Thousands Protest the Occupation and Flotilla Raid Across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

To mark 43 years of Israeli occupation, Israelis and Palestinians held protests throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories this weekend. While many of these protests were planned in advance, many organizers and the IDF did not know what to expect since the Gaza Flotilla Raid has heightened emotions across all sects of Israeli and Palestinian society — Arab, Jewish, left and right etc.

Saturday, June 5th 2010

Tel Aviv

The prime minister drowns us all. We need to row to peace.

15,000 – 20,000 left-wing people peacefully protested the Israeli occupation and the “Gaza Flotilla Raid” in Tel Aviv (notice how the name of the Wikipedia article has now changed from “Gaza Flotilla Crash” to “Gaza Flotilla Raid”).  They were also joined by 200 – 300 right-wing people who came to oppose the left-wing protesters and support the occupation.

The number of protesters surprised many of the protest’s organizers who estimated that no more than 3,000 people would attend. “I thought that because of the flotilla incident that moderate leftists would not turn out, but I was very surprised,” said one of the organizers, Itamar Broaderson.  “Instead, because of the flotilla more people came.”

While the protest is held annually to mark the beginning of Israel’s occupation, when the Gaza Flotilla Raid happened, the organizers changed the title of the protest from “Protest Against 43 Years of Occupation” to “The government cannot sink us. We will continue rowing for peace.”

Several right-wing protesters spit on left-wing protesters and one person threw a smoke grenade. At the end of the protest, right-wing protesters attacked 81 year old leftist activist Uri Avneri, the head of Gush Shalom, and the police had to escort Avneri to his car.

The protest was organized by several left-wing organizations and parties including Meretz, Peace Now, Gush Shalom, Hadash and Physicians for Human Rights among others.

Friday, June 5, 2010

Nebi Saleh, Occupied Palestinian Territories

I went to Nebi Saleh with photojournalists Mati Milstein, Ben Kelmer and blogger Lisa Goldman. Seasoned blogger Noam Sheizaf was also there and I liked the way that he summed up the history of the village in his post about a series of demonstrations yesterday:

The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.

The weekly protest began with young village members blocking the main road into the village where the IDF enters with stones and lighting tires on fire. Less than five minutes later, the IDF arrived and closed the road for several hours.

The villagers (accompanied by no more than ten young international activists) marched down the hill slowly and cautiously and eventually exchanged stone throwing for tear gas.

Other than the journalists, Ben Gurion University professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir was the only person who came from the villagers’ protest to speak with the army. After several minutes of shouting passionately at the army to leave the village, Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier with a racial slur (see pictures below).

When the IDF was shooting tear gas, more than one canister landed in a nearby house. After the tear gas exploded, a woman came out of the house and gagged repeatedly on top of the roof. There was no damage to the house, since the window was already broken from similar incidents.

I spoke with one of the village leader who along with his wife, who serves as a medic, monitor the young village protesters. He explained to me a bit of the village history = 1 family, 400 people and a culture of resistance. I took some pictures of the resistance art they’ve made and several of the women and children who stand on their porches weekly for the past six months protesting the settlers take over of their spring (see below). He also told me that the night before, three young villagers had been arrested in the middle of the night, after last week’s protests.

At the top of the hill in a small community building, several middle aged men debated their protest strategy hotly. They decided to call the protest off for the day because they said a woman in Gaza had been killed. Photojournalist Mati Milstein informed the IDF of their decision, resolving the conflict for the day.

Bil’in

At the weekly protest in Bil’in, Palestinian protesters constructed a model of the Gaza flotilla and were met with the usual tear gas. See the video here.

Highway 443

Hundreds also marked 43 years of occupation on highway 443 where demonstrators protest Palestinians’ limited access to the highway which runs through the west bank.

Tab for the Day:

This reporting took over 8 hours of work plus food and fuel. I rode in a car, which I cannot afford, shot pictures on a $1,000 camera and wrote this story on a $2,000 computer. Please do your part to support independent journalism in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Also free to join the lively, peaceful conversation here, on facebook or subscribe to receive Alison Avigayil’s Peace Dispatches via email.

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“Lynch”, “Attack” and “Massacre” – Shooting Down Words in International Waters

Words

The first post I wrote after I heard the news that 10 activists had been killed and several soldiers wounded on the flotilla headed for Gaza, was about how the media uses language to describe conflict. The headlines on the television, radio and web were all so drastically different. The words being used too accusatory too quick.

Everyone, from the IDF and traditional media, to independent journalists, bloggers and commentators must think critically about the words they are using. These are the words that will forever be found on the web, will be carried by friends, co-workers and family members and written into our collective histories.

Here is a roundup of other journalists calling us to be wise with words:

Sources

It is also critical that we look at sources. Currently, the majority of raw (or trimmed) video circulating online, is coming from the Israeli Defense Force itself (they learned about YouTube during the last war in Gaza). While some journalists are waiting to be deported in Ben-Gurion airport, according to Reporters Without Borders another 60 – 100 journalists that were on the flotillas are still being held by the Israeli army.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that the Al Jazeera crew that was aboard the flotilla, including correspondent Abbas Nasser and cameraman Isaam Zaatar, was expelled yesterday.

Reporters Without Borders is aware of 16 journalists being held at Be’er Scheva detention centre. They are Svetoslav Ivanov and Valentin Vassilev of Bulgaria’s BTV, Muna Shester of the Kuwait News Agency, Talat Hussain of Aaj TV, Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mario Damolin of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, David Segarra of teleSUR, Ayse Sarioglu of Taraf, Murat Palavar and Hakan Albayrak of Yeni Safak, Sümeyye Ertekin, Ümit Sönmez and Ersin Esen of TVNET and Ashwad Ismail and Samsul Kamal Abdul Latip of Astro Awani.

In addition, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “Othman Battiri, a senior producer at Al-Jazeera who was on board the Mavi Marmara and released on Tuesday, told CPJ that soldiers confiscated Al-Jazeera’s cameras, tapes, satellite phones, and mobile phones.” However, one video was released by Al Jazeera’s journalists before they were censored and several accounts from Freedom Flotilla activists who are in Jordon now are starting to surface.

With this flood of information, we must choose our words wisely, check our sources twice and support the release of all journalists, video tapes, cellphones and cameras in hand.

Journalists are increasingly being censored in Israel — making independent reporting more essential than ever before. You can help “break the blockade,” if you will, by supporting independent journalism now. Contribute one time or become a monthly subscriber. Feel free to contact Alison Avigayil for further details.

Also, feel free to join the lively, peaceful conversation here, on facebook or subscribe to receive Alison Avigayil’s Peace Dispatches via email.

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