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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

1 June 2001, 6:13 PM
Subject: Chapter 4 of the Dir Istya saga


The residents of the Palestinian village of Dir Istya have conducted another courageous act of nonviolent resistance together with Israeli and international allies in the face of ongoing provocations by the Israeli army and settlers.

Dir Istya is a small village surrounded by four Israeli settlements (Yakir, Emanuel, Nofim and Barqan). While farming is the main source of livelihood, this has become increasingly difficult due to recent appropriations of land, the bulldozing of olive-tree orchards, and the proximity of settlers, who impede access to the remaining fields and orchards.

Within the past two months, Dir Istya has been the scene of several acts of nonviolent resistance in an effort to protect the orchards and prevent an incipient new settlement (four caravans so far) from taking root. In April, two young women – Neta Golan (a Jewish Israeli) and Yasmin Khayal (a Palestinian-German) – chained themselves to olive trees in an effort to prevent the trees from being bulldozed. And in early May, several hundred peace activists protested peacefully there, to which the Israeli army replied with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated bullets, ending in the wounding of one journalist and several fields catching fire.

Today’s action was sponsored by the Palestinian residents of Hares and Dir Istya in coordination with the International Solidarity Movement, Reut-Sadaka (Jewish-Arab Youth Movement), Rabbis for Human Rights, CPT, and the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace.

About one hundred participants gathered inside the village this morning, roughly half Palestinian residents and the other half mixed Israelis and internationals. As the activists headed out of the village toward the caravans to protest their presence, the Israeli army blocked their progress, announcing that the area was now a “closed military zone,” and demanded that the activists return to the village. Settlers who stood near the soldiers were not asked to leave the closed military zone. In the best nonviolent tradition, the peace activists refused to turn back and peacefully tried to proceed, now with linked arms and chanting. The soldiers tried to prevent their progress and forced some of them to the ground. The activists responded by remaining seated on the ground, which the army also could not abide. Power, after all, demands to be expressed. After further scuffling, soldiers plunged into the group and began to haul off those they believed to be ringleaders.

Twelve activists were brought to the police station in Ariel, a site that has become familiar to many. This group included three Palestinians from Dir Istya – Dr. Nafez Mansour, who is mayor of the village, Suleiman Mahmoud Shimlawi, and Ahmad Tayil Faris, a student at an-Najah University. The other nine included five Israeli Jews – Liad Kantorowicz (23), Shelly Nativ (28), Dorit Tadir (19), Arik Ascherman, and Micky Fischer – and one Palestinian citizen of Israel – Jamal Attamneh (29), who is the director of Re’ut-Sadaka. Also arrested were Bob from CPT-Hebron and two German internationals.

At the police station, the three Palestinians from the territories were separated from the others and booked on criminal charges. The others were interrogated and told to sign release orders and leave. They refused to sign the papers unless the Palestinians would also be released. The police threatened to evict them forcibly, and did drag Liad out of the station. Eventually, though, the police released all 12, who by now are on their way home.

One more point. After the 12 were arrested, someone opened fire on the activists who remained behind and an 18-year-old Palestinian boy was shot. We are trying to ascertain his condition, and initial reports are that the injury is not serious. The shot, by the way, may have been fired by a settler, a policeman, or a soldier, but we will never know who. This is not the sort of thing that the Israeli authorities bother to investigate when the injured party is a Palestinian.

Thank you, attorney Yossi Wolfson, for your efforts on everyone’s behalf. Well done, those of you who were there.

Gila Svirsky

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2001 Gila Svirsky.

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