Monday, September 25, 2017

Protest village seeks to nurture resistance


By Ruairi Henchy - February 10, 2015
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All photos by Ruairi Henchy.

Local activists have remained in the protest village “Gate to Jerusalem” despite their tents and structures having been demolished four times in less than a week.

“Gate to Jerusalem” is located in the E1 zone of occupied Jerusalem, between Abu Dis and Ezariya. Activists from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee established the encampment in order to protest Israel’s plans to ethnically cleanse the area of the local Bedouin population, relocating them to a reservation north of Jericho and building Jewish-only settlements in their place. The activists hope the village will provide a physical obstacle to this plan, while at the same time, inspire further resistance activities throughout Palestinian society.

On Monday evening February 10, The Palestine Monitor spoke to Mahmoud Zwahre of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee at the Gate to Jerusalem encampment. “As revolutionaries we must resist. This right is guaranteed to us under international law as an occupied people,” he said. Having witnessed the repeated evictions already carried out by the Israeli army in the past week, Zwahre is pragmatic on the chances of their village becoming permanently settled. “For sure they will demolish it again. But it costs them to do this – they have to bring about 50 soldiers and pay workers to do this work in the middle of the night. It costs Israel more to destroy than it costs us to rebuild.”

When asked about the comparison between this protest village and the previous efforts of establishing villages like Bab El Shams and Ein Hijleh, Mahmoud says that Gate to Jerusalem is a more continuous action of nonviolent resistance that “Will go on forever.” “We have already recognized the states of Canada, Holland and Japan,” he jokes, stressing their intent to create something permanent.

Rather than building an actual new village, Mahmoud sees planting the seeds of a continued struggle against the occupation as far more central to the Gate to Jerusalem action. “We are trying to counter the demobilization that happened since the Oslo agreement, and [to] bring back the culture of resistance. We want people to stop feeling like victims, blaming God or the international community, and empower them to see that they can do something themselves. This is like a snowball effect,” he says.

On the efficacy of such non-violent action, Zwahre uses a quaint metaphor: “Popular resistance is like a green tree growing on a solid rock. Its roots are strong – so eventually they penetrate the rock to get water and give life to the leaves.” He sees the connection Palestinians have to their land as key to the strength of their movement. “I’ve seen the fear that the Israelis have for popular resistance. They can’t understand why we go on but we’re ready to die for the land – they’re not.”

This sentiment was echoed by one of the speakers who invoked the famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “We are staying, they will leave some day.” Spirits were high in the village, with local youth breaking up pallets for the fire and preparing coffee, while Hussam Ghannam from the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank read some of his poetry to the assembled crowd.

Ghannam was not the only one to travel a considerable distance to participate in the action. The Palestine Monitor also spoke with three students from the nearby Abu Dis University. Rami, Absi and Ayham, from Qalqilya, Nablus and Ramallah respectively, said that that they came to show their solidarity with the people near Ezariya in E1. “In my home town Qalqilya, we’ve already lost so much land to the wall and the settlements. So the struggle is the same for all of us,” Rami said.

Mazen Al Azzeh from Bethlehem, also a member of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, echoed Rami’s message of solidarity and unity. “We will stay with the Bedouins until the end,” he declared to rapturous applause. 

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