I write this article from Beit Sahour, a Palestinian town — no more than thirty minutes south of Jerusalem — that has been enduring 24-hour curfew for almost one-month. Technically, I’m inside the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. And technically, I’ve disobeyed an Israeli high court ruling that allowed me to stay in Israel for seven days on the very specific condition that I not visit the Palestinian territories. All this in spite of the failed attempts of the Israeli Secret Service and the Interior Ministry here to have me deemed a security threat, based on “secret evidence” presented in a closed court hearing that excluded my lawyer and me.
Technically, I’m now open to arrest and expulsion by the Israeli authorities, not because of any criminal act, or potential act, but because I’ve dared to visit Palestine in defiance of their orders.
But, speaking of technicalities, it is worth remembering that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is unequivocally illegal, according to international laws and conventions. And to get even more technical, East Jerusalem — where I spent several days “legally” before traveling past checkpoints and soldiers to Bethlehem and Beit Sahour — was illegally annexed to Israel after the 1967 war. All part of a colonization project — involving the building of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied territories, and the continued expropriation of Palestinian land — that goes criminally beyond the righteous goal of securing a safe and sustainable Jewish homeland within Palestine.
It’s not just easy-to-dismiss anarchists like me that point to the illegal Israeli-occupation of Palestine, and the accompanying illegal settlements, as the principal acts of violence in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thousands of dissident Israelis increasingly speak out — my US$5000 bail was generously posted by one of these peace activists — while more and more soldiers are jailed for refusing to serve in the territories. Even Michel Sabbah, the soft-spoken Latin Patriarch in the Holy Land (and I don’t often find myself agreeing with “patriarchs”), had no hesitation in telling the Jerusalem Post this past week that “[a]ll the Palestinian violence is the justified result of the occupation.”
To obey the Israeli court ruling on not traveling to Palestine is to be complicit in the process of normalizing Israel’s occupation. It allows the occupying power to continue to dictate its rule over the occupied, and it’s nothing less than the imposition of a colonial practice and mentality. It’s a mentality mimicked by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs that consistently refuses to strongly object to the occupation and Israel’s policy of inhibiting the presence of what they term “Palestinian sympathizers” in the occupied territories, even when those sympathizers hold a Canadian passport.
It’s not for an occupying power to decide who can or can’t enter Palestine. Rather, it is those Palestinians who daily resist the occupation, to determine whether they want to welcome international solidarity activists.
I received an invitation to come to Palestine by members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led organization using non-violent direct-action methods of resistance to confront and challenge the illegal Israeli Occupation Forces and its policies, while recognizing the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle (again, according to widely recognized international conventions).
That invitation to visit was emphatically re-extended after the Israeli court ruling that barred my entry to the territories. I’ve decided then to ignore the Israeli security services and listen to the Palestinian activists. It was an easy choice to make.
The ISM is part of longstanding efforts to cultivate direct solidarity between Israelis, internationals, and the Palestinian grassroots resistance that is at the heart of the intifada. It aims to break the silence about the reality of occupation, about the collective punishment that the Israeli Occupation Forces impose on Palestinians through land confiscations, home demolitions, mass arrests, checkpoints, curfews, and the killing of unarmed civilians by one of the best-equipped armies in the world.
The ISM, and their many allies — including the tireless members of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) in Montreal — dare to stand in the way of a colonial occupation, by direct action if necessary. I feel privileged to be able to observe, support and participate in this crucial work, and notwithstanding the Israeli Security Service, I intend to stay.
Jaggi Singh is a writer, independent journalist and a social justice activist based in Montreal.