Friday, October 1, 2004

Israel-Palestine: Interview with 2 Anarchists Against the Wall* 01/10/04

D: We just want people to know what is going on inside the occupied territories and also inside Israel about the situation. Cause actually the media in and outside of Israel is really based on lies and denying what's happening. No-one really knows about the the situation and the conditions of the Palestinians. People are certain that the wall is going to be built on the green line, which is supposed to be the border of Palestine. Which is decided in 1967 by the UN, but actually, the way that the Wall is built, it's not on the Green Line. In some places it's 22, 24 kilometres far from the Green Line inside Palestine. It's not about security but landgrab, because the Wall annexes about 40% of Palestinian land, good agricultural land and their water reserves. It's really important that people know what is going on there.
* How does this effect the daily lives of people living in the occupied territories?

R: The way the wall is affecting the Palestinians is, well, first we can talk about the Palestinians that live near the villages where the wall is being constructed cause on one level, for a lot of villages it cuts them of from their land, from where they usually make their living from. Then, some villages are completely isolated from other villages and then... they have problems of movement. If families are cut off from hospitals and schools. Then there is the situation where villages have tried to grow, to build more houses, but they can’t because they're completely surrounded by a fence and the wall. It depends, like, for the first phase of the wall - 145km has been built already- there are like 50 villages which are caught between the wall and the Green Line, I mean the green line which is supposed to be the original border between Israel and Palestine). So even though they [the villages in the area between the Green Line and the Wall -ed.] are left out of the wall, they are not Israeli citizens so they have problems of labour, having any rights whatsoever even getting inside Palestine because you have to have a special permit, even if you want to go to Israel you have to have a special permit. Usually you get screwed from both sides, so they basically, maybe, will have to move inside the wall so they can have a normal livelihood and build schools, hospitals etc.

Then you have the fact of all of the water resources and the agricultural land that is being taken away from them, so they have a problem of sustaining livelihoods in the bigger cities. Also the fact that you have migration from villages into the bigger cities. Let's say big markets or towns where you had a lot of commercial activity with the transfer of goods with Israelis who were friendly with them or even with Palestinians around the area are being shut down because they have no way in or out. And the fact that, the way it is progressing.....(?) ... to completely isolate Palestine from both sides by Israel so they won't have contact with any other country.

But a positive aspect is that it is actually creating a situation where Palestinians are actually organizing for themselves.. because the Palestinian Authority (P.N.A.) and political organisations like Hamas and Fatah showed little concern whatsoever for these villages, they decided to organisize their resistance by themselves and also using new methods where it enables them to have a higher level of democracy. It is not some political official, it is the village deciding together and inviting who they want, whether an Israeli or Palestinian, to work together against the wall. This partly enables them to have a more direct political process happening, where they feel more empowered. And the fact that they are getting some results, even though they might be minor and small, they are getting more results then they got with with the Palestinian Authority or Hamas or political organisations that showed little concern for the villages. In that aspect it is actually changing the way things are dealt with. Also the fact that they do non-violent resistance and actually achieving something with it is giving them more force to do these kind of actions than actually using guns.

* So we get the picture of villages that are cut off from the rest of the world. So in the future things will get worse, you think?

Yes, things are getting worse. But even sometimes the effects in some of the places take time. When the wall is built you don't really feel sometimes the impact immediately. You feel it, let's say, when you're waiting for the harvest of olive trees which is next year, and then you see that you cannot always go and harvest them, it is really important to have a certain time to harvest them before it rots down or it starts raining too much and it's hard to harvest.

So on that aspect they're not even sure how it's going to be sometimes, and in some places it slowly has created a situation where villages slowly get more and more frustated. Actually in that area it's created a new hostility in places that before were not even political. Sometimes the occupation in the foreign news always seems as if it's happening everywhere and everybody is aware of it. And to a certain agree everybody is aware of it, but to different degrees. In the cities they're much more aware of it, you have tanks... In the Palestinian cities there are curfews, closures... So for a lot of villages which are more or less left to themselves they couldn't get out of the city easily, but they did not feel the whole impact of the occupation.

Then there's also the difference between the village and city: village people say this about the city people, city people talk about that about the village people. But here it's actually creating ... the big impact of the occupation is here in the villages. So it's also creating a whole new association between the city and the village, where cities are also getting more involved what's happening in villages and are trying to create demonstrations in support of the villages which are uprising. I mean, like at Nablus and Ramallah where they're getting more active about it.

* Is this something that is initiated from the Palestinian side or is this a cooperation beween the left in Israel and the Palestinian action groups that want to use non-violent measures against this wall?

Well, it's a combination of a bit of all. I mean it starts from Palestinians - they're the ones who are the most concerned and they're the ones who invite Israelis, that's the shift in the policy - where we can do demonstrations together and reach a broader audience and a bigger spectrum and maintain a more civil demonstration style.

It always comes from the Palestinian villages: you never have a situation where internationals and Israelis will come to the village and say: "OK, we want to do a demonstration here because there's a wall". So it's the Palestinian village, because they'll have to suffer the consequences. If it's having their land confiscated, having more problems with the army or with the police, maybe in the future having permits to cross the wall or go into other areas - they're the ones who are going to suffer for it, and they're theones who are deciding it.

And it is also creating a stronger point for non-violent resistance, which has always existed in Palestine but in the last few years, especially from the beginning of the 2nd Intifada, was very minor because of all these political organisations who were saying the only way to confront the occupation is through violent means, militias, suicide-bombers etc. Now we've said, no, you can do it differently.

* Can you tell us for how long this is going on, these non-violent protests against the wall?

I think it's about for just over a year. It started very small, and then through different actions just grew and grew. And now it's a situation where almost every village decides to do its demonstration and to do it on their own agreement and sometimes a neighbouring village will come in support. Each village tries to be non-violent and usually it's the new kind of way of dealing with it so... different results, usually.

* The support in Israel for these kind of actions, how is this, for instance, how is this portrayed in the national media?

D: Actually, it was not so long time ago in the Israeli national newspaper they said that about 65% of the Israeli population support non-violent, direct... ah, sorry, 75% of the Israeli people support actions against the wall but in legal ways and not violent. It means that people who are getting more aware of the situation, won't do anything on their side, but they support us as long we're not doing it in illegal ways.

* Are there are also many people that want to join?

This is complicated because there are a lot of left-wing groups in Israel which are against the occupation but won't join those kind of actions. They support us, like, in passive ways (and sometimes it's not so passive) but it's out of Palestine - in Israel, in Tel Aviv, the big cities - Peace Now demos, they're just holding signs and singing and talking about it. But most of the people won't take part in this kind of action in Palestine, against the wall. Yes, you know it's scary and dangerous.

* What sort of actions are there now in Israel against the occupation?

R: Oh, actions inside the territories? But, it always attracts small groups of people because it's usually 24 hours' notice in advance, and it's complicated to get in (the occupied terroties) and it's always hard to telephone around everybody and ask... But then you have big organisations that create a demonstration and plan it one month in advance or so with a certain village and do some peaceful demonstration, graffiti against the wall. Then you have organisations that spread lists about what products to boycott which are built in Jewish settlements inside Palestine. There's the Comittee Against House Demolitions, which is an organisation which is in Jerusalem which helps fight the demolition of houses because it's hard for Palestinians to get permits to build their houses for absurd laws, so everytime they try to built let's say another room, because they cannot have another house because of the legal administration won't let them have one, you know for the plans? So they build a room onto their house and then the army comes in and destroys the house. And also trying to work with people inside the villages inside the wall which are certain to have houses demolished or schools. You have demonstrations inside major cities like Tel Aviv, who do like peaceful noise demos. And doing petitions, trying to bring the message across and doing small alternative demonstrations and even bigger demonstrations and making their own noise demonstrations inside Israel. And also doing info evenings inside of Israel and showing movies. And then there are also organizations that work on a bigger level in sustaining solidarity with the Palestinians.

* So a lot of things going on. We also saw on your video that there are a lot of people from outside Israel and Palestine joining in. Does this help and in what way?

Well, it works on a few aspects. First of all it shows that we're not isolated, that there are also other people who are also concerned about what's happening. On a moral level this is very important. On a practical level internationals can go to places where Israelis cannot go. There are areas in Palestine which is it forbidden for Israelis to go to and internationals can, basically the bigger cities in Palestine, which is considered Area A for Israelis, but internationals can go. Then, in some villages it's still hard for them or difficult for them to work with Israelis, so the internationals can prepare the ground for working with other groups. They can even have their base network inside Palestine, which is hard for Israelis to maintain. And also, like, spreading out the message, coming over, documenting, trying to help, going back to their countries and trying to create support overseas and create pressure from outside which is also very positive.

D: It's really important for Israelis to be there, first of all for the Palestinians. It's really important that Israelis support them because the Israelis are the ones who put them in this situation, they are the ones who conquered them. It's really important for the Palestinians to see that also Israelis support them, and really care for them and really want to help them. I mean, it changed the whole image for them, because now it shows them that not all the Israelis are the enemy and, yeah, we can still work together and try to learn to do postive things together. So it's really important that there are Israelis there. When Israelis are there it changes the situation with the soldiers a bit: now they cannot do what they want do and shoot the Palestinians, because when Israelis are involved it also means that the media gets involved more easily. Now they cannot just shoot live ammunition; they have to be a little bit more calm.

[* ed. note: this is a transcript of a radio interview made earlier this year with some members of the Anarchists Against the Wall initiative. The interview was broadcast by Free Radio Tonka in the Netherlands. Link to audio version at]

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