It has been quite a while since I found anything to make me feel a bit more optimistic about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but just before 2017 closes, two actions by young people provide a chink of light.
The first is Ahed Tamimi, at 16, already a veteran of defiant protests against the Israeli occupying forces in the village of Nabi Saleh. She was recently handcuffed and arrested in the middle of the night in an operation involving 30 soldiers. The day before, Israeli soldiers had used tear gas to quell protests in the village, and Ahed was in an altercation with two well-armed soldiers in front of her family home during which she kicked and slapped the soldiers. During the raid soldiers confiscated the family’s phones, computers and laptops and were violent towards Ahed’s 14 year old brother who was refusing to surrender his phone.
Ahed’s courageous defiance has made her a symbol of the renewed resistance that has mushroomed in the Occupied Territories after Trump made his deliberately provocative announcement over Jerusalem, with the connivance and encouragement of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Her act of defiance has now been supplemented by 63 other teenagers, only these are youngsters on the other side of the Green Line: young Israelis publicly declaring through a joint letter that they will refuse to be drafted into the Israel army,
The letter they sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and the Defence and Education ministers, stated: “We have decided not to take part in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people… The ‘temporary’ situation has dragged on for 50 years, and we will not go on lending a hand… The army is carrying out the government’s racist policy, which violates basic human rights and executes one law for Israelis and another law for Palestinians on the same territory… We refuse to be drafted and to serve in the army out of an obligation to values of peace, justice and equality, with the knowledge that there is another reality that we could create together”.
The resistance by Ahed and her family (other family members have been arrested and detained) is receiving considerable media coverage here – as it should. The subversive and politically challenging action of the 63 Israeli teenagers, so far, has not beyond a few Israeli newspapers. Unfortunately, that is part of a pattern. Many courageous actions by Israeli human rights and anti-occupation activists face a news blackout in the West. And unfortunately many pro-Palestinian campaigns from outside do little to amplify the important struggles by Israeli oppositionists.
Activists here need to recognise that the actions of these oppositionists are as crucial to the injustices of the Palestinians being resolved as the daily acts of resistance in the Occupied Territories. Continued Palestinian resistance in the face of 50 years of occupation, daily humiliation and human rights abuses, testifies to the strength of the Palestinian people – much of it continuing despite political impotence. But the military balance of forces are weighted massively against them. An Israel, armed to the teeth, will not be pushed back from its Occupation by military force. The hope must be that continued resistance finds an echo within Israel that can challenge the pillars that maintain the status quo in Israel from within. Refusal to join up for Israel’s army is a powerful statement of intent that should be celebrated and amplified by all who are seeking positive change. This week young people on both sides of the Green Line have been leading by example. All power to them.