by Adam Shapiro
(The following was written by ISM cofounder Adam Shapiro after the June 20 arrest of Huaida Arraf in Bil’in, where she had joined villagers in protesting construction of Israel’s wall on their land.)
Once again, for probably the fifteenth time, I received news that my wife, Huwaida Arraf, had been arrested by Israeli soldiers as she was protesting in the West Bank. This time she was in a village called Bil’in, near Ramallah, that has been the site of weeks of village-wide nonviolent resistance to the wall Israel is constructing on village land. The wall will cut off the livelihood of the villagers most of them are farmers, while the construction of the wall in this village occurs exactly one year after the International Court of Justice ruled on the illegality of the wall as it is constructed on occupied Palestinian land.
The news media covering the Israeli-Palestinian are focusing on the confined, prison-like space of the Gaza Strip. The settlers who are protesting Israel’s disengagement are virtually all from the West Bank. As such, they are completely free to move both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem), but also in Israel. Clearly they have rights that Palestinians do not, as Israeli settlers move freely through checkpoints, on settler-only roads in the est Bank, and can take over land and establish outposts at a whim. However, they also have rights that average Israelis do not, as they can enter the Gaza Strip, set up protest enclaves and resist the rule of the Israeli government without serious consequence. Israelis who live inside Israel are not allowed to enter Gaza, unless by permit of the Israeli military and government. In fact, these days, even foreigners are not allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, even to work on humanitarian projects, unless the Israeli government first gives permission.
What the media does not report, is that these settlers live illegally in occupied territories; that while the settlers make a lot of fuss inside the Gaza Strip or just outside of it, the Israeli government continues to confiscate and expropriate alestinian land in the West Bank and continues to build a patently illegal wall according to the ruling of the highest international legal institution the same institution that deemed Apartheid illegal and that the future of peace between Israelis and Palestinians is chopped down tree by tree and bulldozed home by home in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Indeed, today my wife sits in prison, the villagers of Bil’in face an imprisoned future, Gazans have already and continue to experience prison, and the major media remains chained to a story that will prove to be nothing more than a chimera in a few weeks time. Meanwhile, the Israeli settlers get to live illegally, continue to heap ruin upon the Palestinian people, and yet are portrayed as victims in our newspapers. Huwaida was clubbed on the head, beaten and dragged on the ground because she sat in the way of a bulldozer clearing land for the construction of an illegal wall that is stealing lives. It is finally time to recognize that it is the Palestinian people who are not free because of Israeli occupation.