Palestinians, Israelis block Route 60 to protest ‘occupation’
A rally and speeches near the checkpoint marked the culmination of what was an impassioned and peaceful march.
By JOSH DELL
Amid a cacophony of car horns, hundreds of Israelis, Palestinians, and people from around the world made a loud and unavoidable statement on Friday. Lined up along the width of Route 60, only a kilometer or two before the Tunnels checkpoint leading south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, protesters from NGOs Combatants for Peace (CfP) and peace movement Standing Together formed a human recreation of the West Bank security barrier emblazoned with the message “The Last Day of Occupation is the First Day of Peace.”CfP, founded in 2005, is an organization composed of former Israeli soldiers and former Palestinian fighters, whose goal is to use nonviolent means to end Israeli rule in the West Bank.A rally and speeches near the checkpoint marked the culmination of what was an impassioned and peaceful march.They had began walking at the traffic circle outside the Palestinian village of Battir, west of Bethlehem, and finished just short of the checkpoint.Their dedication to nonviolence was clear, and reflected in the message on placards held high throughout the crowd: “There Is Another Way.”CfP co-founder and co-president Sulaiman Khatib spoke to The Jerusalem Post as he joyfully looked back on the hundreds marching toward the Tunnels checkpoint. He made clear that in his view, both sides needed to embrace nonviolence methods.“It’s harder than violence, I’ll admit that,” said Khatib. “I am an ex-fighter and from my personal experience it’s possible to find other solutions.”AdvertisementImprisoned at the age of 14 in 1986 for attacking two Israelis, Khatib studied the efforts of people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela while in jail, and concluded that their approach of nonviolence was the only way.Commenting on the challenge of selling nonviolence to a frustrated Palestinian population, he said, “The Palestinian narrative [presents the situation] as a zero-sum game, achieved through armed struggle and violence – it doesn’t work. For a century, our conflict hasn’t worked, from Herzl until now... We try to say that we can bring this energy to transform it into nonviolent action.”The upbeat mood was apparent throughout the march, with Israelis who had traveled from across the country joining local Palestinian activists. With a drum line and an array of chants (“1,2,3,4 – occupation no more”), the event proceeded almost without incident, with the exception of a Palestinian activist detained and arrested at the beginning of the march.One of those taking part in the march was Adina Aviram, a veteran peace activist from Kfar Saba.“I’m here for the sharing between Palestinians and Israelis.We refuse to be enemies, and both Jews and Arabs who used to be enemies do not need to be anymore,” she said.Asked what it meant for her to be walking with people from so many different backgrounds, her response was simple: “hope, hope, hope.”