Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 

Beit Sira: Getting better at effective action Part 1

If you read my post on Saturday Feb 18, "Protest in Beit Sira: Disciplined Mass Action fails to reach potential" there were several criticisms I made of that protest. Some of which I think were corrected in the demonstrations I saw there a week later on Tuesday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd of February.

On Tuesday the 22nd we had a discussion about the situation in the village with a man called Farouk. One interesting thing that he told me, was that despite the settlements surrounding the village and confiscating their land up until the 2nd intifada started, settlers used to go to Beit Sira to do their shopping and play football (soccer) with the kids. Farouk said that he still had a friend in one of the settlements that he spoke to regularly on the phone. This blew me away and I asked him how he could be friends with someone who had taken his land away. He was so nice about it but one of the villagers who was translating for us said he also found it weird that Farouk and others did that. He likened it to someone offering you flowers and stabbing you in the back.

We marched from the village towards the wall. On the way the popular committee stopped and instructed all the young people in the village that they wanted to make sure that it was a peaceful demonstration and that no stones would be thrown. They motivated this saying that the throwing of one stone would undermine the message we wanted the rally to present.

We marched down the road stopping in front of Israeli Jeeps. There was a number of machines tearing up the road behind the jeeps. Again we didn't try to push through the military lines but the popular committee didn't instruct us to pull back this time.

Instead we set up a tent in the middle of the road. We kept the tent there for several hours while the road demolition was happening before our eyes. It was a good chance for the Internationals, the Palestinians and Israeli activists to talk and discuss some ideas. The army and the popular committee reached a "deal" where the army would cease construction of the wall and the village would also move the tent. It was the end of the working day for the construction company so the soldiers didn't care. The soldiers tried to arrest a few people at the end of the demonstration. They grabbed an Israeli activist and they beat me up (not too badly) and detained me for trying to de-arrest him.

As they arrested me they kept yelling stuff in either Hebrew or Arabic. I kept saying I only spoke English. When they released us they said something in Hebrew which I told them I didn't understand. One of the soldiers then repeated "the problem is you were not following instructions." I am not sure how I was supposed to follow Arabic or Hebrew instructions but it didn't seem to matter to them.

Anyway we packed up and the Israeli construction people finished work for the day so we went home without a stone being thrown or a rubber bullet being fired.

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