Popular movements in the West Bank, Palestine: “Existence is Resistance”.
The struggle for the liberation of Palestine is very often presented as being a solely armed struggle by Palestinian political groups whether Hamas or many others. Newspapers and Medias in the West very rarely diffuse information about the daily popular non violent resistance of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. On the opposite, when a single rocket is launched from Gaza or from the West Bank, by a political armed group, you can be quite sure that this event will be reported the same night or the day after in the Medias. This dichotomy in the news and the way to report it is not new unfortunately, but it definitely strengthened the wrong image of Palestinians fighting the occupation only through armed struggle as a way to resist. This general feeling among many in the West is far from the reality and Café Thawra is going to show how these popular movements have in fact slowly taken the leadership of resistance against Israel. Before starting the article, I would first like to avoid any misunderstanding through this paper, I am not against armed struggle and I believe that any kind of resistance, would it be armed or non violent, is legitimate under occupation, it is on the opposite occupation which is illegal in any possible aspect. This said, I still believe that armed resistance without a global resistant and political program is counterproductive in many ways.
During its trip to Palestine, Café Thawra was able to meet several members of popular committees all around the West Bank, in cities and especially villages, struggling against Israeli occupation and the building of the wall which includes destruction of houses, seizure of lands and more globally an ethnic cleansing strategy of the Palestinians. These popular committees are very well organized depending essentially on the participation and the devotion of their members. Each region, which gathers numerous popular committees from villages and towns, has a coordinator who is in charge of coordinating actions and campaigns with the other committees from other regions across the West Bank. Popular committees have played several important roles in the mobilization of the people against the occupation, let’s have a look.
Popular committees are in charge of weekly popular demonstration, mobilizing the masses against the Israeli occupation or the building of the Apartheid Wall. The popular committee’s members usually organize and lead those non violent demonstrations. It is a way to show that Palestinians are not passive against the occupation. The popular committees also coordinate the march when International groups supporting the Palestinian cause participate in these demonstrations. We can find pacific demonstrations all over the West Bank on Friday’s such as in Bi’lin, Ni’lin, Al Ma’sara, Nabi saleh and many others or on Sunday such as in Beit Jala or Beit Sahour. Bi’lin demonstrations are surely the most famous because it has been able to gather together on a weekly basis many Palestinians, Internationals and Israelis (especially from the organization Anarchist against the Wall). Bi’lin village is unfortunately also well known because a demonstrator, Bassem Abu Rahme, was killed in April 2009 by the Israeli occupation forces during a pacific demonstration.
Popular committees also mobilize Palestinians and Internationals for punctual events to try to stop or slow down Israeli occupation actions, for example by organizing demonstration and / or sit-ins against the confiscation of lands for the building of the Apartheid wall or to oppose the destruction of houses. These kinds of event are made possible through different mediums whether traditional such as tracts or phone calls, or through new social networks such as facebook or emails announcing the day before a demonstration in order to gather a maximum of people. The popular movements also very often organize buses to bring and facilitate the venue of the demonstrators.
Diffusion of the Information and welcoming International groups
Popular movements’ coordinators are in charge to inform the International public of the situation in the occupied territories. Different ways are used, such as writing emails about the daily lives of the Palestinians under occupation and/or the last actions taken by the Israeli occupation forces violating the rights of the Palestinian people is one of them. Their email lists includes normally few thousands of people. They equally very often give an overview of the last demonstrations in their respective regions. They also travel around the world, when they are not forbidden by the Israeli army to do so, to attest of the situation and gather support to their cause.
The members of popular movements also welcome and host Internationals from groups supporting the Palestinian cause in their own homes. They explain and show them the situation in the occupied territories. They organize all year long these kinds of witness visit for International groups.
Building and renovation of destroyed houses.
Popular movements across the West Bank help Palestinians in their daily lives and preoccupation. Numerous houses in the occupied territories have been destroyed by the occupation forces because they were unfortunately build on newly decided official “military zone”, which forbids any constructions except for the Israeli army. The occupation forces also developed a strategy to constrain families to leave certain areas, especially agricultural lands or farms, by cutting them all the needed resources such as water and electricity. Under these conditions, many families were unfortunately force to leave their homes and start a new life some place else, being once again refugee in their own country. Popular movements were nevertheless able to react in certain cases and even save families from leaving their lands. They started delivering essential resources such as water and electricity to houses or farms, in order for families to continue living on their land, which have been cut from everything by the Israeli occupation forces to force them to leave. Houses were built again or renovated with local materials produce by youths of the region. A form of sustainable development was developed, actually the youngsters were paid to produce the local materials which would serve to build or renovate houses in the region. Water and electricity were also delivered to farms that have been isolated from everything in remote areas. Many families are now self sustainable and not dependent on Israeli mercy.
Numerous examples can be found across the West Bank of Palestinian families who were able to stay in their land thanks to the action of these popular movements.
Popular campaign: boycott Israeli products
Popular movements, hand in hand with Palestinian civil society, are also the spearhead of the Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign launched in 2005. The Kairos document signed in 2009 by all the Palestinian churches, which support the BDS, describe the intention of this campaign the following way “as a call to engage in divestment and in economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation”. The BDS call has been signed by more than 170 Palestinian political parties, unions and NGOs present in the occupied territories, inside Israel and among the Palestinian Diaspora. Popular movements have played an important role to encourage the BDS campaign inside the Palestinian occupied territories and also around the world side by side with the civil society.
Support for prisoners or protesters
Popular movements also have to sometimes support Palestinian detainees through different ways, whether financially to gather the money to pay the lawyers or by organizing public gathering asking for the release of prisoners. They also are the main negotiators with the Israeli occupation forces for the release of protesters arrested during the demonstrations.
We have observed in this article the crucial and important role played by the popular movements in the struggle for resistance and in the support in the difficulties of their daily lives of the Palestinian people. Popular movements have taken the lead of resistance in the West Bank, and this without any kind of assistance from the Palestinian Authority and even sometimes having to struggle against it. The Palestinian Authority is actually lacking any political strategy and is more preoccupied in collaborating with Israeli occupation forces than developing a way to resist to it. Hamas on its side has witnessed that arm struggle without any global political resistant strategy is clearly a failure. Hamas has even started to arrest armed groups launching rockets on Israel from Gaza, exactly what they were denouncing not a while ago from the Palestinian Authority. Popular movements and demonstrations have besides started to appear in the Gaza strip since these last few weeks on the model of what is happening in the West Bank.
Popular movements are definitely the alternative to political parties interested more in their share of power than resistance. We should remind ourselves that the First Intifada, which popular movements led and political parties were absent, had a great success with a mass participation of the Palestinian people.
In conclusion, Café Thawra would like to salute the courage and the determination of the Palestinian people and especially of these popular movements in their daily struggle against occupation.