Reflections on the Balata Invasion:
1.Simply. Not. News. by neta Golan
2.Report of Balata Invasion by IWPS
3.Watching your tax dollars at work by Katie
4.A few days in a war zone by Harrison Healy
5. A Message Crushed Again by Katharine Viner
6. Rickman Slams ‘Censorship’ of Play about US Gaza Activist by Julian Borger
7.Why are people afraid of Rachel Corrie’s words? by Ann Petter and Jen Marlowe
8. Spreading Rachael’s words
9.Remembering Rachel Corrie- Third annual memorial
Reflections on the Balata Invasion:
1.Simply. Not. News.
March 4th, 2006
By Neta Golan
I work in the ISM media office. On February 19th 2006 the Israeli milit1ary once again invaded Balata Refugee Camp.
I remember the first invasion that Sharon orchestrated into the camps during this intifada, in February 2002. I remember that I could not believe it was happening. Never in my worst nightmares would I believe, had someone told me, that four years later such horror would become “normal.”
IWPS and ISM volunteers called me in the office as they accompanied Palestinian medics in their efforts to give medical treatment to the wounded and sick in the camp. They called me when the Israeli military shot towards ambulances and denied them access to Balata. They called me when they witnessed unarmed 22-year-old Mohammad Subkhi Abu Hanade being shot in the chest by a sniper through his bedroom window. I wrote a press release, emailed and faxed it and then called the news agencies and journalists.
No one wrote about it. Not even the Arabic press which is always more responsive.
The next morning I looked everywhere for news of the invasion and found none.
That day Sixteen year old Kamal Khalili was shot and was clinically dead by the time he made it to the hospital. The woman that answered the phone at Agency France Press said “call us back when he dies” and hung up.
The volunteers called me when soldiers refused to let them treat ill people in families whose homes had been occupied. They called me when people in the camp ran out of food and baby formula. They called me when the youth of the camp who defended their homes with stones and makeshift barricades were shot at wounded and killed. They gave me the names and the ages of children shot at with live ammunition.
I wrote it all down even though I knew that the mainstream media did not want to know.
I wrote it down knowing that wounded, hungry and imprisoned Palestinian civilians are simply. Not. News.
2. IWPS report on the Nablus invasion
For pictures see: https://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/02/25/take-a-virtual-tour-of-the-2006-balata-invasion/
March 5th, 2006 |
Sunday 19th of February
At approximately 1:30 a.m. of the 19th of February, the Israeli army started an operation named “Northern Glory.” The IDF invaded Balata with helicopters and drones as well as about 50 army vehicles, including four armored personnel carriers (APCs) and two bulldozers, starting to block of the camp with its 30 000 residents from its surrounding and from Nablus City. The UNRWA schools of the camp were turned into a military base and a number of civilian houses were occupied.
In the early morning, the army surrounded the house of the Hamami family in search of Ahmad Abu Ras, 28, and arrested him and another person. In an act of collective punishment they then destroyed the house.
The army declared a curfew on the refugee camp the following morning and enforced it for 64 hours, until leaving Balata in the evening of the 21st of February. An unknown number of houses were occupied and used as sniper position, while holding the families inside and restricting them to one room. In some areas of the camp house to house searches were conducted, causing property damages to varying degrees.
Children and youth inside the camp and in its surrounding started resisting the invasion by throwing stones, bottles with paint etc. on the armored army vehicles and building barricades. The army responded with excessive use of rubber coated steal bullets and live ammunition, resulting in about 35 injuries, most of them youth, on the first day of the invasion. IWPS volunteers also witnessed soldiers in a Jeep with the number 611 338 inciting youth by cursing their parents and threatening the youth to make them martyrs.
Around 2 p.m. Mohammed Ahmad Natur and Ibrahim Ahmad Sheikh Issa, both 17 years old, were killed by a sniper shooting from an occupied house while being on the roof of one of their houses, watching the confrontation. One boy was hit by a live bullet in his neck, the other in the chest. The brother of one of the boys was shot in the thigh when he tried to come to their help. The army later clamed they were planting bombs. However, while the army tried to block the fatally injured boys from being carried to the ambulance, no attempts were made to enter the house and no bomb squad were brought to either the house or the streets around it.
Monday 20th of February
The operation continued throughout Monday and Tuesday, the 20th and 21st of February, with the army using tear gas, sound bombs, rubber bullets – often shot with a device that spray shoots several bullets at once – and live ammunition against youth throwing stones, resulting in more injuries.
Between 2.30 a.m. and 4 a.m. on the 20th of February the army searched the house of the Kitawi family, looking for their wanted son. The whole family, including children, were forced on the street, while the army destroyed much of the family belongings. Food and clothing were thrown on the floor and furniture damaged, a fridge, TV, electronic equipment smashed. Sound bombs were exploded inside the house. The father of the family reports being cursed by soldiers and threatened that his wanted son would be killed unless he turned himself in. He also reports that 4500 Shekel and 550 Dinar were stolen from the house.
In the same night the army also entered the old city of Nablus and killed Islamic Jihad militant Ahmad Mohammad Nayef Abu Sharkh, 29.
Around 17.00 p.m., when the situation had quieted down, international and medical volunteers sitting outside a field clinic in the Balata Market Street witnessed two shots being fired from an occupied house on the house across the street. A 22 year old man, who was standing at the window of his room, was hit in the chest and seriously injured. Army jeeps drove up to the house, but did not interfere as the injured youth and his heavily pregnant sister, who went into labor due to the shock, were evacuated by ambulances. Shortly afterwards the soldiers forced the rest of the family, including two small children and two babies, into the street, while searching the house and shooting live ammunition inside. They later threatened the ambulances on the scene and the family with shooting and throwing tear gas to make them leave the area. An explosion was set in front of the house.
Late Tuesday afternoon the army pulled out of the camp, injuring more youth in the process. Many people had taken to the streets thinking the army had left, when some jeeps came back to evacuate an occupied house.
Wednesday 22nd of February
On Wednesday 22nd, the army conducted an arrest operation in Kufr Kalil, a village on
the outskirts of Balata Refugee Camp, lasting from the early afternoon till after midnight. The Amer family house, where four fighters from the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades were hiding, was surrounded and the two resident families, about 22 persons including children, were called to leave the house and kept under the trees in the area. Four surrounding houses, each home to 2-3 families with many children and babies, were occupied by the army and the families were kept inside, forbidden to turn on the light or to use their phones to contact family members outside the house. The operation ended with the arrest of the four fighters.
Thursday 23rd of February
Thursday around 3 a.m. the refugee camp was re-invaded and army bulldozers again blocked most of the entrances.
Thursday morning Ibrahim Saideh, 19, was killed in ad-Dahiyyeh, a neighborhood
overlooking Balata Refugee Camp. The youth was hit by two live bullets in the abdomen and back, damaging his liver, intestines and one of the main veins.
At 1.30 p.m. on Thursday, Naim Abu Saris, 29, was killed by a live bullet in the heart,
shot by a sniper from an occupied house, while being on the roof of his house. The army claimed he was armed, but eye witnesses deny this. No confrontations were going on in the area of his house at that time.
During the morning an area close to the Balata Camp cemetery was sealed off and house to house searches were conducted. The Israeli Army surrounded the house of Mohammad Amar Abu Hamis, 32, where he and two other fighters of the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Hammoudeh Ishtawi, 32, and Hassan Hajaj, 21, where hiding. Around 11.45 a.m. the army set of an explosion in the house, without prior warning to the civilians in the area, which caused a fire. The smoke also affected the families in neighboring houses, two of whom had to be evacuated with the help of medical volunteers. The army forbid the medical team from checking on the residents of other affected houses and prevented the Palestinian firemen who arrived to the area shortly afterwards from approaching the house, attempting instead to put out the fire with water brought in cooking pots and buckets by women from the neighboring houses.
At 12.30 more explosions were set of. Reportedly, there was an exchange of fire between the army and the surrounded militants, resulting in the injury of two Israeli soldiers.
At about 2 p.m., after a quiet period, an explosion followed by live fire hit a group of medical workers, international volunteers and journalists who where observing the events around the house from the end of the narrow alleyway next to the cemetery. Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (PMRC) ambulance driver Jareer Candola was hit by shrapnel in the hand and the leg, cutting nerves and veins under the knee. Ihab Mansour, a medical volunteer with the Scientific Medical Society, was hit by either shrapnel or a live bullet in the head and lost consciousness. Another PMRC volunteer was lightly injured by shrapnel in the chest and two IWPS volunteers from Holland and the United States also suffered light injuries by shrapnel, one in the shoulder and the thigh, the other in her arm. The army blocked the rescue efforts, causing a delay of at least 30 minutes. The ambulance transporting Ihab Mansour was then stopped again on its way to the hospital and Mansour was arrested from the ambulance. At the time of writing he is reported to be under arrest in critical condition in Beilinson Hospital inside Israel.
At around 3.30 p.m. the army evacuated the area and the camp after dragging the bodies of the three militants out to confirm their death. As the army left, residents and medical teams rushed to the scene to recover the bodies, which were all severely mutilated by the explosions.
Throughout the invasion at least 12 persons were arrested, two of them from ambulances.
Number of injuries during the invasion
Dr. Samir Abu Zaroor from Rafidia hospital gives the following data on the injuries throughout the invasion. These numbers are not complete; due to the large number of casualties some cases were transferred directly to other hospitals in Nablus.
About 100 people were injured during the invasion. Their ages range from 12 to 63, though the majority of casualties were young boys and men between 15 and 25.
14 cases of severe bruises and fractures caused by jeeps driving into people
28 cases of injuries by beating
4 cases of injuries caused when people fell while running away from the army
37 injuries caused by plastic coated steel bullets (so called rubber bullets)
21 cases of live bullets
Severe cases included:
a 17 year old boy shot with a live bullet at short range into his left shoulder, breaking his shoulder and damaging a main artery, which caused heavy bleeding;
a youth, who suffered multiple fractures in his thigh by a live bullet and will be permanently disabled;
a man, 26 year old, hit by live bullets in the throat and the head, who was transferred to Ihloff Hospital in Tel Aviv in critical condition;
a 63 year old taxi driver, who was injured by bullet fragments in his left shoulder and a live bullet in his head;
a youth who was transferred to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem who was shot in the throat.
Restrictions on medical access
Apart from the injuries directly inflicted by the Israeli army, the several day long siege and curfew of the camp and its population of about 30 000 people created a more general humanitarian crisis. Families were running out of bread and milk for the children and some patients out of medicine. Women in labor, sick children and chronically ill people, suffering from Asthma, Diabetes, high blood pressure or needing dialysis, were all cut of from the normal medical infrastructure, the army often preventing or delaying their access to medical treatment. In addition, severe restrictions were imposed on the movement of ambulances and medical volunteers. Ambulances, medical teams and the UN clinic in the camp were attacked several times. The most severe case, resulting in the injury of two medical workers on Thursday 23rd, is described above. Following are other cases of preventing or delaying access to medical care and attacks on medical workers that where witnessed by IWPS volunteers or reported to them by Palestinian medical workers. More cases may have occurred.
Sunday 19th of February
At around 11.30 two injured, Mahmoud Rajeh and Saleh Abu Alfa were arrested out of Ambulances on their way to the hospital. A PMRC ambulance was later called to Huwara Military base to pick up Rajeh, while Abu Alfa was arrested and transferred to Beilinson hospital inside Israel.
At around 12.30 two jeeps cornered an ambulance carrying an injured person and a women with labor complications. The jeeps pushed the ambulance from the front and the back, fired a shot in its direction and forced it to stand between the jeeps for about half an hour, while youth were throwing stones at them.
At around 1:00 pm two ambulances were held stopped by several jeeps outside Balata camp. According to the ambulance team they were detained for about 40 minutes and a young man with a bullet wound in the shoulder was beaten inside one of the ambulances. The soldiers forced the ambulance personnel to undress his wound to prove he is injured, making the wound start bleeding again. The ambulance was held until the family, with the help of the ambulance team and the IWPS volunteers, brought his ID card. After his ID was checked, the ambulance continued its way, only to be stopped again by the next jeep on the road.
At around 1:30 pm two boys, aged between 11 and 14 years, were injured in their legs with live ammunition. One had a flesh wound, while the other had his femur crushed by the bullet. The soldiers did not allow the ambulance to reach the injured, who had to be carried about two kilometers out of the camp by medical volunteers using a stretcher and a mattress.
Around 6 p.m. a boy hit by a plastic coated bullet in the head also had to be carried out of the camp to reach the ambulance.
Monday 20th of February
At approximately 7:15 am, a military jeep shot in the direction of the ambulance from a distance of about 200m preventing it from approaching the area close to the main entrance of the camp.
At approximately 11:15 the army attempted to close the UN medical clinic by shooting warning shots and percussion grenades. They also prevented patients from entering the clinic.
At approximately 11.35 a team of medical and international volunteers was shot at with tear gas.
At approximately 15:40 Israeli soldiers denied entry to a medical team attempting to deliver food and medicine into the camp. The Israeli soldiers also threatened to shoot them.
Tuesday 21st of February
Around 1 p.m. soldiers in a Jeep with the number 611 323 shot tear gas at an ambulance delivering medical supplies and pointed their guns at a team of medical and international volunteers accompanying patients including a small child to the UN clinic.
– – – – –
Witness/es: IWPS and Palestinian Medical Relief workers.
Report written by: Clara and Vera
Edited by: Grace
Contact details: IWPS withholds this information as a courtesy to those involved – we will do our best to furnish you with all the relevant information you might need to begin action.
The International Women’s Peace Service, Haris, Salfit, Palestine.
Tel:- (09)-2516-644. Mobile:- 067-870-198
Email:- email@example.com Website
3. Watching your tax dollars at work….
For pictures see:
February 25th, 2006
Three days of IOF invasion in Balata refugee camp.
On February 19th, I received a call from M.M. saying the IOF had invaded the Balata refugee camp and killed two teenage boys. They were using the girls school in the camp as a base of operations. M.M. said ISMers were needed in Balata to help with the medical evacuations because often the IOF will not allow ambulances to leave the camp. The military has arrested injured persons on their way to the hospital before. Our presence would hopefully pressure the soldiers to regain their humanity in these situations. In addition, the presence of internationals has the effect of making the soldiers less likely to unnecessarily kill Palestinians. Three other ISMers and I soon headed north to Nablus, the city next to Balata refugee camp.
Once in Nablus, we were picked up but couldn’t be driven up to the camp. We had to get off about 200 meters from the entrance. I called M.A. to ask for further instructions. He said that two medical volunteers would come out to meet us and escort us to the clinic inside the camp. We began walking towards the entrance while residents of Nablus were waving to us, asking us to stop and that we should not go in there because it was dangerous. A tank and a jeep were blocking the main entrance to the camp. We stopped when we saw the two volunteers coming out. They motioned for us to follow and we began walking in the direction of the tank. I was not feeling very happy about this when a voice from the tank shouted on a megaphone “GO AWAY.” I felt a little bit scared but I followed the volunteers anyways as they changed course and headed down a series of narrow alleys. We emerged onto a wide street and saw the tank had moved to intercept us about 200 meters away down the street. They fired shots in the air. I screamed, grabbed Wendy’s hand and we dashed across the street.
We continued to follow the two volunteers but I was beginning to not feel confident in them. At one point they lead us straight down a street towards an army jeep whose driver demanded to see our passports. I knew if they got a hold of our passports it would be all over. We would be arrested for being in a closed military zone and/or blacklisted- which means we could never enter the country again, and would be removed from Balata. I yelled to my four friends, “we have to leave NOW, yalla!” I ran down the nearest small alleyway followed by the others and bumped into a group of surprised and confused young men. I attempted to ask if their house was a place we could hide while at the same time calling M.A. on the phone to ask where we should go. I was really freaked out at this point but fortunately we were quite near M.A. and he found us immediately.
M.A. took us to the clinic and explained that we would be helping the medical volunteers evacuate the injured and take food to families in occupied houses. Let me explain what an occupied house is. When the IOF wants to use someone’s house or roof as a base of operations, they lock the family in one room and use the house to their heart’s content. Often they will refuse to let the family out to use the toilet or to eat. This is a very traumatic experience for the families. The volunteers go to these houses and attempt to reason with the soldiers, try to see if anyone is sick or injured and needs to go to the hospital, and bring food and medication.
There is garbage and squalor everywhere in Balata. Other than this, the two most unique aspects are the density of the population (25,000 people in two square kilometers) and the martyr posters on the walls of all the buildings. Most of these men (and some women) have been killed during the military invasions of Balata. A small number died in attacks against Israelis. The tragedy of Balata is apparent in these posters. Some of the martyrs are boys and most are posed with guns. These are photo studio portraits with guns as props (the guns are photo studio props here just like teddy bears are photo studio props elsewhere.) All the boys and men have them taken “just in case.” Just in case, like 17-year-old Ibrahim and Naim whose funeral I would later watch. Nablus and Balata have had approximately 500 martyrs since the start of the second Intifada in 2001.
During the day, we went out in groups of two or three internationals and two or three Palestinian medics looking for injured people. I was surprised that there were not more injuries that day during the clashes between the IOF and the kids. When the American media reports these types of clashes, they portray Palestinian kids behaving badly by throwing rocks at soldiers who have no choice but to shoot back to defend themselves. This is not exactly how it is. These kids, who range in age from 5 to about 25, have no school to go to during the invasions. (Perhaps because theirs is occupied by the soldiers ?) All they can do is hang out in the streets collecting the only ammunition available with which to defend their city. If you can condemn them for this then I would have to ask you the following question: If soldiers invaded your city, would you do nothing while they occupied your houses and killed your young men? Or would you fight back using the method of your choice ? These kids are fighting back with rocks as weapons, garbage and debris as roadblocks, and I salute them in their bravery. They have nothing to lose. When the jeeps needed to go down the street, a bulldozer would go in first and clear the way. The kids would then gather rocks and pull chunks of cement from the houses and pelt the bulldozer. Then the jeeps would come through, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and sometimes live ammunition. We would hide in alleys until the vehicles had passed and then emerge to see the kids collecting rocks again and chanting “Allahu Akbar,” God is great. This happened over and over and over. At first it was terrifying, then it became only slightly alarming, and then it just became normal.
What was the IOF doing in Balata? Apparently their mission was to kill and/or arrest fighters. The media would probably call the fighters “terrorists.” Other people might use the term freedom fighters. It probably depends on whether you ask the occupier or the occupied.
At night we had to stay inside the ISM apartment in Balata. We could hear shooting going on until 1 am, but we had no idea what was happening outside. Two others stayed awake the whole night in case something happened we and we needed to help.
That night was the scariest I have ever lived though. I say this with the guilt that comes from someone who lives with much privilege. For the people of Balata last night was just another in a lifetime of traumatizing military actions. The Palestinian medical volunteers often tried to soothe the internationals for whom all of this was a new experience.
On February 20th, I woke up to the sound of kids laughing and playing in the street and thought, “the invasion must be over.” I was wrong. This is an example of the most disturbing part of the Balata invasion. It was normal that kids would be out laughing and playing in the street even if there were military jeeps and humvees one block over. People were calm because this was nothing new to them. The next thing I heard as I was waking up was “Nablus….itnayn shaheedayn”, Nablus has two martyrs. Two fighters had been killed in the city of Nablus, adjacent to the Balata refugee camp where I was and which was currently under siege.
All nine international volunteers and several Palestinian medics were all sitting in the clinic listening to the sounds of jeeps and rocks outside when we heard live ammunition fired. It was so close by that after I was done screaming and leaping three feet into the air, I had to look around to see if anyone had been hit. Everyone in the clinic was fine, but, across the street, the target of the fire had been hit. He was shot through the window he was sitting next to. The bullet deflected off of the metal grill outside the window. He must have been shot by an IOF sniper from a nearby roof. We dashed across the street into the house. Everyone was in a panic; women screaming and children crying. I tried to comfort a little girl as the medics were running in and out. A few minutes later the victim was carried out on a stretcher. He had been shot in the chest and he had lost a lot of blood. He was put into an ambulance which was waiting outside. A few minutes later another member of the same family who appeared to be eight or nine months pregnant was taken out and put into an ambulance. She hadn’t been shot, fortunately, but the stress induced labor. The military, which had been waiting outside in the jeeps and humvees watching the chaos ordered the family out of the house and us off of the street. From inside the clinic, we could hear more gunfire and explosions coming from right outside. I was so scared I started crying. After they were done ransacking the house, the soldiers left and the family was allowed back in. We had received an update from the hospital and Mohammad, the man who’d been shot, was going to live.
The next day it was more of the same. We put a teenager who’d been shot in the chest onto a stretcher and sent him off to the hospital. We attempted to bring food to a family in an occupied house but after knocking on the door for five minutes and explaining that we were volunteers trying to bring food and check on the family, we were told to go away.
As we were walking down an alley, a man pulled Ahmad, one of the Palestinian medics aside, and they motioned for us to come into a house where we saw four women sitting on the floor, quietly crying. I thought they were just scared. They didn’t appear any more upset than any of us had been the night before, just sitting there and quietly crying… Ahmad tried to comfort one of them. We were called out after only a few minutes and it was then I learned from Ahmad that this was the family of one of the boys who had died two days before. Knowing that slammed me hard in the stomach.
At one point, Ahmad was detained for thirty minutes for an ID check. The soldiers insisted that these ID checks take a long time, they have to put them through a database to make sure they are not suspected terrorists. Hey soldiers, you can’t fool me, I’m a pro now at watching Palestinian ID checks!! I know how long it takes to run someone’s ID through; in Tel Rumeida, if the soldiers are in one of their rare good moods, it doesn’t take more than five minutes! One ISMer argued with the soldier until Ahmad was released.
That night the soldiers decided to leave a home they had been occupying near the clinic. We were told to stay inside the clinic as the soldiers are very nervous and vulnerable when they exit an occupied house. They often bring the residents out with them as human shields until they can get in their vehicles and get away. More rocks, gunfire and explosions, tear gas coming into the clinic. Someone was shot in the head with a rubber bullet.
To cope with the stress I drew offensive cartoons in my sketchbook, we made sick jokes, and Wendy and I talked about which martyrs were the cutest. My kuffiya became my security blanket and I cuddled with it at night.
We were all a little bit crazy when on February 21, M.A. told us the invasion was over. Five dead total, forty injured, five of M.A.’s friends arrested. I have to hand it to M.A., he was in charge in Balata, everyone looked up to him and he did an awesome job. I’m also amazed at the international volunteers I worked with, everyone did what was needed, none of them went crazy and for most of them it was their first time in an invasion.
That morning we watched the funeral procession of Ibrahim and Naim from a roof and when I saw those kid’s faces it was time for a long overdue cry. They were so young, so beautiful and I can’t get their faces out of my head. What if they were going to be the ones to lead their people to freedom? I wish I had gotten an opportunity to learn about who they were.
In less than 24 hours of returning to Tel Rumeida, the invasion of Balata has resumed again. A fellow American ISMer has been hit in the arm by shrapnel from an explosive in Balata. The Israeli secret service interrogated and beat a Palestinian ISMer for three hours while accusing him of having terrorist connections. An Israeli activist was shot in the eye by the rubber bullet in Beit Sira. Four hundred settlers in Hebron had a huge parade where they spoke about how they would not rest until all of Hebron controlled by “the Jews.”
If you have read this far, I thank you. Your knowledge of this event means the rest of the world has not abandoned Balata.
Please help in any way you feel you can!
4. A few days in a war zone
by Harrison Healy
March 1st, 2006
Last week was a conference on “International Struggle Against the Occupation of Palestine” held in Bil’in. Unfortunately, many of the ISM and IWPS (International Woman’s Peace Service) activists in Palestine including myself, were unable to attend due to an “incursion” taking place in Balata refugee camp. Balata Refugee camp is basically a cramped suburb of Nablus although people here always see the areas as separate. It has a population of about 30,000 crammed into 2 square kilometers. Many refugees from the 1948 Al Nakba (catastrophe), and others displaced from 1967 ended up in Balata.
It doesn’t fit your standard vision of a refugee camp. Unlike those temporary ones that you often see on television with tents etc. The displacement has become permanent for these people and a whole impoverished town has been set up. According to the Palestine monitor one fifth of all civilians and fighters who have died at the hands of the Israeli government, since the second Intifada come from this place. Unlike Ramallah where the majority of posters around were for the elections, here they were martyr posters and memorials.
The entire refugee camp was under curfew when I arrived on the second day of the “incursion”. The Army had instructed people not to leave their homes. All the shops were shut but people roamed the streets in open defiance of the curfew. Many people didn’t feel safe so they stayed at home, peering out of their windows. Before I had even made it to the camp 2 boys had been killed on the roof of their house by a sniper. The Israeli army frequently occupies houses in Balata(even when not involved in a full on “incursion”). They hold families hostage to prevent the houses from being attacked. During the invasion there were 5 occupied houses. Jeeps were driving up and down the street. This is all despite Nablus and Balata being Area A, meaning that after Oslo these areas were supposedly meant to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Still all the Israeli Army need to do is contact the Palestinian Authority and instruct their police to get out and they have to comply. Jeeps moved up and down the streets of Balata whilst tanks surrounded the perimeter. I was working with the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee (UPMRC), an initiative which sees Palestinians working as medics, giving them something constructive to do in a situation that makes you feel really helpless. We were walking around on patrol with the UPMRC, helping them get medicine to sick people and carrying people to Ambulances. During a patrol we bumped into someone who had just been hit in the head with a rubber bullet and was bleeding. Someone else had just been shot with another rubber bullet in the leg. It felt like being in back in St. Johns Ambulance when I was a kid only we weren’t dealing with cricket injuries or some guy who just got a bit too drunk.
The Ambulance’s rather then carrying non-smoking signs, had a no rifles sign. We were waiting for the inevitable casualties. Sometimes we would be out on patrol and at other times we were waiting in the Medical bay. We sat and talked about all sorts of things, joking around and ate a lot of chocolates like I used to do as a first aider waiting for something to happen. Only this sitting around and doing nothing was occurring with the background noise of large explosions and tear gas occasionally filling the room.
We tried to get medicine to one family but the tanks tried to stop us at every road, instructing us to turn back. We had to Indiana Jones style run past a tank on a major road and climb over a stone barrier the army put in place to get back into Balata and deliver the medicine. We lost one of our team in the process who didn’t quite make it. Thankfully he made it around another way.
That night, we were debriefing we heard gun fire across the road. A man was shot by a sniper whilst watching television in his home across the street from the medical centre. The army was hesitant to let the ambulance pass, they did so after much coercion. The man was shot in a major artery and was loosing a lot of blood. At that time we weren’t sure they hadn’t hit him in the heart. The ambulance passed as family members screamed, even a few of the ambulance workers became really angry towards the soldier in the jeep. But it wasn’t useful, we needed to get this person out and so we powerlessly carried the stretcher past an Israeli armored car. They weren’t even after this person. Shortly after a women in the family went into labour and we also had to rush her to an ambulance.
But the story doesn’t end there. The army then forced the family out of their home. The ambulance crews, myself and another international waited with the family outside. After half an hour in the cold, the army tried to instruct us to leave the family there. We refused and they pointed rifles at us from the jeep, placing the laser sight on my fore head. They also constantly gestured that they would throw grenades of some description out of the car.
Despite these threats we didn’t leave, the soldiers threatening to return in one minute. After this threat didn’t eventuate the family returned to their home. The family were so generous that despite just having their son shot they tried to offer us tea. We slept that night in the medical centre and I ended up on the early morning patrol. The narrow entrances to Belata camp were now all closed off. We managed to get out by traveling through a friends house but it wasn’t easy. The army prevented all but one of the ambulances from entering Balata so we would have to carry people to that ambulance or to the edge of the camp.
On the way back from our patrol we bumped into a man who had just had his house searched. Apparently his son was one of the men the army was “interested in.” This search demonstrated no respect for the family or their possessions. Electrical equipment was dismantled and left on the floor, wardrobes were emptied, their clothes and draws scattered across the room. The man inside wanted to spend ages talking to us, he was saying things about Jewish conspiracies and stuff that I find offensive, but how do you criticize a man who has just had his home raided, had everything he owns smashed and is having his son hunted by the “Jewish State” for being racist (let alone the incursion and all the previous problems in Balata).
We responded to distress calls from more people that day some had been shot, an old women who had trouble breathing because of the tear gas. We ended up going into an occupied house because we heard that one of the medical team had been kidnapped. It turned out that he was just giving medicine to a diabetic person. When we were in the occupied house my friend talked to one of the soldiers about where he was from in Israel etc. The soldier was clearly upset and we could tell he didn’t want to be there.
We tried to get into another occupied house where we heard someone was injured. We couldn’t get there because a soldier outside threw a sound bomb at us and threatened to shoot us if we moved closer. We found out later that person was ok. Many people were injured and some were killed, several people were also arrested. According to residents of the camp despite all the Israeli Army’s talk of needing to arrest fighters none of the people they were after had ever been involved in attacking past the green line or even attacking Israeli settlements or checkpoints. They were primarily defensive fighters, who fought back when the army attacked.
Finally the army withdrew from 4 of the 5 houses and all of the jeeps left. One of the boarder police jeeps came back to remove their people from the last house. They came in guns blazing and shot a kid in the head with live ammunition. They drove off Tuesday afternoon, none of us were sure when they would return.
I went back to Ramallah before the second invasion started however I came back later in the week for the funerals. The people of Balata gathered for the funeral of those that had died in the incursion.. Statements from the various Palestinian factions were passed around those gathered stating what they thought that the deaths meant in terms of the ‘peace process’ about the need to resist the occupation etc. They put these deaths into the broader context of the occupation.
Far from it being taboo to talk politics at the funeral or discussing the details of death the people of Balata are so used to it that they will share what ever information they can at such times.
After the funeral we were taken around to a house where some of the fighters were killed. The army surrounded the house and exploded everything inside killing the fighters who were hiding in the roof. Palestinians are aware that the choice to become a fighter is the reality that they will either die young or face life in prison.
We then proceeded to the hospital where we met many of the people that were injured during the “incursion.” Many of them were just young kids shot with live rounds.
5. A Message Crushed Again
From the Los Angeles Times
By Katharine Viner
March 1, 2006
THE FLIGHTS for cast and crew had been booked; the production schedule delivered; there were tickets advertised on the Internet. The Royal Court Theatre production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” the play I co-edited with Alan Rickman, was transferring later this month to the New York Theatre Workshop, home of the musical “Rent,” following two sold-out runs in London and several awards.
We always felt passionately that it was a piece of work that needed to be seen in the United States. Created from the journals and e-mails of American activist Rachel Corrie, telling of her journey from her adolescence in Olympia, Wash., to her death under an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza at the age of 23, we considered it a unique American story that would have a particular relevance for audiences in Rachel’s home country. After all, she had made her journey to the Middle East in order “to meet the people who are on the receiving end of our [American] tax dollars,” and she was killed by a U.S.-made bulldozer while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes.
But last week the New York Theatre Workshop canceled the production – or, in its words, “postponed it indefinitely.” The political climate, we were told, had changed dramatically since the play was booked. As James Nicola, the theater’s artistic director, said Monday, “Listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, we had a very edgy situation.” Three years after being silenced for good, Rachel was to be censored for political reasons.
I’d heard from American friends that life for dissenters had been getting worse – wiretapping scandals, arrests for wearing antiwar T-shirts, Muslim professors denied visas. But it’s hard to tell from afar how bad things really are. Here was personal proof that the political climate is continuing to shift disturbingly, narrowing the scope of free debate and artistic expression, in only a matter of weeks. By its own admission the theater’s management had caved in to political pressure. Rickman, who also directed the show in London, called it “censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences – all of us are the losers.”
It makes you wonder. Rachel was a young, middle-class, scrupulously fair-minded American woman, writing about ex-boyfriends, troublesome parents and a journey of political and personal discovery that took her to Gaza. She worked with Palestinians and protested alongside them when she felt their rights were denied. But the play is not agitprop; it’s a complicated look at a woman who was neither a saint nor a traitor, both serious and funny, messy and talented and human. Or, in her own words, “scattered and deviant and too loud.” If a voice like this cannot be heard on a New York stage, what hope is there for anyone else? The non-American, the nonwhite, the oppressed, the truly other?
Rachel’s words from Gaza are a bridge between these two worlds – and now that bridge is being severed. After the Hamas victory, the need for understanding is surely greater than ever, and I refuse to believe that most Americans want to live in isolation. One night in London, an Israeli couple, members of the right-wing Likud party on holiday in Britain, came up after the show, impressed. “The play wasn’t against Israel; it was against violence,” they told CindyCorrie, Rachel’s mother.
I was particularly touched by a young Jewish New Yorker from an Orthodox family who said he had been nervous about coming to see “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” because he had been told that both she and the play were viciously anti-Israel. But he had been powerfully moved by Rachel’s words and realized that he had, to his alarm, been
The director of the New York theater told the New York Times on Monday that it wasn’t the people who actually saw the play he was concerned about.
“I don’t think we were worried about the audience,” he said. “I think we were more worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments.”
Since when did theater come to be about those who don’t go to see it? If the play itself, as Nicola clearly concedes, is not the problem, then isn’t the answer to get people in to watch it, rather than exercising prior censorship? George Clooney’s outstanding movie “Good Night, and Good Luck” recently reminded us of the importance of standing up to witch hunts; one way to carry on that tradition would be to insist on hearing Rachel Corrie’s words – words that only two weeks ago were deemed acceptable.
KATHARINE VINER is the features editor at the Guardian in London and the editor, with Alan Rickman, of “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in April 2005. Because of the cancellation of the New York run, the play is transferring to the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End.
6. Rickman Slams ‘Censorship’ of Play about US Gaza Activist
February 28th, 2006 By Julian Borger
Published on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 by the Guardian / UK
A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current “political climate” – a decision the play’s British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as “censorship”.
James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March.
“In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation,” Mr Nicola said.
“We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn’t want to take.”
He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.
Mr Rickman, best known for his film acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London’s Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision.
“I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production “postponed” does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled,” Mr Rickman said in a statement.
“This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences – all of us are the losers.”
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old activist from Washington state crushed in March 2003 when she put herself between an Israeli army bulldozer and a Palestinian home it was about to demolish in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.
The International Solidarity Movement, of which she was a member, claimed the bulldozer driver ran her over deliberately. The Israeli Defence Forces said it was an accident, and that she was killed by falling debris.
The Israeli government said the demolitions were aimed at creating a “security zone” along the border. The Palestinians say they are a form of collective punishment.
“Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard,” Mr Rickman said.
My Name is Rachel Corrie consists of her diary entries and emails home, edited by Mr Rickman and Katharine Viner, features editor of The Guardian. It won the best new play prize at this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards in London.
7. Activism Call: Why are people afraid of Rachel Corrie’s words?
by Ann Petter and Jen Marlowe, The Electronic Intifada, 2 March 2006
AND HOW CAN WE WORK TOGETHER TO ENSURE THEY ARE HEARD EVEN MORE WIDELY?
The play My Name is Rachel Corrie was scheduled to open in New York on March 22nd. It has been “postponed indefinitely”.
In a New York Times article on February 28, James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) which was hosting the play, said he decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work.
In the Guardian, the play’s director Alan Rickman denounced the decision as “censorship”, stating “Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard.”
James Nicola stated “I don’t think we were worried about the audience, I think we were more worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments.”
Strange that he should be worried about people who have never encountered her writing, and so removes the opportunity to let people encounter her writing and decide for themselves. What kind of pressure could Mr. Nicola have faced that would lead to such a decision from a theatre with a history of producing controversial works?
Rachel’s mother Cindy wonders, “Why are people so afraid of Rachel’s words?” We ask the same question and are determined to give people the opportunity to hear those words.
We are coordinating a broad-based coalition of peace and justice groups, human rights groups, theatre groups, civil rights groups, and individuals to respond to this censorship of Rachel’s words with a strong and unified approach. March 16, the third anniversary of Rachel’s death, is a compelling date on which to do this. We are looking at a multi-pronged approach, encompassing both AN EVENT and A WORLD-WIDE ACTION.
A staged theatrical reading in New York City (on or near March 16th) of My Name is Rachel Corrie. We are inviting Megan Dodds and Alan Rickman, the actor and director of the Royal Court production to do the reading, but because they are mounting the show now at a theatre in London, it is unlikely that they will be able to come. In that case, we are working on finding high-profile actors in New York to do a reading of the play. If rights are not granted for the play itself, a highly publicized staged theatrical reading of Rachel’s e-mails and writings can still take place. The NYTW claimed, among other reasons, that they didn’t have enough time to put on the show. Let’s prove them wrong. We are doing outreach so this event can be staged in multiple cities nationally and world-wide if the correct permissions are granted.
The World-Wide Action
Over a 24-hour period throughout March 16, the third anniversary of Rachel’s death, activists in cities world-wide in a public space reading (with or without a loud-speaker or microphone) Rachel’s e-mails and journal entries. Fliers can be distributed to passers-by encouraging them to ask the question for themselves: Why are people so frightened of Rachel Corrie’s words? New York activists please note that March 16th coincides with the gala opening of the Made in Palestine exhibition (6-9PM), and the Free the P Hip-hop Slam & Party (show starts 9:30PM). Please plan accordingly so as not to overlap events.
What We Are Asking
Please endorse this initiative, and join this coalition. It’s not meant to replace any plans that groups may already have for March 16th or individual responses to the cancellation of the play (expressing feelings to the NYTW, writing op-eds, etc.) but to support them. In fact, we are hoping that a unified action, world-wide, and with press coverage will ensure that Rachel’s words are heard more widely than ever and, through her words, her message of human rights and justice will be heard as well. If you already have an event planned for March 16, perhaps reading from Rachel’s e-mails can be incorporated into or before/after your event. Groups and individuals can sign on.
What Has Been Done
• We are in direct contact with Cindy and Craig Corrie (Rachel’s parents) and are proceeding with their support and permission on all aspects of this event/action.
• We have sent a proposal to the Royal Court Theatre in London about the rights to the show. We will update you when we receive their response.
• We are approaching progressive theatre groups like THAW (Theaters Against War), with the hopes of developing contacts in the New York theatre community who can help pull this off.
• We have spoken to people from multiple groups and media outlets to get an initial feel about this action/event. People are enthused.
We are all outraged by what has happened. But we have the opportunity to harness our energy toward a very positive end. We are setting up a “Rachel’s Words” listserve and website to help facilitate joint communication. We will send regular updates as to which groups and individuals are signing onto this joint coalition and progress in the action/event. Please let us know if you want to be a part of this coordinated response.
Looking forward to working together in solidarity,
Ann Petter and Jen Marlowe
Please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
8. Spreading Rachael’s words
Because we feel Rachel Corrie’s story and message are so important, we have created “Rachel Corrie Cards” for people to distribute in their communities. We’re asking a small donation toward the printing costs, but will ship the cards to anyone who can help get them out to the public, with or without a donation. It will take all of us doing all we can to tell people the facts.
Text on Front of Card:
Rachel, we won’t forget you.
Rachel Corrie (1979-2003)
Rachel was killed when an Israeli soldier bulldozed her. She was trying to protect a family’s home in the Gaza Strip.
Text on Back of Card:
“Let me know if you have any ideas about what I should do with the rest of my life.”
– Rachel Corrie’s last email to her dad:
There is a quiet battle going on for the memory of a young woman who could have been my daughter, or perhaps yours.
On one side are those who would like to erase her from history; her actions, her beliefs, her murder. If they are unsuccessful at that, they will settle for posthumous slurs on her character, falsifications of her death.
On the other side are those who feel her shining principles should be praised, her courage honored, her death grieved. On this side are those who believe that heroism is noble, bravery admirable, and compassion for others the most fundamental form of morality.
To those of us on this side, Rachel Corrie will never be forgotten. She was 23 when she was killed. We won’t forget her young idealism, her sweet bravery, her needless death. And we won’t forget her beliefs, the third of which killed her: that good would triumph, that justice would prevail, that Israeli forces would not kill her.
She was wrong on that last one. On March 16, 2003, two Israeli soldiers drove a house-crushing bulldozer over her, twice, crushing her into the Gaza dirt. With five other nonviolent human rights defenders, Rachel had spent several hours in front of a family home in Palestine, pleading with Israeli soldiers not to demolish it. They didn’t (until later); they demolished her instead.
Her friends ran to her screaming. They dug her out of the dirt. One told me that Rachel’s eyes were open; her last words were, “My back is broken.”
Far more, of course, was broken. The day was broken, the universe was broken, her sister’s world was broken, her brother’s life was broken, her parents’ hearts were broken. All the things were broken that break when someone is killed.
Since fall 2000, over 3,800 Palestinian lives, days, worlds have been broken; over 1,000 Israeli ones. We hear about the Israeli tragedies; we rarely hear about the many times more Palestinian ones; the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers who are killed and mutilated during all those wonderful periods of “relative calm” our news media lie to us about.
I wonder how much (if at all) we’ll hear about Rachel Corrie on March 16th, the anniversary of her death. Israel, as with all those it kills, claims that her death “was an accident” or “was necessary for security” or that “she was a terrorist” or that “she was protecting terrorists”… As fast as these Israeli fabrications are refuted, new ones are produced. Never mind that they’re self-contradictory – our complicit media never question.
Change is coming, however, and it is gathering momentum. Americans of every race, religion and ethnicity remember Rachel, and grieve her death. While Congress is intimidated into denying her parents’ right to an investigation of the American “ally” who murdered their daughter, people in towns throughout the country are planning commemorations and future actions. One by one, people are rising up. We are reclaiming our nation, our principles, and our souls. We won’t forget Rachel. And we won’t be stopped.
Read Rachel’s letters: www.IfAmericansKnew.org
To order cards go to: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/rc-cards.html
9. Remembering Rachel Corrie- third annual memorial
The International Solidarity Movement Support Group in Northern California invites you to join us at the third annual Rachel Corrie Memorial.
We will celebrate the life of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old ISM volunteer who was killed by an Israeli soldier while nonviolently resisting the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. The event will also honor victims of violence everywhere and those unjustly imprisoned. Its objective is to raise awareness to and make connections between various global and domestic issues of social justice particularly the issue of Palestine.
Remembering Rachel Corrie
Thursday, March 16th 7:00pm
Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts
(formerly the Alice Arts Center) at 1428 Alice Street (cross street 14th), Oakland
(near 12th Street Bart, see Map)
Suggested Donation: $10-$20
See below for speakers and performers.
This event is accessible for disabled persons in wheelchairs.
There will also be ASL interpretation for the hearing impaired.
Speakers: Huwaida Arraf, Dolores Huerta, Maria Labossiere, Todd Chretien,
Kiilu Nyasha, Mary Jean Robertson.
Performers: Dennis Kyne, Stephen Kent, Ras K’ Dee, Lorene Zouzounis, Andrea Prichett, Dave Welsh, Dabke Dance Troup,
For speakers and performers bio’s see: http://www.norcalism.org/events.htm
Sponsors of the Rachel Corrie Event
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee-San Francisco, Bay Area Women in Black, Breaking the Silence, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Copwatch, Corpwatch, Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace (FFIPP), Friends of Deir Ibzia, Global Exchange, Haiti Action Committee, International Socialist Organizing, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for a Free Palestine, KPFA 94.1FM, KPOO 89.5 FM, Labor Committee for Peace & Justice, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, Not In Our Name, Palestinian American Congress, Rebuilding Alliance, SUSTAIN, Students for Justice in Palestine, Veterans for Peace