Ramallah: Palestinian activists and members of the nationwide campaign against the West Bank wall which Israel is building have urged Palestinians to be a part of the public resistance movement against the wall's construction. Some villagers have already joined the movement and managed to stop the bulldozers after tying themselves to olive trees earmarked for demolition to make way for the wall.
Activists believe Israel is using all possible tools to prevent the implementation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall and the colonies in the West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem.
On July 9, 2004, the court stated that the construction of the wall and colonies on West Bank land, including occupied East Jerusalem, were illegal under humanitarian and human rights law.
Naseef Al Deek, an anti-wall campaign activist, said Israel does not care for international laws and the rulings of the international courts. The State of Israel keeps on banning any kind of implementation of the recommendations of the International Court of Justice.
"There is not enough Palestinian force to put the court's recommendations in place," he said.
Public resistance however, he said, was the only workable option for the Palestinian people as what has been achieved in some villages in the West Bank like Ni'lin, Bil'in Azzun Atmeh, and Al Walaja has motivated the rest of the West Bank to take part in the public resistance movement and make their voices heard all over the world.
"The public resistance is a current strategic option for the Palestinian people and this resistance should be accelerated with all the Palestinian departments, factions and civil society institutions to take an active role in this resistance to take it far beyond the Palestinian borders to reach the entire world," he said.
The activities organised against the wall have echoed all over the world and an increasing number of international activists are approaching the affected towns and villages to support and encourage resistance, he said.
Al Deek said the lesson the public resistance in the towns and villages has highlighted is the importance of resistance where other steps should also be considered and implemented to make it a single package.
"Boycotting Israeli products should be a main ingredient of the anti wall campaign and that will certainly have immediate results and make Israel reconsider its insistence on the wall," he said. "The issue of the wall as a whole will be changed should the Palestinians people join forces and act as a public resistance movement," he added.
"Public protests, marches, and other activities can benefit in overcoming the problem of the Israeli wall in the West Bank," he said.
Saleh Al Khawajah, an anti wall campaign activist from Ni'lin, said that from five million donums (a unit of area used in the Ottoman Empire and still used, in various standardised versions, in many countries) of land in the West Bank, Israel wants to control 46 per cent of this land for the construction of the West Bank wall. "When planned, the wall was supposed to be completed by 2010, but because of the activities the Palestinians have been organising, the completion of the wall has been postponed to 2011," he said.
Al Khawajah said boycotting Israeli products can lead to fruitful benefits as current Palestinian statistics show that five per cent of Israel products boycotted can generate 100,000 job opportunities in the West Bank. He explained that public resistance is a comprehensive theme which Palestinians handle from different angles.
"About 30 per cent of Palestinian university graduates seriously consider migrating and leaving the West Bank and unless job opportunities are created here, Palestinian society will suffer severe consequences," he said.
"The psychological and philosophic defeat which Palestinians will suffer is the real tragedy in the West Bank," he said, adding that public resistance gives Palestinians the necessary hope to stick to their land.
"Every Palestinian is required to take part in this resistance as the entire West Bank is negatively affected by the wall," he said.
During the construction work of the wall, the Israelis took over 85 per cent of water and wells in the West Bank. They did not allow the Palestinians to dig a single well.
"Since the Oslo Accord was signed, a certain number of underground wells were agreed to be dug for Palestinians, but since that time, not even 25 per cent of that number of wells was approved by the Israelis with a 4.7 per cent annual increase in the Palestinian population," he said.
He explained the key achievement for public resistance, which all activists emphasised, is that the world has been made aware that the West Bank wall Israel is building is a symbol of racism and that the purpose of constructing it is political and not for security reasons as the Israelis claim. "The wall does not have anything to do with the security of the Israelis. The wall is a way to steal the land of the West Bank," he added.
He added that mounting pressure on the streets from the masses does not have any effect unless Palestinians reconcile with factions burying their differences. There is no real pressure on the Israelis if there is no unity. "We have learned from the first intifada [uprising] which sparked in 1987 that key achievements can be made with the use of public resistance," he said.
He added negotiations were useless and the Palestinians should approve the public resistance for their political work and reach peace activists all over the world and get them involved.
"The residents of Palestinian towns and villages reached the conclusion that public resistance is their suitable alternative," he said. "We have seen that the diplomatic approach has failed and that public resistance is the only strategy left with the people," he said, adding an increasing number of activists and members of the anti wall campaign will go on with their activities regardless of the consequences.
Rateb Abu Rahmah, an activist at the campaign from Bil'in, said that public resistance started in his village with 13 residents forming a committee to face the orders of the Israeli Army forces which informed their village council that they would start construction work on the wall in their village in November, 2004.
In February 20, 2005, the first protest was organised in Bil'in where the committee members later contacted Israeli and international peace activists to form a solid front.
He said that Israeli forces were shocked to find people tied with ropes to olive trees when their bulldozers approached the olive trees to cut them down to build the wall.
"Our experiment in Bil'in and Ni'lin has become a model for many other parts of the West Bank. Now we have 22 sites in the West Bank which have adopted public resistance to fight against the Wall," he said.
"We will mark the sixth anniversary of the recommendations of the International Court of Justice with unified activities organised in the suffering villages and towns," he said.
Dr Mohammad Al Aboushi, an anti wall campaign activist, said that the Israelis were forced on several occasions to change the route of the wall and credit goes directly to the public resistance and protests people organise daily and weekly. "Following the public resistance, the route of the wall was modified in Eastern Baqa, Jayous, Bodrus, Bil'in and Azzun and the villages of Ras Tira, Daba'a and Wadi Al Rashah were saved from total isolation as they fall behind the wall," he said.
"Israel should not only demolish the wall but financially compensate the Palestinians who suffered its consequences," he said. "We totally insist that the wall is illegal and built on Palestinian territories in the West Bank and we will go on with resisting the wall no matter what it takes," he said.
"Resistance is aimed to expose and show the entire world the Israeli racist practices and the lack of true desire of this state for real peace in the region."
"The number of international supporters who arrive in the West Bank to help with the public resistance has risen sharply and that would indicate that our voices have been heard overseas," he said.
He explained that with the completion of the wall, occupied East Jerusalem will be cut off from the West Bank with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians surrounded and living on different sides and tens of thousands others living in closed areas, farmers separated from their families, and children from their schools.
He said that Israel in its quest to steal Palestinian land has been reviving and digging up Othmani (Turkish), British, Jordanian laws and using them to confiscate more Palestinian land.
"Israel uses the land reclamation principles to confiscate more land. Uncultivated land for three to five years is taken over by the Israelis," he said. "The Israelis at the same time do not grant farmers the necessary permits to get to their land to cultivate it. Only the first owner is given a very restricted permit with his family members denied such a permit," he said. "The majority of land owners of land behind the wall were seniors and no longer able to cultivate huge areas of land all alone," he said. He said that it is important to support Palestinians and provide moral support to show them they are not alone in this fierce confrontation with the Israelis.
He added 50,000 to 90,000 Palestinians are at risk of expulsion and eviction because of the construction of the wall in the West Bank. Palestinians who lost their land during the construction of the wall have held the Israeli Government responsible for returning their land and said the government could have built the wall on their part of the Green Line should they have needed it in the first place.
Abu Jamal, a Palestinian farmer who lost six donums of land during the construction of the wall, said that he remained penniless after the annexation of his land as it was his only source of income. The 55-year-old farmer added there was no way that this land could be returned to him just like the land which was annexed in 1948 where he and his father lost hundreds of donums and that history repeated itself with this tragedy.
He said he applied for a permit to reach his own land and he was granted a once a month permit but his children were denied the right to reach that land and cultivate it. He stressed he was not aware of a single reason that makes the Israelis refuse to grant his children the necessary permits to reach their land, but they were told the permits were refused for security reasons. He said none of his four children had been jailed by the Israelis and they were clean security-wise but their permits were refused in preparation for the confiscation of his land.
He said the Israelis are killing Palestinian farmers by confiscating their land and uprooting their olive trees on which the farmers depend on for a living. He stressed the only target in constructing the wall was to confiscate more land in the West Bank and they are using all possible ways to take over more land. He added he knows in his heart the Israelis will go on with their plan to construct the wall to take as much land as they can from the Palestinians, claiming security reasons.
Land grab: 70% complete
The West Bank wall splits the West Bank into three parts and up to 22 isolated enclaves that make a viable future Palestinian state impossible.
At least 10 per cent of the wall is an eight to nine metre high concrete structure and the rest is a three to five metre high electric barrier. In all cases, the wall has been equipped with an at least 60-metre wide buffer zone, ditches, razor wire, military patrol roads, electronic sensors, watch towers and sniper positions.
The length of the wall will be about 770 kilometres when completed; about 70 per cent of it has already been completed; 10 per cent is under construction and the remaining 20 per cent is planned.
The wall mainly runs in the Palestinian West Bank, about 85 per cent of it is located in the West Bank itself and within the Green Line and the other 15 per cent runs along the Green Line.
The construction of the wall in the West Bank has caused the confiscation of more than 50,000 donums of fertile land from Palestinian farmers.
Do you think such court rulings make any difference? Will having regular protests stop Israel from finishing the wall?