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Nonviolence in Palestine-Israel
The small West Bank Palestinian village of Bil’in depends on agriculture for its livelihood, but since 1980 has lost some 60% of its farmland to illegal Israeli settlements and the illegal separation wall.
Bil’in’s response? For over four years, after Friday prayers each week, the Bil’in popular committee has organised a nonviolent walk to the wall, often with Israeli and international supporters, to demand access to its land, and has been stopped by Israeli troops making arrests and firing tear gas, sound bombs, rubber bullets and even live ammunition. Different ways of illustrating their oppression has been devised.
Thus, on 9 October, prevented from harvesting olives on their land, the walkers filled their sacks with the tear gas canisters littering their land and took them back to the village where they made a pile of them as a symbol of occupation. In retaliation, for the last three months, the village has been subject to frequent night raids by Israeli troops looking for youths wanted for stone-throwing, and subjecting the inhabitants to intimidation, destruction and assault.
In doggedly continuing its weekly protest, Bil’in has itself become a symbol of nonviolent resistance to Israeli oppression and many people have come to Bil’in to show their support – as did Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter on 27 August this year, and also Shministim (see below), and, on 20 October, 120 international cyclists who had cycled from Amman arrived, joined by members of Palestine’s only cycle club.
In October, 80 Israeli school students signed a letter announcing their refusal to serve in the Israeli army. The letter began: “We Jewish and Arab teens from throughout Israel hereby announce that we object to Israel’s oppressive policy in the occupied territories and within the state of Israel, and therefore we will refuse to take part in these activities, which are carried out in our name by the Israeli Defense Army.”
Two Shministim (Hebrew for “12th graders”) toured the US in the summer, speaking directly to Jewish audiences across the US, trying to explain the oppression suffered by Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli military.
The Israeli “Shministim” have also started linking up with US military resisters to build an international movement of opposition to the violence of occupation.
On 20 September, Dr. Kobi Snitz, long-time activist with the Israeli group “Anarchists Against the Wall”, became the first Israeli to serve time for demonstrating in the occupied territories when he began a 20-day prison term as a result of trying to prevent a house demolition in the Palestinian village of Kharbatha in 2004.
Three days later, Mohammad Othman, a long-time defender of Palestinian human rights and a volunteer with the “Stop the Wall Campaign”, was arrested on the border crossing from Jordan into Palestine, when returning from a speaking trip to Norway. Mohammad is in custody at least until 30 October, having had appeals turned down on the basis of “secret evidence” from the Israeli security agency. While inside he has been subjected to frequent interrogation.