The jubilant celebrations that I witnessed in Palestine when the UN General Assembly voted for an observer state status are in direct conflict with the grim reality on the ground. All non-violent demonstrations that resist the occupation of Palestine are deemed illegal and suppressed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) – relabelled to reflect its real role as the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF). Any place where a demonstration takes place – village, street or field can be decreed a Closed Military Zone and demonstrators attacked using an array of deterrents: skunk water, tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition and arrests. In Nabi Saleh when I was there my friend’s brother, sitting on the hill overlooking the village spring ‘stolen’ by the settlement Halamish, was shot and subsequently died of his wounds.
The day after the after the Palestinians obtained a limited statehood at the United Nations General Assembly, the Israeli government decided “to punish” them by tripling its illegal settlement building. Plans for building in E1 zone (see below) is a ‘game-changer’, destroying any chances of a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
A New Form of Resistance
Last Friday, Facebook and Twitter were on fire with news of a tent village, optimistically called Bab AlShams, the Gate of the Sun, secretly erected in E1 but on private, Palestine land next to a Bedouin encampment.
Carefully planned with about 250 demonstrators coming from all over the West Bank, braving the bitter cold, the village was equipped with a medical tent, wifi hotspot, embedded international news outlets, kitchen, library and rubbish collection. One leader called it ‘constructive resistance’..
The village lasted two days, Eviction was temporarily halted when lawyers obtained an injunction from the High Court of Justice. Netanyahu demanded that this should be overturned, the Ministry of Justice claiming: “There is an urgent security need to evacuate the area of the people and tents,” suggesting without evidence that a few hundred unarmed activists presented a grave threat to public safety. This action illustrates Israeli racist policies: there are 120 illegal outposts (embryonic settlements) in the West Bank, which are never dismantled but are allowed to gradually expand before being eventually declared ‘legal’ by the Israeli state.
A New Model for Non-Violent Protest?
The camp was evicted by about 500 occupation soldiers. Protesters refusing to leave were assaulted, six needing hospitalization. Mohammed Khatib of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said: ‘ We will not remain silent as Israel continues to build Jewish-only colonies on our land. Bab Al Shams is no more, but during its short two days it gave new life and energy to all who passed through it. In establishing Bal Al Shams we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves’.
As the USA and the EU sit idly by, it is up to the Palestinian grass roots movement to stand up for justice again – is this the start of the 3rd Intifada?