FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On Palestinian Civil Disobedience

by NEVE GORDON

Sometime in 1846, Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail because he refused to pay his taxes. This was his way of opposing the Mexican-American War as well as the institution of slavery. A few years later he published the essay Civil Disobedience, which has since been read by millions of people, including many Israelis and Palestinians.

Kobi Snitz read the book. He is an Israeli anarchist who is currently serving a 20 day sentence for refusing to pay a 2,000 shekel fine.

Thirty-eight year-old Snitz was arrested with other activists in the small Palestinian village of Kharbatha back in 2004 while trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a prominent member of the local popular committee. The demolition, so it seems, was carried out both to intimidate and punish the local leader who had, just a couple of weeks earlier, began organizing weekly demonstrations against the annexation wall. Both the demonstrations and the attempt to stop the demolition were acts of civil disobedience.

In a letter sent to friends the night before his incarceration, Snitz writes that “I and the others who were arrested with me are guilty of nothing except not doing more to oppose the state’s truly criminal policies.” Snitz also explains that paying the fine is an acknowledgment of guilt which he finds demeaning. Finally, he concludes his epistle by insisting that his punishment is trivial when compared to the punishment meted out to Palestinian teenagers who have resisted the occupation. These thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year olds, he claims, are often detained for 20 days before the legal process even begins.

Snitz is not exaggerating.

In a recent report, the Palestinian human rights organizations Stop the Wall and Addameer document the forms of repression Israel has deployed against villages that have resisted the annexation of their land. The two rights groups show that once a village decides to struggle against the annexation barrier the entire community is punished. In addition to home demolitions, curfews and other forms of movement restriction, the Israeli military forces consistently uses violence against the protestors—and most often targets the youth– beating, tear-gassing as well as deploying both lethal and “non-lethal” ammunition against them.

Since 2004, nineteen people, about half of them children, have been killed in protests against the barrier. The rights groups found that in four small Palestinian villages — Bil’in, Ni’lin, Ma’sara and Jayyous — 1,566 Palestinians have been injured in demonstrations against the wall. In five villages alone, 176 Palestinians have been arrested for protesting against the annexation, with children and youth specifically targeted during these arrest campaigns. The actual numbers of those who were injured and arrested are no doubt greater considering that these are just the incidents that took place in a few villages.

Each number has a name and a story. Consider, for example, the arrest of sixteen year-old Mohammed Amar Hussan Nofal who was detained along with about 65 other people from his village Jayyous on February 18, 2009. According to his testimony, he was initially interrogated for two and a half hours in the village school.

“They asked me why I participated in the demonstrations, but I tried to deny [that I had]. Then they asked me why I threw a Molotov cocktail [at] them. I said I never had, which was true. My parents were there and witnessed [what happened]. They can confirm I never [threw a Molotov cocktail]. I later confessed to [having been at] demonstrations, but not [to having] thrown a Molotov cocktail.”

After being beaten for refusing to hold up a paper with numbers and Hebrew words on it in order to be photographed, Nofal was sent to Kedumim and was interrogated for several more hours. During this interrogation Captain Faisal (a pseudonym of a secret service officer) tried to recruit the teenager to become a collaborator.

“The Captain threatened that he would arrest my parents and my whole family if I did not collaborate. I said they could arrest [my family] any time, [but] it would be worse to become a spy. He then said they would confiscate my family’s permits so they could not pick olives.”

Nofal’s only crime was protesting against the expropriation of his ancestral lands. He spent three months in prison, during which time the Civil Administration decided to punish his family as well and refused to renew their permits to work in Israel.

When compared to Nofal and thousands of other Palestinians, Kobi Snitz is indeed paying a small price. But his act is symbolically important, not only due to his solidarity with his Palestinian partners, but also because he, like thousands of Palestinians, has decided to follow the lead of Henry David Thoreau and to commit acts of civil disobedience in order to resist Israel’s immoral policies and the subjugation of a whole people.

The problem is that the world knows very little about these acts. A simple google search with the words “Palestinian violence” yields over 86,000 pages, while a search with the words “Palestinian civil disobedience” generates only 47 pages – this despite the fact that for several years now Palestinians have been carrying out daily acts of civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation.

Thoreau, I believe, would have been proud of Nofal, Snitz and their fellow activists. It is crucial that the media and international community recognize their heroism as well.

NEVE GORDON is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

Neve Gordon is the co-author (with Nicola Perugini) of the newly released The Human Right to Dominate.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail