This mobilisation started shortly after the ‘re-invasion’ of the West Bank in spring 2002, when the people in Jenin and Qalqiliya district faced the onslaught of scores of bulldozers, backed by the Israeli army, clearing the way for the wall. The Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign (‘Stop the Wall’) was formed to support the popular resistance, and by June 2003 the local communities affected by the wall had established a coordinated structure within the campaign to support their fight and get their voices heard nationally and internationally.
The campaign is a coalition of Palestinian NGOs and popular committees that originated on 2 October 2002 with a call for a coordinated resistance organisation made through the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON). It operates on three levels: acting as the voice of communities locally; mobilising and coordinating nationally; and organising as part of what it describes as ‘the global struggle against colonisation, war and racism’. The campaign presently coordinates the work of 54 popular committees in communities that are being devastated by the wall. It has four principal objectives:
1. Stop the wall;
2. Dismantle parts already built;
3. Return all lands confiscated for the wall; and
4. Compensate for all losses.
Although organised on a national, and even international, level, the campaign is founded on the resources and determination that exists within the communities directly affected by the wall. Here, away from the eyes of the international media and in the face of overwhelming and often brutal force, a steadfastness to defend land and livelihood has swept throughout Palestine. In places, the work of the bulldozers has been blocked for periods lasting up to several weeks and sections of the wall have even been torn down by Palestinians. Gates and control devices have been repeatedly broken or dismantled so that people can reach their land. Farmers have continued planting and harvesting their lands isolated beyond the wall.
The price has been high: eight young men and children have been killed by Israeli fire in demonstrations against the wall. Nonviolent demonstrations have been fired on or met with tear gas, rubber bullets and sound bombs. In Ramallah district, for example, where weekly demonstrations are organised in villages along the line of the wall, dozens of demonstrators were badly injured when the Israeli army broke up a protest by around 700 people at Aboud at the beginning of December. In Bi’lin, in west Ramallah, a ten-year-old girl was among the casualties.
One of those involved in the resistance locally is Aisha, a woman in her seventies, who has been the backbone of her family for many years. She lives with her son and his family, a total of 17 people. Between them they shared a modest plot of land in the west Ramallah village of Budrus. Now that land has been isolated by the construction of the wall and the family has been cut off from its source of living.
With obvious pain, Aisha describes how the land was destroyed for the wall. ‘Seventy trees were uprooted from my land to be replaced by concrete,’ she says. ‘When I was a child I planted these trees. We used to hold water over our heads to reach the plants and water them. These trees are like my children. From these olives we produced oil to cover all our needs. We used to make six or seven boxes of washing soap from this oil, so we didn’t buy from market. We used to plant tomato, eggplant, wheat and zucchini between the olives. We used to produce a lot and sell them. The wall destroyed our land and source of living. Now we live under aid and are at the mercy of the donor sources.’
Altogether, the wall, military bases, Israeli settlements and their roads account for almost half of the land in the West Bank. By the time the wall is finished, the West Bank will be virtually cut off from Jerusalem and divided into three separate bantustans and numerous de facto ghettos. The humiliating ghetto gates designed to control every movement within the West Bank are already operating in Bethlehem and Qalandiya, while mass terminals such as the one south of Nablus are now under construction.
The most fertile land and the main water resources in the occupied territories have been appropriated by the Zionist expansion. Transport of Palestinian produce to markets is near impossible, while subsidised Israeli settlement produce is dumped at low prices. Economic schemes drawn up by the World Bank in effect seek to institutionalise people’s lives within prisons. So-called development plans are based on the construction of industrial zones to be built at the entrances of Palestinian ghettoes. Farmers are being turned into beggars of international aid and the slaves of neoliberal projects that profit on the needs of a dispossessed and ghettoised people.
In the face of all this, campaigners are turning their attention to how best to continue their struggle. Many argue that the forthcoming Palestinian Authority elections are no more than a diversion from the real battles that lie ahead. Left only with bantustans, the two-state solution is nothing more than a dangerous trap, they argue. The question is how to oppose the wall – and the destruction of Palestinians’ means of sustenance – and move towards liberation?
Opposing the ‘normalisation’ of society behind the wall is one strategy that is securing widespread support. Another is that of an international campaign similar to that organised against apartheid South Africa. The outlines of any campaign are still not defined, but the first universities are boycotting Israeli products in their cafeterias, and cultural and other groups have begun to discuss what they can do. Against overwhelming odds, the Palestinian people are moving towards a new stage in their liberation struggle in which the grassroots and their organisations once again lead the direction of the Palestinian intifada.Stop the Wall, the grassroots Palestinian Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign, can be contacted c/o PENGON, PO Box 25220, Beit Hanina, Jerusalem.
Tel: +972-2-2401946; Fax: +972-2-2407517