Saturday, February 28, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Alt. Media, [Friends of NEFAC] Catalyzed by the Anarchists Against the Wall [EXCERPTS] 28/02/04

I apologize for the length of this posting, but I find it very moviing. It is a report of some protests against the Apartheid Wall that Israel is building in the West Bank. I thought that members of this particular list might be especially interested in it because it seems that the Israeli group "Anarchists Against the Wall" is playing an important role in these protests.
J. R.
GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 - [Ed. Note: Gush Shalom is a coalition of radical Zionists and some non zionist leftists. Holding the banner of "Two States For Two People". They got radiclized during the last Intifada, till they even support the refusnics.]

International release Feb. 28, Tel-Aviv

# Racism & the Knesset # Eyewitness report of killings in Bidou # Israelis joining anti-wall protest in Budrus - in spite of army blockades # Against the Wall - in downtown Tel-Aviv

# Racism & the Knesset

# Eyewitness report of killings in Bidou


"It was hell. Soldiers shot without a stop. I saw a Palestinian demonstrator get killed In front of my eyes." Said Israeli Peace activists Who took part in the demonstrations in Bidou.

"It was horror. Hell. The soldiers were shooting incessantly. I saw a Palestinian demonstrator get hit in the forehead and fall down, bleeding. He died several minutes later" told Jonathan Polak, an activist in the Anarchists Against Walls movement, who was amongst the activists who arrived today at the village of Bidou, in order

To take part in the protest against the fence that was organized by the people of Bidou. The fence in Bidou, as in many other places, will cut off a large part of the village?s land.

Other activists said: "We have never seen such brutality. In the morning, thousands of the people of the village went and sat in the path of the bulldozers, where their olive groves are about to be uprooted. Then these huge bulldozers came. Each one was accompanied by 50 soldiers. They attacked the villagers and beat them brutally, driving them into the streets of the village. Inside the village a real battle started. The youngsters of the village threw stones, and the army responded with gas bombs, but very soon moved to using live munitions. They occupied a building in the center of the village and snipers shot at people from it?s roof.

We ran to the clinic to try and help,. Wounded people kept coming, at least Seventy or Eighty people. In addition to the two who were killed by live ammunition, another elderly man died from a heart attack caused by a gas bomb that entered his home, and a young boy who is severely wounded in the head.

The only sin of these people is that they tried to protect the land which is theirs for generations and their olive trees which are their only source of income.

The army brutality, the brute oppression and the shooting ? all these confirm all claims brought against the fence in Hague. It is absolutely clear now that the fence, built deep in Palestinian territory, is another means of oppression and occupation, and has nothing to do with security."

At the time of this release some activists are in the police station in the settlement of Givat Ze'ev, trying to release the many activists arrested during the demonstration.


# Israelis joining anti-wall protest in Budrus - in spite of army blockades Friday, 27/02

"The army's rampage in Bidou was not an accident. They feel threatened. For the first time, there is a widespread popular opposition of Palestinian villagers to the building of the wall. That is far more diffucult for the army to confront. They know how to use tanks and Apache helicopters, how to drop one-ton bombs. In a purely armed struggle they have an enormous advantage. Face them with a crowd of unarmed civilians who are detemined to resist, and they have a big problem" said Dr. Gadi Elgazi, historian and peace activist, at the rendezvous point in Kufr Qasem.

We were on the way to Budrus. The people there decided two months ago to resist the creation of the Wall on their land. which was to cut them off from much of their land and also from the rest of the West Bank. The army used very much violence there: demonstrations were broken up, curfews were imposed, the main organizers picked up at night and placed under administrative detention. But some military judges refused to confirm these detention orders, and the detainess went home! Now, the people of Budrus hold every Friday a protest march, and they asked Israelis to join this week.
Some two hundred activists traveled in four buses. The Ta'ayush

[Ed. Note: Ta'ayush is a wide spectrum movement of the radical left. Mostly of the perifery of the reformist A-Zionist Comunist Party, but include also more radical people. The Anarchists Against The Wall started their own initiative as they were fedup with the Ta'ayush nondemocracy and luckworm activity mode.]

movement chose to organize this action in its own name rather than through the anti-Wall Coalition, but as usual members of other groups joined in. As the buses moved towards the nearby border with the occupied West Bank, organizers gave last-minute briefings: "Today we don't expect extreme violence. But the army will almost certainly try to stop us. As soon as we are stopped at a roadblock, get out of the buses and start walking. We will get there, by hook or by crook!".

The Rantis Checkpoint, the first point where the convoy might have been stopped, was passed with no incident. A bored sentry peered sleepily at the buses from behind a massive concrete barrier bearing the regimental slogan: "Empire of Fire". It seems the army prefered not to stop the activists on a road which serves several settlements. The special barrier appeared several kilomters further ahead - when the buses turned to the right, off the well-maintained settler road. Several jeeps blocked the road completely.
The buses moved off to the side, and demonstrators piled out and swarmed up the hillside - the most direct route to Budrus. From behind, a police loudspeaker blared forlornly: "Stop! Come back! You are entering a closed miltary zone! Anyone proceeding is liable to arrest and prosecution! Stop!". Shortly afterwards, a welcome surprise: at the bottom of the hill, a convoy of large yellow Palestinian taxis arrived, to offer the Israelis a lift. Activists scrambled back down the hill and crowded in, ten to a taxi. A few kilimetres ahead, at the outskirts of Shukba Village, a new army roadblock. The soldiers demanded the taxi ignition keys and the drivers' ID's. Tight-lipped, the drivers handed them over, and then urged the Israelis "Go on, go on, don't worry about us! They are waiting for you in Budrus!". Several of the Ta'ayush organisers stayed behind, to help the drivers haggle with the soldiers (keys and IDs being returned after an hour). The demonstrators passed through the main streets of Shukba, returning the waves of grinning Palestinian children.
After several kilometres' walking, a new convoy of Palestinian taxis. This time, the taxis managed to stop just short of the third checkpoint. By now, we were at Kibiya Village, where in 1953 a young major named Ariel Sharon led a commando raid in which 62 civilians were killed.
Present-day Kibya seems dominated by the Palestinian left-wing. Most of the graffiti on the walls was in red, as were the flags of the local anti-Wall demonstrators - from such Palestinian factions as the People's Party and the Democratic Front. A short walk ahead, and we were in Budrus. A sizeable crowd was already waiting in the main sqaure. A fence at the side was made into a podium, from which short stirring speeches were delivered by Ronen of Ta'ayush ("We have come here to struggle for our future and your future, in this bleeding land") and Eyad of the Budrus branch of Fatah ("You are most welcome in Budrus, together we will pull down the Wall"). Both speakers alternated between Hebrew and Arabic and ended with the exhortation: "Mix up, mix up! Let the army meet a single block of Israelis and Palestinians, marching together!"
The long column stretched through the narrow village streets and out to the open fields. There was a medley of signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English, with a smattering of other languagues brought along by contingents of internationals - notably the IWPS women, based at Khares Village to the north.

"Fence - Annexation"; "Build trust - not walls!"; "Enough of the bloodshed!"; "Destroy the Wall, not olive trees"; "U.S. Farmers against the Wall"; "The wall - starvation"; "Free Palestine - Now"; "No to enclaves, no to ghettos, no to the occupation"; "Detruire le mur raciste" "Destruir el moro racista"; "Sharon - we have not forgotten the Kibiya Massacre", "Arab-Jewish Partnership", "Dismantle the Wall, dismantle the settlements!".

At the front, there were Palestinian national flags on which was superimposed the Islamic credo "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet". The bearers smiled broadly at the Israelis and Americans marching at their side, as did the group of young women with Islamic headscarves further back.
"Sharon, Sharon, the Hague is waiting for you!" a veteran slogan gained additional this week. From it the Hebrew and Arabic chanting shifted to "Peace - Yes! Occupation - No! Peace -Yes! Fences - No!" and then "From Budrus to Beit Surik - the people are steadfast!", "Sharon, Sharon - we defend our olive trees!" "Budrus is strong, Budrus is free!", "Neither Sharon nor Bush - down with the occupation!"; "Sharon Sharon, we are not afraid of your tanks!"

Half an hour's march - and we were at the spot. The ugly long gash cutting through the countryside, where fields and olive groves had been, has become all too familiar. Here is stopped just before a terrace, bearing the signs of long and painstaking care of an arid soil; any further extension of the work on the Wall would necessitate its utter demolition.
"This is how far they got during the last big confrontation, a month ago. Since then they did not try to go on. We don't know how long the respite will last - some say until the court in the Hague is over. But we keep ready" a villager told the Israelis.

Opposite us, a clump of some twenty soldiers and grey-clad riot police. Behind them, a single silent bulldozer. With the very clear mountain air it was possible to see on a ridge, a few kilometres away, the demonstrators from another village confronting another clump of army and police.
An hour of stand-off, chanting of slogans, waving of placards, some talking between Israelis and Palestinians. Then, the distant cramp of teargas grenades. Some of the distant figures on the ridge were stooping down, apparently picking and throwing stones. Then the distant soldiers were scambling up the ridge.

Many of the Israelis were for rushing over and interevening in that struggle. "It's too far, you won't get there in time" a Palestinian organiser cautioned. "Anyway, don't worry about them. The soldiers will never catch them among the crags". Our sector remained quiet until the very end of the hours-long vigil. Only when the column turned back to the village center did the soldiers suddenly launch a parting salvo of tear gas grenades. The Palestinians were unperturbed, quickly handing to the Israelis slices of onion - the traditional antidote to tear gas. On the way back, again in the yellow Palestinian taxis - but, again, the army had its roadblocks, and the weary Israelis had to walk some four kilometres back through the hilly countryside. Then, upon arriving at the buses at last, the police suddenly pounced and arrested two randomly chosen activists "on susupicion of entering a closed military zone". One bus followed them to the Giv'at Ze'ev Polic Station, activists keeping vigil outside until they were released at 9pm.

What remained of this long day: the memory of the final scene at Budrus - hundreds upon hundreds of smiling villagers lining the street, waving at the departing Israelis, calling out in Hebrew "Goodby, and see you!" [AK].


# Against the Wall - in downtown Tel-Aviv

Also Friday, at noon some forty colorful young people stood at the entrance of the Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv holding improvised signs and chanting: "Mom, your son is cannon fodder!" / "Let's have peace - and the generals be unemployed!" / Occupation is terrorism - no wall is to change that!"

Having been beaten-up by police a week earlier at the end of a similar vigil had not prevented the Anarchists Against the Wall from returning to the same spot, only brought them the support of others. This time, after half an hour the group started marching, chanting, whistling - leaving the three policemen posted nearby puzzled- faced. The unusual sidewalk parade passed all along the down-town street of King George, halting a minute at every crossroads - receiving comments of the people busily shopping for the weekend: "Go home! Haven't you got something else to do?" but also "Good for you, and don't give up!"

At 1pm, they reached the corner of BenTzion Boulevard, where the Women in Black's weekly anti-occupation vigil was just starting, with among them still some grey-haired who made it their habit for the past 18 years. For some ten minutes the two groups stood together, and then the young anarchists continued their walk, leaving behind some, among them your reporter. [BZ]

Israel-Palestine, Media, Four left-wing* activists detained in Budrus 28/02/04

The police detained four left-wing Israeli activists Friday afternoon during a demonstration of Palestinian and Israelis in the West Bank village of Budrus, where part of the security fence is being constructed. The four were detained for entering an area declared "closed military zone". It is expected that the four would be released with restrictions. Budrus has been the scene of violent clashes between IDF forces and locals and protesters due to the preparations under way for the building of the security fence. Budrus, located near the city of Modi'in and eight kilometers from Ben-Gurion Airport, has become the hub of anti-fence activity over the past few months.

The West Bank security fence runs along the western edge of the village, cutting some farmers off from their land.
* [Ed. Notes: Nationalists on both sides prefer to hide the fact That the Israeli activists involved with the Palestinian vilagers are mostly anarchists of the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative]

Friday, February 27, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Summary of media reports on the activities against the wall 27/02/04

Thursday was a high intensity day of struggle. One reporter who write on the activities tell what the "Israeli leftist activists" (who are really from the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative) say. "From their testimony come that they were not present in Bidu when the first two Palestinian were killed - they came after the killing of Palestinians was reported. In the article he quote Jonathan Polak who saw in his eyes when an army sniper shoot in the head a Palestinian who bent to pick a stone. The reporter give Jonathan opinion that the confrontations in connection with the wall building brought the Palestinian struggle back to the first Intifada mode of mass struggle.

In the next article of the same Haaretz daily, another reporter put the struggle of the last few days in context. He says that it was sporadic and local till the confrontation of 26th of December last year (The second direct action of the Anarchists Against The Wall) in which Gil Naamati was (purposefully hit and) seriously injured by Israeli soldiers (while harming the fence near Budrus). From then on and especially after repeated mass clashes near Budrus succeeded to stop the work on the wall as result of diplomatic presur they initiated, the Palestinian Authority shifted its focus.

(The Reporter miss the fact that the continuous involvement of Israeli people together with the local villagers tipped the scales in both the Israeli public opinion and the international arena. He also miss the fact that the joint Israeli-Internationals-Palestinians direct actions came about after months of less dramatic confrontation and a joint camp in the village of Masha.)

"Never doubt that a small and dedicated group of people can change the world.... by initiating a mass struggle".

Israel-Palestine, Tel-Aviv, A vigil and march in downtown of Anarchists Against The Wall 27/02/04

In response to the intensified atrocities of the Israeli forces against the unarmed protesters of the apartheid wall a vigil was called.
At Friday noon about 100 people of the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative and sympathizers assembled at the big intersection near the open market.
Placards were held high and slogans were shout for an hour till 50 of us started the march on the pavement of King George street towards the Dizengof Center mole .... We "rested" for a while in front of the headquarters building of the Likud ruling party. Afterwards we marched on and joined for a while the Friday vigil of "women in black against the occupation". Then, we stood in the intersection of the Center continuing to hold the placard high and shouting the slogans.

An assessment of the new phase in the Intifada resulting from the various initiatives against the wall - in a separate post.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

report on Beit Suriq area struggle against the apartheid wall + TV news update. 26 Feb 2004

Four Palestinians have been killed in the Beit Suriq area near Jerusalem Thursday, after Mohammed Saleh Bedwan, 20, was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers at approximately 3pm, in Biddu.
The shooting occurred in front of international activists, who reported soldiers have been shooting randomly and also targeting ambulances. The Israeli army has said there has been no use of live ammunition and that only rubber-coated metal bullets have been used.
[But we seen it in the TV and the reporter who were ther reported too that there were army snipers on the roof of a building they occupy and we seen how they shoot and hit the two persons killed.I.S.]

Three Palestinians were killed earlier today as soldiers moved in on protestors and stone-throwers demonstrating the construction of the barrier.

Zcharya Mahmoud Id, from Beit Ajza and Mohammed Rian, 30, from Beit Daku, were shot by Israeli soldiers.

Another male reportedly died from a heart attack believed to be caused by tear gas.

Fifty people are reportedly injured, while three protestors have been arrested by plain clothes officers operating within the crowd.

Thursday marks the third day of demonstrations which have escalated in violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians. [With intimate participation of Internationals and Israelis (TV said are from the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative). Today about 75 people were injured at the Bidu vilage clashes and others - including Israelis were arested).

Palestinians in the area will lose almost 90% of their land to the barrier, much of which is used for farming.

The Israeli government says the wall is for security, while Palestinians claim it is simply a land grab.

[The Israelis involved call for a militant vigil Friday - same as last week.]

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Israel-Palestine, The 13 Anarchist Against The Wall are free; Please demand freedom of protest 24/02/04

Feb. 24, 04 The Anarchists Are Once Again Free Dear All, First of all, the good news: the 13 anarchists arrested yesterday were released at noon today, after spending a night in jail at Abu Khabir in Jafa.
Secondly: The Israeli government and Israelis in general pride themselves on Israel being a democratic country. If it were, it would not try to silence protest. Freedom of speech would be a value not dispensed with and not restricted to one side. Please write letters to the addresses at the conclusion of this report demanding that freedom of speech not be squelched. The events that led up to the arrest of the 13 read like a spy story--the spies being the Israeli military and police.

It all began yesterday morning, Monday, February 23, in Tel Aviv at 8:00 AM at Habima (the National Theater). This was the day that the International Court of Justice at the Hague had begun deliberations on the legality of the location of the ‘Wall’ (or ‘separation fence’). The Palestinians had dedicated the day to national mobilization against the wall. Throughout the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem Palestinians and Israelis protested the wall. Several of these protests were to have been joint Israeli-Palestinian ones. The Anarchists--a movement of young, principled, highly motivated persons--were headed for one such.

But even before they got under way others began to thwart their plans. The bus driver, who arrived at Habima in Tel Aviv about ½ an hour before the time set, was surprised to have a man in civilian dress approach and ask him about his plans and where he was headed for. The driver responded evasively, stating that he had been hired to go somewhere in the north. The interrogator pressed on for more specific details, but the driver refused to respond. At this point the inquisitor pulled out his ID, revealing that he was a policeman, albeit in plain dress. The policeman advised the driver that he was calling a police van to follow him, and that he should abandon his plans (whatever they might be) and to return home.

The Anarchists, upon hearing what had happened, decided on a second meeting point to board the bus, now at 9:00 AM. From the time they boarded the bus, till they were stopped on Road 5, they were followed, first by the plain clothes policeman on his motorcycle, after by others as they headed for their destination.

Road 5 is a settlers’ road it going east-west. It was built for settlers, and is used primarily by them. Their cars continued to whiz by, but the bus was stopped about 20 kilometers over the so-called green line, even though the bus had Israeli license plates. The police took the driver’s driver license and also demanded the keys to the bus. When the driver refused giving up his keys, stating that he needed then to let the motor cool off, the police did not argue, but ordered him to turn around and return to Israel, advising that he was in a closed military area. But all other vehicles with Israeli license plates continued undisturbed down the road’; it therefore became readily apparent that the road was a closed military zone solely for anti-wall and pro peace activists.

The driver received his license back at the checkpoint near the green line (near the turn off to Mas’ha); he was advised to stay out of the Territories.

Following this, the group decided to try to reach their destination by a different road, but with no greater success than before. Near Qalqilya the bus was again stopped at the checkpoint. This time the driver was informed that were he caught again, even one more time, in the Territories, his license would be taken away for 30 days. All this, mind you, while other cars with Israeli plates continued to drive by freely. Of course the fact that most of these were settlers explains why; to the military and the police, at least, settlers have rights denied to ‘leftists’

The Anarchists finally realized that they would not get to where they had been headed, and so decided to change plans. If they could not get into the Occupied Territories, they could nevertheless demonstrate. They decided to meet in the Kiriya on Kaplan across the street from the Defense ministry. There they simulated a wall by blocking the road, sitting on it to stop Israeli drivers from proceeding. There 13 of them were arrested.

At their hearing, the police agreed to release them on condition that the 13 be 5 days under house arrest and refrain for the next 30 days to come within a kilometer of the Kiriya, where they had demonstrated. But their lawyer, Gaby Lasky argued that these conditions were unreasonable, that they contradicted freedom of speech. Judge Muki Lansman agreed with Gaby, and released the 13 on the condition that they refrain for 10 days from coming within 200 meters from the Kiriya and that each sign a guarantee to that effect, with a 2nd person signing for each within 24 hours.
Thanks to Gaby and the Judge, the Anarchists are once again free to raise their voices in protest, except that one of them still had to appear for questioning. If your help is needed, will advise.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Palestine-Israel, a demo in Bidu next friday (14/2/04)

Salamat, Next Friday afternoon (20 February) we will hold a joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstration against the Wall in the area of the Bidu and Beit Suriq villages (north-east of Jerusalem, close to Mevasseret Tsion and the settlement of Har Adar). The Wall in this area takes over much agricultural land.

The demonstration will be held at the initiative of and in cooperation with residents of Bidu and Beit Suriq, the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Ta'ayush and Anarchists against Walls. Additional details available early next week - mark your calendars! For more information and to help in organising the demonstration:


Israel-Palestine, A call from the coalition against the wall* and report on the action 20/02/04

Mohammad A-Sheikh, father of seven children, was suffocated to death this week at Erez checkpoint. His crime was his will to go to work in Israel in order to feed his family. More than 1,000 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Intifada, of whom 26 were killed during the last two weeks.
The Gaza Strip has become a no man's land, where the Israeli army has no limits. How long shall abuse and humiliation prevail? - No more silence! Don't look the other way! Come to disturb the Tel-Aviv routine and indifference Friday, 20/2, at 12:00, at the corner of King George and Sheinkin st. And wee came, and we disturb the Tel-Avivi routine for a while: The Anarchists Against The Wall people who are of the Israeli part of the coalition were the majority of the more than hundred people who came.

After preliminary vigil at Tel-Aviv main intersection (near the open market) half the people moved to a near by pedestrian free and priority cross of the main outlet of busses from the intersection.

it only took few minutes till the main intersection was blocked.... and nearly half an hour passed till the police stopped us from crossing the street...

The main public radio channel reported that 5 of us were arrested.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Saturday demo - Erez Checkpoint: Transport info to This Saturday, February 14th 2004. 13/02/04

Israeli and International organisations have arranged an EMERGENCY demonstration at Erez checkpoint against massacres in the Gaza Strip. The people of Gaza are very happy about this solidarity. The Gaza Peace Centre and the refugee committees are spreading the word inside Gaza. A bus leaves from Tel Aviv Northern Train Station at 1pm. Please phone Eva on 067 619275 to confirm that you are coming so that the Israelis know how many buses to get.
There should also be transport leaving from the Faisal Hostel in Jerusalem, next to Damascus Gate, at 1pm. Please call IWPS on 09 2516644 or 052 598264 if you want to come from Jerusalem so we know how many taxis to arrange.

The reason for the protest:

We demand the right to be allowed to enter Gaza, and for an immediate end to the massacres being carried out by the Israeli army.

Yesterday, the situation in Gaza reached a peak in its constant oppression. The dead that were left at the end of the day?s massacre are the newest victims of the Israeli slaughter of the Palestinian people.

The situation is so dire that even the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) has been forced to close schools in the Gaza Strip, since they are no longer considered a safe place for the children under the snipers? constant aim.

Yesterday?s massacre, and other Gaza massacres, have been carried out behind the electric fence, just as the West Bank?s Apartheid Wall intends to hide future Israeli massacres of Palestinians. Erez Checkpoint is being used by Israel?s government as an illegitimate veil to hide these crimes, through which no observers are allowed to pass, which leaves the Israeli government free to enforce its occupation away from the eyes of the world.

We oppose the Israeli occupation and the current daily massacres and will not remain silent.

Participants: ISM, Israeli Anarchists against the Wall, and IWPS. All are welcome!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Media, Budrus, 'The peaceful way works best'* 12/02/04

The article is about the vilage and initiative the Israeli Anarchists Against The Wall direct action initiative are involved with. I.S


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 village.

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."

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Israel, Media, youths say 'Hell no, we won't go'* 05/02/04

Its simply chilling name has a distinct ring of George Orwell, but when the army of the one of the world's most military-conscious nations creates a conscience committee, nothing is that simple.

It has been eight years since the IDF conscience committee was set up. But the need for a such a body has deepened dramatically amid the moral complexities of the war in the territories and a consequent steep rise in the awareness of the pilots, elite commandos, grunts and draftees who have come forward - some quietly, some openly - to say that hell no, they won't go. Although pacifism and refusal to serve have been in evidence since Israel was born in war in 1948, the issue has always been of extreme sensitivity in a country in which formally universal military service has left an indelible mark on the development of language and culture, on the conduct of commerce, and on the vocabulary and practice of statecraft.

The issue came to the fore once again this week, as the army continued to struggle in myriad ways with its relationship to its "sarbanim," a term ill-rendered into English as "refuseniks."

Refusal to serve, and attitudes toward those who refuse, have long functioned as a sensitive barometer of Israeli society as a whole. When Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit), a movement of sarbanim, arose during then-defense minister Ariel Sharon's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, those who refused to fight in protest over the controversial war were widely condemned as traitors, their manhood was questioned, and their act was interpreted as granting aid, comfort and encouragement to Israel's enemies.

Clearly, in the interim, and especially in the three years of the war in the territories, something has changed.

"When you speak to the young, you see that for them, refusal has become an option," says Haaretz commentator Lily Galili. "This one wants to be a pilot, and this one wants to refuse. It is nearly the same level of choice - either this or that.

"This legitimacy seen in the act of refusal is something new in Israeli society," Galili says.

If the climate has changed, many of the arguments against refusal have not. As in 1982, when members of Peace Now took a "serve now, protest later" position that included reserve duty in Lebanon interspersed with participation in anti-war demonstrations at home, many leftists oppose refusal on principle.

Their arguments are many, including the strong impact that individual officers and soldiers have on the moral behavior of the army as a whole, especially in their contact with, and treatment of, Palestinian civilians.

They note that in many areas of the territories, the IDF effectively operates as an amalgam of countless local militias, whose behavior can be exemplary or execrable, depending on the attitudes and actions of on-site commanders and troops.

Leftist opponents of refusal have also voiced fears that if the government undertakes wholesale evacuations of settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, right-wing soldiers could embrace refusal as well, declaring their opposition to participating in any action aimed at harming settlements.

Apart from Arab legislators, only two leftist Knesset members have gone on record as supporting refusal: Zehava Gal-On and Roman Bronfman, both of Meretz.

At the same time, the wider left, led by academics and some political activists, as well as the public at large, have softened their former blanket opposition to refusal. "A majority still opposes refusal, but there has begun to be a recognition of a democratic right to refuse, a difference in nuance, but a difference nonetheless," says Galili.

"People say that they view the phenomenon of refusal as dangerous, but that they understand that the right exists in a democratic society."

That right has increasingly been put to the test.

At the outset of the intifada, when Ehud Barak's Labor government broke historical precedent by sending battle tanks and helicopter gunships to attack Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza, there was a sharp rise in the number of Israelis declaring their refusal to serve in the territories.

It has been argued that the refusal movement was later blunted by the spate of suicide bombings aimed at the hearts of cities in Israel proper.

But the course of refusal can more accurately be described as cyclical, with a number of peaks, such as during the 2002 Defensive Shield operation in the West Bank, Galili observes.

More recently, the issues raised by refusal, and the sensitivity to its possible consequences, riveted the Jewish state when 27 Israel Air Force pilots signed a letter of protest declaring that they would no longer participate in targeted assassinations. The air strikes, while directed at terror warlords, have claimed large numbers of Palestinian civilian casualties.

The army said this week that of the 27 pilots, 15 no longer do reserve duty, two or three have retracted their public declarations, and the remainder have been dismissed from reserve duty.

In late December, 13 reserve soldiers and officers in the army's ultra-prestigious Sayeret Matkal unit signed a letter declaring their refusal to serve in the territories.

"We say to you today, we will no longer give our hands to the oppressive reign in the territories and the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians," read the letter addressed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, "and we will no longer serve as a defensive shield for the settlement enterprise."

On Wednesday, Yoni Ben-Artzi, convicted of refusing an order to enlist in the IDF, was summoned to appear for a fourth time before the conscience committee, charged by the army with determining the sincerity of potential conscripts who refuse to serve on the grounds of pacifism.

Formally, Israeli law as interpreted by Supreme Court decisions recognizes across-the-board pacifism as grounds for refusing army service. The conscience committee has been little inclined to accept claims of pacifism as genuine, however. In eight years, out of some 180 applicants to the committee, only six have been recognized as pacifists.

Although the great majority of conscience hearings have been held without public notice, the Ben-Artzi case has received particular attention, as the defendant's aunt is Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara.

The military tribunal that convicted Ben-Artzi included in its ruling a rare and acrid criticism of the conscience committee, which had accepted a military prosecutor's description of Ben-Artzi as having "feigned pacifism."

A year ago, in response to criticism by the High Court of Justice, a civilian - a philosopher by profession - was added to the formerly all-military panel.

Much more common than youths who declare themselves pacifists are those who choose selective refusal. These fall into two general categories. The first are those who are willing to serve in the army, but refuse to serve in the territories. The second refuse to be conscripted at all unless and until the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza comes to an end.

The army this week ordered that five youths in the latter category, who have served more than a year in military prisons, be transferred to a civilian prison, a step that their lawyers and parents have hotly contested, disputing the army's claims that the sarbanim are dangerous, and arguing instead that it is the civilian jail that holds the most danger.

By far the most widespread form of the phenomenon is entirely unrecognized by army statistics, Galili says. This is "gray refusal," in which sarbanim quietly find means within the army to serve as they choose. This category may include transfers or changes of role within the IDF, or military discharges or exemptions for youths and reservists declared "inappropriate for service."

IDF Major General Gil Regev, head of the army's personnel division, sparked controversy this week when he testified before a Knesset committee on the issue of refusal, which he acknowleged had spread over the past three years.

Taking as his unit of measure the number of soldiers jailed for refusal, Regev said Tuesday that there had been a marked drop in refusal over the past year. In 2002, 100 reservists and 29 officers were sentenced to jail terms for refusing to serve in the territories.

Last year, by contrast, only 18 reserve officers and eight officers did jail time for comparable refusal, Regev said.

The figures were quickly and hotly disputed, however, in part because they did not reflect the fact, acknowledged by Regev, that many individual soldiers have discreetly received consent from their commanders to be relieved of specific duties or transferred away from duty in the territories.

The Yesh Gvul organization, which backs sarbanim, countered that Regev's figures were plain wrong. According to the group, the army jailed a total of 76 people, 11 of them officers.

The group also said that said that 79 soldiers and 18 officers had added their names to the Courage to Refuse [service in the territories] letter in 2003, and that the number of high-school sarbanim had risen to 500.

Has the phenomenon of refusal had a substantive impact on Israeli policymaking, and of the conduct of the war and the occupation?

The question is a difficult one to answer definitively. However, Galili states, "Over the recent period, we have all taken notice that there have been fewer 'liquidations' [assassination missions] launched by the air force.

"Under no circumstances can I state a cause-and-effect relationship as a result of the pilots' letter, but in practice there has been a drop."

* [Ed. Note: The first wave of political refusnics was initiated with the famous "Sminists' letter" (high school 12th graders) at the early 70s. initiated by the anti Zionist left. As the Communist Party put pressure on their youth - only one member of the mainly Libertarian Communist Matspen refused service and after 9 months of Jail time was granted the substitutional service as Hospital clerk.

Ferment and selective refusal of service in the Lebanon during the early 80s was mainly of the Zionist left and continued with low intensity till the last Intifada started 3+ years ago.

The last wave started with a new "Sminists' letter" - initiated by young anarchist teens who were the first to be arrested for total refusal for few months each till they were exempted from service.

The wave intensified and was joined by less radicals and peaked by the court martial of the five teens sentenced lately for an additional year in jail. The less radical Zionists both in the political sphere and reservists were radicalized at the last two years and now even two MPs of the Zionist left support the refusnics in public.]