When Israelis and Palestinians are protesting together about matters of injustice, I do my best to support. “Combatants for Peace” is an organisation that brings together Israelis and Palestinians. Some of the leading lights in it were combatants either in the Israeli Army or through the military wing of Hamas, or other parts of Palestinian society involved in violence. “Combatants for Peace” members are now dedicated to non violence, whatever their past.
Above where I live is an area known as Everest. It’s at the top of Bet Jala and being in Oslo area C, and some area B (*please see note below) it is an area where Israelis and Palestinians can gather, (it is illegal for Israelis to enter area A). This was chosen as the meeting place for a demonstration organised through “Combatants for Peace.” The plan was to march to the Palestinian village of Al Walajah, past the Israeli Settlement of Har Gilo. In the village there would then be some street theatre. In the event, though the mayor of the village had agreed the plan, many of the residents did not want the demonstrators to go into the village. (Exactly why I am not clear – apparently there was some concern over Israelis entering the village – it lies close to Har Gilo and bounded by the Separation barrier, and there was it seems some concern that a demonstration in the village might lead to further trouble after the event).
Something between 200 and 300 people gathered for the march, and it headed toward Al Walajah, but due to the concerns of the villagers only proceeded as far at Har Gilo and there stopped and spent some time in chanting and expressing the anger felt over the continuing occupation – as the banners made clear.
Clearly there was some frustration about the lack of support in Al Aalajah for the demonstration and the march was watched very closely by Israeli soldiers. Expereince has shown that when Palestinians and Israelis deonstrate together it is less likely that tear gas will be used, and again this proved to be the case. After a couple of hours the march broke up and the watching soldiers returned to their base.
The EAPPI Bethlehem team were there and it was good to see them and be able to give them a lift back into Bethlehem. The event was clearly not as successful as hoped, but there were positives from it. For some 200 – 300 Israelis and Palestinians to march together was good. The residents of Har Gilo (a settlement illegally under International Law), clearly heard what they might well not often hear – the continuing call from Palestinians and Israelis alike for a just ending of the Occupation.
I was glad to be there – albeit only for a part of the time – and to meet others sharing my longing for an end to the occupation.
* Under the Oslo process most of the West Bank was divided into three area, A, B and C. Area A under full securuity and planning control of the Palestinian Authority, Area B under joint control, Area C under Israeli control. In 1993 it was agreed as a temporary arrangement for up to five years, … it continues to this day.