1.Defying Israeli Apartheid Through Non-Violent Resistance
2. Palestinians Arrested After Israeli Settlers Attack Them
3. Women’s Action Brings Hope in Hebron
4. Teachers Detained, Human Rights Workers Attacked in Tel Rumeida
5. Illegal Israeli settlers evacuated from Homesh
6. Re-Ignited in Palestine: Tel Rumeida Circus for Detained Palestinians
7. “At The Checkpoint” Photo Exhibit
8. The Crime of Being Born Palestinian
9. Bikes vs. Bombs
1. On Land Day, Palestinians engage in non-violent demonstrations across the West Bank
Hundreds defy apartheid restrictions on movement in Beit Furik
1 April 2007
For photos, click HERE
Nearly 200 Palestinian and international activists defied Israel’s apartheid policies at the Beit Furik checkpoint in Nablus today. The non-violent demonstrators joined together to resist the closure of the checkpoints by the Israeli military for the Jewish Pesacht holiday. The demonstration was also commemorating the anniversary of the Palestinians’ Land Day when, 31 years ago, the Israeli military killed six Palestinians who were resisting the confiscation of their land during a non-violent demonstration in the Galilee.
The Palestinian and international demonstrators marched toward the checkpoint chanting slogans against the closure and Israel’s apartheid restrictions on freedom of movement. Soldiers were unable to block their path and the demonstrators were able to proceed to the Beit Furik side of the checkpoint. The activists then occupied the checkpoint, sitting down in the center of the crossing.
Since 2002, it has only been possible to enter Nablus through six checkpoints on foot. It is even more difficult to exit. Men between 16 and 45 (it varies from day to day) can only exit their city with a special Israeli-issued permit which can only be obtained outside of Nablus. The city is often sealed off during Jewish holidays. Today, the road to Beda was blocked by soldiers and hundreds of young Palestinians were prevented from leaving Nablus through Huwarra checkpoint.
Um Salamuna village protest the construction of the wall
by George Rishmawi, 30 March 2007
For photos, click HERE
Around two hundred protesters marched in the village of Um Salamuna, south of Bethlehem to protest the construction of the wall on their land and to commemorate the 31 anniversary of Land Day.
Protesters, including Palestinians, Internationals and Israelis, carried signs and banners and chanted slogans calling for the removal of the Wall, describing it as land theft that is killing the Palestinian life.
The protest started with a prayer at the land slated for confiscation by the Israeli authorities for the construction of the wall.
No clashes erupted with the soldiers as the protesters remained nonviolent. Provocative moves by some of the protesters were stopped by the organizers of the action.
The crowd arrived at the Mosque of the village where some speeches related to the Land Day were made. The speakers stressed the importance of the nonviolent resistance to protect the land from being confiscated by the Israeli army.
A wide area of the village of Um Salamuna and the near by villages are confiscated for the construction of the wall and the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Ephrata.
Non-violent protest against Wall in Tulkarem for Land Day
by PNN, 30 March 2007
The Popular Committee Against the Wall in Tulkarem and the National Action Committee organized a nonviolent march for Land Day, an occasion which Fateh spokesperson in Tulkarem, Samir Naifa said, “remains an immortal part of the Palestinian struggle.”
Thousands of Palestinians gathered after Friday prayers at the gate of the Wall to the west of the city. They came from villages and towns throughout the northwestern West Bank district and included Legislative Council member Hassan Kreisheh and foreign supporters.
The protesters held banners calling for an end to occupation, the restoration of the land to its rightful owners, and the Right of Return. They flew the Palestinian flag and walked armed in arm. Israeli forces intercepted the march and fired gas and shot sound bombs. Some demonstrators began throwing stones and several people suffered from gas inhalation.
Organizer Faiz Al Tanib of the National Action Committee said that similar marches are in the works for several regions suffering from the Wall and land confiscation, or the threat of both. Legislative Council member Taysir Khalid said, “Land Day embodies the historical right of the Palestinians to their land and homes.”
Also today in southern Bethlehem’s Umm Salamuna Village Palestinians held what has become a weekly nonviolent demonstration in the area, while at a western Ramallah demonstration Israeli forces injured 13 people.
Bil’in Commemorates Land Day
by Martinez, 30 March 2007
For photos, click HERE
All over the West Bank today, non-violent demonstrations were enacted against Israel’s Apartheid Wall and Israel’s theft of Palestinian land.
Today was the 31st anniversary of “Land Day,” a day when Palestinians commemorate the killing of six Palestinians in the Galilee in 1976. Israeli troops killed these non-violent demonstrators during peaceful protests over the confiscation of Palestinian lands.
Land Day’s encompass the Palestinian struggle against foreign occupation, self-determination, and national liberation. Today’s theme additionally focused on Israel’s Apartheid Wall and the denial of freedom of movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Simultaneously, non-violent and direct actions were taken against Israel’s current system of Apartheid. Palestinians were joined by Israeli and international solidarity activists in the villages of Bil’in, Umm Salamuna, Budrus, and Qaffin, among other places.
In Bil’in, the non-violent demonstrations have endured for well over two years now. Israel’s Apartheid Wall has stolen around 60% of Bil’in agricultural land. Still, Palestinians in Bil’in march every Friday against this obstruction and blatant barrier to peace. With their numbers usually in the hundreds, the demonstrators continue to march to the Wall, where Israeli army routinely responds to the non-violent demonstrators with tear gas, sound grenades, and rubber bullets.
Today, on the commemoration of Land Day, things weren’t very different.
About 150 Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals gathered outside of the mosque in Bil’in. Posters were plastered to the walls bearing the message of Land Day.
Half way through the march to the Wall, separating the Palestinians from their land, one could spot Israeli soldiers hiding out under olive trees, lounging out in the backyards of Palestinians, waiting for the chance to intervene with the demonstration.
When I arrived to the gate in the Wall, a soldier was holding up a piece of paper and was speaking in Hebrew. Presumably this was their “Closed Military Zone” order. Palestinian and international press were already on the hill beside the gate. As the rest of the march showed up, slogans were thrown, “No to the Wall. No to Occupation.”
On the other side of the wall, an Israeli police water tank waited to shoot its high-powered hose at the demonstrators. They have used this in the past. Though I have never felt it, others have said that the chemicals the police put in the water make it “feel as if your skin is peeling off when it hits you.”
Demonstrators, demanding to get to their land on the other side of the Wall, began trying to dismantle the barbed wire that the army placed on the inside of the Wall. The police tank then began shooting its hose towards the demonstrators. They fired the hose a few times before the soldiers eventually crossed the barbed wire and into the non-violent crowd.
With their shields and helmets and guns as protection, some soldiers started to push at the demonstrators. Against the soldiers’ armor, some rocks were thrown by some of the Palestinian boys. In response, the army started to throw sound grenades from over the fence in the direction of the demonstration.
The army then crossed the demonstrators who had gathered at the gate and began to fire rubber bullets towards the direction of the rock throwers. The marchers who were still working on getting to the gate began to retreat from the firing, and back toward the village.
This left the demonstration in two parts—a “divide and conquer” tactic I think.
Soldiers tried to arrest one Palestinian protestor but the crowd around him “de-arrested” him by locking extremities. Several Palestinians were forced to the ground with Israeli shields. Some sound grenades were thrown in intervals. Off in the distance you could hear the army shooting rubber bullets at the crowd who had retreated.
Slogans and chants were made towards the army. After about an hour, the demonstration came to an end and people began heading back to the village. Memory told me that the army would continue to fire sound grenades and tear gas as the peaceful demonstrators were retreating. And today was no different.
As the Israeli soldiers were coming back from firing at other section of the demonstration near the village, they crossed us and began to fire tear gas. Three or four Palestinian boys were slinging rocks from the bottom of the hill towards the armed Israeli soldiers at the top, and the boys began their new targets.
But every few meters you would hear a canister hit the ground and see the smoke rise from it. Nearer to the village, I could see a water tank on a Palestinian’s rooftop which had been hit with presumably live ammunition.
Land Day in Bil’in ended with no arrests and minor injuries.
On Land Day, 3 Palestinians Arrested in Village of Rafat
by IWPS, 30 March 2007
The three men were released around 10pm last night, with no reports of abuse by the boys while in Israeli custody.
Three young men from the village of Rafat were arrested today by the Israeli Forces following a nonviolent demonstration on their land. At 12:44 p.m., the men—ages 16, 20, and 24—were detained on the road by eight soldiers who were checking IDs. At 1:15 p.m., the men were handcuffed and escorted by five soldiers to five jeeps. The men were taken away in separate jeeps at 1:30 p.m.
150 people joined the demonstration in Rafat as part of the Stop the Wall campaign to commemorate the 31st Land Day celebration in Palestine. Participants marched westward from the center of town towards the Israeli Apartheid Wall. One group of men prayed, while another group of 30 men approached the Wall (made of wire fence, electric sensory wire, and razor wire), broke open a gate, and tore down part of the Wall before Israeli forces arrived on the scene at around 12:15 p.m. All participants retreated to the village and there was no confrontation or clashes with Israeli soldiers during the demonstration.
As they were leaving the village after the demonstration, seven participants were detained by soldiers for 30 minutes near the center of town, including Medical volunteers in an ambulance and the three men who were later arrested. The three young men were detained as they passed the jeeps on their way home. Soldiers gave no reason for the detention or the arrest and refused to disclose information to human rights advocates.
The three men were released around 10pm later that night, with no reports of abuse by the boys while in Israeli custody.
Since 1976, Land Day is marked by Palestinians to protest against the the colonization and confiscation of Palestinian lands by Israel. Rafat is adjacent to the 27-settlement bloc of Ariel, the largest Israeli settlement network in the West Bank. The Wall around the Ariel bloc stretches for 114 km and grabs within it 120,000 dunums of prime aquifer-laden agricultural land which produce about 30 percent of the West Bank’s olive oil production. The Apartheid Wall dips farthest from the Green Line here and deep into the West Bank by about 22 kilometers.
2. Palestinians arrested after Israeli settlers attack them
30 March 2007
A 48 year old Palestinian man was walking home about 11 am when he was attacked with stones by a 14 year old settler outside the Israeli settlement of Beit Hadassa. Three other settler youths about the same age supported this attack. The soldier on duty intervened and told the settlers to leave.
The Palestinian’s 14 year old son and his friend were approaching from the checkpoint and saw the trouble. As they arrived a settler stopped his car, jumped out, grabbed the son and pushed him up against a car. He managed to escape and ran towards the checkpoint.
A police car stopped and arrested the Palestinian and then came to Beit Hadassa and took ID’s from the other 2 Palestinians. An adult settler kicked the Palestinian man in the shoulder and ran away. Police did nothing about this. Forty adult settlers came and began shouting and pushing at the police. The Police took all three Palestinians to Kiryat Arba Police Station, telling them that they would be making statements of complaint against the settlers.
When the Palestinians arrived, they were in fact charged with attacking settlers, even though none of them did this. The adult was told he would have to pay a fine of 2000 Israeli shekles before he could leave the police staion or he would be in jail until Monday. He said he had no money. The police said he should ask his friends for money. The Palestinian man said he should not pay since he did nothing wrong. “The settlers should be in prison, not me.” He telephoned the other boy’s father and got him to talk to the police. The Palestinian father was very angry with them and demanded to know why his son was being held and not the settlers who had caused all the trouble.
The police officer told him that he had an order from his commander to collect 2000 NIS before he could let them go. The father said he would be contacting the media to let them know about this fragrant abuse of justice. The police officer consulted with his commander and eventually agreed to let them all go, telling them not to cause any more trouble with the settlers. They had spent 2 hours at the police station and were released in Kiryat Arba Settlement.
3. Women’s Demonstration in Hebron, Hope from Association of Women’s Action
2 April 2007
For photos, click HERE
Yesterday, the Hebron Women’s Club organized a demonstration in the Old City of Hebron. The women met at the Israeli Machsom (checkpoint), which separates the Palestinian neighborhood of Tel Rumeida (H2) from the rest of Hebron (H1).
Palestinians living in H1 are subject to arbitrary home invasions and incursions by the Israeli military. H2, however, is under total Israeli military control. No Palestinians are allowed to drive cars of any kind in H1. If you are sick, you must be carried through the checkpoint where an ambulance may be waiting for you on the other side. The same holds true for pregnant women, who have to move from Tel Rumeida some time before giving birth to ensure that they are close to a medical facility.
Tel Rumeida is unlike any other place in the West Bank. Extremist settlers live side by side with the Palestinians, often in Palestinian homes whose residents fled because of the violence inflicted by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Many adult male settlers carry M-16 rifles as they walk the streets of Tel Rumeida with their families. Settler youth and, at times, settler adults, throw stones at and spit on Palestinian women, men, and children, while the Israeli soldiers stand idly by.
At the checkpoint in Tel Rumeida, soldiers will detain Palestinian men under the guise of completing a “security check.” This should normally take just a few minutes, but often the soldiers will detain the men for hours.
At this Machsom, the Women’s Club gathered. On the Tel Rumeida side of the barrier, Shuhadda is the name of the street that leads directly to the Ibrahimi Mosque. Palestinians used to frequent this once-bustling market avenue which borders the Old City—to shop and to reach the Mosque. Because of the Israeli settlements, however, which have been constructed illegally on Shuhadda, the Israeli army has shutdown the street to the Palestinians. The shops have been closed and the Palestinians must walk the long way through the Old City in order to reach the Mosque.
Though the Women’s Club was not marching down Shuhadda St. to reach the Ibrahimi Mosque, marching from the Machsom was a symbolic event, highlighting the violation of the Palestinian right of movement to reach their holy sites.
Palestinian women and internationals joined the march through the Old City to the Mosque. There was no incident from the Israeli soldiers during the procession.
There are three Israeli Machsoms that one has to cross before entering the Ibrahimi Mosque. They are equipped with Israeli soldiers, turnstiles, cameras, metal detectors, and sometimes have long lines because the soldiers detain Palestinians at will as they cross.
Today, as the women from the procession crossed through the first pf the three checkpoints, the soldiers detained three young Palestinian men, ages 16-20. The soldiers forced the Palestinian men to stand facing the wall, noses nearly touching the stone building.
When international human rights workers (HRWs) asked why this was happening, one soldier replied, “Because they are terrorists.”
The women from the demonstration crossed the second of three checkpoints and entered into the Mosque to pray. The third checkpoint is in the Mosque. (The checkpoints were created by the Israeli government after Baruch Goldstein, an American-Israeli doctor, entered the Mosque in 1994 and opened fire, killing 29 Palestinians and wounded 150 others).
Eights HRWs remained with the Palestinian detainees. Additional soldiers arrived outside of the Ibrahimi Mosque and demanded that the HRWs leave from the area. The HRWs responded, “We will leave when our friends (the detainees) can leave.”
The Palestinian men were released a few minutes later.
When the Women’s Club exited the Mosque, they had to exit into the Old City through a separate checkpoint. The Israeli soldiers do not let the Palestinians or internationals exit through the checkpoint where they entered the Mosque.
The Women’s Club invited the demonstrators to visit the Association of Women’s Action for Training and Rehabilitation (AOWA). This group is assisted by TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron).
Sawsan Nasradeen, explained the goals and activities of the group. She said, “Women’s Action gives strength to Palestinian women, supporting them in their journey into the political world. We also teach women the art of embroidery and sewing. We can then help to sell their crafts to different groups in Israel and internationally… Everything you see here was made by hand. TIPH gives us the materials and we create these beautiful things… The women train other women these skills—everything from production to cooking—so we can help them earn an income.”
“There are women who have lost their husbands and sons to the Occupation. Some are dead or in jail. Women’s Action gives these women a place to work, we give them hope,” Sawsan explained.
Sawsan then explained that kids from the ages of 9-12 learn from the women at AOWA, “what their rights are, and what the Israeli soldiers can and cannot do to the Palestinians, and how to respond.” AOWA has opened 6 kindergartens as well. “We provide a safe place to children,” said Sawsan.
Major accomplishments for AOWA have been their exhibitions in Qatar and Spain, where the women’s handicrafts are displayed and sold and their profits returned to the women in Hebron. Their last exhibition kicked off on March 17, the date that is traditionally celebrated as “Women’s Day.”
4. Teachers Detained at Tel Rumeida Checkpoint, Settlers attacks human rights workers, steal camera
Sunday, 1 April
Checkpoint 56, Tel Rumeida: Palestinian school teachers were again delayed for a long time this morning on their way to school.
The school teachers have an agreement with the DCO (District Coordinating Office) that they can pass through the gate at the side of the checkpoint instead of having to go through the metal detectors. The soldiers in the checkpoint are supposed to have a list of their names and identification numbers to allow for the teachers to pass quickly each day. However, the soldiers often refuse to allow the school teachers to pass through the gate and insist that they pass through the metal detectors instead.
The female teachers refuse to do this because they say passing through the metal detectors so often is harmful to their health, and also because they are teachers, bringing education to Palestinians, and not terrorists.
When challenged by two human rights workers (HRWs) and two members of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) as to why they were not letting the teachers pass through the gate, one soldier first of all claimed that he was not “a doorman for the Arabs”. Later, he claimed that it was too dangerous for him because snipers would shoot him once he left the security of the checkpoint to open the gate. One HRW offered to open the gate herself or to stand in front of the soldier while he opened the gate, but he refused. This same soldier had been seen the previous day standing in the sun, outside the checkpoint, and had not appeared to be worried by snipers then.
Both the HRWs and EAPPI made several calls to the DCO to try to resolve the situation. The response was always that they would “take care of it”. During the final call to the DCO from one of the HRWs the DCO was laughing so hard that he had to pass the phone to a colleague who hung up the phone when the HRW asked for her name.
Finally, after one hour, the gate was opened for the teachers.
After school, the same teachers were again detained for 45 minutes when they tried to return through the checkpoint gate.
Later in the afternoon, at approximately 13.30, soldiers at the checkpoint were only letting Palestinians pass through the checkpoint into Tel Rumeida one at a time, leading to a large queue building up. When challenged by the HRWs, the soldiers at the checkpoint said they were just doing their job “thoroughly”.
Israeli settles steal video camera from international volunteer:
Around 17:30, six Israeli settler children surrounded two international human rights workers. The settlers began to physically assault the two women, kicking them and one of their video cameras. One female settler adult was also present, and did nothing to prevent the children from harassing the HRWs.
One of the settlers then stole the video camera from one of the HRWs and the settlers ran into the direction of the Tel Rumeida settlement. The HRWs confronted a group of soldiers with what had just happened and they set off in the direction of the settlers.
Four additional HRWs arrived at the scene. The soldiers began told them that the area was a closed military zone and that the HRWs had to leave. The HRWs remained, however, when the army soldiers could not produce the legal documents.
After 20 minutes, the Israeli police from Kiryat Arba showed up. They surveyed the scene but did not go further to search for the settlers who had stolen the camera. The two HRWs who were attacked by the settlers then went to Kiryat Arba police station to file a police report. The officer promised that afterward, with additional police backup, they would seek out the settler thieves.
Saturday, 31 March
At approximately 17:15, two HRWs were sitting in the olive groves above Qurtuba school when two adult settlers, both with rifles over their shoulders, and a male child settler walked past in the direction of Abraham’s Well. A couple of minutes later three Palestinian children, two girls and a boy, from a Palestinian family in this area, walked past on their way home. The two HRWs saw the settlers stop them and turn them back. The HRWs went up to the Palestinian children who said that the settlers had told them they weren’t allowed to go that way to their home. The HRWs then accompanied the children to their house.
While the HRWs were standing outside the house, a group of soldiers and four male settler children, aged approximately 10 – 12, came down the olive grove slope towards the HRWs and shouted at one of the HRWs that a soldier had seen him going into a “Jewish house” and that he wasn’t allowed to be there. The house in question in fact belongs to a Palestinian man and is rented at the moment to a local Palestinian. The HRW had earlier walked in front of it, over its porch, and told the soldiers this. One of the soldiers then said that he would check the military cameras in this area and if he saw that the HRW had entered the house, the HRW would be put in jail.
The soldiers and settler children were aggressive towards the HRWs and tried to stop one of them filming by deliberately standing with their backs right in front of her camera. However, after about 10 minutes the soldiers and settler children moved off towards Abraham’s Well without detaining the HRWs any further.
5. Illegal Israeli settlers evacuated from Homesh
by Efrat Weiss, 28 March 2007
For photos, click HERE
Large numbers of police and IDF officers started evacuating the activists, mostly teenagers, at about 7:30 a.m.
Some of the youths at the place have tried resisting and cursed the policemen, who carried them by force into buses.
After having spent two days at the site, the activists were ordered to leave Homesh on Wednesday. Some 700 policemen took part in the operation, alongside 300 soldiers who secured the evacuation.
Police have notified the activists that Homesh was a closed military zone and that they must leave the place immediately.
The settlers spent the night setting up barriers using stones in order to make the evacuation more difficult.
Earlier, one of the older activists thanked the younger ones for staying in Homesh despite the cold nights and harsh conditions, and told them, “The same forces that came to evacuate us six months ago will come today. What will happen next is a show for the media, and we don’t care about it. if they take us out of here by force – let them.”
Boaz Haetzni, one of the organizers of the march to Homesh, stressed, “The instructions were clear – no to violence.”
On Tuesday, police officials warned that should the settlers fail to evacuate willingly, the government would be inclined to give the green light for the forceful evacuation of the several dozen teenage settlers who vowed to put up a tough resistance.
Yossi Dagan, an organizer of the plan to reoccupy the former settlement, told Ynet on Tuesday that “our aim is not to confront the security forces but to build Homesh anew and therefore, as far as we are concerned, the issue is not a struggle. If they evacuate us we will return.”
Officials say should settlers fail to evacuate willingly, government would be inclined to give green light for forceful evacuation of several dozen teenage activists who vowed to put up tough resistance
The police are preparing for the evacuation of hundreds of settlers who reoccupied the settlement of Homesh which was evacuated and destroyed in the summer of 2005 under Israel’s disengagement plan.
Police officials said should the settlers fail to evacuate willingly, the government would be inclined to give the green light for the forceful evacuation of several dozen teenage settlers who vowed to put up a tough resistance.
Hundreds of settlers heeded police calls to evacuate the former West Bank settlement which was declared a closed military zone by the army following the 2005 disengagement plan of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but many teenagers remained there.
“Our aim is not to confront the security forces but to build Homesh anew and therefore, as far as we are concerned, the issue is not a struggle. If they evacuate us we will return,” said Yossi Dagan, an organizer of the plan to reoccupy the former settlement.
The army blocked roads leading to the settlement on Monday night to stem the flow of settlers.
Despite the army’s measure, Zefat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu managed to reach Homesh along with a dozen right-wing activists and gave Torah lessons to teenage settlers on the ruins of the former settlement.
‘Even Arafat got food supplies’
Settlers slammed the army for not allowing them to provide food, water and medicine to their comrades in Homesh.
“If people dehydrate, this will fall under the responsibility of the political elements who gave the army these orders,” settlers said.
The Chairman of the National Union-NRP faction, MK Uri Ariel, described the army’s attitude towards the settlers as “inhumane,” charging that the military allowed food supplies into former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat when he was besieged in Ramallah.
An army officer told Ynet in response: “We will not allow the transportation of supplies to an illegal area. Soldiers have water and if someone needs to drink he can approach them.”
“Homesh was rebuilt yesterday, and even if the prime minister and defense minister decide based on small political evaluations not to fix the mistake of eviction and evict us for a second time from our land, we will return to Homesh and rebuild the settlement again,” said Dagan.
6. Journal: Re-Ignited in Palestine: Tel Rumeida Circus for Detained Palestinians
2 April 2007
For photos, click HERE
The Tel Rumeida Circus for Detained Palestinians had their first reunited circus extravanganza last night. Due to heavy rains, our flames were dampened 2 weeks ago when we attempted to have our first 2007 circus show in Tel Rumeida.
Last night, however, Katie and I brought our fire poi and our fire juggling torches to H2, and filled those Occupied streets with glee.
H2, for those of you who may not know, is an area of Hebron that was divided up under what was called the “Hebron Protocols” in 1997. H1, making up 80% of Hebron, was to be granted limited autonomy under the supervision of the Palestinians Authority. H2, where the Tel Rumedia neighborhood is located, was placed under the full control of the Israeli military.
What this translates to is that anyone living in H1 (under ‘limited ‘autonomy’) is subject to arbitrary home invasions and incursions by the Israeli military. In H2, however, under the control of the Israeli army, things are a lot more intense and unbelievable…
No Palestinians are allowed to drive cars of any kind in H2. If you are sick, you must be carried through the checkpoint where an ambulance may be waiting for you on the other side. Same hold true for pregnant women, who have to move from Tel Rumeida some time before giving birth to ensure that they are close to a medical facility.
Tel Rumeida is unlike any other place in the West Bank. Illegal, extremist settlers live side by side with the Palestinians, often in Palestinian homes whose residents fled from the soldier and settler violence. Settlers carry M-16 rifles as they walk the streets with their families. Settler youth and, at times, settler adults, throw stones at and spit on Palestinian women, men, and children, while the Israeli soldiers stand idly by.
At the checkpoint in Tel Rumeida, soldiers will detain Palestinian men for sometimes hours while the soldiers do a “security check.” This should normally take just a few minutes, but often the soldiers will detain the men for hours, just because they feel like it.
The Tel Rumeida Circus was initiated as a response to de-escalate these situations. Katie and I were playing with our circus toys with the Palestinian children on Shuhadda Street. On this street, settlers commonly break Palestinian windows and throw stones at Palestinians and international human rights advocates.
The kids do not usually enter the street because they are afraid of being attacked by the violent settlers. But when we would arrive with out juggling pins and poi, smiles stretching from ear to ear would be seen galloping down the stairs to join on for our quaint circus show.
We noticed on one of these days that a Palestinian man had been detained at the checkpoint for quite some time. Katie and I decided to bring our mock-circus performance to the checkpoint. It was already an absurd scene– 18 year old Israeli soldiers detaining a Palestinian man at a crappy little checkpoint, separating Palestinian land from Palestinian land. So we decided to add to the absurdity while adding a bit of non-violent intervention to the scene.
So we brought our show to the checkpoint. Our attempt was to put the soldiers in a better mood which would lead into them releasing the Palestinian detainee. Katie and I improvisationally announced: “We are the Tel Rumeida Circus…” We spun our poi and juggled our pins there, next to the checkpoint. And it worked. After a little while, the Palestinian was released and we departed back down Shuhadda St. And we would return as often as we could to Shuhadda St with our equipment, making our spontaneous circus shows when a detention was occurring.
We eventually grew and started to teach the kids how to do circus tricks. And we would do our TRCDP fire show every Friday night…
So last night was our special Palm Sunday Performance of TRCDP. (Actually, that was just a coincidence). Our audience of Palestinian children was so excited—it had been over 7 months since we last performed on those streets in H2. The internationals were pretty excited as well.
Two Israeli soldiers could be seen several meters away. I saw one of them on the phone…
We played with our fires for nearly half an hour. Our circus soundtrack blasted from on of the Palestinian shops. As we finished, a tank whirled around the corner in our direction, but our circus had already been extinguished. Maybe they were coming to stop us. Maybe they were coming to join us. Regardless, we will reunite there every Friday. And TRCDP has already started planning to get our show on the road. Our goal is to perform at as many permanent checkpoints as we can. We’ll see you at a checkpoint near you.
7. At the Checkpoint
Another picturesque experience was Khaled Jarrar’s “At the Checkpoint.”
Last Saturday, photographer Khaled Jarrar exhibited his photos at the Qalandya checkpoint. The name of the exhibit was called “At the Checkpoint.”
Qalandya checkpoint is not located on any border. Instead, the checkpoint has been erected between the Palestinian towns of Ramallah and Qalandya refugee camp, on one side, ar-Ram and Occupied East Jerusalem on the other. Thus Palestinians are forcibly parted from Jerusalem– the historical, economic, spiritual, and physical heart of the West Bank.
Passage through Qalandya checkpoint has become nearly impossible for most Palestinians, and for those needing to reach nearby Jerusalem. In order to reach home, work, and families, Palestinians must cross through this fortress-like structure. Passage is denied to Palestinians without an Israeli-issued Jerusalemite residency I.D. or permit. Palestinians– women and men, young and elderly, are all subject to this form of collective punishment.
Eligible Palestinians must usually exit the car on either side of the massive barrier, make their way through a maze of turnstiles, gates, Israeli soldiers and security, metal detectors and video cameras, before exiting the other side where they can board another vehicle to reach their destinations. This nightmare is even worse when a medical emergency is involved. Palestinians seeking medical attention are often refused crossing by the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint.
Several of us volunteers met Khaled a little while before the exhibit was to go up. We scoped the scene– are there soldiers present? Available space to hang the photographs? It was little windy that day but we had to wait for the right moment. There were a few local and international media outlets present… And then it was time.
There were about 10 of us there at Khaled’s car. Each of us took 3-4 photographs, pre-wired for hanging, so that we could just find a spot on the fence and begin the art exhibit.
After 5 minutes, all 60 or so photos were hung. I heard some Hebrew being yelled from the top of the Apartheid watch tower, but I wasn’t sure if it was directed at us or not. Passers-by started to walk in the direction of the makeshift gallery to see what all the commotion was about. Cars that were waiting to cross through the gate in the Apartheid Wall began to pull into the parking lot next to the checkpoint, and the drivers joined the observers at the art show.
The photographs displayed scenes at the numerous checkpoints that Israel has erected through the West Bank. Photos of Israeli soldiers screaming at elderly Palestinians as they waited to cross the barrier to reach their families and friends; endless lines of Palestinians waiting for hours in the hot sun, just to reach their homes; sound grenades exploding at peaceful demonstrations; Palestinian hand wrapped around barbed wire that the Israeli army placed near the checkpoint.
Khaled told me that he “wants to share the pain and plight of the Palestinians with the world.” He pointed towards the checkpoint. “This is what the Palestinians have to deal with everyday. A wall separating them from their land, from their families, from Jerusalem. Through my photos, I want to show the world the injustices we are living with everyday.”
Just the day before, as I mentioned in my last dispatch, the Israeli military shut down the YMCA-sponsored bicycle race. The race was a symbolic race against Israel’s Apartheid system, scheduled to bike from Ramallah, past Qalandia checkpoint, all the way down hill fdor 30 miles or so to Jericho, one of the most ancient cities on the planet.
Khaled was there taking photographs, his camera lens sticking out the back of the van in which he was riding. He snapped a few of me just a few minutes before we got to a small checkpoint where the Israeli army halted our exhilirating bike race. You can read my bike race story at:
Khaled rushed home that night and developed and framed his photographs. There were a handful of pictures now hanging up at Qalandia checkpoint of that botched bike race the day before.
More people started to arrive, people coming in through the fortress from Jerusalem, and others going to. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti even showed up. Dr Barghouti is a doctor who was trained in the former Soviet Union – He headsthe Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, that he established back in 1979.
The photo exhibit was displayed from 1pm -4pm. There were no incidents of the Israeli Occupation Forces intervening.
Like the Tel Rumeida Circus for Detained Palestinians, Khaled plans to take his show “to a checkpoint near you.”
8. Journal: The crime of being born Palestinian
by Anna Baltzer, 21 March 2007
For photos, click HERE
Almost two weeks ago, my friend Dawud, a high school English teacher from Kufr ‘Ain, called me nearly in tears to report the checkpoint hold-up that had cost him his six-month-old son. Shortly after midnight on March 8th, my friend’s baby began having trouble breathing. His parents quickly got a taxi to take him to the nearest hospital in Ramallah, where they hoped to secure an oxygen tent, which had helped him recover from difficult respiratory episodes in the past. As the family was rushing from their Palestinian town in the West Bank to their Palestinian hospital in the West Bank, they were stopped at Atara checkpoint, where an Israeli soldier asked for the father’s, mother’s, and driver’s IDs. Dawud explained to the soldier that his son needed urgent medical care, but the soldier insisted on checking the three IDs first, a process that usually takes a few minutes. Dawud’s was the only car at the checkpoint in the middle of the night, yet the soldier held the three IDs for more than twenty minutes, even as Dawud and his wife began to cry, begging to be allowed through. After fifteen minutes, Dawud’s baby’s mouth began to overflow with liquid and my friend wailed at the soldier to allow them through, that his baby was dying. Instead, the soldier demanded to search the car, even after the IDs had been cleared. At 1:05am, six-month-old Khalid Dawud Fakaah died at Atara Checkpoint. As the soldier checked the car, he shined his flashlight on the dead child’s face and, realizing what had happened, finally returned the three ID cards and allowed the grieving family to pass.
Checkpoints and ID cards. Mention these words and any victim or witness of Apartheid can produce dozens of horror stories like Dawud’s. South Africa employed a similar system with its former Apartheid “Pass Laws,” which the South African Government used to monitor the movement of Black South Africans. Blacks had to carry personal ID documents, which required permission stamps from the government before holders could move around within their country. Similarly, Palestinians in the West Bank are required to carry Israeli-issued ID cards that indicate which areas, roads, and holy sites they are or are not allowed access to. Pass Laws enabled South African police to arrest Blacks at will. Similarly, Israeli occupation forces use ID cards not only to monitor Palestinian movement, but also to justify frequent arbitrary detention and arrest with general impunity. Jewish inhabitants of the West Bank (like all Jewish Israelis) have different ID cards, proclaiming their “Jewish” nationality, granting them automatic permission to access the modern roads and almost all holy sites that most Palestinians are restricted from.
Forty-seven years ago today, on March 21, 1960, hundreds of Black South Africans gathered in Sharpsville, South Africa and marched together in protest of the racist and dehumanizing Apartheid Pass Law system. South African white-controlled police forces fired on the unarmed crowd, killing at least 67 and injuring almost three times as many, including men, women, and children. Witnesses say that most of the people shot were hit in the back as they fled.
Almost fifty years after the Sharpsville Massacre, pass laws still plague the lives of the oppressed. Every day I meet West Bank Palestinians living without permits and ID cards, either because Israel never granted them residency on their land, or because soldiers or police confiscated their IDs as punishment or just harassment. I recently interviewed the family of Ibrahim, a twenty-year-old veterinary student who was arrested three years ago for the crime of not having an Israeli-issued ID card. Ibrahim’s parents were born and raised in the West Bank and own land in their small village of Fara’ata, where I interviewed them. In 1966, as newlyweds, the couple moved to Kuwait where they began working abroad. The year after, Israel occupied the West Bank and shortly after took a census. Any Palestinians who were not recorded due to absence — whether studying abroad, visiting family, or anything else — became refugees. Israel, the new occupier, stripped Ibrahim’s parents and hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians of their right to return to their homes and land, and effectively opened up the West Bank to colonization by any Jews who were willing to come.
Israel’s census strategy of 1967 bears a striking resemblance to the Absentee Property Law that Israel employed after the 1948 expulsions. According to Passia, the law “defines an ‘absentee’ as a person who ‘at any time’ in the period between 29 November 1947 and 1 Sept 1948, ‘was in any part of the Land of Israel that is outside the territory of Israel (meaning the West Bank or the Gaza Strip) or in other Arab states’. The law stipulates that the property of such an absentee would be transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property, with no possibility of appeal or compensation. From there, by means of another law, the property was transferred, so that effectively the property that was left behind by Palestinian refugees in 1948 (and also some of the property of Palestinians who are now citizens of Israel) was transferred to the State of Israel.” To this day, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which inherited much of the refugees’ land, combined with the Israeli state owns about 93 percent of the land of Israel. This land is exclusively reserved for the Jewish people and almost impossible to obtain for Palestinian citizens of Israel or the owners of the land themselves: the 1947-1948 refugees.
When I say 93 percent of “the land of Israel,” I am implying land within the internationally recognized 1967 borders of Israel, unlike the text of the 1950 Absentee Property Law itself, which defines “the Land of Israel” as all of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip together. This was long before 1967, but makes the territories’ occupation less than two decades later either a tremendous coincidence or entirely unsurprising.
To this day, Palestinians like Ibrahim’s parents who were in the wrong place during the 1967 occupation and census — and their children — must apply for what is called “family reunification” from the Ministry of the Interior in order to legally reside in their own homes and villages. Passia writes, “the decision to grant or deny these applications is, according to Israeli Law, ultimately at the discretion of the Interior Minister, who is not required to justify refusal. In May 2002, Israel suspended the processing of family reunification claims between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to prevent the latter from acquiring Israeli citizenship, arguing that the growth in the non-Jewish population of Israel due to family reunification was a threat to the ‘Jewish character’ of the state.”
Family reunification applications not involving citizens of Israel were also frozen last year after the Hamas election, including the claims of Ibrahim and his family. The family returned legally to the West Bank in 1998 when Oslo projected Palestinians would have their own state, but when Israel’s occupation and settlement only accelerated, Ibrahim and his parents and five siblings were left with even fewer rights than the Palestinians with West Bank residency. Although the Palestinian Authority and DCO agreed that Ibrahim’s family could live in their village (and even provided them free education and health care), they still needed permission from Israel.
Ibrahim began veterinary school at An-Najah University in 2000, but had to commute over the Nablus hills since soldiers manning the checkpoints would never allow him to enter the city without an ID card. On March 23, 2004, during Ibrahim’s last semester before graduation, the Israeli Army caught him walking to school inside Nablus and put him in prison. This Friday marks three years exactly that Ibrahim — now 23 — has been in jail, his only crime that he has no Israeli-issued ID card. The first year Israel imprisoned Ibrahim within the West Bank, but the past two years he was held within Israel, a violation of international law — occupiers cannot hold prisoners and detainees from the occupied population in the occupying power’s land, because of how severely it limits prisoners’ rights. Indeed, Israel’s policy of generally imprisoning Palestinians in Israel means that their families often cannot visit them without permits to enter Israel, and they cannot even have a Palestinian lawyer since the lawyers from the West Bank and Gaza don’t have permits to practice law in Israel. Ibrahim’s father, for example, is a lawyer but can do nothing to help his son without an ID, let alone an Israeli license to practice law. Since he returned from Kuwait he has worked as a shepherd, since he can’t safely go anywhere outside his village without an ID.
Ibrahim’s situation is worse than most. Since his family has no ID cards they cannot even apply to enter Israel to visit him. Even Ibrahim’s sister, who obtained an ID via her husband back when Israel sometimes granted residency through marriage, cannot visit her brother since it is impossible to prove to Israel her relation to a person with no official name or identity.
“Nobody from the family has seen Ibrahim in two years,” his mother Hanan told me with my hand in hers after the report interview ended. “I send him gifts and receive news via the mother of another West Bank inmate in the same jail, a friend who occasionally gets permission from Israel to visit her son. Ibrahim is not even allowed the use the phone.” Hanan began to cry. “He’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing before I go to sleep. I cannot bear to imagine him there in prison, perhaps for the rest of his life, knowing how much he must be suffering, knowing that I can do nothing to help him. He did nothing wrong. His only crime is that he was born a Palestinian.”
Hanan has six children total, three of whom decided to settle in Jordan, where they could enjoy citizenship (Palestinians in the West Bank before 1967 had Jordanian ID cards), and Hanan hasn’t seen them in nine years. She wept again as she told me she has grandchildren and sons and daughters-in-law that she’s never met. Even if she wanted Jordanian citizenship now, she’s lost her chance having stayed outside Jordan for so long. And the family members who returned to claim their land and rights in the West Bank are now stateless, like so many millions of other Palestinian refugees in the diaspora.
In recognition of the tragic events of the 1960 Sharpsville Massacre, the UN declared May 21st the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, pushing states around the world to redouble their efforts to combat all types of ethnic discrimination. Yet within Israel, a member of the United Nations, ethnicity still determines nationality (there is no Israeli nationality: Palestinians are “Arabs,” Jews are “Jewish”), resource allocation, and rights to own JNF and state land. There are discriminatory laws separating Palestinian families in Israel and threatening to revoke Palestinians’ Israeli citizenship and Tel Aviv University Medical School just announced a rule that defacto targets Palestinian prospective students.
In the rest of the so-called “Land of Israel,” the ethnic discrimination is much worse, from segregated roads to separate legal systems. I know what Israel will say: this is only self-defense. On some level this is correct: if Israel desires control the territory that it has for more than two-thirds of its history, and to remain the state exclusively of the Jewish people, and to be democratic as well, it must find a way to create a Jewish majority on a strip of land in which the majority of inhabitants are not Jewish. There are only so many possible solutions: there’s forced mass transfer (as was tried successfully in 1948, and is currently advocated by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman), there’s mass imprisonment (10,000 plus Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails as I write), there’s genocide … or there is apartheid. The more humane alternatives of Israel withdrawing to the 1967 borders or becoming a state of all citizens are not even on the bargaining table.
Apartheid and segregation failed in South Africa and the United States and they will fail in Israel and Palestine. Ethnocentric nationalism failed in Nazi Germany and it will fail in Zionist Israel. But until they do, the Ibrahims and baby Khalids of Palestine are counting on you and me to do something, to say something, since they themselves cannot. Silence is complicity. We cannot wait for things to get worse. The ethnic cleansing and apartheid have gone on long enough.
Anna Baltzer is a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service in the West Bank and author of the book, Witness in Palestine: Journal of a Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. For information about her writing, photography, DVD, and speaking tours, visit her website at www.AnnaInTheMiddleEast.com
9. Journal: Bikes vs. Bombs
by Martinez, 23 March 2007
For photos, click HERE
It started out to be a magnificent afternoon here in Ramallah. Being an avid bicyclist back home in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, biking against oil wars, my eyes lit up like a small child in a sparkling candy store when I read the following announcement:
“The East Jerusalem-YMCA’s “Youth to Youth Initiative” is organizing the Palestine International Bike Race, aimed at promoting peace and tolerance among ethnic, religious and national groups in the region. The idea stemmed from the increasing need to stop violating human rights and lift the movement restrictions and blocks which prevent the Palestinians to move freely. Participants from the Palestinian Territories, Israel and different international identities will join the event.”
The race was projected to be the longest international sport event to protest against human rights violations, Israeli checkpoints, and restrictions on freedom of movement.
My friend and I arrived at the Playground in Al Bireh around 8:45 am to see 350 bicyclists ready to put the fun between their legs and pedal the 30-some downhill miles to Jericho, near the Dead Sea.
We registered, received our numbers (191 and 192 respectively), put on the YMCA issued T-shirts, and chose from hundreds of bikes before lining up for blast-off.
There were many nationalities represented. Hundreds of Palestinians, thirty or so Israelis, Danish, American, Spanish, Canadian, all coming together in the intellectual center of Palestine to bike in solidarity against Israel’s current system of Apartheid.
My heart was pounding and I may have been sporting a slight grin as I rounded the corner, 30 bikers from the frontlines.
Palestinian police did their best to keep traffic to the side. They couldn’t help the fact that the track on which we were racing is littered with ditches. (I refrain from using the word “potholes” where, in Pittsburgh, though they are many, they are no where in comparison to the holes on this road).
“Why,” do you ask, “is this specific road so battered?”
The road is disheveled because the Israeli government will not allow Palestinian construction workers maintain this road. Although this road is in Ramallah (in the West Bank), the Israeli government considers it part of the Jerusalem municipality and, thus, part of Israel…
So, dodging the potholes, I made my way past the atrocious Qalandya checkpoint. This checkpoint is one of the biggest in the West Bank. Built by the Israeli army, the Machsom (in Hebrew), looks more like a fortress styled terminal, equipped with an 8-meter high wall, sniper towers, and is manned and womanned by Israeli soldiers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Machsom separates Palestinian towns from Palestinian villages, and prevents access to Jerusalem, the economic, social, and spiritual center of Palestinian life—which is 10 minutes away from the Israeli-controlled fortress. In order to get around the checkpoint, Palestinians must take a time-consuming route through rugged terrain to reach hospitals, schools, and family members—destinations otherwise reached in a matter of minutes.
Making a slight turn onto the road to Jericho, I was filled with a sense of joy and freedom via the bike ride against Apartheid, the Tour du Freedom. The fresh spring weather hitting my face, the rocky cliffs and bright green grass on either side of me, Palestinians at crossroads cheering us on.
Those wheels of justice came to a screeching halt further down the road.
The Israeli army was stopping the freedom racers further down the track. Israeli flags were waving above army jeeps and police vehicles. Along with the bike race impasse, Israeli soldiers were refusing passage to Palestinian traffic.
As the rest of the 330 bikers accumulated there at the checkpoint, so did the traffic, for miles it seemed. But the army wasn’t budging. Apparently, a bunch of Palestinian, Israeli, and international bicyclists were too much a threat to the army. Bikes vs. Bombs. And the match was being had right there on the road to Jericho.
An illegal Israeli settlement could be seen in the distance. And the continuation of Israel’s Wall of Apartheid could be seen on the left, and felt in the stomach, a nauseating presence that just won’t go away (yet).
The Israeli soldiers called for back up. They revved their army engines. We straddled our bikes. The soldiers pulled some caution tape from their trunks and sealed us into a makeshift sty, like pigs on bikes. Some negotiating between Palestinians and the army ensued. But the army wasn’t budging. Then Israeli bikers tried to negotiate. Still, Israel’s Occupation Forces would not budge.
For over an hour, the pedal revolutionaries, visions of Jericho in mind, were forced to stand at the side of the road. The soldiers opened the road for traffic, but not for two-wheelers.
The energy was starting to bubble over. A woman from Holland had enough with waiting. She crossed the line, so to speak, and started heading to Jericho. She was approached by the soldiers, however, who began to push her around. Majd, a Palestinian journalist for This Week in Palestine, biked on over to the woman to and protect her. The army, instead, decided to rough him up and detain him.
A spokesperson from the YMCA arrived. The army handed him a bullhorn and the race was officially declared finished. No trophy ceremony, as was planned when we reached Jericho. No speeches to the Palestinian and international press about how tens of nationalities came together to bike towards freedom. Instead, the scene was filled with anger, despair, and hundreds of empty bikes lying at the side of the road.
The adrenaline that was overflowing just 2 hours before now evaporated. All that was left was the stench of Apartheid. Several bikers tried to rally a contingent to pedal themselves around the roadblock. But as more soldiers arrived, so did the fear of retaliation by the Occupation Forces.
And thus, sadly, after the world’s bike lovers met here on this day in Palestine to pedal in solidarity with the Palestinians against Israel’s system of racial discrimination, against their walls and snipers, tanks and jeeps—the day of Bikes vs. Bombs came to an abrupt end.