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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

26 June 2001
Subject: Food & solidarity convoy

Don’t be misled by reports that Israel is “easing the closure.” Read the following report written by Ta’ayush, an Arab-Jewish organization in Israel that has done excellent work in conveying food and solidarity to blockaded Palestinian villages.

On June 23, Ta’ayush set out on its fifth expedition since the start of the Al-Aqsa Uprising, taking food to besieged villages in the West Bank as a mark of solidarity with their inhabitants, and in protest against the worst blockade the region has seen to date.

150 Arab and Jewish activists took some 40 cars and two trucks loaded with staples and clothes from Kafr Qassem into the West Bank. The destinations: Brouqin and Kufr ed-Dik in the Salfit region.

Earlier that week, Ta’ayush activists had been informed by the inhabitants that Israeli military had blocked all access to and from the villages, by pulling up the asphalt on the road, digging deep trenches, and piling high soil ramparts at the entrances to Brouqin, and on the access route between Brouqin and Kufr ed-Dik.

The two villages lie southeast of Kafr Qassem. Our shortest route would have been to turn south off the so-called “Cross-Samaria road” and then east to Kufr ed-Dik, after which the convoy would have continued east to Brouqin. However, when the convoy reached the relevant junction, it was stopped by police and army forces, and instructed to continue east toward Hares, and then to double back to Brouqin. The reason: the road west of Kufr ed-Dik was closed both to us and to all Palestinians, since it passed two Jewish settlements (Alei Zahav and Pedu’el), and was defined as a “military zone.”

The convoy complied, traveling eastward and doubling back toward the village of Brouqin – only to be confronted by a giant soil rampart, several metres in height, length and breadth. After a short exchange with the army and police, they agreed not to enter the village or hinder our action, and even ordered a stray “security vehicle” belonging to Jewish settlers from Ariel to leave the premises. Shortly after both the army and the police were gone, too.

Activists, prepared in advance, used picks, shovels and bare hands, attempting to level the barrier. At length, a precarious and steep path was fashioned in the artificial hill. Our cars cautiously edged over the barrier into the village.

But the trucks could not possibly pass. 50,000 NIS (12,500$) worth of food had to be taken in. The activists formed a chain – Israelis with Palestinians – and laboriously passed sugar, flour, rice, canned food and clothes from hand to hand, up the hill and down the slope into the village. Other village inhabitants met us with trucks, and the goods were loaded onto them.

The activists continued, some in their cars, and some on foot, to the village center, where representatives of both village councils welcomed us and spoke against Israeli occupation and violence, and in hope for a true “Ta’ayush”: a just partnership between Israelis and Palestinians. Representatives of Ta’ayush answered with a demand to end the oppression and occupation.

Because the action had taken so many hours, we decided not to attempt the next barrier, which cut Brouqin off from Kufr ed-Dik, and agreed with the inhabitants of the villages that they would pass half of the food on, at their own pace.

The convoy then returned without disturbances to Kafr Qassem.

Several points are worthy of mention in this action:

The situation in these villages is representative of the entire West Bank. While speaking of a cease-fire and claiming to have alleviated the pressure on the Palestinian population, the government has implemented a silent policy of tightening the closure to choking point. The fact that even after working to level the barrier, only private cars could pass, and trucks bearing essential merchandise were unable to cross into the village is worrying in the extreme, and contradicts Israeli claims that “humanitarian products” pass freely into Palestinian centers of population.

The leveling of the barrier was allowed by the military for two, and only two reasons: the fact that a large group of 150 Israelis demanded to do so, and the fact that foreign press (both the Associated Press and Reuters) was covering the action. There is no doubt that similar attempts by Palestinians alone would have been prevented.

Israeli media has consistently ignored the most recent tightening of the siege over the past fortnight. Saturday’s action was no exception. Although all newspapers, TV and radio channels were informed more than a week in advance, although footage and recordings were available from AP and Reuters, and although Channel 2 even sent a cameraman to record the activities – willing journalists met reluctant editors, and the event went unremarked by Israeli media. This is in sharp contrast to Palestinian press on both sides of the Green Line, which emphasized the action on TV, radio, as well as the two daily newspapers Al-Quds and Al-Ittihad. Al-Jazira broadcast the action twice that day. This closing of lines in the attempt to represent wall-to-wall Israeli consensus was also apparent in the portrayal of the Israeli Left on a Channel 2 documentary the previous day (22.6.01), which did its best to show the Left as a small and marginal group.

Donations for this action were collected jointly by Jews and Arabs in Tel-Aviv, Kafr Qassem, Ar’ara, Jerusalem, Bar’am and Ara. Our convoys continue.

Donations to Ta’ayush for food can be deposited to bank account no. 396608, Bank Hapoalim, Ramat Aviv Branch (606). From overseas: Bank Hapoalim, Swift code POALILITA (Ramat Aviv branch), 12-606-396608.

We now also have a P.O. Box for cheques: they should be made out to שויאעת, or “Ta’ayush,” and sent to Miri Weingarten (Ta’ayush), P.O Box 59380, Tel-Aviv 61993, Israel.

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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2001 Gila Svirsky, Ta’ayush.

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