In my view, Socialist Worker, No.1744, 21 April 2001.
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Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for REDS – Die Roten.
I have just returned from a visit to a sister in Be’er Sheba in the south of Israel. During my stay the Arab Land Day demonstrations took place to protest at Israel’s annexation of Palestinian lands over the years, and the deaths that occurred in their acquisition.
For the first time in this annual event important sections of the Jewish left participated, the biggest being Peace Now. Their object is twofold-solidarity with the protesting Palestinians, and the need to form a shield for the Palestinians against Israeli guns.
A very large demonstration took place in the north of the country. I joined some other Jews in a smaller demonstration in the south, of Bedouins protesting against the non-recognition by the Israeli government of 40 Bedouin villages. Non-recognition means the villages get no government services at all, and are thus without water, electricity or building licences.
A Bedouin student at Be’er Sheba University, who was asked about using a computer for his studies, replied, “I can’t. There’s no electricity.” Many of the villagers live in corrugated iron, cardboard or black plastic shacks, like so many of the black South African homeless. The Bedouins’ demonstration consisted of a group of activists going to 25 of the unrecognised villages, all of which contributed something practical for their village to the day.
The first village we went to, set back a couple of hundred yards from a main road, put up a big sign by the main road with its name writ large-thus announcing its existence-and planted an olive tree to celebrate. Its days of recognised glory will no doubt be few before the Israeli authorities tear it down.
The second village was tarmacking a road to itself from the main road. The third was building a ford across a winter river so that children from the other side could cross to go to school, which they had to miss when the rains came. And so it went on.
It was fascinating to see the determination of the Bedouins to secure recognition from the government and their direct action to achieve this. Many say if they don’t get recognition there will be a riot, adding to the Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza.
So the Israeli government has recently recognised three of the villages. The second demonstration I went on consisted of 16 Jewish demonstrators holding up anti-Israeli placards for an hour once a week at a busy intersection where cars have to stop at the lights.
Their placards demanded action such as bringing the soldiers back from the settlements, and compensation for any settler wanting to return home. Such actions would considerably weaken the settlements and reverse their expansion. There are also a large number of informal Jewish charity organisations to feed the Palestinians as the Israelis have closed the borders to Arab workers in Israel, where most of them work.
Alongside this there are Jewish groups devoted to rebuilding Palestinian homes smashed up by Israeli troops and rebuilding roads broken up so as to be impassable. The Palestinians will fight on for justice. A minority of Israeli Jews actively support the Palestinians. I was very happy to be part of the growing protests in solidarity with the Palestinians in Israel.
Last updated on 4.2.2002