[Marxism] Anti-occupation Israelis

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 28 07:36:35 MDT 2006

Breaking barriers

The international press may not report them, but anti-occupation Israelis 
are increasingly forming alliances with Palestinians to protest.
Rachel Shabi

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 
through violence.

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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