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Demonstration against the wall in Hebron this Sun

ISM Hebron | 18.09.2004 09:56 | Anti-militarism | London | Oxford

ISM Hebron plan demonstratioon against the wall in hebron this Sunday

Action against Apartheid Wall at Beit-Awa, near Hebron, Sunday 19/9/2004, 9am

Local villagers have asked ISM volunteers, 2 of them from Brighton, and Israeli
activists to join them on Sunday 19/9 at 9am for an action against Israel's
Apartheid Wall that is being built as close as 20m to their village boundary,
cutting them off from many of their olive groves and precious water sources.

The plan is to halt work for the day while the villagers continue to press for
the route of the Wall to be diverted to the Green Line, Israel's 1948 border.
Construction has already started with destruction of many olive trees and the
appearance of heavy machinery. A similar demonstration last week at the
neighbouring village of Deir-Samet was met with
soldiers throwing tear gas and percussion grenades, many school-children were
badly affected although on that occasion no rubber bullets were used.

Israel's Apartheid Wall has been condemned as illegal by the International Court
of Justice which has demanded Israel demolish all sections of it which do not
run along its border - in effect, the entire Wall as it is in fact a gigantic
land grab, an act of economic warfare and enforced segregation of the
Palestinian people.

Please contact Tariq on 00972-059-676-087 or Jaya on 00972-546-853-281 for
latest information.

Beit-Awa is west of Dura, itself west of Hebron.

A report of the action will be posted on

Report on action against the Wall at Deir-Samet, 14/9/2004

On 14/9/2004 about 15 people from ISM joined forces with villagers from
Deir-Samet and Israeli peace activists to try to bring work on the Wall to a
halt. The Wall in their case is being built 1 km inside the West Bank away from
the the ‘Green Line’, right through a large area of olive groves. The villagers,
naturally, hadn’t had a Wall built through their land before and didn’t know
quite how to oppose it. Nonetheless they didn’t want it and they had asked ISM
to come and help them. When we got there we found contractors had already
started work some days ago and had gone along chainsawing the trunks of the
olive trees and scooping up their roots with a JCB - it was shocking to see how
little a scoop was enough to dispose of a tree. And to know how much olive trees
mean to the Palestinian people - an olive tree is not just a tree, it is a
symbol of everything - culture, economy, relationship with the land...

The work that day involved the construction of the Wall’s foundations as it ran
diagonally up a rocky hillside, a neumatic digger was breaking rocks while
another behind it smoothed them out. There were two diggers guarded by about 15
soldiers, all armed with the usual M16s or equivalent, plus the rest of a
soldier’s armoury. More and more villagers arrived, several hundred in all, some
Israeli peace workers, and about 20 ‘Internationals’ as we are called here,
quite a few of us actually pretty new to such things, others more experienced
and unafraid of confrontation. Noone knew quite what to do, there was a lot of
jostling as ourselves and the locals pressed forwards to where the machines were
working and the soldiers pressed us back, occasionally pushing or hitting anyone
they considered a trouble-maker, sometimes roughtly - at which point the young
man would clearly not know what to do, knowing very well that if he did the same
back he’d get a very hard time. It was noticeable that it almost always was the
young men who came in for rough treatment - rarely us, or the elders, or the
women. I also realised just how rare it is for most of us in the UK or elsewhere
to see raw physical force in operation; it is everywhere here in Israel and
Palestine. Of course behind evey law in every country there is always the threat
of physical enforcement, but it rarely gets to the point that we actually see it
in the lives we live. But here there was a good deal of brute force being used
and a lot more held in reserve. More and more villagers arrived, mostly standing
at a safe distance up the hillside and looking on, a much smaller group
including many of the Internationals (not me!) in the forefront trying to push
close to the digger - which had never paused in its work, despite the crowd
sometimes getting very close.

At some point, for no reason I could see, the soldiers either experienced
something they really objected to, or were ordered to disperse people, and
suddenly tear gas started to fly. I was caught by surprise and turned around to
find myself breathing in this horrid paralysing stuff which in some strange way
first makes everything round your eyes sting madly - so of course you cry - and
second destroys one's natural instinct to breathe - naturally creating a
reaction of panic, though once you realise “Actually, I CAN still breathe
despite the tears etc” it’s OK. Nonetheless I did panic for a few moments,
largely through not knowing what else might be about to happen. I ran a little,
getting separated from the others in the process - they’d run another way - and
had to sit down to get my bearings and of course my breath back. After that
first use of tear gas the same continued for a while - jostling, pushing,
intermittent use of tear gas and
sound bombs. A lot of people had like me got caught up in the gas and I saw
several being carried away on stretchers, mostly older people. I also saw quite
a lot of young children who'd been caught in it, who were naturally much more
distressed, not understanding what it was or how to cope with it.

Happily noone started to throw stones which would surely have escalated things
and led to the soldiers replying with gunfire. Broadly it fairly quickly seemed
that the villagers had had enough for that day and they slowly retired up the
hillside, the soldiers of course following them though not aggressively. Before
that happened however I saw a group of local schoolgirls sitting down with some
of us as close as they could to the bulldozers, right in between the soldiers'
legs who were clearly having trouble moving them. After most people moved back
up the hillside the Internationals were much more divided on what to do next,
some wanting to stay and continue the protest, others (again, like me!) feeling
we'd seen enough and done enough for one day and wanting to go away and digest
it. Our role however is to follow the Palestinians lead and therefore we
followed them as they left. I was especially impressed with one of the village
elders who was clearly going out of his way to make sure everyone did leave
without doing anything stupid that would escalate the violence. An old man and a
youth were especially 'charged up' and unwilling to go quietly, he was really
exerting himself to make sure they did, successfully in the end. And so we were
able to return to the various vehicles we had come in and go in triumphant
procession back to the village where lunch was waiting and there was a chance
for everyone to tell their stories. The following day we saw the main Arabic
newspaper Al Quds had carried extensive reports on what had happened, with no
less than four photographs. Whoever had planned the demonstration had clearly
done well in alerting the media - there were also local TV cameras, Reuters, the
Washington Post, and others I did not identify. Reflecting on it afterwards, I
was very glad that I and the other Internationals and the media had been there -
when I imagined how it might have been if it had just been the Israeli army and
unarmed Palestinian villagers confronting one another on a hillside, a shiver
ran down my spine. Not to say anything would definitely have happened but the
two sides are so grossly imbalanced in their ability to be violent and their
ability to manufacture a story about events that the soldiers could have done
anything and there would have been noone watching.

Written by Lokabandhu, 16/9/04

ISM Hebron
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