International Solidarity Movement Updates
International Solidarity Movement Updates
1) Communique from Tobias in jail 2) ISM Jenin report 3) Travel in an occupied land_John Petrovato 4) Racism run amok_Steve Quester
1) Communique from Tobias in jail
Bethlehem 19 Jul 03 ISM Media Office
(the following was written on Saturday, though just received by the ISM)
So we´re down to 3. Me, Tarek and Fredrik here in cell #4. We are all in good spirits as we make an attempt to fight this injust deportation in the supreme court. As of now, we have no idea when our hearing is going to be. The word is anything from tomorrow (sunday), until 3 weeks. Whatever happens, we stand firm in our conviction that we must fight this to as far an extent as we can take it. Our chanses are slim but I hope with all my heart that I will soon be out there working again together with you, all my loved friends in Jenin och the ISM.
Love and Rage
2) ISM Jenin Report
July 21, 2003
Today ISM-Jenin volunteers in the village of Arrabony spent the day at a house in danger of demolition. This house is not in the path of the Apartheid Wall, but because of the explosives used for Wall construction, it is in danger of being damaged by the use of heavy explosives nearby. Today was the second day that ISM volunteers have stayed with the home, using their presence to protect it from destruction. They will return again tomorrow.
Also today ISM-Jenin volunteers visited the village of Arqa which is losing 1,000 dunams of agricultural land to the Apartheid Wall. Instead of following a straight path, the wall goes as close to the village as possible, confiscating the most possible land but keeping the unwanted population outside of Israel.
At Arqa the wall makes a big loop around two settlements, a mountain with an important Roman archeological site, the only forest in the area, and the land the people of Arqa used to farm and tend their sheep. It also takes about 7 wells. Volunteers saw the huge clearing for the wall snaking around the landscape, the bulldozers and the armed guards. Over 500 olive trees were destroyed here. No one from the area is allowed within 100 meters of the wall.
Residents said that after 1997 no one in the area was allowed to dig a well; if they did the army would destroy it and arrest the person who made it. Most of the water in the Jenin area is bought from outside and stored in containers on the roof, and the people have built collection tanks to use the rainwater. And while the people here risk arrest if they dig a well, American Aid to Israel has dug an enormous well in the area for Israeli use only.
For more info:
Ann (US) 972 67 978 074 Andrew (UK) 972 67 943 926 Randa (Denmark) 972 67 965 054 Jordan (US) 972 66 312 547
3) Travel in an occupied land
Qalqilia 22 Jul 03 John Petrovato
Traveling in the Palestinian territories is extraordinarily difficult and exhausting. Even for foreigners, the experience is often wrecked with frustration and danger. As the Israeli state has geographically expanded into the West Bank, it has created a network of obstacles that control and confine movement of Palestinians in Palestine. Along with the creation of Israeli settlements (which now includes some 400,000 Israeli civilians since the 1967 war), the hundreds of check-points, road blocks, military outposts, and by-pass roads, have made simple travel even between Palestinian villages nightmarish. As governments have historically done with \"frontier\", or ambiguously claimed territory, the Israeli state it appears, hopes that the mere physical presence of its citizens and the accompanied infrastructure will increase the legitimacy of their claims upon the land. In this essay I hope to illustrate how the vast infrastructure laid across the Palestinian landscape restricts and prevents travel. I will use an example of a trip in which myself and four other internationals from Boston made last week. It involves a roundtrip journey from Jayyous, in the Qalqilya district (along the \"green line\") to Nablus, in the center of West Bank. Even though the distance was short (perhaps only 25 miles or so), such a distance in an occupied land is a difficult journey. The trip to Nablus used to take about 25 minutes by car. It is now recommended to allow at least 4 hours. The good roads (well-paved highways) that go directly to Nablus are now to be only used by Israeli civilians. A few Palestinians are allowed to travel them with special permission but only within checkpoint zones (which occur every 5 or so miles). The checkpoints prove difficult to navigate for most Palestinians and they avoid them as much as possible. For it is common that people (especially men between the ages of 15 of 50) to be detained for many hours. Thus alternative routes have been created to avoid checkpoints and the experience of humiliation and abuse by the Israeli military. We left Jayyous in a \"service\", a mini-van taxi cab, shortly after noon. The driver recommended that we seek to enter Nablus through a small village named Jet (pronounced jeet). Nablus, as we had been told the evening before, was closed and that travel through the main check point of Hawwara would be impossible. So we accepted the recommendation of the driver and headed toward Jet. The first half of the distance to Nablus went very quick (perhaps 20 minutes or so). We then came across a temporary check point. A temporary check point is where soldiers create a barrier at a random intersection and force all travelers (except those who are Jewish Israeli) to show papers and be interrogated regarding the nature of one’s travel (how, where, and why one is traveling). If the soldiers are not convinced of one’s explanations, one will be turned back or detained for further investigation. A couple of minutes later we arrived in the very small village of Jet. We were directed to walk over a road block (made out of debris and rocks) and follow the dirt road to a paved one about a half mile away. We were accompanied by a number of Palestinian men and women who were also traveling to and from the Nablus area. We came to the paved road and it began to immediately climb steeply up a hill. About 100 yards later we came across a few soldiers lounging out under an olive tree. Upon seeing us approach, they jumped up and met us in the road. We informed them that we were child psychologists on our way to a Nablus hospital. Surprising they believed our ridiculous story and allowed us to continue.
At the top of the hill we found another Service taxi. The taxi had been unloading a group of women and children who were attending a wedding. Upon the children seeing us \"outsiders\" they sadly began to cry and scream. Apparently the children believed that we were Israeli settlers and feared us. When the children were out of the Taxi, we asked the driver if he would be able to take us to Nablus. His response was that it was unlikely - that the military has been patrolling all the roads in the area and that it would be dangerous for him. He would, however, be able to drive us to another village which we can then walk to Nablus (about 4 miles over a mountain). Believing that this was likely our best option, we agreed. A few minutes later we picked up a group university women also traveling to Nablus. With the van packed with people wanting to go to Nablus, the driver said that The next morning we attended a non-violent protest that was organized by Palestinian villagers east of Nablus. The goal of their protest was to bring attention to the recent building of a large ditch which runs from an Israeli settlement down into the Palestinian village’s farm land. The ditch carries raw sewage from the settlement directly through the Palestinians lands and the smell emanating from it is unbelievably foul. In the afternoon we attempted to return to Nablus and spend the evening there. However, this was going to be very difficult as the Israeli military had created a \"closed military zone\" over all of Nablus and the surrounding areas and that they were preventing all movement past check points and road blocks for the indefinitely future. After having no success of passing various checkpoints (even with the child psychologist story and traveling with a real, live psychologist) we went back to the village of Salem. At this point we were traveling with about 5 other internationals who were attempting to get to Tulkarem, a Palestinian city nearby the village of Jayyous. Though some in the group advocated sneaking through the fields past the checkpoint, we decided against this action as we learned that soldiers had been shooting at others who had similarly attempted this strategy. We later
So we gave up with the plan and took our chances at yet another checkpoint. This time, with some negotiation, we were able to convince the soldiers to allow us to pass to a road which leads to the east. The road wouldn’t go back to Nablus, but it might get us back to Jayyous somehow.
On the other side of the checkpoint we came across a Service which told us that he could take us to Tulkarem and then to Jayyous. The journey, however, would be long in that the entire region was shut down and the only means of getting there would be traveling north east (the opposite direction from our destination) over large mountains on really poor dirt roads. Being that this appeared our only option, we took it. The views from the road were quite stunning as the large mountains and valleys were dotted with distant small villages in the distance. The road was very dangerous. At times we would be heading down extremely steep mountains on the edge of cliffs. The road usually consisted of loose sand and was filled with potholes, rocks, and the like which threw the van from side to side. The van also had to navigate the unbelievable fact that medium sized trucks were also traveling After about an hour and a half we arrived in the village of Al-Agrabaniya.We stopped in the village for some drinks and were immediately surrounded by curious villagers surprised to see foreigners in this isolated area. We continued on our way and then stopped again in Al-Bedhan for Falefel sandwiches and a short break. Again the villagers surrounded us and offered the predictable Palestinian hospitality: we were invited for tea, dinner, and even offered a place to stay for the night. We graciously declined and continued on. At this point, the darkness was settling in and we still had much distance to cover. By the time we entered Tulkarem, 5 hours had lapsed.
The Tulkarem group was let out and we made our way to the checkpoint separating the city to the roads leading south toward Jayyous. The driver began to slow down and opened the curtains and turned on the inside lights. He explained to us that Israeli soldiers were now watching us and that it is best that they be able to see inside the van. The van stopped in the middle of nowhere and in near blackness. The driver pointed in the distance to show us the cab he had arranged for our last leg of the journey. One could see a taxi on a hill a distance away with its fog lights on. Our driver wished us good luck and warned us to walk down the road very slowly. As we made our way down the road we began noticing Israeli soldiers in fortified positions hidden in the brush on both sides of the road. Then a voice screamed at us to halt and ordered us to come, one by one, toward them. They searc This is typical of how the military occupation restricts and slows down movement. Beyond the restriction of movement, there is the very real concern that one will be detained or harassed by soldiers at checkpoints. One constantly witness and hears stories of Palestinians having to wait many hours to cross. Sometimes they are forced to dance for the soldiers’ amusement, sometimes their papers are thrown into the mud, and usually they are yelled at and ordered around as they were children.
The immense transportation, consumption, and production infrastructure that Israel has created in the West bank which connects the settlements to each other and to Israel proper, closely resembles the apartheid system: there are two different means of travel for two different people. Those who are Israeli travel quickly on good roads; those who are Palestinians travel slowly and on very bad roads. Currently there are currently some 120 permanent Israeli checkpoints and hundreds of road blocks in the Occupied Palestinian territories. In a place about the size of Massachusetts, over 300 separate areas have been created. These areas are basically islands cut off from each other making travel from one place to another extremely difficult.
Such is the experience of travel in an occupied land
**************************************************** 4) Racism run amok
Jenin Steve Quester 20 July 03
On Wednesday evening in Qalqilya, we ISM folks were invited to meet with representatives of the organizations that comprise the PLO in Qalqilya. They were all middle-aged men, and all had done time in Israeli prisons (as has Marwan, our local coordinator, as have most Palestinian men in the occupied territories). Each of them spoke about the misery of occupation, the falseness of Israel’s peace negotiations, and the Palestinian determination to resist. We threw out a few ideas about direct action that we can participate in alongside the community, and there will be more meetings to knock around some ideas.
The meeting was followed immediately by a second meeting, with representatives of the farmers’ union. We spoke about the roadblocks on the road to orchards within the fence, difficulty in access to their land outside the fence, irrigation lines being cut by the workers constructing the fence, and so on. I thought about the day last fall when Lysander and other ISM folks were asked by the farmers to join them in witnessing the destruction of their fruit trees to clear a path for the fence. She described how some of the farmers cried and had to be led away.
We decided that we will go out into the fields and the orchards with the farmers on Sunday to work alongside them and to witness the difficulties they encounter. Then we’ll sit with them that evening to decide what needs to be done in Qalqilya.
In a third meeting on Wednesday night (oy), this time just ISM, we decided who would replace the interim ISM international coordinator in Qalqilya, since she’s leaving this weekend. Lysander and I volunteered to share the role.
Thursday morning, we returned to court in Tel Aviv for the deportation hearing of the 8 ISM internationals arrested in Jenin and Nablus. They had 4 of the top human-rights lawyers in Israel, and a packed court of international and Israeli supporters. The court officers kept many of the supporters in the hallway throughout the proceeding, even though there were empty seats in the courtroom.
Our lawyers pointed out that the 2 Israelis arrested with the 8 internationals were released almost immediately, that the arrests were illegal, that the facts alleged were contradictory. They produced affidavits in support of ISM from Member of Knesset Yossi Sarid and from Terri Greenblatt of Bat Shalom. They showed that while the Ministry of the Interior was alleging that ISM interferes with the activities of the army, endangering themselves, soldiers, and the Israeli public, they offered no evidence to show that the 8 defendants interfered with the army in any way.
The judge upheld the Ministry’s deportation order anyway, and agreed with the Ministry’s characterizations of ISM. He also denied a one-week stay of deportation while an appeal is filed in the Israeli Supreme Court.
We spent last night in Jerusalem. The pedestrian mall in West Jerusalem was packed, because it was Thursday night (everything’s closed Friday night for the Jewish Sabbath), and because there is a currently a cease fire between the Israeli army and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade. Everyone entering the outdoor mall had to be thoroughly checked by one of a legion of security guards. I found it pretty scary. I also thought that the Israeli peace movement ought to do an action there, hanging banners on the barricades that point out that it’s the Occupation that makes metal detectors on a city street necessary.
I was with Lisa, from JAtO, who doesn’t read Hebrew, so I was translating the graffiti and political posters on the walls for her. They were uniformly right wing, and said things like \"Kahane was right\", \"Jordan is the Palestinian state\", and \"Oslo proves: it’s forbidden to give them a state.\" There was even graffiti on the walls of the Old City. (To be fair, there’s lots of graffiti in Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank, and I usually can’t read what it says.)
The previous week when I was in West Jerusalem, I saw a number of young men who appeared to be Arab pulled aside by police, apparently based on looks alone, to have their IDs scrutinized and to be questioned about their activities.
While in Jerusalem, I got a call from the ISM people who had returned to Qalqilya from Tel Aviv. They were absolutely denied entry to Qalqilya via the checkpoint; apparently, the Israeli army wants the 50,000 people of Qalqilya, entirely surrounded by the wall/fence, to be cut off from the outside world.
Friday morning, 3 of us from the Qalqilya crew traveled from Jerusalem to Jenin to help out with an action. Getting from Jerusalem to Jenin was a 45 minute drive once upon a time, but now that a network of settler roads has been built in the West Bank and declared off limits to vehicles with Palestinian license plates (while West Bank cities are off limits to vehicles with Israeli license plates), the trip involves a long detour through the Jordan Valley, many humiliating checkpoints, and 3 hours’ travel time. One of the passengers in our van was a young man from Jerusalem who is a student at the Arab-American University in Zababde, a village near Jenin. His Jerusalem ID means he is seen as an Israeli by the authorities, so each week when he goes to school, he gets stopped at the last checkpoint and told that he mustn’t go to Jenin \"for his own safety\". The delay caused by the soldiers checking his ID led the driver to leave without him, stranding him at the checkpoint.
We got to Birqin, near Jenin, just in time to participate in a roadblock removal. Lots of men and boys from the village, as well as the ISM crew from Jenin, converged on the giant dirt mound with a front loader, pick axes, and shovels. If you look carefully at the attached photo, you’ll see two people hanging off the sides of the front loader. Those are ISM internationals there to protect the front loader from confiscation, and the driver from arrest. My job was to eavesdrop on the soldiers communicating with one another, since I understand Hebrew, while another international negotiated with them in English. Fortunately, I had nothing to do, since the army never showed up. The roadblock that the army built is gone, and the drive from Birqin to Jenin is once again 5 minutes, instead of 40.
After the successful action, we spent time at the home of Moayed, an organizer in Birqin. We were served tea and coffee, of course, and listened to Moayed and his family play the oud and sing songs of Palestinian liberation. His teenage daughter recited a poem about Palestine that made a Palestinian-American ISM member cry. It was great chatting with Moayed; he spoke with me about the need for coexistence of Jews and Palestinians in this land, and about how the Torah and the Qur’an are both used to justify exclusive rights to the country.
We proceeded to the ISM apartment in Jenin. The walls of Jenin are covered with martyr posters (anyone who has died in the struggle is called a \"martyr\" in Palestine), from Rachel Corrie to civilians shot by Israeli soldiers in Jenin to fighters who died defending Jenin from Israeli invasion to suicide bombers. One sees these posters in every Palestinian community in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but they’re particularly plentiful here. I am sorry that bombers get the same status as other people who resist the Occupation; personally, I’m convinced that the bombings are reprehensible as well as counterproductive. I worry about them when I’m in Tel Aviv, Haifa, or West Jerusalem (I never ride buses), and my friend Shanka in Tel Aviv narrowly missed getting killed in a bus bombing a year ago. I think it’s important to remember, however, that there were almost no bombings when the peace process was on track in the ’90s, that the bloody Israeli army assault on unarmed Palestinian resistance in September, October and November of 2000 preceded any of this Intifada’s bombings, and that Israeli army targeting of Palestinian civilians has killed 3 times as many people as the bombings have. So while I disagree (to put it mildly) with anyone who sees the bombers as people to be admired for sacrificing themselves for their people, I think it’s clear that the way to end the bombings is to end the Occupation. (The Israeli Knesset this past week reaffirmed that the West Bank-\"Judea and Samaria\" in their Biblical view-is not occupied territory, that settlement expansion must continue, and that Israel must control all the land west of the \"security fence\", even though that land is in the West Bank and represents vital Palestinian land and water resources.)
The ISM folks in Jenin tell me that the Israeli army has been going into Jenin Refugee Camp at night, destroying the building materials that the U.N. is using to try and rebuild the community that was bulldozed by the army in April of 2002.
I had a good discussion tonight with folks in Jenin about their upcoming actions in and around the city, and how we might proceed in Qalqilya. The conditions in walled-in Qalqilya are very difficult for people who live and work there, and for internationals trying to support non-violent resistance there. The people there have welcomed internationals in solidarity with them, but I think we all feel a little stymied by being caged up. We’ll see what we can accomplish.
The trip Saturday morning from Jenin to Qalqilya was another exercise in roadblocks, humiliating checkpoints, and 5 shared taxis for what should have been 1 short trip. The racism at the checkpoints was blatant; at one point all the Palestinian men in the car were forced to get out and stand in the sun while their IDs were checked. I was allowed to sit in the car with the women. No soldier asked spoke to me or looked at my passport to ascertain who I was; I was apparently judged not in need of checking by virtue of my appearance alone.
We finally got to Qalqilya, and did manage to talk our way in through the checkpoint. We had a few things going for us: we were a small group (only 3), we had a Palestinian-American with us who could claim to have family in Qalqilya, and the District Commanding Officer who has ordered internationals kept out of Qalqilya wasn’t there because it was Saturday. Nevertheless, we got in by the skin of our teeth.
While we waited and haggled at the checkpoint, I observed the soldiers’ interactions with Palestinians requesting permission into the city. They were spoken to and manhandled in a way that the soldiers would never dare with us, another manifestation of racism run amok. The soldier with whom we were negotiating, who was friendly to us and sympathetic, left for a moment, transformed from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. Hyde, and screamed at some boys on a donkey cart. Another soldier went through a young man’s pockets without speaking to him about it first, in order to see if he had another form of ID. I couldn’t imagine him doing that to me.
On Sunday morning we went out to the farmers’ gate in the fence. The idea was to spend a day with farmers working in their fields and orchards and observing the ways in which the fence is disrupting their livelihood. Agriculture has become a central source of income since Palestinians’ travel to their jobs in Israel was banned, and since Israeli shoppers stopped coming to Qalqilya.
One can no longer bring a car, truck or tractor into the Qalqilya fields and orchards outside of the fence. The army blocked the way to the gate with boulders and a mound of dirt, so that one can only travel on foot or, with difficulty, by donkey. The impact of this demechanization on Qalqilya farmers’ ability to extract income from their fields is obvious.
We walked through the gate with Shukri, an AP photographer who is a Qalqilya resident and some farmers. We were stopped by the private armed security (from a company called Ari) who work for the companies contracted to build the fence for the Israeli government. They were very aggressive and caused all the farmers except one to turn back and try again later. We ignored them and walked into the lands beyond the fence with a farmer named Khaled.
Khaled pointed out how many of the plots were neglected since September 2002 when this part of the fence went up. Under the Ottoman land laws, which Israel uses to confiscate Palestinian land, property belongs to the state if it is uncultivated for 3 years in a row. The state’s role in preventing cultivation is not a mitigating factor in the eyes of the Israeli legal system. The Israeli government then turns the land over to the Jewish National Fund, whose charter says that the land is held in perpetuity for the Jewish people, making it technically illegal for non-Jews, even non-Jewish Israelis, to rent or live on that land. (The heavily fortified Border Police post at the Qalqilya checkpoint has a sign denoting that it’s on JNF land. Not what I had in mind when I put my allowance in those little blue boxes as a kid.)
Israeli soldiers in a Hummer followed us up the path among the fields, and forced us to leave. We tried to negotiate to let us stay and work with the farmers for the day, but they said they were calling the Border Police to come and arrest us. Again: apartheid. They said that the farmer could proceed to his fields (his wife and children already had), but they were intent on keeping us apart from them.
One of the soldiers freaked when we walked back through the gate into Qalqilya. I guess they thought we’d walk alongside the gate on their jeep road until we got to a checkpoint, or until the Border Police came along and arrested us. They REALLY don’t want us in Qalqilya. They didn’t follow us in, however. I think they need fairly high level orders to come inside the cage. They did stop Shukri, and took his ID and press pass (Palestinians can be arrested for not carrying ID). Shukri went to the District Commanding Officer later, who returned his ID, but said he’d need the name of the soldier in order to file a complaint aimed at getting back his press pass.
This morning we tried again to go out with the farmers (they hadn’t expected that we’d come back). We arrived at the gate at 6:15 on the assumption that the workers constructing the fence wouldn’t be at work yet, and therefore security wouldn’t have arrived. What we found was a tank, a jeep, and some soldiers, waiting apparently for us. Some farmers got there at the same time, and were allowed through by the soldiers. We of course did not attempt to cross, and I’m really disappointed that the army has so far been successful at separating us from the farmers.
Israeli army jeeps came into Qalqilya today and arrested someone-I don’t know the details. International activists and local residents in the nearby village of Jayyous had an action today at which they went to the fence and threw food and supplies over to a Bedouin family trapped by the fence and unable to reach Jayyous themselves.
We’re working hard on our upcoming wall actions-July 28 in Jenin, July 29 in Tulkarm, July 30 here, and July 31 in Mas’ha. We have to find a way to bring the world’s attention to the fence and what it’s doing to Palestinians.
That’s all for now. Peace.