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It Must Come Tumbling Down

Land-grab wall or security fence, Israel’s new project is a barrier to Mideast peace

By Ayed Morrar
Originally published in the Globe & Mail

From the West Bank’s olive groves to the hearing that continues in a Hague courtroom, Palestinians are struggling against the wall Israel is erecting. In my West Bank village of Budrus, we need the support of people from around the world who care about human rights. Our non-violent resistance to the barrier’s construction is one example of Palestinians’ effort to stop the theft of our land, protect our olive trees, and move freely between our own towns and cities. The International Court of Justice continues today to examine these concerns, and the legality of Israel’s barrier.

When Israeli construction crews began destroying our olive trees in November, schoolgirls left their chemistry books and old men marched with their sons to face the bulldozers and the soldiers. Forgetting political differences, our whole village showed up for demonstrations, often led by children carrying banners and women marching and chanting. In dozens of non-violent demonstrations since November, we’ve faced Israeli soldiers with only our signs, flags, and songs.

We have also planted olive tree saplings donated by the international Jewish organization Rabbis for Human Rights, to remind the Israelis that we will not surrender our land, our homes or our future. The soldiers often respond with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and, in one instance, with live ammunition. I often claim that in our struggle against Israel’s apartheid wall, “It is forbidden for us to tire” — a common view here in Budrus.

Budrus is home to 1,200 Palestinians, and is one of nine villages in this area that will be completely encircled by two branches of the barrier. We will lose 20 per cent of our land to the construction of the fence, and 3,000 olive trees will be destroyed; some dating back to Roman times. This barrier, promoted as a security measure, will force many of us to leave our homes. Without their land Budrus’s farming families will be unable to survive. Many will also be unable to find jobs or afford life in Ramallah, the nearest city.

This isn’t just a problem for farmers. With only one gate through which the area’s 25,000 people can pass, the already difficult journey around roadblocks and through checkpoints between our villages and Ramallah will be harder. Access to the city’s hospitals and schools will be restricted. A sick man’s illness and a student’s studies won’t wait for a gate to open.

Many of the people in our village have been resisting the occupation their entire lives. We are tired of loss and violence, of seeing family members jailed and friends killed. We are tired also of the deaths of our neighbors, the Israelis. The people of Budrus have chosen non-violent resistance because we’ve seen enough blood and believe that violence is the root of fighting, not its solution.

Resisting a powerful occupying force requires many sacrifices. I myself was arrested Jan. 14 at night. The soldiers took me from my family and my home without giving me time to put on shoes.

In the military jeep I met my brother Na’im, who also was in handcuffs. We had planned a big demonstration for the next day, and the soldiers assumed our arrest would discourage the village. Yet during my eight days in prison, our village held two peaceful demonstrations. Although I was released after international pressure, Na’im continued to be held. He was released Thursday after 35 days when an Israeli judge ruled that the army had misled the court and that Na’im should not be imprisoned for peaceful protest activities.

Many Palestinian prisoners are not so fortunate, spending years without seeing their families and their home. Na’im’s welcome home included not only greeting his family and his friends, as is our tradition, but greeting the entire village when they turned up for Monday’s peaceful demonstration.

It is not easy when someone else decides your future. Every day, we fear the Israeli jeeps will drive through the village announcing curfew. Curfew means the bulldozers have begun destroying our olive groves once again.

Yet we are prepared to defend what is ours. From the rooftops, families watch the construction vehicles drive slowly through the valley below. We wait until they pass our olive grove, and only then do we go on with our daily work. A friend of mine often says that Palestinians exist without living. We have spent our lives resisting Israel’s occupation, which began in 1967, but it does not mean that our children must also live this way.

As Budrus and many other villages work non-violently to resist occupation, we call on the world for support. The court at the Hague and the international community must stop this wall so that Budrus’s children have something to live for.

Ayed Morrar, who lives in Budrus, is a leading voice in the Popular Committee Against the Wall.