[Marxism] We will not obey

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 27 10:25:22 MDT 2011

NY Times July 26, 2011
Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach

TEL AVIV — Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the 
women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then 
joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back 
their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.

Most had never seen the sea before.

The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West 
Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They 
risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women 
who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the 
point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws.

In the grinding rut of Israeli-Palestinian relations — no 
negotiations, mutual recriminations, growing distance and 
dehumanization — the illicit trip was a rare event that joined the 
simplest of pleasures with the most complex of politics. It showed 
why coexistence here is hard, but also why there are, on both 
sides, people who refuse to give up on it.

“What we are doing here will not change the situation,” said Hanna 
Rubinstein, who traveled to Tel Aviv from Haifa to take part. “But 
it is one more activity to oppose the occupation. One day in the 
future, people will ask, like they did of the Germans: ‘Did you 
know?’ And I will be able to say, ‘I knew. And I acted.’ ”

Such visits began a year ago as the idea of one Israeli, and have 
blossomed into a small, determined movement of civil disobedience.

Ilana Hammerman, a writer, translator and editor, had been 
spending time in the West Bank learning Arabic when a girl there 
told her she was desperate to get out, even for a day. Ms. 
Hammerman, 66, a widow with a grown son, decided to smuggle her to 
the beach. The resulting trip, described in an article she wrote 
for the weekend magazine of the newspaper Haaretz, prompted other 
Israeli women to invite her to speak, and led to the creation of a 
group they call We Will Not Obey. It also led a right-wing 
organization to report her to the police, who summoned her for 

In a newspaper advertisement, the group of women declared: “We 
cannot assent to the legality of the Law of Entry into Israel, 
which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all 
regions between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River while 
depriving Palestinians of this same right. They are not permitted 
free movement within the occupied territories nor are they allowed 
into the towns and cities across the green line, where their 
families, their nation, and their traditions are deeply rooted.

“They and we, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear 
and resolute mind. In this way we were privileged to experience 
one of the most beautiful and exciting days of our lives, to meet 
and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with 
them, to be free women, if only for one day.”

The police have questioned 28 Israeli women; their cases are 
pending. So far, none of the Palestinian women and girls have been 
caught or questioned by the police.

The beach trip last week followed a pattern: the Palestinian women 
went in disguise, which meant removing clothes rather than 
covering up. They sat in the back seats of Israeli cars driven by 
middle-aged Jewish women and took off headscarves and long gowns. 
As the cars drove through an Israeli Army checkpoint, everyone 
just waved.

Earlier, the Israelis had dropped off toys and equipment at the 
home of one of the Palestinian women, who is setting up a 
kindergarten. The Israelis also help the Palestinian women with 
medical and legal troubles.

Israel’s military, which began limiting Palestinian movement into 
Israel two decades ago to prevent terrorism at a time of violent 
uprisings, is in charge of issuing permits for Palestinian visits 
to Israel. About 60,000 will be issued this year, twice the number 
for 2010 but still a token amount for a population of 2.5 million. 
Ms. Hammerman views the permits as the paperwork of colonialist 
bureaucrats — to be resisted, not indulged. Others have attacked 
her for picking and choosing which laws she will and will not obey.

The Palestinian visitors came with complicated histories. In most 
of their families the men have been locked up at some point. For 
example, Manal, who had never been to the sea before, is 36, the 
mother of three and pregnant; five of her brothers are in Israeli 
prisons, and another was killed when he entered a settler 
religious academy armed with a knife.

She brought with her an unsurprising stridency. “This is all 
ours,” she said in Tel Aviv. She did not go home a Zionist, but in 
the course of the day her views seemed to grow more textured — or 
less certain — as she found comfort in the company of Israeli 
women who said that they, too, had a home on this land.

Another visitor lives in a refugee camp with her husband and 
children. Her husband’s family does not approve of her visits (“ 
‘How can you be with the Jews?’ they ask me. ‘Are you a 
collaborator?’ ”) but she did not hide the relief she felt at 
leaving her overcrowded camp for a day of friends and fun.

The beach trips — seven so far — have produced some tense moments. 
An effort to generate interest in a university library fell flat. 
An invitation to spend the night met with rejection by Palestinian 
husbands and fathers. Home-cooked Israeli food did not make a big 
impression. And at a predominantly Jewish beach, a policeman made 
everyone nervous.

So, on this latest visit, the selected beach was one in Jaffa that 
is frequented by Israeli Arabs. Nobody noticed the visitors.

Dinner was a surprise. Hagit Aharoni, a psychotherapist and the 
wife of the celebrity chef Yisrael Aharoni, is a member of the 
organizing group, so the beachgoers dined on the roof of the 
Aharonis’ home, five floors above stylish Rothschild Boulevard, 
where hundreds of tents are currently pitched by Israelis angry 
with the high cost of housing. The guests loved Mr. Aharoni’s 
cooking. They lighted cigarettes — something they cannot do in 
public at home — and put on joyous Palestinian music. As the pink 
sun set over the Mediterranean, they danced with their Israeli 

Ms. Aharoni was asked her thoughts. She replied: “For 44 years, we 
have occupied another country. I am 53, which means most of my 
life I have been an occupier. I don’t want to be an occupier. I am 
engaged in an illegal act of disobedience. I am not Rosa Parks, 
but I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that 
was not right.”

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