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Report from Erez/ Resisting the Wall in Budrus


Report from Erez/ Resisting the Wall in Budrus

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1/Report from Erez By S'ra February 15, 2004 Erez, Gaza Strip

Last Saturday about 25 internationals and Israelis demonstrated at the Erez checkpoint on the northern border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. We wanted to draw attention to the atrocities that are occurring every day Gaza, killings, arrests, harassment.. No internationals are allowed entrance into Gaza unless they have an official press pass or are on an international list of registered NGOs (non-governmental organizations). So currently there are no human rights observers in Gaza. The military has free reign. We will have another demonstration on February 28 at Erez, we hope more people will come and show their solidarity with the people of Gaza. ---------------------------------------------------------

2/Resisting the Wall in Budrus By S'ra February 17, 2004 Budrus, Ramallah

Before I tell you the story of Khaled, I want to explain what the wall and fence look like in Qalqilia. The combination of fence and 25' concrete wall completely surround the city of Qalqilia, population 42,000. Near the Green Line (the 1948 border between the West Bank and Israel) on the west side of Qalqilia there is concrete wall. On the Israeli side of the wall is Highway 6, a new highway built just for Israelis to make access easier to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The rest of the wall (on the northern, eastern and southern sides) is fence surrounded by razor wire. There is only one entrance point for Palestinian vehicles, which is at the checkpoint. The military have two entrances and there are two gates for farmers, one in the north and the south. The farmer gates are often closed and locked. So Palestinians essentially only have one point to enter and exit, the checkpoint on the eastern side of Qalqilia. Illegal Israeli settlements surround Qalqilia. On a map, Qalqilia looks like a peninsula inside the West Bank due to the settlements and the wall/fence Qalqilia, a peninsula of isolation within its own territory.

The story of Khaled Ghassan from Qalqilia

I returned to Qalqilia two days ago to speak with more farmers who have been affected by the wall. I met with Khaled Ghassan, a fruit and olive tree farmer who lives in the northern part of Qalqilia. His groves are home to lemons, clementines, apples, guava, apricots, and yes of course olive trees. Khaled and his extended family of 100 (7 or 8 smaller families) have made their living off this land for generations. They used to possess 63 dunums of land (four dunums equals one acre) and now Khaled only has access to the three dunums that lie within Qalqilia. The fence has confiscated the other 60 dunums of land.

In 2001 the Israeli army demolished 120 of his trees, clearing land for the wall and the road that accompanies it. To ensure that Khaled would not resist his land being taken the army threw tear gas at him and his family when they went to cut the trees. The fence/wall was completed in June and July of 2003. There are two gates for farmers in the north and the south. Khaled and his family used to be able to pass only for one hour in the morning, one hour for lunch, and one hour at night, as long as there was no closure. (Closure completely restricts the movement of people to and from an area, except the Israeli military and police.) Some Palestinian farmers cut the lock on the gate to be able to work their lands. They replaced it with a similar lock and kept the key. This type of resistance existed for a short time until the Israeli military caught onto to their plan. Now the northern gate is always locked and no farmers may reach their lands. Israel considers any land outside the wall to be Israeli. Khaled's family's land now lies on the "Israeli" side.

The military first confiscated 35 dunums, where five of his family's greenhouses are. He no longer has access to these greenhouses. The Israeli military informed Khaled they would control this land for five years. Under Israeli law if land in the West Bank is left uncultivated for three years, Israel has the right to confiscate it. Khaled believes he will not ever get his land back because he will not be able to tend it over the next five years.

Last November Khaled received a notice from the Israeli government. He and his family have until May 2004 to salvage any equipment they want from the other 25 dunums of their land that falls on the "Israeli" side of the wall. Their reason - Khaled's land borders the northwest military entrance into Qalqilia. "For military reasons and security concerns" the Israeli military will seize this land also. The notice, which he read to us, explicitly states that the IDF (Israeli Defense Force, also known as the Israeli military) wants to keep terrorists away from the Israeli settlers and the military. Looking at Khaled and his family you can see their tenderness and care for the land. They do not want to hurt Israelis; they just want to be able to farm the land that their relatives have worked for generations.

Khaled has been refused permits to visit his land on the other side of the fence. The Israeli government has only issued permits to women in his family; all the men have been denied. Instead the government has given permits to deceased people. They show this list to the media and claim that have given plenty of access to the Palestinians. But when the people of Qalqilia saw the list they realized that it might be easier to be dead if you want a permit to reach your land.

Last year Khaled could sell a box of fruit for 40 shekels (approximately four shekels equal one dollar). This year he is lucky if he receives 20 shekels. Why has this drop in price occurred? The answer lies behind the wall. Fortunately in the last month the Israeli military has not been very active in Qalqilia. However quite often during harvest season and other times of the year the army maintains complete closure over Qalqilia, which means that no one may enter or leave Qalqilia. Khaled and his family used to market their produce throughout the West Bank, especially in the Nablus area. Before the wall many Israelis would come into Qalqilia to buy the fruits, but now Khaled no longer has these options. The local Qalqilia market is flooded with produce and the prices have collapsed. Israelis cannot enter and his produce cannot leave.

Sharon's "Concessions" Last week in Haaretz Newspaper the Israeli government announced they wanted to ease some of the hardships that the wall is causing on Palestinians. These so-called concessions are mere illusions. One of the "concessions" offered by the Sharon government is an underground tunnel from Qalqilia to Habla (a small neighboring rural village). According to the Israeli government this tunnel will make it easier for Palestinians to move around the West Bank. I spoke with Muhammad Qubaa, one of the local coordinator for the International Solidarity Movement in Qalqilia, and he said that this "concession" was an absolute lie. He believes that the tunnel will be just one more mechanism for the Israelis to restrict the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank. Now the Israeli military will be able completely close the checkpoint into Qalqilia, the only entrance and demand that people take the underground tunnel.

This detour will take extra time (many hours in some cases, depending on where the person is going) and cause much frustration to the Palestinians. This change in the plans to the wall is already under construction and will only cause more suffering to the Palestinians. It will be more difficult for villagers to come into Qalqilia for hospital treatment, jobs and education. And for Qalqilia farmers it will make it almost impossible to reach their lands outside the wall/fence. The affects can go on and on, not being able to visit family members, not being able to get to university on time in Nablus or Ramallah, not being to go to Ramallah for important business.

This tunnel is only one of the conveniences that the Israeli government claims they are giving to the Palestinians. If they really want to make concessions, first destroy the wall and second end the occupation.

February 20, 2004

The Struggle in Budrus

Great news from Budrus! Na'eem Morar, brother of Abu Ahmed (the community leader), was released from Israeli prison a few months early yesterday! All the Palestinian, international and Israeli attention on Budrus has helped to free Na'eem. One more brother and two nephews still need to be set free. Na'eem was imprisoned for organizing against the wall. Celebrations with soda and cookies lasted late into the night as people came to welcome home their respected community member.

Budrus received a huge compliment for all the hard work they have done to stop the wall from entering their village. On Monday February 23rd the International Court of Justice in The Hague starts its hearing on the legality of the wall. There are demonstrations in major cities throughout Palestine. Last week the district of Ramallah asked Budrus to host the demonstration for the entire district. The demonstration was moved from Ramallah, one of the largest cities in the West Bank, to Budrus a village of 1,200 people. Joy and pride beamed in Abu Ahmed's voice and eyes when he told us the exciting news. We expect at least 5,000 people to come from all over the Ramallah district (five cities, several refugee camps, and over 80 villages). Budrus was chosen because of its relentless demonstrations and struggle against the construction of the wall, which will confiscate at least 20% of their village. Everyone in Budrus, no matter which political party they are, Fatah or Hamas, have pledged to make this fight a non-violent one, which has won the respect of people throughout the world. Congratulations to Budrus

Military Get Out of Budrus!

Unfortunately the Israeli military has not taken this non-violent pledge in Budrus. Since the military incursion early last week in Budrus, the military has entered almost every day since. Sometimes they just drive through the village to intimidate and other times they fire tear gas. Yesterday they deployed tear gas and live ammunition again. I met with one family only a couple of hours after the army threw a tear gas canister into their window. The smell lingered and the children were still obviously affected by the gas. The children could barely breath and one of the women in the house said she thought she was going to stop breathing because the tear gas was so thick. This is the same house that was tear gassed so badly last week where the grandmother thought she was going to die from the gas. Yesterday a four-year girl and a eight-month girl were trapped in the house with the tear gas.

The military commits these horrendous acts to intimidate and harass the community whom are about to have their land stolen. It is absolute torture. The construction workers are making progress on preparations for the wall. We still wait every day to see if more trees are being uprooted or if the wall is being erected. Every day, a little anxiety to see the developments and every day humiliation and intimidation from the Israeli military. When will it end?

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