Home / Crucified in Bethlehem, Strangulation in Gaza

Crucified in Bethlehem, Strangulation in Gaza

Crucified in Bethlehem, Strangulation in Gaza

1. Israeli Colonists Attack Palestinian Man with Downs Syndrome, Assault International Human Rights Worker
2. Crucified at the Crossroads: Good Friday, Bad Soldiers
3. Economic Embargo in Palestine leads to death of 19 year old dialysis patient
4. Israeli army injures 14 Palestinians, 1 Israeli arrested at Bil’in demo
5. 14 Member Brighton Delegation Arrives in Palestine
6. Settlers torch Palestinian car in Tel Rumeida, Soldiers block Palestinian fire trucks
7. Palestinian Christians and the effects of Israeli Apartheid
8. Construction of Israeli settlement under way in Jordan Valley
9. Jounral: Sewage Tsunami & Strangulation in Gaza


1. Israeli Colonists Attack Palestinian Man with Downs Syndrome, Assault International Human Rights Worker

by the ISM Media Team, 8 April 2007

HEBRON– Yesterday, Israeli colonists attacked a Palestinian man with Downs Syndrome. Mahmoud Dhish, 35, was walking down the street in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron when settlers began harassing him. An international human rights worker (HRW) intervened and began to film the event. The colonists responded by breaking the HRW’s video camera.
Daood, from the UK, recalled the event: “Four Israeli settlers were walking down the hill past Mahmoud. They stopped and started to yell in Mahmoud’s face and began pushing him for no reason.” Daood then said that when he placed himself between Mahmoud and the attackers, the colonists broke his camera, cutting Daood’s left hand in the process, “bleeding quite badly,” said Daood. The colonists then ran off towards the Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida.

When Daood called the Israeli police, they claimed that they did not speak English. Daood handed the phone to a Palestinian nearby who then relayed the account to the police. “There are no police cars available, you must come to the police station yourself,” replied the policeman.
En route to the station, Daood asked the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint near the scene of the attack what they had witnessed. According to Daood, the soldier claimed, “we did not see the attack but we saw the settlers. The video camera caught the attack, however, but we cannot submit it as evidence to the police.”

Another HRW in the area took some clear photos of the attackers as they made their way to the settlement. Daood filed a complaint and told the officers he would submit the photo evidence after copying the tapes. Mahmoud made it home with no injuries. The bleeding from Daood’s hand has been controlled.

The Tel Rumeida neighborhood is under complete Israeli military control. Israeli colonists often attack Palestinian residents in Tel Rumeida. Israeli soldiers and police, who are mandated by international law to protect Palestinians and their property, often refuse to intervene. Although Palestinians and internationals file complaints, the Israeli colonists are rarely prosecuted, even with photo and video evidence.

2. Crucified at the Crossroads: Good Friday, Bad Soldiers
from Anarchists Against the Wall, 6 April 2007

For photos, click HERE

For video, click HERE

The struggle against the apartheid wall in villages south of Bethlehem took a step forward today, when the regular “Friday demo” was replaced by a direct action against the bulldozers that works on Israel’s Apartheid wall.

Some forty demonstrators gathered together in the village of Wadi Nis, near Umm Salamuna, inspired by the work of the great surrealist artist Muhammad Khatib of Bilin. The demonstrators carried a huge cross to observe “Good Friday,” the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.

Demonstrators marched to the path of the wall where they blocked a working Israeli bulldozer, destroying Palestinian land in the path of the Apartheid Wall Israeli is constructing. The demolition was stopped for an hour until a force of “MAGAV”(border police) issued the usual excuse of “close military zone”.

After the demonstrators refused to leave the site of destruction, the police force attacked the demonstrators injuring one of them and detaining three others .

Mahmoud Zawahari, from nearby Umm Salamuna, said, “the soldiers beat me in my teeth because we refused to move. The soldiers kept trying to throw down the cross. But the cross was our flag for the demo, and we would not let it go down!”

After a short negotiation with the police, three people detained were released, and the demonstrators walked back to the village promising to repeat a similar actions on a regular basis.

3. Economic Embargo in Palestine leads to death of 19 year old dialysis patient
from IWPS, 7 April 2007

On March 1st, 2007, a 19-year-old girl named Olfat with kidney problems from Qira village, died after her parents were forced to dilute her dialysis liquid.

Due to the West and Israel’s ongoing economic embargo of the Palestinian Authority, state hospitals have been unable to receive adequate medical supplies for over a year. When they began to run out of the necessary 4.25% dextrose concentration (D-C) in mid-February, Olfat’s parents began mixing it with 1.5% D-C liquid. In less than two weeks, Olfat, who had been receiving successful dialysis treatment for more than ten years, began to show signs of deterioration as her body absorbed rather than processed incoming water. They first went to Salfit hospital because Al-Watani Hospital in Nablus was under siege during Israel’s February-March 2007 Nablus “Hot Winter” Invasion. By the time Olfat was able to reach Al-Watani, her chest was so full of water that she was past the point of recovery, and died shortly thereafter.

Qira villagers suffer from a disproportionately high percentage of kidney failure, likely due to the stagnant water that villagers are forced to purchase from Israel while nearby Ariel settlement enjoys disproportionate amounts of the region’s fresh water. Olfat is just one of many kidney patients who’ve died since the embargo began.

4. Israeli army injures 14 Palestinians, 1 Israeli arrested at Bil’in demo
by Martinez,, 6 April 2007

For photos and video, click HERE

For over two years, Palestinians in the West Bank village of Bil’in have been non-violently resisting Israel’s illegal annexation of their land. Because the Palestinians in Bil’in were honoring the children today, there was a large number of demonstrators, aged 8-12. This did not stop the Israeli army from firing rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at the crowd.
After Friday prayers, Palestinians were joined by Israeli and international solidarity activists and began their march to the Apartheid Wall. Today, the Palestinian children began the march, holding banners and singing songs of freedom. When the demonstration reached the gate in the Apartheid Wall, Israeli soldiers were already awaiting their arrival.

The army had added metal beams of reinforcements to the gate in the Wall. Palestinians began bending the beams and peeling them from the gate. Three soldiers attempted to attack the Palestinians with sticks as this was happening.

Before any rocks were thrown by Palestinians, and with the children still near the front of the march, soldiers began throwing concussion grenades. The crowd dispersed and some Palestinians at the bottom of the hill started to throw rocks. Soldiers then took aim and began firing rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas in their direction. A sound bomb exploded next to a 55 year old Palestinian man’s leg, causing his foot to immediately swell up and turn black and blue. Palestinian medical workers tended to the injuries.

Suddenly, the army arrested Jonathan, an Israeli activist. Martin, an American human rights worker, said, “I saw the whole thing. Just after the army started firing sound bombs, they grabbed Jonathan, who was just standing to the side of the soldiers. He wasn’t throwing rocks or anything. The soldiers started to take him behind the wall. ‘What did I do? I didn’t do anything,’ Jonathan was saying.”

The army continued to fire tear gas and rubber bullets down the hill. Demonstrators who were standing next to the soldiers were chanting, “Shame on you!” and, “They’re just kids!” Ten of these demonstrators, a mix of Palestinian, Israeli, and internationals, then stood in front of the soldiers, preventing them from continuing their shooting. After 5 minutes, the soldiers retreated back towards the Apartheid Wall.

Soldiers near the Wall then started firing sound bombs toward the demonstrators near the Wall. To protect the children, organizers urged the activists to return back to the village. Some stones were thrown by Palestinian youth at the soldiers’ shields and helmets. The army responded by shooting more tear gas and rubber bullets at the retreating demonstrators. The whole march back to the village, the army continued to shoot at the crowd.

A Palestinian media worker later explained that they counted 14 injuries from rubber bullets and concussion grenades. All of those injured were Palestinian.

Jonathan remains in Israeli police custody at this time (20:30). He is being charged with “illegal assembly” and “entering a closed military zone.” Koby, an Israeli activist, stated that, “the army came to the demonstration looking to charge Jonathan with something. The head of prosecution and the head of interrogation are personally involved with keeping him in jail overnight.”
Bil’in is a Palestinian village that is struggling to exist. Since early 2005, the state of Israel has annexed close to 60% of Bil’in’s land for Israeli settlements and for the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall. Palestinians from Bil’in are fighting to safeguard their land, their people, and their liberty. The Israeli army has consistently responded to Bil’in’s non-violent demonstrations with teargas, sound bombs, clubs, rubber-coated steel bullets, and live ammunition.

5. 14 Member Brighton Delegation Arrives in Palestine
from Brighton Palestiine, 5 April 2007

Fourteen volunteers from Brighton Tubas Friendship Group arrived in the Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territories on April 5th for a 10 day cultural exchange and fact finding tour.
Lasting links will be made between Brighton and Tubas region in Palestine. The delegation includes students from Sussex University and Brighton Quakers. They will visit Tubas Women’s Group, the medical centre, local farmer’s cooperatives, a youth group and schools – bringing letters and donations from children at the Supplementary Arabic School in Brighton.

The students from both countries will discuss their proposal to twin Sussex University Students Union with the Al-Quds Open University in Tubas. This initiative was inspired by the Nelson Mandela Scholarship and an understanding of the difficulties that Palestinian students have in accessing higher education.

Spokesperson for the delegation, Sarah Cobham said: “When we returned to Brighton last year, after visiting Tubas, we were determined to make sure that the voices of ordinary Palestinians are heard. Support in Brighton has been overwhelming and we are delighted to be returning with donations of computer equipment for schools and the local community.”

The group will be staying with local families in Tubas town and the Jordan Valley. They will witness the pressures of life under Israeli military occupation and discuss the possibilities of fairly trading their products, such as soap, pickles, honey and handicrafts in Brighton.

Tubas region is approximately 24km across and 28km north to south. It spreads from Tubas town, in the northern hills of the Israeli occupied West Bank, over to the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley.

Traditionally most of the people are farmers, travelling from the town to their land in the Jordan Valley. However, 95% of the land and 98% of the water in the Jordan Valley has been taken illegally from the Palestinians since 1967 and is now controlled by the Israeli Army and Israeli settlers. Palestinians struggling to survive often have no choice but to work in the Israeli settlements.

In Palestinian villages the people have lost nearly all their land and many have had their houses demolished. There is very little health care, education is limited, there are no phone lines or public transport, often there is no electricity, and much of the water supply is contaminated by waste from Israeli settlements.

The Jordan Valley can only be accessed from Tubas via Israeli Army checkpoints, which Palestinians cannot go through unless they have a Jordan Valley ID (which are only issued to existing residents of the Valley) – a situation reminiscent of the apartheid South African pass laws.

Israel’s clear intention is total annexation of the entire Jordan Valley. It is urgent that people know about this and act to prevent it.

On returning they will hold a photographic exhibition and give eye witness accounts at a public meeting at the Friends Meeting House, Ship Street on 3rd May at 7:30 pm. They will also meet with other local people and groups that have supported this initiative including Brighton Amnesty International and Brighton and Hove City Council Unison branch.

Mark Simons, who arrived in Palestine this morning, commented: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to meet Palestinian people and see for ourselves the effect of Israel’s illegal occupation on all aspects of their daily lives. I have no doubt that I will return to Brighton far better informed and with many new friends.”

6. Settlers torch Palestinian car in Tel Rumeida, Soldiers block Palestinian fire trucks
by ISM Media Group, 5 April 2007

For photos, click HERE

Palestinian resident in Tel Rumeida: “Settlers have set my car on fire” The Israeli police: “We don’t speak Arabic”. Soldiers prevent fire trucks from accessing the burning car.

Last night, Hani Abu Haikal parked his car at 20:30 and walked the 10 minute route to his house through the olive grove. Because he is Palestinian, Hani is not allowed to drive his car to his house in Tel Rumeida. Jewish settlers, however, are allowed to drive cars of any kind while Palestinians are prevented from driving any vehicle, including ambulances, fire trucks, and taxis. When there is an emergency, Palestinians must make their way to the Tel Rumeida checkpoint in order to reach one of these vehicles. Israeli law in Tel Rumeida allows for this kind of discrimination.

Hani must park it on the outskirts of the neighborhood and walk a long distance through the olive grove to reach his house, leaving his car open to attacks from violent Israeli settlers. At 20:55, Hani received a phone call from neighbors, warning him that settlers had set fire to his car. Israeli police were called immediately.

When Hani’s sister Bilal called the police for help, the officer responded, “I do not speak Arabic!” and then hung up. Bilal then called The Red Cross who relayed the information to Amir, the Army D.C.O. Amir told the Abu Haikals that they could not file a report until Friday because the station was closed due to the Jewish holiday of Pesach.

Forty Israeli soldiers who were on scene prevented the Palestinian fire trucks from extinguishing the burning car. Palestinian civilians extinguished the fire themselves with buckets of water. Hani stated that, “The soldiers could have stopped the settlers if they wanted to. 100 meters from where I park my car is a Palestinian apartment building that Israeli soldiers have been occupying for 7 years!”

Upon inspecting the damage, Hani notice that the driver’s side tire was extremely charred and the windshield had been smashed. Three large rocks were found on the inside of the car. “This is the fourth car in Tel Rumeida that the settlers have set on fire in this same way,” Hani said. “They douse the wheel with gas and speark it. Two of them happened already this year.”
Palestinians in Tel Rumeida suffer from an ongoing campaign of violence and harassment, geared at forcing the Palestinian residents to flee the area. Violent Israeli settlers often attack Palestinians and damage property, especially on Jewish holidays and Saturdays (Shabaat). Israeli soldiers and police, who are mandated by Israeli and international law to protect the Palestinians from settler violence, often refuse to intervene.

7. Palestinian Christians and the effects of Israeli Apartheid
by Tom Hicks, 4 April 2007

Palestinian Chrisitians prevented from reaching Bethlehem on Palm Sunday

As hordes of tourists flocked to the holy sites of Jerusalem to carry Palm leaves through the Old City, hundreds of Palestinian Christians were prevented from passing through the Bethlehem terminal.

On the evening before Palm Sunday, I passed through the terminal and met a group of Palestinian women traveling to Jerusalem for the celebrations. They had expected that the soldiers would let them through out of respect for the holy day. However, restrictions on movement had been tightened for the Jewish Pesacht holiday and they were being turned away. The checkpoint had only a skeleton staff of soldiers and police due to the Jewish holiday and as a result only one aisle was open causing huge delays.

Since the construction of Israel’s illegal annexation barrier, the Bethlehem ‘terminal’ has been the only direct route between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The barrier is designed like an international border with Palestinians having to undergo searches, x-rays of baggage and fingerprint scans. The majority of West Bank Palestinians not residing in Jerusalem are not permitted to enter Jerusalem.

Other restrictions imposed on Palestinians for the Pesacht period have been the tightening of controls at the checkpoints around Nablus, with young men prevented from leaving the city, and a checkpoint set up on the road from Nablus to Tubas causing chaos and preventing pedestrian access along the road.

While Palestinian freedom to worship at holy sites has been severely limited, the army has facilitated the visit of thousands of Jewish visitors to the Palestinian city of Hebron. Last year, during Pesacht, the IDF ordered a Closed Military Zone in Hebron preventing Palestinians from walking around their neighborhood for the ‘protection’ of Jewish visitors. The army also allowed Jewish visitors to Hebron to pass through a checkpoint on Schuhada Street into the ‘Palestinian Controlled’ area to visit a holy site – this was illegal unde Israeli law.

This follows on from Israel’s severe restriction on the right of access to and worship in Jerusalem during Ramadan last year. It appears that the Israeli apartheid system protects the right of Jews to worship, even if that means suppressing the right of Palestinians and conflicts with Israeli law, and ignores the needs of Palestinians wishing to worship on their own land.

8. Construction of Israeli settlement under way in Jordan Valley
by Jamil al-Husni, 1 April 2007

EIN AL-HILWA, West Bank– From his home in the Ein al-Hilwa village in the Jordan Valley, 23 year-old Nasser Kaabna watches ongoing construction of the new Israeli settlement named Maskot.

Foundations for temporary housing and electrical lines have started to be laid. The settlement will house 23 families evacuated from the Gaza Strip when Israel redeployed from the now-besieged area last year. The number of families is slated to grow to nearly 100.
“Maskot is full of settlers, and many of them are newcomers. You can guess the number of them from their civilian and military vehicles,” says Kaabna.

“The settlers here show that Israel’s official military announcement came many months after construction started on the ground,” he added, referring to Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz’s recent announcement that the settlement would be built for ex-Gaza settlers.
“A few days ago, I saw some settlers emerge from this settlement and attack locals. They are dangerous and aggressive,” says Kaabna.

Others from his village agree. “One week ago, four settlers in a Toyota vehicle came looking for donkeys. They took our donkeys and drove away. After two hours, they returned to look for more but found nothing,” recalls a boy named Odae Kardi.

Aref Daragmeh, a local official says no one is sure why the settlers are collecting donkeys.
“This settlement sealed almost 2000 dunums of land owned by the village’s citizens. Settlers do whatever they want – with arms in their hands and a radical religious ideology in their minds,” Daragmeh says.

Announcement of the new settlement construction aroused reactions of rejection from the U.S. administration, the European Union and Arab countries. All consider such building a violation of Road Map agreements.

Under the “Road Map” peace plan, Israel pledged to freeze all settlement expansion, while the Palestinian Authority promised to crack down on armed groups.

Settlement construction in the Jordan Valley began a few years after the 1967 war. Israel established many agricultural settlements there to benefit from the large expanses of land and rich water resources.

In other nearby areas, heavy machines and bulldozers were seen preparing the foundation for new homes of the Rotem settlement close to the main road, which links the northern plains with Tubas and Tammoun. The annexed areas, as well as the rest of the farmlands there, are fertile and include natural resources such as springs.

Walid Assaf, president of the Land and Settlement Resistance Committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council says he believes this will be the start of a new pattern. “The Israeli government will use the unstable internal Palestinian situation to build more settlements.”
“The odd thing is that this new settlement came days after the meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,” he points out.

“The settlement mechanism requires participation on three fronts to occupy the land and build on it – the government, the military and the settlers,” Assaf adds. “When the Israeli government fails to control an area of land, it leaves responsibility to the military. If the military doesn’t deal with the area, settlers will just begin to build temporary houses on the land and
displace its Palestinian inhabitants.”

Ayman Daraghma, a member of the Legislative Council for Tubas warns of the current situation developing.

“Settlements in the Jordan Valley have never had the attention they needed from Palestinian officials. This is a very dangerous situation.”

9. Sewage Tsunami & Strangulation in Gaza
by Anna Baltzer, 6 April 2007

One week ago, the walls of an overused cesspool in northern Gaza collapsed, flooding a nearby Bedouin village with up to two meters of raw sewage. At least five people drowned to death, with dozens more left sick, injured, or missing.

Predictably, the international community’s fingers are pointed at the Palestinian Authority, which was warned of the danger of Beit Lahia treatment plant’s flooding but did not take the necessary steps to ensure the villagers’ safety. To many, it’s just another example of how the Palestinians are incapable of ruling over themselves. But the PA is only part of the problem. In fact, funds were secured long ago for transferring the dangerous sewage pools, but according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the project “was delayed for more than two years due to delays in importing pipes and pumps from abroad as a result of the closure imposed by IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] on the Gaza Strip. In addition, IOF military operations in the project area prevented workers from free and safe access to the area to conduct their work. It is noted that this project is funded by the World Bank, European Commission, Sweden, and other donors.”

Almost two years ago, Israel claimed to be withdrawing from Gaza, yet according to the Human Rights Council report commissioned by the UN last year and released two months ago, “Even before the commencement of “Operation Summer Rains”, following the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit, Gaza remained under the effective control of Israel. […] Israel retained control of Gaza’s air space, sea space and external borders, and the border crossings of Rafah (for persons) and Karni (for goods) were ultimately under Israeli control and remained closed for lengthy periods.”

Rafah has been open an average of 14% of scheduled times, so Gazans (including sick people needing treatment in Egypt, and students) have had to wait sometimes for weeks on end to get through either way. Last December Israel promised to allow 400 trucks a day to pass through Karni crossing, delivering among other things desperately needed food and medical supplies, and allowing produce out to support the largely agriculture-based economy. The promise has yet to be implemented, which has had “disastrous” consequences on the local economy. The report continues, “In effect, following Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza became a sealed off, imprisoned and occupied territory.”

Last week, over fifty fishermen were arrested in Gaza when they tried to go fishing. Israel controls Gaza’s waters, not Palestinians, so the Army opened fire on the small fishing boats. Israel also frequently shoots through the cage around Gaza from sniper positions if not conducting all-out ground invasions (two this past week) or air bombardments. Israel has killed more than 700 Gazans (including hundreds of women and children) since the celebrated “withdrawal” still used by Israeli apologists to show that Palestinians can’t take advantage of a good opportunity if it falls into their laps.

Recently, perhaps the most paralyzing features of Israel’s continued control over Gaza–as well as the West Bank–is the US and Israeli-led economic embargo against the Palestinian government since Hamas’ victory last year. Doctors, teachers, elected officials, and other civil servants have not been fully paid in more than one year, pushing the population into a humanitarian crisis (about quarter of the population is financially dependent on these salaries).

Over 80 percent of Gazans are living below the official poverty line, and even issues as serious as overburdened cesspools are often left unaddressed. It is tempting to wonder why the international community should be held responsible for financially supporting the Palestinian population to begin with. The late Tanya Reinhart articulated her answer to this question during her last lecture in France. She explained that Europe, like the US, had no right to cut off food and medicine from the Palestinians:

“It was not an act of generosity which Europe could either carry on or not,” she said. “It was a choice which had been made to take on the obligations imposed by international law on the Israeli occupier to see to the well-being of the occupied populations. Europe chose not to oblige Israel to respect its obligations, and preferred to pay money to the Palestinians. When it put an end to this, it breached international law.”

The United States, Europe, and Israel (which has withheld $55 million per month in taxes collected from Palestinians on behalf of the PA) say they will only return the Palestinians’ lifelines if Hamas agrees to three conditions: (1) renouncing violence, (2) accepting previous agreements, and (3) recognizing Israel. These conditions sound reasonable enough, but are painfully ironic for anyone living on the ground here. True, Hamas has not sworn off violence once and for all, but neither has Israel! In the past year, Palestinians have killed 27 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

During that same period of time, Israelis have killed 583 Palestinian civilians (suicide bombers, fighters, or others targeted for assassination are not included). Hamas has held fairly consistently to a unilateral ceasefire since January 2005, when they announced their transition from armed struggle to political struggle. Actions speak louder than words. Hamas says it reserves the right to resist violently, but has stopped attacking Israelis. Israel claims that all it wants is peace, yet the daily invasions and assassinations continue.

The second condition involving previous agreements is hard to take seriously given Israel’s consistent violations. In one of her last speeches in New York at St Mary’s Church, Tanya cited an early 2006 interview in the Washington Post in which “Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh explained that according to the Oslo Accords in 1993, five years later in ‘98, there should have been already a Palestinian state. Instead, what Israel did during this whole period was appropriate more land, continue to colonize, to build settlements, and it did not keep a single clause of the Oslo Agreements.” When will the US demand that Israel adhere to previous agreements in order to receive the billions that we hand over every year?

And finally, the last and crucial condition is that Hamas must recognize Israel. The question is, what exactly is meant by “Israel”? Does “Israel” mean a place where Jewish people are respected and secure, or is it something else? Israel defines itself as “the state of the Jewish people.” It’s not the state of it’s citizens; Israel is the state of a bunch of people who aren’t its citizens, and not the state of a bunch of people who are its citizens. Palestinian citizens of Israel don’t have equal rights to Jews (for specific examples, read my recent “Existence is Resistance” report), because so many laws are aimed at condensing or chasing away Palestinian communities in order to fully “Judaize” the country. Israel has an artificial Jewish majority that was created and is maintained through various forms of ethnic cleansing. Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state is conditional upon the dispossession and either expulsion or bantustanization of the indigenous Palestinian population. If you ask one of these Palestinians if he recognizes the right of such an Israel to exist, a country built on his land that explicitly excludes him and discriminates against him, and that Palestinian says “no,” is he being racist or anti-Semitic? Or is he himself defending against racism and anti-Semitism? (Remember that Arabs are Semites, too.)

Israel cannot specify what exactly it wants Palestinians to recognize because Israel doesn’t actually recognize itself. Israel has refused to clarify its own borders, because they keep expanding as the Jewish state establishes more settlement “facts on the ground.” In spite of all of these things, the PLO actually agreed to recognize Israel, renounce terror, and sign agreements with Israel almost twenty years ago. Israel responded with continued colonization and resource confiscation in the occupied territories and bombardment of Lebanon to root out the PLO, which was becoming dangerously moderate (see Chomsky classic, The Fateful Triangle). Hamas too has indicated that it would consider peace if Israel withdrew to its internationally recognized 1967 borders leaving Palestinians with just 22% of their historic homeland, but Israel says full withdrawal is out of the question. It is Israel who has yet to recognize Palestine’s right to exist, not the other way around.

One more point of irony is that Israel justifies the ongoing siege of Gaza as a response to the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit even though such collective punishment is cruel, illegal, and hugely hypocritical. Just last week, the Israeli Army abducted and imprisoned 29 Palestinians, including one child. The week before that they took 37 Palestinians, including five kids. The week before that they took 61, and the week before that 63, and the week before that 107 Palestinians. Israel has “captured” (”kidnapped” would be a more appropriate word for many since most of the abductees were civilians) at least 860 Palestinians this year, and it’s only April. Palestinians are illegally holding one Israeli, and Israel is illegally holding more than 11,000 Palestinians, including about 40 elected officials and almost 500 women and children. If the Israeli Army is justified is collectively starving and bombarding 1.3 million Gazans to avenge the capture of one of their fighters, what could the families of 11,000 Palestinians claim is justified?

In reality, Israel is holding more than 1.3 million Palestinians prisoner with its ongoing siege of Gaza. Most of them are refugees, encaged in one of the most densely populated places in the world while many can practically see their land through the cage around them, but are forbidden from ever returning because they are not Jewish (I, on the other hand, could go live there next month if I wanted to). The Beit Lahia sewage treatment plant was designed in the 1970’s to serve up to 50,000 people, but the local population has since risen to 200,000. The “sewage tsunami” is as much a result of population density as anything else. In comparison, the land-rich West Bank feels like paradise, but perhaps not for long. As the Wall continues to snake around West Bank towns and villages, cutting inhabitants off from their land, jobs, schools, hospitals, and each other, Israel’s intention seems clear: those Palestinians who won’t leave the West Bank altogether will be squeezed into bantustans, each of them a new Gaza. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority, civilians, and popular resistance will continue to be demonized with claims of “anti-Semitism” even though the worst crimes are not their own. The guilt and responsibility are not just Israel’s. They are all of ours.

The sun is gleaming through silvery olive trees into our office window as I look out across Palestinian land and homes that still remain intact in spite of the Occupation and all its crimes. There is still hope for the West Bank, but only if people speak out and act now. There are so many ways. Visit Palestine. Support the nonviolent boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement called for by Palestinian civil society. Join a local solidarity group and educate your community. Forward this message to your friends and family. Write your representatives. Anything but staying silent.