The Israeli media gave almost no airtime or print space to two non-violent protests this week, in the Jordan Valley and south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park. For Haggai Matar, it’s been a heartbreaking sight.
So they destroyed Ein Hijleh. This small protest camp in the Jordan Valley, built by hundreds of non-violent Palestinian activists and kept alive for a week of resistance against plans to annex the valley to Israel and deprive a future Palestinian state of its eastern border, was been evicted over night by army and police forces.
For Israelis – it won’t be missed. The whole “Salt of the Earth” campaign to protect the valley, with Ein Hijleh at its core, has been widely ignored by Israeli media as is almost always the case with non-violent Palestinian protests (Bab al-Shams was perhaps the one unique exception, shining in its singularity). Aside from the short online newsflash here and there, no serious coverage of the encampment was offered. No television crew was sent to tell its story and no newspaper sent a single reporter to interview activists about their choice of protest method or to write a colorful feature about life in the renewed village. No serious discussion took place — nor will there be in all likelihood — about the speed in which this “illegal” encampment was evicted in comparison to the hardship Palestinians face in trying to get illegal settlements off their lands. In addition, it seems that only Haaretz is seriously monitoring and criticizing the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the same Jordan Valley, which was sped up this passing year with 390 demolitions in Palestinian villages, more than double the number of last year. That led the Red Cross this week to stop offering evicted communities tents as humanitarian aid, because they too are destroyed or confiscated by the army, as Amira Hass reported.
I’ve been meaning to write about Ein Hijleh every day this past week but felt I just couldn’t. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because the way this specific action was so widely overlooked by Israeli journalists made me too sad for words. It made me sad because I know the people behind it, the people with great vision and faith and determination, with a will to make a true difference on this issue, to end occupation and build a true and just peace. People who are my friends, and who have put so much thought and effort into this – and are rewarded so little for it. In Israel only a few journalists and activists even know their names. It also made me sad because of the joke of a “peace process” taking place, that U.S.-sponsored theater production that absolutely no one has any faith in or cares about. The peace process that is gradually grinding down to dust everything Palestinians, just like the ones in Ein Hijleh, have been struggling to achieve for decades.
And then there’s a third, seemingly unrelated reason that this passing week was a sad one, locking the words inside of me. At the same time as hundreds of Palestinians were being ignored in their Jordan Valley protest encampment, thousands of African asylum seekers have been similarly ignored in their south Tel Aviv protest encampment. For days on end the latest anti-imprisonment sit-in has been taking place in Levinsky Park, in the cold and rain. The protesters declared that they won’t budge without a proper solution to end the persecution of asylum seekers and their indefinite imprisonment. Much like Ein Hijleh and much unlike the previous round of demonstrations by asylum seekers a couple of weeks ago, in Levinsky Park I saw crowds of people who are trying through any possible non-violent means to fight for their dignity, attract the attention of the Israeli public and ask for basic human rights – and thus far failing.
It is a heartbreaking sight. Although I’m usually an optimist and a great believer in struggle, seeing these two unheard protests has brought me down. I can only wish these strong and determined people will continue for as long as it takes, slowly gaining support either among Israelis or foreign states – enough to make a real difference.