On the final day of the Freedom Bus solidarity walk , organized by the Freedom Theater in Jenin Refugee Camp, Israeli soldiers cracked down, injuring several people and arresting Luke Nephew, a poet active with Occupy Sandy in the Rockaways.
On March 29th, The Freedom Theatre's Freedom Bus, together with the South Hebron Hills Popular Struggle Committee, organised the walk through the South Hebron Hills, an area with a long tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience. The action brought together about 150 artists, activists, community leaders and students from Palestine and abroad. Participants attempted to walk through Mufaqara, Tuba, a-Sfay, Maghayir al-Abeed and al-Fakhit – five of eight communities facing forced eviction within "Firing Zone 918" – an area of the South Hebron Hills used by the Israeli Forces for military training. 1000 people living in this region have been issued with eviction orders. All homes in these villages are faced with demolition.
We started out our Solidarity March on Friday morning, children joining in from the village of At-Tuwani, people of all ages, Palestinian, International and Israeli. It was getting hot already at 10 am and we began our march by planting olive trees on a hill overlooking the village. Then we began our march, people had brought musical instruments and everyone was singing.
We had all been schooled in the attitude and practice of non-violence and the village leaders reminded us once more- even if a settler hits you, keep walking. Don't interact with the soldiers, just keep walking.
As soon as we got to the road we saw a huge armored truck pass by and then several military jeeps. About 50 ft past us the soldiers quickly spilled out onto the road and took positions. We kept walking. We walked around and in between them, singing.
Apparently this was not their plan. The soldiers began to single out some of the women and youth from the Village, and the Internationals, in response, given that we were also there to participate in protective accompaniment, stood beside, in front of and in back of the local people they were harassing. We managed to keep walking for a while this way. Things started to escalate quickly, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) targetted one of the village leaders. Again we used our strategy and when the man fell down in an apparent heart attack our medics, the wonderful Red Crescent Society, was able to get him away from the soldiers to safety.
The day before, one of our Freedom Bus members had been targetted by the military, a young Mexican man named Danny from Cleveland. Apparently they were still determined to arrest him and so they then targetted him. They were trying to take him to the Truck and we surrounded him, grabbed on to him and told the soldiers we would not allow them to arrest them, that they had no right to arrest him....After some very tense maneuvering we managed to get Danny out of their hands and he ran to a nearby cave (but that is his story to tell at a later time!)
Next they targetted Luke Nephew. Again, we went and surrounded him holding onto his arms. This is when they began to hit us with their rifle butts. We lost hold of Luke and they managed to put him in the truck but they could not get the door closed and he climbed up over their heads and out! We grabbed hold of him again, two of us from the Freedom Bus, myself and a Palestinian leader of the Bus, A'alia. They threw us all to the ground, continuing their abuses, threatening to pepper spray our eyes and it was during these moments that they twisted A'alia's arm (she had to be treated) and my leg (I am still limping and the medics think that I have a torn ligament) Luke was arrested and at this moment has been released to house arrest pending deportation.
Despite all this, we continued our march through the communities that Israel has designated for demolition, with some alterations in the march route as we did not want things to escalate. I rode alongside the march, in the Red Crescent ambulance, after being treated. They cranked the Arabic music up and we all clapped along and when we got to our destination they brought me some tea. The hospitality and warmth I have experienced here is beyond anything I have ever experienced.
We had lunch at another village that Israel has promised to demolish in the interests of military training (and land theft). Just to be clear, no compensation is offered and people's homes, some of them who have lived there since the Ottoman times, are simply demolished.
What struck me was how Israel responds to a completely nonviolent protest. I sensed...that if we Internationals had not been with the group the results of the clash would have been lethal most likely, as they so often are. The people here are so steadfast and creative in their resistance and in At-Tuwani, almost everyone has actually had training in non violence and it is something they emphasize tremendously.
Our march was cut short, but we were told that it was considered a success given that we marched the whole way through a closed military zone/firing zone. One cannot honor these illegal and immoral boundaries, and to simply walk on the land is a way of asserting one's right to it.
This is most likely why there was such a harsh reaction.
From At Tuwani, one can look across the land for miles and see only a couple of houses (such as the small illegal settlement across the road) stretches of pine woods and mountains, valleys. The beauty of it is amazing. It is also clear that Israel intends to have all this land, without it's native population and they are trying to do everything they can to insure that it is unbearable for the Palestinians to live there. Ironically, under International Law the occupier is supposed to provide infrastructure for the occupied i.e.:roads, electricity, water. But I have seen a systematic denial of all those things, and more.....
Read more at LouisvillepoetinJenin.
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