August 17, 2007
As the nonviolent protests and demonstrations against the Apartheid wall continue to gain momentum and strength in the Palestinian community in general and in villages in particular we are seeing even greater violent response and threat by the Israeli army. This is not new, in villages like Bil’in, the army has for two years responded to almost every nonviolent action with appalling violence.
As I have witnessed these actions grow, I remember the famous quote by Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
In some actions we have seen the soldiers ignore the protestors completely, they would not even come down from their army base to see what the protestors were doing, and once they ignored the protestors the goals of the actions were always achieved.
In some actions we saw Israeli soldiers ridicule and taunt the protestors, everything from commenting on how silly and insignificant the protests were, to trying to discourage and threaten the protestors, to using foul and obscene language.
In other cases and as a growing tactic, we are seeing greater movement by the Israeli army to fight, quell, and crush these nonviolent protests and actions.
This is what we witnessed in this Friday’s demonstration against the building of the Apartheid Wall in the village of Wallaja. Tens of villagers and Muslim worshippers from nearby areas conducted Friday prayer near a land that had for several days experienced the tragic uprooting and destruction of over 400 trees. More than 1,800 forest, olive, and fruit trees will be destroyed in order to build a section of the wall that will engulf the entire village.
After prayer the protestors moved to the land where we witnessed the tragic destruction taking place there. Once the protest on the land was over, the demonstrators began their return to the village on a path created for the heavy Israel bulldozers that are used to destroy the trees. The Israeli soldiers used tremendous violence against the protestors. Some of the soldiers blocked the protestors and pushed them including the women on the rocks causing many injuries. At least one of the soldiers loaded his machine gun threatening to use that type of force to suppress the nonviolent action. Even though there were many who were injured and one arrested (released later that afternoon), this action has truly empowered the villagers to break down the barrier of fear that has existed in their community.
Yes, it has been easy for those who are engaging in nonviolent action to withstand the Israeli army “ignoring” them and even “mocking” them, but now is the time to stand strong in the face of an Israeli army that recognizes the failure of these tactics and is now ready to “fight” those who engage in nonviolence…
The great thing about Gandhi’s quote is the fact he did not say “…then they fight you, then they lose …” He said “… then you win.” In nonviolence there are no losers, only winners and this is what the Israeli soldiers will one day realize.