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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

22 April 2001
Subject: How the IDF Responds to Nonviolence


The testimony below is from Dr. Veronika Cohen of the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem and a founding member of Rapprochement (Jerusalem). Veronika participated in the action a few days ago to dismantle the blockade at Bidya and Masha. At that action, following the arrest of 16 activists, two activists were injured: Hava Keller, a 72-year-old woman, was hurt in the leg by a tear-gas grenade thrown toward her which exploded at her feet; Hava was released from hospital after emergency room treatment. And a rabbinical student from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles (at Schechter Institute in Jerusalem for the year), was struck by a stun grenade, which then exploded beside her. The fact that two grenades fell among the activists appears to be intentional, as they were thrown from a short distance. It is also quite likely that the army would have opened fire at the activists, despite the nonviolent nature of the demonstration, had it not been for the presence of internationals and Israelis.

Finally, on another day of a bomb in Israel (Kfar Saba) with the loss of life and 50 people injured, this violence must also be censured and brought to a halt.

Gila Svirsky


From: Veronika Cohen
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 1:28 PM

On April 18, at a checkpoint near the villages of Bidya and Masha in the Nablus region, tear gas and stun grenades were thrown at demonstrators. The army claims this action came in response to rocks being thrown at soldiers.

I was at that demonstration along with dozens of other Israeli, Palestinian and foreign peace activists, and I can state categorically: NO STONES WERE THROWN AT THE SOLDIERS TO PROVOKE THIS VIOLENT RESPONSE. So did the army attack us for absolutely no reason? No, it did not. They attacked us for an act the army (and presumably the government) apparently views as a serious threat, maybe more threatening than stone throwing: NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE.

The violent response of the army came when they saw that the villagers who have been suffering for months from the encirclement of their villages (which prevent them from going to work or reaching the nearby town of Nablus for medical care, education etc.) took matters into their own hands.

The activity began in an upbeat atmosphere as all the young people worked together to remove dirt and move boulders with their bare hands. The army and police watched these pathetic efforts with restraint for a while. However when the young people managed to roll away a boulder, the atmosphere changed. We were told to leave immediately or risk arrest. When the IDF commander saw that the villagers brought a tractor to remove the pile of earth that had controlled their lives for month, his face was contorted with hate: What, Palestinians taking control of their own lives? Occupying a civilian population with minimal manpower requires that the average, nonviolent citizen accept the indignities, the suffering imposed by a handful of young soldiers or a mound of earth in a docile way. Let them suffer, let them hate, let the hate even produce some terrorists; with this the occupier knows how to deal. But what when a whole village refuses to play the game?

“You are lucky I am not using live ammunition against you,” the hate-filled officer yelled at us before the shock grenades and tear gas enveloped us. We were not “lucky,” we were Israeli, and that, I believe is why live ammunition was not used this time.

What is cause of Palestinian violence? Arafat? Arab hatred of Jews? Or can we finally admit that it is the occupation and our commitment to denying Palestinians all other means of letting us Israelis know: We will not be allowed to control their lives for ever.

Dr. Veronika Cohen

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© 2001 Gila Svirsky, Veronika Cohen.

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