Practicing non-violent resistance: it takes grit, determination – and soul

 

By EA Bethany, Tulkarem

May 15 is a significant day for those in Palestine as well as millions of Palestinians around the world. It is Nakba day[1], a day to remember the ‘Nakba’ (the catastrophe) of 1948, when 750,000[2] Palestinians were forced to leave their land, livelihood and houses. 69 years later and subsequent generations of Palestinians are still unable to return.

For Issa Souf, the date has added significance. As well as sharing the collective remembrance of the Nakba of 1948, he has his own private catastrophe. On May 15 2001, during the second intifada[3] (uprising), he was shot by Israeli soldiers while warning his neighbours about the military presence in the area. Issa now uses a wheelchair, providing him with a daily reminder of the continuing Israeli occupation.[4]

May 15th 1

Issa Souf in his house (Photo EAPPI/Elisabeth)

Issa’s life has been full of injustice and difficulty yet he has chosen a non-violent response to life under occupation. The way he has decided to mark May 15 this year is inspiring. Instead of taking to the streets to march or shout or protest injustices, he has invited Palestinians, internationals and Israelis together to his home, to share food, meditation, music and friendship.

The village of Deir Istiya is another example of non-violent resistance. This community is fighting back against the occupation with their prayers. This Palestinian village lies surrounded by six Israeli settlements, which international law deems illegal.[5] As these settlements have grown in number since the 1980s the road that serves them – which also passes through Deir Istiya’s agricultural lands – has been widened, with metal barriers placed on either side. This has meant the closure of seven farming roads, preventing Deir Istiya’s inhabitants from accessing their land with animals or tractors. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone should have access to land and livelihood.

Last summer, as a result of a 15-week protest, one access road was reopened but six remain closed. On April 22 a group from Deir Istiya gathered beside one closed access road for their Friday prayers, as a way of peacefully protesting the lack of access. As EAPPI colleagues we joined them the following week, when they were able to gather and pray for around 45 minutes while the army watched from a distance. The next Friday it was different. About ten Israeli soldiers arrived on the site about an hour before the gathering was due to start and made it very difficult for the men to perform their Saleh (Friday prayers). This meant the protest was forced to break up.

What started as a group of men and children gathering to pray and assert their rights had, the following week, become a painful reminder of the difficulty Palestinians have in peacefully resisting the occupation of their lands.

May 15th 2

Men and children from Deir Istiya gather for Friday prayers. The road with the metal barrier preventing access is visible in the background. (Photo: EAPPI/Bethany)

May 15th 3

The army stops the gathering for prayer the following Friday. (Photo: EAPPI/Bethany)

Take action box 2

Read more about Deir Istiya and its inhabitants’ struggle for access to their land, and ask your electoral candidates what their parties intend to do about the illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Support, or find out more about, an organisation working with theatre and non-violent resistance in a refugee camp in the occupied Palestinian territories.

 

[1] https://eyewitnessblogs.com/2016/05/15/68-years-a-refugee/

[2] The United Nations and Palestinian Refugees, UNHCR, January 2007, p2.

[3] http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2003/12/20084101554875168.html

[4] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/fa/originals/2016/05/israel-palestine-occupation-50-years-public-campaign-terror.html

[5] https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12657.doc.htm