Let’s Talk about Gaza
By Tali Shapiro at Dec 31, 2009
On the 27th of December, I joined 24 other Israeli activists and with them tried to directly breech the siege on the Gaza strip, by marching south from Zikim beach. From the Anarchists Against the Wall website:
A high ranking officer present told the demonstrators that he could not promise that he and his men will avoid opening fire at them if they proceed. Challenging the legality of the siege, activists tried to cross the line of soldiers, and some even got into the sea, trying to swim around the barrier. The activists were soon stopped by the police, using motored water vessels and horses. 16 were arrested in suspicion of violating a military order, later to be released at the Sderot police station, but barred from returning to the area near Gaza for two weeks. Limited to Symbolism
Two weeks before this action took place, its future participants were exposed to the realities of the Gaza border, for Israelis. An Israeli mental patient tried to infiltrate Erez crossing and was shot and killed (had he uttered one word in Hebrew, apparently this wouldn’t have happened). Obviously, there was no way anyone would just let us in. Some may say that we could have gone in from the Egyptian side, but due to the latest developments in the Gaza March, it seems that wouldn’t have gone down well either. Our personal security has become a real issue and it became rather clear that we weren’t entering Gaza, the day after Christmas.
The final decision was to be as visible as possible. We wore the glowing vests, held up banners and yelled at the top of our lungs. Before we reached the line of soldiers and concrete slabs (and moat!?), our signs were pulled out of our hands by “fishermen” in half uniform, fishing in an area that’s too shallow for fish. Verbal and physical assaults with no reaction from the authorities are also the norm. It didn’t take long for the army to realize who and what we are, and soon enough they were front-lined by a large police force (more than 25). You’d think that was enough, but there’s much of our tax money to spend, so water-bikes, horses, quad-bikes and a helicopter were also summoned, to take care of the unarmed protesters, fully willing to communicate.
We made it clear to the commanding officer that we intend to pass and we demand they ensure our safety. As you can tell from the quote above, we were assured nothing. Because of this, we made clear our intent to pass regardless, so they can insure our safety, or arrest us. One by one, at this point, we started crossing the imaginary red line in the sand, that move an inch forward and an inch backward, according to each officer’s whim. All they needed to do was say you’re under arrest and that would have ended it, but uniformed forces of authority just aren’t wired that way. So pushing, pulling and beating it is. And all this, for my safety.
Unfortunately, our direct action was nipped in the bud, before it was even conceived. Since we uttered at least one word in Hebrew, our lives were spared. I dread to think what would have happened to anyone attempting such a gentle act of civil disobedience from the other side of the border.
What if we had crossed to Gaza? We hadn't really planned for a magical turn of events that the army would say: “Go in, I’m not shooting, see if I care”. So I’d like to play “what if?”
I’d like to think we would have walked to the nearest populated area, with our hands up, our Arabic speakers in front, and the miniscule media that bothered to come along at our side. I’d like to think that we could have garnered some serious attention, as guests in Gazan homes. I’d like to think that, at this point, we would have declared that we refuse to return, until the siege is lifted. I suppose the next step would have been to join the Gazans marching to Erez crossing. After this, I admit, I don’t know.
Israeli Actions Commemorating Gaza
Fortunately, other actions are planned, in commemoration of the Gaza massacre. While small-scale demonstrations have been taking place (or cancelled, or threatened by authorities) across the country, there are two big marches planned for this weekend; Today, a mass demonstration is occurring, as I write, for Erez crossing, in hopes of meeting our Palestinian and international friends. And on Saturday in Tel Aviv, a March will take place, starting at Rabin Square. The March was initiated by the Coalition Against the Siege (28 groups and political parties).
And to every action, down here, there’s a reactionary. The Sderot Media Center has organized the Sderot Rally for Hope:This Thursday, the Sderot Rally for Hope, lead by Sderot and southern Israeli residents, will mark a year to Operation Cast Lead and a new decade for hope and end to terror. Sderot Media Center, in coalition with the Israel Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, WUJS, World Jewish Congress, Im Tirzu and the Sderot Municipality, organized the march to bring a message of peace to civilians targeted by terror worldwide for 2010.Background: The Sderot Rally for Hope is a counter-response to the Gaza Freedom March, convening in Egypt on December 31, with over 1,300 participants from 43 different countries to protest against the Israeli ’siege' and Operation Cast Lead.Undoubtedly misguided by the hand-in-hand governmental and media effort to further Zionism, the people of Sderot, again, assist the government in furthering the victim portion of Hasbara.
One thing occurred to me, this week. We don’t talk enough about Gaza. Even now, when we do, the mainstream media is silent. We must talk about Gaza. We must point out that the absurdities of lines in the sand, bring only to grotesque destruction. 25 cannot take on an army. 1362 cannot take on an army. Crossing these imaginary lines could mean death. Those of us who have the privilege not to die must talk about Gaza. All of us must talk about Gaza.