[Marxism] Anti-occupation Israelis
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 28 07:36:35 MDT 2006
The international press may not report them, but anti-occupation Israelis
are increasingly forming alliances with Palestinians to protest.
When Matan Cohen got shot in the eye, it was another shocking reminder of
the dangers facing Israeli protesters in the West Bank. In late February,
this 17-year-old was hit by an Israeli border police-fired rubber bullet at
a demonstration against the Israeli separation fence in the Palestinian
village of Beit Sira.
Its neighbouring village, Bil'in has held such protests every Friday for
over a year now. Here, just like at Beit Sira, the path of the separation
wall cuts into and thereby confiscates land once belonging to the village.
Campaigners estimate that Israeli and foreign casualties from plastic
bullets and tear-gas canisters run into the hundreds and on the Palestinian
side, many times more.
Israelis who consider demonstrating in the West Bank have to climb several
steep hurdles. First, there's the socially ingrained terror of venturing
into Palestinian territories, then the hate and derision from Israeli
society at large. Those who manage to surmount those obstacles are then
faced with the very real prospect of injury - at the hands of Israeli
settlers or the Israeli army (which, according to Matan, claims he was hit
in the eye by a protester-thrown stone).
Yet, in the face of such daunting barriers, Israelis continue to form
active anti-occupation alliances and on many levels. On any day of the week
(except the Sabbath), volunteers with Rabbis for Human Rights can be found
dotted around villages within the West Bank, currently helping to plough
land and shielding against settler violence.
Every weekend, Israeli volunteers with Doctors without Borders take a
mobile medical unit into the West Bank. The last time I saw them, they were
being welcomed into the Hamas-controlled village of Seida having spent
several hours trying to penetrate a complex system of Israeli checkpoints.
The group doesn't, as is required of Israeli citizens, seek permission from
the army to access Palestinian-controlled areas; doctors, one of them tells
me, don't need entry permits.
A few weeks ago a group called Artists Without the Wall met on each side of
the separation wall at Abu Dis near East Jerusalem, with drums. Around a
hundred demonstrators drummed together, through the concrete, while images
of the protest on each side were projected onto the wall of the other. The
event organisers seek to challenge the wall by turning it into a bridge,
not a divide; a few years ago the same group staged a tennis match, using
the wall as the net.
Having met in secret for over a year, former Israeli and Palestinian
fighters recently launched a new peace group, Combatants for Peace. The
group states that, having previously looked at each other only through
weapon sights, they no longer believe that the conflict can be resolved
Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian universities are planning a first joint
action, to take place at a West Bank checkpoint and for which, organisers
say, students on both sides have been signing up in droves.
Such events rarely hit the international press, but in Israel are now
regularly covered. Matan's story, along with those of other anti-wall
activists, recently took up six pages in Israel's widest circulation
newspaper, Yediot Aharonot (translation).For marginalized protesters, it
was quite a novelty to see a largely sympathetic article in a populist paper.
Perhaps, as the actions and motivations of these Israelis become better
known, they might appear more acceptable, less extreme - normal, even.
Perhaps then such exposure will make it harder to shoot at someone like Matan.
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