Home / Profiles of Peace & Israel’s War Games

Profiles of Peace & Israel’s War Games

Profiles of Peace & Israel’s War Games

1. Israeli government demolishes village of Twail Abu-Jarwal
2. Excessive force in Bil’in leaves Palestinian in hospital with two operations
3. Village near Bethlehem protests against the Wall
4. Flee, Freedom Fighter, Flee
5. Profiles of Peace: Faces of Hope campaign
6. Setting Sail to Break the Siege of Gaza
7. Fire in Askar!
8. War Games in Beit Leed
9. Pushed into the Sea? Try pushed out of your neighborhood instead..
10. Final Thoughts on Four Days in Palestine

****************************
1. Israeli government demolishes village of Twail Abu-Jarwal
by Yeela Raanan, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev. (RCUV), 10 May 2007

On May 8th , 2007, the Government of Israel once more demolished the entire village of Twail Abu-Jarwal in the Israeli Negev: 30 tents and huts.

Sunset, the stifling heat of the day had lifted, we sat as the villagers related the destruction that occurred in the morning. They arrived at 9:30am, two bulldozers accompanied by scores of armed policepeople and a handful of youth from the West Bank settlements – “workers” – to demolish the entire village. “I was at work, I didn’t know that my home was demolished until I came ‘home’”, one related. “They buried alive the doves’ hatchlings”, said Yunis sadly. “Many of the village people are in Jordan for a wedding, they must of known that, they have informers everywhere, even at the border crossing”, thought another. The bulldozer driver took his time, he worked slowly and thoroughly, he left nothing standing, nothing.” “On the other side of the village they ruined the water containers, they even destroyed the broken-down van that the old man used as a shelter.” “And the other old guy, Muhammad, didn’t want to leave his house, so they picked him up and forcefully took him out,” related Ibrahim, “and then, when his son Yaser wanted to make shade for him and picked the fabric off the ground, and took the tent pole in his other hand, he was arrested by the police, who claimed that he was about to hit him.” “This is the eighth time in the last two years the have come to demolish. It is the forth time that they have flattened it out completely.”

Aqil el-Talalqa, the village council head, sat many times with representatives from the Ministry of Interior, the Authority for the “Advancement” of the Bedouins, and the Israeli Land Authority. They suggested that he and the village move to another temporary location, while the government contemplates what to do with the people. But Aqil is refusing; he has had enough with temporary solutions. His people were moved ‘temporarily’ in 1952, and have been pushed around ever since. All 500 members of the village are still living in crowded temporary homes on the outskirts of Laqia without a possibility of receiving building permits; their homes in their ancestral village are demolished every month, they are still waiting for the plots they bought in the town on Laqia in 1978. Is it not time for a permanent solution? The village people have presented their case to the Israeli courts. In the meantime their homes are being demolished.

We sat quietly, staring at the ruins of the homes, listening to the sheep as they strolled home. Yunis broke the silence, “But the little hatchlings, why did they have to bury them alive?”

More at: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2007/05/13/twail-abu-jarwal-demolished/

************************
2. Excessive force in Bil’in leaves Palestinian in hospital with two operations
by Martinez, posted on ISM site, published in Palestine Times following day

For photos, click HERE

Israeli occupation forces used excessive violence today in Bil’in to quell the regular Friday demonstration against Israel’s Apartheid Wall, arresting 10 and injuring seven.

Palestinians were joined by international and Israeli solidarity activists after Friday prayers. Abdallah, a resident of Bil’in and member of the popular committee, explained the theme of the demo for today. He stated, “This demonstration today is dedicated to Azmi Bishara. Azmi Bishara was a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament. Israel is accusing him of working with Hizbollah during Israel’s lost war with Lebanon last summer. Azmi is now living in Qatar because, if he returns, Israel will put him in jail for 25 years. But it is Olmert and Peretz who should be in jail.”

“From Bil’in, we are sending out support and solidarity for Azmi Bishara,” rang a chant as the demonstration started.

The demonstration left the mosque and marched towards the gate in the Apartheid Wall. Israeli soldiers and border police from the M’gav unit were already waiting for the non-violent demonstration at the destination.

Demonstrators reached a wall of barbed wire which the occupation forces had constructed on the path. Chants of “End the Occupation” and “Tear down the wall” could be heard. One Israeli border policeman suddenly took aim and shot a Palestinian demonstrator with two rubber-coated steel bullets.

Martinez, and American activist, described the event: “I was just a few feet from Adeeb Abu Rahma when the border policeman shot him. The officer was just about 6 feet away. He took aim for Addeb’s legs and hit him twice on the inner side of his thighs. Immediately, Adeeb fell to the ground screaming. Activists immediately came to his assistance. When they lowered Adeeb’s pants to assess the injuries, I could see two fairly large holes, bleeding.”

Adeeb was taken away by medics with the Red Crescent and driven to the hospital, where he sits at this moment. The rubber-coated steel bullets, because they were shot from such a close range, entered Adeeb’s body. He just finished two operations in a Ramallah hospital where he must remain for at least two days under physician supervision. Rubber bullets are considered deadly by the Israeli army if they are shot at a distance from under 40 meters.

At this point, Israeli activists confronted the Israeli commanders to demand an explanation.

Jonathan Pollock explained, “when we tried to get details from the commander, details which he is mandated to give, the commander instead arrested us. There has been a rapid increase in violence in the last few weeks on the part of Israeli forces. This reflects a desperate attempt to break the non-violent resistance by using unwarranted military force and violence.”

In all, 6 Palestinians (Iyad, Abid, Aid, Naser, Issa, Yosef) and 4 Israelis (Jonathan, Sarah, Nir, Gur) were arrested and later released.

Six other demonstrators were wounded by rubber bullets or tear gas when the border police left the site of the wall and entered the village.

Police were shooting projectile tear gas cannisters and firing rubber bullets as they progressed further into the village of Bil’in. Border police were pushing people out of the way with their rifle and throwing activists around.

The border police effectively chased the majority of the demonstrators back into the village by using brute force.

************************
3. Village near Bethlehem protests against the Wall
by Alice Grey, IMEMC

For photos, click HERE

Approximately 50 protesters gathered in Wadi Niis on Friday to continue the weekly non-violent demonstrations against the construction of the Wall that have been happening in the area over the last few months. The wall, which is allegedly being built for the security of the nearby Efrat Settlement, will annex over 70% of the land belonging to the nearby village of Um Salamoneh.

This weeks action is part of the “Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem” campaign launched few in April to nonviolently resist the wall in Bethlehem area. Several nonviolent actions have been organzied in Bethlehem area through the campaign since launched.

This week the protest had a dual theme, as speakers called for the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who is being held by an Islamist group in Gaza called the Army of Islam since March 12. Speakers stressed that the group is representing Palestine to the world, and that they should therefore conform to the non-violent ideology of those they claim to represent; and that all Palestinian groups should join hands in struggling against the Israeli Occupation, and that Mr Johnston, who has nothing to do with the Occupation and has in fact been a friend of the Palestinians, should be released without delay.

As usual, prayers were held on the land that is to be annexed. This week, the meeting took place on a field of vine trees that will soon be lost behind the wall; watched over by approximately 30 Israeli soldiers. After prayers, protesters moved to walk along the route the wall will take across the land but were prevented by the soldiers. Despite provocation by the soldiers who pushed and hit protesters, the non-violent character of the demonstration was maintained at all times. As soldiers tried to push the demonstrators back, they sat down on the road, calling “Where is the peace, where is the justice?” A sit-in was maintained for a short time before the demonstration peacefully dispersed.

**********************
4. Flee, Freedom Fighter, Flee
by Yonatan Pollack, translated by Rann Bar-On, published in Ha’aretz

The basis of my political education, on the price one must pay for the struggle, was very close to home – within the family in fact. My grandfather, Nimrod Eshel, was among the leaders of the seamen revolt in the early 1950’s. In a desperate attempt to break the strike and with no reason to arrest them, Ben Gurion instructed that he and others should be conscripted into the army. He was 27. My grandfather and his comrades saw the conscription as de facto administrative detention, but decided to go to the recruiting office anyway. This was a purely tactical decision, taken only after they had discussed going underground and the influence of such a step on the strike.

A few years earlier, my grandfather was arrested by the British in Latrun and Cyprus for his part in smuggling Jews from Europe. He often refers to these periods of arrest by saying “I had nothing against the British. It was a war – they arrested me and I tried to escape”. Indeed, the prisoners had planned their escape from both places, though the plans were never executed, but nonetheless clearly showed their feelings as to the duty to fulfill their period of punishment.

When I grew up a little the anarchist movement became my political home, and with it the ethos of the Spanish Underground fighters who were forced into exile, many of whom crossed the border back and forth to harass Franco’s army in the hills. To the stories of the past, other peoples’ memories, I want to add my joy at the end of Apartheid in South Africa, at the return of that country’s exiles. Together with the release of prisoners, those who had managed to escape from the Boers’ jails to Mozambique or Botswana, came back.

Those who escape from the clutches of a repressive regime, whether they are guerrilla fighters or political leaders, deserve support and even admiration from dissidents for the sacrifice they made. Exile, one must remember, is not an easy choice even for those who despise the political regime in their country of birth.

Due to its inability to deal with the demand that the state change from a Jewish ethnocracy to a real democracy, Israel is these days opening a new front in the attack on its Palestinian citizens. This front has taken shape in the form of Shabak statements to the effect that the demands of Israeli Arabs for equality is subversive and will be terminated even if it is not against the law, in the definition of Israeli Arabs as a strategic threat, and most of all in the invention of a criminal case against one of the most prominent leaders of the the Palestinian public in Israel – Azmi Bishara.

Any rational person with eyes in his head can see that that case against Bishara was made up by the Shabak. Despite this, in the current political atmosphere, Bishara’s trial (had he decided to show up for it) would have turned into a show trial and would have concluded long before the investigation was over. Even before the start of the the trial, while a ban on publication – full or partial – was still standing, Bishara was attacked by right-wingers, some more extreme than others, from Lieberman to Steiniz through Tamir and to Beilin. Many will be delighted to have rid themselves of the articulate challenge Bishara puts forth to Zionism and to the character of Israeli society. It is convenient for them to attempt to showcase him as one who has fled from the just punishment he deserves.

It is not surprising when the chorus of voices calling for Bishara to come back and receive his punishment comes from the right-wingers who see him as a strategic threat, but for some reason some of those who do understand the false spirit of the investigation are calling for him to come back and recognize the validity of the law, to come to terms with it in the name of civic responsibility. Those are the people who are abandoning him by the roadside and making him stand alone against the storm. In doing this, they are are abandoning the entire Palestinian Israeli public.

Bishara’s civic responsibility demands in fact that a spade is called a spade, that is to say that the treatment of the Palestinian minority by the Jewish majority in Israel, especially towards its political freedoms, has forced Bishara into becoming a refugee, and is leading to a dangerous situation. Everyone knows that in the face of political desperation, these are those who turn to using the pen as a weapon, and there are those who will be pushed into choosing other means.

It is pointless to return to a trial whose result has been predetermined. It was just for Bishara to leave into forced exile, from where he will be able to continue to point arrows at the enemy of all human beings – racism. All that remains for us to say is: flee, freedom fighter, flee.

***********************
5. Profiles of Peace: Faces of Hope campaign
10 May 2007

Three ISM Co-Founders Celebrated, Huwaida Arraf, Ghassan Andoni, Neta Golan
from American Friends Service Committee

for photos and more, click HERE

June 2007 marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. At AFSC, we’re taking this time to reflect on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to appreciate Palestinians and Israelis who have worked for peace and justice.

During May and June, AFSC presents Faces of Hope – Profiles of Peace. Profiles of Peace includes 40 short biographies of Israeli and Palestinian peace builders. A new profile will be added each weekday beginning May 1 and continuing through June 8. Follow the name links on this page to read each profile.

Also, please mark your calendars on June 10 and 11, 2007 for the rally, teach-in, and lobby day in Washington, DC, The World Says No to Israeli Occupation.

*Huwaida Arraf*

Huwaida Arraf is a co-founder of the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which focuses on grassroots community nonviolent organizing to resist the Israeli occupation.

The founders of the ISM believed that bringing international volunteers to support the Palestinians under occupation would reduce the risk of violent repression of Palestinians by the Israeli military. Since its creation in April 2001, some 3,500 activist volunteers from more than 30 different countries have joined the ISM. The organization has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 2003 and in 2004.

“The Palestinian Intifada, the ‘uprising for freedom,’ has got to be an international struggle. . .,” Arraf says. “[It] is a struggle for freedom, a struggle for basic human dignity and human rights. Anyone who believes in freedom, believes in justice, believes in equality for all people not based on religion or nationality, can join in the struggle.”

Arraf works in the occupied Palestinian territories with local leaders and groups, training international activists to face the Israeli military forces unarmed. She has been arrested more than a dozen times for nonviolent protests in the Occupied Territories, including once for delivering food to the people stranded in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, the oldest of five children, Arraf attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she obtained degrees in Arabic, Hebrew, and Judaic Studies, as well as political science. As an undergraduate, Arraf co-founded and facilitated an Arab-Jewish dialogue group on her campus and was active in other conflict resolution and co-existence groups. As a junior, she attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and studied the Hebrew language on a Kibbutz. After graduating, Arraf worked at the Arab American Institute in Washington, D.C., promoting the rights of Arab Americans.

In the spring of 2000, Arraf traveled to Jerusalem to serve as program coordinator for Seeds of Peace, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that promotes dialogue and interactions between young people in regions of conflict, in her case, Palestinians and Israelis. While working at Seeds of Peace, Arraf met her husband, Adam Shapiro, another co-founder of the ISM.

In 2004, Arraf co-edited the book Peace Under Fire, a collection of personal accounts by ISM volunteers, and is currently co-editing a book about the Palestinian resistance. She is a law student at the American University’s Washington College of Law, where she is focusing on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, with a special focus on war crimes prosecution. She also co-chairs the Students for Justice in Palestine at the Washington College of Law, serves on the advisory boards of KinderUSA and Imagine Life, and is a member of the steering committee for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

In 2006, Arraf traveled to Lebanon with her husband to coordinate civilian relief efforts in Lebanon and provide company for refugees returning to the south of Lebanon.

*Ghassan Andoni*

Palestinian co-founder of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and the International Solidarity Movement. He has been a proponent of nonviolent resistance for decades.

Ghassan Andoni is a physics professor at Birzeit University who has combined his teaching with peace activism since 1988. He is best known for co-founding the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, but his peace activities began much earlier.

While a college student in Iraq, Andoni dropped out to work in refugee camps in Lebanon during the civil war there. Returning home from Lebanon he was arrested and jailed for two years for his supposed involvement in the military conflict. His Israeli judge refused to believe that he was a hospital worker and sentenced him for alleged membership in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

During the first intifada, 1987-1993, Andoni was an active participant in the tax resistance movement that took place in Beit Sahour, a town in the West Bank. He expanded his understanding of nonviolence from being a personal position to a public one that, if successfully employed, could lead to a mass movement of liberation.

In 1988, after another jail term for his participation in the tax revolt, he co-founded the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People. The center’s aim was to allow those in conflict to acknowledge each other’s humanity and to work together for a world in which they could peacefully coexist. It did this through dialogue and joint activities between Israelis and Palestinians. As the Israeli military occupation wore on, Andoni and the Rapprochement Center moved from dialogue to direct nonviolent action intended to end the occupation.

As part of this work he co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), coordinating international volunteers with Palestinians and Israelis in nonviolent actions that called attention to the oppression created by years of occupation. In working with ISM he has insisted that all international participants commit themselves to nonviolence, both physical and verbal.

“Conflicts are fueled by the tendency of the powerful to exploit the power and the anger and frustration of the powerless, which turns into violence,” Andoni says. “ISM activists are attempting to confront the exploitation of power and to bring back hope to the powerless.”

As he continued his peace work and organizing among Palestinian youth, Andoni demonstrated an ability to think strategically and tactically. He realized that a nonviolent movement must always be creative and experimental, not staying with patterns of behavior that once may have been successful but that, if made routine, run the risk of becoming rigid and mechanical.

His creative, proactive responses contributed to a growing prominence within the peace community, even as he turned from international work back toward a focus on Palestinian civil society. For this work, the AFSC nominated him and Israeli activist Jeff Halper for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He currently works for Birzeit University as Director of Communications.

*Neta Golan*

Israeli co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, which brings international solidarity activists to the West Bank and Gaza to engage in nonviolence resistance. In 2002, Golan was voluntarily stranded in Yasser Arafat’s compound that was besieged by Israeli forces. She wrote reports to the outside world about what she was experiencing.

Neta Golan was born in Tel Aviv and is a third generation Israeli. She describes her childhood as scary, loaded with fears instilled by her parents and fueled by the media. While she met Palestinian people working in construction and sanitation in Tel Aviv, barriers between the two peoples did not allow her to interact with Palestinian peoples as equals. She first heard of the occupation at the age of 15 during the first Palestinian Intifada.

This was her first venture into learning more about the Palestinian people and Israeli policies toward them. Having been raised with an awareness of oppression and dispossession in Jewish history, Golan’s first instincts were to question how Israel could be maintaining the oppression of another people.

She started to enter the West Bank to facilitate dialogues and meetings between Palestinians and Israelis. Through these trips into and around the West Bank, she came to understand the reality of Palestinian life under the occupation, and her fear transformed into action to help the Palestinian people.

At the start of the second intifada between 2000 and 2001, Golan helped to found the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which brings international solidarity activists to the West Bank and Gaza to engage in nonviolent resistance. The international activists support the Palestinians in staging nonviolent demonstrations, confronting Israeli soldiers who violently suppress the Palestinians, and documenting human rights abuses and making those abuses public.

“What we want to do with the ISM is keep an avenue for popular struggle open,” Golan said in an article in the magazine Frontline (Vol. 19, Issue 17) published in 2002. “When we accompany Palestinians, because of the racism of the whole system, the army doesn’t treat us as targets the way they treat Palestinians. We want to expose the racist nature of the conflict by doing this, and also simply try to protect people so they can try to resist politically.”

In 2002, Golan was voluntarily stranded in Yasser Arafat’s presidential compound in Ramallah when it was besieged by Israeli forces. From within the compound, Golan wrote reports to the world outside of the compound about what was happening. She was hoping to reach the international community and move them to action, writing that “In the compound we are left wondering, not without fear, whether the international community will allow the permanent expansion of the already illegal occupation and the exile if not assassination of the Palestinian leader.

Some of her other actions include chaining herself to olive trees to stop the Israeli military from uprooting them, and questioning the actions of Israeli soldiers at demonstrations,

While her family remains in Israel, Golan married a Palestinian man and lives with him and their children in the West Bank. She constantly deals with the ironies of her life: a resident of the occupied Palestinian territories, she can travel back and forth to Israel to visit with her family, but neither her husband nor her Palestinian friends can visit with their families if they are outside of the West Bank.

As she traveled to Israel to see her dying father for the last time, she recalled her Palestinian friend Amal, who “will never see her father again. Many thousands of Palestinians share her fate.”

**************************
6. Setting Sail to Break the Siege of Gaza
from Free Gaza- Break the Siege

This summer – forty years after the Israeli seizure and occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – international, Palestinian and Israeli civilians will sail to Gaza to challenge Israeli control and isolation of the 1.4 million Palestinians who live there. The project is intended to awaken the conscience of the nations of the world, who have turned their backs on a people whose human rights, welfare and very existence are being sacrificed to political expediency.

Israel says Gaza is no longer occupied, yet it denies Palestinians access to jobs, travel, visitors, commerce, education, health and medical care. Its military has turned the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison controlled by land, sea and air. As a result of draconian restrictions on access to the outside world, Palestinians live on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. After 40 years of brutal Israeli occupation, it is time for Gaza to be free.

We choose to no longer wait for the United Nations to enforce its resolutions, for the world to do its humanitarian duty, or for Israel to respect human rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention. We choose to act upon those rights as free people, and declare our solidarity with the Palestinian people.

• We will not stand by while Israel besieges Gaza and denies Palestinians control over their own borders.

• We will not accept that the 1.4 million people of Gaza are trapped and starved, surrounded by 27-foot walls.

• We will not stand by as these civilians are daily terrorized by bombings, incursions, and abductions by Israeli armed forces.

We will not wait for Israel to allow Gaza to be free. We therefore choose to sail to this beleaguered territory and challenge Israel for imprisoning Palestinians, while pretending to the world that they are free. We choose nonviolent civil resistance against the unjust policies of occupation in order to show that everyone can participate in resisting injustice.

***************************
7. Fire in Askar!
by M1 and M2, 9 May 2007

For video and photos, click HERE

Tuesday night May 8th, gigantic fireballs could be seen swirling in Askar refugee camp. But wait, it’s not what you’re thinking. The army hasn’t invaded quite yet… It was the Tel Rumeida Circus for Detained Palestinians who had invaded the Askar gymnasium and performed a fire circus for 300 kids from Askar camp.

TRCDP unveiled their new choreographed circus extravaganza to an enthusiastic audience.

T.R.C.D.P. was invited by Hatem Hafi, the manager of the Nablus Center for Arts and Culture. The center teaches Palestinian folklore to children in dabke (traditional Palestinian dance), drama, French, English, painting, music, and more.

Hatem explained some conditions of the camp to the members of the T.R.C.D.P. and their posse. For example,13,000 Palestinian refugees in Askar are housed on 2.5 square kilometers of land. “At night, usually around 11 or 12, the army comes in and damages doors, and shoots at will. We don’t want money from the EU or the USA, we want time to live a good life, to be able to sleep at night.” Hatem has a one month old baby and says the baby cries when the army comes in and shoots.

“All societies work towards change, but Palestinians can’t because of the occupation,” he told us. There is a swimming pool for the camp, but right next to the pool is a checkpoint and people are afraid to go swim there because of its close proximity to the checkpoint. At this point, Hatem pointed out the sounds of a party outside. “They are having a party now, but they are not thinking about the party, because when it is over, the occupation will continue.”

Hatem continued, “If you tour the West Bank, you’ll see the occupation’s effects on kids.” A study by the Gaza Community Health Programs found the rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among Palestinian children showed that 54% suffered from severe PTSD, 33.5 % from moderate and 11 % from mild and doubtful levels of PTSD. Some symptoms of PTSD include restlessness, insomnia, aggressiveness, depression, dissociation, emotional detachment, and nightmares.

Besides PTSD, there are of course physical injuries. Like Jamil, the son of Abu Ashdi who was shot twice in the face by the Israeli army. Jamil lived but he’s completely lost his sense of smell. The family wants to take him out of the country for better medical attention but because eight members of his family are in jail, the Israeli government won’t grant the family permits to leave the West Bank. Abu Ashdi asked us if we knew of any human rights organizations which could help. We suggested Doctors Without Borders, but apparently they had already tried and had no luck.

Suddenly we were reminded of the reality of the occupation ourselves when Hatem warned us we should leave soon because the army would be invading shortly and we would not want to be caught in their line of fire.

TRCDP was born when two members of the ISM began performing a circus routine for detained Palestinians at checkpoints.

Stated goals of the TRCDP are:
1) Entertain Palestinians who are detained at checkpoints
2) De-escalate tense situations where Israeli soldiers are abusing Palestinians
3) Un-detain Palestinians by the previous stated goals
4) Perform circus shows for Palestinian children who are otherwise deprived of a normal, safe, and happy childhood

***************************
8. War Games in Beit Leed
by Jonas

For photos, click HERE

Israeli military using Palestinian population for war games scenario

Beit Leed is a Palestinian village located between the cities of Nablus and Tulkarm. It is a village completely isolated. Whether you are coming from Nablus or Tulkarm, one must cross through a checkpoint, littered with young Israeli soldiers, metal detectors, cages, turnstiles, and lines of people just waiting and waiting and waiting for the Israeli soldiers to let them cross so they can get to their jobs or to take their exams or visit family members.

What has been happening in Beit Leed almost every Wednesday night for the past three months may be nearly unbelievable for many minds of the readers of this entry.

Imagine this: You live in Pennsylvania. Canada comes into your state and sets up these military installations throughout your state. These installations come in the forms of 25 foot high walls, trenches, fences, sniper towers. Then you have checkpoints, armed with Canadian soldiers. Many of them do not speak English but they speak French. And you have to explain to these Canadian soldiers why you want to cross from your Pennsylvanian neighborhood to the next Pennsylvanian neighborhood where your sick Pennsylvanian grandmother lives. Pennsylvania is hot in the summertime. You are caged in with hundreds of other Pennsylvanians, waiting in queue until it is your turn to explain yourself to the Canadian occupiers of your neighborhood. “No Smoking” signs are scattered throughout the cage in which you are waiting. Nerves are up. It’s hot. Soldiers are laughing in an air-conditioned booth and your physics test is already half over because you have been stuck like an animal in this fenced in area.

Now, imagine this as Palestine. This is the Huwara checkpoint leading into the main part of Nablus. Then you reach another one before the village of Beit Leed.

On these Wednesday nights, the Israeli military uses the village and villagers of Beit Leed to practice a war-games scenario. The army has chosen Beit Leed because it resembles Syria or Lebanon. This their practice ground so they don’t have another failed war like last summer’s.

This is what the mayor of Beit Leed had to tell us:

“In our town here in Beit Leed, people live peacefully. Most of the residents here are farmers or workers. They go to bed early because they have to get up early. You go to bed as a father and you wake up early from the screams and the yelling of the soldiers around your house and they scream really loud. They sound like animals and then your kids wake up. And you know that, as a father, you can’t protect your child, you try to comfort your child but you know that you aren’t even secure yourself. So, what do you expect from a child that grows up in this situation and wakes up every night to invasions and gunfire and soldiers going through our homes.”

“And also, I am not against anybody. I am not against Jews or Christians. But I want to ask a question to the western societies… Why is it that when I go to the mosque to pray, I am a terrorist? But when a Jew or a Christian goes to a synagogue or church they are called religious? Why is it that if I grow a beard I am called Hamas but some of you here have beards and you are not called this?”

“I respect all religions. Jews they have their own and I have my own. All these three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, they all have the same God.”

“Why does the army came here at night to our town? Why do they come to our homes and at night? I believe that in Israel they have open wide areas where they can practice their training. So why do they come here and why at night if they are not here to terrorize people and make people get scared? Why don’t they do it inside Israel or somewhere else but not in a big population of Palestinian people?”

“The fear of the soldiers invading our homes in our town- of them being inside of your home, that at anytime they can come inside your home makes you very scared.”

“The number of traumatized children has increased recently. Usually they wake up at night from nightmares, especially from the recent military training. Also, in the morning, kids prefer to stay at home instead of going to school because they are scared of going outdoors and facing the soldiers. You can imagine that that’s for the kids- but for the old people, like myself, when I want to go to the mosque to pray, I prefer to do it at home. Or to go to work, i prefer to stay here because I am afraid. Imagine if this is how an old person feels, how these little children are feeling.”

“For the Palestinian child, the Israeli soldier is a nightmare to them. And if Israeli really wanted peace, and it is clear that they do not want this, they should at least want to give these young Palestinian a good image about Israel because our children only know these soldiers with a gun and in their nightmares. So, when they grow up, this is the only image they will have of the Israelis in Israel.”

“This training has been going on for almost three months. The army drops the soldiers by helicopters on the top of the hill. And early in the morning around 2 or 3am they invade the village. Of course, the army doesn’t announce anything. They do this because they want the psychological effect to be higher on people, for the Palestinians to be surprised by the army’s presence.”

“We tried to contact some legal organizations. We contacted human rights organizations inside Israel, contacted the Israeli media. There have been some reports on what is happening in our town. But our resources are no many. And the Israeli is above the law. They do not use the law in their invasions. And of course, if they were using the law, they wouldn’t be here. But according to international law it is illegal yet they still come.”

“In response to these reports that have been published about Beit Leed, a military commander has said, ‘The Israeli army has the right to come to the West bank and to trainings in Palestinians towns and villages.’”

So, with this in mind, with cameras in hand, with fluorescent jackets on our backs, we set out into Beit Leed around midnight to catch this breach of international law on tape.

The winds were strong and it was humid. Some rain arrived and with it went the street lights. Absent from the streets (starting at 10pm) were Palestinians, except for two guides and curious residents who questioned us about why we were there and to tell us their personal stories.

Maybe it was because the army knew we were there. Or maybe it was because the electricity was out and the weather was temper-mental. But the army did not arrive. We headed back to the home where we were staying around 4:30am, tired but ready in case we heard those US-funded jeeps come rolling through the village.

We found out the next day that a small Israeli army regiment actually invaded a nearby Palestinian village near the illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim.

Regardless, at least Beit Leed had a better night sleep Wednesday night. But just like the army, we’ll be back. They’ll have the war games/state-sponsored terror practice book. We’ll have our cameras and our journals.

And you’ll all be sleeping comfortably. There is not Canadian Occupation. No checkpoints before arriving to work at the hospital. No 18 year old soldiers rummaging through your briefcase before reaching your second grade class where you teach social studies. No walls of Apartheid separating you from your favorite coffee shop across the way.

************************
9. Pushed into the Sea? Try pushed out of your neighborhood instead..
by Yifat Appelbaum, May 13

See photos and map click HERE

Firas used to live in the old city of Hebron until 1 year ago when he and his whole family left as a result of the settler and soldier violence.

He asked me to go with him to visit the old house, which his family still owns. He wanted to see what kind of condition it was in and he knew the soldiers at the checkpoint below the building and the Israeli settlers in this formerly Palestinian neighborhood would make problems for him if he went alone.

We attempted to take the short route down Shuhada Street which would have put us at Firas’s house in about 5 minutes. Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians for the past 6 years. However, in 2007 the Military Legal Advisor of the IDF declared in response to a letter from the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) that this order was invalid. Captain Harel Weinberg, Advisor in the Criminal and Security Department of the IDF stated in a letter to ACRI “With regard to this issue we would like to inform you that as a result of an inquiry that was carried out by Judea Brigade it appears that you are correct, and in fact Palestinians have been erroneously denied pedestrian movement through Shuhada Street, west of Gross Square. A new instruction has therefore been issued by officials from the IDF Division that permits pedestrian movement, which will of course be subject to security checks. We hope that this will be sufficient to resolve the issue denoted above.”

Despite his declaration, Palestinians are still not allowed to walk on this street. No one knows why but I suspect it has something to do with the settlers giving orders to the soldiers instead of the commanders giving the orders. So not surprisingly we got to the soldier’s post on Shuhada Street and were turned back. Now just for a minute, imagine you are a white American and you are walking down the street with your black American friend and a police officer tells you your black American friend can not walk down this street because he is black. Now remember that Israel considers this area of Hebron to be its territory, thus it is part of the middle east’s only democracy (!)

For a detailed map of these closures, see this map created by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

So we took the long way, through the old city, and were stopped a second time by six soldiers who asked for my passport and his ID.

After about 20 minutes we arrived at a turnstile, erected by the army, in front of Firas’s house. We went through and were immediately stopped by two soldiers who asked what we were doing.

Firas told them this was his house and he wanted to go inside.

The soldier asked why the family no longer lives there. At this point I was hoping Firas would tell the soldier about how settlers who lived across the street in the illegal and subsequently evacuated Beit Shapiro settlement would regularly try to break into their home, throw rocks at their windows, how the family had to install an industrial strength door and lock to prevent this, about how settlers set the building next door on fire, how settlers attacked them when they came and went from school, about how they had to show their IDs to the soldiers and prove that they lived there in order to enter their home everyday, how visitors were detained in the same manner and usually refused entry, and how the final straw was when Firas’s 18 year old sister Bashaer tried to come home from school one day. Settlers had congregated at the entrance to the apartment and told the soldier on duty not to let her enter the house. The soldier complied with their orders and told Bashaer she could not enter and that she had to go back. She refused and the soldier pushed her and kicked her. Her father watched the whole situation happen but of course he was powerless to do anything. They decided after that incident to leave. I was hoping Firas would tell the soldier these stories, but at the same time I knew it would not get him what he wanted, which was to enter his house. If you tell a soldier something like that, even if he knows it is the truth, you can pretty much forget about him being reasonable after that.

We waited around for an hour and a half for the soldiers to obtain permission from the DCO (District Command Office) to let us enter the house. I don’t know if it actually took this long to obtain the permission or if the soldier was just making us wait as part of some nebulous set of orders to make life for Palestinians in Hebron difficult. I’ll skip the political discussions I had with him, except for this part:

Soldier: Where are you from ?
Me: from the United States.
Soldier: Are you Jewish ?
Me: yes
*Soldier has a look of surprise on his face*
Me: What’s wrong, you’ve never hear of a Jew and a Palestinian being friends ?
Soldier: No.
Me: You don’t have any Palestinian friends ?
Soldier: No.
Me: He hasn’t tried to slit my throat or push me into the sea.
Soldier: Yet.

In the end, the soldier told us we could enter the house for 15 minutes but the soldier would keep Firas’s ID until we came out and left.

The house was pretty trashed, not surprisingly. The roof has a lovely view of the Ibrahimi mosque and the old city. It was sad. We looked around for a bit and took some photos and video. Then we left. I don’t know when he will be able to go back there and live again.

*************************
10. Final Thoughts on Four Days in Palestine
by: -bat, May 12

I know a number of people have started reading my journal in order to read the Palestine stuff. Thank you for reading, and I am flattered by the attention, but you are kind of in the wrong place. I only did three days out there, just visiting, and then came back. I am not (yet) an activist, and somewhere in the back of my head it’s hard not to hear an echo of John Lydon singing “A cheap holiday in other peoples misery”. If you really want to know about life out there, and want to read the journal of a genuine activist, then this is the place you want to be. That is Katie, whom I have talked about here, and whom I own a hell of a lot for inviting me to visit, putting me up and showing me around. She is many things, an artist, a cartoonist, and someone who cares about the situation to the point of ending up living out there. But to me she is also my friend, and I am very glad of that. Go back and read it from the beginning if you can. Another place you should really be reading is here which is Jonas’ journal and provides frequent updates on incidents out there.

So, if you came here to read about Palestine then time to de-friend me, as it’s back to my usual life now. But, for what it’s worth, here are a final few thoughts, and the answers to a few questions people have asked me.

Where is this all going to end?

This is a question I asked a lot of people when I was out there. Most of the time the answers I got were simply that they had no idea what would happen next and where things would end. I did get the occasional positive outlook, along the lines of what Rich said in his comment a few posts ago:

“One day maybe, there will be a nice small hotel or some self-catering apartments in Bil’in, and they will be able to take people to show them ‘where there used to be a wall’.”

Yes, maybe there will, but there’s another answer I got to the question, which looks far more plausible right now:

Palestine will be wiped out.

Melodramatic? Unfortunately it’s all too easy to see how this could happen. The west bank is already divided up into small chunks by a network of roads, settlements and checkpoints. There are areas where the Palestinians have been given autonomy, and areas where Israel is tightening it’s grip. Look at the depopulation in Tel Rumeida, and imagine that taking place everywhere that it is intolerable for the people to live. Already there are more Palestinians living abroad than there are in Palestine itself, and those that remain may be squeezed into smaller and smaller self-governing disconnected areas. “Like Indian reservations in the USA” as one person put it to me. Until eventually there is no such place as “Palestine” in any meaningful way, just a few scattered overpopulated pockets of people who once were identified as Palestinian.

What good do the internationals do?

This is one I get asked a lot – what’s the point of what the ISM does, and is there any real positive effect on the situation. To which the answer is a definite “yes”. The internationals observe and record, and report on human rights violations. A concrete example of this came during the weekend I was out there – video tape shot of soldiers using civilians as a human shield was distributed to the press, and the Israeli commander responsible was suspended. Just by having the people there makes it less likely that these incidents will occur too – it helps that someone is watching. I have also been told that the presence of internationals makes the Israeli’s less likely to use live ammunition. If you thought Bil’in was bad then imagine how it might have been had there been no TV crews, and no foreign nationals there. How restrained are troops who are happy to fire rubber bullets at children even with us present likely to be if there are only the local Palestinians present?

Sometimes, even the most unlikely of things can be helpful too. If you thought that the circus skills that so many of us seem to pick up on our way through university were pointless, then I suggest you go and read about Katie and Jonas’ checkpoint performances. Non-violent protest personified.

Ultimately the presence of the internationals is not going to bring an end to the conflict, but it helps make the lives of the people under the occupation better, and acts as a curb on some of the abuses being carried out. One person with a video camera in the right place at the right time can make a difference.

Passing through … or getting involved

I hope I haven’t given the impression over the last few sets of postings that it is difficult to go and visit Palestine. If you want to see it for yourself and are in the area then it is very easy. If you find yourself in the area then I would encourage anyone to go and do it. You don’t have to be political – go and see the tourist sights if you wish, and spend some money with the locals whilst you are out there. God knows the local economy needs it. I freely admit that I have an agenda here though – I think if people go and visit for themselves, even if they intend to avoid the political situation, then rubbing up against the reality of the occupation is going to change the way you think about the place. So if you have been diving in the Red Sea, or going on a visit to Petra or simply just happen to find yourself in Jerusalem, why not take a day or so and go take a visit to Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron maybe? Names to conjure with, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed – and maybe you will come back with more than just a set of holiday snaps, maybe you will come back with an urge to actually go and do something about it.

If you already have the urge to go and try and help, as I know a number of you have, then get in touch with ISM. There is a London branch, and they can be found here. This year is the 40th anniversary of the occupation, and every warm body helps. All the information is up there, so I won’t repeat it here. If you want to actually do some good, then this is one way that you can.

And me?

It’s four weeks in my past now, and sometimes it feels somewhat unreal as I tell people about it. But if I go back and look at that first picture from Bil’in, there I am, in the middle of the crowd, marching with the rest of them (and almost none of you noticed that, did you?). Yes, it was real, all of it – the good bits and the awful bits. It’s a place which manages to simultaneously re-affirm your faith in human nature at the same time as it undermines it. I don’t think any other three days have had such a big effect on me – and you can probably tell that from the amount I have written about it.

Am I going back? Of course I am. Sometime later this year I am going to go out there for a lot longer, and actually get involved in what is going on rather than simply observing over a weekend. I only spent a fleeting time out there, which doesn’t do anyone any good, and I want to go out and do something to actually help. There is also a lot of other stuff I need to see as well.

As to these write-ups – I hope they have been useful to someone, mainly because the people reading it know me, and thus will have more faith in what I am saying than they might do in a media report. There are also so many news stories, and so many eyewitness accounts, that it all starts to wash over you. Which is why I made a conscious decision not to include 3rd party stories in what I wrote by and large (and I heard a number of them). This is the way I saw it, first person. If you know me then trust it because of that.

When I tell things which I have done or have happened to me, they usually have punchlines or funny conclusions somewhere. This obviously doesn’t. But it needs an ending, and having written the section above on what might happen in the future right now I am depressed as hell, so this is the one which springs to mind most readily. From 1984:

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Don’t let it happen.
Free Palestine.