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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

29 June 2001
Subject: Outside, inside, and above al-Khader today


Well, there was good news and bad news.

The good news was an effective action to protest the Israeli settlement that is encroaching on al-Khader’s land. We were about 70 Israelis and a handful of internationals, brought out by the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Gush Shalom, and the Alternative Information Center, at the initiative and invitation of the residents of the village of al-Khader. When the army and police blocked our entry into the village (declaring it a “closed military zone”), we tried alternative routes but could not get through. Finally, we used what we had to make our point: We sat down in the middle of Highway 60, the main artery for settlers in that area, and blocked traffic in both directions. Media cameras clicked and churned as we gripped arms and prevented the soldiers from carrying us away, while others held signs saying “Settlements are an obstacle to peace” and “End the Occupation.” And, yes, Neta Golan was on the road right there with us, her left arm in a cast and the right one intertwined with her neighbor.

Six were arrested: Five Israelis – Teddy Katz (the historian whose controversial MA thesis revealed a hitherto unknown killing of Palestinians in 1948), Yuval Halperin, Brian Wood, Niv Gordon, and Hillel Bardin – and one member of the Hebron-based Christian Peacemakers Team, Bob Holmes. All were released several hours later. Thank you to Attorney Allegra Pacheco for her legal support. All told, the worst for us had been sitting on a burning, asphalt road during the heat of the day, and remaining with sore seats.

The bad news was what happened inside the village of al-Khader during and after our action. When about 150 villagers heard that we were blocked from entering their village, they decided to hold the demonstration on their own, with the intention of erecting a protest tent from where the Palestinians could convey the oppressive nature of the occupation. During the course of their action, something exploded beside an army jeep, presumably thrown by one of the villagers. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but in reaction, the soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators and one bullet caught Adnan Danun, a 17-year-old from Beit Sahur, in the leg. The army also declared a curfew on the village – meaning that the residents must all remain within their homes – and soldiers took over two homes. In one, the family was herded into one room, and the soldiers use the rest of the house for military purposes. And in the other, the army is now stationed on the roof, from where they can peer down at the village streets and enforce the curfew.

Although no tent went up today, it strikes me that what was conveyed quite clearly was the oppressive nature of the occupation, the angry response that it sometimes evokes, and the collective punishment doled out afterwards to an entire community.

Gila Svirsky

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2001 Gila Svirsky.

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