ISRAHELL DOCTRINE: Breaking Palestine’s Peaceful Protests

Israel Has Categorized All Forms of Resistance as Insurgency

“Why,” I have often been asked, “haven’t the Palestinians established a peace movement like the Israeli Peace Now?”

The question itself is problematic, being based on many erroneous assumptions, such as the notion that there is symmetry between the two sides and that Peace Now has been a politically effective movement. Most important, though, is the false supposition that Palestinians have indeed failed to create a pro-peace popular movement.

In September 1967 – three months after the decisive war in which the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem were occupied – Palestinian leaders decided to launch a campaign against the introduction of new Israeli textbooks in Palestinian schools. They did not initiate terrorist attacks, as the prevailing narratives about Palestinian opposition would have one believe, but rather the Palestinian dissidents adopted Mahatma Gandhi-style methods and declared a general school strike: teachers did not show up for work, children took to the streets to protest against the occupation and many shopkeepers closed shop.

Israel’s response to that first strike was immediate and severe: it issued military orders categorising all forms of resistance as insurgency – including protests and political meetings, raising flags or other national symbols, publishing or distributing articles or pictures with political connotations, and even singing or listening to nationalist songs.

Moreover, it quickly deployed security forces to suppress opposition, launching a punitive campaign in Nablus, where the strike’s leaders resided. As Major General Shlomo Gazit, the co-ordinator of activities in the occupied territories at the time, points out in his book The Carrot and the Stick, the message Israel wanted to convey was clear: any act of resistance would result in a disproportionate response, which would make the population suffer to such a degree that resistance would appear pointless.

After a few weeks of nightly curfews, cutting off telephone lines, detaining leaders, and increasing the level of harassment, Israel managed to break the strike.

While much water has passed under the bridge since that first attempt to resist using “civil disobedience” tactics, over the past five decades Palestinians have continuously deployed nonviolent forms of opposition to challenge the occupation. Israel, on the other hand, has, used violent measures to undermine all such efforts.

It is often forgotten that even the second intifada, which turned out to be extremely violent, began as a popular nonviolent uprising. Haaretz journalist Akiva Eldar revealed several years later that the top Israeli security echelons had decided to “fan the flames” during the uprising’s first weeks. He cites Amos Malka, the military general in charge of intelligence at the time, saying that during the second intifada’s first month, when it was still mostly characterised by nonviolent popular protests, the military fired 1.3m bullets in the West Bank and Gaza. The idea was to intensify the levels of violence, thinking that this would lead to a swift and decisive military victory and the successful suppression of the rebellion. And indeed the uprising and its suppression turned out to be extremely violent.

But over the past five years, Palestinians from scores of villages and towns such as Bil’in and Jayyous have developed new forms of pro-peace resistance that have attracted the attention of the international community. Even Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad recently called on his constituents to adopt similar strategies. Israel, in turn, decided to find a way to end the protests once and for all and has begun a well-orchestrated campaign that targets the local leaders of such resistance.

One such leader is Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher and the co-ordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall, is one of many Palestinians who was on the military’s wanted list. At 2am on 10 December (international Human Rights Day), nine military vehicles surrounded his home. Israeli soldiers broke the door down, and after allowing him to say goodbye to his wife Majida and three young children, blindfolded him and took him into custody. He is being charged with throwing stones, the possession of arms (namely gas canisters in the Bil’in museum) and inciting fellow Palestinians, which, translated, means organising demonstrations against the occupation.

The day before Abu Ramah was arrested, the Israeli military carried out a co-ordinated operation in the Nablus region, raiding houses of targeted grassroots activists who have been fighting against human rights abuses. Wa’el al-Faqeeh Abu as-Sabe, 45, is one of the nine people arrested. He was taken from his home at 1am and, like Abu Ramah, is being charged with incitement. Mayasar Itiany, who is known for her work with the Nablus Women’s Union and is a campaigner for prisoners’ rights was also taken into custody as was Mussa Salama, who is active in the Labour Committee of Medical Relief for Workers. Even Jamal Juma, the director of an NGO called Stop the Wall, is now behind bars.

Targeted night arrests of community leaders have become common practice across the West Bank, most notably in the village of Bil’in where, since June, 31 residents have been arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations against the wall. Among these is Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a prominent activist who has been held in detention for almost five months and is under threat of being imprisoned for up to 14 months.

Clearly, the strategy is to arrest all of the leaders and charge them with incitement, thus setting an extremely high “price tag” for organising protests against the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The objective is to put an end to the pro-peace popular resistance in the villages and to crush, once and for all, the Palestinian peace movement.

Thus, my answer to those who ask about a Palestinian “Peace Now” is that a peaceful grassroots movement has always existed. At Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s trial next Tuesday one will be able to witness some of the legal methods.

Ref: Counterpunch

Neve Gordon is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

Palestinians clash with IDF troops during Nakba protests

Marking the 60th anniversary of what Israelis call independence but Palestinians call the “Nakba” (or the “Catastrophe”), hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Wednesday at military checkpoints in the West Bank.

Some six people were reported injured at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, as the protesters threw stones at IDF troops, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, soldiers used tear gas to disperse a small crowd of protesters approaching an IDF checkpoint on the town’s edge.

Clashes also erupted at a number of other checkpoints, including Abu Dis and Shuafat, to the east and north-east of Jerusalem, and Hawara, near Nablus.

Local leaders called on Palestinian refugees to stage a symbolic march to the homes they, their parents, or grandparents lost 60 years ago in what is now Israel.

Hundreds of residents of camps in Lebanon were also seen protesting near Israel’s northern border, waving Palestinian and United Nations flags.

Israel celebrated the 60th anniversary of its May 14, 1948 independence declaration last week, in accordance with the Hebrew calendar date. Israel is hosting another round of festivities at the Presidential Conference this week, and has been joined by dozens of foreign leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush.

Palestinians will hold more events marking the Nakba on Thursday.

Meanwhile, parents of Arab children at a joint Arab-Jewish elementary school in Jerusalem on Wednesday protested the removal of Palestinian flags at the school, which had been hung up to mark the Nakba. The flags were taken down ahead of a visit by U.S. First Lady Laura Bush.

“This school teaches our children about mutual respect and cooperation. Over the course of two weeks, Israeli flags were hung proudly. It hurts me that my daughter was forced to witness her flag being hidden,” said one mother.

Last week, Israeli flags were hung throughout the school in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary.

According to parents, the flags and symbols were placed in storage and they were told that only colorful drawings would be hung on the bulletin boards.

In Gaza, the ruling Islamic militant Hamas wants supporters to march toward a main passenger crossing with Israel. Gaza has been virtually sealed since the violent Hamas takeover a year ago.

Arab students at Israeli universities in Haifa and Jerusalem were planning Nakba marches. In Jerusalem, artists were planning to exhibit 3,000 figurines, meant to represent Palestinian refugees.

During the 1948 War of Independence, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted and scattered across the region. Along with their descendants, they now make up about 4.5 million, according to United Nations figures.

Commemorations are meant to direct attention to the unresolved plight of Palestinian refugees, and to encourage young Palestinians to learn their history, activists said. The fate of refugees is a key issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which resumed earlier this year, but have yielded little progress.

Plans include flying thousands of black balloons in a show of mourning, rallies in the West Bank and Gaza and the screening of films about Palestinian history.

In Gaza, meanwhile, senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told a conference commemorating the Nakba that his radical Islamic movement would “never” recognize Israel, which he said will one day “disappear.”

“On this occasion, the occasion of the Nakba, we reiterate that we will never recognize the raping enemy. We will never recognize Israel. We will never recognize Israel,” al-Zahar told a cheering audience.

“Our lands are not for sale or for trade, and the right of resistance is holy,” he said.

“Israel is going to disappear one day and the Palestinian people will remain to fully liberate all their occupied lands,” he told the conference, entitled “Sixty years since the Nakba – the return is imminent.”

“The day of liberation and return is coming very soon,” al-Zahar said. “We are good readers of reality and the powers of war and destruction are not terrifying us.”

Bush arrived in Israel to much fanfare on Wednesday for a 48-hour visit in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary. The visit is his second in four months.

Regarding Bush’s visit, Zahar said, “There is no welcome for Bush in the Holy Land. There is no welcome for hypocrite presidents who are defiling our land.”

Ref: Haaretz