Resisting the occupation of land: Palestine civil rights delegation
I am writing from Nabe Salah, in the West Bank of Palestine, traveling with the Civil & Human Rights Delegation organized by the Dorothy Cotton Institute.
Yesterday morning we joined Palestinians in Nabe Salah for their weekly march and action for Justice. Their village refuses to accept the Occupation of their homeland. llegal actions year after year have seized more and more of the countryside. A settlement now overlooks this great valley. Land has been taken to build the separation barrier, the Wall throughout the country that gobbles up large swaths of territory in its relentless construction.
I recall other struggles for land: Brazilian farmers resisting confiscation of their farmland by landowners and corporations, and impoverished Filipinos working the fields for slave wages. I think of the shameful U.S. history of pushing the original inhabitants off their land as the settlers moved ever westward. I think of Woodie Guthrie singing “This Land is Your Land.”
This ancient struggle then is part of the rootedness of all people who long and for Justice. And so, at Nabe Salah we joined the march to the valley below with its winding road. Out of sight was the village spring that provides water for this parched land. Palestinians are arrested for going there while the settlers go there at will, guarded by soldiers.
As foreigners we did not take part in the entrance to the point of conflict. We were joined by activists from Spain, the United Kingdom, and Germany, as well as Israeli activists who stood besides their Palestinian brothers and sisters.
While the Palestianians continued their march, Israeli military trucks and jeeps moved up the valley. The troops fired round after round of tear gas and rubber bullets to push back the unarmed marchers.
In these encounters we witness a stubborn resistance. It is remarkably steadfast and nonviolent. In the villages – Bilin, Budrus, Nabe Salah, the only weapon we saw was the one Gandhi called satyagraha — Truth Force. The spokesperson for the Budrus community told us they are committed to harming no one, not even their enemies. But they will not accept the occupation of land they have lived on for centuries. As we left we promised the people that we would tell their story and join their work for Justice.
Rev. Richard Deats, whose lifelong service for civil and human rights included being appointed to the National Commission for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, is editor emeritus of Fellowship magazine.
[Ed. Note: Other reports by delegation members are being posted regularly on a blog site established by the Dorothy Cotton Institute and Interfaith Peace-Builders. Several FOR leaders are participating on the delegation, and others will also publish reflections on FOR’s web site.]