Context: Sumud — Popular Resistance against the Occupation
The Arabic word “sumud” means steadfastness. Like the olive trees that symbolize “sumud,” Palestinians see themselves as deeply rooted in the land, and endowed with a staying power that will enable them to survive Israel’s agenda of ethnic cleansing and dispossession.
That steadfastness has been at the heart of Palestinian creative nonviolent resistance to the violence of the Occupation, from the unarmed uprising of the entire civilian population known as the First Intifada with its demonstrations, general strikes, and various forms of civil disobedience (1987–1993), to the popular village resistance to Israel’s Occupation and land and water theft that is now more than a decade old.
Organizing to stop the confiscation of land by Israel’s “separation wall” (declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004), popular committees in Bil’in (the setting of the Oscar-nominated film Five Broken Cameras), Nil’in, Nabi Saleh, Jayyous, Budrus, Burin, and other villages have refused to be intimidated by the sometimes lethal violence unleashed by Israeli soldiers against their weekly demonstrations and other creative actions.
In September 2007, Bil’in won a partial victory when Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered the wall to be re-routed in order to return to the village a portion of the confiscated land. Eleven years since they began, weekly demonstrations continue as protestors, including international solidarity activists, make Bil’in a symbol of resistance to the Occupation and Israel’s settlement expansion.
If the incursion of the wall onto their land was the catalyst for resistance by the residents of Bil’in, in Nabi Saleh the spark was provided by the seizure of the village’s Ein-al-Qaws spring by settlers from the nearby settlement of Halamish in 2009. Here, too, nonviolent weekly demonstrations in which Israelis and internationals often take part have been violently disrupted by the Israeli army. Two demonstrators have been killed and hundreds injured by tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and live ammunition. As in Bil’in, the army has tried to overcome the steadfastness of the village by conducting routine night raids, making mass arrests including of children, and resorting to “non-lethal” methods such as spraying houses with skunkwater.
Today, while settlers and soldiers cool off in the pools of Ein-al-Qaws, Nabi Saleh’s residents get only 12 hours of running water a week. But their spirit of resistance has not run dry.