Week 1,984 of occupation
By: Daniel Breslau
The nonviolent protests against the wall continue
A feature article by Meron Rapoport, in the Friday supplement of Ha`aretz, gave a glimpse of the mind-set of IDF commanders charged with suppressing the nonviolent demonstrations against the annexation wall. The commanders were eager to justify the graduated methods they routinely use against the demonstrations: tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, live ammunition, collective punishment, provocateurs. But the officers were most eager to label the demonstrations as violent disturbances and to (falsely) accuse the Israeli participants of inciting the protests. Clearly, the nonviolent nature of these actions and the participation of Israeli activists are their most effective—and for the soldiers the most frustrating—features, since they prevent the army from taking even more forceful measures.
In the weekly demonstration in Bil`in, in June 10, the village`s residents taped their hands together as they marched over barbed wire that had been laid in their path. They were again met by the IDF`s new `Screamer` acoustic cannon, which emits a high-pitched sound that causes pain and nausea to those within hearing range.
In Salfit, where part of the Ariel loop of the wall is to be constructed, over 20 kilimeters to the East of the green line, a nonviolent procession of 300 protesters on June 9 was met with the usual barrage of tear gas. One of the Israeli activists, Yonatan Pollak, was arrested and charged under a 1945 Emergency Regulations from the British Mandate in Palestine, by which it is unlawful to enter a closed military zone. He was held for two days, until signing an agreement not to enter the West Bank for 3 months.
On Friday, June 10, residents of the nearby village of Marda, also in the path of the Ariel loop, staged a demonstration, and were met by tear gas and sound grenades. Several Palestinian children were hit with rubber-coated bullets and participants claimed that live ammunition was also used.
The village of Ramadin, in the southern West Bank, has become the site of similar actions, now that the construction of the wall threatens its lands.
Court challenges to the wall continue to have mixed results, functioning mostly as a delaying tactic. On June 14, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected appeals by the residents of Bil`in and Kharbata to halt construction of the wall through their villages, but allowing individual residents of the village to resubmit their appeals. Children from Bil`in, who are permitted to travel across the green line, demonstrated outside the Supreme Court, against the confiscation of nearly half of their village`s agricultural lands for the construction of the wall.
Israel has made an official decision to begin constructing the wall around the `Gush Etzion` settlement bloc south of Jerusalem. The government has made no secret of its intention to permanently, and unilaterally, annex this area to Israel.
High Court of Justice approves disengagement plan
By a vote of 10 to 1,Israel`s High Court of Justice, on June 9, approved the legality of Ariel Sharon`s planned evacuation from the Gaza Strip and isolated settlements in the northern West Bank. The decision was otherwise sympathetic to the settlers, opening the door to a flood of individual damage claims that the settlers are now permitted to make, even after accepting government compensation. A by-product of the ruling was the reinforcement of the status of the occupied territories under Israeli law. The court reiterated that the territories are not part of Israel, but are under `belligerent conquest` and that therefore the protections of Israeli law do not apply to them.
Palestinian Authority struggles
The Palestinian Authority is waging a difficult struggle to restore its authority, and civil order, to the towns under its control. Ramallah has seen an outbreak of violent clashes between competing families, with PA security personnel taking part in the fighting. Civilians were also killed in similar disputes in Gaza.
In response, the PA has taken harsher measures to reassert control. On Sunday, June 12, it carried out four death sentences in the Gaza Strip, three by hanging and one by shooting. These were the first executions carried out since 2001. Those executed had been convicted of murder, abduction, and robbery before the outbreak of the recent intifada.
The Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Ala (Ahmed Qureia), made a plea for discipline in the security services, threatening to suspend government operations if the unrest was not brought under control. He called for severe deterence of crime, and singled out the participation of security forces personnel in the violence.
Gaza still occupied
Two months before the planned evacuation of Gaza Strip settlements, the Palestinian residents of the strip are still living under severe occupation conditions, with continual restrictions on movement. The Al-Mawasi area, a strip of coastal land completely surrounded by the Gush Katif settlements, is under a virtual siege. Its 6000 residents can come and go only through the Al Mawasi checkpoint, which is open only during daylight hours. The checkpoint is often closed arbitrarily, and males between the ages of 16 and 35 are prevented from crossing at all. Children have lost many school days due to closures and roadblocks that prevent them or teachers from reaching the one school in the area. University students, and secondary students seeking adequate education are forced to live outside of the area.
Sources: Ha`aretz, International Middle East Media Center, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, International Solidarity Movement, Israel Independent Media Center.