PALESTINE: The threat of a good example


Kim Bullimore, West Bank

Israeli occupation forces detained over 40 Israeli peace activists and arrested four at the village of Budrus, west of Ramallah, on December 7. The activists were arrested as they took part in a non-violent solidarity action protesting the arrest and administrative detention of Ahmed Awad, one of the leaders of the Budrus Popular Committee Against the Separation Wall.

The people of Budrus, in conjunction with Israeli and international peace activists, have waged a year-long united, non-violent campaign against the expropriation of the village's land and the erection of the illegal Apartheid Wall.

During that time, the Israeli military has repeatedly invaded the village, firing off sound grenades and teargas; arrested and harassed leaders of the resistance and their supporters; and at one stage placed the village under curfew for 15 days. In October, another leader of the popular committee, Abu Ahmad, told Green Left Weekly that the IDF has informed him that it "would do everything in its power to stop the movement, even if it meant people died".

Ahmed Awad was arrested at the request of Shin Bet, Israel's secret police, and the Israeli military, who said he was a "security risk". The original order for his arrest was overturned by a military judge who said that there was no evidence to justify his detention. However, a second military judge overturned that decision and Awad was placed under administrative detention, meaning that he would be detained without trial and Shin Bet was under no obligation to show Awad or his lawyer the evidence against him. Awad is currently being detained for two months, but his detention could be extended indefinitely if the military court chooses to do so.

Respected Israeli journalist Amira Hass, noted in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper on November 10 that it is Awad's leadership of Budrus' successful non-violence campaign that irks Shin Bet and the military:

"It is not too difficult to think that the 'good way' that he and colleagues chose in the popular committee is what bothers some elements of the army so much: fraternization with Israelis, the recognition of a joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle against the occupation, the popular struggle's success at changing the military decisions, the refusal to be dragged into violence compared to the violence of the army and the occupation."

The joint Palestinian-Israel struggle was on display on January 7, as 70 Israeli and international peace activists joined 100 Palestinian villagers. The Israeli peace activists wore signs in five languages, saying "I am Ahmed Awad". The Israeli activists also volunteered to not to carry identification and to give their name as Ahmed Awad if they were arrested.

Yonathon Pollack, an Israeli peace activist, told Green Left Weekly that Awad's arrest was clearly an attempt to stop non-violent protest. Pollack went onto say that Israeli peace activists stood in solidarity with Awad and had volunteered to be arrested for carrying out the same non-violent action as he had done.

As the peaceful demonstration entered the valley and approached bulldozers destroying the village's fields, Israeli security forces attacked the demonstration with teargas, rubber bullets and sound grenades.

Along with three other non-Palestinian activists, I sustained injury at the protest. I was hit directly by a tear gas canister. One Israeli activist sustained cuts to her head from an exploding sound grenade, while another was burnt when two sound grenades exploded, causing her to fall onto the devices, setting her clothes on fire and burning her chest and stomach.

Zoher, an activist with a prosthetic leg, was moving to protect a group of Palestinian women who were being fired on the Israeli security forces when the sound grenades exploded, causing her to fall on them. Zoher told Green Left Weekly that she had come to show solidarity with Ahmed Awad and the villagers of Budrus because "what the state of Israel is doing is unjust" and she "hated it being done in her name".

[Kim Bullimore is a member of the Socialist Alliance. She is currently working in Occupied Palestine with the international human rights organisation, the International Women's Peace Service]

From Green Left Weekly, December 15, 2004.
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