International Solidarity Movement Updates
International Solidarity Movement Updates
1) Legal Appeal 2) \"We Are All Palestinians\" - Avi Zer-Aviv 3) Controlling the Gate on the Road Towards Peace - JohnP 4) Violence at the Gate: Israeli civilians and terrorizing of Palestinian Farmers - JohnP 5) Where\'s the Peace? - John Heaney
The ISM has decided to appeal the decision of the Tel Aviv district court and challenge the deportation of the 4 internationals arrested in Arrabony, Jenin, in the Israeli Supreme Court.
With this, of course comes the very real danger of the Supreme Court rubber-stamping the Ministry of Interior's order to deport the peace activists, the same way the Tel Aviv district court did, ignoring all evidence of the arrest being illegal and accepting the Israeli military's "security-threat" cry. While recognizing that this challenge could set a discouraging precedent, we nevertheless feel it necessary to expose the military-like dictatorship that rules the Israeli State and legitimizes the widespread abuse of civil and human rights.
The same way that the Israeli military did not have to provide any evidence that the international peace activists were a "security threat", the Israeli army does not provide evidence of the "security concern" that validates the arrest of Palestinians and holding them in administrative detention for renewable (without reason) 6-month periods; some prisoners spending years of their lives in administrative detention, never actually being presented with their charges, or knowing why they were imprisoned. There are currently over 1000 Palestinian prisoners being held in administrative detention.
Voices around the world must raise up to join Palestinian voices in saying, ENOUGH! We will continue to organize to resist on the ground, even with the full knowledge that Israeli repression and efforts to silence us will increase. We need you to join us here if you can, and to certainly mobilize in your own communities.
Of the eight ISM volunteers that were arrested and issued deportation orders, Tobias Karlsson and Tarek Loubani remain in jail. In filing an appeal to the Supreme Court we were granted a stay on their deportations (Bill Capowski and Fredrick Lind had to return home). The four arrested in Nablus have also been deported.
Unfortunately we also have to ask your financial assistance to help us defer our increasing legal fees. So far with this case: Appeal to the Ministry of Interior and Tel Aviv District Court, including lawyers' fees - $2700 Appeal to the Supreme Court, including lawyers' fees - $1500 Outside doctor to visit the activists in jail - 2000NIS ($435) For a total, not including miscellaneous fees of: $4635 Since our last appeal, we've generously received from you $1300. Please consider donating. See our website - www.palsolidarity.org for more information on how. Thank you so much.
In solidarity & struggle, Huwaida ********************************************
"We Are All Palestinians" Avi Zer-Aviv
[Avi Zer-Aviv was one of six human rights activists arrested by the Israeli army earlier this month for removing roadblocks in the villages of Iraq Bureen and Tell just outside Nablus. He was joined in jail with four other activists arrested for similar non-violent actions in Jenin. He writes here about his experience, and about the situation on the ground in The West Bank.]
I have been hiding out here in Tel Aviv the last few days, recovering from a really turbulent few weeks and of the bitter news that my friends are being deported from Israel now.
Already 5 of the 8 detained internationals have been deported, following the Tel Aviv District Court decision upholding the Interior Ministry's decision that these human rights activists pose a "security threat". The judge seemed unsympathetic, ordering the immediate deportation of the activists, dismissing a request to allow for one more week to file an appeal.
My friends looked sickly as they arrived in court this last Thursday. They had already been sitting in Ariel settlement jail for one week, enduring poor treatment, the denial of their medical rights, some physical violence by prison guards, and a raid of their jail cell, confiscating their valuables.
Sadly, they were treated much better than most of the Palestinians sitting in the cells with them. In my one night in Ariel settlement jail, I shared a cell with two Palestinians, both being held for weeks awaiting a court decision for minor infractions that would at best receive a slap on the wrist had they been Israeli Jews.
The issue is not a bunch of Western kids serving time for trying to remove roadblocks in isolated Palestinian villages, but rather 36 years of occupation that has left a rotting scar on the lives of millions of ordinary people trying to make a decent livelihood. The issue is the family who graciously hosted me in their home for two nights in the town of Iraq Bureen outside Nablus, displaying Israeli bullet holes left by recent incursions covering their front door, bedroom closet and kitchen. Their village has been without open roads for months, and the delivery of basic milk, water and food hampered without good reason. All of this in a lookout surrounded by Israeli settlements, military outposts and watchtowers, and daily make-shift checkpoints set-up right in the village itself. The only justification Israel uses to stay here is the tired and lame mantra of security or terror, all the while ignoring the fact that their presence is the real fuel for growing despair and agony.
Let us not forget the real issue in the commotion of our experience as seasoned or unseasoned peace workers. Let us not forget that even as I was arrested and put in an army jeep, a call came in on the radio dispatch requesting permission for an ill Palestinian woman to pass a checkpoint so she can seek medical treatment. Let us not forget the dozens of Palestinian men I saw each day standing out in the blazing heat, being denied freedom of movement as punishment for attempting to enter their villages through the fields and around the checkpoints that would turn many away in any case.
As an Israeli-Canadian Jew in Palestine, I have come to witness and document countless human rights violations in the occupied territories, and come to the conclusion that Israel is moving closer to becoming a totalitarian state with a warped moral compass. 'Never Again', a famous slogan symbolizing Jewish self-determination after the holocaust, need not be replaced with 'At Any Price!' Yet many Jews still see Israel as The Golden Child that can do no harm. They send money, support Israeli policy unconditionally, swallow the propoganda whole, not realzing that their Golden Child has become a bully!
Israel\'s greatest threat is not the Palestinians, nor Iraq, nor the United States, but rather biting its own tail in the name of reactionary military policies that serve only the army generals that make up the previous and current governments here. We, as Jews, must remember how much we have suffered so as to transform that pain to compassion, generosity and understanding. Otherwise, we are destined to fall prey to the victim-victimizer dichotomy, asserting that we are either prey or predator. Today, I say, "We Are All Palestinians."
Controlling the Gate on the road toward Peace
Qalqilia 19 Jul 03 John Petrovato
A couple of weeks ago I embarked for Palestine. At that time, a number of friends told me that I was going at a historical moment. The prospects of peace and the implementation of Bush’s roadmap appeared to be having some success. Much attention in the media around the \"road map\" provided some optimism. Though I wish I could inform people that such optimism is warranted, I must confess that the situation on the ground for Palestinians has continued to deteriorate in the last few months. Jayyous, the small village from which i write today, sits about 6 km’s east of the Green line, in the Qalqilya district. As i mentioned in my last report, it is a village which will lose over 75% of its land to the construction of the \"security wall/ apartheid wall\". People in the village are very worried that they will not be able to sustain a life here and that they, much like the people who \"fled\" in 1948 and 1967, will become refugees. The \"Gate\" I mention in the title of this report is, I believe, a useful metaphor of the particular situation in Palestine in general and the village of Jayyous in particular: it illuminates the very dynamics of power relations between Israel and the Palestinians. It is very difficult to describe the massive difference in power which exists between the two parties. Might one be able to make the comparison between the Australian aborigines and the government of Australia? It is about one group of people who have the ultimate power to inflict terror in everyday life for every single person of the other group. It is also about the power to change the physical geography of the landscape that the other’s call home. It is about the power to dictate how a people shall live. It is simple about complete power. Jayyous is a simple example. The small village sits neatly on a hillside overlooking its farmlands below. A few years ago, when one looked down at the valley, one would be see the many different kinds of agricultural projects, greenhouses, small dirt roads with tractors and donkey’s and scattered families working in fields. It would have been peaceful and quiet and would have had very much the same feel as their ancestors had experienced. Today, however, things are radically different. The Wall which Israel is erecting to supposedly \"separate the people and provide security for Israeli citizens\" has changed all this. (I will not go into the economic reasons for the wall and the fact that it does not travel any where near the internationally recognized borders of Israel and Palestine at this time). I would first like to express is how the Wall has dramatically altered the visual landscape here in Jayyous. Instead of the peaceful valley below, the most striking thing one sees now is the massive scar across the landscape. The scar, or path of the fence/Wall, extends and meanders from one direction to the other, as far as the eye can see. The fence or wall, depending on the progress and location of it, is much more than a barrier. It includes a wide clearing of land approximately 25 feet across. It is surrounded by tunnels of barbed wire fences about 9 feet wide by 9 feet tall. Large yellow metal gates dot along its path. However, almost all the gates which separate one side of the village to the other are not opened. Indeed, there is only one gate open for travel. Thus farmers in the village must pass through the one gate to get to their fields, no matter how far that gate is from their land. The one \"open\" gate sits about 6 feet higher than the roads which the farmers are traveling and must navigate with considerable difficulty a means of traveling up to the fence and then back down to the road without getting stuck in the loose sand and large boulders. And as with other ways in which the Israeli’s make life difficult for Palestinians, crossing through an \"open\" gate is not a straight forward experience. So beyond the suffering which forces the farmers to travel miles out of their way on very bad roads just to pass through the single fence, there is also the private security forces hired by the lice or military, they often pre One might wonder why and how these Israeli civilians are able to have such control over Palestinians. It is really simple: all Israeli’s, including civilians, represent the brute strength of the Israeli state over Palestine. They are also very well armed, whereas Palestinians are unarmed. Even a lone Israeli settler may walk into the center of a Palestinian village without much concern. This is the kind of power Israeli’s have over Palestinians which rarely is communicated to audiences in American. Jayyous is also not unique in its commitment to non-violent resistance against these policies. For instance, many farmers have set up camps in their farms which sit on the Israeli side of the wall. Though the Israeli’s have the military force to prevent Palestinians from building any permanent structures on their land, farmers have set up temporary structures --tents, the use of old school buses, make-shift shelters, etc.. Their hope is that by maintaining a presence on their land they will be able to continuing to own it. It is only a hope though and they are aware of this. For there have been many other similar situations which the Palestinians have lost control over their land. Other examples of nonviolent actions happening in this village is regular protest marches. Completely non-violent, people in the village march to the fence and gates and express their dismay to the security forces (and to the military which quickly shows up to quell the \"uprising\"). On Friday there was a march organized by a woman’s group in town. They walked to one of the closed gates along the fence and though they merely carried signs and chanted slogans, were met by a large military presence in response. Of course the only media at the event was that of a South Korean newspaper. Tomorrow, Jayyous will hold yet another protest march. Organized by the Land Defence committee and including farmers from villages close by, will also attract Israeli peace activists and international with the ISM. This particular march will seek to illuminate a point in which Condaleza Rice made a few days ago: that the wall is an impediment to the progress of a peaceful solution. However, as often happens with Palestinians show of commitment to nonviolent resistance, there is a strong possibility that such will be lost. For the media and the world usually find violence more sexy and sellable than nonviolence. Israeli’s control the gate on the road to peace. They have literally caged Palestinians into small areas and have even prevented them from traveling within them. It is a terribly desperate situation and I often believe that there will not be a Palestinian home land or state in the near future. I think that they will continue to suffer as long as they remain in a land which the Occupying forces see as their own. The daily suffering from terror is not something which I am convinced Americans could deal with for as long as the Palestinians. I am continually amazed by the strength and beauty of the Palestinians. They are extremely wise and have a dignity unmatched in today’s world. They exhibit a powerful relationship to the land, homes, villages, themselves. It is in this power which Palestinians will one day achieve justice.
Violence at the Gate: Israeli civilians and the terrorizing of Palestinians farmers
Qalqilia 19 Jul 03 John Petrovato
On Tuesday, July 15th, four foreign journalists conducted an interview with Sharif Omar, a prominent member of the Jayyous village and leader of the local Land Defense Committee. Sharif has participated in many nonviolent actions against the building of the “Security fence”/ Apartheid Wall and has been instrumental in keeping the issue on the table during the current peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The interview took place in a stone and wood structure (which is used for his agricultural work as well as recently providing shelter for international peace activists) on his farm.
The journalists expressed that the goal of the interview was to better understand the concerns of the village over the construction of the separating wall/fence. The interviewers included the Christian Science Monitor, as well as reporters from the Netherlands and Canada, Sharif began by providing an historical overview of the wall: when it was begun, how both the Israeli’s and Palestinians understand its meaning, the legal decisions made by the Israeli high court regarding such, as well as the effects that the wall will have on his local community of Jayyous. What was puzzling to the journalists however was why there had been so much protests against the fence if the gate to their fields have been open and that Israel has given permission for them to travel to such. They would ask “how many times have you been prevented from going” or “how many times have the gate been locked”. Th ating h is thoughts on this matte ing the these individuals may beat and detain you at gun point without any fear that they will be punished for their actions and that one has not legal recourse to contest such violence.
Another problem that farmers have to deal with is the presence of the Israeli military roaming on their farmlands. Even on this particular day, an Israeli military APC drove aggressively toward the tractor that I was traveling with and forced it to stop. The soldiers jumped out with their machine guns ready in their hands and demanded the Palestinians identification cards. They, like the civilian security guards, asked them questions such as where they were going, what business did they have here, how long did they plan to be there, etc. The farmer would humbly reply “I am merely going out to irrigate my fields and the land which you are driving on has been in my family for dozens of generations”. After some 15 minutes of questioning and searching of the tractors cargo, they “permitted” the farmer to continue.
The journalists did find it “interesting” that Israeli civilian security guards engaged in violent activities which they had no authority to do such (security guards are not the police nor the military, but hired civilians to protect construction equipment, etc.). However they dismissed it as insignificant in and of itself. Instead they continued by asking, “what legal action had been taken” or “what has the police done to prevent such” appearing to place blame on Palestinians who do not attempt to work through the Israeli legal system for a just solution. They obviously didn’t have any understanding that the Palestinians have no legal representation to contest such. Even in cases whereby a settler killed a Palestinian farmer, or where they took someone’s eye out by the use of a rife butt, or chased everyone away from a village by the use and threats of continued violence (such as i
As opposed to the journalists, I would make the argument that the use and actions of civilians in terrorizing a population is extremely significant. For it illuminates the power dynamics between Israeli civilians and Palestinian residents in the West Bank.
Such forms of daily violence and terror are condoned by the Israeli state. It is not essential that violence is conducted by civilian security guards or the violent ideological settlers. The fact is that the Israeli military considers the safety of their citizens first. Indeed, the Israeli military’s presence in the Palestinian territories is for the safety of Israeli Jewish civilians to settle and colonize the “territory”. It appears that by allowing such forms of violence against Palestinians to continue without punishment, the state of Israel seem to use these various forms of violence to reach their objectives: the confining of the growth (and ultimate destruction) of Palestinian society and culture and the expansion of the state of Israel in its place.
Violence is ubiquitous throughout the cultural, social, and political context of everyday life in the Occupied territories. This violence runs the gamut from the most rigidly state-organized and executed, to the “symbolic” violence of Israeli soldiers, and the very real threat of violence by Israeli civilians. In understanding how these methods of violence interconnect, we may better understand the dynamics of power and terror. Israel formally condones structural and systematic harassment and terror. It is exercised through the military (check points, road blocks, curfews, harassment, “episodic” but planned attacks and assassinations, and the general practice of military occupation, crackdowns, and invasions in and of themselves). It also engages in what may be defined as “illegitimate” forms of violence. This is a term that might be used to describe that phenomenon whereby the formalized and systematic violence of the state withers somewhat at the fringes and becomes replaced by something even more arbitrary and unpredictable. The quintessential symbol – and primary practitioners of this would be the individual soldier. Wherever or however they are located, the individual soldier sometimes seem to represent as terrifying power as the whole Israeli army itself. On a whim, an Israeli soldier may decide to p someone at whim. “Illegitimate”
Perhaps these two forms of violence intertwine and better enable the Israeli state to achieve its aims. The wayward and individual soldier corrupts the totalitarian and formally uniform activities of a state military, but at the same time, and on the ground in everyday contexts, they perform the very important function of terrorizing in a more humane and proximate way – with more intimacy and familiarity than a faceless army. The Israeli civilians who participate in the acts of violence and terror similarly contribute to this sense of randomness, arbitrariness, and the constant threat of violence.
It must be asked whether the episodic and unruly nature of sporadic violence conducted by civilians and individual soldiers is as powerful as the formal and controlled occupation. Is it even more powerful? Is violence understood and accepted as exercised only through guns and tanks, or does it also occur through daily interactions with a power such as the individual soldier and the individual settler or civilian?
********************************************** (the following report was written 3 weeks ago, but never circulated)
Where’s the peace?
Nablus 27 Jun 03 John Heaney
It’s 1.30am and I’m sitting in a plastic chair on the roof of the house that I sleep. I’m terrified, chain smoking, even though I don’t smoke, listening & waiting and preparing myself for what might happen at any moment. The army are in the camp where my house is, 40 foot soldiers making their way through the narrow alleys, alleys wide enough to allow one person to walk between 3 and 4 storey concrete structures, some with glass in the windows, some without. I am sitting in darkness, wary of the Israeli army sniper towers in the mountains overlooking the camp, and trying to stay as quiet as possible; listening to the random shooting from about 50m away, the banging on doors and the explosions that break the normal silence. I am trying to work out what’s happening and where. The only time I break the silence is when I go into the small room with a sink in it beside my bedroom to get sick...from fear.
This is Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus. And this is the life under Israeli occupation that all 16,000 inhabitants in the camp’s 2 square kilometres have to endure. As I sit here I question my reasons for being here. I ask myself why I feel so compelled to do this work. The reason is brought back to me a couple of days later and I realise it had never gone away. It was 11pm and I was sitting in the same plastic chairs, on the same roof, in the same house, the house of the Abu Saleem family. This time I was sitting and chatting with the father of the house in what broken Arabic I had, drinking tiny cups of very strong coffee & listening to the army who had a tank parked at the entrance of the camp shooting rounds of heavy machine gunfire every few minutes down the streets of the camp. The father’s brother and 3-year-old nephew were sitting with us too. I cannot explain the look of fear on the 3-year-old’s face every time the army would shoot. His eyes open wide, his body stiff, as he stood between his father’s legs, being held and reassured that everything would be OK.
On both of the above nights, like nearly all the times the army come into the camp, there was no evident operation carried out; no arrests made, no houses occupied, no houses demolished. So why do they come and do what they do? Why do fathers have to stay awake until 5am waiting for the army to leave and children have to try to sleep through shooting and explosions in constant fear? Why do they terrorise the community in this densely populated civilian area?
Out of the 7 weeks I was in Balata Refugee Camp there were 2 nights that the Israeli army actually did carry out a \"genuine\" operation. On one of these nights they entered the camp to arrest a wanted man, a 22-year-old vegetable lorry driver. When they finally got to the house of the wanted man at 3am they discovered he wasn’t there, but they remained in the house for 2 hours questioning & terrorising the family and beating the 14-year-old son until he had a fit. All this was done after they seemingly mistakenly entered 3 other houses but admitted each time that they were wrong. Despite being at the wrong house the terror was no less. At the second house rather than banging on the door with their M16s they set explosives at it and blew it off, destroying the door and damaging the walls inside & the walls of the house opposite. The explosive also smashed a window of the house, covering the mother who was sleeping inside under it with broken glass. At the third house, discovering again they had made a mistake they took the father of the house at gunpoint and used him as a human shield to the house where the wanted man lived. The use of human shields is a frequent tactic of the Israeli army and is something that is illegal by international law.
My stay in Nablus coincided with the Aqaba summit, which was part of the peace talks to find a path along the \"Road Map to Peace\". But as the Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and American president George Bush met in Jordan there was no evidence of the agreements and promises being made on the ground in Nablus.
On the first day of the talks the Israeli government said they would ease restrictions on movement around the West Bank, three days later the Israeli army surrounded Balata Refugee Camp with 6 roadblocks of earth, preventing all vehicular access to the camp, including medical vehicles. On the last day of the talks the Israeli army invaded the city, including Balata Refugee Camp, for 13 hours from 6am until 7pm. They came in and drove around the streets with tanks, APCs (armoured personnel carriers) & jeeps; while Apache helicopters flew around in the air. Again no evident operation was carried out, but the terror that was invoked that day led to the death of 1 civilian and the injury of 48 by live ammunition.
That night when I went back to the Abu Saleem house to sleep, the men of the house were sitting on the roof, on the plastic chairs, and the mood was like a funeral. They were devastated. They had listened again to hopeful peace talks taking place in far off lands, and again their hopes were raised. They thought that their wish would finally come through, that peace was finally on it’s way. But again the hopeful peace talks stayed in that far away land and on the streets of Nablus the occupation and terror remained as real as ever, with no changes. As I went into my room to sleep the father of the house asked me in Arabic \"When salaam?\", which means \"Where’s the peace?\", I had no answer for him. I only wish I had.
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