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”.

Young, Jewish and Proud

If you haven’t yet seen the Young, Jewish and Proud declaration, you really should take a look. It was launched as counter-protest at the 2010 Jewish Federation General Assembly in New Orleans, where a number of phenomenal young activists disrupted Netanyahu’s speech to shout “The Occupation delegitimizes Israel”. There’s lots more information at their site, but the statement is truly inspirational.

It opens:

We exist. We are everywhere. We speak and love and dream in every language. We pray three times a day or only during the high holidays or when we feel like we really need to or not at all. We are punks and students and parents and janitors and Rabbis and freedom fighters. We are your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren. We embrace diaspora, even when it causes us a great deal of pain. We are the rubble of tangled fear, the deliverance of values. We are human. We are born perfect. We assimilate, or we do not. We are not apathetic. We know and name persecution when we see it. Occupation has constricted our throats and fattened our tongues. We are feeding each other new words. We have family, we build family, we are family. We re-negotiate. We atone. We re-draw the map every single day. We travel between worlds. This is not our birthright, it is our necessity.

Bolds original. Check it out.