As has become a tradition, every Friday we join what sometimes are tens and other times are hundreds of Palestinians, internationals and Israeli nonviolent activists demonstrating against the Apartheid wall that is being build around Palestinian villages in the Southern part of Bethlehem. Once completed, the wall will eat up more than 70% of the agricultural land in this area alone and ultimately destroy villages that have existed for hundreds of years.
This week also included a special occasion; it is the week Palestinians remember those who are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Our call this Friday was not only to release Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails but to also stop the building of the big open-aired prisons that the rest of us are being locked in.
The organizing of the direct action for this week’s event was not different than previous events. The commitment was not to engage in any form of violence against the Israeli army or any act that might be interpreted as violence and give the Israeli soldiers the usual “justification” as to why they attack demonstrators –if they wanted to suppress us then let them do it because we engaged in nonviolence.
The nonviolent demonstration began with a march that started in the village of Wadi Nees and ended on the private properties of farmers whose lands are being confiscated for the building of the Wall in the village of Jorat El-Sham’a. In remembering the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners we chained our hands, raised the Palestinian flags and called for their (and our) release. Once we reached the location some of the participants chained themselves to cement slabs being used for the construction of the wall, others symbolically destroyed a section of the wall, and others burned the wood used to build this ugly structure. As the Israeli army approached we gathered in the middle of the road, sat on the ground and declared to the soldiers our commitment to nonviolence.
What happened then was truly a sign of absolute despair and powerlessness by the Israeli army. Every attempt to provoke us to use violence against them failed (pointing their machine guns at us, threatening to use shock grenades, and using foul language and threatening remarks), every attempt to scare us failed; our commitment was to send a message to them and to the world that the power of Understanding how empowered we had become, realizing that their weapons and threats had become futile, and wanting to destroy what we had achieved and scare us from continuing our future protests, the Israeli soldiers were ordered by their commanders to physically attack, beat, and arrest us. Many were physically hurt and one was arrested, but even in that, we never showed any sign of violence. We only shouted “peace and nonviolence.”
The soldiers were not ordered to remove us from the site or to dismantle the protest, as is usually the case, the orders were to “teach you a lesson” as one soldier remarked to one of the protestors. The only lesson that can be taught to a group of nonviolent protestors is to never engage in nonviolence again. Nonviolence exposes injustice, nonviolence exposes discrimination, nonviolence threatens established structures, and most of all nonviolence empowers others to move.
Yes, there was brutal and even barbaric force used by the Israeli army against us in order to discourage and even scare us from protesting nonviolently against the construction of the Wall, but at the end of the day only one statement was made by the activists…“We will be back again and the more force Israeli soldiers use, the more powerful our commitment to nonviolence will be.”
Pictures Credit: Muhamad Zboun- PNN