Reader Post: Confessions Of A Pro-Palestinian Activist In Hebron 2007
Daniel Borg is a Swede who was actively engaged in Swedish politics, passionately pro-Palestinian and went to join the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). His observations from within the ISM are explosive.[Editor’s note: we’ve left this account in Daniel’s own voice so the English (which is not his first language) is a little idiosyncratic]
My Palestinian training, non-violence or violence?
Before joining ISM group in Hebron I had my training in Ramallah during two days. How to obstruct IDF ops? How to freely walk in a neighbourhood and alert the coordinators the movements of incoming IDF patrols? When to go out and show your presence to the military, so that they dont dare shoot at your direction? Shield a house that IDF want to demolish? Shield stone-molotov-throwing militants? Yes. Our job. PLO (now Fatah, but it is the same) uses well meaning idealistic western youngsters to aid, shield and make-possible their terrorist agenda. The Fatah-coordinators made it clear to us that ISM uses only non-violent means of resistence, but in the meantime stressed that if the Palestinians chooses to use violence our job is to shield them. It is the Palestinians that live under occupation and humiliation, not us western activists, so we should let them make the operational decisions and we internationals are there to act like human shields and protect them from the IDF.
We even spent a good amount of time practicing how to pitch-up extreme screams with the intent of scaring off settler kids. Our instructions were that if settler kids approach us and act violently we need to surprise them by screaming with the loudest of our abilities so that they get panic and run away. We did a lot of exercise in these high-pitch screams. If someone from downtown Ramallah reads this, I want to express my sincere apologies for your lost sleep during these days.
During the first hour of the Ramallah training every activist gives the PLO coordinators a closed envelope of his name, address, family info, country residence, political affiliation etc, in case of arrest or death. They make abundantly clear that if I we were beaten up or killed by IDF it will lead to great damage to the state of Israel, great media coverage and of course maybe an end to the occupation. Since I was the chairman of the Social democratic youth organisation in my home town I was interesting and useful. If the IDF arrested me or killed me it would get headlines at least in Sweden.
In hindsight I understand that this is a perfect example of lawfare: With my presence as an international maybe the IDF won’t use the amount of force they are entitled to in order to complete a security-operation, and let the ones I am shielding go free (a win to the terrorists), or they disregard my presence and complete the mission with a possible end result of me being killed together with the terrorist. Also a win for the terrorists since they can use my death as an amazingly effective propaganda tool in international opinion.
I felt useful. I wanted to do whatever I could to help the Palestinians. I was un-afraid and idealistic. Then I went to Hebron. I actively chose to only do real pacifist work, mainly to stand in King David Street (Shuhada street) and in the IDF posts leading up to Tel Rumeida settlement. To monitor the Israeli soldiers present. A tough job, I thought, since all PLO coordinators, Btselem-people, random Palestinians etc. told me before hand that the soldiers are violent, throw stones at Palestinians, helps settlers attack Palestinian children, and what made me afraid, the soldiers occasionally arrest, handcuff and beats up ISM activists…..
How the IDF-soldiers acted
My first morning in Hebron: A young Israeli soldier was standing in his watching post at the entrance of the Jewish Tel Rumeida neighbourhood, where also some Palestinian families live. The soldier called upon a Palestinian ten year old boy that was walking up the hill to approach him. The boy was remarkably scared, and hesitantly dragged his feet towards the soldier. When the boy came up close the soldier made a move towards the kid. In this instant my heart started to pump faster since I was certain he was going to arrest or beat the boy, so I took up my camera ready to film the brutality. Instead, to my huge astounishment, he shakes the boys hand and put the other on his shoulder. The soldier started to speak casually with the boy. Instantly the Palestinian kid smiled and they spoke and joked for a couple of minutes in the July heat. I felt relieved, extremely surprised, took down my camera. Nothing here to film.
Yes I was extremely astounished. This encounter between the IDF soldier and the Palestinian kid contradicted everything I was being told and what I thought was the normal mode of IDF-conduct. Surely this soldier’s behaviour must be a very rare glimpse of humanism in the overrall aggressive IDF, like a dolphin swimming in a sea of sharks. But no, it was not. It was rather the normal mode of conduct. I monitored the same group of soldiers from early morning to late evening, and their basic way of treating the Palestinians was that of non-interference and respect. Not once did I see anything that comes close to a violation. I spent three weeks monitoring the IDF soldiers, with my camera around my neck. There was nothing to film, no transgressions whatsoever (except Palestinian war crimes, but I come to that a bit later).
My laundary business
At one point a soldier made a move of his hand at my direction to show that I should approach him. He wanted to ask me a few questions: How could I work for Fatah, call myself human rights activist, while they just killed a gay Palestinian by tying him up to a car and driving his more and more molested body through downtown Hebron? (a few metres from where we were standing) I was pretty shocked. Am I getting human rights lessons from an IDF soldier? I said whitewashing, pinkwashing, he did not understand my point about the washing business. But I thought about what he had said. I did not care. Those that I work for are Fatah people, moderates, peace activists, even Jewish Israelis. The Palestinian Sharia law, however unjust, does not justify the Israeli occupation. Hence the washing allegations I threw to the soldier.
Here you have Hamas
The next week was slightly different. I understood that the IDF-soldiers were really nice, they treated me and all Palestinians with respect. During lunchtime I decided to go up to the PLO apartment and take a coffee. I stood with my coffee cup looking out at downtown Hebron, with full view of the Hebron Arab zouk. From nowhere I see two guys going out from a car, taking out guns, starting to shoot intensively at the market. It was several hundreds of shots. The zouk was buzzing with families. They started their shooting spree, everyone tried to ran away, I filmed it from the onset. Their shooting spree lasting so long that I had the time to walk up to our rooftop continue filming while the shooting spree continued. Here you have Hamas.
Afterwards I ran down alerted my activist collegues, alerted the IDF soldiers, called our coordinators. The IDF closed the checkpoint. Beefed up all soldier presence. This was the first Hamas attack in the West Bank, their bid on gaining power after they succesfully did that in Gaza. PA president Mahmoud Abbas instated a state of emergency lasting several days. The only ones being safe was the small community of Palestinians, Jews and us distorted foreign activists being secure thanks to the IDF checkpoint and security within the Israeli controlled area. I was actually happy that the IDF had a checkpoint there, guaranteing our security from the crazyness of Hamas.
The irony did not cross my mind at the time, that I went to Hebron to document Israeli war crimes but came home with IDF-humanism and Palestinian war crimes.
What I did not know about Hebron
During my time in Hebron I did not know about the incessant terror attacks against the extremely small Jewish community of Hebron. I did not know that Jewish residents are killed whenever they are not protected, children, women, elderly. I did not know that Israel has effective control of a very small portion of Hebron. I did not know that the actual Apartheid in Hebron is directed from the Arabs against the Jewish community. I did not know the religious and historic importance of Hebron, as the number two capital of the Jewish people.
More over, I did not know that those I work for, the Fatah-led ISM, actively instructs Palestinian kids to throw rocks at Jews, sometimes killing the victim. Nor did I know that when Fatah wants us to shield someone or a house from IDF-operation, it is highly likely to be a terrorist on the brink of committing attacks against innocent Israelis. This was the case of Rachel Corrie’s last shielding-event.
How could I know? How could my collegues know? We are immersed in the pro-pal false narrative. Fueled by CNN, New York Times, Le Monde, all centrist and leftist poltical parties in Europe, all our left leaning teachers, all our cultural establishment. Among many others. I got social, political, educational status by joining ISM, an anti – Geneva Conventions, terrorist organisation.