Exactly one year ago the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled that the fence that Israel is building in the territories is illegal. However, one hardly needs to mention that the construction has been affected only cosmetically. During the past two years we - Israelis, Palestinians and international activists - have been conducting a joint, popular and nonviolent struggle against what appears to us as one of the most significant moves, with destructive implications in the long term, in the history of the occupation in the territories.
From the very first moment Israel has found no means too repugnant, and has reacted aggressively to quash this struggle by simple people who are losing their lands and their livelihoods. Of course it has been the Palestinians among us who have paid the highest price - nine of them have been killed, many have been wounded and many more have been sent to jail cells or prisons. It seems that the fact that we have chosen a civil struggle and that firearms have played no part in our protest has not influenced the Israel Defense Forces and the government. Both have declared time after time that all of our demonstrations are illegal, and have acted accordingly. The fact that it was indeed their activity that was defined as illegal by one of the highest legal authorities in the world has not influenced their behavior in the territories one whit.
After four straight months of struggle in the village of Bil'in, I find myself once again fleeing from a thick cloud of stinging smoke, as now and then a rubber bullet whizzes past my ears. The familiar pattern is repeating itself. The Israeli policy is determined unilaterally, by the army and the government, and is destroying lives. Every attempt at protest and nonviolent resistance is suppressed with a heavy hand. Beyond the moral wickedness of this behavior, by making debate and civil resistance impossible, Israel is contributing directly to the escalation of the hostility.
Recently there has been a new and strong spirit coming from the direction of the soldiers. This is a spirit of conciliation, we have been told, the spirit of the disengagement. Thus, under cover of the disengagement and with steady American support, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is presiding over the occupation of the West Bank. It appears that Sharon knows that in order to win the West Bank, he must sacrifice Gush Katif on the altar of the disengagement. He also knows that with the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the international pressure for progress in the peace process will recede and the Jewish settlement project in the West Bank - his life's project - can be renewed.
Under cover of the disengagement plan the fence continues to creep far beyond the recognized borders of the State of Israel and to butcher the West Bank into cantons. Many housing units are being built at this very moment beyond the Green Line [pre-Six-Day War border]. Most of this building is going on between the fence and the Green Line as part of the attempt to make the 1967 borders disappear and to annex more territory. Apartheid roads, some of them for Jews only and some of them for Palestinians only, continue to be built. The legal system, with its occupiers' laws, is continuing to give lip service to ordaining cosmetic changes in places where a deep-rooted change is needed.
And now, after the court has canceled most of the interim orders that delayed the construction of the separation fence, Sharon has hastened to accelerate its construction ("Defense heads to present PM with timetable for fence completion today," Haaretz, July 6).
A year ago I believed that the ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague was a huge success - a major step on the long road to ending the occupation and the regime of Israeli racism. I still think so, but to my regret, until such time as the international community as a whole and the United States in particular apply real pressure to end the occupation and support the popular struggle, as they did when it suited their interests in Lebanon, the meaning of this step will remain symbolic. Anyone who has been blinded by the dazzle of security arguments for the fence and the false peace promises of the disengagement will discover too late that there is neither security nor peace in them.
These are critical days and the remaining time is short. Only the Israelis have the power to cut through the cries of "anti-Semitism" that are heard every time elements in the world dare to criticize Israel and its policy in the territories. The power and the moral obligation.
The writer is an activist in Anarchists Against the Fence.