25 March 2011
Within the context of 44 years of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, in the past two years (January 31, 2009 to January 31, 2011, starting just after Operation Cast Lead), over a thousand Palestinians have been made homeless by home demolitions, hundreds have been unlawfully detained, and over 150 men, women and children have been killed by the IDF and settlers, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem.(1) Many acres of Palestinian land have been taken and orchards uprooted by armed settlers. Countless hours have been lost at checkpoints, often fruitlessly, while Palestinians attempted to get medical care, jobs, and access to education. One and a half million Gazans have been living with a limited food supply, lack of electricity and dangerously toxic sewage.
This is occupation: daily, persistent acts of structural violence. All in the service of a government that constantly expands illegal Israeli settlements on land that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.
These acts don’t reach our headlines because they are so habitual, so we learn not to see them. But Palestinians live them and their profound consequences everyday, and we must keep that in mind, even as we ponder the terrible events of the past few weeks:(2)
These terrible acts of violence remind us that to end the Israeli occupation our best hope is supporting the inspiring nonviolent Palestinian movement for change, in the form of unarmed protests every Friday in places like Bil’in, Ni’lin, Sheikh Jarrah, and the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This is a movement that respects life, that is part and parcel of the nonviolent democratic people’s movements we have been inspired by throughout the Arab world, that welcomes the solidarity and support of Israeli and international believers in equality and universal human rights.
This is a movement that fundamentally subverts the logic of armies, revenge-fueled “price tags”, and armed struggle. And it is a movement that may well do what no other government to date has done– pressure Israel to be accountable to international law and therefore help create conditions for truly meaningful negotiations.
Because it is so powerful, it is no surprise that the right to engage in nonviolent resistance, a foundational component of any functioning democracy, is under attack in Israel. Human rights activists are being detained or imprisoned. Bills to criminalize the BDS movement, or harass human rights organizations, are working their way through the Knesset.
Just this week:
(1) B’tselem: Fatalities after operation “Cast Lead”
(2) The Guardian, March 23: Israeli-Palestinian tensions: a timeline
(3) Alternative Information Center, March 23: Israel’s Military Escalation in Gaza
(4) Jerusalem Post, March 23: Nakba Bill passes Knesset in third reading
(5) +972 Magazine, March 22: Knesset passes segregation bill
(6) New York Times, March 24: U.S. Group Stirs Debate On Being “Pro-Israel”
(7) Ha’aretz, March 21: Military Intelligence monitoring foreign left-wing organizations
and +972 Magazine, March 22: Military Intelligence monitors “de-legitimization”
(8) Popular Struggle, March 24, 2011: Israeli Soldiers arrest Bassem Tamimi, Coordinator of Nabi Saleh Popular Committee