Reportback from Daniel
Part 1: Checkpoints, and Violence Against Nonviolent Demos
I’m back from my whirlwind trip to Palestine. The trip was hectic and crazy and shocking. I think I accomplished my goal of seeing first-hand some aspects of the all-encompassing system of Israeli apartheid.
Among other things, my trip included participation in 2 very different demonstrations: the first one in Bil’in, where demonstrators are not allowed even to get close to the Israeli soldiers, and where tear-gas, concussion grenades, water cannons, and “rubber” bullets are freely used against un-armed demonstrators. The second demo was at a new land- confiscation site in a village south of Bethlehem, Artas, where the demonstrators went toe-to-toe with the soldiers. At both of these demonstrations, the goal is for the people of the village, along with Israeli and international allies to try to walk to their confiscated land. Both are mainly non-violent actions (on the side of the Palestinians), except that in Bil’in some of the young village boys use slingshots to throw rocks at the well armed and armored soldiers.
I had a meeting with Jeff Halper of The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and participated in one of their tours of the Jerusalem area that explains and shows concretely the Israeli project to detach and isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, a project which is effectively ripping out Jerusalem, the Palestinian economic and cultural heart, from the West Bank.
Around a bend in the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, bam, you run right into the 30 foot high concrete “security barrier.” It just cuts off the road and creates a dead end. The area was obviously formerly a very busy commercial zone which is now dying since this is no longer a usable route.
I had multiple visits to Ramallah and crossings of the Kalandia checkpoint. In order to get from Jerusalem to any point in the northern West Bank, you must first go to Ramallah and to get to Ramallah you must cross the Kalandia checkpoint. At this checkpoint, people with international passport can stay on the bus but Palestinians must get off the bus and go through a special scan and ID process.
I also had multiple visits to Bethlehem through a different checkpoint which you can’t even drive through. All people must walk through this checkpoint. It is no problem for someone with a US passport but for the Palestinians it is a different story with a very complicated system of permits and computerized ID cards. As part of the identification process, the Palestinians must submit to a computerized “hand-scan”.
I took a day trip to Hebron, which is a very special place. Very militant, ideologically-driven Jewish settlers have taken over sections of this city and a large contingent of Israeli solders is always there to “protect” them. This city is in the occupied West Bank; the transfer of a country’s citizens (Israelis) into an occupied territory is a grave violation of international law. There I visited members of an ISM team that monitors the situation and on a daily basis escorts a group of schoolgirls back and forth to school. The school is in a location near the settlement and quite often the girls are subjected to rock throwing by the children of the settlers. It is a very tense place with checkpoints right in the middle of the city. Palestinians and Volunteers from ISM and Christian Peacemaker Teams are often sent to the hospital with injuries from rocks and other physical abuse.