While headlines celebrated a breakthrough and renewed prospects for peace, the people of Iskaka had no illusions about what sort of peace the celebrants have in mind for them.
https://israel.indymedia.org/usermedia/image/7/1900_iskaka-28-1-05-david-nir1.jpg Astbach and Dafni photo credit David Nir While headlines celebrated a breakthrough and renewed prospects for peace, the people of Iskaka had no illusions about what sort of peace the celebrants have in mind for them. The Palestinian taxi driver who drove us back after the demo has seen it before. He repeated such a familiar complaint that one can complete it for him "they say they want peace but where is the peace? is this peace ?"
Twelve years ago the celebrated Oslo accords brought the partition of the west bank into areas A,B and C, an impossible permit system regulating travel, the construction of hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints, Jews-only highways, long curfews and closures and most of all, the fastest rate of settlement construction. Today's celebration accompanies the deepest penetration of the wall beyond the green line. At the edge of the Ariel settlement, 22 kilometers beyond the green line, the wall is being constructed on the lands of Iskaka and Salfit. Here is where the wall has met some of its most determined resistance anywhere in Palestine. The people of Iskaka have proved to be well organized and brave in their efforts, and have repeatedly managed to stop the bulldozers.
Is is always the case in well organized villages, the Iskaka resistance has a strong women presence. The women of Iskaka are organized in three different committees which deal with issues ranging from construction of agricultural roads to resistance to the wall.
At around 10:15 the procession left the village on its way to the bulldozers. About 300 people from Iskaka and Salfit, 10 internationals and 19 Israelis*. they were soon met by about 20 policemen and 40 soldiers. Some of the soldiers were snipers who had their clips in their guns and were taking aim at people. When demanded "what are you doing here! what are you doing with a sniper's gun!? " a soldier names Shuki responded "Obviously, I am here to kill arabs". Another soldier named Dafni was shooting rubber bullets at people from close range. Their commander was captain Gal who said that they did not violate his orders and in fact his orders were even more severe to prevent anyone from reaching the bulldozers. Other soldiers were shooting bursts of live ammunition but those were probably not aimed at anyone. In addition shock grenades were thrown at the crowd and gas would surely have been used had the wind not been at the demonstrators back.
In spite of the shooting, pushing and shoving and beatings the demonstrator were not provoked into stone throwing and manages to get past the lines of soldiers and to a distance of about 10 meters from the bulldozers. At that point the work stopped and a long stand off began. After about an hour, with or without an negotiated agreement with the army commanders the people of Iskaka moved a few meters forward and climbed onto the path cleared for the wall. A few speaches were made and the men prayed.
Small confrontation broke out between the nervous and angry soldiers who failed to stop the crowd and the shabab (youth) who wanted to move up another step or two. At this point a soldier who had the name Astbach written on his helmet (who we suspect is from the DCO office) announced that if a single stone is thrown he will shoot live ammunition into the crowd.
His threats to shoot at unarmed people were deemed serious enough for other soldiers to rush over to stop him from shooting when he took aim a few minutes later.
On the way back to the village, the frustration of the shabab was not contained anymore and stones were thrown at a passing truck. After the truck got out of the shabab's range the driver stuck an automatic gun out the window and shot a burst of live ammunition without looking.
The day should be considered a success. A spirited demonstration was mounted, the bulldozers were reached and stopped and no injuries or arrests occurred.
At the very most, the peace currently celebrated in op eds in Tel-Aviv and Washington will mean a relaxation of the violence and travel restrictions inside Palestine but no mention is made of a pause in the continuing process of Palestinian dispossession, let alone its reversal. While some might celebrate, the people of Iskaka and Salfit and their supporters will be struggling to hold on to what is left of their land in the coming months.
https://israel.indymedia.org/usermedia/image/8/1900_ISKAKA-iskaka-28-1-05-david-nir2.jpg truck from which shots were fired, photo credit David Nir More photographs:
* Editor note: "Israelis...." are of the radical anti-occupation activists spectrum - mainly from the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative and Ta'yush.