ISM Activists Beaten and Shot at Nablus Checkpoint
ISM Activists Beaten and Shot at Nablus Checkpoint
When ISM activists Maria, Margaret (Maria's mother) and Linus (all from Sweden) and Danish reporter Tommy approached the Azmut checkpoint east of Nablus they saw 4 Israeli soldiers holding between 40 and 50 Palestinian men, women and children captive at the checkpoint. It was 1 pm. The captives were from the villages of Azmut, Salem and Deir Hatib and were trying to travel to Nablus for provisions or education. The activists would later learn that some had been held at the checkpoint since 6 am. While two of the soldiers guarded the prisoners the others fired at the villagers who were traveling to and from their villages in the surrounding fields.
As soon as the soldiers at the checkpoint saw the internationals they fired live ammunition at them forcing them to retreat. Daunted but unconquered the four returned to the checkpoint by an alternative route and again the soldiers fired at their feet and over their heads. The four internationals then stopped where they were but when the soldiers returned their attention to the Palestinians they resumed their approach. Again the soldiers fired at them and this pattern of advancing and halting was repeated several times.
Finally, the soldiers picked three men from the captives and sent them to the internationals to tell them that if they advanced any further they would shoot them in the legs. So they stayed were they were while the soldiers returned to their sport. They seemed to be shooting to intimidate the Palestinians in the fields rather than kill them but Maria did see one man fall to the ground.
At around 2.30 pm the soldiers forced ten of the women return to their villages with Margaret and Linus as their escorts (one of the women complained that she was from Nablus and wanted to return but the soldiers forced her on). As they left the soldiers fired over their heads. Then two of the soldiers ran after them and hit one woman several times with his rifle, despite Margaret's attempts to protect her.
"This is our country!" the woman pleaded in English as the soldier hit her. "We only want to go to our homes."
"Do you really think it's right to beat a woman?" Linus said to the soldier.
"You're not a woman so I can beat you instead!" said the soldier who advanced on Linus, although he refrained from hitting him.
When Maria saw the soldiers chasing the women she ran after them. When one of the soldiers saw her he pointed his gun at her.
"I want to kill you!" he said.
"Do you?" she replied.
"Go ahead then shoot me," Maria said without flinching so that the soldier backed down.
At about 3.30 the soldiers began firing very close to Tommy and Maria.
Tommy got angry at this and advanced on the soldiers shouting that he was a journalist. Maria walked behind him.
As Tommy approached, three of the soldiers attacked him while the fourth began to shove Maria around shouting at her to "Go back!:"
Then he went to join his companions in beating up Tommy. The commanding officer was the most vicious of the four soldiers and head butted Tommy with his steel helmet.
While they assaulted Tommy, Maria gave water to some of the woman. (She had noticed that the soldiers had been treating the women worse than the men.)
At around 5 pm the soldiers began to give the women their IDs back and force them to go on to Nablus. Many of the women had left young children in the villages and needed to go back to them and several of them were crying but the soldiers forced them onwards by shooting over their heads. The women begged Tommy and Maria to accompany them for their protection so they did so, leaving the men to mercy of the soldiers.
They then left the road and walked through the fields to their villages. Tommy and Maria walked with the women through the dark until they arrived at the sewerage-filled moat that separates their villages from Nablus and then they returned to Nablus.
Tommy is currently staying with the ISM in Nablus and is suffering from concussion.
Azmut Checkpoint is the same checkpoint where Lasse and Susan were threatened two nights ago. Neither the US or Danish governments saw fit to protest their treatment to the Israeli government.
I am raising this issue because I received several emails during and after the previous Azmut incident expressing not only admiration for the courage of the ISM activists who endured the ordeal but also the readers' feelings of helplessness when they read about such atrocities.
I would like to take this opportunity to impress upon all our supporters that they are by no means helpless and that the success or failure of the ISM depends not only on the heroism of our activists in Palestine but also our supporters around the world.
We are convinced that these assaults on ISM activists are not merely a case of military indiscipline but of a deliberate campaign to intimidate our activists with the ultimate aim of driving them from areas such as Nablus so as to give the army a free hand in the area. By refusing to protest such violence against their nationals the governments of the West are not only failing in their responsibility to protect these peace activists but are also serving as accomplices to Israel's campaign of terrorism against the indigenous people of Palestine.
In the coming weeks America and its allies are expected to launch their war against Iraq. Many analysts believe that the Israeli's will seize the opportunity that the war presents to escalate its campaign of terror against the Palestinians with the aim of driving as many of them as possible from the Gaza Strip and the Occupied West Bank (ethnic cleansing).
Please do not feel helpless under
these circumstances. Please either individually or in
groups lobby your governments to end their conspiracy of
silence regarding Israeli violence towards their nationals
so that people like Tommy, Maria, Margaret, Linus, Lasse and
Susan can continue their work.