The Bayit Leumi (“National Home”) movement called the conference in order to update activists on lessons learned from the May 17th/Iyar 7th “dry-run” – the non-violent road-blockings that closed 40 intersections throughout the country and resulted in over 500 arrests.
Large placards listing all the main intersections in the country were hung all along one wall of the ballroom, together with names and numbers of volunteers assigned to each intersection.
Moshe Feiglin, who heads the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction within the Likud Party and founded the Zo Artzeinu civil disobedience protest movement in the mid-90's, addressed the crowd. He declared that the disengagement would not be implemented.
“There are religious people who are still waiting for a miracle,” he said. “There are those who that there will suddenly be a war or a referendum. Don’t expect miracles like that. There won’t be any. The miracle has already happened – the miracle is all of you."
“We are going to win," Feiglin said, "because we have a new spirit – we have people willing to sacrifice something. There won’t be a disengagement because we won’t let it happen. We will not let it happen.”
The two heads of Bayit Leumi, Ariel Vangrover and Shai Malka, have been in prison since the day before the “dry run.” A judge decided last Thursday to keep them detained until after the disengagement. A Bayit Leumi spokesman took the podium in their stead to explain the next stage of the civil disobedience campaign.
“Police and journalists have been repeatedly asking who is behind all this. Could it possibly be Ariel and Shai, two 22-year-olds who were arrested the day before we brought the country to a halt?” the spokesman asked.
“You are the heads of Bayit Leumi!” he said, pointing at the crowd. “Every single one of you. All of the people that went out to the streets for the 'dry run.' Bayit Leumi is an idea, a way of nonviolent civil disobedience, not an organization. Anyone who shares that idea is a member.”
The literature and strategy of the Bayit Leumi organizers focus on creating a structure of focused activities once the IDF begins to hinder Jewish access to the areas slated for destruction. However, calls for massive road-blocking as early as this Wednesday have been widely heard. Signs and flyers publicizing this effort were widely distributed by young volunteers at the conference, and have also been posted across the country in recent days.
Because this Wednesday's activity was not organized by Bayit Leumi, suspicions have been raised that the effort is just a provocation by the Shabak (General Security Service). “They called me from Arutz-7 asking if the rumors are true that the Shabak is behind it,” Feiglin said. “I told them that if the Shabak wants to organize the blocking of roads for Gush Katif - let them go right ahead. I don’t know who is behind this coming Wednesday’s road blocking, but more power to them!
Feiglin said that any non-violent grassroots efforts should be embraced and encouraged, though he stressed his disapproval at the specific act of burning tires that has accompanied some of the road-blockings. “I don’t like the tires,” he said. “It is quite enough that we, with hands tied, block the streets with our own bodies - what do we need a tire for?”
The Manhigut faction leader went on to suggest that people get involved politically, even though the current battle is seemingly outside the political sphere. "If we win the tactical victory of Gush Katif - and we will - and everyone goes home, we have lost everything,” he said. “Sharon has awakened the strength that has been latent - and we bless him for it every day. The fact that there won't be Disengagement, everyone understands. What we must be aiming for is to become the leadership of the country. To block a road is easy, to sit in jail is easy, but the political, diplomatic and media work is much, much harder. We must keep going.”
At the side of the ballroom were a row of tables with representatives from Manhigut Yehudit awarding certificates of honor to those arrested in the struggle for the Land of Israel. Two certificates were presented at the podium. The first was given to Tamar Maayan, a young girl who spent weeks in Maasiyahu prison for refusing to identify herself as anyone but a “Jew from the Land of Israel” after taking part in blocking a road even before the “dry run.”
The second certificate was presented, in absentia, to Jonathan Pollard, who is serving his 20th year in an American prison. Pollard, a Jewish Naval Intelligence officer, was sentenced to life in prison for passing information to US ally Israel, regarding the Iraqi weapons threats to the Jewish State. He received a standing ovation. "We have whom to emulate him in terms of self-sacrifice and willingness to serve time for the sake of the nation of Israel," said Pollard activist Eleanora Shifrin, who accepted the certificate on his behalf.
A current inmate in Maasiyahu Prison, known only as "Eliyahu," was then put on the loudspeaker via speakerphone. He encouraged all those present to join him and the others still occupying the special “disengagement wing” of the prison. “We came here from all over the country,” he said. “We left our studies, our work, our families – but we will succeed in the goal. It is up to all of you to make the decision that now is the time to join the struggle.”
The goal and expectation of the organizers of the road-blockings, whether they begin this Wednesday or when Gush Katif and Shomron are closed by the government (D-Day), is that many people will be arrested, thus magnifying the effect of the civil disobedience. The Bayit Leumi spokesman emphasized that when large numbers of people begin to be arrested, it is highly recommended "not to carry any form of identification; to remove names and phone numbers from clothing, books and cellular phones, and to refuse to identify yourself." This, said organizers, completely disrupts the entire arrest process and the ability of police to file reports on what happened.
“The police have to remember that Prisoner #1 did such and such, Prisoner #2 did this and John Doe #3 did that – it basically makes it impossible for arresting officers to file useful testimony and makes it much simpler legally,” said one organizer.
The organizers of the civil disobedience foresee a two-pronged "attack" on D-Day. One is a mass streaming of people to the areas slated for evacuation, with the aim of closing off the area and preventing the police and army from implementing the evacuation. A booklet entitled, “D-Day – A Practical Plan for Halting the Uprooting,” outlines the second method. Distributed to the thousands at the conference, the booklet outlines the methods of road blocking to be used and gives the following tips:
* The actions must be completely non-violent. "If we are careful not to be drawn into violence, even though there be great provocations, we will win big."
* It is important to focus efforts toward the set times (5 PM Mondays and Wednesdays, from D-Day onward) in order to bring the entire country to a halt. Isolated road-blockings are less effective.
* Arrestees must decide in advance what their course of action will be once arrested. The longer one is willing to hold out and remain in jail, the more effective they are in disrupting the system and the more likely they are to be released without harsh limitations such as house or community arrest, ban from participating in protests, etc.
* Activist groups should not have only one member with a list of everyone’s contact information. Rather, everyone should have the ability to call the others out to the streets.
* The new number of the Honenu organization, which will supply those arrested with lawyers, or approve certain public defenders to represent them, is 159 950 4020.
* There is no need for tires – people can block the road adequately without them and they only cause legal complications. Those who insist on using tires must not roll them into the road before traffic has come to a complete halt.
* The road-blockings will continue until the end of the struggle, which will happen if one of the following conditions apply:
1) The Prime Minister announces his resignation and the Knesset is dissolved in favor of new elections (on condition that implementation of the Disengagement does not continue regardless),
2) The Prime Minister announces, and a government decision is made, that the Disengagement has been canceled,
3) The heads of the security establishment inform the Defense Minister that the Disengagement is not able to be implemented and is null and void.
* Activists must be wary of people handing out flyers soon after either Gaza or northern Samaria are closed, announcing that the planned civil disobedience has been canceled or postponed. The civil disobedience will begin not only when there is a complete closure on the areas in question, but as soon as any region is declared a “closed military zone.”
* Drivers in their cars at 5 PM on a post-D-Day Monday or Wednesday should slow down as much as possible without endangering others on the road. Groups of cars can coordinate with each other, driving side by side and slowly coming to a halt in the middle of roads and successfully blocking them.
* Those who plan on not identifying themselves should be sure not to have their name on their private belongings such as tefillin or prayer books, nor phone numbers saved in their cell phones under such labels as "Mom" or "Dad."
It was also stressed that people need not expect to be officially informed when “D-Day” has arrived. “It will not be declared by the Yesha Council, by any community representatives or by the media,” the new spokesman said. “It is whatever day any part of Gush Katif or the northern Shomron is closed to Jews. From that point onward, at 5 PM every Monday and Wednesday the country will be shut down.”