The NY Times is Waiting For Gandhi: Here They Are by Eileen Fleming

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Dandelion Salad
July 5, 2010

On July 9, 2010, Nicholas D. Kristoff wrote from the West Bank agricultural village of Bilin “Waiting for Gandhi” which was published in the New York Times:

“Despite being stoned and tear-gassed on this trip, I find a reed of hope here. It’s that some Palestinians are dabbling in a strategy of nonviolent resistance that just might be a game-changer…But then a group of Palestinian youths began to throw rocks at Israeli troops…Soon after, the Israeli forces fired volleys of tear gas at us, and then charged.

“So far there is no Palestinian version of Martin Luther King Jr. But one candidate might be Ayed Morrar. A balding, mild-mannered activist, he was the mastermind behind the most successful initiative so far: nonviolent demonstrations a half-dozen years ago in the West Bank village of Budrus against Israel’s construction of a security fence there.

“I don’t know whether Palestinians can create a peaceful mass movement that might change history, and their first challenge will be to suppress the stone-throwers and bring women into the forefront. But this grass-roots movement offers a ray of hope for less violence and more change.” [1]

Due to The Media blackout, and Israeli pressure on US, Kristoff is unaware that:

Palestinians have been engaging in nonviolence for decades. At least 19 Palestinians have been killed in the last six years alone during nonviolent demonstrations against Israel’s apartheid wall that is confiscating Palestinian cropland and imprisoning Palestinian people. Many others have been killed in other parts of the Palestinian territories while taking part in nonviolent activities. Hundreds more have been detained and imprisoned. Recently Israel has begun a campaign to incarcerate the leaders of this diverse movement of weekly marches and demonstrations taking place in small Palestinian villages far from media attention. [2] 

This reporter met Ayed Morrar, on November 14, 2005 when he and Israeli activist Jonathon Pollak, spoke throughout America about the Palestinian led internationally supported Anarchists Against the Wall organization and their creative nonviolence against Israel’s occupation and route of The Wall.

Ayed Morrar explained how the Apartheid Wall was moved off of Palestinian property in his village of Budrus and the people chanted in English “WE CAN DO IT” and did!

Women, children, farmers, “regular people” stood up to the US made Caterpillar bulldozers and Israeli Forces who assaulted them with Billy-clubs and caustic tear gas that can cause spasticity for weeks and has also lead to death.

Unarmed women, children and farmers stood up to the Israeli forces that shot rubber coated bullets and live ammo at them; and proved non-violent activism worked to force the Israeli government to get off of their land, back off from their trees, and quit denying food to their children.

In Budrus, The APARTHEID WALL is now on the GREEN LINE because regular people stood up to their occupiers and essentially said:

Enough! This was never a land without a people; this has always been our home. If you want an apartheid wall, put it on your property, quit stealing ours! Put yourself in the ghetto, we will stand firm for freedom and right is on our side! The Geneva Convention and International Law affirm that occupied people have every right to rise up militarily against their oppressors, but we choose nonviolence to resist being ethnically cleansed from the land of our ancestors! These olive trees you uproot and destroy are our family. Every little child knows the name of every tree and we will not allow your illegal apartheid wall to cut our families apart.

Regular people chanted in English: “We can do it” and they did it in Budrus; but they are still struggling in Bilin!

Jonathon Pollak explained:

“Although Israel marketed the Wall as a security barrier, logic suggests such a barrier would be as short and straight as possible. Instead, it snakes deep inside the West Bank, resulting in a route that is twice as long as the Green Line, the internationally recognized border. Israel chose the Wall’s path in order to dispossess Palestinians of the maximum land and water, to preserve as many Israeli settlements as possible, and to unilaterally determine a border.

“In order to build the Wall Israel is uprooting tens of thousands of ancient olive trees that for many Palestinians are also the last resource to provide food for their children. The Wall also threatens the Palestinian aspiration for an independent state, as it isolates villages from their mother cities and divides the West Bank into disconnected cantons [bantusans/ghettos].

“The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem conservatively estimates that 500,000 Palestinians are negatively impacted by the Wall.

“We believe that, as with Apartheid South Africa, Americans have a vital role to play in ending Israeli occupation – by divesting from companies that support Israeli occupation, boycotting Israeli products, coming to Palestine as witnesses, or standing with Palestinians in nonviolent resistance.”

In the Jan/Feb. 2007 edition of  The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, we learn:

“Financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile, the Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families’ sole livelihood for generations.” [Page 43]

In August 2009, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visited Bil’in, and stated:

“Just as a simple man named Gandhi led the successful non-violent struggle in India and simple people such as Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela led the struggle for civil rights in the United States, simple people here in Bil’in are leading a non-violent struggle that will bring them their freedom. The South Africa experience proves that injustice can be dismantled.”

Twenty years ago on Nov. 9, the Berlin Wall came crashing down due to the build up of pressures exerted by the Solidarity movement demanding freedom at the time of the demise of Communism.

The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolically portrayed the end of the Cold War and proved that walls cannot keep people apart. The Berlin Wall was twenty-seven miles of rolls of barbed wire augmented with a high concrete barrier and watchtowers, floodlights, and a no man’s land. A few scaled over, some tunneled below and 136 East Germans died trying to cross it.

A wall twice as high and five times as long as the one that fell in Berlin, is close to completion in the West Bank.

One of the chants I learned during one of my four visits to the agricultural village of Bilin, was “The wall will fall in Bilin; the wall will fall like in Berlin“.

In Bilin, the Green Line is five miles from the separation barrier and for the last five years every Friday afternoon after prayers at the mosque, Palestinians and growing numbers of Israelis and Internationals have been waging a nonviolent solidarity march in resistance to the route of the construction of Israel’s Wall-which in Bilin is twenty feet high of wire fencing that denies the farmers access to their olive groves.

For the last five years of Friday’s, locals, internationals and Israelis of conscience have endured tear gas, rubber bullets, sound bombs and other means of ‘crowd dispersal’ inflicted upon them by Israeli forces in ever escalating force.

During my initial visit in 2006, the Israeli forces targeted only the activists who ran down the hill along side of the fence, but in June 2009, just as the front of the crowd neared the area of descent- another gate and more barbed wire had been erected in front of it -the Israeli forces assaulted us immediately with tear gas as we approached.

Mohammed Khatib is one of many Palestinian Gandhi’s, who has been targeted, arrested, severely beaten and threatened with death by the Israeli forces.

Bilin’s Israeli attorney, Michael Sfard, credits Khatib with the inspired idea to erect under cover of dark a clandestine 10X10 brick edifice just yards from where 700 upscale Jewish only apartments were being built on Palestinian land and which I photographed in January 2006.

Bil'in Outpost, January 2006

Bil’in Outpost, January 2006

photo by Eileen Fleming

I learned then from Iyad Bornat, Head of the Popular Committee,

“A few weeks ago we brought in a caravan [house trailer] on our land close to where the settler’s apartments are being built. While we were inside the Israeli Forces sawed the door open and pulled us out and roughed us up. So, we brought in another caravan and during the night we built a concrete brick building within four hours to resist the wall and occupation. People come and go; they are from all over the world. They support our nonviolently resisting the wall that is clearly stealing our land. This wall and the Israeli forces are not allowing us onto our land to care for our olive trees. They confiscated our land and impose military law upon us and claim we are trespassing on our legally owned land.”

Abdullah, the Coordinator of Against The Wall in Billin informed me that as of January 2006, 1,600 residents of Billin who legally own 4,000 dunums of property had 2,003 dunums of it confiscated by Israel to build the Jewish only apartments upon which Palestinians are not even allowed to approach.

A twenty year old from Indiana who was studying Middle East Foreign Policy in Jerusalem and had spent her weekends at the outpost in Bilin since it was constructed told me, “We are fighting an important struggle. If America would only learn the truth about what is happening here, they would stop their blind support of the Israeli government that denies people basic human rights.”

An Israeli activist stated, “This cause is very important to me because this is the only way to struggle. This is our only chance to bring back the popular Intifada: a chance for women and children to nonviolently resist the wall and occupation.”

A member of the Popular Committee in Bilin who taught Social Work and Psychology at El Quds Open University, told me that he was shot and jailed for two weeks because of his nonviolent resistant activities,

“The Judge said he would investigate the soldier who shot me, but the soldier lied and denied he shot and the matter was quickly forgotten by the Israelis.

“Three weeks ago we could not come in here, but when the court admitted the settlement buildings were illegal we put the caravan on the property and when the IDF destroyed that, we built this room. Ever since, more and more Israelis, Lawyers, Sheiks, women and children come and stand with us in solidarity for human rights. Rachel Corrie’s family has been here too.”

The outpost was demolished long ago and the village has now worked their case through Municipal to the Israeli Supreme Court and both ordered Israel to stop the building, to move the fence and restore about half of the 575 acres of olive groves back to the Bilin’s farmers; but construction has not ceased.

Nor will the struggle until the wall falls in Bilin, like the wall fell in Berlin.



Eileen Fleming, Founder of
A Feature Correspondent for
Staff Member of
Featured Writer on Dandelion Salad
Author of “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory”
Producer “30 Minutes with Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu”

Only in Solidarity do “we have it in our power to begin the world again.”-Tom Paine


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