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Going Out with a Bang: Guerilla Activism with More Gray Hairs and a Wider Girth Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by rita wai ting chung, Canada Jun 4, 2007
Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions


June 2007 is the 40th anniversary of the capture of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights by the Israeli army in the 1967 war (aka. The Six Day War according to Israelis, and aka. Naksa – Setback – according to Palestinians).

June 2008 is the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (Arabic for Catastrophe) when Palestinians were exiled from their homes in Israel proper in 1948.

Put these two dates together and what do you get? Probably the biggest, the best, and hopefully (or enshala – God willing – as the Palestinians say) the last campaign ever of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

As with most things in Israel and the Occupied Territories, house demolition is not simply the destruction of a physical structure. It is the twisted use of urban planning as a method to push Palestinians off their own land. It is the draining of resources of families who use up their fortune to apply for building permits that are then rejected for the most absurd, unjustifiable reasons and to build house after house to shelter their family. It is psychological warfare aimed at breaking down families, traumatizing children, and creating a living hell of constant insecurity in which a bulldozer can come and destroy a home at any moment. (More detailed information on house demolitions can be found at www.icahd.org or, alternatively, in ‘Obstacles to Peace’ by Jeff Halper, the founder and director of ICAHD.)

Jeff, who is now in his 60s, is now a little bit wider in girth and has more gray hairs, and less hair in general, than during his days with the Israeli Black Panthers. But since those days, Jeff has become a titan in the house demolition field. He is the brains behind the year-long ICAHD campaign to be launched with a symbolic rebuilding of a house at the Wailing Wall on June 11. The campaign will encompass many awareness-promoting events throughout Israel for the duration of the campaign, such as lectures, discussion groups, and workshops. However, the core of the campaign will rest on the immediate rebuilding of every single Palestinian house that is demolished from the moment the campaign is launched.

From its foundation in 1997 until now, because of strained resources that not even great intentions can overcome, every year ICAHD has only been able to rebuild a 3 or 4 houses for every 250 – 300 Palestinian-owned houses that the Israeli Government demolishes. The impact of its house rebuilding and other activities has been so negligible that the ICAHD members cannot get arrested even if they tried. This time, though, with the generous donation made by a private donor, the organization now has the money not only to rebuild every single house that will be demolished from the launch of the campaign onwards, but they also have the money to put in advertisements in most major foreign newspapers and also within Israel, so that much international attention will be drawn to it to gather international pressure on Israel to stop unjust house demolitions, and, most importantly, it will be so IN YOUR FACE to the Israeli public and the Israeli government that they can no longer ignore this issue or this organization. According to Jeff Halper, “The point of what we’re doing now is; in Hebrew there is a word Kahsah… it means going all out, just head-on-head with the occupation. We’re going to be in their face. The hope is that if they close us down and if they arrest us, that becomes a big deal in the world… and the point is that we’re going to be so in their face with ads and everything else, so transparent… that they have to react, that they can’t ignore us.’’ For those of you struggling to start your own social justice campaigns: take note!

If all goes to plan, what will happen to ICAHD? It will jump from obscurity right to the bulls-eye of the Israeli governmental radar. It will be shut down, its funds confiscated, and its staff arrested. It will kick start the beginning of the end of the occupation. It will have brought about its own redundancy and bow out, which is what all NGOs should aspire to do, but often forget. ICAHD will go out with a BANG – not bad for guerrilla activism with more gray hairs and a wider girth!



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