How Israel deals with non-violence
It’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
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 armbehind 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 wantto 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
Meanwhile, while Israelis
and internationals were being arrested, the police chased the villagers
not only down the hill, but 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 ofthis 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.
by courtesy & © 2001 Gila Svirsky
by the same