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Making Palestine Visible Again

1. Israeli Supreme Court: State Must Defend why Settlement Expansion Near Bil’in Should not be Demolished

2. AP Erases Video of Israeli Soldier Shooting Palestinian Boy

3. The Earth According to Google: Where is Palestine?

4. A Sad Day: for Rachel Corrie

5. The Heroes of Tel Rumeida

6. “You Won’t Impose Your Wall on us!”


Israeli Supreme Court: State Must Defend why Settlement Expansion Near Bil’in Should not be Demolished

On the 21st of March the Israeli State and other parties were ordered to respond to a petition filed by Peace Now and head of the Council of Bil’in.

Defendants must convince the Court that construction plans for the illegal Matityahu East settlement should not be annulled. They must also explain why demolition orders should not be issued and a criminal investigation opened against those involved.

Judges wrote, “the State should refer, in its response among others, to the question whether a criminal investigation in the issue concerned was started, and how the State intends to act in this context.” The respondents were given 30 days to file their responses.

Bil’in villagers have waged an extensive media campaign to publicize Israel’s activity. The court order was made following a March 15 hearing of the petition (HCJ 143/06) against the expansion of the Matityahu outpost on village land west of the annexation wall. The Court also maintained the injunction forbidding further building in the compound and preventing new residents from moving in.

In a separate order issued by the Supreme Court on the 20th of March the military was denied the authority to implement a confiscation order of Bil’in land in order to build a military installation on the proposed wall route. To read the decisions in Hebrew go to: www.court.gov.il and enter file numbers: 143/06 and 8414/05

The Israeli Civil Administration has admitted that, according to Israeli law, illegal construction has been taking place on a massive scale. The administration also said it helps launder Palestinian land by declaring it state property then transferring it to private hands.

In Bili’n for example, attorney Moshe Glick signed in place of the village Muhktar (head), testifying that a resident’s land was paid for by settlers. Mr. Glick argued that the decision was justified because he claimed “any Jew entering Bil’in will be killed.” He also said a military order forbidding Israelis from entering Area “B” made it impossible to obtain the Muhktar’s signature. Both statements are false, yet the Civil Administration maintains the supposed land sale was legitimate.

Bil’in villagers have been protesting the theft of their land by the annexation barrier for over one year. The protests have become a prominent symbol of Palestinian non-violent resistance and joint struggle with Israeli and international activists. The Wall is planned along a route only meters away from the closest home in Bil’in. However it runs 700 meters away from the expanding illegal settlement, annexing over sixty percent of villagers’ agricultural land.

For more information:
Attorney Michael Sfard- 0544713930
Mohammed Khatib 054-5851893,
Dror Etkes (Settlement Watch, Peace Now) -0544899351,025660648,
ISM Media Office 02-2971824


AP Erases Video of Israeli Soldier Shooting Palestinian Boy
By Alison Weir

“The trend toward secrecy is the greatest threat to democracy.”
– Associated Press CEO, in a speech about the importance of openness

“The official response is we decline to respond.”
– Associated Press Director of Media Relations, replying to questions about AP

In the midst of journalism’s “Sunshine Week” – during which the Associated Press and other news organizations are valiantly proclaiming the public’s “right to know” – AP insists on conducting its own activities in the dark, and refuses to answer even the simplest questions about its system of international news reporting.

Most of all, it refuses to explain why it erased footage of an Israeli soldier intentionally shooting a Palestinian boy.

AP, according to its website, is the world’s oldest and largest news organization. It is the behemoth of news reporting, providing what its editors determine is the news to a billion people each day. Through its feeds to thousands of newspapers, radio and television stations, AP is a major determinant in what Americans read, hear and see – and what they don’t.

What they don’t is profoundly important. I investigated one such omission when I was in the Palestinian Territories last year working on a documentary with my colleague (and daughter), who was filming our interviews.

On Oct. 17, 2004 Israeli military forces invaded Balata, a dense, poverty-stricken community deep in Palestine’s West Bank (Israel
frequently invades this area and others). According to witnesses, the vehicles stayed for about twenty minutes, the military asserting its power over the Palestinian population. The witnesses state that there was no Palestinian resistance–no “clash,” no “crossfire,” not even any stone-throwing. At one point, after most of the vehicles had finally driven away, an Israeli soldier stuck his gun out of his armored vehicle, aimed at a pre-pubescent boy nearby, and pulled the trigger.

We went to the hospital and interviewed the boy, Ahmad, his doctors, family, and others. Ahmad had bandages around his lower abdomen, where surgeons had operated on his bladder. He said he was afraid of Israeli soldiers, and pulled up his pants leg to show where he had been shot previously.

In the hospital there was a second boy, this one with a shattered femur; and a third boy, this one in critical condition with a bullet
hole in his lung. A fourth boy, not a patient, was visiting a friend. He showed us a scarred lip and missing teeth from when Israeli
soldiers had shot him in the mouth.

This was not an unusual situation. When I had visited Palestinian hospitals on a previous trip, I had seen many such victims; some with worse injuries. Yet, very few Americans know this is going on. AP’s actions in regard to Ahmad’s shooting may explain why.

We discovered that an AP cameraman had filmed the entire incident. This cameraman had then followed what apparently is the usual routine. He sent his video–an extremely valuable commodity, since it contained documentary evidence of a war crime – to the AP control bureau for the region. This bureau is in Israel.

What happened next is unfathomable. Did AP broadcast it? No. Did AP place the video in safe-keeping, available for an investigation of this crime? No.

According to its cameraman, AP erased it.

We were astounded. We traveled to AP’s control bureau in Israel. With our own video camera out and running, we asked bureau chief Steve Gutkin about this incident. Was the information we had been told correct, or did he have a different version? Did the bureau have the video, or had they indeed erased it. If so, why?

Gutkin, repeatedly looking at the camera and visibly flustered, told us that AP did not allow its journalists to give interviews. He told us that all questions must go to Corporate Communications, located in New York. He explained that they were on deadline and couldn’t talk. I said I understood deadline pressure, and sat down to wait until they were done. When he called Israeli police to arrest us, we left.

Back in the US later, I phoned Corporate Communications and reached Director of Media Relations Jack Stokes, AP’s public relations spokesman. I had conversed with Stokes before.

Over the past several years I have noticed disturbing flaws in AP coverage of Israel-Palestine: newsworthy stories not being covered, reports sent to international newspapers but not to American ones, stories omitting or misreporting significant facts, critical sentences being removed from updated reports.

I would phone AP with the appropriate correction or news alert. One time this resulted in a flawed news story being slightly corrected in updates. In a few cases stories were then covered that had been neglected. In many cases, however, I was told that I needed to speak to Corporate Communications. I would phone Corporate Communications, leave a message, and wait for a response. Most often, none came.

Several times, however, I was able to have long conversations with AP spokesman Stokes. None of these conversations, however, ever ended with AP taking any action. Some typical responses:

* The omitted story was “not newsworthy.”

* The story deemed by AP editors to be newsworthy to the rest of the world – e.g. Israel’s brutal imprisonment of over 300 Palestinian youths – was not newsworthy in the US (Israel’s major ally).

* Burying a report of Israeli forces shooting a four-year-old Palestinian girl in the mouth was justified.

* Misreporting an incident in which an Israeli officer riddled a 13-year-old girl at close range with bullets was unimportant.

Despite this unresponsive pattern, when I learned firsthand of an AP bureau erasing footage of an atrocity, I again phoned Corporate Communications. I no longer had much expectation that AP would take any corrective action, but I did expect to receive some information. I gave spokesperson Stokes the numerous details about this incident that we had gathered on the scene and asked him the same questions I had asked Gutkin. He said he would look into this and get back to me.

After several days he had not gotten back to me, so I again phoned him. He said that he had looked into this incident, and that AP had determined that this was “an internal matter” and that they would give no response.

While I should have known better, I was again astounded. AP was blatantly violating fundamental journalistic norms of ethical
behavior, and clearly felt it had the power to get away with it.

Journalism, according to the Statement of Principles of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, is a “sacred trust.” It is the bulwark of a free society and is so essential to the functioning of a democracy that our forefathers affirmed its primacy in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the four major pillars of journalistic ethics is to “Be Accountable.” According to SPJ’s Code of Ethics:

“Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

“Journalists should:

* Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.

* Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.

* Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

* Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.

* Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Finally, this week, on deadline with a chapter about media coverage of Israel-Palestine, I again tried to confirm some of my facts with AP. Certainly, I felt, during “Sunshine Week” AP would respond. As part of the Sunshine campaign, AP’s CEO and President Tom Curley is traveling the country giving speeches on the necessity of transparency and accountability (for government) and emphasizing “the openness that effective democracy requires.”

“The trend toward secrecy,” AP’s president has correctly been pointing out, “is the greatest threat to democracy.”

I emailed my questions to AP, talked to Stokes by phone, and again was told he would get back to me. Again, I got back to him. Then, in a surreal exchange, he conveyed AP’s reply: “The official response is we decline to respond.” As I asked question after question, many as simple as a confirmation of the number of bureaus AP has in Israel-Palestine, the response was silence or a repetition of: “The official response is we decline to respond.”

The next day I tried phoning AP’s President Curley directly. I was unable to reach Curley, since he was on the road giving his Sunshine Week speeches (“Secrecy,” Curley says, “is for losers”), but I left a message for him with an assistant. She said someone would respond.

I am still waiting.

It is clearly time to go to AP’s superiors. The fact is, AP is a cooperative. It is not owned by Corporate Communications spokespeople or by its CEO or even by its board of directors. It is owned by the thousands of newspapers and broadcast stations around the United States that use AP reports. These newspapers, radio and television stations are the true directors of AP, and bear the responsibility for its coverage.

In the end, it appears, the only way that Americans will receive full, unbiased reporting from AP on Israel-Palestine will be when
these member-owners demand such coverage from their employees in the Middle East and in New York. As long as AP’s owners remain too busy or too negligent to ensure the quality and accuracy of their Israel-Palestine coverage, the handful of people within AP who are distorting its news reporting on this tragic, life-and-death, globally destabilizing issue will quite likely continue to do so.

In the final analysis, therefore, it is up to us – members of the public – to step in. Everyone who believes that Americans have the right and the need to receive full, undistorted information on all issues, including Israel-Palestine, must take action. We must require our news media to fulfill their profoundly important obligation, and we must ourselves distribute the critical information our media are leaving out.

If we don’t take action, no one else will.

To obtain cards exposing AP actions to disseminate in your community go to: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/clues.html

AP can be reached at 212-621-1500.

Alison Weir, a former journalist is Executive Director of If Americans Knew, which is currently conducting a statistical analysis of AP’s coverage of Israel-Palestine, to be released within a few months.


The Earth According to Google: Where is Palestine?
By David Nir

There’s A new wonderful service by Google: “Google-Earth”: Takes few minutes to load the free software. One can within several tens of seconds apply close-ups to view any point on the globe, even with 3 dimensional modeling, roads, restaurants, webcams for real time ….. Some places have resolution so articulate that individual persons can be seen. As an example one can see tennis players in action at the UC Berkeley sports center or view the nearby stadium full of spectators in the midst of a football game.

But wonder of wonders:

Unlike other zones on the globe, it seems that the ultra-right-wing AIIPAC had the last word on what Google will let us see in Palestine & Israel.
While all the illegal settlements, even the tiniest ones’ are listed by their names, it seems that most of the Palestinian villages or towns had miracolously disappeared. Full size cities like Nablus are marked by tiny letters, while Elon More, according to the letter size, is probably a 10,000,000 size metropolis, thus Nablus may be suspected as a slum neighborhood at it’s outskirts.

Some examples – what is written for what it is.
Nablus Yeshiva = Hawara
Matkhan Tapuah = Tsomet Tapuach
Rehelim = Sawieh
nothing written = Akrabe
Karmei Tsur with HUGE letters, Beit Ummar hardly noticeable.

Also the resolution quality at the Palestinian zones is extremely poor, compared to all other places on the globe. Undoubtly this is intentional. Therefore we are denied of the lovliest of sights such as the overcrowded checkpoint zones, the splendid appartheid wall (the 9th wonder), the demolished homes……. . As a compensation we can see the tip of Eiffel tower and observe nearby strollers, or glide near the Everest’s crest.

Of course the press a mentioned week ago (“The Marker”?) that Google accepted to blur Israel’s sensitive security zones (such as military airfields or Beit Zacharia’s launch sites), but could it be that someone tricked Google to apply this magic also to “innocent” views whereby the Palestinian communities are represented as a blurry spot on the global scene, just as they are treated by the majority of the enlightened countries?


A Sad Day: for Rachel Corrie
By Starhawk

Yesterday was a sad day. The third anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, crushed by a bulldozer in Rafah, in the Gaza strip. All day the sky glowered, dark and oppressive, while from time to time drenching showers rained down, as if nature herself were weeping.

Three years since Rachel was killed; three years since we opened fire on Iraq. Three years ago, I was in the West Bank, running down to Gaza to support the team that was with Rachel, back to Nablus to support my friend Neta Golan as she gave birth to her first child, back to Rafah to support the team that was with Tom Hurndall another young ISM volunteer, when he was shot by an Israeli sniper. Yesterday, I was cleaning mouse shit out of my own pantry, hearing Neta on the radio as I drove down to the city in the pouring rain, talking about the Israeli raid on the police station in Jericho, where she had gone to try once again to intervene in the violence.

Three years. The war in Iraq devolves into one of those tragedies where most of the players end up dead. The Bush administration, although discredited in every meaningful way and low in the public opinion polls, still has enough power to avoid impeachment or censure, threaten Iraq, to press Congress to legalize its illegal spying, pack the Supreme Court with justices likely to overturn Roe vs. Wade. There’s a lot to weep for, or perhaps, scream about.

But today, what I’m thinking about in the rain is that a play about Rachel Corrie, based on her writings and emails, entitled Rachel’s Words, has been ‘indefinitely postponed’ by the New York Theater Workshop, under pressure from some elements in the Jewish community.

I’m sad as a Jew. Even though we go to great lengths to separate Israel and its actions from Judaism and Jewishness, for all the best political reasons, even though I’m far more a Pagan than a Jew in my practice, I was born and raised as a Jew. Jewish ritual and thought and education formed my character and way of being in the world. Jewish ideals are of social justice and intellectual freedom and pride in being a nation of stubborn survivors of oppression.

I was raised to believe that Jews were special, that our heritage of suffering had made us more sensitive to the suffering of others, that our religion focused on life on earth, not life after death, and that the God of justice we believed in called us to make justice, here and now, for everyone. That the legacy of the Prophets was the legacy of courage, to speak truth to power, to challenge authority.

What is so threatening, what we can’t stand as Jews, is that Rachel’s story makes us the oppressors. Her life, her own acts of simple courage, challenge all the “What can we do’s” and “We have to’s” that justify the daily humiliation of Palestinians.

When I’ve been there, confronting soldiers at checkpoints or in villages, I hear it over and over again: “What can we do? We have no choice.”

A prophet, today, might wander the desert and the superhighways, the Temple Mount and the shopping streets of both Tel Aviv and New York, crying out, “There is always a choice!” Every moment of our lives, we make choices, and our choices define who we will be.

The fact that I’m home, cleaning mouse shit out of the pantry, is a choice. I’m not on the front lines, today. The depth of the mouse droppings reflects the amount of time I’ve not been home over the last years, and that elements of my personal life have finally clamored for their share of attention.

The other day, I found a wounded mouse in a trap, caught only by one paw. Even though I’d set the trap to kill it, my immediate instinct was to think about how I could save it. It was a cute, helpless little thing, it’s eyes bewildered and pleading. Could I somehow release it without getting bitten, set its broken leg? I quickly realized that was an insane idea. I could have just thrown it outside, to let some predator deal with it, but it seemed kinder to kill it myself, cleanly and quickly.

I covered it with a newspaper, so the poor, shivering thing wouldn’t see the blow coming, and got a baseball bat. I tried whacking it with the bat, but at the last moment my muscles rebelled, shrinking away from the deed, and the mouse must have sensed something coming and ducked, for when I pulled the paper off, it was untouched by the blow, and even more terrified. I tried again, and again, and kept missing. I began to feel like I was caught in an awful nightmare. Instead of quickly ending the mouse’s suffering, I was in fact torturing it. At some point, I found myself thinking, “I am a kind, compassionate person. Why am I beating this mouse to death?”

I am a kind, compassionate person, and from the mouse’s perspective, I am a monster. I’m not sure why I’m telling this story, except maybe to speculate on compassion. Compassion is generally considered to be a good thing, but I’ve seen people invoke it in a way that seems to turn their brains to mush. “I know Bush is doing bad things, but I do bad things too, and we need to send him love and compassion.” That’s not compassion—that’s Stockholm syndrome, the psychological phenomenon whereby kidnap victims or hostages or abused children come to identify with those who hold power over them, and want to please them. I, or you, might from time to time kill a mouse, but we haven’t lied to the American people, caused the death of over 2500 soldiers and hundreds of thousands of deliberately uncounted Iraqis, to name just one of Bush’s sins. Scale counts. There is a long continuum between killing mice and feeding your neighbors through a wood chipper. The distance between those acts matters: and it is a continuum.

Compassion is being able to see the perspective from which our acts are monstrous, even if they are the best choices we can make. The mouse has a point of view, too. It’s not trying to infect me with Hanta virus or foul my food. The mouse is just being a mouse, trying to survive, attracted by the warmth and wealth of my kitchen.

It was a horrible thing to have to do. It left me shaken up, for hours. But it was a much worse day for the mouse.

Compassion is remembering that. We are human beings. By our very existence, we experience suffering, and we cause suffering. We can do our best, however imperfectly, to make choices that minimize that suffering. And we will still sometimes do monstrous things.

Let’s not carry this metaphor too far. Palestinians are not mice. Nor are Iraqis. Even terrorists are human beings, with a human capacity for reason and communication. We have many more choices in dealing with human beings than we do with mice.

At the very least, let’s be willing to look in the mirror and see our own monster faces. To own our choices, and take responsibility for the suffering we cause. If any religion, any political system, is to retain real moral authority, it must call us to do just that.

We need to hear Rachel’s words. I wish, this spring, that they could be read aloud at every Seder table, chanted from every Rabbi’s pulpit along with the weekly Torah portion, discussed in Hebrew school classes and debated in Temple youth groups.

Then, maybe, as kind, compassionate monsters, we could start to make real choices. We could ask ourselves, what is it costing to defend this house? To build walls of concrete around it? Whose blood, whose death is it built upon? Why are we walling ourselves into a new, reverse ghetto of our own making?

What are we choosing to become?


The Heroes of Tel Rumeida
By Mary Baxter

The heroes of Tel Rumeida are twelve children, who need to pass by or through the Tel Rumeida Israeli settlement to get to school. They are from about 5 to 14 years old. They are frightened of the settlers who threaten and at times attack them. But still they come six days a week. Israeli settler children travel by bus past Palestinian houses but Palestinian children must walk, often by themselves.

The settlers want their houses in order to expand their settlement but the Palestinians will not sell. Hence the threats! One family was driven out of their home but won a court case and are now back in the house. The court order said there should be police in front of their house when they return from school. This seldom occurs. Other families were shut in their houses for three years. Settler caravans have been placed on their street and they were not allowed use the street to come and go. In July 2005, they won a court order to have a rough track parallel to the street, on their own land. There was an incident in December 2005 when one of the families tried to have goods delivered to the track and settlers objected. Following that Israeli soldiers placed razor wire across the entrance and along one side of the track. The family again have access to the track but the wire is still there. Everyday children must open razor wire and walk along a track, where they are between settlers on one side and razor wire on the other.

These children are often yelled at or detained by young Israeli soldiers. The soldiers, who are mostly reasonable young men are “carrying out orders” and do not understand the situation. They see the settlers at their best. Although the Palestinian children are often very frightened, they keep the passage to their houses open. They are the bravest people I know.


“You Won’t Impose Your Wall on us!”

In the continuation of the non-violent resistance to the annexation wall in the Palestinian village of Bil’in, demonstrators carried a model of the wall with the sentence “You will not impose your wall on us” written in Arabic. The 150 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists were, as usual, prevented from reaching the wall by Israeli soldiers and Border Police. As demonstrators attempted to pass the line of soldiers, sound grenades were thrown and activists were beaten with wooden clubs by the Israeli forces. One Palestinian man was clubbed in the head and taken away in a Palestinian ambulance, and several others had minor injuries.

During a calmer period of the demonstration, a small ceremony was held to honor and thank one international activist who has spent almost 2 months living in Bil’in. He helped protect the outpost which was built on the Bil’in lands which the wall effectively annexes to the Israeli settlement. The outpost was built as a Peace Center for the joint Palestinian, Israeli and international struggle against the wall.

Several activists succeeded in getting around the army line and banged on a metal gate with stones. One by one soldiers brutally dragged them back to “their” side of the imaginary line which the soldiers had drawn. Imaginary line because in actuality all of the area, including the wall construction site and the settlement, belongs to Bil’in village. As the demonstration continued more and more activists were able to get around the soldiers to bang stones on the metal fence, and the soldiers gave up on trying to drag them all back behind the army line. Even though about half the demonstrators had already passed this line, soldiers continued to be very forceful in their attempts to block more people from crossing.

Towards the end of the non-violent demonstration, a few hundred meters away, a couple of village youth and Israeli soldiers were engaged in their weekly battle of stones versus tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. After most of the demonstrators had returned to the village, at least a dozen live ammunition shots were heard coming from this direction.