by Ida Audeh
The Electronic Intifada
This year marks the 59th anniversary of the dismemberment of Palestine, otherwise known as the establishment of the state of Israel, and the 40th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. Israel and the western world have imposed sanctions on the Palestinians in the occupied territories, the majority of whom now live below the poverty level; and Israel in collaboration with willing Palestinian lackeys continues its savage assault ostensibly on members of Hamas but in reality on all Palestinians who reject the shabby future assigned to them in the Oslo agreement.
The people of Budrus, a village (population 1,300) about 12 kilometers northwest of Ramallah and no more than 3 kilometers from the green line, teach us that Palestinian fate is not carved in stone; the outcome to the Israel-Palestine struggle is not a foregone conclusion. After the 1948 war, Israel confiscated about 80 percent of the land area of Budrus, leaving less than 5,000 dunums, and later established a military training base. Despite the provocation of the base on village lands, not a single shot was ever fired by the villagers, and not a single suicide bomber ever emerged from the village. Then in 2004 Israeli bulldozers arrived to start work on a wall that, when completed, is expected to extend for about 650 kilometers; it had begun in the Jenin area in the northern West Bank in 2003, jutting well into the West Bank and encircling Qalqilya as it snaked along a southwesterly course. And Budrus brought the bulldozers to a standstill.
The story of Budrus is noteworthy because it reminds us that unarmed people are not powerless. Confronted with an Israeli plan to confiscate 1,000 dunums of village lands to erect a wall that would ultimately enclose area villages in a canton, Budrus residents put their bodies in front of the bulldozers that came to raze their farmlands. Unarmed, and abandoned to their fate by the increasingly useless and indifferent Palestinian Authority, the villagers quickly realized that the wall would stifle the area and make their lives unsustainable. They resisted the Israeli juggernaut with their bodies and temporarily stopped it in its tracks. The villagers paid a high price -- the Israeli occupation forces conducted mass arrests and inflicted numerous injuries with live ammunition -- and despite a legal victory in an Israeli court, ultimately they could not prevent the 3,500-meter wall from being built. But they did manage to change its course, and in so doing safeguarded some of their own and other village lands. This is an achievement that has eluded local and international activists in Bil’in, who have been holding well-attended and well-publicized (2.4 million hits on Google for ‘Bil’in’ versus 51,600 for ‘Budrus’) demonstrations at the wall every Friday for at least two years now.
The following interview is a synthesis of two conversations with Abd al-Nasser Marrar, head of the Peace and Love Society and one of the coordinators of the popular resistance committee formed to confront the wall. The wall had not been completed when I met Marrar, then 34 years old, for the first time on 27 August 2005; when we met again less than two years later (24 April 2007), the wall was in place, but it has been the focus of school kids with shears who cut through the coiled wires every chance they get. And although Israel restores the wall that has helped it steal village lands, what has been established is that Palestinians in this small village have not resigned themselves to its presence.
As Marrar noted, ‘the Berlin Wall fell. The day will come when peace-loving people will wake up. I think there are many Israelis who are working against the wall. If Budrus resists on the eastern side of the wall, let the Israelis resist on the western side. If there really are peace-loving people, that wall will come down. But even without the wall, the occupation is intolerable and cannot be borne’