Sunday, February 12, 2006
From Bil'in to Abud - strategy and tactics of Anti-Wall protests
There was a demonstration in Abud last Friday as well as the regular demonstration in Bil'in. I was at the Abud demonstration rather then the Bil'in demonstration. The Bil'in protest resulted in several people being arrested and others injured. Check out http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/02/11/two-villages-one-struggle-Abud-and-Bil'in-against-the-wall/ for a summary of the events in Bil'in (I joint wrote the article with someone who was there). There are so many factors in Palestinian demonstration particularly one that is occurring out in an open field or on a hill as opposed to on a city street, so I don't want to comment on the functioning of the Bil'in demonstration this week although I think a comparison between this weeks Abud demonstration and the previous couple of weeks demonstrations is useful.
There have previously been demonstrations in Abud against the wall although they have not had one for a while. One thing I noticed immediately was that in Abud a large amount of PFLP and PPP (PFLP symbol on left in photo below and PPP the logo on the right), graffiti and posters as compared to other villages which are primarily Hamas and/or Fateh. Both PPP and PFLP are leftist groups in Palestine (Check the previous post on the PPP for more details but I haven't had direct experience with PFLP).
The rally met in the centre of Abud. From the start I could see PPP placards on polls being handed out. Anti-wall T-shirts and caps produced by PARC the agricultural NGO organised by PPP.
The PPP were the only group with placards, the only other symbol on the march were Palestinian flags. The PPP gathered their cadre with the megaphone grouping what appeared to be the vanguard of the rally around them. Unlike Bil'in where people just race to get down to the wall with the "militant" young people just running crazily down to the wall, here there was a real militant organised pull of young people in the middle of the rally chanting and clapping making sure we approached as a group .
One thing that stood out was the real "maleness of this rally" like the ones in Bil'in there was still a major imbalance. This is despite the fact that there is a more leftist orientation in the village and that there is more Christians as well as Muslims in the village. I think I felt this most standing amongst a large group of men, chanting and screaming whilst women without head covering (probably Christian) were looking on at the demonstration from their balcony (see the photo above.
So we moved from the village and ended up climbing a hill towards where a dirt road was (we believe this road to be the future path of the wall.)
Because of the vast amounts of rock that seem to litter every natural part of Palestine the rally was more spread out but still there was a feeling that people weren't racing. The fact that we couldn't see soldiers probably also calmed the rally.
When we got to the top of the hill the dirt was being held down by military blankets to make it easier to cement a road there in the future. The villagers burnt the blankets and started pushing stones into the middle of the road as a way of trying to cost the occupation and as a form of symbolic resistance (pictured below).
Once on the top of the hill there were prepared speeches by Bassam Al Salhi, Secretary General of the Palestinian People Party and Fateh member Moheeb Awwad, a newly elected member of the Palestinian legislative council. Both of them talked about the need for the various Palestinian factions to unite and continue to work together against the occupation.
Al Salhi made a special point of acknowledging the Internationals that were there and how the actions of their governments and media should not reflect badly on them or other people from their countries that may not share their governments views (he was primarily talking about the anti-Islamic cartoon). After the speeches were over as a united group we moved to confront the wall itself.
He also pointed out that the day Feb. 10 was the anniversary of the PPP or at least the latest version of the PPP and they wanted to mark the day with this important demonstration. The seem to have an activist focus as well as their NGO focus (if not an ideological one), I just hope it is a constant thing that is not limited to their anniversary celebrations.
The protest was quickly confronted by an Israeli Hummer Vehicle. Unlike the rallies in Bil'in where stone throwing was a small group of young men dispersed over a large area vs an infinite number of soldiers (hiding in reserve), here about 40 young people pushing back one Israeli armored car (and it worked). The terrain changed the dynamic of the stone throwing because of the height advantage, it is harder to scare the demo into running in multiple directions. The army started sending out individual soldiers and fired warning shots into the air. We left the rally area as a group in a more organised fashion then what I had seen in Bil'in before going over to the Youth Union centre to discuss how we continue the campaign.