Last year a Belfast anarchist travelled to the West Bank to work with the International Solidarity Movement and Palestinians and wrote this report on his impressions of the Palestinian struggle.

“The South African apartheid regime never engaged in the sort of repression Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians. For all the evils and atrocities of apartheid, the government never sent tanks into black towns. It never used gunships, bombers, or missiles against black towns or Bastustans.

"What we are witnessing in the occupied territories- Israel’s penal colonies- is the invisible and daily killing of the sick and wounded who are deprived of medical care, of the weak who cannot survive in the new poverty conditions, and those of us who are approaching starvation” (Ronnie Kasrils, S.Africa’s minister of water affairs, Al Ahram Weekly, p175).

Just before I left the West Bank in July in 2006, Israel began its military invasion and subsequent onslaught in Lebanon with the active support and practical assistance by western imperialist powers. The brutal occupation, provided a smokescreen for Israeli occupation forces to squeeze its iron grip over Gaza strip and elsewhere. This big prison camp surrounded by the apartheid wall, watchtowers, checkpoints, economic blockade imposed by the EU and USA, regular military incursions has been strengthened by the Israeli/ mainstream media discourse that Israel has somehow ‘unilaterally’ withdrawn from the Gaza Strip.

The reality of this ‘spin’ and fabricated lies was there for me to see and experience at first hand, as Tanya Reinhart carefully contrasts this image, “Possibly Israel intended to allow the Palestinians, in some future time, to call their prison “the Palestinian state” but the overall dynamic of Israeli domination would remain the same….The Palestinian prisoners can be bombarded from the air, with nowhere to escape to; their food supply, electricity, and fuel are all controlled by Israel and cut off at the will of the prison guards. Israel has given the Palestinians in Gaza one choice; Accept prison life, or perish.”

I went to firstly listen to the experiences and daily reality faced by Palestinians living under ‘permanent terrorism’ imposed by the Israeli state and provided some form of practical assistance and solidarity to their struggle against the occupation and apartheid wall. I also had a chance to meet some comrades from ‘Anarchists against the Wall’ involved in the struggle against the occupation who gave me a brief summary of the current ‘anarchist movement’ in Israel, and we managed to exchange some ideas and experience.

I decided to get involved in the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) as they have a presence in the West Bank and have been involved in the struggle against the occupation. The ISM was set up in August 2001 and aims “to support and strengthen the Palestinian popular resistance by providing the Palestinian people with two resources, international protection and a voice with which to non-violently resist an overwhelming military occupation force.”(1) You then receive 2 days training by ISM on techniques in non-violent direct action, safety, brief history lesson, legal situation and of course on local culture and custom. Although, the training was quite useful and constructive and there are some brave comrades in the ISM, I had to honestly bite my tongue with some of the principles including principled non-violence.

Apart from the abstract philosophy of taking the moral high ground, firstly, it is not for anarchists to be categorised into one box or the other sanctioned and defined by the state, the greatest practitioner of terrorism and violence. Secondly, no ruling class is going to voluntarily surrender their power and privileges voluntarily without some of struggle that will involve violence of some subscription. As for non-violent resistance as a tactical choice in the struggle in Bil’lin and many other West Bank villages, the strategy of relying on the media to highlight the horrific nature of the Israeli occupation forces and struggling non-violently in fear of alienating the media was not very useful as the invasion of Lebanan mostly garnered the mainstream media’s attention and secondly, Israeli troops brutalised you anyway whether the cameras were there or not, but perhaps not on a greater scale. In addition, the mainstream confines itself within the ideological spectrum of the state anyway, and therefore will rarely move beyond this spectrum to challenge the states policy or version of events, merely just a brief slip of the tongue.

For most of my stay after my training, I stayed in the small farming village of Bil’lin which is situated near the city of Ramallah. Roughly 60% of the villages land has been annexed to pave the way for the building of settlements protected by the separation fence which is not located on the 1967 green line and therefore there is no justification in terms of security argued by Israel other than to illegally confiscated agriculture land and impose a oppressive symbol of Israeli dominance and power. Compared to the nearby settlement, the village has poor access to electricity and water supplies. During the first couple of days, local villages and families occupied an apartment in the illegal Jewish settlement. Its construction had been suspended by the Israeli supreme court due to an injunction brought by the local villagers, however, many houses remain occupied by settlers. Internationals staying in the nearby outpost and Israeli anarchists were invited to provide support and document the occupation. Despite authorisation and papers from the families claiming that the occupation was legal and presence of the media and bewilderment of local settlers, those of us (around 15 people) who stayed behind to resist the occupation with the families were forcibly removed by over 20 Israeli troops and border police and put in the back of a military jeep with all their belongings and materials.

For over a year and a half, there has been a ‘popular struggle’ in the village against the occupation based on ‘non-violent direct action’. For many this template provides an important direction of the struggle, that breaks down barriers between Palestinians and Israelis and attract greater international support and action. The weekly march and struggle initiated by the local village Popular committee which brings together local political parties, local villages, Internationals and Israelis. Every Friday, brings a new theme for each march which leaves the centre of the village and attempts to make its way to the route of the fence and through it. Before every demo, the action is discussed and decisions are reached based on consensus in the ISM. The last Friday, there was a wedding at the fence to highlight that the oppressive occupation will not be able to quash daily activity, dignity and human solidarity. Immediately, the area was declared a ‘closed military zone’ and everybody was forced to leave by way of batons, teargas, sound grenades and rubber bullets. Despite some resistance and injuries, a collective decision was soon reached by the local village committee for everyone to leave the area.

The following week villagers from the small village of Izbat Tabib in the Qalqiliya region, in the north of the West Bank invited the ISM and Israelis to help remove a permanent concrete road block in the village constructed by the Israeli army. After the initial tension and confrontation by the Israeli Army and threats of ‘live ammunition’ over 250 people made their way from the centre of the village to remove the roadblock. Eventually after over an hour of toil the roadblock was removed to allow a car to move over it with the applause and relief of everyone involved. The atmosphere remained tense throughout with the Israeli Army intimidating the crowd by targeting people and they became completely pissed off once the barrier was removed. As everyone was making their way back to the village the army began to fire live ammunition and tear gas. As we made our way back in the bus to Ramallah there was at least 4 checkpoints, which is a daily reality for Palestinians while those cars registered under an Israeli number plate are provided with a separate road to pass through.

Despite, a one day strike in Ramallah in protest against the current military invasion into the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops we managed to watch the world cup final in Ramallah. The atmosphere was lively and the craic was great but unfortunately there was no alcohol available, although I managed to taste the finest beer from the middle east made in a small ‘Christian’ village near Ramallah. Finally, in my last night in Tel Aviv there was a demonstration against the occupation in Lebanon in which thousands of people turned out in force. Despite, attempts by the pigs to control and direct the march they were unsuccessful for a time, until further reinforcements arrived, and through sheer force of numbers and violence managed to prevent it from reaching the city centre in Tel Aviv. It was a worthwhile experience and one thing I gathered above all else was, was that the Israeli state, despite its attempt to crush resistance and rebellion by using all means possible at it disposal has failed to extinguish the flame of freedom and solidarity, that everyone of us strives for.

It would be great if everyone could make there way over to Palestine in terms of solidarity and support as everyone there is very welcoming and supportive, despite the circumstances. However, at the end of the day there is no such thing as single-issue politics that liberals like to plead about. The struggle against the ruling class and its lackeys in the 'middle-class' starts by bringing the war home to our communities and workplaces; where we as a class, have the power to challenge their dominance and oppression and put the final nail in the coffin of imperialism that respects no boundaries, but demands one voice,
“An injury to all, is an injury to all”.

References:

(1) http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/about-ism/
(2) Tanya Reinhart, Israel/ Palestine- How to end the War of 1948, 2005.

Links:

(1) http://palsolidarity.org/main/ (ISM website)
(2) http://www.bilin-village.org (Bil’lin village website)
 

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