1. Lauren’s Journal: Shaheid means Martyr
2. Teen Shot in the Head in Nablus
3. Timeline of a Nablus Invasion
4. Human Rights Workers’ Press Conference: Escalating Settler Violence in Hebron and
Open Letter to the Israeli Military and Police
5. JPost: “Volunteers: Settler violence on the rise”
6. Tel Rumeida Journal – Sunday 23/04/06
7. Excerpts from a review of “Letters from Young Activists”
8. Outside The Fence
1. Lauren’s Journal: Shaheid means Martyr
April 26th, 2006
Oh. God. They killed another one. Another shaheid. Another child martyr. Oh. God. Oh god. Ohgod. His blood. On the rocks. A hole in his head. It was a big hole. He is still alive after an hour from the shooting. But what does a rubber bullet 2 inches inside his brain with multiple skull fractures really offer? Oh god, when will this killing end? And I only just got here. Another mother lost a son. Another sister will cry tonight and every night. Another son only allowed to live 17 years. Prowling the streets, hunting for rocks the size of his hand to hurl at a jeep that would kill him. How does this make sense that this is all that was given to him in life?
But this boy was already free in a way before he was shot. He wasn’t afraid anymore. He stood up to the jeep. He was standing, until the bullet brought him face-down on the rocks. Maybe this is why they shot him, because the Israelis in the armored jeep were threatened by his fearlessness of them. He wasn’t suffering like the hundreds of thousands of people in Nablus from fear of their bullets.
Maybe he no longer wet himself at night dreaming of them burning down his house or killing his grandmother. Maybe he didn’t cower from the jeeps when they rolled down his street, or lose control at the sound of gunfire at close range. He was able to shake off this suffocating fear that I feel, that makes the ceiling descend and the world cease to exist beyond a few steps in front my feet – this is an admirable feat to have accomplished. And this is why he is a martyr.
2. Teen Shot in the Head in Nablus
April 25th, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nablus, West Bank
According to Dr. Samir Abu Zarour, at the emergency room in Rafidia Hospital, a 17 year-old boy “has multiple skull fractures on the right side of his head. A rubber-coated metal bullet made a tract through brain tissue and is now lodged in the left side. There is a grave risk to his life.”
Mohamed Saqer, from Askar refugee camp, and his friend Habesh [first name withheld] were throwing stones at a jeep (registration number 611046) driving on Aman Street, the main thoroughfare between Nablus and Balata. Habesh reported that the jeep pulled up to the corner and stopped. A soldier then fired one bullet directly at Saqer’s head from 15 meters away.
Israeli Open-Fire Regulations require a minimum range of forty meters for firing “rubber” bullets. The Regulations also stipulate that the bullets be fired only at a person’s legs.
For more information contact:
Lee 054 738 5754
Mohammed 054 621 8759
ISM Media Office 02 297 1824
3. Timeline of a Nablus Invasion
April 25th, 2006
For photos see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/04/25/nablus-invasion/
At approximately 11:00am the Army arrives at Tel street in Mafea Area of Nablus.
Military Operation to search the 5 story Aljhe building, likely used by students at nearby al-Naija university, and possibly to arrest some occupants. Four jeeps in attendance.
Soldiers arrived and used live ammunition from the start. Youth stone throwing at jeeps from surrounding buildings and adjacent road thats 30m higher.
We arrive at 11:45. Timeline as follows:
11:56- Smoke bomb set off outside building. Obscures view
12:00- Jeep drives from outside building and moves 20m next to ambluance
Uses it as cover from stones
12:06- Smoke clearing from outside building
12:07- 2 soldiers enter building (more could have entered when view obscured by smoke)
12:09- Smoke pouring from 2 & 3 storey windows of building. Something said over one of jeeps loudspeakers
12:17- 2 jeeps have returned. 4 jeeps again in total
12:23- Smell of tear gas coming from building, smoke still coming from several windows, but concentrated on 4th floor
2 soldiers exit building & return to jeep
12:35- 3 jeeps drive from building and move 30m to ambulance. Stone throwing recommences, hitting ambulance and jeeps. One then drives on and pushes aside makeshift barricade (metal wheelie bin & rubbish). 2 others follow. then final jeep drives from building
12:37- enter building with ambulance crews. Its full of smoke and tear gas. 1st and 2nd story doors are open and rooms are empty except for smoke and soot on the floor. 3rd story doors still closed. 4th story doors open but impossible to see inside – too much smoke & gas and its painful & difficult to breathe. Head a bit dizzy. Need to breathe out of windows on the stair landings. Remove window panes with ambulance crew to let more smoke out. Grab some pics – not sure if any good. After maybe 7 minutes, fire brigade arrive and man in breathing apparatus ascends stairs. i gotta leave, feeling ill. Take pics of fireman and rush outside
12:50- Fire brigade begin hosing down building to wash away soot and clear smoke. Oh, and ive got a headache and painful breathing, serves me right!
Not sure if anyone was living in the apartments as all looked empty but if they were, they wont be able to live there for a few days, place is a total mess
12:52- residents, media and ambulance crews all say that no one was arrested. Just no way anyone could have stayed in the building through the operation thats a fact
Epilogue: Last Night: 7 were arrested from Askar refugee camp. Army attacked at 02.00 and left and 07.00. 3 arrested from Nablus including 50 yr old woman Wafiqa Adela.
4. Human Rights Workers’ Press Conference: Escalating Settler Violence in Hebron
April 26th, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jerusalem: A broad coalition of activists and advocacy groups held a press conference today to call on the Israeli authorities to uphold the law and arrest settlers perpetrating violence against Palestinians and international volunteers that attempt to protect them before one of them is seriously injured or killed. Recent attacks against Palestinian residents in Tel Rumeida have increased in both degree and frequency. Adult settlers are now frequently executing planned, violent attacks. In the past month alone, two Human Rights Workers required stitches to their heads after being stoned, and another suffered a mild concussion. On the 22nd of April, a mob of 30 settler adults and teenagers attacked a Palestinian shop using sharpened metal poles, assaulting Palestinian children and international volunteers in the process.
At the press conference held at the Alternative Information Center office in Jerusalem, speakers from the Tel Rumeida Project, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) talked about their first hand experiences of settler violence. Luna Ruiz, from the Tel Rumeida Project warned that “our lives are in danger”. Mary Baxter from the ISM said that the most important people in Hebron were the Palestinian school children, who she described as the “bravest people [she’d] ever met” and the “heroes of Tel Rumeida”. Anne Montgomery, a 79 year old nun from CPT and Anna Svensson from the ISM also spoke about their firsthand experiences of settler violence. Arik Asherman from Rabbis for Human Rights, and Ruth Kedar from Yesh Din were among the speakers from Israeli organizations who made statements in solidarity with the work of the international Human Rights Workers in Hebron. “These attacks are part of an attempt by the settlers to the prevent documentation of their activities,” said Eran Zax from Sons of Abraham, another Israeli organization.
A copy of an open letter detailing the dangerous situation in Tel Rumeida that was sent to outgoing and incoming Defense Ministers Shaul Mofaz and Amir Peretz, as well as the Chief of the General Staff and several other high-level Israeli figures was distributed at the conference. [SEE BELOW]
The involvement of adults -who are more easily prosecuted than settler youth- seems to indicate a recognition by the Hebron settlers that the consequences for violence are acceptably small. Indeed, the Israeli army and police often fail to prevent settler violence, and rarely arrest and punish the perpetrators. If the Israeli army continues to turn a blind eye to such actions, human rights organizations fear that the situation will only grow increasingly dangerous.
For more information:
Luna Ruiz (Tel Rumeida Project) 054 557 3154
Yossi (AIC) 0525 210 184
Open Letter to the Israeli Military and Police
April 26th, 2006
Shaul Mofaz, Outgoing Minister of Defense
Amir Peretz, Designate Minister of Defense
Dan Halutz, Israeli Forces Chief of the General Staff
Meni Mazuz, Attorney General
Yair Lotstein, Military, Legal Advisor on the Territories
Avihai Mandelblit, Military Advocate General
Ofer Mey-Tal, Israeli Military Liaison for International Organizations
Ben Artzi, Head of the Foreign Liaison Office of the Israeli National Police
Moshe Karadi, Inspector General of the Israeli Police
Gideon Ezra, Minister of Public Security
Yosef Mishlav, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories
Yair Naveh, General Officer Commanding Central Command
We call upon the Israeli Military, Police and government to immediately investigate, apprehend and prosecute violent settlers in Tel Rumeida, Hebron.
The situation in Tel Rumeida has reached a critical point. Though there have been hundreds of settler attacks since August 2005 when we first moved into Tel Rumeida, most of those were random and involved settler children and/or teenagers. Alarmingly, Tel Rumeida adult settlers are now starting to carry out carefully pre-planned violent attacks against the local Palestinian population and international volunteers who attempt to protect them from these attacks. We as Human Rights Workers (HRWs) have started to fear for our lives and the lives of the Palestinians that we attempt to protect. If the Israeli military and police do not take immediate measures to prevent settler attacks and punish offenders, then there is a grave risk that a Palestinian or HRW will be seriously injured or killed.
Israeli military and police often do not deploy sufficient personnel to areas where they know attacks regularly occur and often do not respond to calls to prevent attacks even when they are warned of imminent danger. In addition Israeli military and Police often do not act to stop settler attacks, rather they often stand and videotape the crime in progress.
Instead of preventing or stopping settler attacks, Israeli soldiers and Police often order Palestinians and HRWs to go home while settlers are attacking. HRWs have often witnessed that Israeli soldiers and Police are not able to adequately protect themselves from settler attacks. Worse, Israeli military and Police are often negligent in their duty to protect Palestinian people and property from settler attacks. Despite this, the Israeli military and Police have focused on removing HRWs from Tel Rumeida through the use of Closed Military Zone orders exclusively applied to HRWs. We have been threatened with arrest after being attacked by settlers and are regularly harassed by soldiers and police, including documented, illegal attempts to remove us from our apartment.
HRWs have on many occasions either prevented or stopped a settler attack against Palestinians. When HRWs have not been successful in preventing or stopping attacks they position themselves in front of the settlers who are threatening or beating a Palestinian and instead receive the blows or stones themselves. Palestinian families repeated tell us that they and their children feel safer when we are present.
We want to make clear that the internationals who live and/or work in Tel Rumeida are not going to leave. Though settler attacks against Palestinians and HRWs are increasing in frequency and in the level of violence, we will stand with Palestinians and their children as they defend their lives and property. The Israeli military and police must uphold Israeli and international law and protect all people and property in the Israeli controlled area of Hebron.
Therefore we demand that:
Soldiers and police should be given explicit instructions that they must act to protect all people and property while in Tel Rumeida.
Police must place sufficient forces every day in the area to prevent settler attacks against Qurtuba School children or when they have been warned of imminent danger or in other areas where attack regularly occur.
When settler attacks are imminent or occurring in their presence, soldiers and police must act immediately to prevent and stop violence. Reinforcements should be called immediately to prevent attacks from escalating and to prevent injuries. Soldiers and police should face disciplinary action or criminal investigation if they do not intervene to protect people and property against attacks.
Police must respond in a timely way when called for help.
Police must be ordered to arrest settlers even if they commit crimes on Saturdays or other Jewish holidays.
Police must document complaints at the scene of the crime.
Police must investigate the crime scene after violent incidents.
Soldiers and police should receive proper orientation of the area to which they are assigned. Soldiers and police should be informed of the relevant laws and high court decisions regarding Palestinian rights to movement in Tel Rumeida. They should also be made aware of agreements made between the Israeli military and Palestinians.
Israeli Police and military must not order Palestinians to go home when they are being attacked by settlers.
Tel Rumeida Project, International Solidarity Movement, Yesh Din, Gush Shalom and Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of “Rabbis For Human Rights”
5. JPost: “Volunteers: Settler violence on the rise”
April 27th, 2006
By TOVAH LAZAROFF,
From the Jerusalem Post
Her gray hair and slim size did not stop Israeli children waiting at a Hebron bus stop from tossing a palm size rock in the direction of Anne Montgomery, 79.
A nun from the US, she was volunteering to help monitor Palestinian interactions with settlers, the IDF and the police. Rock-throwing by settler children is so typical, she said, that “we just looked at them and we knew it was going to happen.”
On Wednesday morning, however, instead of ignoring the brief stoning, she picked up the palm-sized rock and brought it to a Jerusalem press conference on rising settler violence called by international and activist groups working in Hebron.
“Luna,” a volunteer from the US who heads the non-profit Tel Rumeida Project, said that in the past year there have been hundreds of documented settler attacks of varying severity. Initially, the attacks seemed random and involved mostly settler teens, said Luna, who prefers that her real name not be used.
“Alarmingly, Tel Rumeida adult settlers are now starting to carry out carefully pre-planned violent attacks. We, as human rights workers, have started to fear for our lives and the lives of the Palestinians we are attempting to protect,” she said.
Attacks are more likely to occur on Shabbat or a holiday, said Luna, whose organization has observed incidents each Saturday during April. Attacks include physical assaults, stoning and verbal threats. In one incident on April 1, Swiss lawyer Silvana Hogg received seven stitches in her head after she was stoned by a settler.
Last Thursday, five international workers were injured by stones, including Montgomery, while they protected children and teachers as they walked to the Cordoba Girls School in the morning.
Students and teachers are so likely to be attacked along that route that international workers with video cameras post themselves by the stairwell and street outside the school just in case an attack occurs.
Luna’s group and others, including Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom, Yesh Din and the International Solidarity Movement, are so concerned they sent a letter Wednesday to the Defense Ministry, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi, asking that the security forces operating in Hebron be forced to take action.
While there have been helpful security officers, often times the soldiers or police in the area do nothing to control the settlers, said Luna. She showed a number of video clips during the press conference to prove her point.
In one, taken last August on what appears to be a Saturday, small Jewish children could be seen picking up rocks and tossing them at Palestinians and international workers.
One rock barely missed a Palestinian boy who stuck his head out of a doorway. A police van drove up to the settler children, who continued to pick up stones and throw them, and one was also thrown at the van. Off to the side, two policemen were seen recording the event and there were also soldiers on the street, but neither appeared to try to stop the stone-throwers.
In a second video, a male settler wrapped in a prayer shawl was seen shoving an elderly international volunteer to the ground.
On Wednesday, the World Council of Churches in Geneva sent a letter to Ambassador to Switzerland Aviv Shiron protesting settler violence against Christian volunteers.
In his letter, Peter Weiderud, director of the WCC Commission on International Affairs, asked the security forces to stop “abusive, unlawful and violent behavior by settlers toward Palestinians.”
He said that the root of the problem is Israel’s “practice of establishing, protecting and expanding settlements.” He called on Israel to withdraw from all settlements, including Hebron.
Neither the army nor the police responded to queries regarding Hebron. Soldiers on its streets had mixed reactions. Some said they knew nothing of such incidents, and blamed the international volunteers for inflaming an already tense situation between the approximately 500 Jews and 130,000 Palestinians who live in the city.
Others said they knew of incidents in which settlers attacked Palestinians.
The soldiers said that at times they could find themselves protecting settlers against Palestinians, and then saving settlers from Palestinians during the same day.
Ruth Kedar, who created Yesh Din a year ago to help Palestinians sue the settlers for violent attacks, said her organization had 140 cases pending against settlers in all of Judea and Samaria.
Still, a few of Hebron’s Jewish residents said they were startled to hear that the Palestinians and the international workers feared them, since they view themselves as the ones under attack.
Several Jews and soldiers have been killed in Hebron in the last five years. A spokeswoman for the Hebron community, Orit Strock, said that incidents of Palestinians acting against settlers occur every day.
“They have thrown stones at me and they have thrown stones at my children,” she said. “It happens all the time.” There are also attacks against property and bombs thrown at cars, she added.
Another Hebron spokesman, David Wilder, said that given the tensions in the city, he believed that there had also been attacks by settlers against Palestinians.
“I’m not saying that nothing happens,” he said. But he added that neither he nor his children regularly attack Palestinians. Parents are not saying to their children go attack this Palestinian or that Palestinian, he said.
On Saturday in particular, he said, “I have only three things on my mind: praying, eating and sleeping.” He had a suggestion for the international workers who feared for their lives: “The best way to prevent violence is for them to leave,” he said, because their presence in the city only inflamed already existing tensions.
Strock said that international volunteers come to Hebron with an agenda. “They want to get the Jews out of Hebron. That is their objective. Some hide it and others do not.”
Wilder wondered why the same groups hadn’t been equally concerned when the international observer group, Temporary International Presence in Hebron, was forced to leave in February after it was attacked by Palestinians angered by the publication by a Danish newspapers of cartoons against the Prophet Muhammad.
TIPH spokeswoman Eli Smette, whose organization monitors Israeli and Palestinian activity based on an agreement with both governments, said that her organization has observed violence by both parties. The number of settler incidents against Palestinians seemed to be higher, she said. But she qualified her statement by noting that while the Palestinians contact her organization when an incident occurs, the settlers call the police or the army instead. This makes it more difficult to assess the exact number of Palestinian attacks against settlers, said Smette, whose organization has only recently returned to the city.
But Luna said it had been her experience in the last six months that the violence has been on the part of the settlers. She recalled how only last Saturday she and another volunteer raced to the Abu Ishi family grocery store, when they saw a group of 30 settlers try to attack three Palestinians teens.
She said her arm was bruised by a settler, who also pushed her against the door.
“The only reason I am not in the hospital or possibly worse is because this one soldier intervened,” said Luna. She recalled how one settler shook her as she stood between him and a Palestinian. “Then a soldier came and stood in front of me,” she said.
Radi Abu Ishi, 16, was calm several days later as he described that brief five to seven minutes of scuffling that occurred around 2 p.m..
“I was slapped twice and kicked twice,” said Radi. From the back of the store he dragged out a large, almost body-length metal rail with a sharpened edge that he said settlers used against them during the attack. He held it up to show how it was thrown only a short distance and to demonstrate where it landed near a carton of flour, without injuring anyone.
He dismissed the attack as a normal part of living within a short distance of Jewish families at the top of the hill. But Luna and other international volunteers said this situation was anything but normal. More to the point, they said they believed it was increasingly becoming more dangerous.
They bristled at accusations that their presence in Hebron inflames the situation.
Holding a video camera as he stood against the closed shutters of a shop on the deserted Shuhada Street, as he waited for children to come out of school,Tom Hayes, a volunteer from Britain, said he and others were there because the Palestinians believe their presence improves security.
“If they didn’t want us here, we wouldn’t be here,” he said.
When they stand in the street, they try to be as unobtrusive as possible, said Luna. “We don’t want to provoke anyone,” she said. “A good day is a boring day.”
6. Tel Rumeida Journal – Sunday 23/04/06
April 24th, 2006
Our group was tired out after the large settler attack yesterday and apprehensive about what might happen over the coming week. We were hoping for a quiet day, and we got that. So here’s a description of a quiet day in Tel Rumeida…
International volunteers from EAPPI, ISM and TRP on the streets at 7am to monitor the children travelling to school in case of attacks by settlers. I stay close to Tel Rumeida settlement to watch the children who live close to the settlement buildings and have to walk down the hill past the settlement buildings and two army posts. There have been attacks on these children, stonings and beatings, but this morning there are none.
More internationals monitor the children as they walk down the hill toward the school. EAPPI accompany the children to school and stay throughout the school day.
At about noon the children return from school. Again, internationals monitor the areas close to Tel Rumeida and Beit Hadassa settlements. I watch for the children walking up past the IDF guardpost towards Beit Hadassa. This is terrifying for the children as they have been attacked in this area many times. Today the soldiers are new and stop them, ask them where they are going and search their schoolbags.
EAPPI accompany several girls who live at a house only accessible on a narrow path alongside Tel Rumeida settlement. This Palestinian family have fought a Supreme Court battle in Israel for the right to use this strip of land and won. However the IDF have placed a roll of razor wire across the path. At one point the family could lift the wire to access the path to their house. Then sandbags were placed on the wire to prevent this. Now the children must step over the roll of wire, opposite the IDF guardpost and the homes of violent illegal settlers to access the path home.
This morning the IDF soldier manning the guardpost did not know about the Supreme Court decision and refused the children entry. International volunteers from ISM and EAPPI tried to explain the situation but the soldiers would not be convinced. The human rights workers called the police and army, and during the wait some settlers emerged and told the troops the children were not allowed to pass. This was an outright lie. The settlers called us “Nazis”.
Eventually a jeep arrived with an officer who confirmed that the children were indeed allowed to walk down the path.
As the children stepped over the barbed wire, a settler remarked to her daughter “I hope they trip”.
This incident highlights a reoccuring problem in Tel Rumeida; new army units are not properly briefed when they take over, and so the soldiers have to learn the ground rules, usually at the expense of the Palestinian residents who suffer yet more delays, searches, and ID checks until the soldiers learn the locals are not the problem here.
Calm returns to the area for all of five to ten minutes, then boom! Boom! Two small explosions, one right after the other, from the direction of the Palestinian souk (market) in the H2 zone, just outside the perimeter. The two bored sentries who man a concrete guard position at the top of the hill are suddenly tense and alert, guns levelled, scanning the streets in front of their position for trouble. From the old souk comes a cloud of pale smoke or dust, and the distant sound of car alarms and horns and confusion. Some kind of bomb, or a controlled explosion on a suspected bomb? We have no idea, and neither have the soldiers, who gradully relax as the cloud dissapates in the gusty air.
The EAPPI workers go off-duty and as always we’re sad to see them go. An hour or two passes and we’re mostly sat at the curbside enjoying the warmth of “sunny intervals” as the BBC would call the mixture of clouds and sunshine. Occasionally we take a stroll down the hill, past the soldiers, and down to the checkpoint. Then right onto the main street, as almost always eerie and deserted. We try to monitor both streets because of possible settler attacks.
Later in the afternoon we see three young settlers walking down Tel Rumeida hill. They seem innocent enough but as they pass they whisper “I kill you”. They meet a Palestinian child near the bottom of the hill and lunge towards him. We shout “Stop” and begin to film, they look at us and quickly move on.
The rest of the day is quiet but as we are crossing the checkpoint to buy food for supper a member of the team is detained and told they will be “arrested”. They are kept there for an hour before being released.
7. Excerpts from a review of “Letters from Young Activists”
April 25th, 2006
by Elizabeth Wrigley-Field
From Monthly Review
For the complete review see
…We may not have learned the lessons of the past, but among those are the lessons of defeat; the radicals among us still believe we can change the world.
This is the spirit of the new collection Letters from Young Activists, edited by Dan Berger, Chesa Boudin, and Kenyon Farrow. The concept of the book is that young people in the United States, who have made a decision not to accept the world the way it is, write letters—to their parents, their movements, and Condoleezza Rice—explaining why. The strength of the book lies in its refutation of the conventional wisdom that young people have given up on seeking radical change….
To give a picture of a living, breathing movement in such a short space is no easy feat.
Yet a number of the letters rise to the challenge, and these make the book worth reading. Some letters succeed in vividly conveying the author’s sense of injustice, or of possibility. These are exciting to read because they impart their author’s inspiration to fight.
A letter by Joya Colon-Berezin “to anyone who will listen,” for example, uses the details of her own experience in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement to impart a sense of the realities of life under a military occupation. Her letter begins:
I will never forget the tension in their backs. Massaging the backs of the nine- and ten-year-old kids living in Palestine felt like massaging my grandmother. Perhaps it had something to do with having their homes constantly raided by the army, or seeing their family members and neighbors killed. Maybe it also had to do with having their land confiscated, crops destroyed, and villages erased. After being there for two weeks I was already starting to feel tension building in my own back; it is impossible for me to imagine what a lifetime living under occupation would do.
With the unending campaign by the media and politicians in this country to dehumanize those living under occupation, a letter that helps us imagine what it feels like to travel through a checkpoint, or to live under a curfew where schools and stores are closed, is a welcome contribution….
…students and young people can also play a special and important role in social movements. They exist, as the socialist Daniel Singer once wrote, in a “strangely suspended state”:
Tomorrow they will be absorbed by the productive machine, conditioned by their class interest, more or less integrated into the system. Today, not quite torn from the domestic background but not yet prisoners of their future jobs, they are in an intermediate stage, when they are more likely to question their environment.
Historically, of course, this condition of questioning, and of willingness to take action, has led students and young people to initiate struggles that go on to dramatically transform society. This spirit of resistance is alive today, and some of the best chapters in the book detail the way this is beginning to happen.
The special place in society that young people occupy can be an advantage in building social movements; but youth is not an experience sealed off from others in society. Young peoples’ activism is also soldiers’ antiwar activism, antiracist activism, organizing of all kinds: the variety of emerging struggles documented in Letters from Young Activists attests to the multiplicity of young peoples’ experiences of activism.
This comes across in the exchange between U.S. war resister Stephen Funk and Israeli refusenik Matan Kaminer, written to each other as each underwent a trial for their resistance. It has also been apparent of late in what is probably the other most visible movement of young people since 9/11: the counter-recruitment movement, in which students have led the charge against military recruiters in their schools. This movement’s force has come from its participants’ strong sense that they are being targeted, that their schools are increasingly structured not with the goal of educating them, but of funneling them into a role as disposable soldiers for a war many of them oppose. This is necessarily a movement of young people—that’s who the recruiters are targeting, after all—but it is also a working-class movement which can raise wider questions about the priorities of a society that puts profits before education, decent jobs, and even life itself…
8. Outside The Fence
April 26th, 2006
By Asafa Peled – Yedioth Aharonot 14/4/2006
Translation: Adam Keller
The Separation Fence is closing in upon more and more Palestinian villages. Their inhabitants are cut off from sources of livelihood. Some Israelis are not willing to remain silent.
Matan Cohen lost an eye because of it. Shai Karmeli-Polak gave up for its sake a promising career. Leila Mosinzon is going to prison for its sake, next month. The Separation Fence has become their obsession. What is it about this wall, designed to separate Israelis from Palestinians, which is bringing young people to give up the well-fed bourgeois life and get tear gas blown in their face every Friday afternoon? The border inside.
For a long time, dozens of villagers – children, youths and adults – waited at the entrance to the Beit Sira Municipal Council building. They were very excited, and it burst out when the car stopped nearby. A seventeen-year old boy came out, a bit clumsy and wearing glasses who looked like a a typical Tel-Aviv high school pupil. The crowd surrounded him with shining eyes, and stood in line to shake his hand. The boy, wearing stylish jeans and Adidas shoes, seemed rather embarrassed by this very warm reception. “You were willing to give your eye for our struggle” said one of the village leaders to Matan Cohen. “You risked your life to let our voice be heard. If it was possible, each one of us here would have exchanged his good eye for your damaged one”.
This was Matan Cohen’s first visit to the village after being severely hurt in his eye by a rubber bullet shot by a Border Guard soldier a month and half ago during an anti-fence demonstration. Cohen had undergone two operations already and his sight is very limited. Only in some months will it be clear if he would be able to see with the damaged eye. Sunlight is difficult for him and he is blinking all the time.
In the Palestinian press published immediately after it happened, the photo of Cohen’s face covered in blood was published under the caption “an Israeli peace activist shot in the eye during a demonstration against the fence”. “It is very moving to see how the village people react, and all the children waiting for my arrival” says Cohen. “As far as I am concerned, this human warmth, our togetherness, is the biggest achievement of struggle. More than a struggle against the physical wall and the thousands of acres it is stealing from the Palestinians. The real struggle is against the mental wall.”
The demonstration in which Cohen was hurt, on February 24, was one of a series of demonstrations organized in different West Bank locations every Friday, organized by local committees along the route of the fence. Some call the organizers “The Palestinian Gandhis” because of their unarmed demonstrations.
Every week since the building of the fence started there is a regular ritual: after the village ends the Friday prayer, everybody leaves the mosque, together with Israeli activists from “Anarchists Against the Wall” and some sympathizers from abroad, towards the fence west of the village.
The army declares the area, which is a large part of the village lands, as a closed military area. The procession advances. Some are singing, some make speeches, some present a kind of street theatre which changes every week.
The soldiers and Border Guards form a cordon and wait for the demonstrators, to prevent them from nearing the fence. The demonstrators try to reach it anyway.There are many photographers, and nearly every minute is preserved. This material would be used afterwards in court, to defend those who would be accused of assaulting soldiers.
The sun is hot, the dust clouds go up. They call “Soldiers, go home!” and the soldiers try to push them back. There is pushing, shouting, and cursing. Soon smoke grenades and shock grenades are hurled and rubber bullets are shot. Demonstrators scatter, calling out “Go away, this is out home!”, “Thieves!”, “Don’t shoot!”. Some demonstrators are hurt, some are detained and taken to a military vehicle parked beyond the fence. The event lasts several hours until everybody disperses.
“The demonstration was in fact over when they shot me” tells Cohen. “I was left, together with three other Israeli activists, quite far from the soldiers. I shouted to them not to shoot, but one of them raised his gun and shot me directly in the eye”. In photos and video footage from that day Cohen is seen frightened and bleeding, crying out for an ambulance, between his fellow activists and the soldiers who had just hurt him and who were trying to help. Eventually, a Palestinian ambulance took him to the army checkpoint from which he was transferred to an Israeli ambulance and taken to hospital.
He is still not calm. “Yes, I am afraid” he says and tells of other cases, during the three years that he is participating in protests, when soldiers shot at unarmed civilians. Hundreds were wounded and ten killed.
– Were you willing to sacrifice your eye for the struggle against the fence?
“I don’t think if somebody told me that I was going to be wounded in this way, I would have gone to the demonstration. But the risk of being wounded or killed is always hovering above everybody’s head. As far as I am concerned, I will go on with the non-violent protests, because there is no choice. The fence leaves people totally dispossessed, in complete despair. continuing the struggle is vital in order to show that, though they use daily violence in order to break the struggle, we will go on and not let them silence us. I believe that non-violent protest has much more power than the violent oppression”.
The group known as “Anarchists Against the Fence”, to which Cohen belongs, is one of the fascinating phenomena which came into being because of the building of the fence. The term “anarchists” brings to mind a group of tattooed punkists, who run away from conscription and who protect wild flowers with as much fury as they devote to the downtrodden Palestinians. In practice, their anarchism is mainly expressed in the independent activity of every member, with many individual differences between them.
In fact, this is not really an organization, but a collection of individuals. Many of them had not been active at all until the bulldozers started to create their accomplished facts. They are between ten to a hundred people, without a leader or hierarchy, membership dues or fixed obligations. Each one finances his or her own expenses. Coordination takes place via phone or email, and anybody who wants to join is getting help in transportation and entry into the Palestinian villages.
Many of them had served in combat roles in the army. Some are lecturers, computer experts, students and pensioners. Most of them are vegetarians or vegans, and some arrived at the anti-fence struggle via Animal Rights protests.
The fence had taken them to a place far beyond the mainstream Israeli debate and discourse, the defence-minded debate on the need for the fence and the political debate on dismantling settlements. Perhaps like youngsters in divided Berlin, the fence has made a deep mental impression on them. They feel as if the fence is dividing their own lives, which they perceive as “before” and “after”. The enemy which they had known mainly from news reports became human precisely due to the building of the fence. The barrier caused the desire to meet the humans behind it, who have gone unnoticed before they were Separated from Israel. The price is high – they get beaten up, wounded, detained for days at a time and face dozens of criminal charges at the court.
It is difficult to understand what makes ordinary people, who had lived calm daily lives in the center of the country, let themselves be drawn into this daily ritual and in many ways give up their freedom. After several days among them one can at least understand what keeps them there. The scenes to which they are exposed are very different from what you can see in the news: villages cut off from their sources of livelihood – water sources, schools, hospitals, jobs. Movement is severely restricted, thousands of acres are confiscated and thousands of trees uprooted for the erection of the fence. The people which they meet are caged behind walls, with a single gate between them and the outside world. People who until the intifada had jobs in Israel are unemployed for five years already, with their families at the edge of hunger. The fence takes away also the chance to go back to agriculture as a source of livelihood. For the activists, every trip to the fence makes the going back home more difficult.
To be a bit blond
Three years ago, Matan Cohen moved with his mother from Kfar Vardim in the Galilee to Tel-Aviv. He was raised in a left-leaning, humanistically inclined home. Already as a child he was looking for his own way. After one year at Jaffa’s “Democratic Open School” he found even that rather loose framework uncongenial. He went away and prepared by himself to the matriculation examinations, which he successfully passed a year ago.
When he was fourteen he started participating in activities in the Territories. It started from basic curiosity. “I read about terrorist attacks and the killing of Palestinian civilians. When the victims are Palestinians they remain nameless. Just numbers – two Palestinians killed, seven Palestinians wounded… No names, no personal details. This language is what causes Israelis to close themselves for the suffering of the other side.
“The same is true now, in my case. When I was wounded the media reported it, but the fourteen Palestinians who were wounded in the same demonstration went unreported, unknown. If somebody who is a bit blond is hurt it arouses identitification. There, if a person is killed there is no commission of inquire. Until now no soldier had been prosecuted for killing unarmed demonstrators, their humanity is totally ignored.
I meet soldiers of almost my own age, some of them people with whom I grew up, and they have never been in these villages, never spoke to the people, have no idea of their situation. They feel that they are fulfilling a mission to defend Israel. They don;t understand that I am not their enemy. I am here to tell them that this is not a security fence, that you can’t establish security by oppressing another people who live at our side.
He says that his family supports his political stance but has asked him not to go to demonstrations. With time, however, they understood that their child is serious and not an unrestrained adventurer. His first activity was joining a relief convoy which brought humanitarian help to a village under curfew in the Nablus area. He was the youngest of the Israeli dissidents who set out. “I remember my feeling of fear and thinking that I am doing something dangerous, but the reality I saw was shocking.
We were kept and harassed for three hours at the army checkpoint. When we finally got there everything became real, concrete, real life. The dead and wounded have a real human form. The gap and abyss between us, this habit of talking of “us” and “them” is weakening and is mixing into a “we” which includes everybody. I did not see a difference between a person who suffers here and a person who suffers there.”
– Is this not a biased look? The Palestinians are throwing stones, and the soldiers are hurt.
“The presence of the soldiers is in itself violent. When people live under a daily oppression, some young people can’t restrain their anger, and I can understand that. Their livelihood was taken away, and they are forbidden to demonstrate against the theft of their lands. When an armoured jeep enters the village in order to make a demonstrative show of force, I understand quite well why people throw stones at it”.
With the building of the fence Cohen joined the intensive activity in the villages on whose land it is being built. There were whole weeks when he went there day after day, and on many occasions he and other activists stayed the night. “Staying the night in a Palestinian village is neither dangerous nor frightening” he says. “The perception of it as frightening comes out of ignorance of the real situation. We have grown up with mist forever in front of our eyes, a whole generation living under a permanent feeling of fear. The greatest thing which happened to me is to discover that I am welcome among the Palestinians. I go to the Territories, people talk to me Hebrew, I learn a bit of Arabic, and I get a friendly reception everywhere.”
Like most of his fellow activists, he is financing from his own pocket such things as travelling to the West Bank, phone calls, paying lawyers fees. In time, he had less and less friends who were not involved in all this. “Non-activists think that what I do is very strange and eccentric behaviour, that a person in Tel-Aviv just ups and does what I do”.
He does not intend to accept conscription [to which he would be liable within a year].”I have soaked up the scenes of the Territories. I saw families being cut off by the fence, children shot a short distance from where I stood and were left handicapped for life. This has become part of the reality of my life. I am still shocked that a soldier of my own age is capable of just pointing a gun at my head and pulling the trigger, even though I was shouting ‘Don’t shoot, nobody is endangering you here!’. Just because he got an order, something like ‘Teach them a lesson, don’t let them demonstrate’. How can I join such an army? The whole feeling of comfort which I had, of security in the routine of daily life, is eroded and gone. The best service I can do for our security – yes, also for our own security – is to continue the struggle for human rights and liberty.
Hell – half an hour from here
A group op of Israeli and Palestinian activists tries to advance towards the western side of the village, to the fence, near where Matan Cohen was wounded. An army force comes by and stops them. The Palestinians are angry, because it is their own lands, but nevertheless seem about to move back.
Shai Carmeli-Pollak (37), film director and central anti-fence activist, refuses to accept the army dictat. He calls the Army Spokesman’ office on his mobile phone, and explains at length that he and his companions are in a completely kosher Palestinian territory, that they do not seek a confrointation, and that it is the soldiers who are breaking the law.
Soon Lieutant-Colonel Avi shows up who authorizes the demonstrators to march another half a kilometre, albeit closely accompanied by himself and his soldiers. Pollak seizes the opportunity to talk to him and explain at length his opinions and world view. “You look at the Palestinians from a completely military angle. You are completely blind to the fact that you are facing civilians” Pollak says.
The Colonel answers patiently. The two continue talking in front of the astonished Palestinians, to whom such an eye-to-eye contact with a military man is inconceivable. A few days later Pollak would insist on conducting a no less profound talk with the soldiers at the checkpoint who refuse passage to everybody except holders of a journalist’s card. Every Thursday evening, the area around the fence construction site is declared a closed military zone, in an effort to prevent the entry of Israeli activists. Pollak insists upon seeing the order – “If you don’t have a proper order, signed by an authorized officer, you cant enforce a Closed Zone” he tells the soldiers. While he is deep in debate with the army detachment, the other demonstrators bypass the checkpoint on foot and continue on their way through the fields.
In the demonstration, he addresses the soldiers who had firmed a cordon blocking the protest procession from reaching the fence: “You are being sent to protect illegal activities. You are not protecting the country, you are protecting the interests of real estate tycoons and building contractors. You have to understand that the state of Israel has signed an intentional treaty which obliges an occupying force to care for the occupied population. Even the Supreme Court accepted some of our arguments”.
Without shouting, but quite determined, he continues a long conversation with the soldiers – a calm, non-confrontational discussion, and explains to them where he thinks they have gone wrong. When a soldier says “we are defending the border” Pollak corrects him: “No, you are not. The border is not here, it is seven kilometres behind you. You are given all these weapons not in order to defend the border, it is to act as the villagers’ prison guards, to cage them in”.
When a soldiers addresses him roughly, Pollak has no hesitation in calling the Army Spokesman’s office again, demanding that the threatening soldiers be calmed down. He says that since starting activities on the West Bank three years ago he had not stopped this talking and discussing. “In the first two years I was very much lecturing and preaching to them, I now realize I was insufferable. Of course, when you see what is going on here you can become crazy with anger. Now I try more to understand how the soldiers perceive the situation. With more talking to them I realize their ignorance is really astonishing. I suggest to them to talk to their commanding officers, to ask for clarifications about why are they sent here and what are they supposed to do, not just to follow orders blindly”.
Until three years ago Pollak was far from being politically active. True, he was leftist, but expressed it mainly through the ballot box. He served as a conscript in a field unit of the Israeli Air Force, studied cinema at Tel-Aviv University, and directed the drama ‘Avramov’. He became deeply involved in Israeli televion, directing especially humorous features such as “Zbeng”., and was elected Chair of the TV Prorducers’ Association. Three years ago he went to Holland to visit his brother Yonathan Pollak (23), a prominent anarchist active both against the fence and for Animal Rights. The younger brother was then deeply involved in a wave of anti-globalisation protests, and Pollak was impressed.
When he came back to Israel the Second Intifada was already raging, but Pollak was still “caught up in the Rabin Peace Euphoria” as he puts it. But there came the day – so he tries to explain what has shaken up his life – when he realized he could no longer believe the news broadcasts and the official claims that “there is nobody to talk to”. “I don’t know why it did not happen before. It is a kind of decision to grow up and not to believe blindly what they tell us. Or to put it another way, I saw angry Palestinians and decided to believe their anger.”
His first active step was to go into the West Bank and join a group which set out to bring food and medicines to villages under closure. “I was confused” he reacalls.” I was still new at this, I hardly knew anybody. I remember near the settlement of Susya [in the South Hebron Hills]] the police stopped us and forbade us to go on. The people of Ta’ayush [Coexistence, a joint group of Palestinian and Jewish activists] decided to just defy the police. It was the first time in my life that I turned against the law, against what a policeman told me to do and not to do. At that moment I was mainly angry at the violation of my civil rights. But when I met the Palestinians and saw under what conditions they had to live, I realized that that was completely the wrong focus. How puny was my complaint at my rights being infringed, compared with the brutal trampling over of their most basic rights.
In the first year of being active he was going out about once in two weeks, but since the anti-fence campaign started his involvement sharply increasead to several times a week. Simultaneoulsy, he continued producing “Zbeng” and various other TV programs. It became a kind of schizophrenia. “It was so difficult to go back from there to Tel-Aviv and change totally your mode of thinking. In Tel-Aviv everybody walks carefree in the street and sits in cafes. True, from time to time there is a suicide bombing in which people are hit, and this is in everybody’s subconsciousness. But over there, the people don’t have this luxury of just walking the street freely. Suddenly, friends call you in the middle of the night, friends from a village, and tell about the army coming in, about detentions, about people being beaten up. half an hour from here it is Hell, and nobody knows about it.”
-Why not choose for your personal life, for your promising professional future?
“When you are young you have a set of beliefs about the world, but gradually reality catches up with you. In that stage most people just resign themselves and say this is the way the world is and you can do nothig about it. But I felt myself waking up from the brainwashing, from being told all the time that we have no partner and there is nobody to talk to. I am surrounded by people who search for ’spirituality’ in all kinds of obscure sects and myths. I am not interested in that at all. What I am doing now – in my view, that is a real way of acquiring some spiritual merit.”
The more he was drawn into demonstrations his Tel-aviv work dwindled. Once a promising director, he had by now almost completely disappeared from the TV scene. “What I was doing were lightweight funny productions. Now, I can hardly conceive of such things. I am still attracted to making films – but films which would be part of what I am doing today, the struggle I am involved in.”
-It is difficult to understand how a young person just gives up what were his cherished dreams.
“I don’t feel that I am giving up a promising life, not at all. Perhaps for a short time I felt that way, when everything I saw was shaking me up into a reality shock. Nowadays, I feel that my daily life includes experiences which previously I could only see in fictional adventure films. Dangerous moments with angry soldiers directing their weapons at me, but also the sudden realization at the checkpoint that suddenly I see the soldiers are willing to listen to me. And the Palestinians who accept me, an Israeli, at their side. Alll this is no less worthwhile than having a career and going abroad in the wolrd. Anyway, I don’t feel that my career has ended. I feel that it has just turned in a different direction.”
From his father, actor Yossi Pollak, he has gotten a small video camera and started to document the event he participates in. At first, it was just as private mementos. About a year ago he got a producer to share the work, and is now in the process of editing for Channel 8 a film about the anti-fence struggle in Bil’in. His camera documents damage to persons and property, meetings with human rights activists, the building of the fence and the changes in its route, and especially the behaviour of the army. When he and his brother were beaten up and detained by the army, Pollak passed on the footage to the Channel 1 News. The filmed testimony proved false the army claims that it was the Pollak brothers who had assaulted the soldiers.
Pollak: “the camera helps set free Palestinian activists who faced severe charges. There were cases when the judge expressed anger with the army and police for having detained these people. When a Palestinian is put on trial, it is him who must prove his innocence much more than the prosecution needs to prove guilt. They can also remain in pre-trial detention for long months. Video footage also helps get events on the ground into media channels which often don’t bother to send their own crews. Sometimes we get to show the general public at what price the security fence is being built, how quick the army is in hurling tear gas grenades at 12-year old girls who protest the theft of their families’ land”.
Pollak himself got beaten up with clubs to the head and body, and schok grenades exploding near him. Also when he is not physically near the fence he is permanently available on the phone: coordinating with the action committees, asking about the situation of his friends in various villages, volunteering to transport international volunteers. With the Palestinians he speaks a far from bad Arabic.
“I have changed totally in these years” he says. “If you have a modicum of sensitivity, when you get to the West Bank and see the situation there is no way you can remain what you were before. It also effected me to become from a vegetarian into a vegan, not to consume any animal products whatsoever.
What I saw also gave a deeper understanding of the animal food industry. I took the decision to implement things which at first sight look like an impossible fantasy. If I would now produce a film, I would obviously choose a script about somebody who chooses to go to the Territories and meet people, a kind of character resembling myself, and make this the Good Guy in the film.”
-These is something very naive about this. You live in the reality which you chose for yourself and decide that you are the Good Guy.
“In our society, to do something just because it is a good deed, a moral act, seems to people like an idiotic motive. The hype is ‘’what do I do in order to succeed in life’. Many Israelis would have liked to ameliorate the situation but are afraid to lose their privileged positions. What is better than to be born into a privileged stratum, not into the group where you are born to be construction workers and street cleaners? The difference is that I can see this comfort as the illusion it is, and I am determined to break down the division. I just don’t accept phrases like ‘you are naive’ and ‘this is how the world is’ as legitimate. I don’t accept that there can be immoral solutions.”
-Do you also feel hurt and outraged about the suicide bombings?
Of course. It is self-evident that I oppose murder and random killings on both sides. Bu there is something very hypocritical about the common attitude to suicide bombings. Life under occupation is life under permanent terrorism. This is something people here are unwilling or unable to understand this. They are fixed on considering themselves as the victims. A man of my age in Israel is born into a reality where his people is oocupying another people, and that he has a role to fulfill in that occupation. I think everybody must ask himself if he wants to go on doing it. They must understand that they are living inside a bubble which will one day blow up in their faces. When I go around the Territories and see how people live, suicide bombings seem to me a logical outcome – notwithstanding the fact that when I am walking the street in Tel-Aviv, I can become the next victim just like everybody else.
The next stop is the home of 50-year old Wagee Burnet of Bil’in Village. He and Pollak embrace warmly several times. Burnet, a building contractor, had worked in Israel for thirty years. He speaks fluent Hebrew and could have been mistaken for an inhabitant of a Jerusalem Region moshav community. Two days after the Intifada broke out, an army bullet hit Burnet’s son, the eldest among ten children. The son was crippled and consigned for the rest of his life to an electric wheelchair, moving slowly through the cobbled alleys of Bil’in. His father was automatically denied entry permit to israel [on the authorities’ theory that anybody who might have a motive for revenge should be barred]. He had no choice but to go back to raising vegetables and herding sheep. A short time ago he suffered a heart attack, but continues to go to demonstrations.
“I know there is no symmetry between the two of us” says Pollak. “What I am permitted and can do, he can’t. Still, I feel that I am getting from him much more than I can give. I look at him with a never-ending astonishment. With all the terrible suffering he passed through, he still has a joy of life, he still can greet us Israelis. We have so much to learn from them, from their intimate knowledge of the land. Instead of learning from the mistakes of the past, we continue to confiscate lands and hold people as prisoners.”
The achievements of Pollak and his friends are minute. They try to get into the consciousness sof the public, but the public just does not want to hear. The humanitarian help which they succeed in delivering, collecting foodstuffs and vital products from the center of the country to the villages, is far from answering all needs. The fence is being built on and on, closing down upon more and more villages. many activists have been eroded and burned out during the years, and new ones took their place. Sometimes, only a handful of Israelis arrive at the demonstrations, and they must divide themselves among different villages.
“The achievements are very small” agrees Pollak. “Sometimes I get up in the morning and tell myself ‘I am tired, worn out, totally broken down I won’t go today’. But in the end I do go. I can’t do otherwise, especially when I know that only ten activists, or even less, will be coming”.
After two days of going to Bil’in and meetings with Palestinian activists, Pollak really seems worn out, Still, he continues answering his mobile phone which does not cease ringing. ” As long as I am an Israeli and I live here, I can’t be at peace with myself if I don’t do something against the occupation. It might be that I will have to do this for life, I hope I will always have the strength to carry on”.
Eleven criminal charges
At the entrance to Budrus Village Leila Mosinzon (31) pulls out a big kerchief and covers her hair.
She hides her long hair, as the Palestinian women do. With the long skirt over her jeans and the blue sweatshirt above, she could easily be mistaken for a Palestinian girl. She says she is tying the mandil over her hair in order to spare the village women the discomfort they feel when some Israeli and international women demonstrators arrive in the village wearing revealing clothes.
In the home of Sudkiya and Ahmed Abd-el-Rahim and their 15 children, at the village center, she is received with kisses and embraces and immediately becomes a virtual member of the family. In the inner courtyard of the poor house everybody crowds around her, the children waiting impatiently their turn to come and kiss her.
For a moment it is difficult to recognize the determined activist who throughout the car drive here spoke with such ideological ferocity about the iniquities of the occupation. For a moment she drops down the volume, asks questions and answers them delicately with a shining happy face.
Mosinzon, like Pollak, was born at Jaffa, in a mixed Jewish-Arab environment. Her mother is Mizrahi, originating from an Arab country. her father is Ashkenazi [European], whose parents rejected their daughter-in-law.
When she was eight years old she and her younger brother were separated from their parental home and taken to live with their grandparents. “I grew up in a racist home, my grandfather used to say: ‘The only good Arab is a dead Arab.’
For years I suffered physically and mentally, we were forbidden to see out biological parents. At the age of seventeen I ran away from home together with my dog. I tried to tell my schoolteacher how much I was suffering, she just did not believe me. It was just like now, when I come back from the Territories and try to tell what I saw and people don’t want to hear. They can’t face the truth.
When I came the first time to a demonstration and the army started shooting, I felt the helplessness of the Palestinians and it reminded me of my own helplessness as a small girl. When I stand in front of the soldiers’ guns I tell myself that perhaps due to me being there somebody else avoided being hurt, that is is a kind of tikkun (redemption).”
She is active in the West Bank as a kind of independent activist. She participates in the actions of most organized groups, but in a very personal and emotional way.
After being conscripted she was assigned to serve as teacher in an impoverished town in the north. Afterwards she went on a long trek abroad, and on her return she worked at a lot of passing jobs, from waitress at a restaurant to office cleaner.
Already then she was involved in actions for animals and volunteered in Ta’ayush and Amnesty International. She says she was a rather passive activist until the campaign at Yanun Village three years ago. The settlers of Ithamar constantly threatened, harassed and assaulted the tiny village’s 25 families, until they finally ran away in fear. She was among the activists who came to spend the night in the Palestinians’ homes until they felt safe enough to come back and re-inhabit their village. She had spent there five nights in all, and with one of the families she established a contact which changed everything for her.
Mosinzon traveled to Germany to take part in a Peace Now sponsored meeting between Israelis and Palestinians. From there she went on to Japan at her own expense, to collect funds for a Yanun family whose two daughters were born with handicapped hands and needed a complicated and expensive treatment.
When the anti-fence demonstrations started she joined in. Since then, in the past three years, she is only rarely working – finding a passing job and remaining in it just long enough to finance food, travelling expenses and a mobile phone. She has given up having an apartment of her own, and is wandering between the homes of friends in Jerusalem to those of Palestinian families in the villages, especially the Budrus family which virtually adopted her.
She sold olive oil on behalf of Mes’ha families who could not leave their village because of the army road-blocks, and passed the money on to them. She organized children’s summer camps in seven Palestinian villages and got friends who are circus performers to come and teach the children some of their tricks. She was beaten up, hit directly by a gas grenade, detained ten times and ordered to keep away from the fence and always came back. She got charged with eleven criminal charges of “disorderly behaviour” and “assaulting soldiers”, and the prosecution insists upon sending her behind bars.
Next month she will probably start serving a three-month term under a plea bargain. You can hardly ever find her calm or moderate. She is beautiful, emotional, hot-headed, suspicious towards the media and towards anybody who sees things differently.
“Of course I don’t want to go to prison, like I don’t want to get shot at during demonstrations” she says. “Often, I am very afraid in demonstrations because of the violence, but I know why I am there. I am not willing to close my eyes like the Germans closed their eyes in the Nazi period. I am not willing to stay silent when people have to wait long at the checkpoint while I can pass freely”.
She is not motivated by a very well-organized ideology, but by a personal feeling of moral responsibility. She had also volunteered and helped charity organizations collecting food for the poor inside Israel.When she still tries to talk ideology, what comes out seems a too concentrated mixture or various creeds: “Our society produces violence and then solves it with another forest cut down and another shopping center going up. The overdraft in the bank continues to grow because we don’t love ourselves and therefore we must consume more and more things which we don’t really need. And we don’t care if the milk we drink comes from a cow who suffers hell in an industrialized farm. What do we care about homeless people sleeping in our streets? We have created an alienated society. I want to break down that alienation, to cross the fences which surround the human heart.”.
Mosinzon came to know the Budrus family when she organized a summer camp in the village. “They know I have nothing to give them except to come and sit down with them and laugh together with the children with whom I fell in love and who have opened widely my heart. Visiting here returns me to myself, to my will, to nature. They are happy that I am there, and this gives me the feeling of a real family which I never had before.
In order to provide some economic help to the family Mosinzon got together with a friend who works at an ecological farm. The two of them organized a kind of workshop at the village, to let Israelis study farming and ecological agriculture at a plot belonging to a relative of the family. The Israeli pupils came seven times to Budrus, with each of them paying 50 Shekels per lesson which were given to the family and doing such work as removing stones from the plot.
At stormy periods she avoids visiting the family, for fear that her presence would anger the army and cause them harm. Two years ago, she tells, they got part of their land confiscated for the fence and 50 of their olive trees were uprooted. About a month ago Sudkia was hurt by rubber bullets when soldiers came to arrest her brother. “When Sudkiya was hurt I was on my way to a social event in Jerusalem. When I heard it I started shaking in my whole body and fell down unconscious. l decide that it might be more harmful when I am not with them. I devote to them whatever I have to give.I love them. They are close to the land, close to each other. I am here because I adopted and was adopted by a family. Our contact is without politics, and without either arrogance or guilt feeling.”