The Palestinian Gandhis

I’m currently at Limmud (huge conference on Jewish learning and culture) , which is a mixed experience for a Palestinian sympathiser. There’s plenty of discussion on Israel/Palestine, some of it indeed with Palestinians; today I listened to Walid Salem speak on Palestinian narratives to an audience whose numbers I thought encouraging until I heard the questions at the end. The high point of the day for me was a screening of Budrus, which I very strongly recommend if you get a chance to see it. It’s a brilliantly assembled documentary that follows the struggle, almost exclusively non-violent, to persuade the Occupation authorities to change the route of the Separation Wall so that the villagers of Budrus would not be left destitute of the livelihood provided by their olive trees. (This screening was also well attended, by an audience that was clearly shocked by the reality of occupation as shown in the film.)

The Budrus struggle was ultimately successful and gave a lot of encouragement to other non-violent resistance against the Occupation. At the end of that film, and more markedly since then, the authorities have been stepping up their violence and repression against activists. The indispensable Jerry Haber (the Magnes Zionist) documents this trend and points to the case of Abdallah Abu Rahmah. This report (in the Jerusalem Post, of all papers) is a first-class account of the court hearing in which Rahmah was sent back to prison on the completion of his one-year sentence for leading a demonstration that the army had labelled “illegal”. Although Franz Kafka’s byline is missing from the report, there is no mistaking his handiwork: Rahmah is currently serving time awaiting the military prosecutor’s appeal against the clemency of his original sentence. And the appeal could take up to two year to present… As Jerry Haber says, “Where are the ‘Palestinian Gandhis’? In Israeli jails – for acting according to their principles of non-violence.”

[UPDATE, 19th March 2011]: Press release from Friends of Freedom and Justice Bilin:

After much delay, Abu Rahmah who was supposed to have already been released yesterday, was finally released from the Ofer Military Prison this evening. He was received by hundreds who waited for him at the prison’s gate.

Abu Rahmah, who during his trial was declared a human rights defender by the EU and a prisoner of conscious by Amnesty International, vowed to continue struggling against the Occupation, despite his unjust imprisonment and the six-months suspended sentence still imposed on him. He said, “On my release, I have no intention to go back home and sit there idly. In fact, by imprisoning me they have silenced me long enough. Our cause is just, it is one striving for freedom and equality, and I intend to continue fighting for it just as I have before”.

One thought on “The Palestinian Gandhis”

  1. Interesting to see comments on Budrus – this film has been shown in Aberdeen, with so much praise that it’s being re-shown on Thursday 22nd September at Aberdeen University, the day after Abbas is due to make his UN bid for Statehood status for Palestine. For those who quibble that only talks with Israel can result in agreement on the many issues -borders, security, the separation wall, water resources, fate of refugees and prisoners held in Israeli prisons – my simple thought is, It takes two to tango. In my opinion as one member of sjjp, Israeli Governments don’t want peace, don’t want equal rights for Palestinians; just consider the blockade of the Gaza strip, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the unchecked rampages of ‘settlers’ by successive Israeli govenments! And as for hoping the US leadership will modify its complete support for Israel now it has Obama as President, I’m reminded of a poem by Robert Browning that I read many years ago, called ‘The Lost Leader.’ the opening lines were,
       Just for a handful of silver he left us,
       Just for a ribbon to stick on his coat…
    A reminder to us not to rely on leaders, instead make our own efforts for freedom, justice, peace by peaceful means. This is why I support BDS – not all in our jewish group do.

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