STRICKLAND: A wave of Palestinian activism 29Sep13 September 29, 2013


by Patrick Strickland     -     Palestine Note    -     20 March 2013

On 29 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voiced resounding approval for a resolution that upgraded the Palestinian Authority to the status of observer state, recognizing its sovereignty within the 1967 borders: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem as its capital.

The following day little changed: Israeli institutions in the occupied territories remained unscathed, including the winding strings of heavily-populated Jewish settlements, military checkpoints strategically dotted across the map, the several hundred kilometer long separation wall, and a number of segregated highways.

Israeli officials reacted by announcing 3,000 new settlement units in the keystone E1 area of the West Bank. In the face of international criticism, PM Benyamin Netanyahu defiantly vowed to press on.  “Today we are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the map of the strategic interests of the State of Israel,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting on 2 December.

Tensions continue to rise as Israeli military forces have enacted a harsh crackdown in the West Bank, launching sweeping arrest campaigns. As of February, Addameer Prisoner Support Network documents that 4,812 Palestinians were being detained in Israeli prisons, 219 of which were children and 178 of which were being held in administrative detention without trial or charge. Since November, the total number of prisoners increased by 282, including 55 additional children and 22 more administrative detainees.

Additionally, at least seven Palestinians died at the hands of Israel thus far this year. According to Israeli NGO BTselem, five unarmed Palestinians were shot and killed by the Israeli military in January alone. The latest, 23-year-old Mohammed Asfour, died on 7 March as a result of being “shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet” two weeks earlier.

In the face of these steadily intensifying challenges, Palestinian activists in the West Bank have in turn responded by accelerating several creative forms of direct action that have belatedly gained attention in recent years.

International attention was galvanized when Palestinian and international activists erected some 25 tents in E1 and declared the new protest village of Bab Al-Shams in January. Hundreds were expelled and detained when Israeli soldiers evicted the village less than 48 hours later. Since then, a string of analogous protest villages were raised only to be swiftly evacuated and demolished.

“Bab Al-Shams was not an outbreak of popular resistance,” Abir Kopty of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee told Palestine Note. “It is a natural development of the long history of Palestinian popular resistance. Since Bab Al-Shams, there have been more than four local initiatives—most of them not staged by the PSCC—in which residents followed the same model to protect their lands from confiscation and colonization.”

“It was effective in breaking through the apathy of Palestinians and giving hope and inspiration. Popular resistance is expanding and growing wider. However, if we stop here it won’t be effective. The task is to continue to challenge the occupation and find new strategies to protect our land.”

The Palestinian street has rallied behind imprisoned hunger strikers. Addameer states that there are presently eight detainees refusing food, including long-term hunger-striker Samer Al-Issawi, who has gone over six months intermittently without food in defiance of his administrative detention. Since September 1, “not one day [has] passed without at least one prisoner on individual hunger strike.”

On Wednesday February 11, former hunger striker Khader Adnan strolled into the lobby of the International Committee for the Red Cross and announced he was launching a solidarity hunger strike. There he would stay, he told media, until the ICRC intervened on behalf of Al-Issawi and others.

“One can witness a direct link between the ongoing protests across Palestine to the situation of the prisoners, and particularly the hunger strikers,” Gavan Kelly of Addameer said in an interview with PN. “The prisoners have helped inspire the masses to continue with their struggle on the outside, just like the prisoners continue to do on the inside.”

On February 18, hundreds of Palestinian activists shut down Street 60, a settler-only road near Bethlehem, in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

A week later, following allegations that Shin Bet tortured prisoner Arafat Jaradat to death, Israeli Prison Services estimated 4,500 prisoners participated in a one-day hunger strike, and his funeral was turned into a several thousand strong protest that drew the participation an array of Palestinian political factions.

Other recent campaigns include rallying around individual villages facing unique threats, such as Bili’in and Nabi Saleh. Coupled alongside age-old tactics like marching, sit-ins, and gathering at checkpoints, a broad arsenal of creative new tactics has invigorated a wide Palestinian activist movement.

“It even reaches our bedrooms”

On 9 March, several activist-filled buses shuttled over 200 passengers from Jaffa, Nazareth, and Ramallah, dropping them off on each side of Hizma checkpoint, where a mock wedding procession was held. Organized by Love in a Time of Apartheid, a grassroots initiative dedicated to challenging discriminatory laws, the event highlighted a controversial piece of legislation that affects relationships between Israeli citizens and West Bank Palestinians.

Israeli forces broke up the demonstration. Speaking to Palestinian media, an Israeli Army spokeswoman said, “100 rioters at Hizma threw stones at security services, who used riot dispersal means, including tear gas, to disperse the riot.”

“The demonstration was entirely peaceful,” retorted Khulood Badawi, a human rights activist, speaking to Palestine Note (PN). “The most violent act was preventing the bride and groom from coming together. When we talk about apartheid’s imposed fragmentation, dispossession, and oppression, it’s important to know that it even reaches our bedrooms.”

The Citizenship and Entry Law forbids West Bank Palestinians married to Israeli citizens from living inside Israel. Supporters argue that it is a matter of national security to preserve the country’s Jewish majority. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the law is part of a wave of legislation that systematically targets Palestinians.

“It is important for Palestinians to challenge all racist laws against them not only this one, but this one touches the heart of the Palestinian cause,” said organizer Najwan Berekdar, speaking to PN.  “Israel has been trying to achieve two major issues regarding Palestinians: ethnic cleansing and the division [of Palestinians] in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Israel, and East Jerusalem. The danger of this law is that it will bring about a situation in which a Palestinian disregards another Palestinian because of the kind of document he holds, or the color of his ID, not for whom his heart beats.”

Berekdar added that the demonstration “not only managed to actualize and reflect reality [but] it also reminded us that we are all under the same occupation and systematic Apartheid.” Israel “may use different techniques to oppress and occupy each of us, but it’s the same system. Thus, it’s the same fight.”

Both activists and organizers plan on continuing creative protests. “We can see that anger is increasing and there is a wave of massive protests every few months,” PSCC’s Abir Kopty commented. “No one can tell what will happen in the near future, but the anger will keep increasing until the right moment and hopefully it amounts to a massive movement on the ground.”

Dylan Collins is a freelance photojournalist currently based in the West Bank. His work has been published with Al-Jazeera English, Al-Akhbar English, Mondoweiss and Al-Haq, among others.

Patrick O. Strickland is the Israel-Palestine Editor for His writing has appeared at Fair Observer, Palestine Monitor, Al-Akhbar English,, GlobalPost, and elsewhere. He is presently writing his first book, a brief history of nonviolent resistance in Palestine.


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