*Reflections of a Deportation
*ISM Co-Founder Among Duo Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
*Palestinian Action Alert for Friday, February 10
*Church Votes to Sell off Shares to Caterpillar
*Villagers Expand First Palestinian Settlement
* Rickman and Rachel Juggle Three Wins
*How to Provoke a Settler in Hebron
*Bil’in Waiting for Justice
REFLECTIONS ON A DEPORTATION
In six days I will be deported by the state of Israel.
I am a human rights worker. I have been working to prevent and document violence against the Palestinian residents of Hebron in the West Bank. Attacks on Palestinians by violent Israeli settlers occur on an almost daily basis and range from insults and spitting to stonings and beatings; these attacks take place in an area heavily patrolled by Israeli police forces and often happen immediately in front of complacent soldiers. The presence of international human rights workers, like myself, sheds some light on the abuses that settlers and occupation forces commit, and on the crimes that police consistently fail to prevent, pursue and prosecute.
On January 19th, I was standing on Shuhada Street, in Tel Rumeida, after escorting some Palestinians safely to their homes. It was 20 minutes past 2 o’clock when an Israeli police jeep rolled up to where I was on the sidewalk – I recognized the police officers in the jeep. A police officer in the passenger seat leaned across the driver and asked me, in Arabic, “What is your name?” Within minutes I was inside the back of the jeep, under arrest and leaving Tel Rumeida.
Before going to Ben Gurion Airport, I made a brief stop at the Kiryat Arba police station where I was paraded – trophy-like – in front of Hussein Nabia, a police officer who previously arrested me on false charges of failing to identify myself and assaulting a soldier, and who has tried – without warrant – to break into the ISM/Tel Rumeida Project apartment. The officers who arrested me brought me into an office where Nabia was seated, “David!” he said, and the officers brought me back outside.
Tel Rumeida, a small neighbourhood of Hebron, is sandwiched between two small settlements. The settlers of Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida Settlements are some of the most extreme and violent in the West Bank; the founders of the settlement movement are among them. These settlers, with the support of the Israeli Military, aim to make life intolerable for Palestinians – with the goal of driving Palestinians from their homes, from the neighbourhood and, ultimately, from Hebron itself.
The victims of these attacks range the gamut of Palestinians in the neighborhood with no one being immune – old women and young boys, businessmen and university students.
At the airport I had a hearing with a member of the Ministry of the Interior (MoI). I had been waiting outside her office with police officers and just before I was summoned into her office, I received a phone call from a friend. Just as we began to speak, the police physically pried my telephone from my fingers, and took it away; I was told, “It is rude to talk on the phone when you are in someone’s office.”
My tourist visa has expired, but before it did I went to the MoI office in Jerusalem and asked for an extension. I was given, instead, an appointment at which I could officially apply for an extension. I explained to the official whom I met with, that my visa would expire before this appointment; “No problem,” she told me, and gave me a slip of paper explaining that I had an appointment at the Ministry of Interior. I explained this to the official who then issued a deportation order against me.
There was questioning and there were forms to sign. An oversize three-ring binder held copies of form after form, deportation order after deportation order, each form a different pastel colour, and each form translated into an array of languages.
During my hearing a police officer interrupted asking me to sign a form he held out to me. Among other things, the form was a waiver, and my signature would indicate that I was refusing my right to pick up my belongings (which remained in Hebron). To paraphrase: I recognize that it was suggested to me that I go to my place of dwelling, accompanied by police, and gather my personal effects.
“This wasn’t suggested to me, and I don’t want to waive my right to gather my belongings,” I explained in English. The MoI official translated the sentence into Hebrew for the police officer.
“In fact, lets go and get them right now,” I made to stand up from the chair, having visions of a police escort and me walking into the apartment after dinner. “Will you take me now to get my things? It says here,” I gestured to the form, ” that you will accompany me to get my things.”
More translation and then the MoI official asked, “Where are your things?”
“At my home.”
“Where is that?”
“Hevron?” incredulous. “You live in Hevron?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “So? Can we go?”
Again some translation and discussion before, “No one is going to take you to Hevron. Just sign the paper.”
I explained that I wasn’t going to sign a form saying that I waived my right, when in fact I was being denied said right. “Sign the form,” they replied.
I didn’t sign the form.
I was held in a room near Ben Gurion Airport for three days. The room had two windows, six beds, one toilet, two sinks, two showerheads, two chairs, one table and one television.
On at least two occasions I am convinced that the guards forgot I was there. One evening guards turned out my lights at ten-thirty P.M. It was not until after five P.M. the next evening that the lights came back on. That same evening a guard opened the door around half-seven, “Do you need anything?” he asked.
The guard threw a sandwich, wrapped in plastic, onto the table. These sandwiches were the staple food served to me at least nine times in three days. White bread – baguette-style – halved length-wise, three slices of white cheese, some pieces of iceberg lettuce and two cherry tomatoes.
A guard searched me – marking the fourth time I was searched that day – when I first arrived at the airport “detention centre”, before he put me into my cell. Looking at two marbles that I had in my left pant pocket – gifts from a child in Tel Rumeida – he asked, “Do you need these?”
“They’re mine,” I told him, and he let me keep them.
On the third morning of my imprisonment, I was sleeping when a guard came into my cell. “Hey!” he yelled at me, “Get up. It’s time to go!”
At Ramle Detention Centre I was searched again – grand total: five times. This time my marbles were confiscated. My lip balm was also confiscated. What was not confiscated was the razor – now broken – that I had been given in detention at the airport. The head came unattached in such a way that the two blades became removable. This remained in my custody throughout my time in prison.
During the three days that I was held at Ramle, I learned a some of what life is like there on a daily basis for the refugees and economic migrants who are imprisoned there – most for much longer than me.
Just before half-past six A.M. every day, loudspeakers blasted a wake-up warning up and down the halls of Block 4, second floor. Shortly thereafter, guards would enter every room and count the prisoners; everyone was expected to be on his feet. This marked the first such count, there being often six or more per day – wake up from your nap, stop your card game, get off your top bunk; stand up when the guard enters the room; wait while the guard counts each man; relax when the guard leaves.
Economic migrants spend time in Israeli “deportation centres” (read: prisons) awaiting their deportation, or awaiting a new job.
Most of the economic migrants I met in jail await deportation, and their stay in jail is punishment for having worked in Israel without a valid work visa. These people spend between one week and four months in jail waiting to be deported. Most of the prisoners I met who fell into this category had resigned themselves to the fact that they would be deported and were simply waiting to go home. Unlike me (if I had agreed I would have been on a plane the evening that I was arrested) these people often have to wait weeks or months for their deportation.
On the morning of the day that I was released from Ramle, guards came into my cell and told another inmate, Get ready. You leave today. The Thai fellow, who slept on the bunk next to me, had been four months in prison and the first notice he received of his departure was this warning, less than two hours before leaving the prison.
I met a Nepalese fellow who had a valid work visa. He had been imprisoned because he lost his job.
His employer was ill and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. A turn for the worse in his employer’s disease left him without a job. For this, he was jailed until he was able to find a new job; after one week in prison he had a new job in Tel Aviv and was released on a Wednesday afternoon to prepare for his first day of work that Sunday.
If the economic migrants have a rough time in Israeli prison, the refugees have it worse. With not even the hope of deportation – having fled their home countries seeking asylum – the refugees at Ramle have no way to know how long they will stay in prison.
For the refugee men with whom I was imprisoned – from Ethiopia, Sudan, Liberia and other, mainly African, countries – each day is much like the other. Months pass without any change in their situation. Human rights workers come to meet with other prisoners, and tell the refugees they cannot help them. UNHCR meets with them and says, “We’re sorry; we know you are refugees, but unfortunately, we cannot help you.”
Tyson, from Ethiopia, has been nearly two years in prison, he showed me copies of letters written on his behalf – the return addresses are Canadian. One is from a group called Welcome Place in Winnipeg, and the other from a Canadian Member of Parliament. Both letters call on officials at the prison, and officials in the government, to release Tyson and the “70” Ethiopian refugees in his position.
Welcome Place wants to sponsor Tyson and the other Ethiopian refugees and bring them to Winnipeg. Most of the legal work has been done, what remains is for the refugees to have an interview with a Canadian official in Israel. The letters petition the government to please release them to allow them to fulfill these final requirements. This has not happened. Both of the letters are dated 2004.
“We are not criminals,” Tyson said. “We all have one thing in common. We are refugees and we are looking for safety.” Israel has shown them only imprisonment. “Israel should not forget it’s past. It was a nation of refugees.”
Looking out a window, barred with three separate layers of steel, Tyson pointed to a series of small huts arranged around a central courtyard with benches, palm trees and a small garden. “Those are the criminals,” he says, explaining that in those huts are Israelis who have been convicted of crimes and are serving their time. “Their doors are open 24/7 and they have a 41-inch TV.” These prisoners – convicted criminals – can walk freely in their courtyard, while Tyson and his fellow refugees are allowed outside for one hour daily, except Tuesdays when they remain inside all day. The refugees and economic migrants I was imprisoned with do not have a television; there is no common room – people socialize in the hallway near the bathroom or in their small cells.
Refugees like Tyson wait in prison with few ways to entertain themselves, extremely limited access to fresh air, and with no way of knowing how long they will be held in jail. Compared to theirs, my lot was quite easy.
After six days in prison, I was released on bail.
The MoI judge set bail at one thousand sheqels. Fifty thousand sheqels is considered a high bail, and fifteen thousand can generally be considered low. With white skin, and a Canadian passport, my NIS1,000 bail demonstrates the institutional racism that pervades all aspects of Israeli Bureaucracy that I have had the opportunity to witness.
The two conditions of my bail were that I leave Israel no later than February 10th, and that I not participate in any “International Activities” in Hebron.
As an “international,” I have wondered what might constitute “International Activity” in Hebron, and my conclusion is this: anything I might do in Hebron, witnessed by the Israeli police. Eating breakfast, visiting friends, drinking tea on the street – indeed, even walking on the street – in a nation (Palestine) which is not my own, could be viewed as a type of this activity. As such, I have not been back to Tel Rumeida, and have not seen my Palestinian friends, since I was arrested.
But: I am free.
I felt bad leaving Ramle. I breezed in and out of there with my blue passport, staying just over three days, while hundreds of other prisoners – who have committed no crime – remain for months. Tyson and the others didn’t feel bad; they were genuinely happy for me. No one should be in there, they believe that, and that included me.
I was arrested because Israeli police in the Palestinian city of Hebron know who I am; because they know that I am a human rights worker, and because human rights workers in Hebron often have to do the work of police officers: intervening in attacks to protect civilians from settler violence.
Instead of prosecuting or even – pursuing – the settlers who have maliciously attacked their Palestinian neighbours, the police of Kiryat Arba (Hebron) harass and arrest international human rights workers, who strive for justice alongside the Palestinians. If the state of Israel is interested in peace, then she should allow human rights workers, and international observers to work for justice; deporting those who work for justice cannot be seen as part of any “peace process.”
And so, in six days I will be deported. I paid for my ticket. I was planning to leave on this date. I will go to the airport on my own. Security guards will not carry me onto the plane – I will walk. This will be my deportation: quiet, and with a stopover in Budapest.
ISM CO-FOUNDER AMONG DUO NOMINATED FOR NOBEL PRIZE
Letter from the AFSC nominating Ghassan Andoni and Jeff Halper
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace and social justice organization, has nominated two candidates for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize: Jeff Halper from Israel and Ghassan Andoni from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In a region torn by conflict, these grassroots peace activists have resolutely followed nonviolence as the path to justice, peace and reconciliation. For decades they have worked to liberate both the Palestinian and the Israeli people from the yoke of structural violence – symbolized most clearly by the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. They have opposed every element of the Occupation, including settlements and the Separation Barrier, striving for equality between their peoples within the framework of sovereign and democratic states.
Ghassan Andoni is a Palestinian, a physics professor at Birzeit University and a resident of the Christian town of Beit Sahour, next to Bethlehem. He already began his peace activities while a college student in Iraq, leaving his studies in order to work in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon during that country’s civil war. Returning home to Palestine from Lebanon, he was arrested by the Israeli authorities and jailed for two years for his membership in the PLO. He subsequently traveled to the UK where, in 1983, he earned his MSc in Physics.
Once more back in Palestine, Ghassan was one of the main initiators of the famous Beit Sahour’s tax revolt against the Israeli Occupation during the first Intifada (1987-1993), perhaps the most effective broad-based community resistance to have been organized since the start of the Occupation in 1967. Ghassan understood the power that nonviolence has in leading a mass movement of liberation and utilized it effectively. After serving another jail term for his participation in the tax revolt, he co-founded in 1988 The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between Peoples, which sponsored dialogue and joint activities between Israelis and Palestinians. As the Occupation wore on, Ghassan and Rapprochement moved from dialogue to direct nonviolent action intended to end the Occupation. In this connection he co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), in which international volunteers and Palestinians initiated grassroots nonviolent actions of resistance to the oppression created by years of occupation. In working with ISM, Ghassan has insisted that all international participants commit themselves to nonviolence, both physical and verbal.
As he continued his peace work, Ghassan proceeded strategically. He realized that a nonviolent movement must always be able to respond creatively and effectively to ongoing developments. His creative, brave and proactive responses have made him one of the leading figures of the Palestinian peace movement.
Jeff Halper is an Israeli professor of Anthropology. A Vietnam War resister in America, he emigrated to Israel in 1973. Although he insists that Jews have a legitimate place in Israel/Palestine, he has always rejected the exclusivity of Jewish claims to the country that has led to the displacement of Palestinian refugees and to the Occupation. As an Israeli citizen he has refused to bear arms even during his military service, and refused to serve in the Occupied Territories. Two of his children have been imprisoned as conscientious objectors.
Jeff co-founded The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) in 1997, which was among the first Israeli peace groups to work with Palestinians inside the Occupied Territories. ICAHD works closely with other critical Israeli groups such as Bat Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom and the Alternative Information Center, as well as with Palestinian partners such as the Land Defense Committee, Rapprochement and the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC). ICAHD resists the demolition of Palestinian homes, actions in which Jeff often displayed immense courage, sitting in front of bulldozers, confronting Israeli soldiers and suffering arrest. He and ICAHD also organize Israelis and internationals to rebuild demolished homes with Palestinians as acts of political resistance to the Occupation. Through resistance to Israel’s house demolition policy, ICAHD exposes the injustice of the Occupation and asserts the crucial role of the international civil society in bringing about change, just as Ghassan Andoni has done with the founding of the International Solidarity Movement.
ICAHD has been well ahead of other peace organizations in its appeal to the international community, disseminating information and networking, analyzing what Jeff calls the “matrix of control” employed by Israel in its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – the framework created by strategic settlement blocs, settler-only highways and the Separation Wall. In ways that parallel the development of Rapprochement, ICAHD has come to see that reconciliation cannot be placed ahead of the restoration of justice – a justice to be brought about through nonviolent direct action and adherence to human rights.
Jeff Halper has in recent years spent a great deal of time traveling abroad to inform the public about the “realities on the ground,î and has established ICAHD chapters in the US, the UK and elsewhere. His travels and writings have added to his international stature. Ghassan and Jeff are currently working on a book about nonviolent resistance to the Occupation. They share a fundamental belief that Palestinians and Israelis who stand for human rights, international law, peace, justice and reconciliation are on the same “side.î This is what makes their message relevant and universal, and why their voices – the seldom heard voices of critical advocates of peace and non-violence – are acknowledged in this nomination.
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. It was the 1947 co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The AFSC’s national headquarters is in Philadelphia. It has nine regional and 34 area offices in the US and is active in 22 countries around the world. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Additional information about the AFSC can be found at www.afsc.org. Ghassan Andoni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Jeff Halper at email@example.com.
PALESTINIAN ACTION ALERT FOR FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10
Villagers will attempt to hold a demonstration on areas of their land confiscated for the construction of Israel’s annexation barrier after 12 p.m. prayers. Bil’in villagers have employed an array of creative nonviolent tactics to oppose the expropriation of about half their land for nearly one year. The most recent development has been the expansion of the first Palestinian settlement west of the barrier. Tuesday night Bil’in villagers built the outpost’s second house. The march will begin at the mosque, and proceed toward the Modi’in Illit construction site.
For more information call: 0547-258210
Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, will march to sections of the annexation barrier under construction in Aboud village. They will march in protest of the derogatory cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed as well as against the theft of their land. The purpose of the demonstration is to highlight two points. The first is that the Palestinian reaction against the cartoons transcends religion. The villagers also hope to raise awareness that the current path of the barrier will confiscate 20 percent of the West Bank’s water supply, numerous important archeological sites, and a historical church.
Protesters will gather in front of the local council at 11 a.m.
For more information call: Operation Dove 0599311344 02-2864774
CHURCH VOTES TO SELL OFF SHARES IN CATERPILLAR
Reported by the Guardian
The Church of England’s general synod – including the Archbishop of Canterbury – voted last night to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.
The main target of the plan will be the US earth-moving equipment company Caterpillar which has supplied vehicles used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes. When the worldwide Anglican communion called for such a move, at a meeting last summer, there followed protests from Israel and Jewish groups. The church currently invests about £2.5m of its £900m share portfolio in Caterpillar and had been engaged in negotiations with the company about its activities. Caterpillar insists it has not provided the earth movers directly to Israel but to the US military which sold them on.
So passionate was the debate that it squeezed out an equally contentious decision last Friday by the Church commissioners, managers of the church’s investment and property portfolio, to sell off the century-old Octavia Hill housing estates for more than 1,000 poor tenants in south London to property developers.
On the first day of its meeting in London, the general synod, the church’s parliament, heard denunciations of Israel’s use of the machines from one of its own bishops and from the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, who is Palestinian, whose letter was read out.
The Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, who is chairman of Christian Aid, told the meeting that the problem in the Middle East was the government of Israel rather than Caterpillar but that it was vital that the church should invest only in organisations which behaved ethically.
A CD containing a PowerPoint presentation on Divestment (based on the Sabeel MRI report), an audio presentation and the text of the Divestment paper presented to the Church of England General Synod is available for £5 including postage. An MP3 version of the talk will be available for download from Stephen Sizer’s website www.sizers.org later in the week.
Here is the text of the motion passed by General Synod:
a) heeds the call from our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, for morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc, until they change their policies;
b) encourages the Ethical Investment Advisory Group to follow up the consultation referred to in its Report with intensive discussions with Caterpillar Inc, with a view to its withdrawing from supplying or maintaining either equipment or parts for use by the state of Israel in demolishing Palestinian homes;
c) in the light of the urgency of the situation, and the increased support needed by Palestinian Christians, urges members of the EIAG to actively engage with monitoring the effects of Caterpillar Inc’s machinery in the Palestinian occupied territories through visiting the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East to learn of their concerns first hand, and to see recent house demolitions;
d) urges the EIAG to give weight to the illegality under international law of the activities in which Caterpillar Inc’s equipment is involved; and
e) urges the EIAG to respond to the monitoring visit and the further discussions with Caterpillar by updating its recommendations in the light of these.”
The Episcopal Bishop of Jerusalem, the Right Revd Riah Abu El Assal had sent the following challenging message to the Synod:
“I am saddened to witness less courage within our church than one would expect. Both time and energy have been spent on issues such as human sexuality. But non violent instruments such as divestment from companies that produce death rather than life does not get the same attention. No wonder the church is loosing credibility in many parts of our world.
The Elijah’s are absent and the voiceless wait in vain for church Synods to be their voice. Need the church wait until there are no homes and no trees for our people to wake up and tell the Ahabs of today that Naboth is but another child of God and deserves to lead a life with dignity and secure enough that those bulldozers will not reach his home.”
+ Bishop Riah Abu El Assal
VILLAGERS EXPAND FIRST PALESTINIAN SETTLEMENT
The Israeli army served Bil’in villagers a seizure order for six dunams yesterday. The villagers responded by expanding their own outpost, building a second house on the west side of the annexation barrier. The military order was issued for the construction of a watchtower adjacent to the route of the barrier that will separate villagers from approximately half their land.
At 8 p.m. a group of villagers constructed the new house in less than two hours. Israeli soldiers arrived on the scene and attempted to stop the construction but, dozens of villagers barricaded themselves in the structure.
Wednesday morning, contractors working on building the Metityahu Mizrah settlement dumped rubble on Palestinian villagers who stood in front of their bulldozers. Popular committee member Muhammed Khatib was lightly wounded while he and other villagers attempted to prevent contractors from blocking the road to the new structure. Construction on Metityahu Mizrah has been frozen by a Supreme court order but the contractors continue to prepare the foundations for the settlement outpost, an act which they claim does not constitute construction. Bil’in villagers await a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the route of the annexation barrier on their land.
“The purpose of this land confiscation is for settlement expansion, not security,” said Khatib. “The army wants to create facts on the ground before the court decision.”
The construction of “Bil’in West,” the first Palestinian settlement, marks a new and creative advance in Palestinian nonviolent resistance. The two structures place Israeli authorities in an embarrassing position. Israel will highlight its own selective law enforcement policies if the houses are demolished and recent additions to Metityahu Mizrah, which lack building permits and are illegal even according to Israeli standards, are not.
“As owners of this land, we have the right to decide its future,” Khatib said.
RICKMAN AND RACHEL JUGGLE THREE WINS
From What’s on Stage News
My Name Is Rachel Corrie was the biggest straight play winner in this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, triumphing in three categories: Best New Play, Best Solo Performance and Best Director (See News, 31 Jan 2006). Alan Rickman, Megan Dodds and Katharine Viner – the trio behind Rachel Corrie – reunited at the Royal Court, where the play premiered in April 2005, to collect their trophies.
Why did a 23-year-old woman leave her comfortable American life to stand between a bulldozer and a Palestinian home? My Name Is Rachel Corrie recounts the real story of “the short life and sudden death of Rachel Corrie, and the words she left behind.”
Alan Rickman took the idea to the Royal Court after reading an email written by Corrie and posthumously published in the Guardian. With the permission of Corrie’s family, he and Guardian journalist Katharine Viner developed the play based on Corrie’s own writings. Megan Doddsstarred as Corrie in the 80-minute monologue.
Following its sell-out premiere season in the 80-seat Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, My Name Is Rachel Corrie returned to the Royal Court’s 395-seat Jerwood Theatre Downstairs for a second limited season last October (See News, 3 May 2005). Next month, it will receive its US premiere – running from 22 March to 14 May 2006 at the New York
Theatre Workshop – ahead of a planned US tour and further international dates.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com over celebratory coffee and croissants at the Royal Court, Rickman said: “The way I feel about My Name Is Rachel Corrie winning these awards is, I think, what I felt every night in the theatre – that the audience somehow owned the play. With the best kind of work, you always feel like you give it away to the audience.
As an actor or a director, I’m just there to facilitate that.” He added, with regards to his own personal Best Director win for the play: “Thank you very much indeed. It’s really not about me, it’s about Rachel. You have honoured her and her memory with these awards and now her story goes on.”
Dodds, who collected the award for Best Solo Performance, said: “I want to say thank you to the people who voted and the people who came to see the show. It takes a certain level of commitment because it’s not an easy piece and it’s not a typical play. But so many people seemed to feel it wasn’t just Rachel’s story, it was their story, too.
Of course, it never would have happened if Alan hadn’t read about Rachel in the Guardian one day. I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.”
Rickman’s co-author Viner still seemed taken aback by the play’s success. “My Name Is Rachel Corrie is the first play I’ve ever been involved with,” she admitted. “To work with the material of such a brilliant writer and with such a wonderful team was a dream come true. I’ve loved doing it, it’s opened up a whole new area of my imagination. Thank you to everyone who voted for us for honouring Rachel’s memory in this very special way.”
As for triumphing over premieres by Neil LaBute, Richard Bean, Simon Stephens, Aaron Sorkin and Helen Edmundson to win the title for Best New Play, Rickman compared it to being “a bit like Krufts – you know, when you’ve got a poodle up against a sheep dog. We feel like the little poodle, but with the muscle of a much bigger dog. It’s for
other people to judge, of course, but I think this piece is so important because it reminds us that we are part of the world we live in.”
HOW TO PROVOKE A SETTLER IN HEBRON
When Baruch Marzel’s son and his three friends walk the streets of Tel Rumeida, Hebron, armed with sticks and looking to pick a fight, it is considered provocative to film them with a video camera, as soldiers tried to explain to Human Rights Workers after two of them were physically attacked by the quartet. The soldier commented, “It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t filmed them.” How provoked should Palestinians feel, who daily face threats from armed settlers on their way home from work?
Baruch Marzel, a.k.a “Mr. Hebron,” is a fanatic fundamentalist leader of a recently formed Israeli religious right-wing political party, “Hazit,” and is currently running for the Knesset. Hazit’s website declares that “expelling the enemy [the Arabs] is moral. The Torah of Israel is the primary source of human morality, and according to one of its mitzvahs, Israel must conquer and liberate the Land [Israel and the occupied territories].” Hazit leaves no doubt regarding their stand on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and their divine right to other people’s land. Baruch Marzel himself lives in the Tel Rumeida settlement in Hebron, on stolen Palestinian land. He is one of the ideological leaders and most prominent figures in his extremist settler community.
When Palestinian children walk to school in Tel Rumeida, settler children often throw stones at them. The residents of Beit Hadassah settlement, opposite the school, are provoked when they see Arabs pass outside their windows. How provoked should Palestinian children feel when they get stones thrown at them on their way to school?
The notion of provocation implies a certain normality. It also implies a stability or a status quo, that can be violated. In the violation lies the provocation. The settlers of Hebron have managed to distort this normality, and forced all others involved to accept their irrationality and their violence as something of the ordinary.
Having international Human Rights Workers (HRW’s) living in Tel Rumeida, documenting the inability and unwillingness of Israeli Authorities to deal with the violent acts of settlers, is considered provocative by the Kiriat Arba Police and the Israeli Defense Forces. This is why they falsely accuse the HRW’s of assault, intimidate and harass them and their Palestinian neighbors, raid their apartment, and deport them. How provoked should an HRW feel when he or she gets deported, guilty of using a video camera, a pen, and his or her own body as a human shield to support Palestinians in Tel Rumeida?
The Kiriat Arba Police and the Israeli Defense Forces have not only adopted the tilted reality promoted by the settlers, and are acting within its boundaries – they have also contributed to its creation, and are contributing to uphold it.
When a large group of settler visitors, some wearing ski-masks to cover their faces, rampage through the streets of Tel Rumeida throwing paint-bombs and stones, and hitting whoever gets in their way, it is considered provocative to be in their way. Police explain to HRW’s who tried to protect the Palestinian residents in the area that they shouldn’t be on the streets; that their presence was what agitated the settlers and could have caused further riots. How provoked should Palestinian men and women feel when they are attacked by settler mobs in the middle of the street they live on?
In this distorted reality of the Hebron settlers, a violent act in itself is not a problem, but the excuse the violator uses to explain the attack, however racist, crazy or extreme this excuse may be. Applying the same logic in other situations would result in, for example, accusing a rape victim of dressing too sexy, or a school kid of talking too much before he is hit in the face by a teacher.
A few days after a Palestinian family moved into a house adjacent to the Tel Rumeida settlement, they had their windows smashed by a mob of settlers, who were clearly provoked by the presence of their new neighbors. The family turned off the lights, locked their door and pretended not to be home, while the settlers screamed insults at them from the outside. “It’s like living in a prison,” said the mother in the family after the attack. How provoked should she feel for not daring to let her child play outside anymore?
The mere existence of Palestinians in Hebron is a provocation and a reasonable excuse to act violently against them, according to Baruch Marzel and his like. In a worst case scenario, this provocation could cause settlers to attack and even kill the Palestinians. How provoked should a Palestinian feel by living in a sealed-off area, passing through a checkpoint twice a day, having his ID checked at will by any soldier at any time, not being able to use a car or open shops in the neighborhood due to military orders, being ignored by the police after being attacked by settlers and knowing that their next door neighbor constantly conspires to take over his or her house?
Like spoilt children, the Hebron settlers are not accountable for their violent acts. In the racist framework that they have created, attacking a person is not something provocative, provided that the person attacked is of a certain ethnic origin. When will Baruch Marzel and his violent friends start to be treated as the accountable and responsible adults that they are?
BIL’IN WAITING FOR JUSTICE
By Dan Izenberg, Jerusalem Post
The High Court of Justice on Thursday issued a showcause order instructing the state to explain why it had chosen the specific route of the separation barrier near the Palestinian village of Bil’in and why the barrier should not be moved westward, closer to the nearby Jewish settlement of Modi’in Illit.
The court’s decision followed a hearing the previous day on a petition filed by attorney Michael Sfard on behalf of Bil’in Town Council head Ahmed Yasin.
Sfard asked the court for a show-cause order that would oblige the state to provide a more detailed response to the petition, along with an affidavit from a senior state official supporting the state’s argument.
The panel of three justices that heard Wednesday’s hearing – Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Justices Dorit Beinisch and Eliezer Rivlin – rejected Sfard’s request for an interim injunction to prevent the Defense Ministry from completing construction of the threekilometer stretch of barrier near Bil’in, which is the subject of the petition.
However, the justices reminded the state that it had promised not to close the current opening in the barrier with a planned gate, which is earmarked to be the controlled entry point for villagers seeking to work their lands on the “Israeli” side of the wall.
The court gave the state 21 days to present its detailed response to the petition. It also ruled that a number of respondents should be added to the petition, which was originally directed at the government and the West Bank military commander.
The respondents to be added include the Modi’in Illit Local Council and several construction and management companies currently building housing on land the petitioners argue should be on the Palestinian side of the barrier.
The companies include Green Park, Greenmount, Hefzibah, the Fund for Redeeming the Land, Planning and Development of Settlements and the Ein Ami Initiating and Development Company.
In the petition, Sfard charged that the route of the fence near Bil’in cut the village off from hundreds of dunams of its agricultural land.
Bil’in claims it owns more than 2,000 dunams of land on the “Israeli” side of the barrier, including approximately 900 dunams upon which the construction companies are building housing for the planned Jewish neighborhood of Matityahu East. Sfard said that by all accounts, 700-800 dunams of land belonging to Bil’in farmers, including some within the housing project, are located on the Israeli side of the barrier, and therefore the route should be changed to allow the farmers free access to their lands.