Saturday, February 16

MCC Palestine Update #40

MCC Palestine Update #40

We received disappointing news the past week from our partner, the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ). ARIJ staffer Nader Hreimat called to tell us that Israeli bulldozers had plowed under several acres of crops planted by farmers participating in an ARIJ- directed field study of what seed varieties can best thrive in rain-fed farming conditions. The farmers' land, it turned out, had been confiscated for the construction of a bypass road to connect illegal Israeli colonies in the Bethlehem area with Jerusalem. More land confiscation’s, more despair, less hope for a dismantling of illegal Israeli colonies and a just sharing of Palestine/Israel. To learn more about ARIJ's work, look up its website:

Below are three pieces. The first, from the on-line journal Palestine Report, details conversations in the occupied territories about the possibilities of nonviolent direct action against the occupation. The second, by Israeli journalist Ran HaCohen, is a powerful analysis of occupation, terrorism, and their relationship. The final (third) piece is by a Palestinian staff member of Save the Children, reporting on his trip home to Nablus: unfortunately, his story is the daily reality for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

1. How to fight back
Joharah Baker, 13 February 2002

ASK PALESTINIANS what they think of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. and the answer will most likely be full of admiration and respect for the two activists. Some Palestinians have even memorized the famous phrase, “I have a dream…” coined by King in his fiery speech in August of 1963. In the same breath, however, most Palestinians will tell you that they do not have a Gandhi or King of their own nor do they think these men’s ideologies could ever be emulated in the Palestinian resistance movement.

The subject of non-violent resistance has recently become recurrent in Palestinian discourse, mostly among intellectuals, expatriates, politicians and internationals who have come to the Palestinian territories in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in protest of the ongoing Israeli occupation.

As Palestinians enter the 17th month of the Palestinian uprising, local and international individuals and groups are thinking up alternative ways to fight the injustices of the occupation without shedding so much blood. “Our tools of resistance have been wrong,” contends Haidar Abdel Shafi, former Palestinian negotiator and head of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. “It is wrong if we think we can win militarily - it is not realistic.”

But Abdel Shafi does not say that the Intifada must take on completely nonviolent methods, for the simple reason that he believes fire must be fought with fire. “You can fight through armed struggle,” he says. “If an armed settler comes to take your land or home by force you can meet him with arms. This is self-defense.”

He believes, however, that the armed struggle must draw a more direct cause and effect relationship between Israeli actions and the Palestinian response. Self-defense, Abdel Shafi says, must be focused against Israeli actions such as home demolitions, the uprooting of trees and the overall Israeli goal of breaking the Palestinian will. This responsibility falls on the shoulders of the leadership, says the Palestinian personage.

When Abdel Shafi speaks of nonviolence, he speaks in terms of resistance through endurance. “[The leadership] must help the people to remain steadfast,” he says, since the battle will be long and difficult. This entails aiding the Palestinian people economically and with moral support in the face of the Israeli assault. But Abdel Shafi shuns the suggestion that Palestinian circumstances are comparable to that of the Indians under British colonialism when asked if those same nonviolent methods of civil disobedience could be incorporated into the Palestinian resistance. “The British were not in India as a colonial occupation,” he notes. “Their goals were economic.” In contrast, Palestinians are fighting a battle for their very survival, he points out.

Israeli intentions, implemented through settlement construction and making Palestinians illegal on the land, remain expansionist in nature. Fateh general secretary in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti also rules out substituting military actions with nonviolent demonstration. “An occupation that is so heavily armed cannot be answered with nonviolence,” he says definitively. But, he compromises, the Palestinians can and do utilize peaceful means in their struggle against Israeli occupation. “All resistance is legitimate for the Palestinians - strikes, sit- ins and conferences, alongside armed confrontations.”

Historically, the Palestinian revolution has never adopted nonviolent resistance as an ideology. From the start and with the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, Palestinians pledged armed struggle against the usurpation of their land. Even when PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat made his dramatic appearance before the United Nations General Assembly in 1974, he made it clear that if forced, the Palestinians would continue their armed struggle against Israel. “I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun,” he told the international community. “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

With the continuation of Israeli occupation over Palestinian land captured in the 1967 War, Palestinians felt they had no other choice but to resist this occupation, a right enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention. As the Palestinian leadership in exile continued to support armed struggle against Israel, some voices emerged inside the occupied territories calling for a less violent approach.

In the early eighties, a soft-spoken Palestinian-Christian by the name of Mubarak Awad began to address Palestinians on the virtues of nonviolent resistance. In 1985, two years before the outbreak of the first Intifada, Awad started the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence. Although Awad’s views found a limited audience among Palestinians, they were never fully implemented. Israel, however, saw the activist as a threat. In June 1988, Awad was deported and settled in the United States where he set up an organization called Nonviolence International. Awad’s views did not get the widespread support that he had been hoping for among his fellow Palestinian citizens.

Today, Awad attributes this to his people’s lack of knowledge and understanding of nonviolence ideologies. “In the Arab mind, nonviolence is just surrendering to the one who has more power,” he told a Canadian interviewer.

But during the uprising of 1987, there were tangible signs that Palestinians were exercising some of the general concepts of non- violent resistance. The underground leadership of the Intifada called on Palestinians to boycott Israeli goods and work towards self- sufficiency by planting their own gardens. Neighborhood committees popped up throughout the different Palestinian cities, villages and camps, teaching children whose schools had been shut down and showing housewives how to can their own tomatoes, make their own pickles and knit their own sweaters.

But it was in the town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem that the residents showed the most determination to fight the occupation using nonviolent means. In 1988, the residents not only boycotted Israeli goods, but started a town-wide refusal to pay Israeli taxes. As their civil disobedience continued, Israel raided Beit Sahour, seizing cars, refrigerators, televisions and other properties.

That movement and its tactics never spread to other areas and eventually died off. Its memory, however, has not. As Palestinians and the outside world assess the approaches of the current Intifada, Beit Sahour is an experience that has not been forgotten. “I think this is a more courageous act than shooting at Gilo [Israeli settlement],” says Italian European Union parliamentary member Louisa Morgantini. “Their act of civil disobedience had a very strong effect in the first Intifada.” Morgantini does not deny that Palestinians have the right to resist the occupation. However, she feels that shooting, even at Israeli military targets, will not bring about positive results. “There is no strategy in this Intifada,” she says, mirroring Abdel Shafi’s thoughts. “The Intifada came as a reaction; people were fed up.” She says that the leadership must think in political terms of what could help the struggle, which she adds regretfully, has not happened in this uprising.

Morgantini still expresses hope that nonviolent tactics could eventually take over the guerilla activity prevalent in this Intifada. As part of an international campaign in support of the Palestinians, Morgantini has forced herself through Israeli checkpoints, brought down roadblocks and--along with Israeli peace activists--broken through the blockade around President Yasser Arafat to meet with him in his Ramallah headquarters. Still, she does not romanticize her actions and knows that the real beneficiary of these protests will be the audience in her own country. “We know that when we open a roadblock, the Israeli soldiers will come and close it again,” she says realistically. “But we were there and we take this back to our own countries and try to put pressure back home.”

She believes these kinds of supportive activities are important because Palestinians are less at risk when internationals are involved. Israeli soldiers are more wary of shooting live ammunition into a crowd when there are Europeans, Americans or Israelis among the Palestinian protestors. But she does not blame the current atmosphere on Palestinians alone. She believes that developing a culture of nonviolence is a matter of concern for the whole world--not just Palestinians. At this moment in time, she says, the world is far from this goal. “The culture in Europe and in the US is a culture of war not of peace,” she says. Besides, she continues, the world demands too much of Palestinians. “Everyone in the world asks of the Palestinians - who are the most oppressed - to be perfect. I don’t ask that.”

Other foreigners engaged in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are more passionate about the option of nonviolent resistance on the ground. In an article published on the website Palestine Chronicle, American writer Paul Larudee says in simple terms why nonviolent resistance should be given a chance in the Palestinian uprising. “It is not that violence or even certain types of violence are immoral or that nonviolence is somehow nobler. It is that violent resistance plainly is not getting the job done,” he writes. By obeying Israeli soldiers at the checkpoints and producing their identification cards on demand, he says, Palestinians are following the rules laid down by the occupier. “The power of an occupier, an oppressor or a government is its ability to control a population. In order to do so, the people must consent to be controlled. Once this consent is removed, the occupier is powerless,” Larudee writes.

On the ground, these ideas seem to be taking root within a limited circle. The International Solidarity Movement - a group of international, Israeli and Palestinian activists - come together periodically to protest the ongoing Israeli occupation and to show their support for the Palestinian struggle for freedom. According to their press material, they break through roadblocks, stop tanks, rebuild demolished homes and peacefully protest unjust Israeli measures. Their coordinated actions are based on the idea that without internationals among them, Palestinians would be much more vulnerable to Israeli violence. But according to some Palestinians, what is needed more than a shift to nonviolent methods of resistance is a reorganization of strategies for this resistance. If this were accomplished, the resistance would develop a life of its own, they say. “We can tolerate and endure suffering much longer and much better than the Israelis,” says Abdel Shafi confidently. The battle, he argues, is an extended one and Palestinians need better planning to persevere. “I think the Palestinian people are a miracle,” says Louisa Morgantini. “I don’t understand how they can continue to resist such aggression - how do they not explode.”- Published 13/2/02© 2002 Palestine Report.

2. Letter From Israel
Ran HaCohen, 15 February 2002

Terrorism vs. Occupation > >Readers very often accuse me that I do not write about Palestinian terrorism against Israel. A typical reader writes: "if Israeli gunmen were going in Palestinian pizza places, weddings, buses, discos, shoe stores and deliberately massacring Palestinian civilians, Ran HaCohen would go on a tirade against Israel. Yet he remains silent on Arab terrorism against Israeli civilians." I would like to relate to this accusation. But before doing that, let me pay a small tribute to a brave Israeli soldier who refuses to serve in the occupied territories any longer.

The Tel-Aviv weekly "Ha'Ir" last week printed forty short evidences of such refusers; here is one of them. Not the most shocking one. The harder stuff sometimes makes it to the news. But it illustrates some of the daily, banal routines of occupation, countless similar scenes that take place every day, every night, in endless variations. And they all count as "no news".

A SOLDIER'S STORY "Jabaliya (a refugee camp near Gaza). Terrible heat. It's after midnight, we are on our way to arrest "wanted people" - small criminals and tax-evaders whom the Shin Bet wants to blackmail. We surround the area and storm into the house. The officer quickly climbs the wall and I, his signalman, close behind him. We break into the "house": a single small room, blankets on the floor, four kids aged two to six or seven. They and the parents - a young woman and a not so young man - all wake up in panic, weeping and yelling. They are hysteric, and we, very young soldiers, too.

We shout at them to shut up and at the man to dress up, and "search" the home. There is nothing to find, nothing to look for. Handcuffs, and out to the lorry. Several arrested Palestinians have been gathered there, and someone from the Civil Administration is 'taking care' of them: slaps in the face, kicking. I want to say something, but off we go to the Shin Bet camp.
The man we have arrested is smashed at the lorry's floor, weeping, sobbing in fear, with a broken voice, 'I beg you, I beg you...'" (written by Sergeant (res.) Yotam Cohen)

ALTRUISM AND DISTRACTION Now back to why I don't write on terrorism. Surprisingly, this accusation comes mostly from American readers. At first I thought I should be grateful for this rare token of altruism: Are people living in the US actually more concerned about my well-being than I am?! But as all too often the complaints ended with such cordial blessing as "you racist anti-Semite", I gathered that pure altruism might not be the true motivation.

So why do people want me to talk about terrorism? Surely not because they know too little about it. As a mourning Palestinian mother said last week, international press would pay more attention to a Jewish settler's dog injured in a terrorist attack than to her dead child.

Terrorism is the most popular term in Middle East media coverage, and still people want me to talk about it too. So why? I believe it is because those people do not want me to talk about another term: occupation. Note how seldom this term is used when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dealt with. In fact, when you hear someone say "terrorism" over and over again, you can be certain he won't use the term "occupation".

TERRORISM VS. OCCUPATION Terrorism and Occupation may look like twin brothers. Both are illegitimate: occupation is acknowledged by international law, but for a limited time, not for 35 years; resistance to occupation (which is what Palestinian terrorism is about) is legitimate too, but not when innocent people are targeted. Both are murderous: innocent Israelis fall victim to terrorism, innocent Palestinians fall victim to occupation.

Terrorism is pervasive: it threatens all Israelis;

Occupation is even more pervasive: all Palestinians are under occupation, and as we have seen above, while terrorism can get Israelis in pizza places or discos, occupation visits Palestinians in bed, either by a missile or because some Shin Bet agent wants to blackmail them into collaboration.

Needless to say, the number of Palestinian victims of the occupation overwhelmingly exceeds the number of Israeli victims of terrorism - if you like, one more reason to talk about occupation more than terrorism. Israel, especially since September 11th but even long before, has been trying to convince the world that the Palestinian Authority, not just individual Palestinians, is engaged in terrorism.

True or not, the uncontroversial reality is that the State of Israel, not individual Israelis, is running the occupation. Israel sometimes claims that the occupation has been forced upon it against its will. It is one of the most ridiculous claims I have ever heard, but this is actually what Ehud Barak's celebrated "analytical mind" was trying to sell us: that because he had supposedly made some "generous offers" to the Palestinians, and because they had supposedly rejected these offers, Israel could not stop the occupation. Sounds ridiculous? Ask some Israel fans and you'll see how seriously they take this joke.

WHY OCCUPATION? The simple fact is that Israel is occupying the territories because it wants to occupy them. It does not withdraw from them, because it wants to take the land for settlements, for water and for regional strategic considerations. It does not annex them, because it does not want to give citizenship to three million Palestinians. Occupation is the only way to satisfy both aims. It may be direct occupation, it may be an indirect one: in fact, Israel is generously offering the Palestinians both options. Israel's present message to Arafat is expressed clearly and shamelessly: either you comply with the occupation, or we replace you with some other "leaders" who will. Shimon Peres prefers the former option, Sharon prefers the latter. They both support the occupation, they have both done more than any other Israeli politician for the sake of the Israeli settlements, they differ in tactics but share the same cause.

ENLIGHTENED OCCUPATION Centuries of colonialism have proved that "an enlightened occupation" is a contradiction is terms. Occupation cannot be tolerable and therefore cannot be tolerated. Expecting a people to live without political rights is both unreasonable and immoral. The occupied Palestinians, in order to get rid of the occupation, use violence - verbal violence, physical violence, violence against soldiers and settlers and deplorable violence against innocent people. Thus, the occupation becomes ever more violent and the deprivation of political rights is inevitably followed by violations of human rights.

You cannot oppress one people for the sake of another without resorting to atrocities. It starts with exploiting one's weakness (a sick elderly mother, a sick child) to blackmail one into collaboration, it goes all the way through torture, siege, starving and killing and it ends in letting a pregnant woman die with her infant at a checkpoint. As Friedrich Schiller said, this is the curse of the evil deed: it inevitably gives birth to ever more evil.

Indeed, Palestinian terrorism has increased step by step with occupation; the cruelest stage of occupation, with the whole world singing the praises of Oslo while the settlements were expanding rapidly and the canonization of the territories by checkpoints and highways was advancing in an unprecedented high pace, gave birth to the appalling phenomenon of Palestinians whose despair had overwhelmed them to the point of being ready to die in order to kill their oppressors. Just like the 200,000 settlers, just like the hundreds of checkpoints, the suicide bombers haven't always been there: they emerged in a specific historical context.

HOW TO STOP TERRORISM So why don't I talk of terrorism? Because Palestinian Terrorism is not the Occupation's twin brother, but rather its murderous offspring. Like father, like son. Terrorism is horrible; but occupation too, and the former is the result of the latter. To stop the circle of violence, to stop terrorism, the occupation must stop first. Since a one-state solution seems unlikely under the present circumstances, Israel must end the occupation by withdrawing all its forces, dismantling all its settlements and letting the Palestinians establish a true independent state in the entire territories occupied in 1967.

This is the only way to uproot terrorism, not bulldozing the Gaza strip or aiming a cannon at imprisoned Arafat's head. Talking of terrorism has become a way to keep silent about occupation. This is what some readers want me to do: to stop talking about occupation and to talk about terrorism instead. Sorry, guys: talking about Palestinian terrorism will not save anyone's life. It's talking about occupation that will hopefully bring both occupation and terrorism -in this order - to an end.

3. Dear all,

Although you might be experiencing something similar every day, the story of my trip home yesterday is something I want to share with you. After 2 days of not being able to get to Nablus, where I live with my family, I thought obeying Israeli army orders to be back at the checkpoint before 16:00 hours will help me reach home. So I shortened my working day and was able to reach the entry checkpoint of Huwara at 15:00.

An Ethiopian soldier rudely shouted at me and told me that I did not have the right to enter the city. His colleague supported him and threatened violence if I did not leave the area. Of course I called Rania [SC’s Program/Admin. Assistant] so that she could contact the appropriate people to facilitate my journey home.

Obviously, this level of coordination has become tiresome to Palestinian professionals always asking for better treatment; and when none of the phone calls to the IDF Civil Administration paid off by 16:15, I decided to try another entry point.

At the other entry point (Awarta), a Russian soldier was again denying the right of the locals to reach their families at the other side of the checkpoint. Interesting! Witnessing all that from my viewpoint and in order to save time, I decided to park the car at Huwara village and walk through Till. On my way to park the car, I encountered a flying checkpoint with other Ethiopian soldiers blocking the way for another 30 minutes and after parking the car, I joined a group of pharmacists to walk through Till.

When I reached Till, it was already dark and there was no one around. Even the donkey Othman [SC’s EEGP Project Manager who is also from the North] used earlier this morning was tired and he ended his day. As a result, I had to walk 13 kms through the mountains to reach the first point to get a taxi home. On our way, fearing the soldiers above the hill on the left side, we were listening to Israeli soldiers singing songs in different languages and this helped keep us calm.

I felt really angry that somebody all the way from Ethiopia or Russia has the nerve to stand at the door of my house and prevent me from reaching Nasha`at (my 4 -year old son) and his mother. On the lighter side, the walk through Till was good exercise. The walk had obviously increased the level of endorphins (hormones that the body produces and have a similar effect as morphine) in my blood and when I reached home, I was in a good mood.

This is my story for today! Enjoy it.


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