This is an interview from 13th August 2004 between a British activist of the International Solidarity Movement and Raz, a member of the Anarchists Against the Wall during a break in the ISM march along the route of the Apartheid Wall in Palestine. The questions are by the interviewer and the editorial collective of the British anarchist journal, Freedom.
It would be wrong to call "Anarchists Against the Wall" an organization in the formal sense, and they themselves would probably prefer not to have this label. The label was assumed by and for the Israeli media once their actions came to its attention. It was clear from the interview that they would prefer just to be seen as anarchists and as anarchists, opposition to the wall would automatically follow. Shortly after the interview was conducted, two of them initiated a direct action at the Wall and smashed through two gates, one of which was electrified (it's electrified for warning purposes and is not mortal). The action was given the encouragement and consent of local Palestinians and had Palestinian participation, but nevertheless demonstrated the special role the Israeli anarchists play in the unarmed struggle. As Israeli citizens they are in far more danger from the IDF and the legal system than international activists, but then again, as Israeli citizens they are more passionate in their opposition too.
- What size is the organization and what are its main functions?
Raz: We are at demonstrations and actions once or twice a week, and on these demos there are generally 10 to 15 of us. The organization is really more of a network for anarchists who want to do direct actions, and we have about 100 active people on the contact list. As for our functions they change with the Palestinians. Up until December last year we concentrated on direct actions against the Wall - cutting and forcing open gates, but we have slowly changed somewhat after two big events: after the end of the Mas'ha peace camp which led to a radicalisation of people and for the fence-cutting and gate-forcing actions, and the popular uprising in Budrus. In Budrus we moved towards popular uprising happily; we were invited to take part in daily demonstrations and resistance by the community members themselves, and it was really cool to see the community rising up together. Since then we have tried to combine this sort of work with our direct action - this march could be considered part of this.
- How has the State reacted since your creation?
In the first two actions we had, in Zubaba and Anin, there was no State intervention. Then in Mas'ha on the 26th September the army shot an anarchist in both legs. One activist was arrested after a demo and another one had to sign a contract promising not to damage the Wall again (interviewers note: the Israeli security forces are fond of such contracts, and are a useful propaganda tool for the Israeli public - they have the dual purpose of making the IDF seem calm and reasonable and the prisoner, normally uncharged, seems guilty by association). A few activists have been interrogated by the Shabak (THE secret service). On demos the police are always trying to arrest the Israelis now. It won't be too long before someone gets a serious prison sentence. We are under surveillance as well, which we know from experience. The Shabak are really on our back with monitoring and stopping actions before they happen. If they know where and when we will cross through the wall into Palestine, all they have to do is notify the checkpoint or get the taxi we are in stopped on the way. When the International Court of Justice trial of the Wall began in the Hague on the 23rd February we got stopped on our way to a demo twice using different routes. We ended up going back to Tel Aviv and doing the demo outside the Defence Ministry building there, which is basically like a massive military compound in the middle of town. A few people blocked the road and stopped their cars from coming out. 12 people were arrested for this. Many have been charged with assaulting police for passive resistance. The trial will be in September and I think this is where the legal system will catch up with us.
- How much support - if any - do you have within Israel?
Actually we do have some support from individuals in Israel. We do not have the official support of any groups, but individuals within different Israeli peace groups and also some journalists. After the Mas'ha shooting incident, where Gil Na'amati was shot in both legs by an IDF sniper, there were a few big demos supporting us and against the treatment of the IDF of Israeli demonstrators. In one demo, road number 5 leading to the settlement of Ariel was blocked by hundreds of activists from all sorts of Israeli peace groups for about 2 hours. Internationally? There was a benefit gig organized fo us in Amsterdam 2 months ago. Against a few months ago two of us toured Europe giving lectures and were able to collect some donations, too.
- Was this tour within the anarchist community in the countries visited?
No, it was not explicitly anarchist. It was more about telling people the realities, about the Wall and the Occupation. How do you see the situation developing? With continuing land confiscations and continued extension to the fences. I do not see it getting any better. It looks like the resistance in Israel (especially in the government) to removing any settlements means the fence will go up, and go up where it is now. That means well beyond the Green Line (the so-called Palestinian side ... for those who choose to take sides). Er, don't get me wrong - I don't want the Wall anywhere at all. For the situation in general, it won't come anywhere near peace whilst there are still settlements, and government.
- Have you considered doing actions at settlements then?
No. The settler security would probably shoot us, and what would be the point if they didn't? The residents wouldn't listen to what we have to say. These people think what they are doing is the will of god. The army are reasonable in comparison.
- What are the group's intentions for the future? Is there a particular direction the group is moving in or would like to move in?
No. We initiate together or at least agree on the same principles, even though at the end it's always their call 'coz it's their life and they are the ones to suffer mostly from the occupation Palestinian initiatives basically (interviewers note: like the ISM in this respect). We participate in their initiatives, but we always try to be involved in the planning and decision-making too.
- Do you expect to grow in size?
Not really. We have really just united anarchists interested in direct action in Israel/Palestine, I don't think that we have created any new ones!
- This brings me to my next question; for you personally, what came first - opposition to the occupation or anarchism?
Opposition to the occupation.
- Do you see it as natural that anarchists would support the struggle and your participation then? I'm playing the devil's advocate, but isn't this a national liberation struggle, with a lot of religious and nationalistic dominance?
I expect anarchists to support the struggle. This is not a national liberation struggle it is a human rights struggle. Well, it is a national liberation struggle, but first of all it's a human rights struggle for freedom and equality and that's what matters to me.
- The right answer! In that case would you like to extend an invitation to anarchists to come out and work with you?
Sure. It's not something we actively do, but we have houses and places for people to stay. It's definitely a possibility. Do you have a message for the international anarchist community - they all read Freedom of course! If they see this struggle as part of their struggle they are welcome here. We would like to have more contact with other organizations internationally. I know it's a bit shitty, but money always helps too. We have a website I think, but I can't remember the address - there's a link to it off onestruggle.org, an Israeli animal rights and anarchist website. It's probably best to email me at email@example.com - and that's for anything, not just if you want to give some money.
- Final question, then. Are there any Palestinian anarchists?
Apparently yes! Some people said they met Palestinian anarchists in Balata refugee camp (Nablus). Some people we work with are secretly anarchists though they won't admit it! Perhaps you should ask them?