Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Non-Violent in Palestine



I remember watching a news report once and being struck by the glaring contradiction of images displayed by media of Israelis and Palestinians. When Israeli citizens or even troops were shown, they were depicted as either victims of a terrible suicide attack or soldiers at alert facing an unknown enemy. When Palestinians were shown, it was of stone-throwing youths, threatening men in Gaza with wrapped faces shouting angry words or of West Bank police firing machine guns into the air to disperse unruly crowds. While the role of Israeli peace-groups is rarely covered, Palestinian peace groups are thought of as near-mythical. Think resistance and Palestinians, and suicide bombers and terrorists easily come to mind--part of what the media readily covers and displays. Yet there has been a long movement of non-violent resistance on the part of Palestinians. Boston-based journalist Ellen Cantarow looks at a particular act of passive resistance, by Palestinians protesting the debilitating wall being built by the Israeli government.

Read the article here. Excerpts below.


Excerpt:

Before the wall’s advent, Qalqilya’s merchants and Israelis did regular business on either side of the border, while Jayyous’ farmers worked their land all the way up to the Green Line. Now, the monstrous, concrete version of the wall surrounds Qalqilya entirely, bringing to mind high-security prisons or ghettoes from other eras. Jayyous is segregated from most of its former land by the wall in what one could call its "barrier" form – a system of steel fences, razor wire, and patrol roads manned by Israeli soldiers.

Four thousand of the village’s olive and citrus trees were uprooted to make way for the wall. All the village’s wells and over 75 percent of the land are now sequestered behind the wall, isolated on its west – that is, "Israeli" – side. A small Israeli settler colony called Zufim sits amid Jayyous’ former wealth. Israeli plans are on the books to build up to 1,500 new housing units on the bounty confiscated from the village. The new units will destroy the only road over which Jayyous’ farmers can now travel to and from their land: there used to be six of these roads. Israel has already blocked five of them.

Sixty-five-year-old Sharif Omar Khalid, known more familiarly as Abu Azzam, has spent half his life struggling to preserve Jayyous’ land. In 1980, with other farmers representing villages throughout the West Bank, he founded the Land Defense Committee, one of 18 organizations that now make up the Stop the Wall campaign. Gifted with stubborn optimism, he counts as victory an Israeli Supreme Court decision in April 2006, which pushed the path of the wall back from the south side of the village. The decision returned 11 percent of Jayyous’ former land – 750 dunams of the 8,600 blocked by the barrier. (A dunam is a little over a quarter of an acre.)

The wall remains, as does one of its most essential parts: the "agricultural gate." There are two of these on Jayyous’ land – one to the north; another to the south. Almost all of the village’s farmers are forced to use the north gate. Opened by Israeli soldiers for two 45-minute intervals at dawn and dusk, the gate blocks a patrol road manned by the Israelis.

Full article here.

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