On Palestinian Civil Disobedience

A simple google search with the words Palestinian and violence yields over 8.5 million pages, while a search with the words Palestinian and civil disobedience generates only 80,000 pages.

Sometime
in 1846, Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail because he refused to pay
his taxes. This was his way of opposing the Mexican-American War as well as the
institution of slavery. A few years later he published the essay Civil
Disobedience
, which has since been read by millions of people, including
many Israelis and Palestinians.

Kobi
Snitz read the book. He is an Israeli
anarchist
who is currently serving a 20 day sentence for refusing to pay a
2,000 shekel fine.

Thirty-eight
year-old Snitz was arrested with other activists in the small Palestinian
village of Kharbatha back in 2004 while trying to prevent the demolition of the
home of a prominent member of the local popular committee. The demolition, so
it seems, was carried out both to intimidate and punish the local leader who
had, just a couple of weeks earlier, began organizing weekly demonstrations
against the annexation wall. Both the demonstrations and the attempt to stop
the demolition were acts of civil disobedience.

In
a letter sent to friends the night before his incarceration, Snitz writes that
"I and the others who were arrested with me are guilty of nothing except not
doing more to oppose the state's truly criminal policies." Snitz also explains
that paying the fine is an acknowledgment of guilt which he finds demeaning.
Finally, he concludes his epistle by insisting that his punishment is trivial
when compared to the punishment meted out to Palestinian teenagers who have
resisted the occupation. These thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year
olds, he claims, are often detained for 20 days before the legal process even
begins.

Snitz
is not exaggerating.

In
a recent report,
the Palestinian human rights organizations Stop
the Wall
and Addameer document the
forms of repression Israel has deployed against villages that have resisted the
annexation of their land. The two rights groups show that once a village
decides to struggle against the annexation barrier the entire community is
punished. In addition to home demolitions, curfews and other forms of movement
restriction, the Israeli military forces consistently uses violence against the
protestors-and most often targets the youth-- beating, tear-gassing as well as
deploying both lethal and "non-lethal" ammunition against them.

Since
2004, nineteen people, about half of them children, have been killed in
protests against the barrier. The rights groups found that in four small
Palestinian villages -- Bil'in, Ni'lin, Ma'sara and Jayyous -- 1,566
Palestinians have been injured in demonstrations against the wall. In
five villages alone, 176 Palestinians have been arrested for protesting against
the annexation, with children and youth specifically targeted during these
arrest campaigns. The actual numbers of those who were injured and arrested are
no doubt greater considering that these are just the incidents that took place
in a few villages.

Each number has a name and a story.
Consider, for example, the arrest of sixteen year-old Mohammed Amar Hussan
Nofal who was detained along with about 65 other people from his village
Jayyous on February 18, 2009. According to his testimony, he was initially
interrogated for two and a half hours in the village school.

"They asked me
why I participated in the demonstrations, but I tried to deny [that I had].
Then they asked me why I threw a Molotov cocktail [at] them. I said I never
had, which was true. My parents were there and witnessed [what happened]. They
can confirm I never [threw a Molotov cocktail]. I later confessed to [having
been at] demonstrations, but not [to having] thrown a Molotov cocktail."

After being beaten for refusing to hold
up a paper with numbers and Hebrew words on it in order to be photographed,
Nofal was sent to Kedumim and was interrogated for several more hours. During
this interrogation Captain Faisal (a pseudonym of a secret service officer)
tried to recruit the teenager to become a collaborator.

"The Captain
threatened that he would arrest my parents and my whole family if I did not
collaborate. I said they could arrest [my family] any time, [but] it would be
worse to become a spy. He then said they would confiscate my family's permits
so they could not pick olives."

Nofal's only crime was protesting
against the expropriation of his ancestral lands. He spent three months in
prison, during which time the Civil Administration decided to punish his family
as well and refused to renew their permits to work in Israel.

When
compared to Nofal and thousands of other Palestinians, Kobi Snitz is indeed
paying a small price. But his act is symbolically important, not only due to
his solidarity with his Palestinian partners, but also because he, like
thousands of Palestinians, has decided to follow the lead of Henry David
Thoreau and to commit acts of civil disobedience in order to resist Israel's
immoral policies and the subjugation of a whole people.

The
problem is that the world knows very little about these acts. A simple google
search with the words Palestinian and violence yields over 8.5 million pages,
while a search with the words Palestinian and civil disobedience generates only
80,000 pages - this despite the fact that for several years now Palestinians
have been carrying out daily acts of civil disobedience against the Israeli
occupation.

Thoreau,
I believe, would have been proud of Nofal, Snitz and their fellow activists. It
is crucial that the media and international community recognize their heroism
as well.