Introduction: AF* Intro: this is the text of a talk given in Manchester on June 7th, 2004. It has been edited slightly. We have tried to use most of the pictures Uri showed during his talk. As this makes it a very large file, we have broken it down into smaller chunks. Follow the link at the end of each page (starting at: http://www.af-north.org/wall.htm). Some of the later sections are still under construction and have text and no photos. My name is Uri Ayalon I’m an Israeli and I'm working as a journalist and as a facilitator in the school of peace in Neve-Shalom Wahat al-Salam. As a journalist I used to be the media reporter of “Haaretz” newspaper and now I’m writing articles about politics and culture for “Walla” website, and also I’m the theatre critic of the finance newspaper “Globes”.
I have been an activist since I was 13 years old. After the murder of Rachel Corrie on March 2003, I decided to devote my time and power to the struggle against the Israeli occupation. In the last few months I'm participating in the civil protest against the "Separation Fence". As part of a group named "Anarchist Against the Wall" I've attended a lot of demo's in the occupited teritorrie as well as direct action, such as the famous cutting of the fence on the day the soldiers fired at us seriously injuring one of my friend – Gil Na’amati.
I’m here not only in the name of my group or my friends in the radical left of Israel. I’m here in the name of my good friend Mohanad from Nablus and in the name of Nazee from Mas’ha. Nazee and Mohanad not only can’t go aboard to the UK, they even can’t go outside their village or city.
My lecture will deal with:
The history of the occupation since 1947
The history of the aparthaid wall
How does it look and what does it do to the Palestinians
And then I’ll show a short movie (of 4 minutes) about the new kind of resistance against the wall that started few months ago by the people who live near the wall. I’ll talk about the change in the Palestinan tactic and I’ll also review the Israeli forces that join and help this new activities.
A short history of the occupation:
· According to the decision of the UN this should be the distribution between the Palestinians and the Jewish people who lived in Palestine. The Jewish were only 600,000 - 37% of the population, but they got 55% of the land. Almost half of the Palestinians should have been under Israeli control. This decision of the UN made Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq join to the Palestinian people in the struggle against the new state of Israel.
· In the end of the war of 1948 – which contained horrible massacres and expulsions, 2.5 millions of Palestinians became refugees.
· In the war of 1967 Israel occupied the Golan hights, Sinai, the west bank and Gaza strip. Before 1967 only 400,000 Palestinians were residents of Israel, in the occupation of 1967 1.1 millions Palestinians were added (a lot of them were all ready refugees). Few days after the war a small Israeli radical left group “Matzpen” (“compass”) published this statement: “ occupation leads to foreign regime, that leads to resistance, that leads to oppression, that leads to terror and opposite terror. Keep holding the occupied territories will turn us to a people of murders and victims of murders”.
· The Intifada (“rising up”) of the Palestinians that started on 1987 brought to the beginning of the “peace process” in 1993. Rabin’s government signed the Oslo agreement with the PLO and most of the Israelis felt that we are putting an end to the occupation and starting new relationships with the Palestinians and with the Arab world. But the reality in the occupied territories was different (areas A, B and C – separeted the Palestinians in to bantutsans).
· The disappointed from the so called “peace process” together with provocation in Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holly places for the Muslims in Jerusalem of Ariel Sharon who was the leader of the opposition in the parliament at that time lead to The 2nd Intifada. Since October 2000 Palestinians fighters killed more then 1,000 Israelis. Israel re-occupied the territories and killed more then 3,000 Palestinians. Suicide bombers are the most terrified issue for most of the Israelis bringing the territories into the green line (the border between Israel to the west bank).
· According to the Israeli government the fence is meant purely to prevent suicide bombers from getting into Israel, not to set the country's borders. The settlers feared that the fence would be made on the Green Line and leave them outside. That is why the right wings apposed the fence especially Ariel Sharon. In practice, the fence's root takes as much as it can from the land of the West Bank without considering security issues. The fence is actually a system of fences that will imprison hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in barbed wire-enclosed enclaves.
The History of the Wall:
· Since 1994 the Gaza Strip has been surrounded by a barrier that cuts off the residents from the rest of the world (especially from the West Bank); Gazza has no economic autonomy, Israel controls everybody and everything that goes in and out of the strip.
The Fence of The Gaza Strip
· In November 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak (Labor party) approved the first project to build a "barrier". His election campaign was: “We are here – they are there”. The leader of the opposition, Ariel Sharon, was one of the main opponent to the idea of a fence. He didn’t want to give in the dream of “Big Israel” - from the Jordan to the sea.
· In June 2002, the new government of Israel, leading by Ariel Sharon, decided to build a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in order to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel. Construction of the Wall, including land confiscation and the uprooting of trees in Jenin.
· Only In September 2002, the first public map of the Wall-consisting of only the northern part -was made available to the public.
· In March 2003 Sharon declared the expansion of the Wall by building a wall within and along the entire Jordan Valley, bringing the settlements in this area under total Israeli control.
· In July 2003, the Israeli defense Ministry announced the completion of the "first phase" of the Wall, a total of 145 km from the planned 728 km . The Israeli government allotted an additional $171 million for the construction of the Wall. The Wall costs some $3 billion, approximately $4 million per kilometer. On any given day have 500 bulldozers at work, paving and building one of the largest projects in the history of the country.
· Currently, it has been already built in the districts of Qalqiliya, Tulkarem and Jenin (from salem to masha) and being built in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. In 2005, the entire project should be finished.
· Besides the horrific humanistic and economic reality that the wall imposes on the Palestinian people, the wall is the biggest environmental disaster in the history of Israel.
What does it look like?
* Actually it’s a system of electric fences, barbed wire, trenches, patrol roads, trace paths, cameras and sensors. The fence it self is 3 meters high.
* The concrete Wall, now present in Qalqiliya, parts of Tulkarem and East Jerusalem (always near houses) is 8 meters high – twice the height of the Berlin Wall - with armed watchtowers and a "buffer zone"of 30-100 meters. The Wall's "buffer zone" paves the way for demolitions and the expulsion of nearby residents as in many places the Wall is located just meters away from homes, shops, and schools.
* The Israeli military has created gates in the Wall; however these do not provide any guarantee for farmers to access their land but instead creates system of permits and checkpoints where Palestinians are humiliated.xxxx
* This is in addition to more then 600 checkpoints that the Israeli army made in the last 3 years. 56 of them are permanent and the others are changing and most of the time blocking the roads without any soldiers but with stones. This creates a system of only-Jewish roads all over the west bank. This is one of the evil faces of the occupation preventing the people the freedom of movement and letting them waited for hours and being controlled by young soldiers.
* It’s important to remember that the Israeli army controls both of the sides of the fence (!).xxx
The Route of the wall
* The Wall is not being built on, or in most cases near, the 1967 Green Line, but rather cuts deep into the West Bank, 6-7 km from the green line
* Isolating communities into cantons, closed-off by an "Isolation Barrier" ensuring they are surrounded on all sides.
* The lands between the Wall and the Green Line have been declared by Israel as a “seam zone” whereby all residents and lands owners must obtain a permit to remain in their homes and on their lands. 11,700 people in 13 villages will be imprisoned between the wall and the green line. This not includes over 200,000 residents of East Jerusalem, who will be totally isolated from the rest of the West Bank.
* 98 % of the settler population will be included in the Israeli side of the fence. At the demand of the Israeli settlers, the wall is planned to move far further to the east, to include the settlements of Ariel, Emanuel and Kedumim. This will increase dramatically the number of Palestinians who will be affected by the wall.
* The control of the water sources is an important motivation for the Israeli government in steeling the land in north-west bank area. This land sits above the mountain aquifer (a huge underground reservoir) witch is one of the main water sources for central Israel (providing 600 million kub’ of water every year).
* The wall is expected to have a devastating impact on the lives of some 210,000 Palestinians, living in 67 towns or villages.
* If the east fences will be built The Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would live on only 12% of historic Palestine.
* The Wall encircles regions with the highest Palestinian population density into ghettos. The isolation from basic services in these areas along with the loss of land, markets, and resources, equates to the inability for communities to sustain themselves adequately and with dignity.
* Farming is a primary source of income in the Palestinian communities situated along the barrier's route, an area that constitutes one of the most fertile areas in the West Bank. The harm to the farming sector will have and already has drastic economic effects on the residents and drive many families into poverty.
* The barrier will also significantly reduce access of the population to the hospitals in nearby cities. The educational system will also be harmed because many teachers come from outside the communities in which they teach.
* According to the Israeli state’s report from 2002, most of the Palestinians who did attacks in Israel entered the country through the checkpoints situated along the Green Line, and not through the open areas between the checkpoints. This why the current rout has little to do with the security of Israeli civilians.
* In the past, Israel used "imperative military needs" to justify expropriation of land to establish settlements and argued that the action was temporary. The settlements have for some time been facts on the ground. It is reasonable to assume that, as in the case of the settlements, the separation barrier will become a permanent fact to support Israel's future claim to take additional land.
* Qualqiliya is one of the cities which became a huge prison. The wall sarronding Qalqiliya completely, leaving one opening guarded by two checkpoints. The city, once was the centre of commerce, is ding these days with more and more people who leaves it to the village area tring to live from farmring.
* Jerusalem - The Wall in Jerusalem and the ring of settelments around it, furthering the completing the isolation of Jerusalem from the West Bank. At the same time, the Wall rips through villages and neighborhoods, separating families, cutting social and economic ties, and ghettoizing areas.
* Its not separating the Israelis from Palestinians but separating Palestinians from each other and from there livelihood, schools, hospitals and all municipal services.
The new kind of resistance against the wall:
* Almost every morning the residents of villages located on the planned route of the separation fence - wake up to the noise of the bulldozers. In the early morning the heavy machinery rumbles into the area, surrounded by security guards and army.
* The construction of the barrier has brought new restrictions on movement for Palestinians living near the barrier's route, in addition to the widespread restrictions that have been in place since the outbreak of the current Intifada. You can 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 attacks and the armed fighters.
* Almost every day the villagers go out to their land: men and women, young and old. They position themselves opposite the soldiers, wave flags and try to get to the machines or sit down on the ground in an attempt to block them.
* Violence would usually break out after the demonstration disperses. Usually soldiers would shoot rubber coated metal bullets, shock grenades and tear gas at the crowd. Soldiers would sometimes even enter the village and chase people into houses.
* For their part, the young people would respond with stone throwing from a distance of 100 meters, and it's obvious that this is symbolic and can't really hurt anyone. Sometimes three hours of an encounter go by without one stone being thrown, and then suddenly the soldiers “lose it” and start throwing tear-gas and then all hell breaks loose.
* The Palestinian Authority has played a very small role in the events of the past few months. The current uprising started from below, from people who watch their land being taken.
* 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 who also document the events on video. Although the form of organization is anarchistic in the sense of no centralized power and direct participatory democracy, not all the participants consider themselves as anarchists.
* Since the end of 2003 the group has been mostly active in supporting Palestinian demonstrations against the wall. The main aims are to reduce the threat of violence against the Palestinians and to increase media attention.
* We believe that a nonviolent struggle puts more pressure on the Israelis. When the army has to deal with civilians, it has to bring in a far larger number of soldiers. They can't open fire at them freely, or at least we hope not.
* In spite of the best efforts by organizers, almost every week of demonstrations ends with at least a few wounded. 262 people have been injured and 5 killed in the village Biddu (near Jerusalem). One of those killed was a boy of 11.
* Budrus, a small village close to the Green Line, Since November 2003 has been the model for what has come to be called “The Third Intifada”: Popular resistance to the wall by whole villages.
* In January two brothers from Budrus 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, 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.
* On March 29, at Bitunia (near 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 Jonathan Pollak among them, attempted to block its progress. The driver 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 which kept going and even speeded up. 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.
* On March 12, Itai Levinsky was injured in Hirbata. The army simply fired rubber bullets like crazy. Itai was standing in front and talking to the soldiers by the megaphone. At every demonstration we talk to the soldiers by a megaphone and tell them that this is a quiet demonstration of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals. While Itay was talking on the megaphone he took a rubber bullet between his nose and his left eye.
* The day when an Israeli will be killed is approaching. Of 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 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. What they are doing now is shooting the Palestinian peace camp.
* The participation of women in this struglle is uniqe. The Palestinian women don’t usually get the opportunity to get involve with politic actions. The dacition of letting the women to go to the demonstrations and talk with the soldairs and block the buldozers the Palestinians arren not only a better coverage in the media but also give more power the the women them selfs. I believe it is sing of a women’s lib from a very old tradition of a patriachal sociaty. Some of the demonstrations are for womens only, organized by the women of the village combining Israeli and Palestinians femenist activists.
The Israeli Position
· The settlers
· Labor and Meretz
· Radical left wings (Anti-Zionist)
Israeli resistance against the occupation since October 2000:
* Ta’ayush: A join Israeli-Palestinian group that was created after the beginning of the 2nd Intifada (October 2000). This month was one of the only cases that the Palestinians who lives in Israel actively resisted and raise their voice in solidarity with their brothers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “Ta’ayush” (“partnership” in Arabic) are doing many actions in the territories: bringing food to cities in closer and helping farmers to work their land
* Gush-shalom: An Israeli group that was created by Uri and Rachel Avnery after the decision of Rabin’s government in 1992 to expulse 415 Hamas members to Lebanon. That was an important moment for the extreme Israeli left who started to understand that this “left” government is not what he thinks or hopes it will be.
* Others groups: Women’s Coalition [a short movie of them is available], Machsom Watch, The Israeli committee against house demolitions, Rabbis for Peace, the different groups of refusers (the young one who refuses to go to the army at all, the reserves who don’t agree to serve in the occupied territories, the pilots and more. More than 600 refusers)
* Black Laundry: a group of gays and lesbians fighting together for queer rights, feminist issues, social justice and against the occupation. It was created for the Tel-Aviv gay parade on 2001, few months after the beginning of the second Intifada. People were murdered in the territories and we felt that we can’t celebrate as usual. In the beginning it was not clear for the left activists why we should come as gays to demonstrations against the wall, but after a lot of actions and discussions I can say that our visibility is accepted and welcome. This, I can’t really say about our Palestinians partners so in the territories we usually go back to the closet. Mas’ha camp was unique in this aspect.
* Independent activists working with the ISM: many Israelis worked with the ISM, but there was a feeling of need to make the fact that Israelis were resisting (in the same methods of the ISM) - important, both for the Israeli public and for the Palestinian public (and also internationally). Israelis also come from a different perspective and culture then the internationals and it’s important to create an autonomist group resisting together with Palestinians and internationals but as a separate group.
* After a few actions against the wall in Israel and Palestine, a small group started to come together and started building a trusted reputation of Israeli direct action activists willing to struggle together with local Palestinians against the wall.
* In March 2003 the village of Mas’ha invited the group to build a protest tent on the land of the village that was being stolen for the wall (98% of Mas’ha land was taken). The protest camp was created and became a center of struggle and information against the planned construction in the area and in the whole west bank. Over the 4 months of the camp more than thousand of Internationals and Israelis came to the camp to learn about the situation and join the struggle.
* In August 2003, we've found out that in the morning the construstors of the wall intend to start working inside Hani Ammer's yard at the edge of the village of Mas'ha. In order to construct the wall inside the yard. Several structures had to be destroyed (crippling ammer's sources of income) and the final plan is to have his yard surrounded with fences (from four sides), and to "allow" his family and visitors to enter and exit the yard only on specific times during the day (as if it were a prison camp). Early morning 5th of August all structures but the house itseld were destroyed, a total of more than 60 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists were sleeping in the tent on that night and they detained and were arrested. The next day, 28 Israelis came again and we managed to stop the bulldozers from destroying Hani’s yard for a few hours. Then, the army arrested us all.
* During the camp a direct action group calling itself “Anarchist Against the Fence”, or: “Jewish Against Ghettos”, or simply: “Anarchist against walls”, was created. We started to make graffiti on the wall, as well as put a giant poster on it. The group also held many joint actions across the territories. For example: Salem (July), Anin (August) and Zbube (9th November) in which we succeeded in breaking the fence. These actions built a growing reputation in the Palestinian public but got almost no attention from the Israeli press and media.
* December 26, 2003 might be 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 Mas’ha. This action had a big impact on the struggle against the fence. We came to the gate of the apartheid fence built between Ma’sha to the settlement Elkana. Against all of the army's promises, at the few previous weeks the gate stayed shut, and prevented the people of Ma’sha from reaching their fields and sources of income. The soldiers started to shoot in the air and on the ground near us. In spite of our load calls and signs (in Hebrew) after 5 minutes and without any warning, the soldiers started to shoot live ammunition towards us, from which Gil's legs were hit.
* Now 6 months later he is still can’t walk propery. The Israeli army decided that the soldiers who shot us were acting according to the rule that says that everyone trying to go through the fence is a threat to the lives of the people around him.
* After this action we wrote: “In Mas'ha we experienced on our own flesh the life reality of our Palestinian brothers. By shooting (with live ammunition) us, Israeli activists, the Israeli army took a step with out precedence, and crossed another red line. However, this must remind us the daily continuation of harassment of the army in the occupied territories, where the killing, the blockade, the strangulation, the invasion and the annexation do not stop. Shooting us will not deter us from continuing the active resistance to the apartheid wall and to the cruel occupation monster”.
* Because of the shock from the fact that Israeli soldier shot another Israeli (who was himself released from the army a few weeks before the action), and also being almost the only Israeli movement that talks about the fact that the Jewish people create ghettos for other people – we had a huge interest at our group. The Israeli media started to deal not only with the Anarchist issue, but also with the problems of the fence that used to have a very good reputation before.
* A day after a big spontaneous demonstration was held in front of the security minister's office in Tel-Aviv. In one moment 300 people started blocking the road preventing the cars from moving. 8 people were arrested. For most of them it was the first action of disobedience.
* One week later, a joint direct action with Ta’ayush group was disturbanned by the police. They stopped 6 busses of activists, and prevented us from getting into the territories to Dir Balut, a village that was imprisoned by the fence. 28 people were arrested while blocking the main road of settlers in the west bank.
* The protest hasn’t stoped: Few weeks ago after the invasion to Rafa, we had a very big direct action succeeding to break the checkpoint of the Gaza Strip and go inside, as a solidarity act with the people of Rafa.
Our activities require money. As you can guess we are not a rich people and there are not many Israelis who want to donate our activitis. I brought Video cassetes of very good films about the occopation, Organic soup from Mas’ha village, CDs with this presentation and a 40 minutes movie about the new resistance against the wall, anti wall buttens, anarchist and anti occupation patches and also maps of the Wall. Please buy this stuff and help us to circulate the information. You can pay more than the price we ask and with the money that you will donate us we will buy a mobile phone and pay for our ridings in our activitis in the territories.
* AF is the Anarchist Federation of Britain.