Palestinian Ayed Morrar and Israeli Jonathan Pollack spoke about the nonviolent, resistance movement against the Israeli military occupation.
On their U.S. tour, Morrar and Pollack talked about the thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis who have been waging a campaign against Israel’s military occupation and the construction of the wall in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
“We are asking all the people to reduce our suffering, the terror,” Morrar said. “The killing is the sign of the hopeless and the disappointed but also we ask you…those people who are looking for real peace people between human to human, not peace between slave to master.”
Morrar is from the Palestinian village of Budrus located in the West Bank, northwest of Ramallah. In November 2003, Israeli forces declared over 1200 dunams of Budrus land for construction of the wall. In response, Morrar led the Budrus community in a peaceful campaign of 55 protest demonstrations to save the land from confiscation.
Throughout these protest marches, Israeli forces killed one 17-year-old, injured 300 Palestinians with rubber bullets and rubber-coated, steel bullets, and arrested 33 people. In the end the people served time in prison and the village lost 14 dunums of land. Although Morrar has not committed any violence, he has been shot, wounded and tortured while in an Israeli prison for seven years.
“We choose the nonviolence way,” he said. “We are against killing from both sides.”
Morrar and Pollack showed footage of protests that took place at Zbuba, Beit Likia, Budrus, and Biddu. In every protest, the demonstrators did not have any weapons. They stood by olive trees allegedly slated to be uprooted for the wall. Israeli soldiers threw tear gas grenades at the demonstrators. When the people ran from the white smoke, the soldiers stood behind trees and fired at the people with semi-automatic weapons. In some instances, they shoved, kicked, clubbed, and pulled at some of the protestors. When it appeared two soldiers were going to kick a Palestinian man in the head, two Palestinian women rushed their bodies on soldiers. From the demonstrators’ point of view they were defending their agricultural land –” their means for survival – with their lives.
During a demonstration in Biddu, an ambulance came to retrieve injured people. Suddenly, an M-16 projectile landed in the front of the ambulance and tear gas exploded. The injured and the paramedics rushed out of the ambulance’s back doors and ran away.
Pollack explained that it was not an isolated incident and in many cases the paramedics are targeted by Israeli forces. “The more experience you have the scarier it gets,” he said. “It’s like some ritual you’re going to march down the village and you’re going to be shot at.”
In 2002, several months after the beginning of the wall’s construction Pollack began participating in demonstrations to show Israeli-support of Palestinian-led campaigns. Thus far, he has participated in over 200 West Bank protests and he has mobilized hundreds of Israelis to join the nonviolent, resistance movement. He has served time in prison for his prominent role in mobilizing the resistance.
“It was clear to me that segregation that building a wall is no sort of solution,” he said. “I used to frequent the West Bank the extent it’s hurting the Palestinians and civil society in every day life…no one was thinking it was building on Palestinian land.”
In December 2002 Pollack visited the village of Jayyous, where 75 per cent of Palestinian farmland was on the Israeli side of the wall. “I was shocked I was completely amazed because who knew it was absolutely contradictive to what we were taught about this wall.”
No More Food
When Pollack arrived in Jayyous, the people of the village said the construction of the wall meant the end of Jayyous. The food would be gone, they told him. Without access to their farmland and the nine groundwater wells to irrigate their farmland approximately 300 families could not irrigate and harvest their olive and citrus groves. Thousands of trees died of thirst.
Throughout 20 demonstrations in Jayyous people tried to stop the bulldozers with their own bodies. Throughout the West Bank nine people have died in protests.
For Pollack and other Israeli protestors, it was the first time they moved from protest to resistance. Instead of holding a sign in front of Israel’s Ministry of Defense the Israeli activists were in the West Bank with Palestinians, trying to save Palestinian land from destruction and confiscation. “It was the first opportunities for us as Israeli activist to create relationship with Palestinians that can overcome based on solidarity, not normalizing relations under occupation,” he said.
Eventually the protests in Mas’ha stopped because of overwhelming violence. One Israeli, Gil Nama’ati was seriously wounded in Mas’ha and he nearly died.
On December 27, 2003 media covered the demonstration in Mas’ha that showed Israelis, Palestinians and international activists standing together. According to Pollack, that day marked the eruption of the struggle in almost every Palestinian village there was construction of the wall.
Pollack shared that the wall is 385 miles long and snakes deep into the West Bank. Construction of the wall and Israeli settlements disregards recognition of the 1967 borders established by international law. Almost 500,000 Palestinians in 92 communities are affected by the wall directly. People experience restricted movement because they have to have permits to travel through checkpoints. For example in the village of Qaffin, which has a population of 8000 –” 9000 people, only 20 people have permits.
In 50 communities approximately 244,000 people live on the Palestinian side of the wall, but they are surrounded by the wall on three sides. In the city of Qalqilya there was a population of 50,000 –” 60,000 people, and an unemployment rate of 18 per cent. Now, 10,000 people have left Qalqilya. There is one gate in and out of the town and Israeli soldiers lock the gate at sunset.
Palestinian farmers worried their trees and crops would die from lack of irrigation. Eventually, Israeli forces reopened gate 25, but the Palestinian farmers needed permits for their farming equipment. They spent the summer purchasing water and transporting it with water trucks to irrigate their farmland. When they harvested their crops, Israeli forces prevented farmers from traveling to larger municipalities, where they could sell their crops in city markets. For the farmers who had permits the travel times between checkpoints caused crops to perish by the time they reached their destination. As a result, most tomatoes and lemons “dropped to the ground,” and the farmers gave them to local villagers for free.
The Olive Tree
“The Palestinian life live strongly to the olive tree,” Morrar said. “The Palestinian people believe olive tree is holy tree as written in the Qur’an and the holy Bible for Christians the holy Torah the holy book of the Jews.”
According to Morrar Palestinian culture teaches that any person who uproots an olive tree will be d—– twenty times. Although Palestinians have planted hundreds of thousands of Palestinian trees the Israeli settlements and the wall have uprooted hundreds of thousands also. The oldest olive tree is in Jenin, a village in the West Bank, and it is 5,000 years-old.
Near Budrus is a church that has olive trees in front of it over 2,000 years-old. Morrar said that as a child Jesus played under these trees.
When trees are uprooted, people are torn with agony and despair because the trees are an integral part of their lives. For these reasons, the people continue in their struggle against the occupation.
“There’s no price on freedom,” Pollack said. “We tried to give a new meaning to this phrase. Freedom and equality…we’re going to fight for our freedom and other peoples’ freedom and nothing they can do deter us.”
Morrar talked about Muslim women and how the West perceives that Palestinian women have no rights. “We discovered that the women don’t want to stay in the kitchen to wait for the heroes to come back from the battle…we just open the doors heroes we discover many heroes in Budrus.” As prominent figures in the nonviolent struggle against Israel’s military occupation, Morrar and Pollack are friends also.
Although Morrar described his command of the English language as meek, he said: “I still believe by the law which Martin Luther King spoke he spoke the rights cannot be given but taken…our aim is freedom as any people in the world freedom from the
occupation…we are human and we have right to struggle to achieve the freedom.”