FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On the Edge of the Non-Violent Demonstrations

by Amira Hass

If Israeli TV cameras had bothered to follow the Israeli peace activists from the coexistence group Ta’ayush last Saturday when they went to Ramallah, they could have provided Israelis an answer to the question of what the IDF would do if thousands of unarmed Palestinians marched on the army’s positions.

Some 300 men and women from the Israeli group, which calls itself a Jewish-Arab partnership, met last Saturday in Ramallah with Yasser Arafat and central activists from Fatah, feminists, and representatives from Palestinian non-governmental organizations. After a meeting in Arafat’s office, they went outside to demonstrate opposite the tanks poised on a hill outside the Palestinian government complex. They marched toward the tanks. They were not armed. Not with guns, stones, or even posters.

All they had was a single hand-held loudspeaker, and people aged from 17 to 75, 300 in all. They were exposed, open, and walked toward ! the soldiers, also Israelis, who hid inside four tanks and a single jeep. It would have been very difficult to think the soldiers weren’t there, because they did what every IDF force in the territories does: They started their engines with a deafening noise, moved the cannon barrels up and down and left to right, as if aiming it at the demonstrators, issued white and black smoke from the engines, and rolled back and forth on the tank treads, those steel teeth that have chewed up the asphalt and sidewalks that European countries spent a lot of money improving.

It’s doubtful the voice coming from the loudspeaker reached the soldiers. But they must have known that every person marching toward them was an Israeli. The IDF takes a great deal of pride in its sophisticated technology, which enables daylight or nighttime identification of sources of fire. That day in Ramallah, a pair of opera glasses would have sufficed for the soldiers in the tanks to know who was marching ! outside. Who knows, maybe they recognized a neighbor, or their older sister’s philosophy teacher.

In fact, maybe the Hebrew voice reached the soldiers. The speaker, a Ph.D. in history, was emotional as he shouted “We invite the soldiers to come home.” The rest of the marchers began chanting “Soldiers come home,” and with perfect orchestration, the soldiers responded immediately with two stun grenades. Don’t be afraid, said an Israeli woman with some experience in these kinds of events. That’s nothing but noise. It’s just meant to frighten us.

That’s not exactly true. When a stun grenade falls inside a crowd, and not away from it, the way they are supposed to, it can burn, harm eyes, wound, even break a bone. Dozens of Palestinians who stood unarmed over the past year opposite soldiers have been wounded that way. During the last 16 months, the Palestinians tried dozens, if not hundreds, of times to hold non-violent demonstrations against IDF forces.

It! ‘s impossible to march on the settlements. Banks of tanks and machine guns, fortifications, reinforced outposts and roads for Jews only block direct access to the settlements. The IDF Spokesman’s Office has spun a myth that every clash that ended with Palestinian casualties was a conflict between two armed sides.

IDF and Border Patrol troops have made clear innumerable times that any gathering of people opposite its forces is considered a dangerous “disturbance of the peace” that requires a response. Sometimes clubbing and violent dragging, then come the stun grenades, maybe tear gas, and very quickly firing live ammunition into the air and then shooting rubber-coated steel pellets into the crowd. The steel pellets are covered with a thin layer of rubber, sometimes it’s live ammunition.

Sometimes the shooting starts before any of the demonstrators have managed to throw a stone. Often, the shooting is in response to stone-throwing by teenagers who hide behind ! improvised barricades. Sometimes they are shot in the head, sometimes the pellets strike protesters standing in albeit dangerous places, but dozens of meters away from the stone-throwers. To someone who has been at these non-violent demonstrations in recent months, it appears the IDF has long since gone past what was thought to be its limits. The Israelis that day in Ramallah decided not to test the limits, and dispersed on their own, going to their next meeting with the Palestinians.

For Palestinian activists to organize dozens of non-violent demonstrations that would march simultaneously toward IDF forces, they would need some guarantee that the soldiers wouldn’t cross the red lines into mass murder. Only Israeli society can provide that guarantee. Israeli society must widen the circle of those asking about the nature of the IDF’s activities in the territories captured in 1967. It must ask what its frightened and frightening children are doing at the checkpoints, b! efore those children become casualties of the “Let me die with the Philistines” war. Israeli society must ask more and more questions about the IDF’s rules of engagement and the money the government spends on developing the settlements and on the welfare of their residents, while its disabled citizens are left to live as beggars.

More articles by:
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail