CHICAGO�Palestinian Ayed Morrar and Israeli Jonathan Pollack
spoke about the nonviolent, resistance movement against the Israeli military
On their U.S. tour, Morrar and Pollack talked about the
thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis who have been waging a
campaign against Israel�s military occupation and the construction of the wall
in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
�We are asking all
the people to reduce our suffering, the terror,� Morrar said. �The killing is
the sign of the hopeless and the disappointed but also we ask you . . . those
people who are looking for real peace people between human to human, not peace
between slave to master.�
Morrar is from the Palestinian
village of Budrus located in the West Bank, northwest of Ramallah. In November
2003, Israeli forces declared over 1,200 dunams of Budrus land for construction
of the wall. In response, Morrar led the Budrus community in a peaceful
campaign of 55 protest demonstrations to save the land from confiscation.
Throughout these protest marches,
Israeli forces killed one 17-year-old, injured 300 Palestinians with rubber
bullets and rubber-coated, steel bullets, and arrested 33 people. In the end
the people served time in prison and the village lost 14 dunums of land.
Although Morrar has not committed any violence, he has been shot, wounded and
tortured while in an Israeli prison for seven years.
�We choose the nonviolence way,� he said. �We are against killing
from both sides.�
Morrar and Pollack showed footage
of protests that took place at Zbuba, Beit Likia, Budrus, and Biddu. In every
protest, the demonstrators did not have any weapons. They stood by olive trees
allegedly slated to be uprooted for the wall. Israeli soldiers threw tear gas
grenades at the demonstrators. When the people ran from the white smoke, the
soldiers stood behind trees and fired at the people with semi-automatic
weapons. In some instances, they shoved, kicked, clubbed, and pulled at some of
the protestors. When it appeared two soldiers were going to kick a Palestinian
man in the head, two Palestinian women rushed their bodies on soldiers. From
the demonstrators� point of view they were defending their agricultural
land�their means for survival�with their lives.
During a demonstration in Biddu, an
ambulance came to retrieve injured people. Suddenly, an M-16 projectile landed
in the front of the ambulance and teargas exploded. The injured and the paramedics
rushed out of the ambulance�s back doors and ran away.
Pollack explained that it was not
an isolated incident and in many cases the paramedics are targeted by Israeli
forces. �The more experience you have the scarier it gets,� he said. �It�s like
some ritual, you�re going to march down the village and you�re going to be shot
In 2002, several months after the
beginning of the wall�s construction Pollack began participating in
demonstrations to show Israeli-support of Palestinian-led campaigns. Thus far,
he has participated in over 200 West Bank protests and he has mobilized
hundreds of Israelis to join the nonviolent, resistance movement. He has served
time in prison for his prominent role in mobilizing the resistance.
�It was clear to me that segregation, that building a wall, is no
sort of solution,� he said. �I used to frequent the West Bank . . . the extent
it�s hurting the Palestinians and civil society in every day life . . . no one
was thinking it was building on Palestinian land.�
In December 2002 Pollack visited
the village of Jayyous, where 75 per cent of Palestinian farmland was on the
Israeli side of the wall. �I was shocked. I was completely amazed because who
knew it was absolutely contradictive to what we were taught about this wall.�
No More Food
When Pollack arrived in Jayyous,
the people of the village said the construction of the wall meant the end of
Jayyous. The food would be gone, they told him. Without access to their
farmland and the nine groundwater wells to irrigate their farmland,
approximately 300 families could not irrigate and harvest their olive and
citrus groves. Thousands of trees died of thirst.
Throughout 20 demonstrations in
Jayyous, people tried to stop the bulldozers with their own bodies. Throughout
the West Bank nine people have died in protests.
For Pollack and other Israeli
protestors, it was the first time they moved from protest to resistance.
Instead of holding a sign in front of Israel�s Ministry of Defense, the Israeli
activists were in the West Bank with Palestinians, trying to save Palestinian
land from destruction and confiscation. �It was the first opportunities for us
as Israeli activist to create relationship with Palestinians that can overcome
based on solidarity, not normalizing relations under occupation,� he said.
Eventually the protests in Mas�ha
stopped because of overwhelming violence. One Israeli, Gil Nama�ati was
seriously wounded in Mas�ha and he nearly died.
On December 27, 2003, media covered
the demonstration in Mas�ha that showed Israelis, Palestinians and
international activists standing together. According to Pollack, that day
marked the eruption of the struggle in almost every Palestinian village where
there was construction of the wall.
Pollack shared that the wall is 385
miles long and snakes deep into the West Bank. Construction of the wall and
Israeli settlements disregard recognition of the 1967 borders established by
international law. Almost 500,000 Palestinians in 92 communities are affected
by the wall directly. People experience restricted movement because they have
to have permits to travel through checkpoints. For example in the village of
Qaffin, which has a population of 8,000�9,000, only 20 people have permits.
In 50 communities, approximately
244,000 people live on the Palestinian side of the wall, but they are
surrounded by the wall on three sides. In the city of Qalqilya there was a
population of 50,000�60,000 people, and an unemployment rate of 18 percent.
Now, 10,000 people have left Qalqilya. There is one gate in and out of the town
and Israeli soldiers lock the gate at sunset.
In May 2005, Israeli forces closed Jayyous� gate 25 for
several days. For more information about the gate closure, see Jayyous
Gate 25 Closed to Palestinian Farmers and Jayyous
Gate 25 Reopened, Permits Needed For Farming Equipment.
Palestinian farmers worried their
trees and crops would die from lack of irrigation. Eventually, Israeli forces
reopened gate 25, but the Palestinian farmers needed permits for their farming
equipment. They spent the summer purchasing water and transporting it with
water trucks to irrigate their farmland. When they harvested their crops,
Israeli forces prevented farmers from traveling to larger municipalities, where
they could sell their crops in city markets. For the farmers who had permits
the travel times between checkpoints caused crops to perish by the time they
reached their destination. As a result, most tomatoes and lemons �dropped to
the ground,� and the farmers gave them to local villagers for free.
The Olive Tree
�The Palestinian life live strongly to the olive tree,� Morrar
said. �The Palestinian people believe olive tree is holy tree as written in the
Qur�an and the holy Bible for Christians; the holy Torah, the holy book of the
According to Morrar, Palestinian
culture teaches that any person who uproots an olive tree will be damned twenty
times. Although Palestinians have planted hundreds of thousands of olive trees,
the Israeli settlements and the wall have uprooted hundreds of thousands, also.
The oldest olive tree is in Jenin, a village in the West Bank, and it is 5,000
Near Budrus is a church that has
olive trees in front of it that are over 2,000 years old. Morrar said that as a
child Jesus played under these trees.
When trees are uprooted, people are
torn with agony and despair because the trees are an integral part of their
lives. For these reasons, the people continue in their struggle against the
�There�s no price on freedom,� Pollack said. �We tried to give a
new meaning to this phrase. Freedom and equality . . . we�re going to fight for
our freedom and other peoples� freedom and nothing they can do [will] deter
Morrar talked about Muslim women
and how the West perceives that Palestinian women have no rights. �We
discovered that the women don�t want to stay in the kitchen to wait for the
heroes to come back from the battle . . . we just open the doors; heroes, we
discover many heroes in Budrus.� As prominent figures in the nonviolent
struggle against Israel�s military occupation, Morrar and Pollack also are
Although Morrar described his
command of the English language as weak, he said: �I still believe by the law
which Martin Luther King spoke; he spoke the rights cannot be given but taken .
. . our aim is freedom as any people in the world, freedom from the occupation . . . we are human and
we have right to struggle to achieve the freedom.�
Journalist Sonia Nettnin writes about social,
political, economic, and cultural issues. Her focus is the Middle East.