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ISM Update Report from Qalqiliya Demo

ISM Update

Today's menu:

1. Report from Qalqiliya demo, by Steve Quester 2. Summary of Tulkarem action 3. "Big Prison, Small Victory" by Rumzi Araj 4. Legal Update: David Watson and Michael Sheikh 5. Op-ed from the Jerusalem Post by Radihka Saidath and Tom Wallace 6. Op-ed from the Philidelpha by Patrick Connors

1) Report from Qaliqiliya action, by Steve Quester

On Thursday, July 31, 2003, Qalqilyans from the full spectrum of community-based organizations and political movements joined together with about 50 Europeans and North Americans from the International Solidarity Movement in a major demonstration against the Apartheid Wall that is strangling this community of 39,000 Palestinian people. Israeli anti-Occupation activists demonstrated simultaneously on the other side of the wall.

At 10:30 A.M., Qalqilyans and internationals, men and women, children, adults and elderly people, stepped off from the Qalqilya Municipality carrying banners and signs decrying the wall and its effects: land theft, water theft, economic ruin, and obliteration of the right to freedom of movement. Activists drew attention to the goal that binds the effects of the wall together: ethnic cleansing. As life inside the wall becomes impossible for more and Palestinian people, they are forced to leave, clearing the area for more Israeli settlements and eventual Israeli annexation.

When the spirited march reached the approach to Jaljulya Gate, an entrance for the Israeli Occupation Forces where the wall meets the "separation fence", Israeli soldiers in jeeps sped toward the crowd with weapons drawn. They were blocked by a line of demonstrators, while others proceeded to the wall, covered it with spray-painted slogans of liberation and threw paint balloons in the Palestinian national colors at it. The Israeli soldiers present threatened to take measures to stop the writing on the wall, but in the face of the human blockade, did nothing.

The demonstration then proceeded to a point directly across from the Israeli demonstration, where the two crowds cheered and waved to one another across the barrier erected and guarded by the Israeli government. Community leaders, the mayor of Qalqilya, and Noura Khouri of ISM spoke to the crowd as international and Palestinian activists hoisted a banner that read "No Apartheid Wall" in English, Hebrew and Arabic above the wall. The banner, over 80 square feet in area, was lifted by giant helium balloons.

Before the Israeli and Palestinian demonsstrators withdrew, Ms. Khouri crossed the barrier, to the consternation of the Israeli soldiers, and delivered a calling for the world outside the prison wall not to remain silent. It finished, "Forces of evil of have built this wall. Forces of peace can tear it down." Israelis responded with their own call for peace.

This action was the second in a week-long series of actions organized by communities working with ISM against the Apartheid Wall. On Monday, July 28, Palestinian, Israeli and international activists broke open a gate in the wall near Jenin, and on Friday, August 1, activists in Nablus attempted to remove a gate near Tulkarm. In both the Jenin and Tulkarm actions, the Israeli army responded to the peaceful demonstrations by firing into the crowd.

2) Report from Deir al Ghassoon, north of Tulkarem

At 11:30 approximately 200 farmers from Deir al Ghassoon, at least 50 internationals, and many television cameras, started their march from the center of the village to the fence that has prevented access to the fields of the village for two weeks now.

Two weeks ago, the farmers attempted to pass through the gate in the Ghetto Wall that the Israeli government promised them, along with ISM activists. They were shoved back onto the village side of the Wall and denied access to the land by hired security guards. A lock was placed on the gate. Last Friday, the farmers came again to the fence. This time, they took action into their own hands. They dismantled the fence physically and cut the lock. When proceeding to move to their field, the Israeli army appeared, and again physically forced them back through the gate.

Today, while approaching the gate, the international activists began to cut the razor wire that has been placed meters before the gate to block access. The army was waiting for them. As they approached, the army opened fire with "rubber bullets", clearly aiming high, not at the ground as is the regulation.

Eight activists were hit during continuous fire, shielding the Palestinians. 2 farmers were also hit with rubber-coated steel bullets. None were seriously wounded, although several were taken to the nearby hospital of Dr.Thabet Thabet in Tulkarem. As the activists fled admist clouds of tear gas, the army spokesman was already claiming an appropriate use of "non- lethal force".

The eight internationals injured were: Thomas, from Britain Polly, from Britain Andrew, from Scotland Robin, from Britain Michael, from the USA Joe, from the USA Eric, a student at Bir Zeit University and Juliana, currently in Palestine to work on a documentary film about medical care and access in the Occupied Territories, from the USA.

3) "Big Prisons, Small Victory" by Rumzi Araj July 31, 2003 Qalqilya July 31, 2003 Rumzi Araj Qalqilya

Big Prisons, Small Victory

"Soldiers, you are guarding a ghetto." Today there was a demonstration with Palestinian organizations and internationals in solidarity with them. The march went from a girl's school to the wall surrounding Qalqilia. Women, men and children all marched together chanting in different languages. With international press there the wall was "painted." Water balloons filled with paint colors of the Palestinian flag were thrown at the wall along with spray painted messages in Arabic, English, Spanish and other languages. With sniper towers overlooking the wall we marched to the military gate with Israelis standing on the other side to support us. Yesterday I left Nablus and the Balata refugee camp. With 16 other internationals we headed to Qalqilia a town on the Israeli border. When we arrived on foot at the first checkpoint we were made to stand in line to have our I.D.'s checked. This line was full of Palestinians trying to make their way home from work or to another city in the West Bank. While standing in this line with over 300 people enclosed by fences on each side, the Israeli soldiers routinely refused people passage through the checkpoint. Probably one in 5 people were turned away for no reason other than the arbitrary choice of a soldier. The sight of 20 year old soldiers refusing elderly men and women passage just to the next town was obviously heartbreaking and infuriating. A man in line told me it takes him six hours a day to go to and from work because of the checkpoints. He and others moved the men to the side so that the women could pass without having to wait behind the men. Having stood in long lines in the States I was amazed that fighting didn't break out amongst Palestinians hoping to pass through the checkpoint. To the side of the line a soldier made two young boys about 12 years old remove all their items from their cart and open every bag and box to check for explosives. This 45 minute process ended with the boys having to repack the shoes and shirts they hoped to sell while the soldier sat watching with his gun under his arm. An hour and a half later we all made it through the checkpoint and headed to Qalqilia. At the Qalqilia checkpoint we were told we could not enter because the checkpoint was closed. This is the only entrance into the city. After arguing with the soldiers and having one of them hit a young woman with us we decided we couldn't enter that way. We decided to go through a side route that many Palestinians attempt to use when the checkpoint is closed. This route is to try to climb over or under or sometimes through the parts of the Apartheid wall still under construction. This is the wall that now completely surrounds Qalqilia so that the city has become an open air prison. Israelis are no longer allowed to enter to do their shopping there and Palestinians are not allowed to go to work in Israel as they had done before. We spoke with two farmers whose homes were demolished and their farms taken to build the wall. The people who had so little before now have even less but still invite you to drink tea or have dinner with them.

16 of us ran to the wall (the part of which is now only a fence with barbed wire until full completion) with two Palestinian men leading the way. We lifted the fence and crawled underneath it. With a nearby Israeli military post the process took less than 2 minutes after which we ran ahead through a farm to a taxi waiting for us. Today there was a demonstration with Palestinian organizations and internationals in solidarity with them. The march went from a girl's school to the wall surrounding Qalqilia. Women, men and children all marched together chanting in different languages. With international press there the wall was "painted." Water balloons filled with paint colors of the Palestinian flag were thrown at the wall along with spray painted messages in Arabic, English, Spanish and other languages. With sniper towers overlooking the wall we marched to the military gate with Israelis standing on the other side to support us. They held signs in Hebrew and chanted Free Palestine and Down with the Apartheid walls. It was inspiring although not unusual to have Jews and Israelis fighting for justice for Palestinians and refusing to accept what there alleged representatives do in their name.

A 6x4 meter banner was lifted with Helium balloons over the wall with "No Apartheid Wall" written in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. The demonstration ended with no injuries or arrests. A small victory. Still the people here live with a wall surrounding them and their movement stifled. Again the children wanted their pictures taken and wanted to speak to the video cameras about their situation. They know more about politics around the world then I could ever pretend to. Unfortunately few are listening, even though their stories and their lives must be seen and heard. As I walked through Qalqilia yesterday a women I was with dropped her glasses and broke them. We found a watch shop with a 10 year old boy at the counter. He managed to fix her glasses like he had been doing it his whole life. He refused money even after we insisted three times. So did the locksmith who opened the door of the house the internationals were staying it when we were locked out. Take care, Rumzi

4) Legal Update: Michael Sheikh and David Watson

Legal Update:

Today Judge Barron, presiding over the cases of Michael Sheikh and David Watson, both of whom have been denied entry to Israel, issued her decisions. Michael Sheikh's appeal has been denied, and the deportation order stands. David Watson has been granted provisional entry to Israel as a tourist, on the conditions that he not enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories, engage in political activities, or communicate with the International Solidarity Movement.

Both cases have also had a freeze action placed on them until Monday, which means that the two will continue to be held in detention until then, in order to give both prosecution and defense a chance to appeal Barron's decision to the High Court.

5) "Occupied people have a right to exist" a piece appearing in the Jerusalem Post, by Tom Wallace and Radihka Saidath

July 28, 2003 'We have all committed ourselves to the practice of nonviolence and do not assist anyone in committing acts of violence'

As volunteers with The International Solidarity Movement and as individuals devoted to human rights and justice, we must address recent statements maligning us, our movement and those that have given their lives standing up for the principles we espouse.

We are unwavering in our commitment to nonviolence.

Due to these beliefs, we oppose the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. As a result we have come under heavy fire in the Occupied Territories and in the media. Israeli officials and several right-wing Israeli and American pundits have embarked on a campaign to discredit ISM, by attempting to equate ISM's principled and active support for Palestinian rights with terrorism.

In one such attack, "ISM: Support Unit for Terror," journalist David Bedein falsely asserted that ISM works "in alliance with those who choose to kill people in order to advance their goals."

Our goal is to end the military occupation and bring peace and justice to Israelis and Palestinians. ISM is not linked with political parties or armed groups. Our partners are Palestinian, Israeli and international peace and human rights groups and Palestinian communities.

ISM believes in the dignity of every human being. Consequently, we strongly oppose violence against all civilians. This includes all acts of terrorism, whether perpetrated by a state, group or individual. We have all thoroughly committed ourselves to the practice of nonviolence and do not assist anyone in committing acts of violence.

Although our movement is completely nonviolent, we must recognize that independent nations and occupied peoples have security concerns and rights to self-defense and resistance as specified under international law.

Rights are rights and are not up for negotiation. But rights to self-defense and resistance should not be turned into justification for illegitimate violence against civilians.

While others condemn and criticize we provide a viable alternative by demonstrating that nonviolent resistance can succeed.

We are Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu. We are grandparents, students, professionals, nuns, and ministers. We are also Israelis. Two weeks ago 10 ISM volunteers were arrested during acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Two of the arrestees, Avi Zer-Aviv and Aviv Kruglanski are Israeli and as such were released; the rest remain in jail, or were deported. They were removing roadblocks and setting up peace camps. They were not assisting terrorists.

We do assist medical personnel, pregnant mothers, farmers and children targeted by Israeli Forces on a daily basis. They are human beings being humiliated, tortured, beaten, arrested, shot, and killed for attempting to go to school, see a doctor or tend to their land.

OPPONENTS OF ISM claim that the movement's goal is to impede the army's job in stopping terrorism and even act as an accomplice to terrorist activities. Does anyone honestly believe that thousands of volunteers from Tel Aviv to New York City, many Jewish, would spend their vacations to come and spread terrorism?

Many of us have paid a price for our commitment. James Deleplain, 74, sustained a broken rib and punctured lung after settlers beat him during the olive harvest. Tom Hurndall, 21, was shot in the head while moving children out of harm's way from an Israeli sniper. Brian Avery, 24, had his face blown off by an Israeli armored personnel carrier. And, of course, Rachel Corrie, 23, was run over by a bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier while attempting to protect the home of a Palestinian physician from illegal demolition.

No one was held accountable for these violent attacks on civilians.

Instead, we get lies and distortions. Rather than investigating and correcting Israeli army actions to better protect civilians, the Israeli government is trying to expel foreign civilians who are monitoring human rights abuses, implicitly giving a green light for further attacks on human rights workers.

In its attempt to smother voices of dissent Israel is rapidly moving away from the democratic values it espouses toward policies reminiscent of dictatorships in Argentina and the USSR where, in the name of security, thousands were arrested, exiled and killed for their politics.

The growing international nonviolent movement offers one of the best hopes for achieving an end to the Israeli military occupation and a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. If the Israeli government is successful in its attempt to eliminate the nonviolent resistance to its illegal policies, what alternative does that leave for those justifiably opposed to its military occupation?

Tom Wallace is a resident of Boston. He spent several months as ISM Media Coordinator. Radhika Sainath is a resident of Los Angeles and spent several months with the ISM in the West Bank.

Still with us?

6) "Israeli settlements remain major roadbloce to peace" by Patrick Connors, from the Philedlphia Inquirer At the White House Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon again pledged to remove West Bank settlement outposts. But despite similar promises and televised images of Israeli soldiers wrestling with Jewish settlers to dismantle outposts, settlements continue to expand, threatening peace efforts. According to the Israeli nonprofit Peace Now, since the Bush administration's "road map" to peace was launched, nine outposts have been dismantled, but 11 new ones built.

Sadly, this is not surprising. Last fall, I volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement, helping Palestinian farmers harvest olives on land that has been theirs for generations. Too often, I saw how settlers, with tacit Israeli government support, are rapidly taking over the West Bank. A battle is being fought in the West Bank for every tree and hill, and Palestinian farmers are losing badly. The creation, expansion and defense of the settlements involves massive daily violence that touches many Palestinians' lives.

Foreign volunteers accompany Palestinians because armed settlers often attack Palestinians to drive them from their own land. Settlers destroy olive trees and construct fences and buildings. If a Palestinian has a deed to the land - it didn't matter much.

In one West Bank valley where we worked, the olive groves are encircled by fortified hilltop settlement complexes. Alone atop one hill sits the castle-like home of settler Moshe Zar, a close friend of Ariel Sharon. At first, Israeli soldiers watched from the outpost, letting us work. Then Zar's wife arrived, and summoned the Israeli police. Without explanation, the police said we must all leave or face arrest.

As the police drove off, we saw 40 young Israeli men marching toward us, led by two older men with semiautomatics. Another confrontation between settlers and Palestinians seemed imminent. But a sudden downpour and dangerous lightning struck as the settlers reached us, forcing everyone to flee for shelter.

According to the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem, settlers control 41 percent of the West Bank. There are about 150 settlements and 60 outposts in the occupied territories. All are illegal under international law.

Settlers benefit from substantial Israeli government subsidies on housing and services. However, Americans for Peace Now, the American counterpart to the Israeli Peace Now movement, found that 20 percent of settlers moved to the West Bank because they believe the West Bank was divinely mandated to Jews. Though a minority, the settlers dictate realities on the ground, with active or passive government support.

In an Oct. 25 poll in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, 78 percent of Israeli respondents said they favored "dismantling the vast majority of settlements" as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Yet the settlements have grown rapidly under past Labor governments, and more recently under right- wing Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a leading settlement proponent. In fact, since the Oslo Peace Process began in 1993, the settler population in the West Bank and Gaza has doubled to 200,000. The Israeli government recently announced that the 2002 population growth rate in the settlements was faster than that of any other region.

Seeing no brake on settlement expansion, Palestinians wonder why they alone must meet their road map obligations. Apparently, there is strong domestic Israeli support for leaving the settlements. We must strongly urge Israel to stop this issue from hijacking peace in the Middle East.

Patrick Connors ( spent three months in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement helping Palestinian farmers to access their land.


Thanks for reading all that!

Feel free to distribute widely to friends, family, and especially anyone passing out literature to you in the subway!

Still to come tomorrow: Stories, pictures, and hopefully an updated website. Inshallah! Same occupied time, same occupied channel, TV friends.

© Scoop Media

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