BY HUWAIDA ARRAF
February 23, 2004
Detroit Free Press
February 23, 2004
BY HUWAIDA ARRAF
The International Court of Justice at the Hague today convenes hearings on the legality of the controversial barrier Israel is building on the West Bank. The UN General Assembly asked the court for an "advisory opinion." Here is one perspective on the debate.
Today, as they debate the wall at the Hague, here in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, we're wondering: Is the world going to watch this happen again? Will we let walls and fences be erected around communities and allow people to be stripped of their livelihoods and freedom of movement because of their religion and ethnicity?
In Beit Surik, a Palestinian village northwest of Jerusalem, the destruction of olive groves, greenhouses and homes hasn't started yet, but the 4,000 residents need our help. Almost 90 percent of Beit Surik's land and its eight wells will be isolated on the other side of the wall. The villagers will be imprisoned by this structure and denied free access to work, school and medical care. They will have to apply for permits to enter and exit their village.
Will we support their efforts to resist the inevitable, if only so history will record that Beit Surik stood defiant in the face of this land grab? Will we support their efforts to stay on their ancestors' land despite efforts to force them to leave?
Less than 20 miles from Beit Surik, volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement have been supporting nonviolent resistance to the wall for the past two months in the village of Budrus. Last November, Budrus' residents were notified that their land would be razed and isolated by the wall. Since then, they have been mobilizing nonviolent protests and calling for international support. Israeli bulldozers uprooted about 100 of Budrus' olive trees before stopping, possibly in response to the increased visibility brought by peace activists' participation in the village's protests.
The Israeli occupation forces have responded with violence. More than 60 villagers have been injured by rubber-coated metal bullets. Troops invade Budrus and open fire with live ammunition. Nine nonviolent activists are imprisoned, including young children. Women and children alike are beaten and tear-gassed at each demonstration, and the leaders of Budrus' nonviolent resistance were abducted from their homes by soldiers in the middle of the night. Yet the villagers have not been deterred and refuse to sit still while their land is destroyed and their village becomes a large open-air prison.
A year and a half ago, the ISM was part of a similar effort with the villagers of Jayyous. However, despite the petitions, protests, sit-ins, and beatings and arrests of demonstrators, thousands of Jayyous' olive and fruit trees were destroyed. Seventy-five percent of Jayyous' farmland was taken from its owners. More than 200 greenhouses are now abandoned because Israeli soldiers forbid Jayyous farmers from crossing to their land. All of the village's wells fall on the other side of this "security" fence. Today, Jayyous is nearly surrounded by a 9-foot high razor-wire fence, equipped with motion sensors and security cameras. Jayyous' residents have to request special permission to enter and exit their village.
Do the people of Budrus and Beit Surik have reason to believe that their nonviolent resistance can save them from a similar ghetto-like future? Veterans of the Palestinian freedom struggle have little hope. The world community has thus far failed to act to stop Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. Instead, the overwhelming focus of the international community has been on the Palestinian armed resistance, with little recognition of the prominent nonviolent struggle.
Over the years, Palestinian nonviolent tactics have included the boycott of Israeli goods and services, civil disobedience and rejection of Israeli military administration, the establishment of neighborhood schools (when the Israeli army shut down Palestinian schools), marches, strikes and refusal to pay taxes.
The ISM was created to support unarmed resistance to Israeli occupation by providing the Palestinian people with a resource -- an international presence and a voice -- with which to continue nonviolently resisting an overwhelming military force. As Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners take the lead on the ground to oppose and defeat an oppressive occupation, will the policymakers and international judges follow? Or will they be left behind?
HUWAIDA ARRAF is a cofounder of the International Solidarity Movement. Born in Detroit, she grew up in Roseville and is currently in the West Bank.