Letters from Gila Svirsky on non-violent actions against the occupation
June 15, 2001
The residents of the Palestinian village of Dir Istya have conducted another courageous act of nonviolent resistance together with Israeli and international allies in the face of ongoing provocations by the Israeli army and settlers.
Dir Istya is a small village surrounded by four Israeli settlements (Yakir, Emanuel, Nofim and Barqan). While farming is the main source of livelihood, this has become increasingly difficult due to recent appropriations of land, the bulldozing of olive-tree orchards, and the proximity of settlers, who impede access to the remaining fields and orchards.
Within the past two months, Dir Istya has been the scene of several acts of nonviolent resistance in an effort to protect the orchards and prevent an incipient new settlement (4 caravans so far) from taking root. In April, two young women -- Neta Golan (a Jewish Israeli) and Yasmin Khayal (a Palestinian-German) -- chained themselves to olive trees in an effort to prevent the trees from being bulldozed. And in early May, several hundred peace activists protested peacefully there, to which the Israeli army replied with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated bullets, ending in the wounding of one journalist and several fields catching fire.
Today's action was sponsored by the Palestinian residents of Hares and Dir Istya in coordination with the International Solidarity Movement, Reut-Sadaka (Jewish-Arab Youth Movement), Rabbis for Human Rights, CPT, and the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace.
About one hundred participants gathered inside the village this morning, roughly half-Palestinian residents and the other half mixed Israelis and internationals. As the activists headed out of the village toward the caravans to protest their presence, the Israeli army blocked their progress, announcing that the area was now a "closed military zone", and demanded that the activists return to the village. Settlers who stood near the soldiers were not asked to leave the closed military zone. In the best nonviolent tradition, the peace activists refused to turn back and peacefully tried to proceed, now with linked arms and chanting. The soldiers tried to prevent their progress and forced some of them to the ground. The activists responded by remaining seated on the ground, which the army also could not abide. Power, after all, demands to be expressed. After further scuffling, soldiers plunged into the group and began to haul off those they believed to be ringleaders.
Twelve activists were brought to the police station in Ariel, a site that has become familiar to many. This group included three Palestinians from Dir Istya - Dr. Nafez Mansour, who is mayor of the village, Suleiman Mahmoud Shimlawi, and Ahmad Tayil Faris, a student at An-Najah University. The other nine included five Israeli Jews -- Liad Kantorowicz (23), Shelly Nativ (28), Dorit Tadir (19), Arik Ascherman, and Micky Fischer -- and one Palestinian citizen of Israel -- Jamal Attamneh (29), who is the director of Re'ut-Sadaka. Also arrested were Bob from CPT-Hebron and two German internationals.
At the police station, the three Palestinians from the territories were separated from the others and booked on criminal charges. The others were interrogated and told to sign release orders and leave. They refused to sign the papers unless the Palestinians would also be released. The police threatened to evict them forcibly, and did drag Liad out of the station. Eventually, though, the police released all 12, who by now are on their way home.
One more point. After the 12 were arrested, someone opened fire on the activists who remained behind and an 18 year-old Palestinian boy was shot. We are trying to ascertain his condition, and initial reports are that the injury is not serious. The shot, by the way, may have been fired by a settler, a policeman, or a soldier, but we will never know whom. This is not the sort of thing that the Israeli authorities bother to investigate when the injured party is a Palestinian.
Thank you, attorney Yossi Wolfson, for your efforts on everyone's behalf. Well done, those of you who were there.
From: Gila Svirsky
Sent: Saturday, June 16, 2001 12:45 AM
t’s almost midnight in Israel, and I just got off the phone with Neta Golan who described today’s events, which I hereby report. I’m missing some details, but I don’t want to call Neta back, as she’s in pain and needs to rest.
Al-Khader is a small Palestinian village near Bethlehem, which has the bad fortune to be located near the Israeli settlement of Efrat. For years, Efrat settlers have coveted the land belonging to al-Khader, and, in recent months, settlers set down 3 mobile homes on a hilltop to “establish ownership”. The Palestinian villagers decided to stage a nonviolent protest march today, and invited Israelis and internationals to join them.
Because of yesterday’s killing of an Israeli not far from al-Khader, several peace organizations decided it was too dangerous to participate in today’s action. As a result, only 20 or fewer brave Israelis and internationals decided to participate in the action. The low number of Israelis and internationals made it even more dangerous for them and the 200 Palestinian villagers who turned out.
The Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists all gathered near the disputed hill, and began to slowly walk up it toward the incipient settlement. The decision made in advance, and kept, was that they would not push past wherever they were stopped by the security forces - police from the Efrat settlement. This was not exactly an ‘objective’ force. The police stopped the marchers and gave them 10 minutes to disperse, which the activists decided to use to make some speeches.
Neta says the speeches were excellent. A Palestinian speaker said that all Israelis who come in peace are “welcome, welcome, welcome”. Rabbi Arik Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights, said that “by justice”, this land belongs to the Palestinians, and that justice ultimately will prevail. Arik also addressed the soldiers surrounding them: “I know that you are doing your duty here, but I hope that your witness of this event will prove to you that it’s possible for Palestinians and Israelis to work together in coexistence.”
After the speeches, the activists started to move down the hill and away from the settlement, but it was taking longer than the police had ordered. So the police swooped down on them and began to swing their clubs. Neta approached a policeman and asked, “What are you doing?” and he started to beat her. When Neta refused to duck or run away, he became incensed and continued to strike her. Then he twisted her arm behind her back and began to drag her up the hill. Neta did not resist, but walked with the policeman. At some point, he handed her over to a policewoman, who grabbed Neta by the hair and began to drag her up the hill, even though Neta continued to cooperate. Someone else took over the twisting of her arm behind her back, and this person continued to twist, harder and harder, until she heard the crunch of the elbow breaking. Neta felt terrible pain and told the police she needs medical attention, but they continued to drag her by the hair and arm up the hill. Anita from the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) ran over to ask them to ease their handling of Neta, but they began to beat Anita as well.
There were no media present, which contributed to the feeling of the security forces that no one was “watching”. I don’t know if anyone was using the video cameras that we now have in the field, and I don’t want to call Neta back to ask.
Everyone was treated very roughly and six were arrested: Arik Asherman, Neta Golan, Sergio from the Alternative Information Center, Liad Kantorowicz, Anita from CPT, and a “young guy” whose name Neta could not immediately recall.
Meanwhile, while Israelis and internationals were being arrested, the police chased the villagers not only down the hill, but also directly into their village. On the way, they tore down the temporary structure that the villagers had set up at the foot of the hill. When the police entered the village, the Palestinians began to throw stones at them to get them out, but the Israelis opened fire. Five Palestinians were wounded. Neta believes not seriously, but I don’t have confirmation of this yet.
In the police station, Neta asked to see a doctor, but her requests were ignored. An army medic was called in, who said that it looks like a break and she needs to get to a hospital, but the police kept her waiting. There was a lengthy interrogation and they told her they would release her as soon as she signed a paper that she agrees not to enter a “closed military zone” again. She refused to sign it. “If it really hurt you, you would sign,” they said to her. They don’t know Neta. Finally, four hours later, they let her out and then freed the others.
The six were released into the settlement of Efrat, where the police station is located, and they walked the distance to the main road. By then, other demonstrators had returned to pick them up. They brought Neta to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where she was released after 10 p.m. The doctors were shocked that someone had twisted her arm so badly that they broke it at the elbow.
Neta asked me to write that this new settlement was built after Sharon was elected, and that he promised the US he would dismantle it. He did not yet. She said that it pained her to see settlers roaming the hills at their pleasure, while the Palestinians, who wanted to demonstrate nonviolently, were being suppressed with violence.
She asked me to say that the suppression of nonviolence only makes people become violent. That’s the story of today’s action at al-Khader. Activists plan to return until the settlement is removed.
In a related incident from today’s Women in Black vigil, two women were physically attacked by Kach members. The police refused to arrest them, but the women went to the police station to file a complaint.
Rabbis for Human Rights
Tel. 972 2 563-7731