Cracks in Israel’s “National Unity” & More Earth-Moving Protests

TEL AVIV – This week Sharon made his first major blunder. An attempt to start reconquering the territory handed over to the Palestinians during the Oslo process was too much even for the highly
indulgent Bush Administration and brought about a sharp public rebuke from the US State Department – followed by a hasty evacuation of Israeli forces from
that area. The embarassed Sharon attempting to push all responsibility unto the army led to bitter recriminations between ministers and generals.

TEL AVIV – This week Sharon made his first major blunder. An attempt to start reconquering the territory handed over to the Palestinians during the Oslo process was too much even for the highly
indulgent Bush Administration and brought about a sharp public rebuke from the US State Department – followed by a hasty evacuation of Israeli forces from
that area. The embarassed Sharon attempting to push all responsibility unto the army led to bitter recriminations between ministers and generals.

Though much of the Israeli peace camp remains dispirited and atomized, not in a condition to react as vigorously as could be expected under such circumstances, there are now at least some visible cracks in the wall of “national unity”.

Meanwhile in our own circles (the “radical” peace camp) no signs of confusion, on the contrary: A few hundred Israelis are starting on the path of nonviolent resistance to the occupation, in partnership with Palestinians.

Several acts falling withing this category took place in the past week alone. The most recent, which is still very fresh in our minds, was yesterday – at
the army earthen barrier near the village of Bidia on the Old Trans-Samaria Highway.

Breaking Through the Bidia Barrier:

Trans-Samaria, a highway with a curious history. It was created by the Shamir Government more than a decade ago, as a main highway for the settlers. But the Palestinian villagers of Bidia, Mesha and several smaller places had the temerity to also start using this smooth, high-quality highway which was erected
on their confiscated fields.

Following the outbreak of the new Intifada last September,a new Trans-Samaria was hastily created several kilometres to the south, and this time reserved for settler use only and the old one was put out of commission by two huge earthen barriers erected across it, leaving the villagers almost completely bottled in. Already more than half a year, their only access to the outside world is the
old, roundabout, unpaved road, which was never very comfortable and which has become hardly passable after so many years of neglect .

It was to the now barred old/new road that we travelled on Wednesday afternoon April 17. At the call of Rabbi Arik Asherman some thirty Israeli peace activists had made themselves free on this working day – from Gush Shalom, the Women’s
Coalition and ICAHD. A similar number of internationals – mostly Italians, led by the indefatigable Luisa Morgantini, Member of European Parliament. From the other side of the barrier came a crowd of Palestinian villagers – several hundreds,
ranging from youths to respectable old village notables, brandishing Palestinian flags and digging tools. There was only a single army jeep on the spot. The soldiers made no effort to stop us from joining the Palestinians, but one of them was very busy talking on the radio.

We fell into work with hardly any preliminaries. It was a far more formidable barrier than the one which we successfully demolished three weeks ago at Rantis Village. Not only more than two metres high piled earth, but having on top several huge rocks, weighing tons apiece and looking decidedly immovable. But under the pressure of thirty pairs of hands pushing in unison, the great mass suddently moved and rolled down the slope, to the sound of a ragged cheer.

All the while, more and more army jeeps kept arriving, as did two police patrol cars. Suddenly, a voice on the loudspeaker informed us that we were in a Closed Military Zone, and that anybody failing to leave immediately would be arrested. We kept on working.

Suddenly, a line of soldiers came surging, the officer waving his rifle as a conductor’s baton. We sat down on the partially-demolished barrier, locking arms. The police, following the soldiers, took us up one by one – each having four police at the hands and feet, to be carried all the way to a waiting paddy wagon. They concentrated on arresting Israelis and internationals; only two of those detained were Palestinians. But with the two paddy wagons full
to capacity, there were still quite some Israelis and internationals there, mixed up with the villagers. The military seemed stumped, and the stand- off
continued for some half an hour more.

Then, suddenly, the barrage began – tear gas cannisters raining down on the remaining protesters of all nationalities, as did shock grenades which are
supposed to cause great noise but no actual damage. That is, if the soldiers take care not to shoot them too close to somebody. In this case, one exploded very near the leg of the 72-year old Hava Keller, director of the Tel-Aviv Women for Politicial Prisoners and active participant in half a dozen other groups.

The Israeli first aid station for this region is located
at a settlement and staffed by settlers, and they were far from enthusiastic at the request to send an ambulance. In the end, Keller was carried by the
Palestinians over the earthen barriers, and the finally-arrived Israeli ambulance took her to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva.

Meanwhile, inside the speeding police cars the 15 detainees were off to the police station at Ariel settlement. Those at the front engaged the police guards in a political debate so intense that the latter did not notice detainees in the back pulling mobile phones out of the pockets and calling the the press.

Already en route, the detainees decided on a policy of solidarity – either all are realesed, or none. As it turned out, the police was bent on singling out Neta Golan, who is already well-known in this station house from her several earlier manifestations of civil disobedience. But faced with a united front of
the other detainees, the police relented and offered Golan bail on the same terms as the rest of us – an undertaking not to return to “the scene of the
crime” for the next two weeks.

To their chagrin, we all rejected that condition, too; in the end, we got expelled from the station with no binding conditions at all. The two Palestinians who were released with us – and for whom the whole
adventure had been much more risky – did sign that they would not come near the controversial road anymore.

Once out of the police station we were informed that two activists travelling by car between the site of the action and the Ariel settlement’s police station where we were held had themselves become the target of a bullet spray. The owner of the car, Muhammed Asi – an Israeli-Palestinian – was taken to hospital
with light injuries on his hand and suffering from shock. The woman, Yasmin Khayal, 22, a German-Palestinian, avoided injury by remaining crouched in the car. The army told them that it had been Palestinian fire, but seemed in no hurry to go after the perpetrators. The fire actually came from the direction of the Israeli settlement of Brukhim…

Sign the “Our Jerusalem, Capital of Two States” petition:


full text in Hebrew, Arabic and English at gush-shalom.org

Sign also the petition to implore the President of the United States to withhold moving the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem:

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[also see related article: 200 Israelis Reopen Blocked West Bank Road by Hand ]

Author:

News Service: Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc)

URL: http://www.gush-shalom.org/