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 "This is Sharonistan": A Report on Two Anti-Wall Events
 Gush Shalom, Israel
 November 9, 2003
 

At the rendezvous point in the Liberty Bell Park, a hitch developed: the Jerusalem Ta'ayush people, who took upon themselves to organize the morning event, had underestimated the number of people. As more and more activists arrived from Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem itself, it turned out that there weren't enough buses to transport everybody to the demonstration site in Sawahre, and the whole action was delayed for an hour. The mostly young organizers stayed remarkably calm: "It is very good that many came."

As the cavalcade set out at last across the invisible border between West and East Jerusalem, the activists meanwhile got detailed instructions for the eventuality of confrontation with the police. However, the contingency plans remained unused—we had no problems whatsoever with the police. But as we found later, the police were active further east, blocking the way for many Palestinian villagers who wanted to join the demonstration. Still, when we alighted from the buses, there was a considerable Palestinian crowd, of all ages, to welcome us.

Sawahra valley. It really looked like a replica of the Berlin Wall, that wall which had fallen exactly fourteen years ago—a long row of giant concrete panels planted in the middle of a pastoral landscape. Did the Israeli military consciously emulate the East-German example? Or is this just what engineers/bureaucrats routinely come up with?

In no time, the dull grey was overlaid by an enormous lot of graffiti, as Israeli, Palestinian and international activists simultaneously pulled out spray paint bottles and cheerfully set to work. There was complete freedom of speech—no attempts to censor or streamline: "Barrier for peace" / No more ghettos! / No to the Apartheid Wall! / There are no good walls. / Here ends the Zionist dream and begins the nightmare. / Arabern raus, this is Sharonistan. / Zionism of dispossession. / Riv Muren Swedent. / Make peace—not walls./ Pull down the wall. / The Wall will fall. / This wall is killing Israel, too. / Two states for two peoples. / Non au mur. / Planting and sowing is better than the wall of blood. / One state for two peoples. / IDF go home. / The IDF is a terrorist organization. / Yes to reconciliation. / Remember the Warshaw Ghetto. / This is not the Israel we dreamed of. / Down with the wall. / Yes to peace—No to the wall. / Another future without a wall. / This is Israeli supremacy and Apartheid. / Yes to the Green Line. / Peace begins with vegetarianism. / This is not security, this is stupidity. / Ghetto Palestine. / Wall = ethnic cleansing. / Stop the shame! / The wall kills the chance for peace. / Concrete is not security. / Do you see a Nazi in the mirror? / We want peace, we don't want wall. / No to ghettos—Yes to compassionate listening. / Enough of Dispossession and Provocation; Long Live Peace and Brotherhood. / No hands meet when walls are built. / Let the Palestinians live! / Somebody is calling from the other side, do you listen? / Love thy neighbor. / Down with Zionist terrorism. / Long Live Free Palestine. / Peace Now! / Peace immediately! / Amor no guerra. / Remember the Maginot Line. / Remember the Bar-Lev Line. / This is occupation is killing us. / Love without borders. / Legalize hash. / Education and not the wall. / The occupation kills, we want peace—and now.

And, in some places, also the standard inscription on each block (Ministry of Defence—Department of Construction) was transformed: Department of Destruction / Department of Occupation / Department of Apartheid / Ministry of Oppression. And the Japanese word for peace, painted on many corners, looked like an ornament. (Two separate groups of Japanese activists had arrived as well as the Buddhist monk, long-time resident of Jerusalem and a fixed feature at demonstrations.)

Then we set out in procession to the top of the hill, with Palestinian flags, rainbow peace flags, red flags of the DFLP [Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine], the round Gush Shalom Two-Flag signs . . . En route, some information over the megaphones: The concrete blocks are not yet in their final place. Construction has been temporarily stopped by an appeal to the Supreme Court. The rally will take place at the wall site as designated by the army where Sawahre inhabitants have been maintaining a protest tent for the past month.

Niham Abu-Gush, head of the Sawahre Civic Committee, addressed the gathered crowd: "Do you see the beautiful view of the valley? The mountain on the other side? When the wall is erected here, you will see nothing. And the houses over there have all got demolition orders." He was followed by Beate Zilversmidt of Gush Shalom ("The wall destroys Israel from the inside, economically and morally") and Yigal Bronner of Ta'ayush ("It has nothing to do with security; only with annexation and ethnic cleansing.")

***

Between the morning action and the evening rally in Tel-Aviv, news broadcasts told of 11 Palestinians shot to death by soldiers in different locations during the past 48 hours . . .

***

At Tel-Aviv's Cinematheque Square a giant screen was erected, showing in an effort to bring some of the occupation’s reality to the city, the images and the noise of bulldozers cutting down olive trees; soldiers shooting teargas grenades; demonstrators being dragged away from a bulldozer which they tried to block. Activists circulating among the crowd distributed a realistic replica of the confiscation order signed by General Moshe Kaplinsky of the Central Command: "Under my authority as commander of military forces and according to my judgment that it is needed for security reasons I order a strip of land at a varying width of 47 to 60 metres to be transferred to the possession of the army and be declared a closed military zone, as designated in the enclosed map." The map, however, marked the confiscated strip down a major Tel-Aviv thoroughfare . . .

Lin Dovrat and Hulud Badawi were the inspiring moderators, alternatingly in Hebrew and Arabic. Speeches were delivered by Einat Podgorny of Ta'ayush ("We will not stay silent about this crime and the destruction of our future"); Na'ama Nagar of ICAHD [Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions] ("The Wall unilaterally annexes large parts of the West Bank, severely damaging property and living conditions"); the remarkably vivid Hannah Safran—Women's Peace Coalition ("Israeli society is full of oppression, violence and hatred—against Palestinians, against migrant workers, against women, against the poor"); Adam Keller—Gush Shalom ("Sharon had this annexation map ready since the 1970s, implementing it first through settlement activity, now through the Wall"); the poet Rawda Murkus ("At Tuwani village I feel occupied / And all women are occupied with me").

Most impressive was the direct appeal of Ossama Zachalke from the Sawahre Civic Committee, who had joined the bus from Jerusalem. "People of Tel-Aviv! I came here to tell you what this wall will do to us in Sawahre. This is not a wall of separation between Israelis and Palestinians, but between Palestinians and Palestinians, between people of one village. We in Sawahre are 30000 people. The wall will divide us, 20000 on one side, 10000 on the other. Eight hundred families will be divided, in some places brothers are divided from each other, in another place a father and a son. In the one part, pupils will not be able anymore to go to school and it will be forbidden to die, as the cemetery will be on the other side."

Moderator Lin Dovrat then reminded the audience that Sawahre was but one of many dozens of afflicted towns and villages, and asked everybody to stay tuned for further activity, and among other things to sign the petition on the website of Citizens of Israel against the Wall. (The petition is available in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Greek.)

The anti-Wall Coalition includes:
Alternative Information Center * Black Laundry * Coalition of Women for a Just Peace * Green Action * Gush Shalom * HaKampus Lo Shotek * HaKav HaYarok * Independent Media Group—Indymedia * Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions * Mas'ha Group * One Struggle * Peace Now * Ta'ayush—Arab-Jewish Partnership * Women Against The Wall * Yesh Gvul

P.S.: The Israeli & Palestinian actions are part of a global campaign which included demonstrations in the U.S. (New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans etc.; and one event or more in England, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bangladesh and Jordan—details on: Stop the Wall.

In English Gush Shalom means "The Peace Bloc."