Sunday, April 22, 2007

Palestine-Israel, The nonviolent joint struggle in Bil'in and Um Salmuna region continued this Friday. 22 Apr 2007

In Bil'in, the Friday demonstration was at the end of the three days international conference of nonviolent struggle. Participants from all over the world gathered, discussed, and heard also about the struggle in Bil'in. Part of the conference was a ceremonial bestowing of honor on few activists involved in the struggle. The persons honored included the oldest of the regular participants in the Bil'in struggle Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom (peace block), and the most severely injured in it Limor Goldstein (who came - and still come with AATW initiative) a "rubber" coated metal bullet penetrated his head, nearly killed him and caused a long term damages.
As introduction for the demonstration, about an hour before it started, a team of internationals and Israelis of the anarchists against the wall succeeded to put a Palestinian Flag on the high security camera tower of the separation fence, to be seen by all from kilometers around it.
This moral buster colored the march at noon of few hundred people towards the rote of the separation fence which included chants and short speeches. When we were descending down the hill the Israeli state force guarding the route of the separation fence on the next hill started to shower us with tear gas canisters - forcing most of the marchers to retreat a bit. Few, who were at the head of the march succeeded to continue their march up the hill till they were blocked by the soldiers not far from the route of the separation fence.
From that moment on, we were in about two hours of attrition war with the state force. Whenever they tried to force the main body of the demonstration to return to the village using shower of tear gas and shooting rubber coated bullets we retreated a bit with many dispersing among the olive trees on the side of the road. As the barrage of tear gas ended and the gas was carried away by a friendly Northern gusts of wind, we regrouped and advanced again.

After a long confrontation, and many injured by bullets and tear gas, the state forces yielded, and let us advance half the way up the hill where they stood in a line to block our advance.

All the time, in parallel to the struggle of the main body, the ones who succeeded to approach the lone house near the fence were harassed again and again, but the state force failed to force them to retreat.

During this time, the people supporting the comrade who climbed the security tower to hang the Palestinian flag and cover the security camera discouraged the state force from releasing the camera or forcing the comrade down. At the end of the demonstration, the comrade climbed down, and the state force sent up their climber to get the flag down. They also detained 8 of the people involved, releasing all an hour after the demo ended except the comrade who hung the flag which was kept in custody.

Media report:
Nobel Peace Laureate wounded & Puerto Rican climber/peace-activist arrested in Bil`in by Ali Waked - Ynet -
Irish Laureate Mayread Corrigan "I salute the residents of Bilin for their peaceful struggle in a region that is so violent and I call on the Israeli public, whom I know is for justice and peace, to support the residents` struggle." // "The wall is believed to be evil and illegal by the whole world" said Tito Kayak, who was arrested in 2000 for climbing to the top deck of the Statue of Liberty in New York. [see also MA`AN / PNN].

Alt Palestinian Media: Palestinian villagers show solidarity with American shooting-victims as anti-Wall protest

"We have gathered here for a very special occasion. Today we will demonstrate our solidarity with the 32 victims of the Virginia-Tech University shooting. They were killed indiscriminately; the bullets did not differentiate between Jews, Christians or Muslims, between Americans, Israelis, Arabs, Indians, Puerto-Ricans or others". This is how Mahmoud Zawahra, of the Popular Committee in Wadi Niss near Bethlehem, opened Friday's weekly demonstration against the Apartheid Wall being built on the village's lands. It has been about two months now that residents of Wadi Niss, in cooperation with those of neighboring villages Um-Salmuna and Wadi Rachel, have been demonstrating constantly, at least once every week, against the Wall. Demonstrations began after the first bulldozers came and started uprooting trees and roads for the planned wall, which will de-facto annex much of the land of all three villages to the near by Jewish settlement of Afrat, and will separate the villages from several main roads. And so last Friday a few dozen villagers from the three villages, along with activists from Bethlehem, Israel [Mainly AATW I.S.] and abroad, went on this unique demonstration in solidarity with those murdered in Virginia-Tech. In his opening speech, Zawahra continued to explain the idea of the demonstration: "Today we will be planting 32 olive trees on the route of the Wall, carrying the message of 'plant trees don't build walls'. We will act nonviolently, though we expect the army to become very violent. Please, don't respond to their provocations, and let us go through with our mission, have a quite memorial ceremony, and return home".

Demonstrators marched peacefully towards the route, where the land has already been flattened and some concrete has already been laid as basic structures for the wall to come, carrying the young olive trees and the signs: "For Virginia" we support you" and "End the violence". Once the plantings where underway, the Israeli soldiers and Border-Policemen came. They seemed puzzled by this unique and completely quite bunch of people, determined to plant trees in the hard and bare rock the bulldozers left. When two demonstrators came closer to the army officers and planted a tree at their feet, the entire group turned around and left the area. From that point on there were no more disturbances from the army's side.

Once the trees were planted everybody gathered to hear the words of Sammy Aw'ad, of a Bethlehem-based NGO. "Instead of walls – let us plant trees of peace for Israel and Palestine," pleaded Aw'ad. "We want to send a message to the families of those killed in Virginia-Tech: we understand your pain. We understand the pain of loosing your children. I am now going to read the names of the 32 victims, for each of whom we have now planted a tree, and I ask everybody hear to stand in silence in their memory, and think of someone whom you have lost to the violence of the occupation".

After the names were called, Awa'd and Zawahra declared that the demonstration was a great success and a victory for the villagers against the army. They promised to return time and time again, until the occupation will be over. On the way back to the village I talked to a young Israeli activist. Nir Landao, of Tel-Aviv, was once a soldier himself. When asked about his thoughts on the villagers' choice to carry-out non-violent demonstrations, Landao said he thinks such demonstrations are "much stronger". "The only way for Israel to end the occupation is if there will be international sanctions against it," he reflected, "and the world will be easier convinced by these actions rather than by violent ones, which Israel uses to strengthen its case of being a victim. On the other hand, I was brought up learning how Jews were massacred in the Holocaust without any resistance, so I can understand how important it is for a people to fights-back in defense". "You know, I was looking at the soldiers there, and I remembered myself being in their place," Landao continued, "and I really think they don't know what they're doing here. They think they're here to defend Jews, and that anyone who's an obstacle in their way should be 'stopped', in any way possible". I asked Landao what made him change sides and become an activist for the anti-occupation cause, and he said it happened when he stopped learning about reality through the media, and "started to look at reality through reality, through going to the places where things happen and meeting the people here. That is how I started realizing what Israel is doing to an entire people".

Summing up the demonstration from his point of view, Dr. Mohammed Aw'da from Bethlehem agreed with Landao's perspective on the importance of getting the world to know what was going on in Palestine. "Israel is trying to draw its final and permanent boarders now, and it is doing it one-sidedly," he said, "these boarders create small Palestinian cantons, but they are really more like concentration camps than cantons, as people are besieged in them, people cannot work, and many are going hungry. This encourages people to leave their land, run away and give it all up to Jewish settlers. We call upon the world to intervene as it did against other concentration camps".

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