Saturday, January 1, 2011

Facing the towers and the powers

Once again a protest outside the Ministry of Defense, with police cordons blocking the way, and enormous towers crowned by a heliport intersecting the Tel Aviv skyline. Towers housing the headquarters of the world's most moral army which managed to kill quite a few civilians all over the Middle East – the latest on the very last day of 2010. Here is the office of the Defense Minister who is also leader of the Israeli Labor Party and who finds it very difficult to explain to his party's few remaining voters why should they vote for this party ever again.

Jawaher Abu Rahmah of the village of Bil'in died this morning after yesterday inhaling a large dose of tear gas in a demonstration against the Separation Fence in the village fields; she was 36years old. At the top of these towers sit the commanders of the commanders of the commanders of the soldiers who shot that gas. It is the normal type gas, routinely used by the army every week in Bil'in. It does not always cause death, but the risk of a lethal effect is always present. That is why European countries have long since stopped using this type of gas. But in the areas which the State of Israel is holding under occupation over the past 43 years, use of this gas continues and there is no intention of stopping it.

Yesterday there was an especially large demonstration in Bil'in, and the army used an especially large amount of gas against this demonstration, gas of the type which on some occasions can cause death. Yesterday was one of these occasions.

Upon hearing this news, hundreds of protesters arrived at the sidewalk in front of the locked gates. Tel Avivians and Jerusalemites and residents of Haifa and of many smaller places who had traveled through clogged roads in order to get here on time, Knesset Member Nitzan Horowits and former Knesset Members Uri Avnery and Mossi Raz, and the drummers from Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations who for hours drummed and drummed and with each beating the drum loudly called out " Down with the Occupation! Down with the Fence!"

And for hours hundreds of protesters chanted at the sealed and locked gates "Democracy is not built on demonstrators' dead bodies!" / "Barak Barak, hey hey hey, how many demonstrators did you kill today?" / "The blood of protesters is not cheap, dismantle the fence, bury it deep!" / "We will neither kill nor die in the service of the settlers'!" / "No more killing, no more bereavement, the fence must fall!".

After an hour they started going off the sidewalk and sat down on the asphalt and physically block the traffic on this road in the heart of Tel Aviv at the foot of the tall towers of the Ministry of Defense of the State of Israel. And they continued to chant and chant and chant full throated, "Barak Barak, how many did you kill today!" Police reinforcements arrived, because order must be kept and protesters must not block roads even when their government and army are killing civilians. And eight protesters were dragged into the police patrol cars, and fomer MK Mossi Raz who does not any longer enjoy Parliamentary immunity, also got several slaps from the police while being taken into detention.

A flashback

Actually, all of this should have been completely unnecessary - the demonstrations and protests and the violent end of Jawaher Abu Rahmah's life. Already more than three years ago, the Supreme Court judges published their ruling on the appeal of the villagers of Bil'in.

Already then, in September 2007, the court provided a detailed and reasoned verdict, making clear that it was not the needs of national security which had dictated the construction of the "Separation Fence" along a route separating the residents of Bil'in from their lands and source of livelihood. Far from it - the route of the fence, several kilometers east of the Green Line, was determined by the needs of the huge, ever-expanding ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Illit (and by the need of building contractors to turn a nice profit out of erecting ever-new Modi'in Illit neighborhoods). Already then, in September 2007, the judges ordered the army to move the fence westwards and return to the Bil'in residents at least the land on which the settlers had not had time to build, yet. Then, in September 2007, Jawaher Abu Rahmah attended with her fellow villagers the celebrations to mark the Supreme Court victory.

So, the residents have won in court, and the judges gave the army a clear and unequivocal instruction to move the fence. Yes, they definitely gave such an instruction. The army took a long time to plan and plan and design the new route to which the fence is to be moved, and once the planning was done it was taking an even longer while to begin implementation. There are very many projects that the army must implement, all of them important and vital, and priorities must be defined and determined. In 2008 there were no budgets available for moving the fence in Bil'in, nor was the manpower available. The same in 2009 and in 2010. Who knows what would happen in 2011, which has just begun, and in 2012 and in 2013. Don't worry; at some point in the hazy future the army will locate the needed budgets and mobilize the needed manpower and actually move the fence. For the time being, the fence remains exactly where it always was, and the residents of Bil'in continue to protest each week together with Israeli peace activists who share in the struggle. One thing the army is never short of is soldiers standing at the line of the fence with unlimited stocks of tear gas at their disposal...

See also David Reeb's video