Thursday, March 18, 2010

The general and the anarchist

Last Friday, General Avi Mizrahi of the IDF Central Command granted an interview to Ben Caspit of "Ma'ariv", discussing in great detail the situation on the West Bank under his military rule. In general, the situation is good and quiet, said the general, but there is a problem called ... Yonathan Pollak.

"Anarchists Against Fences" such as Yonathan Pollak are coming every week to the village of Bil'in and to the village of Ni'ilin and hinder the soldiers from carrying out quietly the daily routine of the occupation. And in the General's opinion, the courts are "too soft" in dealing with the Anarchists.

There are countries in the enlightened democratic world where generals are prohibited from engaging in politics, and in particular from lashing out against a political activist. Israel, evidently, is not among them.

General Mizrahi is in no rush to implement the Supreme Court ruling, ordering the army to change the path of the "Separation Fence" and restore to the residents of Bil'in (part of) the land which was taken away from them. It took the army some years before it announced "the beginning of the planning state" in moving the fence. The planning stage is still going on and on, but the war which General Mizrahi declared on the Anarchists has already gone into high gear.

Soldiers raided the two villages late at night and placed copies of a new military decree on all the houses. Bil'in and Ni'ilin were declared a closed military zone, and the entry of Israeli and international peace activists prohibited. The army promises to use a lot of force against Yonathan Pollak and his friends.

Avi Dichter - former head of the Shabak Security Service, former government minister, and now a Knesset Member for the main opposition party Kadima - was quick to congratulate the General for his initiative. "The time has come to take tough steps in Bil'in, to pit an end to the riots which are breaking out over there every Friday. Maybe now the name of Bil'in will finally disappear from the news headlines" said Dichter, the great oppositionist.

With all due respect to the expertise and professionalism of Avi Mizrahi and Avi Dichter, to the writer of these lines it seems that the name of Bil'in will now feature in the media more prominently. When the army speaks of "tough measures", the communications media smell ratings.

Epilogue  what happened on the day after

Following is Roy Wagner's description of what actually happened in Bil'in, after the army's proclamations and decrees:

Concerned about the attempt to crush demonstrations with a highly publicized closed military zone warrant, almost 50 Israelis and over 25 internationals joined the local Palestinians for the weekly demonstration against the apartheid and land grab wall in Bil'in. Despite the facts that the warrant is not new and that warrants issued for the purpose of preventing demonstrations were declared illegal by the Israeli courts in the past, the army's publicizing of the warrants made demonstrators wonder whether they should prepare for mass arrests. Looking forward to finding out the answer in person, the demonstrators marched to the wall chanting and singing, and reached the gate, where they chanted some more, removed the closed military zone sign, and shook the fence, tearing down one of its poles. To the demonstrators' amazement, the soldiers stood by, hurling at them nothing but threats throughout the peaceful demo. The shabab kept away from the main demonstration and protested in their own way, reciprocating stones for the gas bestowed upon them further along the fence. After the demonstration was declared over a small group of soldiers invaded the village, escalating the response of the local youth and spreading more gas along their trail. But soon enough they turned back, and all demonstrators left the scene. We are yet to see if the army's relatively "moderate" response is a new policy, a reaction to media presence on their side, or an attempt to catch demonstrators off guard next week.