Saturday, April 17, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Truth from the land of Israel - disparity between media reports and reality (no Israeli activist killed yet) 17/04/04

"Well-equipped Border Police units surrounded the village, and a few hundred meters from where the security forces were deployed, six or seven bulldozers plowed away areas where the fence is to be built, sometimes ruining agricultural areas." 'How not to disperse demonstrators' "The separation fence is going up along a controversial route that is generating protests and acts of resistance." 'Protest is not Terrorism,' below "The security forces know how to show restraint and caution when it comes to the "hilltop youth" and they should show the same measure of restraint when it comes to civilian demonstrations at the fence." 'Protest is not Terrorism,' below

"It's become an almost daily routine. Every morning the residents of villages located on the planned route of the separation fence - from Elkana in Samaria to the outskirts of Jerusalem - wake up to the harsh metallic noise of the bulldozers. In the early morning hours the heavy machinery rumbles into the area, surrounded by security guards and army and Border Police troops." Picking Their Battles -----------------------------

Dear Friends,

Below, I continue my inquiry of the preceding days into media representations of the protests against expropriation of Palestinian lands, their destruction, the uprooting of olive trees by the hundreds (probably thousands), the enclosing of Palestinians into ghettos, and the rest. My inquiry has been prompted by what the average Israeli that one meets believes regarding what is happening in the OTs, and why Israelis are so ill informed. While some Israelis do not want to know, this is by no means true of all. Unfortunately, most think that they do know, even though those of us who do take the trouble and the time to learn the history of the conflict, to be part of the protests, to meet Palestinians and talk to them, to share their pain, to live with them through some of their tribulations, and to look around at what is happening to Israel as a result of what is occurring in the OTs, immediately recognize that the Israeli public is being fed a steady diet of misinformation. The media is as complicit in distributing misinformation as is the government in distributing propaganda.

Part 2 of this intro, discusses the quotations from newspapers above. Part 3 scans newspaper depictions about yesterday's protest at Biddu. Part 4 relates what I know about yesterday's events. Part 5 closes this message with 3 reports, first the Ma'ariv English depiction of yesterday's events at Biddu, then yesterday's editorial in Ha'aretz, which, I believe, rightly complains that protests are not terrorism and should not be treated as such, and finally an ISM report relating (sadly) that a 17 year old was killed at today's protest.

Lots of reading below, but I hope you will find most and perhaps all worth your while. II.

The initial two quotes above are an example of how the media (intentionally or unintentionally) mislead the public. The first one relates that the bulldozers "sometimes" ruin agricultural areas. But unless the reporter omits olive groves from "agricultural" areas, or refers mainly to cities as Abu Deis, the statement is not true. All the villages where the wall/fence has been and is being built are losing agricultural land, crops, and olive tree groves.

The second quote ("The separation fence is going up along a controversial route that is generating protests and acts of resistance.") likewise misleads by misplacing the emphasis. It's not strictly speaking the route that is controversial, but what is involved in that route, i.e., the destruction and expropriation of agricultural lands and olive tree groves. While it is true that no Palestinian would waste his/her precious time protesting if the wall/fence were being built on the 1948 armistice line, the protests are only incidentally over the route and are directly over the expropriations and destruction of Palestinian lands.

The final two quotes accurately depict the situation. No class of demonstrator except Arabs, and now also Israelis and internationals who join protests, are ever subjected to tear gas and stun bombs, not to mention rubber bullets. Even when the 'haridim' (the ultra religious), for instance, have at times used violence against the police, the police have shown restraint. The "hillside youth" could be as rowdy as they please without being shot at by the military or the police. And this precisely is as it should be. Protestors should not be shot, period. What is happening at the protests against the wall/fence is wrong and is frightening. It is frightening on at least two counts: (1) the violence against protestors places their lives in danger ; (2) the soldiers who perpetuate the violence on a civilian population are likely to become emotionally disturbed creatures. A person who becomes accustomed to using violence on the elderly, on infants, on men and women and children, is not likely to doff the habit when he/she doffs his military clothing.

And as for the final quote, yes, it has become a daily--and I may add, painful--routine for "residents of villages located on the planned route of the separation fence - from Elkana in Samaria to the outskirts of Jerusalem - [to] wake up to the harsh metallic noise of the bulldozers. In the early morning hours the heavy machinery rumbles into the area, surrounded by security guards and army and Border Police troops." It is painful for people (anyone-- you, your neighbors, I) to witness the destruction and theft of their lands and properties.


It took me several hours this morning to verify the information about yesterday's protest at Biddu. Today's Israeli newspapers were of no help due to the lack of uniformity in their reports. Besides, they left out too much.

The Ha'aretz report was the briefest of them all. Perhaps satisfied that it has given the subject enough space the past several days, Ha'aretz devotes but a few lines to the event, and even these at the end of a report about a 19 year old who was killed in Rafa yesterday. The report ends with Biddu, relating that among 20 injured yesterday at the protest, 4 were Israelis, that 100s of Palestinians and 10s of Israelis and Internationals participated in the protest against the fence's alignment, and that there was a general strike in the village.

Ma'ariv-on-line relates in its English edition that 26 were injured in the protest at Biddu, that 1,500 had participated in the "highest turn out to date," and that 10 protestors had been arrested. The Ma'ariv Hebrew on-line agrees with the numbers of protestors and injured, but adds one to those arrested. The Hebrew additionally adds 2 paragraphs and a picture omitted from the English. The picture is of a Palestinian youngster (hard to determine his age) sitting on the hood of a border-police jeep (the word "police" is clearly printed on the jeep of the kind used by the border police). Now, the border police don't just let Palestinian kids sit on their jeeps! To anyone who knows the situation, the kid was in trouble, but for the reader who believes everything that he/she reads in the media, the youngster might just have decided to take a rest at the invitation of the kind police, except the pained expression on his face would suggest otherwise. Two paragraphs relate the details associated with the picture: the first paragraph as told by a Palestinian, the 2nd paragraph as told by a Military spokesperson (most Israeli readers believe Israeli sources, and discount Palestinian ones). The Palestinian relates that a 12 year old had been detained, that he was tied to the front of a police jeep for long hours as a human shield to protect the security personnel from rock-throwing kids. According to this source, the boy was detained at noon and not released until almost 10:00 PM. The military spokesperson denies it all, declaring the preceding to be "an out and out lie." This source insists that the boy was a 15 year old youth, who was standing near the jeep while being questioned, and whose hands were tied, as is normative for detainees. No Palestinian, the spokesperson declares, was tied to the jeep! (I've heard differently from an eminently reliable source, but more of that in the ensuing.) Remember, the kid in the picture is sitting on the hood of the jeep; in the picture his hands are not tied.

Ynet (the Yedioth Ahronoth online) states that there were 300 protestors, 46 of whom were injured; of them 21 required medical treatment. The injuries resulted from inhalation of tear gas and from rubber bullets. According to an army spokesperson, the protestors on these occasions consist of rioters who disturb work by throwing rocks. The military spokesperson says that yesterday hardly any shooting of rubber bullets occurred, that primarily tear gas was used. But according to one Israeli protestor injured by a rubber bullet, the military went to extremes in the use both of the gas and the bullets. Ynet also reports that among the injured were a three year old and a four year old, who were overcome by tear gas when the canister landed on the porch of their home. Ynet further informs that 8 protestors were detained (4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians, and 2 internationals). One protestor supposedly attempted to stab a border police with a pair of scissors taken from the vest of an Israeli army medic.

So much for Israeli newspapers. I found no reports in the 7 online foreign English language newspapers that I checked out (Wash Post, NY Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Times, Guardian, Independent, and Herald Tribune).


Now let me tell you a little about yesterday at Biddu, as I experienced it and as related to me by reliable sources who were also there.

Protests against the destruction of Palestinian land and expropriations of property have taken a different turn from the protests arranged by a given anti-occupation organization (e.g., Ta'ayush, Gush Shalom, etc.). When an organization arranges an affair, activists come as a group, either by buses or by caravans of cars clearly marked and in procession. Yesterday, except for the Rabbis for Human Rights, who brought a mini-bus full of participants, others came individually. Ta'ayush did send out emails asking people to come. But basically, these recent popular protests are an individual thing. Except for the Anarchists, who have undertaken to be on hand as much as possible, one comes if one can, and gets there on his/her own. I learned from a phone call the evening before that the next morning several people were meeting at the central bus station, and that we (spouse and I) could join. Since I have never been to Biddu, I welcomed the opportunity to go with others who know how to get there. We took a bus to the depot in Tel Aviv, and from there a bus to Jerusalem, debussing at Mivatseret Zion. We walked through the community to its end, then through olive groves, walked up a hill, arriving at the village of Beit Surik, where a Palestinian mini bus met us and took us the rest of the way into Biddu. We arrived at around 11:00 and spent about an hour outside the Municipal hall waiting for others to come. I would guess that in the end there were probably between 300-500 Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals. But this is a rough guess.

While we were waiting, I had the opportunity to speak with others, including Palestinians. One Palestinian gentleman who was waiting with his small son (perhaps 5-6 years old), pointed to me and to other Israelis and said, "You see, there are good Israelis, too. Not all are bad." Then he explained to me that the only Israelis the children see and experience are soldiers, and he did not want his son to grow up hating Israelis because of what the soldiers do.

When the march finally began, everyone lined up orderly. Israelis were asked to head the march, so that the soldiers would know that Israelis were also present, and perhaps would not shoot. Palestinians chased away children and teenagers (the shabab), who were told to stay away. The organizers did not want rock throwing, and it is the kids that normally do it. This was to be an absolutely non-violent demonstration (according to some Anarchists, non-violence is normative for them, but not for the military). We continued to march in orderly procession. The Palestinians, as well as some Israelis and internationals loudly chanted various slogans as we marched. I admit that I paid no attention to what was said. I knew that all no matter how courageous everyone is and however great the slogans sound, the minute that the gas and bullets fly, we all run for cover. As we neared the edge of the village, Israelis were again requested to go ahead. I obeyed. Somehow or other, spouse, who'd pleaded with me to stay close to him, didn't notice that we'd parted, and was elsewhere, but exactly where in the procession, I don't know.

Without realizing it, I had gotten ahead of the procession which had stopped. I was up front nearly alone, facing the soldiers. I mean, this was not bravery or anything of the sort, I'd just kept on walking unaware that the rest of the procession had stopped. The only thing in front of me apart from soldiers (border police?) were media photographers. It took a minute for me to realize that I was standing about 15 meters from the soldiers and that all the rest of the procession had stopped about 10 meters in back of me. There were media photographers in front, facing the procession and taking pictures, but were not standing between me and the soldiers. When I understood the situation, I raised my hands to show that I was harmless, but didn't move back. I was curious to see what was going to happen. I stood there, hands raise, without moving, for about 5 minutes. One Israeli (probably from the Anarchists) was using a megaphone to plead with the soldiers not to shoot, not to use violence, explaining that this was a peaceful demonstration, and that we intended no harm. The soldiers/border police used megaphones to shout at us to go back, to get out, and to declare our demonstration illegal. The megaphone discussion went on for several minutes--3? 5? 8 minutes? All this was taking place, mind you, at one end of the village. The barrier that the soldiers had erected and were standing at was parallel with the last houses of the village at that end. Subsequent military violence was in the village itself and on its outskirts where the bulldozers were.

The Israeli with the megaphone was still pleading with the military not to use violence, to let us peacefully demonstrate, when without warning all hell broke loose. The tear gas started flying. I had barely time to get a kerchief round my nose and mouth, but not to remove my glasses, which trapped the tear gas inside, momentarily blinding me. Fortunately, spouse came to the rescue and lead me out of the gas. For the next several minutes or half hour the military continued to shoot tear gas nearly nonstop. There had been absolutely no provocation on the part of the demonstrators. Nor was anyone threatening the soldiers. But after the tear gas began, Palestinians began burning tires, and the shabab began slinging rocks, or at least I presume they did, since I saw them coming on the run, some with slingshots. I personally did not see rock throwing. But one thing I do know 100%: if there was rock throwing, it was precipitated by the military violence. During the day I saw the ambulance several times rushing to a call.

The tear gas attacks blew organization to the wind. People scattered in different directions trying to escape that acrid stuff. We remained mainly so as not to leave the Palestinians to face this alone. But from then on, spouse and I had no definite purpose, that is to say, no one told us where to go or what to do. Many people just seemed to be walking around aimlessly. Spouse and I spent most of the next several hours running periodically away from tear gas. The military was everywhere--on hills around the village and in the streets of the village. In addition to the tear gas, we heard explosions, but couldn't tell whether these were stun bombs or rubber bullets. At one point, my 76 year old other-half, I, and a 29 year old female visitor to Israel/Palestine, found ourselves alone in an alley. We were relaxing for a moment, during a lull in the tear gas, sitting on a low fence. Suddenly a group of about 6 border police dashed into the alley towards us. We shouted to them in Hebrew to leave us alone. Amazingly, they stopped, peered at us, and backed out without firing tear gas or rubber bullets at us. During the few minutes that we sat there, our young companion asked how it was that soldiers shot when a Rabbi was present? Her mother had been active in S. Africa against apartheid. There, she related, the police never dared to shoot or use violence when whites were among the demonstrators, and most certainly never when a cleric was present. The situation here appears to be different. If the incident that you will shortly hear is typical, then it would seem that the Israeli soldier has no more respect for activist clergy than for activist laypersons.

At the outset of the activity at Biddu, I had been given a list with the names of Israelis participating and the details about each we'd need for each if any of us were arrested. The list had been given to me for safekeeping, because it had been decided that I was the least likely to be arrested. Don't know why. Age? Maybe. So when arrests began, I was sought out for the necessary information. I learned that 4 persons had been detained. There were more later. Then, about 3:00 PM, while several of us were wondering what to do, a friend asked spouse and myself to accompany him to the police station in Givath Ze'ev to see what was happening to his cousin who'd been detained. Sure, we said. He went off to where bulldozers were working to tell others with whom he'd been that he'd be away for awhile. While we were waiting for him to return, a Palestinian ran up to us and said that a 10 year old boy was being beaten by the soldiers, and pleaded with us to go rescue him. A number of others jumped to the job, and there was already quite a gathering down where the youngster was. We therefore did not go (although I must admit that I felt uncomfortable about leaving a 10 year old without trying to rescue him), continuing to wait for our friend to return instead. Meanwhile, the lawyer had phoned and had asked me to pick up an x-ray at the local clinic. After waiting another 10 or so minutes, we finally left for the clinic; with x-ray in hand we took a local minibus to the local road block, where we took another vehicle to Givat Ze'ev, and from there a 3rd one to the police station. Luckily, the station is built around a courtyard to which the rooms open up. I walked gingerly into the courtyard trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Fortunately, one of the detainees was standing by an open door. I managed to talk to her for about 5 minutes before a policeman spotted us and chased me off. Because there was nothing further that we could accomplish there, and since I had most of the information we'd wanted (how many had been detained and who), we began our journey home where we arrived at around 6:30 PM, some 11 hours after we'd left. As usual, my feelings are mixed upon return. We arrive home to 'normality,' Palestinians stay stuck in the muck.

Before ending, I want to return to the youngster who in the picture is sitting on the hood of the jeep; he apparently is also the boy that was beaten. While we had been at the police station, someone phoned me and asked me to verify the shocking news that Rabbi Arik Asherman was being held as a human shield. I phoned Arik, but he did not answer, and I was unable to get hold of anyone else who could ascertain the truth. It was unbelievably appalling, if true. As it turns out, events were even yet worse. Successive attempts to talk to Arik failed. Finally, upon returning home, I phoned his home, and learned that he'd been arrested. Only this morning after speaking to him did I get the full details.

Arik been among those who'd gone to help the boy, and though he'd not seen the beating, he'd found the 12 year old youngster strapped to a jeep, being used as a human shield to curtail rock throwers. Arik and two others, while trying to convince the soldiers to let the child go, while telling them that the practice of using human shields was illegal, were themselves detained and made to stand in front the jeeps. They were not strapped to the jeeps, nor were they told in so many words that they were being used as human shields, but for all practical purposes, they were for the next 2-3 hours. During this time, Arik was butted in the face by the helmeted head of a border police. When I spoke to Arik this morning, he was coming out of the doctors office. In addition to suffering a cut near his nose, he had pain in his shoulder. The child was eventually released, but Arik and the other 2 men were taken to the Givat Ze'v police station. Arik and an international were released around midnight, but the third man, a Palestinian was sent to Offer prison, where he remained this morning (if letter writing is required to release him, I'll inform you). Arik said that he'd been charged with so many offences that he couldn't remember them all. One of the offences is so inconceivable from Arik that it would be laughable if the situation were not so tragic: he was charged with spouting foul language at the soldiers.

[Here is Arik's press release, just now came into my inbox, forwarded by The Other Israel; the Hebrew version and the picture can be had from me upon request]

This is our press release regarding yesterday's events. I am working on a longer and more detailed account. Shabbat Shalom Arik

P.S. We are looking for hosts for Shabbat dinner for members of a group from the Episcopalian Archdiocese of Massachusetts for next Friday night.

Child Used as Human Shield after Beating Attached a picture of the child photographed by G.M. and The Alternative Information Center

Four arrestees, including a 12 year old boy, RHR Executive Director Rabbi Arik Ascherman, an additional Palestinian and ISM activist, were used as human shields in Bido on Thursday. After local Palestinians and Israeli activists saw a young boy being beaten by border police, the boy's mother sent a Palestinian man to try and help him and Rabbi Ascherman also approached the police. Both were arrested, along with a Swedish ISM activist.

The boy, crying, shaking from fear and eventually cold, was sat on the hood of a jeep and tied to the bars protecting the glass. The other three arrestees were bound and placed in front of a second jeep. After the arrests, local Palestinians began throwing stones, a number of them hitting the jeeps. The unit commander was Shahar Yitzhaki

Rabbi Ascherman repeatedly requested over the next few hours that they not be used as human shields, that the boy receive medical attention and that the officers identify themselves. He also asked to lend his coat to the child and to stand in front of the child to protect him from stones. All these requests were met with physical and verbal threats, orders to "shut up," and/or derision. The division commander, "Benny," also visited the site during these events. Rabbi Ascherman also directed his requests to him. Rabbi Ascherman was eventually told that the boy had been checked by a medic before Rabbi Ascherman was arrested.

Rabbi Ascherman was seized by his throat and head butted by Yitzhaki upon arrest. The arrestees were moved from the scene after several hours, but kept outside. The child was allowed to go home around 18:30. By this time, the adults were also shaking from cold and sharing Rabbi Ascherman's coat. They were released, but Yitzhaki "rearrested" them and took them to the Givat Zeev Police station. There, after continuing to be held outside, Rabbi Ascherman convinced the attending officers to allow them to sit inside. The Palestinian was taken to Ofer, while Ascherman and the ISM activist were conditionally released late that night.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have the disparity between media reports and reality. I must admit that I believe Arik implicitly. But the greater part of the Israeli public will never know his story, will never know about the violence that the military and border police employ, will never know what their sons, husbands, brothers, uncles (and some sisters, aunts, etc) are capable of, will never know what they do and how. Then they wonder why so many Israeli men are violent! Imagine how much worse it will be as time goes on. Most Israeli parents still raise their children to be decent human beings. But then they send them to the military, which teaches them (with the government's blessing) to be beasts! Heaven help us.



Ma'ariv Friday, April 16, 2004 12:11 PM Israel Time


Clashes during anti-barrier protests escalate

One activist charged: Police fired huge amounts of tear gas at us. 26 suffered injuries. 1500 participated in Bidu protest - highest turnout to date. Marwan Atamna and Uri Glikman"They fired tear gas at us out of all proportion", a left wing activist described the confrontation in another day of demonstrations against the security barrier outside the Palestinian village of Bidu. The Palestinians reported that 26 people sustained injuries, five of them with medium wounds. Ten people were arrested. 1,500 protestors took part in the largest demonstration since the protests against the barrier began. Together with them were Israeli leftists and activists from foreign countries. During the first part of the demonstration a number of Palestine Legislative Council members were also present. The demonstrators claim that IDF forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them.

Raz, a 23 year-old Israeli activist, told Maariv Online, "We were on our way out of the village. A Border Guard unit was positioned at the houses on the perimeter. As we got relatively close to them, they began firing teargas madly at us in unbelievable quantities! Right at us!". During the demonstration two wounded Palestinians were taken to hospital in Ramallah with moderate injuries. Doctors at the local Bidu clinic said that many of the injured they treated had been clubbed by the police. Ten demonstrators were arrested during the clashes- four Israelis including Rabbi Arik Asherman from the Guardians of the Law organization; three leftist foreign nationals, and three Palestinians. (2004-04-15 18:39:17.0)

[ynet write up of the same protest:,2506,L-2903149,00.html]


Ha'aretz Editorial Thursday, April 15, 2004

Protest is not terrorism

Hebrew: [title of the Hebrew is The Anarchists should not be doomed to die (Ha anarchistim ainam bnei mavet)]

The separation fence is going up along a controversial route that is generating protests and acts of resistance. In addition to the protests of those directly harmed by the fence - the Palestinians whose lands were expropriated for it and whose movement has been curtailed or limited - there are also groups of Israelis and foreigners protesting against it in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The protests are not uniform in their intensity, and range from demonstrations where protest slogans - including some that are blunt and provocative - are shouted, all the way to attempts to shake the fence physically and break through its gates. There have been incidents where protesters damaged construction vehicles, or blocked their way and when clashes between the protesters and security officials turned into active physical resistance, there have been arrests. In many cases, protesters threw stones and used slingshots to hurl stones at security forces and in one case, at Beit Lakiya last month, masked men among the local protesters fired shots, say the police.

The security forces respond, with tear gas and stun grenades, shots fired in the air, all the way to aiming and shooting rubber-coated bullets, sometimes at a close range that causes many casualties. In one clash near the village of Biddu, three Palestinians were killed and some 50 wounded. The IDF regards the fence and its surroundings as a military installation and is very strict about halting any attempt to damage it. In addition to the conscripts and Border Police operating in the area of the fence, private security firms have been hired.

In December 2003, an activist from Anarchists Against the Wall was wounded in the leg and another hit in the eye. That group, which has dozens of activists, is one of the most vocal and consistent in its protests against the barrier. Their activity, which expresses general protest, is blunt and includes personal, provocative shouting at police and troops, which intensifies the clash. Many of the group's members have experienced tear gas and stun grenades and have been hit by rubber-coated bullets. They say that the security forces use exaggerated violence against them, with the deliberate intention of hurting them - and then the security forces prevent medical crews from reaching those who need treatment, says the group.

An investigative report yesterday by Haaretz reporter Arnon Regular shows the security forces are not operating with a uniform, coordinated policy for handling demonstrators. There are various forces at various levels and local commanders on the ground appreciate the severity of the situation on the ground in different ways, treating the demonstrators in ways that endanger lives. IDF forces busy with operational activity in the territories find it difficult to understand the difference between civil disobedience along the fence and armed combat with terrorist cells. The rules of engagement have not been made consistent and uniform and there are not enough means "softer" than rubber-coated bullets and shooting to disperse demonstrations. And investigations are not undertaken as required, after particularly difficult incidents.

The security forces know how to show restraint and caution when it comes to the "hilltop youth" and they should show the same measure of restraint when it comes to civilian demonstrations at the fence. The chief of staff and chief of police must coordinate a policy and match it to the circumstances of the civil disobedience. Their duty to protect the fence from demonstrators does not justify harming protesters. Apparently, the security forces have not learned the lesson from cases when demonstrators were exposed to lethal risks. Demonstrators must not be made to pay with their lives for legitimate civil protest.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Media, Picking their battles ["The Fence War" in the Hebrew original]* 15/04/04

It's called 'the separation fence intifada' - an unarmed civil protest - but hundreds of Palestinians are getting hurt, and so are their Israeli supporters. ["The struggle against the route of the fence takes a new form: 'passive [nonviolent] civilian resistance' documented by video, with the participation of Palestinian women, old persons and children, reinforced by Israeli peace activists*. In spite of that, even these demonstrations are always ended with massive fire of the IDF [Israeli army] - from time to time in contradiction to the official instructions, and with already hundreds of wounded. The demonstrators are sure that the first Israeli [demonstrator] to be killed is going to happen soon." [The summary of the Hebrew original - I.S.]

It's become an almost daily routine. Every morning the residents of villages located on the planned route of the separation fence - from Elkana in Samaria to the outskirts of Jerusalem - wake up to the harsh metallic noise of the bulldozers. In the early morning hours the heavy machinery rumbles into the area, surrounded by security guards and army and Border Police troops. The villagers go out to their land in full force: men and women, young and old alike. They position themselves opposite the soldiers, wave flags, sing and try to get to the giant machines or sit down on the ground in an attempt to block them. And then what? Only God knows. Some speak of December 26, 2003 as the turning point. That was the day on which an Israeli demonstrating against the fence, Gil Na'amati, was shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers at the village of Maskha, in Samaria. "What happened at Mes'ha, and the noise it created, shook up the Palestinians," says an Israeli who took part in some demonstrations. "They understood that they had to organize for a struggle against the fence and that the struggle could have an impact." Some of the interviewees term this uprising, which involves a civilian population of all ages, the "intifada of the fence," as distinct from the more familiar one of the terrorist organizations, the attacks and the armed fighters.

The Palestinian Authority has played a very small role in the events of the past few weeks. Although it was the PA that encouraged the Palestinians to protest against the fence while the international court at The Hague was discussing its legality in February, the current uprising started from below.

In some of the events, the Palestinian demonstrators are bolstered by Israelis, ranging in number from a few individuals to dozens, mainly from the Anarchists Against the Wall group, and by international peace activists. When the latter take part, they also document the events on video. It's clear, after watching hours of this footage, that the Palestinians may be reverting to the protest method of the first intifada, but the Israel Defense Forces is moving forward. Stun grenades and tear gas are often hurled at groups of elderly women or at high-school girls, and it is common to see civilians fleeing for their lives from rubber-coated steel bullets. In one case - the exception, as far as is known - soldiers used live fire against demonstrators, killing three residents of the village of Biddu, near Jerusalem; one of those killed was a boy of 11.

"There was a hitch at Bidu, a loss of control," admits a senior IDF officer. However, there are no reports of anyone having been brought to justice for the fact that three people paid with their lives for that "loss of control."

Legitimate struggle

What underlies this new, popular style of struggle, waged without the use of firearms? According to Ayid Murar, from Budrus - a village near Ben Shemen, where the route of the fence was moved toward the 1967 Green Line in the wake of the residents' protests and diplomatic pressure - the Palestinians have good reason to stick to a civil struggle.

"Our struggle is not against Jews and not against Israelis and not even against soldiers - it is against the occupation," he says. "We don't want people on either side to be killed. The occupation is a big problem, and the Palestinians can't cope with it alone. They need the help of the Arab states, of the world's governments, and in order to get it they have to adopt a method of struggle that has legitimacy in the eyes of the world. We already feel an increase in support and interest from all over the world about what is happening here. Once we were a marginal phenomenon even in the Arab press, but now we are back in the headlines."

Murar and his brother, Naim, a former employee of the Palestinian Interior Ministry, have for years maintained close ties with Israeli peace activists. They are a salient example of a new class of local leaders who are taking key positions in the forefront of the current struggle. Israel, though, looks askance at such activity. At the beginning of January the two brothers were arrested within a few days by the Shin Bet security service, on the grounds that "the intelligence material attributes terror-supporting activity to them." However, the military justice system itself rejected this. The military court at Ofer Camp released Ayid within a few days, stating: "It is out of the question for the military commander to use his authority to order a person's administrative detention [arrest without trial] only because of his activity against the fence. This is a mistaken decision that does not stem from security considerations." A month later, the military court at the Ketziot detention camp released Naim, stating that the military prosecution and the Shin Bet had misled the court by claiming he had been involved in terrorist activity and adding that protest activity against the fence does not constitute a cause for arrest.

Even though it is only at Budrus that the protests have succeeded in getting the route of the fence changed, Ayid Murar is convinced that this is the right path to follow: "We have to bring the entire Palestinian people into the struggle against the occupation - women, children, the aged - and they cannot take part in a violent struggle," he says. "But they can take part in this kind of struggle, which also contributes to the unity of our nation. We also know that a nonviolent struggle puts more pressure on the Israelis. When you have armed individuals and shooting, one Jeep with soldiers can deal with it. When the army has to deal with civilians, it has to bring in a far larger number of soldiers. After all, they can't open fire at them freely, or at least I hope not."


Ghassan Andoni from Beit Sahour, south of Jerusalem, is one of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the organization of volunteers that promotes nonviolent protest and seeks to internationalize the struggle against the occupation. His ideas have been gaining popularity.

"I don't agree with the view that the nonviolent protest has begun only now. It has actually existed since December 2000 and has taken the form, for example, of dismantling roadblocks by hand. However, it's true that it is now far more widespread," he says. "I'm glad it's happening, but it is still too passive, too much based on reactions. The villagers go out to protest only when the bulldozers show up and not as part of an overall perception of struggle against the occupation. The struggle should be comprehensive and not stop until the fence falls. The real test will be if every village will continue to be part of the struggle even after the fence is built. Until that happens, I can't say it is a success."

One of the leading activists in the village of Hirbata is Aziz Armani, 34, who after years of working in Israel speaks fluent Hebrew. In reaction to the contention that the current struggle has not recorded any impressive achievements, he says it has had "success here and there, though not a great success that we could flaunt. We are facing a tremendous force, while we are helpless and have nothing. Still, the main thing is that we feel we are doing something - if not for ourselves then for the coming generations. Even if we are able to get the fence moved two meters and save a few meters of our land, that will be something. I think that this struggle is giving us a great deal of strength. It doesn't belong to any organization, not to Hamas or to Fatah and not to the leadership of the PA; it belongs to the people. Each village has a council that is responsible and is scrupulous in ensuring that the demonstrations do not turn violent. We are not fighting the citizens who live in Tel Aviv - we are fighting the bulldozers."

Israelis vs. the fence

One of the major features of the struggle in its new form is the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. At every opportunity, the Palestinians make it clear that they are interested in furthering such cooperation because of their desire to influence public opinion in Israel, and more especially because the presence of Israelis, they hope, moderates the reactions of the soldiers. One of the Israeli activists explains that the reverse is also true: The presence of Israelis also moderates the Palestinian side.

"Our presence makes an important contribution to nonviolence," the activist says. "We push in this direction during the coordination that takes place before the demonstrations. It's true that if someone throws a stone we don't stop to preach to him, but there is always someone who will do it for us. Right away they tell him to stop. There's a feeling that they want to uphold their promise to us and not endanger us."

The IDF views the involvement of Israelis in a different light. The IDF Spokesperson's Office told Haaretz Magazine: "Unfortunately a handful of Israeli activists and foreigners who create provocations act as agitators and turn the demonstrations into violent disturbances."

One evening during the intermediate days of Pesach, I got a phone call from Yonatan Pollak, who sounded distraught. Pollak, 21, the son of the highly regarded actor Yossi Pollak, is considered the Israeli leader of the struggle against the fence (though as an anarchist, he disowns that description). Tall, charismatic, confident of his path, Pollak, despite his young age, has participated in numerous protest activities and does to the soldiers - who encounter him on an almost daily basis - what a red flag does to a bull.

"I called because within a few days there were two incidents in which Israeli demonstrators were almost killed - Itai Levinsky and me," Pollak said. "I called because if anything can stop the deterioration, it's publicity in the media. Let's leave the political aspect aside for the moment and talk about what's happening on the ground almost every day. There is a gradual but relentless escalation on the part of the army toward civilians taking part in demonstrations, which fundamentally are nonviolent. I spend a lot of time in the territories, and I've seen how riots and demonstrations are suppressed plenty of times, but what's happening here is something new. The feeling is that there are no procedures. They fire rubber bullets and throw tear gas freely, and they fire at the feet and at the head.

"Three Palestinians were already killed, at Biddu, and the day when an Israeli will be killed is approaching, too. If course, it's not worse for an Israeli to be killed than for a Palestinian, but it illustrates the escalation of the use of force. At every demonstration I talk to the soldiers via a megaphone and tell them that this is a quiet demonstration of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals - and the bullets whistle past my ears. At first we thought the cameras would deter them, then we thought the presence of Israelis would be a deterrent, but now there is nothing that deters the soldiers. I tell you: Someone is going to die out there."

Maybe it's time to stay home for a while?

Pollak: "I am a political person and I go to demonstrate. It's inconceivable that the state's response should be that I have to sit at home. Even if the army is convinced that what we are doing is a provocation - though from my point of view, of course, the provocation is the building of the fence on Palestinian land - in a democracy you can create provocations without being shot at."

Are you afraid?

"Very much. That's why I'm talking to you. But that doesn't mean we are going to stop the demonstrations. We will continue, but I don't think that's a reason for any of us to die."

Yonatan's older brother. Shai Carmeli-Pollak, a television director, has been filming the demonstrations against the fence and some of the footage documents a dramatic event in which Yonatan was the principal protagonist - the event he was referring to when he said his life was in mortal danger.

The event took place on March 29, at Bitunia, adjacent to Ramallah. Soldiers and demonstrators met on a dirt road at the entrance to the village. An army Jeep tried to move forward and a group of demonstrators, with Pollak among them, attempted to block its progress. The driver, however, accelerated and moved forward. Two of the demonstrators managed to jump aside, but Pollak, who was in the center, found himself on the hood of the Jeep.

The presence of the "hitchhiker" didn't perturb the soldiers. The Jeep kept going and even speeded up. For 50 long seconds - all of them documented on the video - the Jeep drove along with Pollak draped over the hood, grabbing at whatever he could find and holding on for dear life. A viewing of the film suggests that the vehicle was traveling between 30 and 60 kilometers an hour. It went a few dozen meters, did a U-turn and then returned to its starting point, where it slowed down, and Pollak was able to jump off.

Is driving a Jeep with a demonstrator straddling the hood - and an Israeli, at that - part of the IDF procedure for dispersing demonstrations? A senior officer says in response that "we view this event as a hitch, a serious departure. The event was investigated and the driver is being dealt with by Central Command and will face trial."

Bullet in the eye

Itai Levinsky says that he will return to the struggle after he recovers. It was Levinsky who, last December 26, saved the life of Gil Na'amati after Na'amati was shot by an IDF sniper near Maskha. While the soldiers ignored the demonstrators' pleas to summon an ambulance, Levinsky organized a quick evacuation of the bleeding Na'amati in a Palestinian car, and at the checkpoint an Israeli ambulance joined them. Na'amati lost a great deal of blood and arrived at the hospital in serious condition. The doctors told his father, Uri, the head of Eshkol Regional Council, that if the evacuation had been delayed they would probably not have been able to save his son's life.

Almost three months later, on March 12, it was Levinsky who ended up in hospital. "I went to demonstrate at Hirbata," he recalls. "The army's reaction was violent to the extreme this time. They simply fired rubber bullets like crazy, even though most of the people quickly lay down on the ground among the rocks. Naturally, when you're lying down, there's no difference whether they fire at your head or your legs, because it's all at the same height. I was standing in front and talking to the soldiers via the megaphone, to make them understand that there were Israelis there, too, which sometimes makes them calm down a little. It's scary, but what can you do?"

This time, though, the megaphone and the Hebrew weren't an insurance policy. Levinsky took a rubber bullet between his nose and his left eye.

"Suddenly I felt terrible pains around the eye and nose," he says. "My eye was injured, but luckily wasn't blown up, and the left side of my nose was completely shattered. I lay on the ground but was in total focus. A Red Crescent ambulance took me to the checkpoint, and from there I got to Tel Hashomer [Sheba Medical Center]. I was hospitalized for 10 days and had an operation on my nose, and because my vision is still pretty much of a mess I'll need eye surgery, too. The truth is that I was really lucky, because a rubber bullet that enters the eye can reach the brain. It's total chance that I'm alive. For both me and Gili it's pure luck that we weren't killed."

Film shot at the Hirbata demonstration - though the actual instant when Levinsky was wounded was not photographed - reinforces his version of events. The soldiers fire massively at dozens of people who are lying on the ground and seeking shelter amid the rocks.

"At about 6 A.M., as soon as the bulldozers started working, the villagers started to demonstrate," relates Raz Avni, 23, a former kibbutznik who now lives in Tel Aviv. "We were about six Israelis that day. The soldiers were standing in a row across from the demonstrators and there was a lot of cursing, pushing and punching, and then the soldiers suddenly pulled back quickly, turned around and started firing rubber bullets. I was next to Itai. He said through the megaphone, `This is not a violent demonstration. Don't shoot.' Suddenly he shouted. I looked at him - he was lying on the ground and his eye was bleeding. I called the Red Crescent medics, who come to every demonstration. It took them a few minutes to reach us, because the shooting continued. They put a dressing on his eye and evacuated him to the ambulance on a stretcher."

Levinsky, 20, grew up in Ramat Efal and Holon and now lives in the lower-class Hatikva neighborhood in South Tel Aviv. He did not do army service. Until recently he worked in construction. He plans to go back to the demonstrations as soon as his health permits. One day during Pesach, Uri and Gil Na'amati - whose shattered knee is still in the rehabilitation process - drove from their home in the south of the country to visit Gil's rescuer, who was afterward wounded himself.

"What is left to say?" Uri Na'amati summed up. "It's heartbreaking."


As in every quarrel, here, too, the dispute revolves around the question of who started it. How does happen that demonstrations whose organizers term them nonviolent evolve into events with dozens of wounded, mainly from massive use of rubber bullets? A senior IDF officer finds it difficult to accept the pastoral descriptions of a nonviolent intifada: "I don't know of any quiet demonstration where the people stood and sang, but which ended with rubber bullets fired by us," he says. "We have set ourselves a clear line that distinguishes a demonstration from a disturbance: The moment an attempt is made to attack equipment or soldiers, it's a disturbance, and then our response ratchets up. The mission as defined for us by the political echelon is to enable construction of the fence, and as fast as possible, and if a bulldozer is burned every day the fence won't get built. The instructions to the forces in the field are clear: The first means they are allowed to use is stun grenades and tear gas. If that doesn't help, we recommend that the instigators be arrested and that a complaint against them be filed with the police, because that often disperses things. Only if we have gone through that procedure, and the soldiers are on the receiving end of stones - and from our point of view stones are a mortal danger - the next level is to fire rubber [bullets], with the authorization of a battalion commander at least, and the firing has to be aimed at someone specific, a chief instigator who we didn't succeed in arresting."

The films shot at many demonstrations show that there is a large gap between these instructions and their application in the field. Time after time the camera records massive firing by many soldiers at the same time in the general direction of demonstrators, who are sometimes dozens or hundreds of meters away. One thing is certain: The firing is not aimed at a lone "instigator." As for the stone throwing, it's difficult to decide which comes first: the stones or the rubber bullets. The impression is that things change from village to village and from event to event.

"In some cases two or three children throw stones from a distance of 100 meters, and it's obvious that this is symbolic and can't hurt anyone," says Dr. Kobi Snitz, who teaches mathematics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and has taken part in a number of demonstrations. "Sometimes three hours of an encounter go by without one stone being thrown, and then suddenly the soldiers lose it - they're standing out in the sun for hours, you know - and they start throwing stun and tear-gas grenades, and then all hell breaks loose. [Some] villages have a committee that tries to keep the children under control, but it's hard."

Snitz says the escalation is the result of deliberate policy - if not at the political level, then at least at the decision-making level in the army: "There are now demonstrations of hundreds and thousands of people every day. Whoever takes 10 soldiers to a site like that tells them, `No matter what happens, [demonstrators] don't get close to the bulldozers,' knows what the result will be."

What do you expect the soldiers to do - let the bulldozers be torched?

Snitz: "A properly run state understands that when there is resistance at a certain level to policy, either it heightens the violence and crushes the resistance or it sits and listens. Naturally, I think the soldiers should refuse to do what they are doing, but beyond that, every major in the field can [inform his superiors] via radio - when he's facing this number of people - that the mission he has been given is impossible to execute unless they want the whole thing to blow up. The problem is that he then ruins his chances of promotion. I often talk to the soldiers in the field and many of them say that they're there because `I have no choice,' or `What do you want me to do,' or `I know there's something wrong, but what can I do?' When senior officers describe serious events as `hitches,' they are effectively transferring responsibility to the individual soldier."

Legal battles

In the past few weeks the "intifada of the fence" has also been keeping the High Court of Justice busy. As part of the effort to play the game according to the rules of Israeli democracy, a number of villages have filed petitions to the court against the route of the fence. Most of the cases are still pending. The lawyer in the majority of the petitions is Mohammed Dahla, an Israeli citizen whose office is located in East Jerusalem.

Dahla sums up the results of the legal battle to date: "Roughly speaking, I can say that in more than 70 percent of the routes with respect to which petitions have been filed to the High Court, interim injunctions have been issued prohibiting the continuation of the work. In another 15 percent the court allowed the state to work without limitations, though noting that if the petition is accepted the state will have to restore the status quo ante and compensate residents. And in the other 15 percent of the cases, the court allowed irreversible work to be carried out."

In some cases Dahla filed the petition together with Palestinian villages and Jews from nearby communities who support the moving of the fence from the villagers' farmlands to inside the Green Line. In one such case, a joint petition was filed by residents of Beit Suriq, a village situated across a ridge from the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion, and by 30 residents of the suburb. A far larger number of residents of Mevasseret Zion, more than 600, signed a petition supporting the moving of the fence inside the Green Line, and 50 of them joined the residents of Beit Suriq in a demonstration.

An interesting development in this case occurred when the petitioners added the names of several retired IDF generals from the Council for Peace and Security, among them Assaf Hefetz, Avraham Adan, Shaul Givoli and others, who have recently visited various parts of the fence route and reject the defense establishment's claim that the route was established with security considerations in mind. This connection between a group of security-conscious veterans and Palestinian villagers is little short of surrealistic against the backdrop of the current intifada, but has arisen due to the struggle against the route of the fence.

Last week, at the height of the army's encirclement of a house in Biddu, the residents called Dahla, who rushed to court and was able to get an interim injunction against the demolition of the house.

"This is an interesting process," he says. "It is reviving the popular uprising. Willy-nilly, the residents are getting involved in this because they are simply losing everything they have. They understand that if they don't act, they will end up living in a ghetto, without their lands or a source of livelihood. The decision on an unarmed uprising is a strategic one. We can see that in these places there is no use of firearms, not only when it comes to soldiers but also in regard to the nearby settlements or Israeli locales located across the hill. Maybe it's because of their location - these are places [whose residents] have worked a great deal with Israelis - or maybe it's because of the cooperation with the left-wingers, or maybe it's because they understand that the important war is the one for Israeli public opinion."

However, that battle is so far not succeeding. Three and a half years of intifada, and some 37 years of occupation, have made the Israeli public and its establishments blind to developments on the other side, leaving them unable or unwilling to take note of subtleties. True, the IDF doesn't view the demonstrators as armed gangs, but disperses the protesters with a force that they perceive as a way to persuade them that even nonviolent protest is useless. The media ignore the demonstrations almost totally, and because this is a daily struggle that is also dangerous, no more than dozens of Israelis are taking part in it, joined occasionally by activists from movements such as Ta'ayush [the Arab-Jewish Partnership grass-roots organization] and Gush Shalom. "The message that Israel is sending the Palestinians who are trying to protest nonviolently is that we don't want any such protest," says one Israeli who participates in the demonstrations. "It's that we prefer a violent struggle and that we are not willing to accord legitimacy to any type of resistance by them. For years we have been asking them why they don't follow the path of Mahatma Gandhi, but when they do just that we respond with rubber bullets and tear gas. What we are doing now is shooting the Palestinian peace camp."n

Olive trees and rubber bullets

"A demonstration by Palestinians against the construction [of the fence] is a loaded business with plenty of emotions - land, work, olive trees - and when Israelis, internationals and the media join in, it becomes even more complex," says a senior IDF officer who is responsible for the sector where most of the events in the past few months have taken place. "That complexity finds expression in the way we can allow ourselves to respond, morally and in terms of values, and also taking into consideration how it looks to the world and to Israeli society."

The turning point, the officer says, was the shooting of Gil Na'amati. "That event was investigated by the chief of staff, and afterward clear instructions were issued. The most significant thing that changes when Israelis are in the field is the rules of engagement [for opening fire]. We try to make use of a great deal of police intervention and to address the subject through the courts. I've heard that the Palestinians call it a 'peaceful demonstration,' but it seems to me we have a conceptual gap here. When the Palestinians throw stones, they regard it as a quiet demonstration. And I'm not talking about one stone. It's important to point out that at one demonstration, in Beit Lakiya, there was also shooting; we arrested the squad that did the shooting, though it's true that this was the only case.

"I don't say there are no hitches. A soldier is out there for hours, being cursed. Not all of them are icemen and sometimes even commanding officers lose control. There is friction, it's not sterile. As part of the verbal friction our people also say things they shouldn't. Some of them call the soldiers 'Nazis' or 'sons of bitches,' especially if they're Israelis, and the soldiers lose their cool and call them 'collaborators.' The instructions are to try to end the incident with as few as casualties as possible, and in many cases the way to put an end to the story is to seize the chief instigators."

How do you define an instigator?

The officer: "Someone who calls out things through a megaphone, agitates, tries to reach the [construction] equipment. In most cases, the moment we try to arrest those people, the event turns violent, with stones and things. You have to remember that it's in the participants' interest for the demonstration not to occur quietly. They want the event to be talked about, for people to say that there was a demonstration at which such-and-such happened. We try very hard to restrain ourselves, but you have to remember that when it comes to mortal danger, there is also a matter of subjective feeling - standing among hundreds of Palestinians at Bitunia, which is on the outskirts of Ramallah, is not like walking through Tel Aviv. You feel threatened.

"There is no doubt that the situation of the recent period poses a dilemma for us. If you're fired at, there is no dilemma, it's a black-and-white affair, you know what to do. In events of the kind we are talking about, which are now occurring almost every day, there's a lot of gray."

By Aviv Lavie - 16-04-04 weekend supplement edition.
* [As described in the body of article - The Anarchists Against The Wall are the core of this involvement. I.S.]

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Just one day texts reffering to the Anarchists Against The Wall from the daily English edition 14/04/04

How not to disperse demonstrators - By Arnon Regular During demonstrations last weekend at Biddu village, northwest of Jerusalem, it appeared that protesters objecting to the separation fence and Israeli security forces had adopted clear "rules of the game." A few hundred residents from the village, along with left-wing demonstrators in the Anarchists Against the Wall group (some of them from overseas) came out day after day to protest the construction of the fence. Well-equipped Border Police units surrounded the village, and a few hundred meters from where the security forces were deployed, six or seven bulldozers plowed away areas where the fence is to be built, sometimes ruining agricultural areas.

A number of groups of protesters, each one comprising of a few dozen demonstrators, hassled the Border Police units, throwing rocks at them, and sometimes using slingshots to hurl the projectiles. Playing its part, the Border Police fired tear gas canisters at the demonstrators. Then there was one Border Policeman, or IDF soldier, who shot rubber-coated bullets at the protesters from a distance of 70-80 meters. About every 30 minutes, one of the demonstrators was injured, and dragged by fellow protesters a few dozen meters back, to a pick-up point where a Red Crescent ambulance was waiting to bring them to the village's health clinic.

These well-defined roles in the recent Biddu demonstrations come as responses to events in the village last February, in which three Palestinians were killed, and over 50 were injured. The recent demonstrations have been a kind of ceremony, play-acting in which the two sides follow newly established codes that prevent the conflict from becoming too violent.

The problem is that these Biddu confrontations are the exception, and not the rule in the West Bank. In Biddu, it appears the sides have come prepared to the recent, much publicized, conflict: the anarchist protesters, and the Israeli security forces, are organized and coached in ways that prevent lethal violence. Yet a Haaretz investigation reveals that confrontation realities are very different in other West Bank Palestinian villages that border the Green Line - these include Beit Lahia, Bitunya and Herbata.

Examination of video and still photograph footage of events, along with eyewitness accounts from participants in anti-fence demonstrations since the start of March, reveals a disturbing pattern of behavior on the part of IDF, Border Police and civilian security personnel who help the IDF disperse crowds.

Also, in various West Bank locales, some of the left-wing demonstrators, such as the brothers Yonatan and Shai Polak, behave in a far more militant and provocative fashion than what has been in display recently in the Anarchists Against the Wall protests in Biddu. Yonatan Polak taunts the soldiers, telling them to refuse orders related to the fence. The demonstrators mock and jeer the soldiers, chanting out sexual innuendo and relying on other forms of verbal provocation that has not been witnessed before in political protests in the territories.

While the protesters sometimes cross the line, the most troubling aspect of the protests is the lack of a clear code of behavior for the IDF soldiers. If in Biddu the soldiers seem to have drawn conclusions from past tragedies, troops in other locales appear to behave in a far less disciplined fashion, and do not appear obligated to clearly defined rules of engagement.

On April 1, no work was done on the separation fence in Bitunya, but a protest group nonetheless staged a demonstration in an area where IDF bulldozers were parked. A group of 50 protesters arrived at an area guarded by what appear on film to be mostly IDF reservists. Originally, there were from five to eight soldiers, and a few jeeps. The demonstrators approached to within a few meters of the soldiers, who seemed confused and at a loss as to how to respond. For 90 minutes, the demonstrators chanted slogans, taunted and cursed the soldiers; as the protest finally ended, and while the demonstrators dispersed, soldiers in a jeep decided to ride toward them. Yonatan Polak and two fellow demonstrators stood in the jeep's path; the army vehicle accelerated.

The two protesters jumped out of the way; Polak jumped onto the front of the jeep. For reasons that are unclear, the jeep continued to charge forward; Polak came within a whisker of suffering serious injury. At this stage, the scene became ugly: the soldiers can be seen firing rubber bullets at Polak and other demonstrators, who took cover behind some boulders about 50 meters from the soldiers. The demonstrators, at this stage, posed absolutely no threat to the soldiers; the film captures the soldiers firing rubber bullets for no apparent reason. After Polak and other demonstrators sustained injuries, the soldiers appeared not to know what they should do next. One soldier proposed that IDF medics should be summoned; another shouts "the Palestinians will evacuate them."

This clumsy and dangerous scene from Bitunya resembles a number of incidents that occurred over the past month in the West Bank. Some events involved trained policemen; others involved regular IDF solders and reservists. The incidents involving soldiers are typically characterized by chaos - the soldiers utilize improvised solutions, and it is clear they lack training in crowd dispersal. In several cases, the soldiers appear ill-acquainted with crowd dispersal equipment in their own possession - as the events unfold, officers instruct them as to how to use the rubber bullets or tear gas canisters. In many cases, an IDF soldier can be seen firing several rubber bullets in succession, without taking aim.

There are also cases of hand-to-hand combat in which soldiers appear not to know how to act. For instance, in one incident on March 8 at Beit Lahia, protesters moved to within a few meters of the soldiers, who fired bullets haplessly into the air, or flailed with clubs. In this demonstration, soldiers fired rubber bullets from a number of different positions and distances - from 20 to 50 to 100 meters from protesters; sometimes, the soldiers took aim with the rubber bullets, and on other occasions they fired indiscriminately at the protesters. At one stage, a guard from a private security company appears to be hysterical, and fires shots from a rifle at the ground, in front of the group of demonstrators. His behavior clearly violates all established rules of engagement.

Apart from the recent demonstrations at Biddu, aspects of these chaotic scenes from Bitunya and Beit Lahia can be observed in all anti-fence demonstrations staged around the West Bank.

Analysis / Ongoing nightmare for the military - By Amos Harel

When the political leadership decided after a delay of two years to accelerate construction of the separation fence, it's doubtful it considered the barrier's repercussions on the Israel Defense Forces.
An artillery unit the size of a brigade was originally deployed to guard construction of the fence from Elkana to the Jerusalem region. But as protests against the fence expanded in size and intensity, larger deployments of IDF troops were needed to constrain these demonstrations.

It turns out that guarding the work-in-progress fence in the field has turned out to be a taxing military challenge for IDF commanders.

Today, no less than five companies are deployed regularly to handle the protests. A few infantry battalions will soon be needed to evacuate five settlement outposts in the West Bank. With so much manpower allocated to deal with the fence and the outposts, it's a wonder the IDF has time for anti-terror operations in the West Bank.

The "Anarchists Against the Wall" protesters are objectionable types. They are crude and provocative, and resort to violence to rattle the soldiers. When Yonatan Polak, the most strident and vocal member of the group, hurled himself onto a moving IDF jeep, he was clearly trying to create a provocation that would win media attention. Nor does Polak put much stock in trifling matters like court decisions: Yesterday, he explained that efforts to disrupt the bulldozers would continue, even though court petitions protesting the work were rejected.

Just as surely, the (edited) film clips that members of the group disseminate do not not protect them against palpable dangers - in other words, though the protesters circulated the footage to win sympathy for their cause, the only sure thing that can be said after viewing the films is that the protesters' lives are at risk.

"Dispersal of a civilian demonstration never looks good," bemoans a senior IDF officer. Such laments relate to an objective truth: what the first Palestinian intifada revealed holds true 16 years later. The IDF, which excels in high precision offensive operations, stumbles with the thankless task of dealing with civilians, some of whom resort to violent methods. The same army that gained control (without causing injuries to either side) of a psychiatric hospital in Bethlehem housing terror suspects finds it difficult to obtain the same results when confronting women, youths and elderly civilians who protest the separation fence.

Last Update: 14/04/2004 16:52 12 protesters hurt during protest against West Bank fence By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and AP

Some 12 people were wounded Wednesday during during clashes between Border Police officers and protesters demonstrating against the West Bank separation fence under construction between the villages of Biddu and Beit Ajaza, west of Jerusalem. Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

Ten Palestinians were hurt, including a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who was seriously injured after being hit in the head by a rubber-coated bullet.

Two Israeli protesters were also lightly hurt in their legs.

There are almost daily protests near this section of the fence, which is close to the Israeli town of Mevasseret Zion. Hundreds of Biddu residents, as well as five to ten members of the Anarchists Against the Wall groups and foreign left-wing protesters participate in the demonstrations.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Bidu, As nearly daily, main radio channel reports on Anarchists Against The Wall 13/04/04

The main Israeli radio channel reports today again (as usual) about the joint Israeli and Palestinian struggle against the apartheid wall. To day, the report is about the demonstration near Bidu - North of Jerusalem. The works there renewed lately after the "highest court of justice" approved of continuation of the works in Bidu region and removed its "stay order". The reporter interviewed live a person he presented as "the spoke person of The Anarchists Against The Wall". In the interview, the spoke described to day demo and clash with the Israeli forces. He added that for us, the verdict of the "highest court of justice" is NOT legitimizing even a bit the apartheid wall and the atrocities involved, and we will not stop the struggle against it.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Israel/Palestine, an anarchist analysis & articles from an anarchist perspective and of other radicals* 10/04/04

Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement The ISM has had a good deal of success in helping out in some of the day to day situations faced by ordinary Palestinians
* Israel - Palestine, Tel Aviv - Zububa, 20m fence removed Tel Aviv-based "One Struggle"* anarchist collective initiative of "Anarchists Against Fences" action with the Zabuba people
* Israel/Palestine: Roots of the conflict The historical roots of the current conflict in the Middle East
* Israel / Palestine is not a nice place to live in - it is a war zoneAn Israeli anarchist looks at the growing opposition to the occupation and why it has developed. In Italian as Israele/Palestina non è un bel posto in cui viverci - è zona di guerra
* Interview with anarchist refusenik An interview with an anarchist jailed for refusing service in the IDF
* Five Convicted For Refusing to Serve in Israeli Military The five - Hagai Matar, Shimri Zameret, Adam Maor, Noam Bahat and Matan Kaminer - had claimed conscientious objector status on the grounds that they oppose serving in "an army of occupation."
* Rachels War,2763,916299,00.html Letters from US activist murdered by IDF to her parents
* The occupation continues, the occupation will continue, is there any solution
* Courage to Refuse - Combatant's Letter o international supporters of the Israeli Refusers
* Ta'ayush - Arab-Jewish Partnership
* Gush Shalom - Israeli Peace Bloc
* The Electronic Infitada produced by a small network of pro- Palestinian activists with a history of Internet and media activism
* Indymedia Jersualem
* Indymedia Israel
* Pogroms in Palestine An Israeli anarchist on Jewish resistance to the Israeli state
* Anarchism and nationalism Almost all of our present nations, and the very idea of the modern nation itself, are relatively modern inventions. With the rise of the bourgeois state in the nineteenth century, ruling classes needed an ideology to make their subjects identify with the state in which they lived
* Protests against Israeli occupation in Dublin [with photos]
* Second Palestinian solidarity march in Dublin [with photos]

PDF file of End the Occupation: Support Israeli Refuseniks poster In English, Hebrew and Arabic =============================== * This page provided as part of the Struggle collection

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Israel-Palestine, The latest from Biddu: army attacks nonviolent protesters 07/04/04

Two Palestinian community leaders arrested and dozens villagers injured.
Israeli media report about the Israeli anarchists involvement - two of them anong the 15 injured to day. Police deny using rubber coated bullets blamed the army for this act. The Palestinian nationnalists and the ISM people - as printed below, try to hide the identity of Israeli activists who are mostly from the Anarchists against the wall initiative.
"[Biddu, NW Jerusalem] Before 6am this morning, Israeli army bulldozers started the construction of the wall in the outskirts of Biddu village again. They were confronted by villagers, Internationals and Israeli activists who tried to reach the worksite and stop the work. Israeli soldiers opened fire directly at the line of nonviolent protesters, shooting tear gas and concussion grenades and then rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens of Palestinians are reportedly injured by eyewitnesses.

At 7:30am, the Israeli army arrested two Biddu community leaders, Mohamed Mansour and Ibrahim Saleh Bedwan, as they were protesting nonviolently the construction of the Wall through the village farmlands. They have been taken away to an unknown location.

The protesters are now completely surrounded by over 80 soldiers who are firing tear gas canisters, concussion grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets, targeting upper parts of the body.

The Popular Committee against the Wall and the activists are now trying to protect a house located at the outskirts of the village which is about to be demolished by the Israeli army. Some villagers are staying in the house to prevent its destruction while other are staying outside and are currently targeted with tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets.

For more information, please contact:"

Biddu Village Council: +972.

Saturday, April 3, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Urgent: protest tonight at jerusalem shalom court! 03/04/04

Dearest activists, The Jerusalem police are still holding Leila Mosinzon*, an Israeli activist arrested two days in a row at non-violent demonstrations, Friday in Budrus and Thursday in Hirbata. They have not offered release conditions and are demanding that these be determined by a (right-leaning) judge tonight, who might very well follow their recommendation for a 3 month entry prohibition to all the territories. Another example of the blatant escalation of their attempt to clamp down on our non-violent resistance to their crimes. Please, protest tonight at the Shalom court house in Jerusalem, the hearing takes place an hour or two after sundown.

For more details From: Ivy Sichel To:
* [Ed. Note: Leila is affiliated to the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative.]

Friday, April 2, 2004

Israel, Palestine, Media (Walla), Just another day of ongoing struggle with Anarchists Against the apartheid Wall 02/04/04

Yonatan Polak, member of the Anarchists Against The Wall was injured with rubber wrapped metal bullet. Another Israeli protester described how 5 soldiers fell him on the ground and hit him with the bats of their weapons. The army spoke person justified it because there were disturbances. Few demonstrators were "slightly" wounded in a demonstration late morning at the building site of the "wrapping Jerusalem wall" at Bitunia in the Ramalla region. At noon, about 150 Palestinians and few dozen Israelis and internationals to the building site in order to have a peaceful demonstration. When they were 2 kilometers from the place the bulldozers the soldiers ordered to stop. The demonstrators set down and the soldiers started to disperse them by force - through on them shock grenades and shoot them with rubber wrapped metal bullets.

... An internationalist activist was injured in the feet and back by bullets. Eye witness said the soldiers shoot the demonstrators while they held their hands above their heads and asked to let them return to the village they came from. Among the injured internationalist "street medics" and Palestinian villagers.