by Mary, October 14th
A young soldier told me that he didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He did not want peace, just quiet. He wanted quiet! And quiet he has, I suppose. He has no need to arrest anyone or shoot anyone. And that is the best a young conscript can hope for! Unfortunately his quiet is not good for everyone.
What the Israeli army calls “quiet” here means pandering to Israeli settlers, mostly by ignoring attacks on Palestinians and internationals and Israeli human rights workers (HRWs) by Israeli settler boys, who are too young to be arrested. On the evening of Friday September 29th, Baruch Marzel’s son and two other boys were hanging about outside our house and one of them threw muck at me. It was all over the back of clothes and in my hair. Soldiers were there but did nothing. The police came and said I could make a complaint but they could do nothing. The boys were too young! If it had been Palestinian children, they would not be considered too young. There are more than 700 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. Next day Baruch asked what I thought about the children. I replied that I didn’t know what he meant. Then he said “Shabbat Shalom”. It definitely wasn’t an apology but it was better than the usual “Nazi” or “Anti-semetic”. So I replied “Shabbat Shalom”.
There have been constant attacks on the families living near the Tel Rumeida settlement.
The El Azzeh families had rocks thrown at their house for three hours the other evening. This happens a lot. There is a new young family in a house that had been empty. They have two toddler children and the rock throwing is a great worry for them. So there are now four families alongside the settlement. All have children. In the last month, Tel Rumeida settler children have cut the water pipe to these houses three times. The work was supervised by a woman, who came from the Gaza colonies a year ago. She has been trespassing on and trying to steal El Azzeh land ever since.
In July 2005, there was an Israeli court order that the El Azzeh families were allowed to use part of their land as a pathway, parallel to the street so that they could lead their house (for three years previously, these families were not allowed out of their houses, 2 hrs every two weeks curfew). Which the settlers have taken over. In December 2005, the Israeli army put razor wire across the entrance to the path. Until June 2006, the children were allowed to pass that way. If they couldn’t open the wire, most soldiers would help them. The children were constantly harassed by the settler woman from the late Gaza colonies. She would tell the soldiers that the children were not allowed pass. And, if that was not effective, she would physically block their way – standing over them and abusing them. Human rights workers were always there to help the children when the children came from and went to school. However, during the summer, while I was in Australia, Tel Rumeida settlers and some soldiers put a lot of razor wire at the end of the track near the El Azzeh houses. Now the families cannot pass at all. The only other way, is a very rough track through other people’s back yards. The ground is rocky and there are many rough steps as well as a ladder to climb. Two weeks ago, 6 year old Ahmad fell on rocky ground and injured his head, which is still covered in sticking plaster. The track has been tidied at the road end near us. It looks quiet and even peaceful! But this is misleading.
The Abu Aeshah family live directly opposite the Tel Rumeida settlement. On September 30th at 5.00pm, Abu Samir, Samir, Rafa and Mohammad Abu Aeshah were returning to their house opposite the Tel Rumeida settlement. Two settler boys came out and threw rocks at them. An Israeli army officer had told me that his soldiers are positioned to help in case of a settler attack against this family. This does not appear to be the case. No soldiers came. It was less than a week since the Abu Aeshah family was attacked in this way. The officer’s assurance does not seem to be worth much. Earlier on the same day, two HRWs were at the crossroads looking towards the Tel Rumeida settlement. Three settler boys, aged about ten, were throwing rocks towards a Palestinian house nearby. The HRWs called to the soldiers at the crossroad to come. One of the soldiers yelled at the boys until they stopped. Later, the same boys came out of the settlement with other girls and boys. They moved down the road towards the crossroad. Three boys went into the entryway of the Palestinian house and threw rocks at the front door. Others threw rocks down the road towards the soldiers who were responding to the HRWs call. Both soldiers sent the settler children back to the settlement. This is quiet?
All Palestinian government workers have not been paid since the end of February. Finally, after 7 months of working without pay, they are on strike. The money exists to pay them. Israel is collecting tax for Palestine but will not hand it over. They say that this is because the Palestinians elected Hamas, which the USA and Israel say is terrorist organization. But it was a democratic election with over a thousand registered international observers, who found it to be exemplary. So much for the USA wanting democracy in the Middle East! The Palestinians were tired of corrupt government, which gave the people nothing and obtained not even basic humanitarian rights from Israel. If Israel wanted a different government, some concessions – such as releasing 700 children, many of whom have not been charged with an offense, from Israeli prisons – would have made enough difference to swing the election. So now, there is no school, no nurses, doctors or workers in hospitals (except for emergencies), no garbage collectors etc. Even though the government in Hebron is not controlled by Hamas, the restrictions are here too. Israel holds the tax money of these people and collective punishment is the order of the day. One of the most shocking things for me is that my Australian government says that this is somehow helping Israel protect itself. Probably the reverse is true. It is not healthy for any nation to behave so callously, while demanding that their youth (Israeli army conscripts) be the ones to defend their cruel stance.
October 7th-14th (Succot week)
It is the Jewish holiday of Succot. Settlers have strung banners on Palestinian houses and flags and banners in the street. No permission was asked of Palestinians, but all is quiet. But the lack of consideration by and arrogance of the settlers and the acquiescence of the Israeli army is sickening. There were no problems on Shabbat (Saturday). On Sunday, the checkpoint for those leaving Tel Rumeida (checkpoint 56) was closed at 1.30pm. No notice was given. Soldiers forced the closure of shops in H1 (which is supposed to be controlled by the Palestinian Authority, under the Hebron accords) and invaded further into the Palestinian controlled area. Then the checkpoint was intermittently opened and closed until 3.30pm. Israeli settlers arrived at about 3.10pm and purposefully blocked the way of Palestinians using the checkpoint. At 3.30pm the checkpoint was closed – until 7pm, we were told. The settlers escorted by soldiers and police were allowed through the checkpoint and taken into a Palestinian house in H1. The aim was to visit the “Cave of Otniel Ben-Knaz”. This constituted not only trespass in a Palestinian home but an invasion by Israeli settlers and soldiers into H1.
Palestinians were beginning to gather at the checkpoint. It is Ramadan, which means fasting in daylight hours for Muslims. Palestinians need to finish their shoping before about 4.30pm and break their fast at about 5.45pm. The police and army officers present at the checkpoint made telephone calls. The settlers and soldiers returned. Several stones were thrown at the H1 side of the checkpoint. Not so quiet! Soldiers went rushing back again with guns ready. There was some tear gas. Then all was quiet again. The checkpoint was open again by 4.15pm.
On Monday the 9th, we were inundated with over a thousand tourists – religious Israeli Jews. They were walking all over the area, but thankfully there were no problems. A Palestinian told me that they were from Tel Aviv and other places in Israel. They were not settlers. On Tuesday and Wednesday, there was many bus loads of tourists. The buses park right in front of Palestinian doorways even though Palestinians and internationals are sitting there. This seems extremely rude as there are other places to park. Soldiers order the Palestinians to go inside their houses to make room for tourists to get off the bus. This international refuses to move! Most of the tourists themselves are no trouble. There are a few groups of young men, dressed the garb of religious Jews (black hat or kippur and trousers with a white shirt) who often act unpleasantly. On Tuesday, a group of about 12 crowded round me as I sat on a wall outside a Palestinian house. Two of them trod on my feet several times and tried to say that I was tripping them.
This is the “quiet” of the Israeli army. The settlers, no matter how badly they behave or how unreasonable their demands, are always put first. The Palestinians, no matter how conciliatory they are, always come last.