"I remember the moment I marched among a crowd of Palestinians," said one of the Israeli activists who participated in the ongoing demonstrations near the village of Bil'in, this week. Those demonstrations led to a High Court decision a few days ago ordering the rerouting of the separation fence near the village. "I served in the army, and my first instinct was to look for the signal operator and to check if we were marching properly spaced. The Palestinians shouted 'Allahu Akbar,' which is supposed to be the nightmare of every Israeli soldier, but I suddenly realized that I was with them, that they weren't my enemies."
One must understand. Anyone who went to demonstrate in Bil'in knew that he stood more than a small chance of getting hurt somehow by "his" army: by clubs, tear gas, rubber bullets. Undoubtedly, there were a few who sought out this violence, but it also befell those who did not seek it out. It was part of the deal. The violence that the soldiers and Border Police officers employed against the Israeli demonstrators on an average Friday in Bil'in surpassed that used against the settlers during the entire evacuation of Gush Katif. Nevertheless, a few hundred Israelis made this trip every Friday, without fail, for the last two and a half years. Not all of them at once. Sometimes five, sometimes 50, sometimes 100. But they came.
Most of these people were young, sometimes very young, and they gathered under the rubric of "Anarchists Against the Fence." The Zionist left had no presence there. Not Peace Now and not Meretz (some Meretz MKs sometimes assisted the arrestees, but no more than that) - and certainly not Labor. Older organizations from the non-Zionist left were supportive, and provided logistical assistance, but the initiative still came from the anarchists. They led the struggle.
Without question, it was a rather small group. Not everyone, even the most devout leftist and vigorous opponent of the occupation, is prepared to come and take a beating, to run up and down hills, to breathe tear gas, to be arrested. But it wasn't an insignificant number either, this group of people prepared to come to blows with the establishment. In Bil'in their goal was simple and tangible: to restore the lands to the Palestinians.
It will be interesting to see what their next goal is.