Goodner: Protective accompaniment in occupied Palestine


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A fledgling nonviolent popular resistance movement in occupied Palestine is in danger of being wiped off the map by a coordinated campaign of repression by the Israeli Occupation Forces, and it needs the support of international solidarity activists if hopes for a just peace are to survive in 2010.

I spent the last three weeks of December in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement, “a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.”

During my time in occupied Palestine, I was physically assaulted by Israeli soldiers, tear-gassed, shot at with rubber-coated steel bullets, and arrested. In just three areas of the country — the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the West Bank villages of Bil’in and Nil’in, and the cities of Nablus and Tulkarm — I personally witnessed or later documented more than 75 arbitrary arrests of nonviolent demonstrators, the violent dispersal of a cultural celebration that left nine people wounded, the forced eviction and displacement of four families of Palestinian refugees from their homes, and the resettlement of the neighborhood by fundamentalist settlers. In addition, I witnessed the relocation of dangerous chemical factories over the Green Line from Israel into occupied Palestine, the demolition of a small family business, a road blockade that cut off hundreds of farmers from their land, a “price tag” campaign of terror by settler organizations against Palestinian civilians, the burning of the Yasuf mosque to the ground, and three extrajudicial executions of alleged militants. I saw the Apartheid Wall — the Israel-West Bank barrier — settler-only roads, and military checkpoints that prohibit freedom of movement and trade and cut off Palestinian villages from their traditional land.

A coalition of Palestinians, left-wing Israeli Jews, and international solidarity activists have organized a nonviolent popular resistance movement to protest the systematic land confiscations and new settlement construction that has turned the West Bank into a Swiss cheese of American- Indian-style reservations. But the violent criminalization and systematic disruption of legitimate dissent by the Israeli Occupation Forces has had a devastating effect on local organizing efforts.

Imagine if every week your local community organization had its offices raided, its computers smashed, its files stolen, the doors to the members’ homes kicked down at night, the group’s leaders arrested and held for months without charges, or targeted at protests by snipers with rubber-coated steel bullets. Then you would begin to see what life is like for the Palestinian peace movement in the West Bank. In the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip, things are worse.

The Palestinian popular resistance movement is organized independently of the established political parties, such as Hamas and Fatah. The movement’s goal is to use nonviolent direct action and community organizing to shift the balance of power in the conflict toward Palestinian civil society and to stop the Israeli project of land confiscations, territorial annexations, house demolitions, forcible evictions, and internal displacements designed to pre-empt final-status negotiations.

Israel is one of the largest military powers in the world, with a globally integrated, modern economy and the full diplomatic and financial support of the United States. The Palestinians are a developing nation of people without a state. Without a fundamental shift in the power dynamics undergirding the conflict, there is little incentive for Israel to grant the kinds of serious concessions that are necessary to achieve a two-state solution. That’s why the international solidarity and boycott, divestment, and sanctions movements are the two most effective ways for American civil society to support and strengthen the Palestinian people.

David Goodner is an Iowa City native and UI graduate.

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