View Full Version : Hells Grannies

September 24th, 2001, 02:17 AM
Something from the news .....

Ariel Sharon's decision not to blast the Palestinians out of existence
after last week's suicide bombings is, at first sight, mystifying.
While jets blew up the Palestinians' police station in Ramallah and
Israeli soldiers occupied their East Jerusalem headquarters, these
reprisals were far less bloody than most people had predicted.

Several hypotheses have been advanced to explain this uncharacteristic
restraint. Sharon is seeking to keep faith with his more conciliatory
foreign minister, Shimon Peres. He is hoping to collect some moral
credit, which he will use to defend much fiercer intervention at a
later date. The seizure of Palestinian offices does more to hurt
their cause than the murder of prominent figures. All these
explanations are plausible, but there is another possible
interpretation, overlooked by almost everyone. In killing
Palestinians, Ariel Sharon can no longer be sure that he is killing
only Palestinians.

For the past few weeks, foreign peace activists belonging to the
international solidarity movement have been arriving in Jerusalem and
the West Bank, joining demonstrations, staying in the homes of
threatened Palestinians, turning themselves into human shields
between the Israeli army and its targets. A few days ago they were
joined by one of the most remarkable forces in British politics, a
group of mostly middle-aged or elderly campaigners called Women in
Black UK. These Hell's Grannies have moved straight into the front
line, ensuring that the brutality with which the Palestinians are
routinely treated now has international repercussions: Israel can't
hurt local people without hurting them too.

For the past few nights, members of the solidarity movement have been
sleeping in the homes of Palestinians in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit
Jala. Eight hundred and fifty homes here have been shelled by
soldiers stationed in the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Gilo, as
the army seeks to expel the Palestinians in order to expand Israel's
illegal plantation.

The foreigners have been standing at army checkpoints, photographing
soldiers when they stop people trying to leave or enter their
communities and recording the names of those they arrest. The
soldiers hate this scrutiny, but whenever the monitors arrive at a
checkpoint, there's a marked reduction in the violence there.

The Women in Black also helped to organise the demonstrations outside
Orient House, the Palestinian headquarters seized by Israel on
Friday. They established the physical and political space in which
Palestinians could protest non-violently. Arrested and beaten up with
the local people, the women witnessed the torture of Palestinian
prisoners in the police station, which would otherwise have gone

In short, these volunteer peacekeepers are seeking to do precisely
what foreign governments have promised but failed to do: to monitor
and contest abuses of human rights, to defuse violence, and to
challenge Israel's ethnic cleansing programme. Their actions put us
all to shame.

As well as seeking to enforce peace, they are trying, hard as it is in
the current atmosphere, to broker it. They have been suggesting to
their Palestinian hosts some of the novel means by which injustice
can be confronted without the use of violence. They have plenty of
experience to draw on.

Some of these activists have been involved in the Trident Ploughshares
campaign which, over the past fortnight, has been running rings round
the marines guarding the nuclear submarines in Scotland. To the
astonishment of the guards, the protesters there have managed to
evade the tightest security in the UK, swimming into the docks in
which the submarines are moored and spray-painting the
words "useless" and "illegal" on their sides. They have launched
canoes and home-made rafts into the paths of submarines trying to
leave their berths. They have cut through the razor wire and roamed
around the base, hoping to arrest its commander for crimes against
humanity. A few days ago, they blocked the main gates of the nuclear
warhead depot, their arms embedded in barrels of concrete, bringing
work to a halt as the police tried to figure out how to extract them.

Two years ago, three of these women climbed into the Trident
programme's floating research laboratory on Loch Goil and, as a
delightful new video commissioned by the Quakers shows, threw all its
computers into the sea.In Greenock court, they were acquitted of
criminal damage, after the sherriff accepted their defence that the
Trident programme infringes international law: rather than committing
a crime, they were preventing one. Soon afterwards, the
women "borrowed" a police boat from the Trident base in Coulport and
drove it into the submarine docks at Faslane. Among them was one of
the women who were also found not guilty in 1996 after smashing up a
Hawk aircraft bound for East Timor. The subsequent publicity forced
the government to stop exporting Hawks to Indonesia.

Though they're acquitted as often as they're convicted, Hell's
Grannies have spent much of the past few years in jail. They take
full responsibility for their actions. If the police fail to spot
them, they ring them up and ask to be arrested. Their candour,
clarity and humour have played well in court, but the risks of this
accountable campaigning are enormous. The prosecution began
yesterday of 17 British and American Greenpeace activists, who are
being tried on terrorism charges after peacefully occupying the
Californian launch pad being used for George Bush's missile defence
tests. In the Middle East such tactics are likely to be still more
dangerous, as Israeli soldiers have shown no hesitation in killing
protesters in cold blood. But, as Gandhi recognised, the
brutal treatment of non-violent campaigners can destroy the moral
authority of the oppressor, generating inexorable pressure for change.

The Women in Black are clearly prepared not only to die for their
cause, but also to make what Dostoevsky correctly identified as a far
greater sacrifice: to live for their cause. They are ready to lose
their homes, their comforts, their liberty, to be vilified, beaten up
and imprisoned. Their accountable actions require a far greater
courage than throwing bricks at the police.

Most importantly perhaps, these campaigners never cease to acknowledge
the humanity of their opponents. They seek not to threaten but to
persuade. The results can be astonishing. The MoD police who pulled
the Trident swimmers out of the water ferried them back to their
camp, rather than arresting them, while massaging their legs to stop
cramp. When Angie Zelter, one of the coordinators of Women in Black,
was on remand for her attempts to demolish the British military
machine, she was visited in prison by a timber merchant whose
business she had once tried to shut down. He had, as a result of her
campaign, stopped importing mahogany stolen from indigenous reserves
in Brazil, and started refashioning his business along ethical lines,
and now he needed her advice.

All this is a long-winded way of saying something which, in the 21st
century, sounds rather embarrassing: these people are my heroes. They
confront us with our own cowardice, our failure to match our
convictions with action. We talk about it, they do it. Hell's
Grannies are walking through fire. If they can, why can't we all!

Have to love those Crones!!!!!!!
Love and light

Earth Walker
September 24th, 2001, 02:28 AM
I know of similar womyn here in BC.....called Raging Grannies.
I admire all of those womyn.....I only wish that I could travel
to be more involved, instead of being limited to Vancouver! :G