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News :: Human Rights : International
New Year’s Eve Vigil Against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Wall
03 Jan 2004
On December 31, 2003, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the midst of Boston’s New Year’s festivities, a group of about forty people held a vigil near the Park St. T-stop against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This has become an annual event, and the focus of this year’s vigil was the Wall (called by some the “Apartheid Wall”) that Israeli is building in the midst of the Occupied Territories, which it invaded in and has controlled since 1967. Although the current Israeli government, lead by Ariel Sharon, claims that the Wall is for security purposes--to prevent suicide bombers--many feel that it has little to do with security. Its primary purpose seems to be to annex valuable Palestinian agricultural land and water aquifers to Israel. Critics of the occupation argue that the Wall and the occupation simply create more terrorism by destroying Palestinians’ livelihoods and any hope they have of a peaceful settlement, driving them into despair and the feeling as though they have nothing to live for anyway.
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New Year’s Eve Vigil Against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Wall
by Matthew Williams

On December 31, 2003, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the midst of Boston’s New Year’s festivities, a group of about forty people held a vigil near the Park St. T-stop against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This has become an annual event, and the focus of this year’s vigil was the Wall (called by some the “Apartheid Wall”) that Israeli is building in the midst of the Occupied Territories, which it invaded in and has controlled since 1967. Although the current Israeli government, lead by Ariel Sharon, claims that the Wall is for security purposes--to prevent suicide bombers--many feel that it has little to do with security. Its primary purpose seems to be to annex valuable Palestinian agricultural land and water aquifers to Israel. Critics of the occupation argue that the Wall and the occupation simply create more terrorism by destroying Palestinians’ livelihoods and any hope they have of a peaceful settlement, driving them into despair and the feeling as though they have nothing to live for anyway.

Although the Sharon government justifies building the Wall as a security measure, the location of the Wall makes this claim very problematic. Tom Wallis, a member of Boston to Palestine and the Boston Committee for Palestinian Rights (BCPR) said, “If they were building the Wall for security it would be on the Green Line [Israel’s pre-1967 border]. You could possibly have the conversation about security if the Wall was on the Green Line. Even if it dipped a little bit into the West Bank, you might still be able to make that argument. But you have to look first of all at the extent to which it steals land from the West Bank--it will confiscate over 55% of the West Bank--and then once you get to the eastern Wall that confiscates the Jordan Valley [on the far side of the Occupied Territories from Israel], there is no possible security reason.”

Hilda Silverman, of Jewish Women for Justice in Israel-Palestine and Visions of Peace with Justice in Israel-Palestine, thought that the real purpose of the wall was two-fold: “The Wall is the ultimate example of when Israeli officials use security as a rationale to do something else, and the something else is at its core is making life so miserable for the Palestinians that they’ll leave. It is in the process taking huge amounts of Palestinian land, Palestinian water resources, separating people from their fields, their families, their hospitals, their schools, making life just miserable. On the one hand, it is taking resources from Palestinians, but I think that the ultimate aim is to get as many of them as possible to leave.” The Israeli right-wing (of which the Sharon government is a part) has long had visions of driving all Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, which they refer to as Judea and Samaria--part of the ancient, Biblical kingdom of Israel and therefore, they believe, rightfully part of the modern state of Israel. The Wall when completed would enclose most Palestinians in small, discontinuous enclaves, making any sort of viable, independent state impossible. It would also confiscate 80% of the Palestinians’ agricultural land and 65% of their water resources, a devastating blow for a primarily agricultural society. The Wall would also trap about 500,000 Palestinians on its western side, between the Wall and the Green Line, further calling into question whether it is really for security purposes.

Wallis described the plight of one Palestinian city that has been trapped by the Wall: “Take a city like Qalqiliya, a city of 45,000 people, that is completely surrounded by the Wall so people can’t get and people can’t get out. There are fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes at night when farmers can get to their land, which they have been guaranteed access to--but these gates are basically open at the whim of Israeli soldiers, who open them if they feel like it and don’t open them if they don’t feel like it. For a large part of October, the gates just remained closed so Qalqiliya became a prison. That’s just Qalqiliya, that’s just one city being surrounded, and there are many. And for those that aren’t, it still cuts off Palestinians from their land. Just to build it, they’re tearing hundreds of thousands of olive trees [a major Palestinian crop], demolishing homes, and basically cutting people off from their livelihoods.”

The forty people at the vigil lined either side of one of the paved paths running through the Boston Common, holding lit candles and signs condemning the occupation. A handful of people stood in the midst of the path, handing out flyers to the crowds of New Year’s Eve revelers streaming past. The most prominent feature of the vigil, however, was the mock Wall created by the activists. An imposing black structure standing twice the height of an adult, it was covered with photos showing the grim realities of the Wall and the occupation--razor wire, tanks driving through cities, demolished homes and destroyed farmland.

The conflict over this land dates back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when European Jews, fleeing oppression and anti-Semitism, created a movement to found a state of their own in the lands of their Biblical ancestors and began to settle in the British colony of Palestine. Many of them showed little sensitivity to the fact that the land had been settled by Arab farmers who had made it their own over the last two thousand years. Conflict between the Jewish colonists and the native Palestinians broke out and came to a head in what was supposed to be a resolution in 1948. The United Nations split the colony of Palestine in two, allotting 43% of the land to a Palestinian state and 56% to a Jewish state, even though the Jews had half the population of the Palestinians and owned only 8% of the land. When Israel declared independence, it was attacked by the neighboring Arab states of Egypt and Jordan. The Israeli government won the resulting war, but only after launching pogroms against the Palestinians, driving thousands into exile, and seizing addition land, to incorporate a full 78% of historic Palestine into its borders. The rest was taken over by Egypt and Jordan. When war broke out between Israel and its neighbors again in 1967, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of the land. Although it has never formally annexed these lands, they remain under Israeli military occupation to this day. In the meantime, successive Israeli governments supported the construction of Jewish-only colonies (“settlements”) and by-pass roads in the Occupied Territories, breaking up the land and taking some of the most valuable agricultural land. When the Oslo peace process began in the 1980s, most Palestinians agreed to give up 78% of their historic homeland--the area Israel controlled before 1967--in return for an independent state in the remaining 22%. The Israeli government refused to recognize the magnitude of this concession and continued to demand more compromises, in addition to continuing to build settlements and Jewish-only roads. As a result, the talks eventually broke down and the current intifadah (popular up-rising) broke out. The Israeli military responded with violence out of all proportion, using live ammunition on unarmed civilians, including children, a policy Wallis (and many others) describe as “state terrorism”. From here things went into a downward spiral, with Palestinians engaging in suicide bombings, and the Israeli military destroying people’s homes and farms and murdering civilians. Since the intifadah broke out in September 2000, 904 Israelis, both civilians and soldiers, have died, while 2,637 Palestinians have died--though both sides have suffered, three times as many Palestinians have died.

Although Palestinian casualties and suffering far outweigh those of Israeli Jews, Israelis do have some legitimate security concerns. It is doubtful that the Wall will do anything to concretely address them, and will probably exacerbate the causes of Palestinian terrorism, which are rooted in the very nature of the occupation. Sherif Fam, of the BCPR and Tikkun, said, “At the beginning of the Oslo negotiations, when there was hope, Palestinians were throwing flowers at the feet of Israeli soldiers. Now, there is barely a family in Palestine that hasn’t had relatives killed, homes demolished, suffered abuse and humiliation--what do they have to hope for? What do they have to live for? One’s safety depends on one’s relationship with one’s neighbors. If your neighbors, don’t like you and wish you ill, something’s going to happen. One has to be able to work with one’s neighbors. When Israel is able to regard the Palestinians as equally human, just as human as Israelis are and just as worthy as respect, then I think we will see some progress.”

Most people walking by the vigil simply ignored us. I heard one man loudly curse us from bringing something political and depressing to the New Year’s Eve celebration (“Hey assholes, it’s supposed to be Happy New Year, not Cry New Year!”) and another woman loudly tell her children that we were anti-Semites, apparently either not seeing or not caring about the signs that read “Another Jew Against the Occupation”. Other people took fliers and some stopped either to look at the mock Wall or talk and ask questions. A few even thanked us for the work we were doing.

Silverman explained that the vigil was part of a larger organizing strategy to raise the general public’s consciousness about the realities of the occupation and the Wall: “The organizing strategy around this is to get the word out. There were months where we couldn’t get anything into the Boston Globe for instance. There were really fine op-eds by people with serious credentials--we couldn’t get it in, we couldn’t get it in, there was nothing. We were getting information by e-mail from people on the ground--Palestinians, Israelis, internationals--but you couldn’t get it in mainstream media. Now that has shifted. Some of the stuff has been awful, but not all of it has been awful, some of it really has been quite good. Consciousness is being raised about this Wall.”

Raising the consciousness of Americans about these issues is critical because Israel is by far the largest recipient of US foreign aid, and its military and much of its economy is dependent on this aid. Wallis said, “I honestly believe, with all my heart, that if people knew what was actually happening between Israel and Palestine and what the real situation is and what was happening everyday that’s usually ignored, I think Americans would stop paying for it. We are literally paying for it. Every sing Apache helicopter, every single gun, every single bullet that Israel uses is American, paid for with American dollars. Without us funding the occupation and the settlements, the occupation and the settlements would end, and we would eventually have peace.”

There are also a number of peace groups active in Israel, such as Gush Shalom and Rabbis for Human Rights. Recently some representatives from the Israeli peace movement, including members of the Knesset (Israeli parliament), met unofficially with members of the Palestinian Authority (the quasi-government established during the Oslo negotiations) to negotiate the Geneva Accords, a detailed model of what a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine could look like. The Sharon government has roundly denounced the Israeli Jews who participated in these talks. For many in the peace movement, they have been a source of hope. Silverman felt somewhat ambiguous about them though: “The substance of the Geneva Initiative--it’s really not an Accord--the substance of it is painful to me. There’s a great deal in it that problematic from the Palestinian perspective. The things that are left out and have not been dealt with yet, about water rights and the economic relations between the two states, are really very critical. I can’t join with the people, many of whom are kind of progressive Jews, who are cheering the Geneva Initiative. On the other hand, what I’ve heard from Israeli progressive friends of mine is that both Israelis and Palestinians by very large margins support some kind of reconciliation, but each of them thinks the other side doesn’t. And Sharon has been very successful in convincing Israeli Jews that there’s no one to talk to on the other sides. So, I think the positive implication of the Geneva Initiative is that that argument doesn’t hold water any more. It is an indication that there are serious people to talk to on the other side. I wish substantively, it was better, but given the power realities and the role of the United States, it’s hard for me to imagine that the Palestinians will get a better deal.”

////

To get involved with local organizing efforts, contact the Boston Committee for Palestinian Rights: http://www.bcpr.org or info (at) bcpr.org. For more information on the issues, see ZNet’s MidEast Watch page (http://www.zmag.org/meastwatch/meastwat.htm ), the Electronic Intifada (http://electronicintifada.net/new.shtml ) or the Middle East Research and Information Program (http://www.merip.org ).
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photos of New Year's Eve vigil

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Comments

Re: New Year’s Eve Vigil Against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Wall
28 Jan 2004
A boarder between two countries sounds perfectly normal to most of us. It even makes sense since one of those countries keeps sending its citizens to the other country with the goal of killing children in resturants and buses.
Re: New Year’s Eve Vigil Against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Wall
28 Jan 2004
It's not a border between two countries--there is no state of Palestine. That's one of the huge problems: all of Palestine is occupied by the Israeli military. Yes, Palestinian suicide bombers have killed Israeli civilians. While I think it is important to understand the social forces that lead to people committing such acts, this in no way excuses them or lessens their horror. But the ugly fact is that Palestinians suffer far more under the Israeli occupation. Look at the figures for deaths I give in the article--those of Palestinians are triple those of Israelis. (The sources for the figures are the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Israeli military respectively.) In addition to all the deaths, Palestinians have been arbitrarily arrested en masse, their homes and businesses destroyed, their agricultural land confiscated, their leaders assassinated, their lives ruined. Palestine's economy and political structure are in shambles--Israel is still relatively prosperous. What breeds anti-Israeli terrorism is the anti-Palestinian terrorism of the Israeli state. The Wall does not even stand between Israel's internationally recognized border and the lands Israel occupies--it goes deep into Palestinian territory. Every life is precious, every death is a tragedy, but this is not an even conflict--Israel clearly is the oppressor, the occupying power. If you want Palestinian suicide bombers to stop entering Israel, get the Israeli military out of Palestine and let them have a country of their own.
Re: New Year’s Eve Vigil Against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Wall
07 Feb 2004
It isn't a wall that is destroying the lives and lifes of Palestinians. It is Zionism that is destroying the lives and lifes of Palestinians.

For some reason, Zionists think that Hebrews murdering Canaanites, Amorites, Parazites, etc, and stealing the land 3000 years ago gives the ZIonists a "birthright" of also being murderous thieves in the land. A pretty piss poor pretext for ZIonists to have a "birthright" of murderous thieving crusade in Palestine, once you look at it.

Romans also killed to steal the land. And the Romans were far less bloody than the Hebrews were. Do Paegans in italy, and everywhere, have a birthright to steal Palestinian lands, like the Zionists claim they do? Jews were treated horibly by Judeo-christians. How about Peagans. It is only in the last few decades that they could come out of thier closets. Peagans have always been treated worse of all. And Judeo-chrisitan preachers still preach hate and fear of peagans. Harry Potter books lead to the devil. The horrors Peagans faced at the hands of Judeo-christians doesn't give the peagans any right to become murderous thieves, as the ZIonist's murderous theft of Palestinian lands has been appeased, BY the Judeo-christian dominated 1947 United Nations. Countries (thier puppet rulers) like El Salvador, Haiti, Cube (CUBA), have a right to promise the ZIonist invadors Palestinian lands??? How??? And when you realize Cuba has no business giving Palestinian lands to ZIonist crusaders, you realize the Democraps and Republitrash don't have any such right either. Also in the Judeo-christian dominated 1947 UN, England and France chose to appease the Zionist invasion of Palestine. Well, these 2 countries also appeassed the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia 9 years earlier.

The Balfour Declaration allegedly gave ZIonists a right to invade Palestine. Do you think Hitler gave the Hungarians a piece of paper saying Hungarians could occupy the Slovakian portion of Czechoslovakia? How can England's meaningless piece of paper have any more validity than Hitler's? England got a Leage of Nations mandate. "Mandate", is that an Arabic word? No, I didn't think so. It was a word chosen by the Judeo-christian dominated Leage of Nations. Countries like Haiti, Cuba, yadda, yadda, Yadda. Countires you would never expect of having ANY authority to be promising ANY Palestinian lands to ANYBODY. Maybe you think Balfour really did have more authority to promise Palestine to ZIonist invadors, than Hitler had to be promising Slovakian lands to Hungary. If so, then lets hear it. Come on. Tell us. And then tell us how Longshanks had a right to promise Scottish lands to Longshanks minions (supporters in Feudal days).

Hungarians didn't have to invade Slovakia. But, thier anscestors did rule the little people's in the land, There was a Hungarian minority in slovakia, and it was an easy steal, what with being under the Nazi guns.

And Zionists, they didnt have to invade Palestine, but, thier anscestors once ruled the little people in the land (2nd cronicles ch 2 puts the number at 153600 in Solomans rule of the land Hebrews murdered the locals to steal, and even the new testiment talks of so-and-so "the Canaanite. Sumaritans, Zionists admit they are descended from Sumaritan of 2000 years ago. Romans didn't kick all the people out, just the Hebrew masters, just like the Arabs didn't kick the locals out and replace them, it took 200 years for the locals to adopt Arabic, Arabs just beat down the Byzantine Masters, East roman, but same ruling families,), there was a Jewish minority (3%) livng in the land, and , it was an east steal, what with being under longshank's, oops, I mean Balfour's Brittish guns. The balfour declaration, in addition to failing to give the Zionists thier alleged "birthright" of murderous thieving crusade in palestine, also showed the locals what the ZIonists plans were all about, the theft of Palestinian lands. And the unarmed Palestinians responded as well as unarmed Slovakians could resist, but they did resist. The ZIonists knew damn well thier invasion under the brittish guns was not welcomed, 25,000 Brittish guns keeping the Palestinians makes it clear to all, but the ZIonists chose thier offensive invasion. Zionists chose thier war of conquest, and all the hostilities it created. Palestinians didn't ask for foiegn (in every sence of the word) invadors to destroy thier lives and lies. People do not destroy thier nieghbor's lives and lifes and really expect peace. Zionists do not want peace, Zionists want Palestine. Thier murderous thieving crusade in the lands prooves that much.

Notice how ZIonists say, "the palestinians want to drive Israel into the sea." Well, why not use the words, "Palestinians want to drive the murderous thieving Zionist crusaders out of Palestine"? It is the same, only one is not whitewashed scapegoating of the victims of foriegn agressions.
pvlns pefw
08 Jun 2006
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pvlns pefw
08 Jun 2006
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