Please pass this on to others:
Two days ago, the last day of 2010, Jawaher Abu Rahmah was killed by Israeli soldiers in Bil’in, her besieged village. At age 36, she was fatally poisoned by toxic tear gas during the regular Friday protest against the wall and the military occupation.
In 2009 her brother Bassem was killed by soldiers in another protest, his chest crushed by a high-velocity tear-gas projectile fired directly at him.
In 2008 their brother Ashraf was shot in the foot by an Israeli soldier while he sat bound and blindfolded at another village protest.
In 2010 an Israeli military court sentenced their cousin Abdallah Abu Rahmah to a year in prison for his role in organizing the weekly non-violent protests.
In villages across the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza and within Israel, Palestinians, Israelis and international solidarity activists continue to resist the suffocating impact of the wall, the occupation and the military state. In Bil’in the wall cuts off more than half the villagers’ food-growing land. Whether or not they resist, their lives are at stake.
During the protests, sometimes the discipline of non-violence holds, sometimes enraged young men throw stones over the fence at their tormentors. Either way the soldiers fire tear-gas projectiles, rubber bullets and live ammunition.
Village leader Mohammed Khatib has been beaten by soldiers and imprisoned by the military court for organizing protests, and now he faces additional charges. On my travels for Our Way to Fight, I asked him: Given the violence and brutality Bil’iners endure week after week, year after year, how do you sustain such a high level of non-violent resistance?
He replied, “It’s our right as Palestinians to resist the occupation, but we must choose the method that we think will have the most benefit. Why engage your opponent in a fight that you know you will lose? Instead you compete in a way that you think you can win, and show what we have as Palestinians. We don’t have an army, or tanks, or nuclear weapons like Israel. What we have is our rights and our own power. How can we show this power, show who is victim and who is victimizer? By using non-violence.”
Like other occupiers, from its inception Israel has met non-violent resistance with escalating violence. It infuriates the military state when the occupied, the colonized, refuse to submit. “What we are doing is more dangerous than to shoot a gun and then run away,” says Mohammed. “You tie yourself to an olive tree and then you wait for the army to come, maybe to shoot you, to kill you. You also have to learn how to control yourself, because when you react to violence with violence, you are out of control, and in that field your opponent will win.”
In Palestine, so many martyrs are buried. At thirty-five Mohammed Khatib is still young. He has four children. A year ago I asked him: Doesn’t he fear for his own life? “Yes,” he replied. “After all these crimes of the Israeli occupiers, and so many people killed, I don’t want it to become a regular thing for us Palestinians to die like this, as if we were born only to die. I don’t want this to be the basis of struggle. But after Bassem I know how close we are to death. I am not afraid, personally. When we go to these demonstrations I expect the worst, I know that maybe this time it can be me. I don’t know why I’m not afraid of death, maybe because I believe in what I’m doing, and if you die for good things it’s an honour. So I would say that first we care about our lives, we care about our friends, but we are also not afraid to die.”
The urgent question for the rest of us: What will it take, and how many good people lost, before we can shut down the occupation and build a just peace?