Tel Aviv, West Bank: A Tale of Two Demonstrations

Tear Gas in Nabi Saleh, Dec. 10, 2010 (Photo: Joseph Dana)

Please read this enormously important post by Israeli activist Joseph Dana, who attended nonviolent West Bank demonstrations in the Palestinian villages of Ni’ilin and Nabi Saleh yesterday. The twist is that these demonstrations happened to occur just as ten thousand Israelis were participating in a Tel Aviv march in honor of International Human Rights Day.

I first learned about these simultaneous events through Dana’s numerous tweets from the ground. Here’s a sampling:

– While the Human Rights March gets underway in Tel Aviv, I am on my to Ni’ilin/Nabi Saleh

– Ni’ilin demo underway while tel aviv marches

– While tel aviv marches for human rights, palestinians are attacked with tear gas

– Human rights day is underway, tel aviv is talking peace while ni’ilin and bil’in are under cover tear gas. I am on the way to nabi saleh

– 10000 people march in tel aviv for human rights and we could not get 20 israelis in ni’ilin. Upsetting

Dana later made the point explicitly in his blog post: for those interested in human rights, the real struggle is not occurring in the streets of Tel Aviv but in the villages of the West Bank, where Palestinian nonviolent activists are regularly brutalized by Israeli military forces. How differently things might have turned out if these thousands of Israelis had saw fit to demonstrate alongside Palestinians in Ni’ilin and Nabi Saleh?

The (Tel Aviv march) brought together various Israeli NGO’s and thousands of concerned citizens in the spirit of presenting a face of Israel that supports human rights and progressive values. Placards were carried through the streets supporting gay rights, woman’s rights, African refugees rights and, also, coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Police lined the streets of the demonstration to ensure the safety of the protesters and keep confrontation with the right wing counter protesters at bay (one has to hand it to the right in Israel, a counter protest to human rights?!). If the Tel Aviv Human Rights Day march wanted to have more authenticity in terms of Palestinian/Israeli coexistence, it should have had more connection with the human rights struggle happening simultaneously in the West Bank.

I’m in complete agreement. Those who seek human rights in Israel/Palestine would do well to support the cause of justice in the Occupied Territories – and in particular, the popular Palestinian committees whose demonstrations are regularly broken up by the IDF with violence and whose leaders are regularly imprisoned without cause.

To this end, I encourage you to this recent statement by Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leader of the Bil’in popular demonstrations who was imprisoned by Israel a year ago (on, that’s right, International Human Rights Day). This past October, Abdallah was sentenced to an additional year in prison, with a six months suspended sentence for three years and a 5,000 NIS fine:

I often wonder what Israeli leaders think they will achieve if they succeed in their goal of suppressing the Palestinian popular struggle? Is it possible that they believe that our people can sit quietly and watch as our land is taken from us? Do they think that we can face our children and tell them that, like us, they will never experience freedom? Or do they actually prefer violence and killing to our form of nonviolent struggle because it camouflages their ongoing theft and gives them an excuse to continue using us as guinea pigs for their weapons?

My eldest daughter Luma was nine years old when I was arrested. She is now ten. After my arrest she began going to the Friday demonstrations in our village. She always carries a picture of me in her arms. The adults try to look after her but I still worry for my little girl. I wish that she could enjoy her childhood like other children, that she could be studying and playing with her friends. But through the walls and barbed wire that separates us I hear my daughter’s message to me, saying: “Baba, they cannot stop us. If they take you away, we will take your place and continue to struggle for justice.” This is the message that I want to bring you today. From beyond the walls, the barbed wire, and the prison bars that separate Palestinians and Israelis.

Click here to send a letter to Secretary of State Clinton requesting that she advocate the release of Abdallah Abu Rahmah and demand that Israel cease its targeting of the Palestinian popular resistance.

15 thoughts on “Tel Aviv, West Bank: A Tale of Two Demonstrations

  1. Stewart Mills - Sydney

    What a courageous example Joseph Dana sets. If only the established religious bodies could see that it is the example of Joseph Dana and those like him that are living out the best of the Jewish tradition – one that questions, dissents and shows compassion to the stranger.

    Brant of interest :

    It is a historical narrative prepared in response to an Australian claimant who regards ‘Jordan as Palestine’. This type of absurdist claim I am sure still finds its ways around the US.

    1. Israel Gershon

      You are referring to “Searching for a common narrative to the history of Palestine and Israel: A response to David Singer’s claims”.
      And so, it is also worth reading the “Australian claimant” David Singer’s response:
      Though you may consider the fact that Jordan was once part of the Mandate for Palestine to be irrelevant; it is true, and not an absurdist claim.

      1. Shirin

        That Transjordan was once part of the Palestine mandate is fact. “Jordan as Palestine” is indeed an absurdist claim intended to deny Palestinian history and rights.

  2. Stewart Mills - Sydney

    Israel Gershon, if you have read the 1922 British White Paper you will know that Singer’s blog (and the link you added) is not just nutty – it is dangerous. Did you see his map “Jewish Palestine” – talk about white-washing history. It is the militant crackpots who use this bogus version of history to make ambit claims today – to the detriment of the security of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians. The following is the British response to absurdist and racist claims like Singer’s:

    UK White Paper 1922

    “The tension which has prevailed from time to time in Palestine is mainly due to apprehensions, which are entertained both by sections of the Arab and by sections of the Jewish population. These apprehensions, so far as the Arabs are concerned are partly based upon exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the [Balfour] Declaration favouring the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, made on behalf of His Majesty’s Government on 2nd November, 1917 …
    “…Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become “as Jewish as England is English.”

    HMG regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated, as appears to be feared by the Arab Delegation, the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded in Palestine.

    In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at the meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organization, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims “the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development.”

    P.S. Thanks Shirin – for your sensible response.

    Mr Gershon – please take the time to peruse the 44 pages of rebuttal to Mr Singer’s claims. As Brant’s posting here reminds us there is no equality for Palestinians who continue to live as occupied people. This cannot serve in the long-term interests of Israel or the people of Palestine.

    1. Israel Gershon

      Mr. Mills, there isn’t anything controversial here. The fact that some Jews back then and perhaps today, view all of Palestine to be the historic national home of the Jewish People, does not conflict with their acceptance of the creation of an actual Jewish State on a small portion of their historic homeland. So too this would be the likely case for the Kurds, or the Tibetans, and yes, the Palestinian Arabs.

      As for Singer’s blog, no I haven’t read it and only provided the link in the interest of more completely addressing a previous post.

    2. Shirin

      exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the [Balfour] Declaration favouring the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine

      Those of us who have made a study of the Balfour Declaration and its history are aware that the Zionist leaders were quite disappointed in it, and chose to interpret it as saying what they wished it said rather than what it actually says. Over the decades this “exaggerated” – one ought to say dishonest – interpretation of the Balfour Declaration has been used to justify a great deal that is not supported by the document at all.

      It is also a fact that in obtaining the Balfour Declaration the Zionist leaders concealed their true intentions of establishing a Jewish state, which was unlikely to get strong support, and allowed the British government to believe that all they wanted was a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

  3. Israel Gershon

    Yes, Shirin, Jordan was part of the Mandate, but Jordan is Jordan, not Palestine; and Israel was part of the Mandate, but Israel is Israel, not Palestine. In regards to the disputed territories, layers of history and rights leave us in a stranglehold. Palestinian recognition of Israel as Israel, and not Palestine, would perhaps move us a little closer to an eventual settlement for Peace.

    1. Shirin

      Israel Gershon, your comment is irrelevant to the topic, which is the nonsense anti-Palestinian claim that Jordan is Palestine. In addition

      – The de jure and de facto status of the territories you refer to is occupied, not “disputed”. Israel has zero legal claim on that land, and less than zero moral claim on it.
      – Israeli recognition of 1) international law, 2) Palestinians, 3) Palestinians’ individual and collective human and political rights would do far more to move you closer to a peace settlement that your silly demand that Palestinians do something that they have been doing officially and unofficially since the ’80’s.

  4. Stewart Mills - Sydney

    For 22 years the official Palestinian position has recognised Israel. In return Israel continues to build settlements in East Jerusalem ad the West Bank. You can’t have a two state solution if the Palestinians do not have a state. Or did you have something else in mind? Like expulsion of the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank so that there can be a Greater Israel? A little Lebensraum? A little room in the East? Or were you after expulsion of a fifth of Israelis who have Palestinian ethnicity? Why not do the democratic thing and give Palestinians the vote in the Israeli elections. Their lives have been controlled by Israel for 43 years. Either give them a State and get out or give them the vote. The more facts on the ground Israel puts the worse it will be for when the people have to be withdrawn.

    Please read the White Paper 1922 – to get a glimpse as to why Palestinians feel betrayed by the international community and the original Zionist settlers.

  5. Israel Gershon

    Just because I don’t agree with you, doesn’t mean you have to associate me with racist positions like expulsion. I stand firmly for a two state solution. And you know that there is no support in Israel for any expulsion policy. You quoted the 1921 resolution of the Zionist Congress which clearly shows that the Zionist movement had no interest in expulsion. The same can’t be said for the Arab and Palestinian national movements.
    I obviously don’t agree with your interpretation of history. I believe in the right of self determination of the Jewish People to live freely in their homeland, and it is not obvious to me that you do. Addressing the problem of the Palestinians as all Israel’s doing, while ignoring the actions of the Arab States and the Palestinians, is an illegitimate approach that I am afraid will lead nowhere.

    1. Shirin

      I stand firmly for a two state solution.

      And yet, if I remember correctly – and please correct me if my memory is wrong – you defend the continued colonization of the very land on which a Palestinian state should exist?

      you know that there is no support in Israel for any expulsion policy.

      I don’t know anything of the sort. It appears to me there IS support, both explicit and implicit, for such a policy.

      the Zionist movement had no interest in expulsion.

      The preponderance of the evidence leads strongly to the opposite conclusion.

      1. Richard Kahn


        The burden of proof is on you. If you believe that there is popular Zionist or Israeli support for expulsion, please provide polls from some reliable source.

      2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

        On the concept of “expulsion” in traditional Zionist thought:

        Theodor Herzl:

        “When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us.

        We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.

        The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”

        (See “The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, v. 1,” pp. 88-89, Raphael Patai, ed.)

        David Ben-Gurion:

        “We must expel Arabs and take their places…and, if we have to use force – not to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev and Transjordan, but to guarantee our own right to settle in those places – then we have force at our disposal.”

        (See letter quoted in “Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs,” Shabtai Teveth, p. 189)

        Menachem Usshishkin (Hebrew Secretary of the first Zionist Congress and President of the Jewish National Fund):

        “I would say to the Commission and the government that we would not accept a reduced Land of Israel without giving us the land, on the one hand, and removing the largest number of Arabs – particularly the peasants – on the other before we come forward to take the reins of government on our lands even provisionally.”

        (See Protocol of the Jewish Agency Executive meeting of 12 June 1938, Vol 28, no 53, Central Zionist Archives.)

        Joseph Weitz (Director of Land Development, Jewish National Fund):

        “Throughout the journey, my reflections were focused on the plan, about which I have been thinking for years; the plan…of evacuating the country for us. I know the difficulties…but only through population transfer will redemption come. ..There is no room for us with our neighbors…development is a very slow process…They (the Arabs) are too many and too much rooted (in the country)…the only way is to cut and eradicate them from the roots…”

        (See “My Diary and Letters to the Children”, entry dated June 26, 1941, pp. 1172-73.)

        For many more similar quotes and in-depth analysis, see “Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought,” 1882-1948, by Nur Mashala.

        Regarding current Israeli public attitudes toward expulsion, see this poll quoted in this 2009 article from YNet:

        “53% of the Jewish public supports encouraging Arabs to emigrate from Israel. 77% of (Soviet) immigrants support this idea, compared with 47% of the veteran public.”

      3. Shirin

        Thanks Rabbi.

        In the beginning the Zionists really thought they could remove the non-Jewish natives by inducing them to leave with economic and other pressures and/or by providing something attractive for them elsewhere. That is what Herzl is suggesting in that diary entry, of course. One of my favorite such schemes was the idea of buying up land in Iraq and setting the “Arabs” up there as farmers. Sort of like the Americans’ “forty acres and a mule” thing, I guess. That one never really got off the ground to the best of my knowledge.

        Of course, it eventually became clear that they had grossly underestimated the Palestinians’ attachment to their ancestral homes, and you start seeing statements like the ones from Ussishkin, Weitz (a very strong and persistent advocate of forced expulsion), and Ben Gurion.

        And, of course, the actions the took speak loudest of all.

  6. Stewart Mills - Sydney

    On the topic of Human Rights Day Marches in Tel Aviv and tear gas in the Occupied West Bank. Remember the life of Hamza Samar Muhanna abu-Maria of Beit Omar, Near Hebron. She died at 7 months of age from IDF tear gas inhalation on 7 May 2010 while in her home during a demonstration.–06-12-may-2010&catid=84:weekly-2009&Itemid=183


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