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A Flying Start to Freedom Summer 2006

International Solidarity Movement Digest
7-19 to 7-23-2006

1.) A Flying Start to Freedom Summer 2006
2.) Israel Declares Greek Human Rights Worker a Security Threat
3.) Settlers in Hebron Continue Campaign of Harassment and Violence
4.) Bil’in Mourns Hundreds of Civilian Deaths
5.) US State Dept.: You’re on Your Own
6.) Israeli Soldiers Contaminate Water Tanks of Human Rights Workers
7.) Home Destruction Threat in Bir Nabala village

1.) A Flying Start to Freedom Summer 2006


Three weeks in, and the International Solidarity Movement’s “Freedom Summer 2006″ has gotten off to a flying start. More and more activists are coming to the West Bank every week, participating in two days of training before heading out to the regions of the West Bank that ISM is working in. Led by these Palestinian communities, the international volunteers, mainly from the USA and Europe, are supporting Palestinians in their non-violent resistance to the Israeli Occupation.

One example of this is the village of Bil’in, where every Friday international and Israeli supporters are joining the local Palestinians as they march against the apartheid wall that is annexing their land to Israel. Because of the presence of international observers, the Israeli army is extremely reluctant to use live ammunition at any of the demonstrations in Bil’in, and no one has ever been killed at a demonstration there. This is in stark contrast to non-violent Palestinian demonstrations that have no international or Israeli supporters, during which 11 Palestinians have been killed. There is also a constant international presence maintained in the village to protect against incursions from the Israeli occupying forces, and some people spend their nights helping to protect a small outpost of the village on the Israeli side of the wall.

Similar solidarity work is being carried out in the village of Beit Ummar in the Hebron region. Beit Ummar has recently started to carry out demonstrations against the expansion of Israeli settlements in their area, and the villagers there have invited internationals from ISM to maintain a constant presence in order to document and reduce the violence from Israeli military incursions to the village, as well as from Israeli settlers.

In the city of Hebron itself, human rights workers from ISM and the Tel Rumeida project work together to maintain a presence in the community in order to non-violently intervene and document to stop violence from Israeli Jewish fundamentalists who live in settlements protected by the Israeli military. Other volunteers work in the ISM Media office in Ramallah.

This very successful start to ‘Freedom Summer’ is in spite of rumors published in the Israeli press that Israeli forces would start operating a “zero-tolerance” policy towards ISM activists. Articles published in the Israeli newspapers Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv warned that anyone suspected of connection to ISM would be stopped from entering the country, and those that did make it through into the West bank would be picked up at the numerous Israeli checkpoints and deported back to their home countries. Although this appears to be in the most part empty rhetoric, ISM and other human rights organizations still face plenty of harassment, both from the Israeli military and from Israeli settlers. The article published in Ha’aretz was nothing short of slanderous, accusing unnamed ISM peace activists of assaulting Israeli police and military. ISM members have never assaulted anyone, or even been charged with doing so.

Our numbers have increased dramatically since the beginning of Freedom Summer. We have had at least 10 new volunteers at each weekly training for the past several week. But we still need a lot more long term and experienced activists to put in place the infrastructure, and build the relationships and networks that will provide for more successful campaigns in the future. Now, more than ever, international volunteers are needed in Palestine. The Olive Harvest Campaign is coming up in October/November. Will you join us? Between our campaigns the occupation, of course, continues and international solidarity workers are needed here even more. ISM needs long term volunteers to be able to build up and maintain our structures and our work. We need your presence! Please join us.
2.) Israel Declares Greek Human Rights Worker a Security Threat


July 22nd, an Israeli judge decided today in administrative court to deport Maria Nikiforou, a 34 year old human rights worker, without a hearing. The security has informed Maria that they will put her on the next available flight, tomorrow morning to Olympia, Greece. Maria’s case is indicative of a pattern by the Israeli government of preventing international human rights workers from aiding the Palestinian people, and denying international activists the right to due process in court.

Maria’s lawyers, Leah Tsemel and Yoni Lerman, filed an appeal against her denial of entry, but the judge has refused to examine it. Instead he is complying with the charges, claiming that Maria is a threat to the state of Israel, a charge backed by completely secret evidence.

Maria was denied entry into Israel on Friday July 14th and has been in detention, mostly in isolated confinement, since her arrival as she awaits her hearing. The Israeli authorities claimed that she is denied entry because she is a “security threat to the state of Israel,” and that she is a part of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which they called an “illegal organization.” In fact, the Israeli courts have ruled that being a member of ISM is not reason enough to deport foreign nationals, and that the group has never been deemed illegal. ISM is a Palestinian-led, non-violent resistance movement that works to support local Palestinians in their non-violent struggle against the occupation.

The state of Israel has made public its intentions to increase the denial of entry to international human rights workers, as well as Palestinians with foreign passports. Many fear that the complete closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip will be replicated in the West Bank.

Paul Larudee, a 60 year-old piano tuner from California, was denied entry last month, because the judge of the civil court ruled to deny him entry based completley on secret evidence provided by the Israeli General Security Service. Secret evidence is expected to form the basis of evidence against Maria as well. This sort of procedure is common in the Israeli military-legal system, through which thousands of Palestinians have been sentenced to renewable periods of “administrative detention,” based on secret charges that are in turn, based on secret evidence.

It is inevitable that democratic values in the Israeli legal system, such as an individual’s right to defend themselves in court have been eroded. The Israeli civil court system cannot respect human rights as long as there is a parallel military legal system in which the human rights of Palestinians are disregarded.

Over 15,000 people have been denied entry into Israel in the last five years. Some examples from May 2006 include: Kate Maynard, a UK Human Rights Lawyer; Raeed Tayeh, a Palestinian American former public affairs director for the Muslim American Society; and Enayeh Adel Samara, a US citizen who is married to a Palestinian and owns a business in Ramallah and has two kids born in Jerusalem.

UPDATE 7-24-06:
This morning, July 24th, Maria Nikiforou was deported from Israel. She was sent on the 7am flight to Athens without a hearing.
3.) Settlers in Hebron Continue Campaign of Harassment & Violence:
July 19-22

by Harry and Kyle


In Tel Rumeida, Hebron, six settler men between the age of 16 and 25 entered a Palestinian shoe manufacturing shop across the street from the ISM/TRP apartment and began throwing shoes around, disrupting the work and intimidating the workers. In response, three international human rights workers confronted the settlers verbally and with cameras. When the settlers realized they were being filmed, they left. In order to prevent settlers from entering again, the internationals blocked the entrance of the shop. Eventually, the police arrived but they did not try to prevent the settlers from harassing the Palestinian shop keepers. Later that day a female settler continued the harassment at the shop and internationals successfully blocked the entrance to the shop.

This harassment is a small incident in a pattern of settler violence that internationals have witnessed while working in the area. Two days prior, fifteen settler girls between the ages of 10 and 15, were documented once again threatening Palestinian children. The young settlers threatened a Palestinian boy saying, “I’m going to kill you”, and called them derogatory names including “donkey.” After the settler girls left, the police arrived and warned them not to go near the Jewish children. Later another police officer told the internationals to leave and if not, he world not help them even of they were ‘bleeding from the head.’ The officers blamed the internationals for the harassment and told them that by documenting the settlers, they were provoking them.

One day prior, a young settler tore up a recently completed brick path to the Qurtuba School in Tel Rumeida. When the damage was discovered, police were contacted, but when they arrived, they refused to get out of the jeep to look at the damage; they simply instructed the internationals to stay away from the construction site to avoid “provoking” the settlers – even though the attack took place when human rights workers were not present to harass. The attack at Qurturba School is the latest step in a long campaign by settlers to disrupt the project. The path was created to stop decades-old rock attacks by Jewish settlers targeting Palestinian students and teachers. In response to over 10 years of such violence, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), agreed to fund the paving of the path with bricks and the installation of fences. Throughout the last few months of construction, settlers have attacked the workers, pulled up the bricks, and smashed much of the retaining wall built next to the path.
4.) Bil’in Mourns Hundreds of Civilian Deaths


Today, July 21, 2006, the people of Bil’in marched in silence to the Apartheid Wall with the support of Israelis and internationals. The weekly march turned into a mourner’s procession as two hundred and fifty demonstrators carried a 20 meter long black flag as a symbol of the over 425 Palestinians and Lebanese killed in recent weeks. They also carried posters with the message “Is this the world we want for our children?”.

To download a poster for printing and posting:

The demonstrators gathered in front of the Wall and held a moment of silence and prayer for those killed in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and the West Bank. The normal celebratory tone of the demonstration was replaced with one of somberness and grief. After the moment of silence the procession marched back to Bil’in without any violent response from the Israeli army.

Mohammed Al Khateeb of the Popular Committee of Bil’in stated, “We are protesting against the Israeli military aggression that targets innocent civilians and infrastructure”. He explained the tape that many people wore over their mouths, “We are against the Arab and International apathy and silence towards the ongoing Israeli violations of human rights”.

Al Khateeb also called on the Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists to continue to protest, in Palestine, in Israel, and around the world, against the Israeli attacks and violations.

After the demonstration Israelis and internationals joined people of Bil’in in a discussion about the non-violent joint struggle in Bil’in and new strategies of working together and resisting. Israelis and internationals also took posters to place in Israel and to send abroad.
5.) US State Dept.: You’re on Your Own


The US State Department has issued a travel warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza that states that “those taking part in demonstrations, non-violent resistance, and “direct action,” are advised to cease such activity for their own safety.” They warn of the danger that peace workers face from Israeli soldiers and settlers just for working in “pro-Palestinian volunteer efforts”.

In the report they state, “In recent months, citizens of Western nations, including Americans, involved in pro-Palestinian volunteer efforts were assaulted and injured in the Occupied Territories by Israeli settlers and harassed by the IDF.” Fox News reported on their website (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,204422,00.html), “This likely refers to a group known as the International Solidarity Movement, said political science professor Nathan Brown, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.”

Along with ISM, the US State Dept. is referring to internationals from the Tel Rumeida Project, Christian Peace Maker Team, International Women’s Peace Service and other organizations who have been attacked and beaten by settlers in Hebron and shot at by soldiers in non-violent protest across the West Bank.

Huwaida Arraf, one of the founders of ISM, expressed her disappointment towards their response. “Instead of calling on Americans to stop engaging in nonviolent protests to Israel’s occupation and human rights violations, the state department should be calling on Israel to stop using violence against unarmed civilians (which include americans), especially since the Israeli military is using US taxpayer dollars to carry out these attacks.”
6.) Israeli Soldiers Contaminate Water Tanks of Human Rights Workers
By Joe Skillet


On Saturday, July 15, 2006, human rights workers in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, discovered that Israeli soldiers had been using the Human Rights Workers’ (HRWs) four water tanks as waste bins. Though it is unsure how long the soldiers have been doing this, what is sure is that the garbage found is of IOF origin.

It is shocking what the HRWs found inside their tanks. Because there are numerous flats in the building, the land-owner was called to point out exactly which water tanks belonged to the HRWs’ apartment. Most of the roof and many of the tanks are covered with Israeli military netting, due to the fact that the roof was at one point labeled a “closed military zone”. The soldiers still regularly ascend the stairs to the roof and there are currently two military cameras recording the area mounted on the building. Some of the netting had to be cut in order to reach the four tanks belonging to the HRWs apartment.

One of the tanks was badly damaged, with a large hole in the side and half of the top unattached from the body of the tank, making the tank irreparable. Three of the tanks are easily accessible. Inside these three tanks is where the HRWs found an abundant amount of trash, intentionally placed there by the Israeli soldiers. Some of the trash includes: forks, spoons, knives, army netting, unexploded bullets, paper, plastic, glass, bricks, broken pipes, pudding containers, an extremely outdated, unopened yogurt package, and plastic trays on which soldiers’ meals are served.

Swimming in all of the tanks were what looked like thousands of little, grayish, transparent organisms. These organisms were the first clue that there was something wrong with the water supply. Recently, some of the HRWs had noticed these tiny wormlike creatures coming through the kitchen faucet.

The HRWs currently have no clean water supply to the apartment because of the bacterial – and potentially harmful – consequences of using or ingesting it. Palestinian friends and neighbors have agreed to let the HRWs fill water bottles and buckets from their own water tanks and faucets, and to use their showering facilities. Most of the water has been emptied from the tanks, but many of the organisms still remain. The tanks must be thoroughly disinfected before they can be used again.

There is a large concern that the soldiers will again contaminate the HRWs’ water supply. Currently, there are no locks for the lids of the tanks. The idea of trashing Palestinian water tanks is apparently not new. One Palestinian told the HRWs that the soldiers have contaminated his family’s water supply with their garbage many times. So, he checks his water tanks everyday. There have been other reports of soldiers urinating in water tanks.

There is a consensus among the housemates to get new water tanks with locks, or to at least replace the damaged tank. In the meantime, the HRWs will continue to borrow water from their friends, and hope that any illness from drinking the contaminated water has been prevented.
7.) Home Destruction Threat in Bir Nabala village


Today Bedouin houses were under threat of demolition in Bir Nabala village in the Jerusalem area. Since 1994, when forced to leave their homes in Al Ram by the Israeli military, about 100 Bedouin have been living in small shanties near the Atarot Industrial Area. The homes of these refugees are once again facing demolition due to the Israeli expansion of the annexation wall, where the Israelis claim 200 meters of free space are necessary to secure the area.

The Bedouin here are already facing numerous problems with the annexation wall. The construction of the wall has cut water pipes to their homes. In addition, the wall severely hinders their movement as they have to cross into Jerusalem to work and sell their products, but are forced to go through Ramallah and the Qalandiya Checkpoint. If they are successful in crossing, these checkpoints can cause major delays. The Bedouin children are also forced to take the same circuitous and road-blocked routes to get to their school. The soldiers guarding the wall often will not let sheep herders go out to hills for grazing. The situation with travel is compounded by the fact that Israeli factories in the industrial area are draining their sewage water next to the Bedouin homes (see photo below).

Bedouin in the West Bank are forced to move again and again by the Israeli Military and it is nearly impossible for them to get permission to stay anywhere regularly. This threatens their culture and economy which is largely dependent upon grazing. The water and air pollution from the factories as well as the wall is undermining dairy production and will make Palestinians even more dependent on Israeli products.

The Bedouin in Bir Nabala hold documents granting them permission from the Palestinian land owners to stay in the area (see above). They have taken their case to the Israeli court which today, while the Bedouins stood by fearing destruction of their homes, ruled that they could remain temporarily. Even if they court rules in their favor, the community faces a future completely surrounded by fences and soldiers effectively strangling the Bedouin way of life.

For more reports, journals and action alerts visit the ISM website at www.palsolidarity.org.

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