In brown fields surrounded by olive trees, a group of young Palestinians yesterday met to prepare for this weekend’s 63rd Nakba demonstrations.
They are dedicated to non-violent resistance to the occupation and are training how to handle the obstacles they will face tomorrow as they try to reach Qalandia in a peaceful march.
“Our main goal is freedom, dignity and justice. One of the things we need
to reach our goal is to go through Qalandia, to bring down the wall,” said one of the organizers.
But a peaceful demonstration is no easy task in Palestine. The youth who have participated in many demonstrations know the fear and violence of tear gas, rubber bullets, sound bombs and – as seen in Silwan yesterday – also live ammunition. Training is thus important for the organizers to keep the crowds under control.
“It’s just like how soldiers train for war, except we don’t have weapons,” said the organizer, whose comrade added: “Except we train for peace.”
The group discussed how to keep the march non-violent, with leaders stressing: “Do not provoke the soldiers!”
But they know that it is hard to keep the demonstration peaceful and their biggest weapon their numbers the day of the demonstration. They dare not guess though, how many they will be.
“We honestly don’t have a good estimate. We get a lot of promises of people who sometimes come and sometimes don’t. But also, a lot of people will be prevented from getting to Ramallah or anywhere else,” said one of the leaders of the youth group.
He draws a parallel to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia but states one major difference and obstacle: “They had freedom of movement – we don’t.”
After yesterday’s Friday’s payer many people were kept from getting in and out of the places of popular resistance such as Nabe Saleh, Bil’in,and Nil’in. Israeli soldiers told the people who tried to get through that the areas were now “military zones”.
The youth group emphasize that their goal is nonviolent resistance and will try to obtain it by having their own activists spread out to lead the march, but they admit that it’s an almost unmanageable task.
“If the Israelis succeed in dispersing the crowd then we have no control and then it may turn violent. That’s why it’s important to have training,” said one of the leaders.