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First-Hand Reports from Israel/Palestine

Israeli Military Violence Against Nonviolent Women

Gila Svirsky, who lives in Jerusalem, is a long-standing Israeli peace campaigner. She is a founding member of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, a grouping of eight Israeli and Palestinian women’s peace organisations. She is a board member of B’Tselem.

By Gila Svirsky
Biddu, West Bank, Palestine
April 26, 2004

Friends, I just spoke to Molly Malekar on her way to Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem, and here is what she reported: “We were about 60 women, only women: roughly 1/3 Israeli, 1/3 Palestinian, and 1/3 internationals. We gathered at Bidu to protest the construction of the wall in this village. It was a quiet march, with women carrying signs and walking toward the area where soldiers were guarding the construction of the fence. At a distance of about 10 meters (30 feet) from them, we stopped walking because the soldiers turned to point their rifles directly at us. I called out to them in Hebrew, ‘Don’t shoot, we’re not armed, this is a nonviolent demonstration.’

An Israeli policeman hits a woman with a large stick.
A mounted Israeli border policeman uses a stick during a women’s protest against the construction of Israel's controversial security barrier in the West Bank village of Biddu April 25, 2004.
REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
(Click photo to enlarge.)
View more photos.

“Suddenly there was an onslaught of teargas and stun grenades, falling all around us, completely out of proportion to the quiet, nonprovocative nature of our action. The grenades fell right there at our feet and we were choking, unable to breathe. Most dispersed and ran back. Soldiers charged toward us and fell upon the women, grabbing some whom they arrested. By then, there was no demonstration at all, nothing to disperse. Most of the women had run back, trying to recover from the tear gas, but I remained as I wanted to talk to the soldiers to prevent the arrest of the four women. Suddenly out of nowhere four horses charged, with border police mounted on them. I started to run away, but one of them ridden by a girl soldier caught up with me and she struck me on my head with a baton. I fell, and then a second horse charged toward me and I felt more blows on my head and back. There was no provocation whatsoever at any point while this was happening.”

Molly is the director of Bat Shalom, which is the women’s peace organization that forms the Israeli side of The Jerusalem Link: A Women’s Joint Venture for Peace (the Palestinian side is called the Jerusalem Center for Women). Molly is the most wonderfully serious and thoughtful woman you would ever want to have at the head of your organization. Anyone who has ever met Molly knows that she has never engaged in provocation, but has only been cautious and respectful. I asked her by cell phone, on her way to the hospital, how she feels and she said, “A horrible headache, my ears hurt, and aching from the blows. But let’s think about how to wake people up to what is happening out there. We have to wake people up.”

Wake up, world! Hear O Israel, wake up!! Israeli soldiers have made brutality a way of life against Palestinians, then they turned their weapons and death upon international peace activists, and now they are brutalizing Israelis who express disapproval of their ways. Who will be the first one killed?

Writes US woman activist Starhawk, who participated in some of these, “The Israelis who are involved in the day to day resistance ... said to me that they know it is only a matter of time before there is an Israeli ‘shaheed ’ – a martyr of the occupation. Being Israeli is no longer a protection against the violence of the military.”

What’s worse: Nonviolence is no longer protection against the brutality of the military, regardless of whether you are Israeli or Palestinian or international. No one should be assaulted for peacefully demonstrating, and yet that has become the norm. Today, any single demonstration that takes place in the territories – whether by Palestinians or Israelis, women or men, nonviolent or violent – is treated to the same brutal behavior of guns, stun grenades, and clubs. And no one investigates the incidents in a serious, unbiased manner, and the soldiers learn that they can be more and more cruel, and no one gives a damn.

What has happened? The occupation has happened. The occupation has corrupted the soul of Israel. A situation of “Ein din v’ein dayan”, as the Bible says: “No law and no one standing in judgment”.

There is anarchy in the soul of Israel today, and it won’t be gone until we uproot the occupation from our land and from our hearts.

Gila Svirsky
Jerusalem

Read more first-hand reports.

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Videos & Multimedia

Amnesty International Video:
Dina Goor, Yesh Din

3/20/2004 demonstration in Karbatha, Palestine – activists shot

Watch International Court of Justice’s Hearings on Barrier

UK Guardian Interactive Graphic on Wall

View footage from 2/6/2004 demonstration at Georgetown University, USA

View footage from 12/26/2003 demonstration in Mas’ha, West Bank—Israeli activist, Gil Ne’amati, is shot

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Ramallah, West Bank

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

MORE footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

News Without Borders 8/24/2003 Presentation on Israel’s Wall

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Additional Resources

Booklet – The Wall Must Fall

Documentary – The Israeli Wall in Palestinian Lands

Poster

International Court of Justice Ruling

Electronic Intifada on the Wall

Palestine Monitor on the Wall

Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance

Charter of the United Nations

Organizations

Stop the Wall

Americans for Middle East Understanding

End the Occupation Coalition

Al Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

International Solidarity Movement

Secular Peace Groups

American Muslims for Palestine

A Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)

More Religious Peace Groups

International Humanitarian Groups Condemn the Barrier

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

World Council of Churches

B’Tselem

International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative

Oxford Public Interest Lawyers

The National Lawyers Guild


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