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Photo: Yasemin Vardar-Douma
Saeed Amireh about Nonviolent Resistance in Ni'lin / Palestine. Lecture Tour in Europe
Anis Hamadeh, November 10, 2011

Twenty-year-old Saeed Amireh from Palestine was guest in Mainz. On 9 November he impressingly reported about the situation in his hometown Ni'lin, as part of his European lecture tour. It is his first travel to Europe, yes, the young man in a conversation before the talk mentioned that he had not even been to the nearby city of Nablus. Actually, Ramallah was the most distant place he ever saw.

And yet, he did not at all give this impression. On the contrary, he appeared cosmopolitan, authentic and with an excellent presentation. He took a stand in the rooms of the Catholic Students' Community and the audience will not forget his speech. "I am amazed about how you live here", he said in acceptable English. "No night raids, no military presence. You are not being shot at in the street." His words do not come out of the blue. Some of his family were shot at by Israeli soldiers, several others from the 5000 inhabitants have simply been killed in the last years. It is one of the worst places in the world.

Ni'lin is (regrettably) only an example for the fact that Israeli policy is not heading to peace or defense. It is obvious from the map at www.nilin-palestine.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Nilin_wall_081.gif that the wall is by no means built on the border, but it takes the land of the local farmers. It is impossible to call this defense. Several Jewish settlements are nesting around the village, they are just as illegal as the wall and the supported supply roads for the settlements ("apartheid roads").

For years the population of the village has nonviolently protested this destruction of their livelyhood. Nonviolent resistance as a strategy has entered Palestinian villages and cities many years ago. "When residents brought down parts of the illegal wall with levers and ropes they were hooded. Otherwise the army would later have come after them", Saeed recounts. "This has nothing to do with terrorism, even if it is sometimes labeled this way."

In many Palestinian villages there are so-called "popular committees", grassroot movements that act independently from political parties. They endorsed nonviolent resistance and spread the word with demonstrations, websites, YouTube films and information. The lives of those people are in danger every day, their land is being taken away and their Human Rights are not granted, so that others benefit. Saeed Amireh could only travel on an official invitation by Sweden. Norway, Germany and further countries belong to the itinerary of the three-month journey. Saeed is keeping a diary.

Media and politicians from Mainz did not attend the lecture. They did not want to see the complacently grinning Israeli soldier in the video, after having shot a teargas grenade at women and children in front of a residence. They did not want to hear about land theft and brutal military attacks on peaceful protesters.

It is horrifying time and time again that a society with a history like the German one so readily looks away. The German population is aware of this Israeli injustice and aware of the oppression, even if news gets to us in a very filtered way. But one cannot filter away that much, it is just too much. Yet mainstream media and politicians tend to draw a kind of line under the German past with their unquestioning loyalty to the Israeli army and their refusal of any fundamental debate. This is how we deal with our horrible past: again we look away, but in a different direction. And we feel to be progressive and superior with this attitude, too. So who wants to claim that Germany understood what happened between 1933 and 1945, even if our media and politicians think they are so clever.

Saeed Amireh left his prison for a couple of months in order to report in Europe about everyday life in his village. He is a dynamic young man, able to distinguish between facts and propaganda as he is able to distinguish between Jews and Israelis. He is not bitter or aggressive, he is unmistakably promoting the values of nonviolence and he knows what he is talking about. Someone who does not appear strange to us, but as a human being.

"After seeing him and listening to him it reoccurred to me how important our work here is", said Yasemin from the University Group for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel (HGPI), the organizer of the event. It ended with a visit to the Nakba exhibition in the neighboring church of the Protestant Students' Community. This touring exhibition shows escape and expulsion of the Palestinians - the largest group of refugees in the world. "I wonder why there are so many attempts in Germany to ban this exhibition", one of the visitors said, "there is nothing really controversial in it, it is a mere clarification of historic events."

Maybe one can understand when considering that Germany voted against the admission of Palestine as a member of UNESCO, a symbolic step to finally recognize the identity of Palestine, as it has been consensus now for almost a hundred years.

German original to be published at Neue Rheinische Zeitung on Nov. 16, 2011 http://www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=17159