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Police repression in The Hague shining example for peace agreements everywhere

Anti-Apartheidwall Media Center | 23.02.2004 20:00 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Social Struggles

A report on how The Hague Mayor Wim Deetman managed to separate Palestinians and Israelis, prevent violent clashes between them and turned the day when the whole world was watching international law at work into a blueprint for all future negotiated repression. A true man of peace.

On February 2nd, an activist from The Hague who regularly pickets against the Israeli occupation received a suprise phonecall from the local police on behalf of the Mayor of The Hague - Wim Deetman. It was made clear to her that the authorities were not interested in the plans of Palestinian or pro-Palestinian groups for the opening of the ICJ on the 23rd, because whatever they would organise it would not be allowed. The pro-Israeli CIDI-jongeren and Christians for Israel had applied for a demonstration permit already and as the police officer put it "first come first serve".

The activist argued - initially in amazement but progressively infuriated - that free speech is a right for everybody. And that especially during an international event as important as the hearings on the illegality of the Wall, it would be impossible for a mere Mayor to ban people whose lives are being destroyed from making their voices heard. When she said that anyway the Dutch Stop the Wall Coalition was meeting that night to decide on their plans and it was ridiculous to ban a demonstration that had not even been announced yet, his response was "but we thought you were having this meeting next Thursday"!

The Stop The Wall Coalition the next day went into negotiations with the police. They came to a deal where the anti-Wall Campaign could legally demonstrate during the whole afternoon. The next day the Mayor informed the group that he vetoed this arrangement and still prefered to keep the Campaign out of the streets all together. After pressure he conceded to two hours between 15:00-17:00: a period when all press and people affiliated to the court case would be off the streets. Zionist groups would be able to demonstrate most of the day.

The Coalition refused this "generous offer" and again negotiations started. After a process to tedious to report here, the parties came to an agreement once more. From 9:30 till 14:00 Zionist and other organisations in favour of the Wall could have the square in front of the Peace Palace, and the anti-Wall groups from 14:30 on until the end of the day. 25 representatives of each group would be able to attend the "the other side"'s demonstrations. The anti-Wall demonstration would gather on The Plein and then march under police escort to the Peace Palace, where all signs of the previous Zionist presence (including the infamous bombed bus) would have been removed.

Deetman added several terms. 1) banners only in Dutch and English (meaning no Arabic), 2) no wood thicker than a broomstick, 3) no sound systems or anything "provocative". Through a local court he also tried to prevent Christians for Israel from carrying pictures of suicide bombing victims but did not succeed. He did manage to infuriate the Israeli government who did not expect such a reaction from a mayor in a country that is "such good friends with Israel".

In the end the Palestinians stuck to the deal. The Zionist showed up again in the evening to illegally demonstrate once more. No police intervention there. This was reserved for sympathetic passers-by who tried to join the anti-Wall demonstration in the afternoon and protestors who wanted to remove Zionists that broke through police lines into the anti-Wall march.

This agreement and its implementation is we think an outstanding example for peace processes the world over. We therefore nominate Mayor Deetman, the architect of the Road Map to Public Order, for the Nobel Peace Price. Preventing groups from expressing their legitimate demands, negotiation away inaliable rights, building a wall of police vans and officers in between people and stiffling the freedom of discussion is so much like earlier plans of Rabin and Arafat - as well as Blair and Bush - that we think he should justfully take his place among the pantheon of official peace makers in this world. A man of peace indeed.

Anti-Apartheidwall Media Center