every window and balcony. A few more turns and we could
see the big crowd by the mosque, with a forest of flags and banners
flying above.

The organizers, kept appraised of our progress by mobile phone,
had put off the departure for our sakes. As soon as we took our
places in the ranks and distributed the placards from the clumsy
package which had been carried all along the tortuous route, the
march started. Enormous banners and VIP's in the front, followed
by Israelis (Ta'ayush, Gush Shalom and the Anarchists) and
internationals intermingled among villagers carrying the banners of
various Palestinian parties and groupings. Ambulances and medics
brought up the rear.

Altogether, quite a familiar scene, a routine to which we have
already become used to in towns and villages all over the West
Bank. But hardly ever before had there been a week with so many
demonstrations and struggles coming together all at once, and quite
a few of the participants felt really exhausted. Some Israelis and
internationals had been yesterday at the scene of the violent
confrontation in Bil'in. And also some of the Bil'in villagers
themselves took a day off from their own tenacious struggle for the
sake of solidarity with their brethren of Marda.

On the ridge above, dominating Marda in all possible ways, were
the houses of Ariel - row upon row of gleaming, identical new
buildings with identical red tile roofs. And ahead, as always in these
processions, was the line of helmeted soldiers barring the way.

At least, today there was no volley of tear gas, We were able to
come face to face and engage in a futile short parley (all in
Hebrew). "Why are you blocking us? We don't intend to disrupt any
work. Today is Sabbath and there is no work going on. We just
want to march from Marda to Kifl Hares, two Palestinian villages.
How does that disturb you?" . "We have our orders. This is as far as
you can go, no further".

A grey-haired man suddenly steps forward to confront the
commanding officer and his men (and two helmeted women). "It is
my land from which you are barring me, my land on which the
bulldozers are going to work. It is my land, and it was my father's
before me and his father's before that. Tell me, soldiers, does any of
you claim to have had a grandfather in this piece of land?". One or
two minutes of silence, then the officer repeats: "We have our
orders".

The crowd surges forward, a great wave again and again breaking
against the three-deep chain of soldiers and Border Police with their
linked arms. Tel-Aviv activist Yuval Halperin starts the cry of
"Chayalim Habayta" (Soldiers Go Home!) and is joined by the
Israelis and many of the Palestinians. Then Fatah supporters raise
their traditional call for "National Unity in the Struggle" and the
Hamas people answer with the familiar "Allahu Akbar" (God is
Great, in Arabic). But then some of them shift to "Elohim Gadol"
which means the same in Hebrew...

Then the internationals present (EAPPI, ISM, IWPS, and CPT
were all represented) start chanting "One, Two, Three, Four - Stop
Oppression, Stop the War!" and "Free, free Palestine!". And a
Palestinian boy from the side calls "Sharon and Barak - Hizbullah
fucked you up!" - which gets a burst of laughter before many others
take it up. "Take this magazine off your gun, you're going to shoot
somebody at random and that will go bad on you!" shouts anarchist
Yonathan Polak at the soldier directly in front of him.

The soldiers are rather quiet, the officers' terse orders hardly
audible. Increasingly, they resort to clubs rifle butts. It was then that
activist Leiser Palas got a blow to the head, fell down and was
kicked in the ribs - an event lost in the melee and noticed only by
those nearby, especially since the highly experienced medics of the
Palestinian Medical Relief Committees instantly got him into an
ambulance speeding off to hospital.
Immediately following, three soldiers set upon historian and Gush
Shalom activist Teddy Katz, intending to throw him face down into
the nearby thorn bushes - when the voice of an army major barked:
"Leave him alone! NOW!". The officer then addressed Katz with
"Hello, teacher!". Improbable as it may seem, the officer turned out
to be not only a member of the same Kibbutz as Katz - but actually
a former pupil.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of demonstrators found the
simple and obvious weak spot in the army's cordon: just go off to
the side, among the olive groves and down the hill where no
soldiers were. Soon the entire demonstration was headed that way,
bounding over the rocks in the direction of the Ariel Road (Route
505 on the maps) and reaching it before the soldiers could shift
themselves into a serious chase.

Route 505 is a prime settler-only road. By the army's rules,
Palestinians are not supposed even to drive along it in their cars,
much less hold demonstrations and protests on its sacrosanct
asphalt. Upon arriving in pursuit, the soldiers started again
swinging their clubs, a red-faced officer crying over the megaphone:
"Closed military zone! Closed military zone! Anybody not
immediately vacating the road will be detained forthwith!"

Other officers, however, seemed now open to compromise. A
parley with the Marda organizers and Palestinian Authority
Minister Fares Kaddura produced an informal agreement: the
march could after all proceed to Kifl Hares, its original destination -
as long as it was done beside the road and not on it.
A small victory perhaps, not really changing the fundamental
situation. Still, there was a feeling of elation as we proceeded on a
narrow track beside the highway, with the army's armoured jeeps
shadowing us on the road. A young boy carrying a Palestinian flag
nearly as big as himself waved gaily at the soldiers in the jeep, a
smile of pure mirth on his face.
=============================
written specially for TOI by Adam Keller

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