Wednesday was a quiet day in which I caught up with sleep lost to jetlag and fixed my email setup. On Thursday there was a demo in Beit Sira that we went to. It was Land Day, which commemorates a 1976 uprising of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The idea was to plant trees in the land of the village. This was unsuccessful because of the fully tooled up riot squad of Israeli soldiers that blocked our path. The most mild of pushing on their huge plexi-glass shields led to a full-on battering session.
Friday, of course, was the regular Bil’in demonstration. It was great to be back! Spirits were high and there was a good attendance. The Israeli anarchists were there in force as always. Also there were a lot of folk from Gush Shalom this week. The village committee’s plan was to use a large metal frame as a ramp to be able to get over the gate in the fence. A good attempt was made at this, but the soldiers were particularly nasty this week and lashed out almost immediately to stop this bridge building attempt. Can’t let the Palestinians into their own land now can we? The usual beatings and usage of “less lethal” weaponry on unarmed demonstrators ensued.
That night, myself along with two others from ISM stayed overnight in the Bil’in outpost, which was fun. It was a nice camping trip – it’s good to be outdoors in the fresh air! We sat around the fire with guys from the village, learned some Arabic and drank loads of sweet tea. About 7 in the morning we were woken up by the sound of an off-road vehicle pulling away. M. had seen them and said that it was soldiers who peeked in the door of the outpost to watch us sleeping. Furthermore they had apparently done the same thing three times that night!
Raining outside, though weather was warm yesterday. Training for new ISM folk tomorrow.
Must sleep. Bed soon.
The ISM training was yesterday and today. We had about eight new recruits, so it was a pretty good weekend session. At the end of today, we were planning how to spread ourselves around the regions that ISM covers and there was a really good vibe. We have some good activists here now and I am feeling more confident. The majority of us here now are British, I think. Mansour jokes that it is a British occupation of ISM (like there used to be a Swedish occupation).
This morning we went to a legal training session organised by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israeli (PCATI). It was a very useful and interesting session, and folk from ISM (including the new trainees), IWPS, the Tel Rumeida Project and CPT were there amongst others. Two Israeli lawyers gave us briefings on how Israeli military law applies to Palestinians in the occupied territories (the first session) and the rights of us as internationals in the occupied territories (the second session). The two lawyers are brilliant, committed people and they do loads of work for Palestinians and international activists like us supporting them. The main point that came across was that although Israel claims to uphold a fair, equal rule of law that governs the Palestinians in the occupied territories, in reality the military is the law and what they say goes. The Palestinians are subject to a whole slew of military orders, which are only written in Hebrew and are hard for the public to access. It’s a really nightmarish system. And it is an apartheid system too, because the Jewish settlers who live in the occupied territories are not subject to these military orders, rather they are governed by regular Israeli law which is far more lenient and accountable. Just one example of this – Israelis (and internationals) arrested in the occupied territories have to be brought before a judge for the initial hearing within 24 hours, but Palestinians will not see a judge for eight days. Furthermore, since this judge is a uniformed military officer, this hearing is simply a formality in which one part of the military asks another part of the military to extend the arrest. There are lots of examples of things like this, but the whole thing amounts to a system of apartheid, whose main aim is to ultimately to make the Palestinians leave their homes.
I might go to Hebron at some point this week to help the Tel Rumeida Project, as the folk there are very tired by the sound of it.
Must do laundry now.