Dan Berger and Nava EtShalom
June 1, 2007
Anniversaries are wonderful, terrible things. They mark moments of celebration and commemoration. Anniversaries cement old stories, but they also give us a chance to turn long-accepted stories inside out–to ask questions, pose challenges, resist dominant narratives. On the fourth anniversary of “Shock and Awe,” people across the United States took to the streets to call for an end to the Iraq war. In Iraq, people mourned the hundreds of thousands killed in the past four years–and the millions killed in more than a dozen years of U.S. involvement in their country.
June 2007 marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. (Despite the highly publicized 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Israel continues military actions there and maintains a hermetic seal over the region.) Next May will be the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophic events of 1948 in which Zionist paramilitaries destroyed more than 500 villages through massacre and intimidation, and at least 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. These are terrible anniversaries. These are anniversaries which call our attention and demand our response.
Israel’s supporters celebrate these anniversaries with Israeli Independence Day every May. Around the world, celebrations obscure the Nakba experienced by Palestinians in the form of ongoing isolation, economic devastation, and military violence aided by the erection of a 730-kilometer concrete wall. Enabled by U.S. military aid, this massive construction project further confiscates Palestinian territory and isolates Palestinian communities throughout the region.
Condemned by much of the world as an “apartheid wall,” Israel’s cheekily named “separation fence” divides Palestinians from their agricultural land, their friends and family–even, in some cases, their next-door neighbors. Israel’s unilateral boundary-making is designed to make as big an Israeli state as it can with as few Palestinians in it as possible. It turns Israel into the ultimate gated housing development, armed and exclusive, leaving Palestinians a bisected, militarily monitored mouse hole of a home outside the wall. Whether these Bantustans ever become a state is immaterial: the wall makes it a place where simple municipal services are monumental tasks, where water is scarce, and where hospitals and schools in neighboring towns can be impossible to reach.
As the Wall grows, it impedes networks among Palestinians, including deep-rooted networks of nonviolent resistance. Despite the increasing difficulty of organizing in Palestine, the Bethlehem-based BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights has issued an international call for activists to creatively mark both the 40- and 60-year anniversaries in 2007 and 2008. The timing of this “40-60 campaign” is crucial: “This may well be the last decade anniversary when Palestinian eye-witnesses from the 1948 Nakba are still living,” wrote BADIL organizers in their call. “Now more than ever, Palestinians are counting on local and global society to build pressure for the enforcement of international law–the foundation for a just peace.” The 40-60 anniversaries offer the chance for a range of creative action across borders: a chance to renew and rethink international solidarity. It reminds us that visionary thinking often comes first from those whose lives most depend on it. And yet, we all have roles to play in realizing such a world.