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    Posted June 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    300 Israel academics in civil disobedience call

    A growing swell of hope and defiance

    “Any act of rebellion, any physical defiance … anything that seeks to draw the good to the good, nourishes our souls and holds out the possibility that we can touch and transform the souls of others. Hope affirms that which we must affirm, and any act that imparts hope is a victory in itself.”  Chris Hedges

    What started with one brave woman is now on its way to being a movement. The one woman was Ilana Hammerman, Israeli writer who decided to defy Israel’s control on Palestinians’ freedom of movement.

    The Occupation allows half a million citizens of Israel, who can vote in national elections and have full infrastructure, material subsidies, services and clear, open roads, to live side by side in the West Bank with a Palestinian population that’s controlled by a military-bureaucratic dictatorship to which it pays taxes but receives none of these rights, services and privileges.

    Those that rebel and struggle against this injustice face nightly military raids accompanied by vandalism, humiliation and insult, bodily harm and arbitrary arrests, even of quite young children. But the entire population, however compliant, is daily encased into a system of checkpoints and roadblocks that completely deny freedom of movement.

    When it suits the ruling regime these lands are part of Israel (albeit “disputed” or “open to negotiation”), and when it suits it otherwise, they are foreign territory, with an international border that Palestinians are not allowed to cross and Israelis are not allowed to help them to cross.

    Ilana Hammerman (see Backstory below) openly broke this law. The movement of women that’s followed, now called Civil Disobedience, advertises its acts in paid advertisements in Haaretz newspaper. And now its members have been supported in a further advertisement signed by 300 higher education lecturers.

    The women, who have all been investigated by Jerusalem police and who now have official criminal records, called for the Israeli public to join them in their protest activity which consists of driving Palestinian women and children for a day at Israeli recreational sites and the beach. The group stated “We recognize neither the legality, nor the morality, nor the wisdom of the walls between us and our neighbours which have been erected with brute force.”

    The teachers’ supporting statement says “We, the undersigned women and men, state that we are willing to collaborate with the actions of the “Civil Disobedience” women. In these dark hours, we are willing to drive their guests, Palestinian women and children, to hide them and to support their challenge in any other way, whether in deeds or in words. The action of these women shows the right way for any Israeli citizen who truly supports a democracy respectful of human rights. Should Israel’s legal system find it appropriate to prosecute and penalize these women we shall be willing to support them, to join them and to be tried alongside them.”

    These actions and statements are surely the stem-cells to grow a new society.

    The backstory

    (First posted in the One Democracy Newsletter dated 6 July 2010)

    If this coexistence project has a name, the Facebook page Supporting Ilana Hammerman and Disobedient Israelis is as good as any. Ilana took three teenagers for a trip to the seaside at Tel Aviv.  There, these girls “sat down, took off their sandals, rolled up their pants and waded in the dark waters, refusing to budge” and later they “ran and ran, back and forth, in zig-zags, along the huge beach, ponytails flying in the wind.”

    All this innocent fun was illegal. The escapade was a crime that Hammerman had methodically planned and committed: the three Palestinian girls did not have a permit to enter Israel. Ilana was forbidden even to collect two of the girls from PA territory. But they made it through, and back, and Ilana then had the chutzpah to write it all up in Haaretz Weekend magazine, saying “it wasn’t the last time I’ll do something like this. Because I do not recognize the legality of the checkpoints and fences, or the legality of military rule over the places that Lin and Aya and Yasmin are from”.

    For what she did, and for being so unrepentant, upfront and disobedient, she could get a two year prison sentence. An extreme right wing settler group Legal Fund for the Land of Israel is demanding that she be prosecuted. She was called in for police questioning.

    But there’s a problem for the authorities. Ilana was bombarded with requests from journalists in Holland, France, Germany and USA, German TV and even the BBC World Service, all desperate to tell the story. One described it as a “vital and transformative event”. Another said “Peace will come with such random acts of simple kindnesses and recognition of the basic humanity we share.” Another called for a National Day for Disobedient Israelis in which hundreds of others could join. It’s gone round the world on Facebook with over 700 supporters.

    In response to the police action, two dozen Jewish and West Bank women and children went to the sea. And then they too wrote about it, and paid to have their account and their names printed in Haaretz, where they said the law they broke is itself upholding illegality, and robs Palestinians of the right to visit places with which they have deeply rooted family, heritage and national connections. And they say to others: “do as we have done”.

    It’s the sheer everyday ordinariness of the action that inspires and illuminates. Heavy politics but no flags, no banners, no speeches. That a day out with “the wrong people” is illegal says everything about racism, as did Rosa Parks when she went down in history for sitting in the front seat of the bus.

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