Home / Forty settlers freely trespass Palestinian property, Australian human rights volunteer arrested

Forty settlers freely trespass Palestinian property, Australian human rights volunteer arrested

1. Forty settlers freely trespass Palestinian property, Australian human rights volunteer arrested
2. Testimony from Detained Human Rights Defender
3. Israel has the right to defend herself
4. Action Alert: Ask Veolia advisors to take a stand for Justice in Palestine!
5. Action Alert – Hope Flowers School
6. Israeli denial of entry policy continues despite promises made to the EU
7. Checkpoint Humiliation
8. Olive branches in Bil’in fail to quell IOF aggression

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1. Forty settlers freely trespass Palestinian property, Australian human rights volunteer arrested

by ISM Hebron, December 17th

At 11am, human rights workers in the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron were alerted that 40 Israeli settlers, one of whom was armed, had invaded the Abu Haikal’s property and were having a picnic and campfire in their olive groves. The settlers were accompanied by 15 soldiers. The settlers and soldiers refused to let Palestinian schoolchildren enter their houses after school although this is against even Israeli law.

When contacted the police confirmed that the Palestinian children were allowed through their land to reach their homes but when the police turned up they refused to allow this. Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was called to the scene and the DCO (District Coordination Office – the civil administration wing of the Israeli military int he West Bank) promised to ’sort it out’ when contacted but never showed up.

Mary Baxter, a 75-year old human rights worker who frequently defends the rights of Palestinian residents in the community, began making inquiries first to the soldiers and then to the police. After speaking to the police for approximately half an hour, they detained her and she was taken away in the back of a police jeep. Baxter was arrested at the police station for obstructing the police jeep and made to sign conditions which forbid her from standing opposite her front door for two weeks. She is also banned from visiting friends and the community
centre in Tel Rumeida

Baxter was released after being being held for four hours, including one hour in the cold outside Kiryat Arba police station despite her sick condition. She has a cold and bandaged hand from a fall, and only came out today because of the mass settler trespass on Palestinian land.

Baxter has significantly contributed to the support of Palestinian rights in the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron by drawing international attention to the plight of Palestinian residents who are denied basic rights like the ability to drive cars, walk on certain streets, and receive emergency services. Recently the Secretary General of Amnesty International visited Tel Rumeida and condemned Israeli human rights violations.

Settlers remained on the property for approximately 3 hours. None of the Israeli trespassers were arrested.

Earlier in the day settlers had hit a teacher with a rock on her way to the Al Qutuba school in Tel Rumeida. The teacher was hospitalised.

After school as the Palestinian schoolchildren were being accompanied home, settlers bombarded them with rocks, apples and eggs.

One Palestinian man was detained for 40 minutes at a Tel Rumeida checkpoint. When a HRW asked the soldiers why he was being detained they replied it was because the man ‘wanted to be there’.

The settler children are on holiday for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

Mary Baxter: 0545316328
ISM media office: 02 2971824, 0599943157

For photos visit: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/12/17/mary-arrest/

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2. Testimony from Detained Human Rights Defender

by Mary, December 18th

There have been four occasions in the last two and a half months when the Israeli army and police have helped and encouraged Israeli settlers to trespass on Palestinian land. This is against Israeli law. The aim is probably to help Israeli settlers establish a bridgehead on Palestinian land so that in the future they can insist that they have been using the land.

Yesterday, at 12.30pm, I was ill and asleep when I had a call from an international human rights defender (HRD). She said that Palestinian children were being stopped returning home from school. Israeli settlers were on Palestinian land, being protected by soldiers, who said that Palestinians would not be able to pass for 5 hours. This was a particularly serious offense for a number of reasons. Three of the reasons are as follows. Firstly, there has been an Israeli court order that Palestinians must be allowed go to their homes. Secondly, the police (who admitted the first reason) would not come and help. And thirdly because the Israeli army insists that Palestinian families, who live near their base, may not use the road but must pass this way. The trespass on Palestinian land is also an offense.

So I got out of bed and went out. I asked the soldier at the crossing what was happening. He said that I knew what he thought about this but that he could do nothing. So wheezing loudly, I went up the very steep hill to Abu Hekel land where there was an army jeep and many other soldiers. The officer in the jeep was a captain and seemed of high enough rank to be some help. I said that they were breaking Israeli law and threatening the safety of Palestinian children and that it was the army who insisted that the Palestinians pass this way. It made no difference. I stood by his jeep to stop him from leaving and rang the District Coordinating Office (DCO-the Civil Administration wing of the Israeli military in the West Bank). I do not have my telephone, which was lost and found in West Jerusalem and, being deaf, could not hear well on the substitute.

Israeli settler children were being allowed on to Palestinian land but Palestinian children were being turned away. Then two young women with babies were turned back by the soldiers. I rang the DCO again. She said to call back at 2pm. I looked at my watch. It was 1pm and all the children were out of school. So, this was totally unacceptable. I tried again to get the officer to let the children through and to protect them. But to no avail. One soldier told another HRD that he would be too frightened to try to escort Palestinian children past these violent settlers!

Then the police arrived. I said that they should be protecting the Palestinian children and complying with Israeli law. Instead they decided to detain me. I said that they had a responsibility to the children. They said that they would take me to the police station and then go back. But they lied. They stayed at the police station. After four hours, I was let out into the cold even though they knew I was ill. I had to promise that for two weeks, I would not stand outside my house, go to my rubbish skip, visit neighbours across the road or up the street, go to the community centre or go to the only local shop. How petty can you get? I can scurry round the corner, where I can stand and talk to Palestinians or sympathetic soldiers or go down to the checkpoint.

The Palestinian children waited for another half hour and were finally led away by soldiers to go another way that was very rough and would take them at least twenty minutes. I do not know what happened to the mothers with babies.

On Sunday October 8th, the Israeli army invaded H1, Palestinian administered Hebron. That is, most of Hebron. They forced shops to close. Then the checkpoint for Palestinians was closed. This meant that people could not come home from work or shop for food. After much telephoning, it was opened spasmodically. Israeli settlers arrived at the checkpoint and blocked the way for Palestinians. At 3.30pm, about thirty soldiers escorted the settlers through the Palestinian only checkpoint and it was closed – until 7pm we were told. This was very bad because in Ramadan Palestinians eat at sunset. They needed to cook their food for a meal at 5.45pm. And workers needed to get home to eat it. There is another way, which is a ten minute taxi ride, which many can’t afford. The reason for the invasion was to take the Israeli settlers into a Palestinian house without permission. They wanted to see the Cave of Otneil Ben-Knaz. This was both trespass and invasion.

On Friday November 17th, about 100 Israeli settlers and their visitors went onto Abu Hekel land right next to their house. They were accompanied by two Israeli policemen, while three soldiers watched from behind a fence. They stayed for ninety minutes saying prayers and having a speaker. The family was naturally very frightened. They have been attacked by settlers on many occasions and also by soldiers. The following Friday this was repeated with forty settlers and police.

This pattern of behaviour must stop.

The first part of this testimony relates to the settler trespass in Tel Rumeida on December 17th.

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3. Israel has the right to defend herself

by John, December 18th

I had a tour of Hebron today going a bit further than the Tel Rumeida settlement. But we did pass through this area – it turns out that the soldiers often ban the residents from repairing their houses, hence the fact that many have moved out. Many more moved out after the massacre in 1994 by Baruch Goldstein and the Israeli government imposed a curfew for their own ’safety’. This curfew stopped them going outside for days at a time or visiting shops.

The settlers have also invaded a number of Palestinian homes. The most ‘amusing’ story I heard from one activist is when a group of Palestinians saw an Israeli leave a satchel in a field nearby. The police investigated and found it contained food – it transpired that the Israeli Jews had decided that they would come and throw rocks and stones in the village but because of Shabbat cannot carry food. Locally they have also burnt down olive trees that date from the Roman or even Byzantium era.

A local house has also been turned into a closed military zone but local Jews are often observed going here for illicit affairs and for drinking alcohol. But when the locals return they are often harassed by the soldiers.

The most shocking thing I think I saw today was the sign pictured above, which is written all over the place in Hebrew and as pictured in English. The fact that some Jews want to perpetrate a Holocaust is awful, especially as the fact is the state of Israel was largely created due to the Holocaust.

Although there were no egg throwing incidents (we quite blatantly kept a camera trained on the window that they have been coming from) two settler children did attack some Palestinian boys with sticks. The soldiers intervened, but told the Palestinians off.

Another interesting thing is the fact that for a long time there has been a Palestinian Jewish presence in Hebron and we were shown the old Jewish cemetery and for years they lived peacefully with the Muslims. Again I heard I don’t want all the Israelis to leave Israel but I want the settlers to leave my land. And also the fact that although people don’t condone suicide bombing they are not surprised when it happens. One email I had from a friend asked if they don’t condone it why don’t they stop it. But its not that easy, as on can see in my home country, a large majority was against the Iraq invasion with many demonstrating against it but even in this democratic country we couldn’t stop thousands of soldiers going. So why should we blame the majority of the Palestinians for the actions of very few.

I’m starting to feel quite angry and helpless here and can fully understand the motives behind attacking the Israelis. Palestinians say they have all served in the army (OK not quite true but a large percentage have) and so they are all complicit in the crimes of the settlers – we were told of numerous court rulings that allow them to go to various places or use various roads that they cannot get enforced. Whilst the settlers break various rules but they cannot get them prosecuted – if they try and film they are often harassed and attacked by the settlers and soldiers.

As I’m finishing this off there are some settler kids wandering the streets with music blaring out, they just walked past two soldiers who did absolutely nothing. I’m now going to go looking for quotes from the Bush administration that state the Palestinians, and their democratically elected government, have the right to defend themselves from terror. If anyone can provide me with one I’d be most grateful.

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4. Action Alert: Ask Veolia advisors to take a stand for Justice in Palestine!

from the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
http://stopthewall.org/factsheets/1047.shtml

Connex / Veolia and Alstom are the international investors in the Citypass consortium that will build and run a light rail project in Jerusalem that incorporates a number of Jewish settlements around East Jerusalem, built on stolen Palestinian land. It ensures the contiguity of these colonies with the central areas of the city and plays a key role in sustaining the settlements and ensuring they become a permanent fixture upon Palestinian land.

Veolia’s involvement in the tramline makes the company complicit in Israel’s violations of international law reaping significant profits over a 30 year period, money stained with the blood and misery of Palestinians under Occupation and currently being expelled from Jerusalem.

Veolia has rejected to heed the calls from Palestine and international organizations.

Thus international pressure is mounting on the corporation to stop their involvement in the Judaization of Jerusalem.

* Connex shuttles have been blockaded in Geneva.

* Following protests by trade unions and IPSC in August 2006, Veolia Transport Ireland had called off plans to train Israeli personnel to operate the tramline in Jerusalem.

* In November the Dutch ASN Bank decided to divest from Veolia until the company respects the relevant UN resolutions.

Support us in putting further pressure on Veolia!

Address the advisors of the Institut Veolia Environnement, the group’s prestige institute aiming to “propose a forum for dialogue and interchange with academia, institutions and the different actors in society.”

Ask the intellectuals associated with the institute to re-consider their support of Veolia as long as Veolia supports violations of Palestinian rights!

To:
Foresight committee Institut Veolia Environnement:
Amartya Sen: [email protected] (cc [email protected] )
Philippe Kourilsky: [email protected]
Pierre Marc Johnson: [email protected]
Harvey Fineberg: [email protected]
Mamphela Ramphele: [email protected]
Helene Ahrweiler: (no email available)

cc: Georges Valentis: [email protected]
(Managing Director of Institut Veolia Environnement)

>From :
Name/Organization:
____________________
____________________

Date: ____________

Open letter to the Foresight Committee members of the Institut Veolia Environnement

Dear Foresight Committee members,

We are addressing you in your capacity as experts supporting the efforts of Institut Veolia Environnement.

We know that all of you have dedicated a great part of your life and expertise to the promotion of human rights and social, economic, cultural and political rights of people all over the world. We appreciate your commitment and are writing you now to urge you to continue your support for human rights for all.

We would like to inform you about the implications of your association with the Institut Veolia in terms of its’ violations of international law, UN resolutions, and Palestinian human rights and cultural heritage.

As you may know, Veolia, together with Alstom, are the international investors in the Citypass consortium that won a 2002 tender put out by Israeli authorities for a light rail transportation project in Jerusalem amounting to around 500 million euros. Citypass will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the system for the next thirty years.*

The path of the light rail incorporates a number of Jewish settlements around East Jerusalem, built on stolen Palestinian land. It ensures the contiguity of these colonies with the central areas of the city and provides them with a vital transport link. The project boasts that the “Ammunition Hill” station of the network will operate as the feeder station for settler traffic from Ma’aleh Adumim, a large Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and from settlements in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. The light rail project plays a key role in sustaining the settlements and ensuring they become a permanent fixture upon Palestinian land.

In August 2005, the project got the go ahead from War Criminal Ariel Sharon who stated at a signing ceremony: “I believe that this should be done, and in any event, anything that can be done to strengthen Jerusalem, construct it, expand it and sustain it for eternity as the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the State of Israel, should be done.” The Occupation’s Mayor Uri Lupolianski described the light rail to be “the fulfillment of Psalm 122.” The tramline is clearly part of a larger plan to substitute Jerusalem’s historical and unique social fabric and its cultural heritage with a new brand of a “Judaized” version of Jerusalem.

According to international law, an occupying power is not allowed to annex or drastically change the infrastructure in the territories it occupies. The advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in July 2004 confirmed that Israel is an occupying power and that building the Wall and Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is illegal. However, the tramline project runs through the occupied Palestinian territories. Veolia’s involvement in the tramline will make the company complicit in Israel’s violations of international law.

The project, a private-public partnership (PPP) between the Israeli Occupation government and the consortium, is hinged upon the willingness of international business groupings to provide a huge injection of capital. In turn Veolia and Alstom will reap significant profits and dividends over a thirty-year period, money stained with the blood and misery of Palestinians under Occupation and currently being expelled from Jerusalem.

Veolia has received a lot of criticism since it first announced its intentions to become involved in the illegal project. Stop the Wall and other Palestinian civil society organizations have launched appeals against its participation in the tramway. President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and French President Jacques Chirac already discussed Veolia’s partnership in the tramline project in the summer of 2005. Amnesty International France highlighted the unlawfulness of the construction of the tramline in East Jerusalem in a public statement on 1 March 2006.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) revealed in August 2006 that Veolia Transport Ireland had called off plans to train Israeli personnel to operate a similar tramline in East Jerusalem, following trade union protests inspired by the IPSC.

Then in November the Dutch ASN Bank ended its relationship with Veolia and wrote to Veolia:

“….We believe that Veolia’s involvement in the light rail project is not in line with the UN’s demand to stop all support for Israel’s settlement activities, and is therefore not in line with ASN Banks’ social criteria. Due to the direct nature of Veolia’s involvement (through a 5% stake in the consortium and as future operator), we are of the opinion that Veolia’s activities in Jerusalem are in conflict with UN Resolutions. Therefore, on this current information Veolia will be removed from our investment universe.”

In the light of the above, we urge you to take a stand for justice and international law and to join the international efforts to convince the Veolia group to consider the role human rights should play in investments.

We ask you to re-consider your support of Veolia as long as Veolia supports violations of our rights and international legality.

As Veolia has not heeded the calls from Palestine and various international organizations, ending your relationship with Veolia—just as the ASN Bank did—will allow you to truly “participate in defining the overall direction and contribute to the discussions led by the Institut Veolia Environnement.”

Regards,

Signature

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5. Action Alert – Hope Flowers School

An Urgent Request to Keep Hope Alive
http://www.hope-flowers.org/demolition.html

As many of you know, the Israeli authorities started to build a wall around the Palestinian cities and villages a few years ago. In 2003, the Hope Flowers School received a demolition order for the school cafeteria, because the cafeteria is located 120 meters away from the proposed route of the wall.

Now the Israeli authorities have started to build the last segment of the wall near the school. Bulldozers and stone crushing machines are working daily to crush thousands of years of beautiful rocks at the front of the school in preparation for either laying the 8 meters high cement wall segments or to build a fence.

The proposed route of the barrier will isolate the Hope Flowers School and will not allow Israelis to come to visit the school. The school has been well known for many years as a home for peace education in the Middle East. Our bridge-building programs have reached out to thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

We encourage peace and coexistence based on our belief that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cannot be solved in a violent way. With our joint programs we create an opportunity for dialogue and understanding. The mutual meetings are very helpful to minimize fear and prevent stereotyping. They form a tool for both Palestinians and Israelis to find their common humanity.

The problem is that, when the wall (barrier) is built, Israelis and Palestinians will not be able to meet each other anymore. The Hope Flowers School will not be accessible to Israelis. This means more fear and more stereotyping of ‘the other’, which would end any chance for creating peace and dialogue. The wall is not only physical: it will be a barrier in the minds and hearts of future Palestinian and Israeli generations, preventing them from living together. The wall will not bring peace. It may bring a cease-fire, but a cease-fire is never peace. (The current cease-fire in late 2006 applies to Gaza only).

To all our friends, your help is needed now!

The Israelis will not stop building the wall for sure! But let’s all together ask them to create a gate in the wall near the school to allow Israelis to reach the Hope Flowers School. This gate will be a Gate for Hope to keep hope alive and to keep Hope Flowering for the next generation.

How to help?

Please apply pressure to the contacts below by letter, fax, e-mail or phone. Ask them to do whatever they can to pressure the Israelis to overturn the demolition order of the cafeteria and to create a gate in the wall to allow Israelis to reach the school. Emphasize the unique operating principles and ethos of the Hope Flowers School – it is the only school in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza areas focusing on peace and democracy education, teaching our students to look for non-violent solutions to the ongoing situation.

Here is is an example of a letter that you can re-work (if you wish), sign and send to one of the contacts below.
Click here to download (MSWord document). Please write pleasant and constructive letters and e-mails!

a) Commander, Israeli Civil Administration
(Sub Committee for Supervision of Building Activity in Beth El),
Fax: (Israel) +972-2-997-7326

b) Mr. Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel
E-mail: [email protected]
Fax: (Israel) +972-2-566-4838 or +972-2-267-5475
Tel: +972-2-670-5555

UK residents please write to:

Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH, UK
www.fco.gov.uk (click ‘Feedback’)

c) The Israeli Embassy / Consulate in your home country.

d) Dr Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State
Address: US Department of State, 2210 C Street N.W, Washington D.C 20520, USA.
Tel: (USA) 202 647 5291 (Dr. Rice’s office) or 202 647 4000 (State Dept. main number)
Email: contact-us.state.gov

By sending your letter to one or more of the above officials, you are helping us to keep hope alive.

If you can draw attention to this situation in your local and wider communities, through various methods, therefore resulting in greater awareness of our situation, it would further help our cause.

For further information specifically relating to this issue, please contact us at the school.

In peace,
Ibrahim Issa
Co-director, Hope Flowers School

Some background information

To find Hope Flowers on this map: follow the red main road SW from Bethlehem to Al Khader – this used to be the old Jerusalem-Hebron main road, but now it has been blocked off. Hope Flowers is below Al Khader in the corner, just where the wall turns, opposite the new Israeli settlement at Efrata.

Most of you may well know that the school is at Al Khader, in the part of the West Bank still designated as Area C, where there is exclusive Israeli control and administration of most aspects of organized life. The categories of Areas A, B and C, which came into existence with the Oslo Accords, resulted in Areas A being designated as areas under full Palestinian control whilst Areas B came under joint Israeli and Palestinian control. Because the school area has been traditionally Palestinian for generations, and because it is within 2 kilometers of portions of Area B and Area A, it had seemed likely that this area would be reclassified as an Area A. However, as a result of the latest Intifada, and other factors, this has not happened, and we remain fully under the control of the Israeli military and civil authorities.

This directly affects the school buildings in the following way. Although all of the school buildings have Palestinian building permits, the permits are not recognized by the Israeli authorities. As we are in an Area C, we need to be in possession of an Israeli building permit.

In 1999, when we were first issued with a demolition notification, the Hope Flowers School was in the same predicament. After submitting reports, attending meetings of the Civil Administration (the Israeli body that administers the Occupied Palestinian Territories), attending the hearing of our case in an Israeli military court, and continuous international pressure, the order to demolish was rescinded. We applied in 1999 for an Israeli building permit and were successful in our application. However, the fee that the Israeli Authorities were charging for the issue and validation of the permit was deliberately beyond the financial capabilities of the school, hence we were unable to proceed and obtain the permit.

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6. Israeli denial of entry policy continues despite promises made to the EU

by the Right to Entry Campaign, December 17th
http://www.righttoenter.ps/

Despite assurances given to the EU presidency by Israeli authorities, foreigners continue to be barred from passing through Israeli-controlled access points when their destination is the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). “Arbitrary denials of entry and expulsions have not stopped. No transparent rules or mechanisms are in place so far. Palestinian families, vital service providers and businesses remain vulnerable to arbitrary denials of entry and residency. This is especially hard to accept at a time of major Christian and Muslim traditional festivities when families want to be together more then ever”, said Anita Abdullah, speaking for the Campaign for the Right of Entry to the oPt.

One example is Linda Ali Mahmood, a Palestinian American from Cleveland/Ohio who was refused entry at Ben Gurion airport on Thursday December 14th. Linda, who is deaf and dumb like her brother Shukri, had traveled in the hopes of spending time with her cancer stricken aunt but was denied entry allegedly because Shukri had overstayed his permit. Shukri had requested a routine permit renewal in October. However, the Israeli Ministry of Interior liaison at the Israeli Civil Administration suddenly stopped processing renewals for foreigners married to Palestinian ID-holders and refuses to accept Shukri’s application.

On December 13th, the EU Presidency met with Israeli Major General Yosef Mishlav, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), to discuss Israel’s policy on issuing visitor permits to foreign nationals residing with family or working in the oPt. Several EU Member States have since informed their nationals that responsibility for issuing Israeli visitor permits for foreign passport holders entering the oPt has been transferred from the Ministry of Interior to COGAT, which is a part of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) command in the oPt. The EU Presidency also reported receiving the following assurances from General Mishlav:
• the policy changes and systems introduced by the Israeli Ministry of Interior three months ago have been cancelled;
• new rules have been adopted permitting foreign nationals seeking entry into the oPt to apply for three-month visitor permit and permit renewals;
• EU spouses of Palestinians should apply for 3 month permits while COGAT considers longer term alternatives;
• a COGAT liaison is now in place at Allenby Bridge crossing and a liaison will be in place at Ben Gurion Airport ‘within weeks,’ to prevent problems at crossing points.

The EU Member States have promised their nationals to monitor the implementation of the new procedures closely and have stated that they ‘shall continue to ensure that the issue of entry to the oPt for foreign nationals is continuously raised at the highest levels’. The Campaign welcomes the efforts of foreign governments to resolve this urgent issue. However, tens of thousands of Palestinian families will remain separated or at risk, and Palestinian educational and social service institutions, humanitarian agencies and businesses will remain unable to prevent the loss of critical personnel until applications for entry and residency in the oPt are decided in accordance with a clear, transparent and internationally lawful policy.

Contact: Basil Ayish Coordinator, Media Committee
(c) +970-(0)59-817-3953 (email) [email protected]

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7. Checkpoint Humiliation

The other day as we were travelling through Zatara checkpoint between Ramallah and Nablus, I witnessed a particularly disgusting display of power by the Israeli army. An extremely public humiliation of a woman, who was taken out of a shared taxi and had her ID and phone removed. She was fighting back the tears, trying to retain her dignity, but was clearly distressed. Everything about the soldiers interaction exuded contempt for her. One in particular was clearly getting something from “punishing” her. We were prevented from speaking to her, which made our ability to intervene somewhat limited. What we were able to do was remain present until she was released. Most of the time I do not feel very effective; the most I can do is be present.

Apparently her ID did not “allow” her to travel to another part of the West Bank. Apart from being extremely punitive, excessively controlling and frankly wrong by any book, it is also arbitary. The rules of the game change. I have been in shared taxis with people who have been turned back…. ‘last week’ they could make that journey, ‘yesterday’ they could make that journey, ‘next week’ they ‘may’ be able to make it, but today “NO”. After a while I feel like I can never hear the word “LO” again (Hebrew for “no”), it is barked and shouted countless times a day, controlling so much of day to day life for Palestinians.

After an hour, on this bitterly cold day, the soldier returned the woman’s ID. He simply took it out of his pocket and gave it to her. Clearly she was not a “security threat”. Detaining her, frightening her, and publically humiliating her, were blatantly intended to make sure she would not attempt this journey again. I was enraged. The soldiers are boys with guns and egos. They have so much power in a situation that is impossible for them to understand with their conditioning and youth.

At this same checkpoint, in this same period of time, another situation was unfolding. It was hidden away and not for public view. I became suspicious and approached a soldier and border policeman; it was then that I saw a boy of around 15 years, sat hunched behind a concrete bollard, hidden from view, his face wet with tears. He looked petrified. He has good reason to be.
Every single person in Palestine will know someone who has been arrested or detained. Ill treatment is commonplace, and torture is far from being eradicated. I have no idea how long the boy had been held for. He was in tears as the soldiers were speaking to him, but fortunately he was “allowed” to go.

Recently I was travelling through Nablus to a nearby village, the taxi driver pointed out a street where, just half an hour before, the army shot dead a man. Apparently a targetted assasination. Five other people were injured, one seriously. “Normal life” (whatever ‘that’ is living under
Occupation) continues just a few streets away.

My time here is coming to a close, I am in a quiet, reflective mood. From all the conversations I have had, with countless people, two things are screaming out for attention. One is the overriding sense that things are getting worse. And worse. And worse. I was not here during the bloody years of the Intifada, but I think it is absolutely vital to understand that although the bloodshed and violence is less, the situation is worse. The oppressive control, which works on every level, mental and physical, is steadily going to new levels. One of the women I am working with grew up under Apartheid in South Africa. Along with several other South African activists who are here in the West Bank, she says that Apartheid here is ‘even worse’ than it was in South Africa. This has not been said lightly. The other thing I am forever requested, “tell people what is happening”.

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8. Olive branches in Bil’in fail to quell IOF aggression

by the ISM media team, December 22nd

Today’s weekly demo against the Apartheid Wall in Bilin saw some rare but welcome wet and overcast weather. Instead of the usual midday sun, clouds and drizzle accompanied the marchers on their route from the village mosque to the wall.

The wet weather had the opposite effect of keeping people away as the numbers were higher than recent weeks. The demo had the usual international flavour with villagers supported by international and Israeli activists. Polish and Spanish solidarity groups stood out today.

As usual units of soldiers occupied a rooftop and lurked on the edge of the village.

Marchers chanted slogans urging Palestinian leaders to end internal conflict and unite against the Israeli occupation. On reaching the gate in the wall the marchers, many of them waving olive branches, found their route blocked by soldiers lined up in front of the gate.

As some villagers went under a railing they were grabbed and dragged away by soldiers.

The protesters then walked downhill alongside the razor wire which some pulled at and others trampled with olive branches. More units of soldiers were immediately dispatched to this area and a sound bomb was fired.

Many protesters were grabbed and shoved roughly by the soldiers, sustaining cuts and bruises.

One protester managed to climb through the fence in an act of defiance but he quickly returned to the other side for fear of repercussions – many Bil’in villagers have had to spend days in prison after demos when they have tried to access their land on the other side of the wall.

As the demo was continuing the soldiers in the villages were firing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at children. Four children suffered serious enough injuries to need hospital treatment in Ramallah.

For photos visit: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/12/22/bilin-dec-22/

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