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Beit Sira bites back

1. Beit Sira bites back Friday March 24th 2006
2. Bil’in villagers smash settlement Friday 24th March 2006
3. Destruction and Defiance in the Shadow of Bethlehem 23rd March, 2006 by Tom
4. IDF officers targeted again for arrest 22nd March 2006
5. How Can I Stop You? 21st March 2006 by Mary
6. The story of Saeed Abu Salah March 25th, 2006 by Laila El-Haddad
7. The pen may prove mightier than the word March 24, 2006 by MAKEBA SCOTT HUNTER, HERALD NEWS
8. Update from CPT Hostages; Response to Torture Rumours 24 March 2006 Excerpt from an article published on the CPT-webbsite by Rev. Carol Rose and Dr. Doug Pritchard, CPT Co-Directors
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1. Beit Sira bites back 24th March 2006
For pictures see:

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/03/25/beit-sira-demonstration-24th-march-2006/

Just like many other Palestinian towns and villages, Beit Sira has it’s share of grotesque Israeli annexation barriers and surrounding of isolating settlements. In this case Makabim settlement. An ongoing expansion of land theft has resulted in thousands of olive trees being uprooted and huge areas of agricultural land being cut off from the village.

Today Palestinians of Beit Sira village, accompanied by Israeli and international peace activist, held yet another weekly demonstration to protest against all of this. The nonviolent demonstration took off from the village around midday and headed of for the fields where the annexation expansion is taking place. Demonstrators were met by military jeeps and about 50 to 60 soldiers, border police and shield equipped special forces. A prayer was then held in the fields. As prayers finished a group of about 10 Israelis and internationals took off to chain themselves to the olive trees and barbwired fences close to Makabim settlement. This was done as a symbolic protest against trees being uprooted and the absolutely vital land being stolen from Beit Sira village. In spite of the rather large media presence soldiers almost immediately started to shoot teargas directly at the chained, seated and obviously harmless protesters. As the situation turned completely chaotic the chained protesters had to be aided and unchained. The soldier’s violence escalated and they bombarded the demonstration with soundbombs and teargas, including a special type that spreads.

Five demonstrators got badly injured and taken away by ambulance, two by teargas, two by rubber coated steel bullets and the last one, eighteen year old Mahmood Monseer Khattab, was hit by a sound bomb grenade in his neck. A UPMRC-ambulance was also hit through the window by a teargas cannister, injuring the medical team inside.

A Young Palestinian bit a soldier that was beating him to the ground. In retaliation Israeli soldiers broke two of this protesters teeth with a club.
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2. Bil’in villagers smashes settlement 24th March 2006

For pictures see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/03/24/bilin-demonstration-friday-24th-march-2006/

The focus of the weekly Bil’in demonstration today was the 21st March High Court of Justice order that the state explain why a criminal investigation should not be opened against those responsible for issuing illegal building permits for houses on Bil’in’s land and why those houses should not be destroyed. The order refers to the Modi’in Elite expansion of Metityahu Mizrah settlement. Villagers carried models of red roofed settlement houses, accompanied by Israelis, internationals and media reproters to the to the annexation barrier where Israeli soldiers were lined up. The soldiers prevented the people of Bil’in to pass further across their land. At the annexation barrier the people of the village made a judgement that the settlement houses should be destroyed. Then a member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall, dressed as a judge, smashed the first house with a large replica judge’s hammer. Men of the village soon joined in, using replica judges hammers to smash the other houses. Abdullah from the Popular Committee said he hoped the court would follow their example, see justice is done and order the settlement houses be destroyed.

Despite the non violent nature of the demonstration the soldiers used violence, sound bombs and teargas. Stones were not thrown on the site of the demonstration. However, a soldier took careful aim and fired a teargas cannister directly at a young man about 30 metres from him. The young man collapsed to the ground. I was told God helped him to put his hand over his heart and the cannister struck his hand. His hand was badly hurt but he was lucky not to have have a life threatening injury. A member of the Popular Committee fell unconsciuos when being dragged away by the soldiers. He lay on the ground flickering in and out of consciousness, soldiers shoving away those who came to help. Eventually there was enough people to hold off the soldiers and carry him away to get medical assistance. When a group of people sat down on their land and refused to move, the soldiers used physical brutality to tear individuals from the hands and arms of demonstrators and arrest them. Seven people were arrested, 3 Palestinians and 4 Israelis. Arrested were Mohammed Abid Karim Khatib, of the Popular Committee,Tamer Omah Khatib, Ayeed Abdul Rakhman Sayeed, Yohav, Jonathon, Geil and Roy. They were still being held at 5.45pm even though they have committed no crime.
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3. Destruction and Defiance in the Shadow of Bethlehem March 22th 2006
by Tom

For pictures see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/03/23/destruction-and-defiance-in-the-shadow-of-bethlehem/

Unable to enter the al-Walaja village, I waited for close to an hour at the Har Gill’o turnoff until I could hear the sounds of 2 giant earth-movers, courtesy of Volvo and the Israeli government. The police refused to respond to questions, but a young soldier told me that a “military activity” was just finishing, but he had no idea what that activity was. He threatened to arrest me if I try to make my way past the blockade, so I waited, along with villagers and international press, until he allowed us to walk through. He and the others in green and blue, on horseback and jeeps, laughed as they ate their lunch on the hoods of their vehicles, oblivious to the villagers watching them. Ironically, the road sign to the illegal settlement of Har Gill’o boasts of accomodation and a lookout because of the stunning view: a view that the family of Hadr Mahmoud Mohammed Rabah no longer enjoy.
I walked the narrow road into the village, following the Volvo tracks and the ground up pavement, not in need of any directions. I spoke with two teenagers just released from handcuffs by the police. They were obviously devastated, but at least not injured like their friend, who took a blow to the head from a soldiers club.

The Rabah family, including 8 children, are now homeless, after the Volvo earth-movers tore through the back of their dwelling while family members scrambled desperately to remove furniture and other items. Another home nearby was also levelled, two more examples of an ugly Israeli tradition that occurs on average 2-3 times each month. A teacher in Bethlehem, Hadr Rabah tells me that the village is very united against the Occupation, so there is no shortage of people offering to take in family members temporarily at least. When I asked why the earth-movers left the front of the home intact, his reply was “they were afraid of the electric”.

It’s not hard to see why Israel desires this land that overlooks Jerusalem and a couple of illegal settlements that used to be parts of Beit Jala and Walaja. As one neighbour -himself in receipt of a destruction order- said…”This land is beautiful, so Israel needs it”. Another neighbour explained that the Israeli government …”needs to have the ground without the people”. In the distance towards Jerusalem, I could see the zoo, complete with giraffes wandering in their pen. After a couple weeks in Hebron, listening to Tel Rumeida settlers refer to Palestinians as pigs, dogs, and animals, I couldn’t help but see the parallel: The Israeli government sees the West Bank as their zoo for Palestinians, complete with walls, fences and gates…except they would rather you did not visit. I realize the comparison is primitive and unflattering, but I think it reflects the unwillingness of Israel to see the Palestinian people as teachers, doctors, shop-owners, students, mothers and sons.

I stood with the Rabah family as they explained how Israeli officials had been out repeatedly to photograph and survey the area around their home and many others in al-Walaja. I felt awful, but was encouraged to take pictures to record and report the flattened home and the young people sifting through the rubble for household goods. Another local teacher added her thoughts about the effects on young children when they witness such events at a young age. She told me that it is very difficult for the children of Walaja to sit in their classes and focus on education while there is such upheaval in the community at the hands of the occupying authorities.

“Imagine what a two-year old will grow up like”. Why is not the entire village crowded around the ruins, embracing the family? “It happens so often. If they stand here now, will that change things? People still have to go to school and to work. If I stand here until 12:00 tomorrow, will it be any different?” When homes in al-Walaja are destroyed, it often means olive and orange trees fall as well, but what is left standing is defiance.
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4. IDF officers targeted again for arrest March 22nd 2006
Published in The Jerusalem Post by JPOST.COM STAFF

In what was the third time in the past eight months that a senior IDF officer was subjected to accusations of war crimes and the possibility of arrest in a foreign country, a recent petition by Arab and Jewish left-wing organizations to the Canadian government demanded them to arrest former IDF chief of general staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon who was expected to arrive in Canada on Wednesday, decided not to cancel his visit after consulting Israel’s Ambassador in Ottawa.

The organizations claimed the Ya’alon was responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Army Radio reported that, unlike in Europe, Canada requires the justice minister’s approval in order to arrest someone on those charges.

In February, Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, commander of the Gaza Division, decided to cancel plans to study at the prestigious Royal College of Defense Studies in England over the summer out of fear he would be arrested and tried for war crimes.

IDF Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avi Mandelblit warned Kochavi that while a warrant had yet to be issued against him, he could be arrested for his actions during the Intifada and Israel’s hands would be tied in helping him.

Mandelblit based his recommendation on the near-arrest, half-a-year prior to the Kochavi case, of former OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, who landed in London but refrained from disembarking after he was warned that detectives were waiting to take him into custody on suspicion of war crimes.

The warrant, which had been issued per the request of a pro-Palestinian Muslim group, accused Almog of illegally ordering the demolition of 59 Palestinian homes in Rafah in 2002.
“We shouldn’t take any chances,” a senior officer was quoted as saying. “If an IDF officer is arrested in one of these countries he could be charged and put on trial and our hands will be tied.
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5. How Can I Stop You? Tuesday March 21st 2006
by Mary

Fore pictures see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/03/25/how-can-i-stop-you/

At about 8pm, there was a lot of yelling in the street outside the internationals apartment in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Israeli soldiers were demanding that men from the building opposite came down to the street. Two men came down. They were told that everyone, including the baby, must come down to the street. An international asked what was the reason for this. A soldier replied that he could not tell her but that there had been a complaint about someone in one of the apartments. He could not say which apartment. This all sounded odd. Soldiers sometimes go into apartments to search but they do not usually expect babies and small children to be brought into the street at night. The soldiers persisted in demanding that the two men bring the families out. The men refused. One man was sent back into the building but the families did not come out. The international rang the DCO (District Command Office). The woman at the DCO said that she would check the matter.

Some more soldiers came by. One of the original soldiers asked the international why she would not let them do their work. She replied “Let? How can I not let you? I can’t stop you.” The soldiers went into the apartment building with guns ready as though after terrorists! They banged on a door. They then came down, let the two men go and left themselves. It looked like bluff. They probably were taking orders from settlers and were not supported by the DCO. This can happen with new soldiers, if the settlers make a complaint, whether based on fact or fiction.

Wednsday March 22nd 2006

Al Jazeera newsmen were visiting Tel Rumeida. They telephoned and asked an international if she had film or video of settler attacks on Palestinians or Palestinian buildings. She went, with a Palestinian, to the Al Azzez house to collect material. This meant scrambling over rocky ground because only the family are allowed to use the track alongside the settlement, which replaces the street taken over by settler caravans. When they were leaving the house, Israeli settler children came on to Palestinian land and threw rocks ( 3inches or 8cm in diameter) at the owner of the house and the people leaving. At first, the one Israeli soldier nearby did nothing to help. However, another four soldiers arrived. Even then, some children continued to throw rocks for some minutes before the soldiers forced them to leave the area. No one was injured but the visitors had to dodge and duck away from rocks which could have caused serious injury.
There is no safe way to leave the area!
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6. The story of Saeed Abu Salah March 25th, 2006
by Laila El-Haddad

For pictures see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/03/25/the-story-of-saeed-abu-salah/

Saeed Abu Salah is a patient man. Judging from all he has endured during the past four years at least. Abu Salah-40 years old with graying hair and eyes the color of chestnuts, and 20 children from separate two marriages-lives in Gaza’s northernmost region in the farming town of Beit Hanun-nearly as far north as you can go without being killed as so many have.

He is less than a kilometer away in fact from the border with Israel-and the fence and wall that bulldozers, active even as we spoke and visible in plain distance, were building.

Directly across from his house, at the end of an unpaved dirt path that used to lead to his 40 donom cattle ranch and citrus groves-now inaccessible and razed to the ground- is an Israeli lookout tower, resting atop a large mound of sand just across the border. It is equipped with a camera that monitors the family’s every move even as we speak, and a sniper, who every now and again fires “warning” shots at us.

“He doesn’t like you being here, as a journalist. Its normal-he shoots day and night, but particularly when visitors come” explained Abu Salah matter-of-factly, of the unseen sniper, whom he talks about with unenviable confidence and the seemingly intimate knowledge of a close acquintance.
Still, Abu Salah is unflinching in his determination to stay put, asserting that he will only allow Israeli troops to drive him out, which he says they have tried to do so many times before, “over his dead body”.

The UNDP estimated the damage done to his farm, which one employed over 30 Palestinians, at nearly half a million dollars. All he got in return was a zinc-sheeted shed, shielding little more than a wounded horse. “We just can’t afford to buy any more cattle. Or plant any more trees. Why should we? The Israelis will just destroy them again,” he says, staring at the forboding and ever-present tower in the distance. His family used to be self-sufficient, but since his farm was razed, he now has to rely on working for a local contractor once a week for money.

He greets me with tea and sweet, strong coffee as he displays his “museum of Israeli war artifacts”-a room full of 55kg tank shells that we can barely lift together, which he has decorated with artificial flowers; an arch, neatly trimmed with a line of Israeli bullet casings; and a photo album he keeps of all the damage done to his ranch-including his sniped cows, lying dead alongside each other, their intestines spilling out of their bloated stomachs.

“It’s as if they wanted to say, ‘this could be you’” he said, his young children peering through the iron-barred window in front of us, and the smallest, piercingly blue-eyed child giggling under his arms. “They used to be so afraid-the young ones still are. Now, they have gotten so used to it that if we don’t hear shelling, we think something is wrong. They are always firing at us, and when not firing, then shelling, and when not shelling, hovering over us with F-16s and drones, mocking us, provoking us, trying to show us that we are surrounded from all sides and that we have to eventually leave.”

There are no clinics where he lives. No grocery stores. Nothing is allowed. His wife is expecting anyday now, but Abu Salah is worried an ambulance may not be allowed in.

“Since Israeli forces declared the area-including my home, a buffer zone a few months ago, dozens of heavy shells fired by either Israeli tanks or warplanes have fallen in the area, wounding my 21-years old son Eid in his right arm, inflicting severe damage to my modest house and casting panic in my children’s’ hearts” explained Abu Salah, lifting his son’s wasted arm, left with little more than base muscle and stubs of fingers.

“I am not a Hamas supporter, but let me say that we’ve given enough concessions-and whole decade of concessions for free. The PLO decided to recognize Israel and what did recognition bring us? Have them recognize our rights first, our freedom to live, our right of return, then surely, we will recognize their rights.” At night, Abu Salah and his family become prisoners in their own home, unable to move for free of being shot by the faceless sniper.

“This is our existence. This is our reality. This is our fate. And we will bear it out, but never another hijra (exile)-I will stay here till they bury me in my grave.”
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7. The pen may prove mightier than the word March 24, 2006
by MAKEBA SCOTT HUNTER, HERALD NEWS

For pictures see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/03/24/the-pen-may-prove-mightier-than-the-word/

Despite the cancellation of a theater production based on the writings of the late human-rights activist, some 1,200 people packed into Harlem’s Riverside Church Wednesday night for an alternate production – pulled together in two weeks by friends and supporters — that celebrated Corrie’s life and protested perceived censorship.
“This is a powerful outcry, not just by people who love and know Rachel and know the work in Palestine, but anybody who champions free speech and who champions a plethora and diversity of ideas and opinions,” said Adam Shapiro, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, to which Corrie belonged.

Corrie was 23 when she was crushed to death under an Israeli bulldozer as she stood between it and the home of a Palestinian family. She had been living in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip for nearly two months as a member of the ISM, which sent Westerners to the Palestinian territories to serve as “human shields” against what they termed Israeli aggression in the settlements.

Corrie’s story could have ended when she died on March 16, 2003,embraced by a Jewish ISM colleague among rubble. But thanks to the efforts of her family, London’s Royal Court Theatre and Corrie herself, it was just beginning. The budding writer recorded her experiences in journal entries and e-mails she sent home to her parents in Olympia, Wash., expressing horror at the events she witnessed on a daily basis: bulldozed homes, children killed, destroyed food supplies, border crossings shut down.

“Disbelief and horror is what I feel,” she wrote to her mother 17 days before her death. “I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world.”

Her words — passionate, prophetic and wise beyond her years – were incorporated into a play celebrating her life called “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” The play was set to make its American debut at the New York Theatre Workshop after a successful run in London. However, a month before its scheduled opening on Wednesday, NYTW theater director James Nicola announced its postponement, sparking accusations of censorship from members of the theater community, human-rights activists and Corrie supporters, among others. “My initial reaction was a combination of disgust and apathy,” said Tom Wallace, one of the organizers of Wednesday’s event.”Because, in general, we know there is a very strong voice in the U.S. that drowns out all other voices on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even somebody as dedicated as Rachel.”

Nicola defended his decision in a statement posted on the NYTW Web site, saying, “We carried out our routine pre-production research” and found “many distorted accounts of the actual circumstances of Rachel’s death that had resulted in a highly charged, vituperative, and passionate controversy.”

Nicola said that while local Jewish leaders were among those consulted, their response was not the determining factor in postponing the play. “No outside group has ever, or will ever, participate in the artistic decision-making process at NYTW,” he wrote.As a result of the show’s indefinite postponement, its supporters banded together and created a presentation called “Rachel’s Words.” “Rachel is allowed to speak for herself,” Wallace said. “People can take from it what they want.”

Those words finally made their American premiere Wednesday night. The four-hour production combined video footage of Corrie, musical performances and contributions from Maya Angelou and musician Patti Smith. Rachel’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie; U.S. Senate candidate Jonathan Tasini; and Palestinian-American comic Maysoon Zayid were among those on hand.
Corrie’s story resonated with its audience.
Kara Young, 19, of Harlem, admitted that before the performance, “I wasn’t really aware of what was going on with Rachel Corrie.”

Afterward, she said, “I literally put myself in her position and felt like I was crushed by a bulldozer.” Said ISM’s Shapiro, “This is a powerful message to all theater owners not to be afraid, not to shy away, not to be cowards when people might say, ‘Oh, that shouldn’t be said’ or ‘those words shouldn’t be heard.’ I think this is more powerful than anything that could have been done.”
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8. Update from CPT Hostages; Response to Torture Rumours Excerpt from an article published on the CPT-webbsite
by Rev. Carol Rose and Dr. Doug Pritchard, CPT Co-Directors

For pictures see: www.cpt.org

On Mar. 23 and 24, 2006, the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Baghdad met with colleagues Norman Kember, Jim Loney, and Harmeet Sooden who had just been freed after four months in captivity. The team found the men to be well, alert and in good spirits. The men asked many questions about their families, friends and colleagues at home and in Iraq. They have also begun to tell some parts of the story of their captivity – of efforts to stay physically fit, of periodic separations and reunions, of receiving a Christmas cake.

Learning about the death of Tom Fox after their release has been a particular burden. They said that Tom had taken leadership in encouraging the group right from the beginning of their captivity. They have not yet shared with CPT any details about their captors or the events which led to their freedom.

In a statement released to the Baghdad media on Mar. 24, they wrote, “We are deeply grateful to all those who worked and prayed for our release. We have no words to describe our feelings of great joy at being free again. Our heads are swirling and when we are ready we will talk to the media.”

The rest of us in CPT are also grateful to all those who worked nonviolently and who prayed fervently for their release – religious leaders and soldiers, team-mates and government officials, partner organizations, friends, family, children, women and men all over the world. We are particularly grateful that no one was injured in this rescue operation.

In order not to cause Tom Fox’s family further pain, and for the sake of accuracy, CPT urges that the media and everyone concerned refrain from repeating the rumour that Tom Fox was tortured.. Two CPTers, Rev. Carol Rose and Rich Meyer, viewed Tom’s body and did not see signs of torture. We also have reports from two additional independent sources who examined the body more thoroughly. They also did not find evidence of torture. Until the final autopsy report is released, we ask everyone to withhold their judgement.

Christian Peacemaker Teams will continue in the coming weeks, insofar as it is humanly possible, to report the truth of what we have witnessed and learned.
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