Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the death of peace activist Rachel Corrie, crushed to death by a caterpillar tractor driven by the Israeli Defense Forces in occupied Palestine. She was trying to negotiate with the driver not to destroy the homes of Palestinians being subjected to collective punishment for demonstrating against the occupation (see our posts here, here, here). What makes this year's anniversary even more painful is fresh news: 37 year old Tristan Anderson from Oakland, California, a dedicated pacifist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), is on life-support after being shot in the face by the IDF with a high velocity tear gas canister. More via Siun at Firedoglake:
Each week, Palestinians and international supporters gather in the West Bank town of Ni'lin to hold a prayer service and protest the building of the Israeli Wall.
The Ni'lin demonstrations are an attempt to stop construction of the Wall which is cutting residents off from their property. ISM notes:
Residents in the village of Ni’lin have been demonstrating against the construction of the Apartheid Wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Ni’lin will lose approximately 2500 dunums of agricultural land when the construction of the Wall is completed. Ni’lin was 57,000 dunums in 1948, reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, currently is 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after the construction of the Wall. (Sium, Firedoglake)
When shot, Anderson was inside the village and far from any demonstration. He did not throw stones nor was he near anyone who could be considered threatening. While he wasn't shot by a bullet, the damage caused by these projectiles is well known to the locals. Here's what it can do and did to Tristan Anderson:
The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson's forehead and right eye socket. During the operation, part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan's injuries is yet unknown. It should also be noted that soldiers at the Ni'ilin checkpoint prevented the Red Crescent ambulance from taking Tristan directly to the hospital, forcing it to wait for approximately 15 minutes until an Israeli ICU ambulance (called by Israeli activists) arrived at scene, after which he was carried from one side of the checkpoint to the other. This, of course, is standard procedure - in the extremely rare cases where the army allows patients from the occupied territories to be transferred into Israel.
Interfering with medical services is a war crime, although it is a crime routinely committed by the IDF, as in this case. We don't hear about this in the US, nor do we hear much, if anything, about the non-violent resistance of the Palestinian people. Instead we hear only about the counter violence of the victimized. But the non-violent resistance is also real:
Why don’t the Palestinians adopt the tactics of Martin Luther King or Gandhi? And the answer is simply this—they do. For the last six years, they have mounted an ongoing campaign of civil resistance against Israel’s apartheid wall, which snakes through the West Bank, confiscating Palestinian farmland without compensation, destroying the life and livelihoods of whole villages, literally setting in concrete the fractured geometry of Israel’s incursions, her illegal settlements that eat away the integrity of any potential Palestinian state. In the spring of 2004, when the army was just beginning to bulldoze olive orchards and scrape land bare, the villagers of Mas’Ha set up a peace encampment on the wall’s route, inviting support from internationals and Israelis of good will. I’ve written elsewhere about what it was like to be there, encamped in one remaining grove under a full Passover moon, the despair of the bulldozers and the slim hope watching young Palestinians and Israelis sit together around a fire, sharing smokes and stories.
For six years, the movement has moved, from village to village, following the path of the wall. Six years of sparse and tiny victories—here and there, the route of the wall pushed back a few meters—but in Palestine, even the smallest victory stands out because it is so unusual, so different from the expected course of events. Like starving people who survive on crumbs, Palestinians nourish their determination to survive on even the smallest grains of success.
Mostly, I think, the movement survives because, in the face of horrific injustice, people need to do something. The vast majority of Palestinians do not want to strap on a suicide belt or pick up a gun. Contrary to all the stereotypes and racist assumptions, they don’t want to kill, or be killed, for that matter. But they want to do something.
So they come to the wall. Children carry signs, women sit in front of bulldozers, men chant slogans and pray. Supported by a few internationals and a few determined Israelis, mostly ignored by the world’s media, they face tear gas, rubber bullets, real bullets, arrests and beatings. And if the demonstrations have not yet stopped the wall nor won over the hearts of Israelis, they have at least given strength to the hearts of Palestinians and those who continue to hope against hope for some ultimate justice.(Starhawk)
This doesn't sound like much, but for these little victories, many have died:
Tristan, young though he seems to me, has had more of a life than Arafat Rateb Khawaje, who was shot in the back by Israeli forces at a demonstration in Ni’lin on December 28, 2008, when he was only twenty two. On the same day, Mohammed Khawaje, aged twenty, was shot in the head with live ammunition. Brain dead, he lingered for three days until he died in a Ramallah hospital. And they, so young, still had more life behind them than Yousef Amira, only seventeen, shot with rubber-coated still bullets on July 29, 2008. And yet they, too, seem ancient compared to Ahmed Mousa, only ten, shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29th, 2008. And that is just the body count of one village, one year. I grieve for Tristan because he’s a friend. I know him, I have marched with him shoulder to shoulder, sat in meetings with him, shared laughter and gossip and disbelief at the amount of liquor those British activists could put away. I feel for him in a way I should feel, but can’t, for those who are just names on a list to me.
We don't know what difference, if any, the new administration will make. It is hard to think it could be worse, but too often my imagination has shown itself inadequate to the viciousness of this occupation. If you want to do something, you'll find many concrete suggestions and links to peace organizations promoting non-violent resistance to that viciousness at The Jewish Voice for Peace.
This is the actual event. It is horrifying: