The few Jewish Israelis who put human rights into action

During my recent visit to Israel and the West Bank I spent time with the wonderful Israeli group Ta’ayush as they protected Palestinian farmers from violent Jewish settlers and complicit IDF soldiers.

Here’s a story, via Ta’ayush member Joseph Dana:

September 22, 2009. Jerusalem District Court. Amiel and Eli

It’s become a little too familiar, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court. I’ve been here several times in recent months because of Ezra Nawi’s ongoing trial; and today I’m here because Amiel and Eli have been charged with disorderly behavior and (in Eli’s case) hindering a policeman in carrying out his duty. Originally, the police wanted to charge them with “endangering human life on a public road”—a serious offense carrying a penalty of up to twenty years in jail, put on the books in order to punish Palestinian stone-throwers during the first Intifada—but the prosecution eventually decided on less severe charges.

Here’s what happened. On October 8, 2006 Ta’ayush organized a demonstration march near the Al-Khadr check-point, south of Jerusalem, to protest against the slow starvation of the Palestinian population caught between the Security Barrier and Highway 60, the main north-south highway in the southern West Bank. Since the Security Barrier has been built deep inside Palestinian territory, far to the east of the highway, and since the whole of the territory between the Barrier and the highway is clearly slated for Israeli annexation, the Palestinian farmers, shepherds, and viniculturists still living there, a population of perhaps 20,000, are trapped: they no longer have access to medical clinics, offices, schools, and, above all, to their traditional markets. Lots of grapes are grown in this enclave; once they were marketed in Gaza, Jerusalem, Israel, Jordan, and the northern West Bank; now, because of the Barrier and the army roadblocks, and because grapes have a very short shelf-life after picking, they mostly rot on the vine or in storage. Al-Khadr itself is east of the Barrier, cut off from its own vineyards to the west of it which produce 11,000 tons of grapes each year. Amiel’s idea was to march along the highway with large cartons of grapes, to distribute them (together with an explanatory flyer) to passing drivers and, when the police arrived and tried to put an end to this subversive effort, to dump the grapes on the ground in protest—also to make sure that the media, local and international, captured this moment on film. A similar tactic has been used quite effectively in public protests by French farmers and just might work, whatever “working” means, in Palestine as well.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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