Palestine’s Peaceful Struggle

By: Mohammed Khatib

A few weeks ago, in the dead of night, dozens of Israeli soldiers with
painted faces burst violently into my home. If only they had knocked,
I would have opened the door. They arrested me. My wife, Lamia, was
left alone with our four children. My youngest, 3-year-old Khaled,
woke up to the image of Israeli soldiers with painted faces who were
taking his father away. He has not stopped crying since. A few nights
ago he woke up in terror, sobbing: “Daddy, why did you let the
soldiers take me?” That’s the way our children sleep–in a constant
state of fear.
Many Americans know that the Obama administration has been pushing the
Israeli government to accept a freeze on settlement construction. What
is not commonly known is that even as Israel negotiates with the
United States, it has been taking steps, including my arrest, to crush
the growing Palestinian non-violent movement opposing Israel’s
construction of settlements and the wall on Palestinian land in the
West Bank.

For over five years the residents of Bil’in and other villages have
been protesting against Israel’s separation wall, which cuts off our
village’s land for the sake of Israeli settlement expansion. We have
even taken the struggle to the courts. The International Court of
Justice at The Hague ruled in July 2004 that the wall, where it has
been built inside the West Bank, is illegal under international law,
as are all Israeli settlements. In September 2007, Israel’s Supreme
Court ruled that the wall in Bil’in, which separates us from 50
percent of our land, is illegal according to Israeli law. The wall has
yet to have moved.
The Israeli army is using more-lethal weapons and greater violence
against protesters, and arresting many people, including many protest
organizers. In Bil’in alone, twenty-nine residents have been arrested
in the past three months. Twelve of them are children. Almost all were
arrested during military raids in the middle of the night. Their
detention has been extended repeatedly.
But the charges against them are baseless. As one example, I have been
charged with stone throwing. I was released on bail with draconian
terms only after my lawyers showed the court passport stamps proving
that I was abroad at the time of the alleged offense. My friend, Adeeb
Abu-Rahme, 37 years old and the father of nine, has been imprisoned
for more than six weeks, though the charges against him are just as
absurd.
Every Friday in Bil’in, we march to the wall in peaceful protest,
along with our Israeli and international partners. Once a year we hold
an international conference about the popular nonviolent struggle.
Together we learn and gain inspiration. We struggle together to bring
down the many walls between people that the occupation is creating.
We’ve repeatedly addressed the Israeli soldiers here, telling them we
are not against them as people, but that we oppose their actions as an
occupying military force.
Still, nineteen demonstrators have been killed by the Israeli army in
these nonviolent demonstrations against the wall. Many have been
injured, including Israeli and international activists protesting with
us. Here in Bil’in we recently lost our friend Bassem Abu Rahme, who
was fatally shot by soldiers in April while he was imploring them to
stop shooting at demonstrators.
Several months ago we were warned by Israel’s occupation forces that
they intended to crush the popular struggle.
Why has the Israeli government decided now to increase the suppression
of demonstrations and to break the spirit of protest leaders? Maybe
because they realize that the nonviolent struggle is spreading, that
more and more villages have created popular committees that are
organizing demonstrations. Perhaps the crackdown is a result of their
concern and the growing international movement for the boycott of
companies and businessmen such as Lev Leviev who are involved in
Israel’s land grab. Or maybe they fear that the new American
government could learn through our demonstrations that Israel’s wall
is a means to annex land for the growing settlements, and that
nonviolent Palestinian protests are being brutally suppressed.
Israel’s actions suggest that it is intimidated by people struggling
for their rights in a nonviolent manner. The Israeli government seems
to believe that Palestinians who struggle while partnering with
Israeli activists endanger Israel’s occupation and that tearing down
human walls is a dangerous act. Perhaps what the state of Israel fears
most of all is the hope that people can live together based on justice
and equality for all.

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