Revolutionary Worker #1210, August 17, 2003, posted at rwor.org
4 August 2000. A World to Win News Service. Hundreds of people--mainly Palestinians, some Israelis, and many volunteers from abroad organized by the International Solidarity Movement--staged two protests against what they called the Israeli "apartheid wall" July 28 and August 1. (Apartheid was the system under which white settlers in South Africa totally sealed off and ruled over black Africans.) On the first day, in a small Palestinian village near the West Bank city of Jenin, several hundred villagers and 50 ISM volunteers broke down a locked gate but were driven back by Israeli gunfire before they could dismantle more of the wall. They were supported by a small demonstration of Israelis on the other side. Israeli troops fired on the protesters point blank with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, wounding a number of people. Two were hospitalized. Four days later, in Qalqiliya, hundreds of Palestinian villagers and 80 ISM volunteers on one side of the wall were joined by Israeli protesters on the other in throwing balloons filled with red, black, white and green paint (the colors of the Palestinian flag) on the wall and chanting "Brick by brick, wall by wall, the occupation has to fall!" Once again they were attacked by Israeli soldiers. In another development the same day, Palestinian prisoners revolted, and several hundred began a hunger strike.
Qalqiliya, a town of 40,000, is surrounded on three sides by an eight-meter high concrete wall, cutting off its people from their farmland and water. The only exit is barred by an Israeli guard post. In a particularly cynical move, the Israeli government said that in return for Palestinians giving up their struggle against Israel and accepting the U.S.-imposed "road map," it would withdraw its troops from two Palestinian cities: Qalqiliya, whose population would remain imprisoned by the wall and the Israeli checkpoint, and Jericho, which is not actually under direct occupation now.
The demonstrations came as Israel announced the completion of the first 150-kilometer part of the "apartheid wall." Eventually it will stretch between 450 and 650 kilometers (about 280 to 400 miles), according to different sources, running through the West Bank and Gaza. Only 42% of the West Bank and Gaza land that Israel claims it will offer the Palestinians for a mini-state will be on the "Palestinian" side of the wall. Villages and families will be permanently divided and hundreds of thousands of people cut off from their livelihood, schools, clinics, etc. Israel calls it a "security fence" to protect Israel and Israeli settlements. George Bush has endorsed that logic, while also calling the wall a "problem" because Israel might not be able to find many Palestinians willing to accept it. Visiting Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Powell said Bush "doesn't like fences and he wished it weren't there."
But as a UN official with responsibility for human rights in Palestine wrote, "It is widely expected that, following the completion of the wall separating Israel from the West Bank on the western side, an eastern wall will be constructed separating Palestine from the Jordan valley." In other words, Israel plans to seal in the Palestinians on all sides. If a Palestinian state is ever established within the wall's confines, it will be like the walled-off ghettoes into which the Nazis herded the Jews, and the U.S. and Israeli-appointed Palestinian officials will not be very different than the Jewish puppets the Nazis used to help administer these places of confinement.
As these protests were taking place at the wall, the Israeli government announced that it would build 22 new homes in an Israeli settlement in Gaza, 10 for established settlers and 12 for new ones. While the Zionist government has a long-established practice of looking the other way as unofficial and technically illegal settlements are set up, this was an official and deliberate violation of Israel's promise not to expand settlements on what is supposedly Palestinian land. One important function of these settlements is to give Israel an excuse to further restrict Palestinians to "protect" the tiny numbers of Zionists paid to live there.
At the same time, Israel also moved toward getting rid of Palestinians living within its borders. A new marriage law passed by the Israeli parliament forbids Palestinians who marry Israelis to live in Israel.Since Israel allows only religious marriages, it is already difficult for Jews and Moslems to marry. The new law means that husbands and wives of Palestinians living in Israel (so-called Israeli Arabs, who are treated as second-class Israeli citizens) and East Jerusalem (which Israel plans to annex, although it is presently considered Palestinian) cannot live with their spouses. Their children, once they reach age 12, are also not allowed to live in Israel. The law is retroactive and will force thousands of Palestinian families to either separate or leave their homes forever. It will also forbid any future marriages or family reunification among Palestinians in the two zones. An Israeli official bragged that if a separate Palestinian state is established, this law would mean that "Palestinians should be unified there." This is a continuation and intensification of Israel's ethnic cleansing policies, which have included the demolition of more than 10,000 Palestinian homes since 1967.
Israeli authorities also announced they would put up another wall--a plastic wall in prison visiting areas to prevent physical contact between prisoners and visiting families at the Shikma high-security jail in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. Some 400 inmates rose up against this, reportedly fighting with guards. Prisoners in Beersheva, Nafha, Shatta and Hadarim jails--said to be as many as 1,800 in all-- went on a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with them. Israel holds between 6,000 and 7,700 Palestinians in confinement, according to various Palestinian estimates, including 350 children under 16. Most have never been tried and many are not even told the accusations against them. Only 1,461 have been convicted. Israeli law formally allows treatment that is deemed torture by international standards. A Palestinian lawyer estimates that 20 percent of all Palestinians have been in Israeli prisons or detention. Sharon has offered to free a few hundred prisoners in exchange for Palestinian acceptance of the "roadmap."
Although the International Solidarity Movement is committed to non-violence, the Israeli state repeatedly uses violence against it. It labels ISM activists "terrorists" with the excuse that even if they are pacifists, they "hinder" Army operations against "terrorists." What that means is this: One member, Rachel Corrie, was murdered by an Israeli army bulldozer as she took part in a protest against the demolition of a Palestinian home. Another, Tom Hurndall, was shot in the head as he tried to rescue Palestinian children from Israeli fire, and remains in a coma. ISM volunteers have been subjected to many raids, arrests and deportation. Israel makes all foreigners entering officially Palestinian areas sign a statement swearing that they are not associated with the ISM and that they and their survivors will not hold Israel and its army responsible for "death, injury or loss of property as a result of (Israeli) military activity." Many more students and other young people from Europe and the U.S. are expected to come and take part in ISM actions this August.
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