ISM Update: Shot twice today, but I'm ok
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INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT Wed, March 24, 2004
[Beit Sahour, BETHLEHEM] Three days after being shot by the Israeli military between the eyes with a rubber-coated metal bullet, 20 year- old Israeli peace activist Etai Lewinsky should leave Tel Hafhomer hospital in the next days. He will have one more operation to reconstruct his nose today. He is currently able to see to some degrees. However, it is still too soon to predict the extent of his injuries and how his eyesight will be affected on the long term so far.
1/ Shot twice today, but I'm ok – and one of the lucky one, by Neal 2/ Standing at the Gates of Jerusalem, by Starhawk 3/ Press Release: Non-violent demonstrators in New York found guilty by a jury of their peers 4/ Demonstration against Caterpillar at CAT Headquarters in Peoria, Illinois
1/ Shot twice today, but I'm ok – and one of the lucky one Kharbatha Bani Harith 03.21.04 By Neal
Today has been quite a crazy adventure, but has also cemented emotions of how absolutely insane the soldiers here are, and how absolutely necessary it is for people to call for an end to this wall, and more importantly, an end to this occupation. It is amazing how quickly one day, actually really only five hours, can really push one forward. Today for the first time I really felt endangered, pretty scared during various moments, and even decided I would rather be shot in the back of the head than in the face, but I will get there a little later.
This morning we awoke early to head to a village called Kharbatha Bani Harith, which for those of you looking on maps and globes would be somewhat near the "Green Line", and in order, below Tulkarem, then below Budrus, then below, Deir Qaddis, then it should be somewhere there. I have not been to this place before and only left my series of villages to be surrounded as it was quiet here and there help was requested.
We arrived after a 45 min. drive through some of the bumpiest roads I have ever been on, it reminded me of the outer beach in Orleans, except here the dirt roads have deep ravines made from rainwater and years of no roadwork. I was glad I did not have a huge breakfast or I probably would have been a little sick by the end of the day. Our driver pulled over near the worksite, which was about 500 feet down a tractor path through olive groves. There were many women and children walking past us, and away from the demonstration, which is usually a bad sign, and the sound of gas canisters being fired which was confirmed by its pungent odor as we walked closer, and the red rosy cheeks from people crying from too much breathing of the gas.
As we made it through the groves, a group of 100 villagers were sitting on some newly bulldozed farmland, with a bulldozer facing them about 50 feet away. As we did not see the other Internationals who were supposed to be there, we decided that we would go and sit with the community, at this point it was 8:15am. I was in charge of the legal and media work and as usual stood to the back. The demonstration occurred on flat land at the base of a hill which was to our right. Up on the hill there were young boys futilely throwing rocks nowhere near the soldiers as the soldiers were shooting gas and rubber bullets at them. The demonstration where we were had everyone sitting down on their land, and a larger component of the community standing to the back away from the range of the gas.
Over the next hour or so, the soldiers decided three times to charge the crowd as they wielded there batons. Every times, as they approached those who were sitting, all the Palestinians and Internationals who were in the background, came rushing up to provide physical reinforcements.
The soldiers would beat a few people, there would be some pushing, and then just an awkward stand off between the two sides. After about 5-10 minutes of staring at each other, the soldiers would run back as fast as they could to their jeeps, and then upon reaching their jeeps, would turn around and begin firing as many rubber bullets into the crowd that was standing. After this happened the first time, we wised up and when we saw the soldiers run for their jeeps, we too turned around and ran with the hopes of finding cover before they turned around a shot. And as we ran, a group of 150 people remained on their land sitting or lying down.
It was during the first of these 3 routines, that I found myself getting shot at. I tried to lie on the ground and crawl away from the scene when a rubber bullet went flying into the back of my upper leg. Luckily I was wearing baggy pants, and I don't even think I have a bruise. I gave the bullet to the man I was lying near as a souvenir, and then we shared a little laugh. Then I went and hid behind a pile of rocks while more rubber bullets whizzed past our heads as we ducked behind the rocks – definitely not a good day for doing any peaking over and rocks to check on soldiers!
While hiding behind the rocks, about 8 Israeli activists, all around my age showed up with a bullhorn. We talked briefly about the situation and then they proceeded to move forward while the rest of the crowd lied face down on the ground hoping not to get shot. The commander of the army would lift his baton in the air, then lower it and all the soldiers would fire at once. Then, there would be injuries and medics would go running. Sometimes the soldiers would shoot gas first, and when people would try to move away from it, they would be targeted – this whole experience was quite unnerving.
No sooner had the Israeli activists shown up, that one of them was all of a sudden being rushed back behind me towards the ambulances on a stretcher with a bloody bandage rapped around his head. I was still standing with several of his friends when they realized that one of their friend was injured and went sprinting after him. I later found out he was shot between the eyes, and is now in critical condition at the hospital. He was supposed to see an eye specialist who will determine whether he will lose either of his eyes, or his eyesight. I will spare you the rest of the details as they are somewhat hard to handle and I think you get the picture.
Today, over 37 people were injured. 30 of them suffered injuries above the waist inflicted by rubber bullets, including 5 who were shot in the head, including an older Palestinian woman. However no matter how many Palestinians have been injured, it will only be the injury to the Israeli activist that will be the biggest news. I do not mean that it is not important as the soldiers very seriously injured someone they are supposedly protecting with their uniform and their so-called "security" wall. But to me the injuries of the Palestinians are just as important. But this is the way it is, shooting non-violent protestors with bullets mostly and a little tear gas, and I accept that one is bigger news than the other.
At 10:35 soldiers and border police about 50 began pointing out internationals through binoculars and began final preparations for their big, violent push forward into the peaceful crowd. Why? I am not sure as no one was stopping the work from happening. And then all of a sudden it started, first with the sound grenades, most launched directly at the group of young women who were sitting together and chanting.
They began to run, I saw many trip on the rocks as more grenades were fired and then tear gas. The soldiers were moving very quickly towards me and I wanted to go and help the women out of the rocks but I figured I would only be arrested in the process.
I turned to run in the olive groves as the rubber bullets began to come flying, and quickly realized I had landed in the middle of the stone throwers, who at this point began throwing stones at the violent soldiers. Then the soldiers just started firing at random into the olive groves. I tried to run to a safer area by many of the women but the bullets kept coming, and I couldn't see the soldiers shooting, only the bullets coming basically from nowhere, and through some olive branches and then, whiizzzz, it was flying by your head.
I finally reached what I thought to be a safe spot and then through the branches came a bullet right at me, I saw it and instinctively tried to move my hips out of its direction and so it hit me in the butt and then whacked off my cell phone which was in my back pocket. An older man started calling for a doctor, which actually made me think I had been injured badly but I checked and there was no blood, and so I said I was fine, which I was. I was actually quite impressed that in the split second I saw the thing coming, I also managed to move my body and diminish the bullets effects on my body, and boy am I glad it wasn't shot any higher.
The army continued to chase us through the olive groves with bullets being fired everywhere, all the plastic-coated steel variety. I worried about my friends but all but one eventually made it out. One was taken away by police forces but she just got released after signing some papers, and is back at the apt. now.
I wish I could put some positive funny spin on this day but I can't. It was just awful. I reflect most on the number of bullet injuries above the waist, as this is where you aim if you want to seriously injure someone, and the notion of shooting to seriously injure nonviolent people gathered to protect their farmland from being destroyed seems unfathomable. It is almost like the soldiers want to raise the stakes and get the Palestinians more violent. I don't know.
I am feeling grateful that I wasn't seriously injured today, and am happy that through my expressions of solidarity, I faced the same risks as Palestinians.
I didn't come here to face risks, but in the sense that they could see we were all taking these risks for them, and me as an American getting shot at by American weapons paid for by US tax dollars must work against some of the propaganda that exists in our two lands about each other, and each other's feelings towards one another. I hadn't been that unsure about my safety in a very long time, I really had to do some personal questioning today and serious checking in with myself.
I am fine now, and I recognize the people here face much worse, and much more regularly, but it is all relative to one's experience, and this day is like no other I have ever had. I love you all and am definitely feeling fine and very happy to be back in Biddu, I will talk to you soon, and continue to hope things will change here and tomorrow will be a safer day for all of us.
Standing at the Gates of Jerusalem By Starhawk 03.17.04
I'm back in the West Bank, in Neta Golan's small apartment in Ramallah. I'm here to assist her with the birth of her second child, which could come any moment now, and to do trainings for the International Solidarity Movement, which supports the nonviolent resistance in Palestine. As well, I hope to take part in the campaign against the wall currently being built by the Israeli Government, which confiscates much of the prime Palestinian agricultural land, destroys villages, and unilaterally extends the de facto border of Israel.
I'm tired now, after the long flight from San Francisco, the shared taxi ride that wound and wound around the streets of Jerusalem, the stress of getting ready to leave home and the jet lag. But I'm glad to be here, grateful that I had no trouble getting in through the immigration lines or at customs or getting in through the checkpoint at Kalendia.
And that's where I fell asleep last night. Now I've had a good night's sleep, a quiet day catching up with Neta, who is one of the founder of the ISM. We have one of those friendships that seem to exist beyond the boundaries of time and space. I met her on my first trip to the occupied territories, to work with the ISM. I'd come first to Tel Aviv, reconnected with some of my Israeli friends, then finally worked up the nerve to head out to the West Bank.
I took a bus to Jerusalem, a bus full of soldiers who were so polite and friendly, helping me with my bags, then a taxi to the Damascus Gate where the Faisal, the hostel frequented by the ISM, stands just outside the Old City. I couldn't understand why the taxi driver grew more and more nervous as we got closer and closer, then finally insisted I get out of the car half a block away. Later I learned that Jewish Israeli taxis often won't even go into East Jerusalem. They're afraid.
I'd dragged my bags to the Faisal, up a narrow stairway tucked away between the vegetable stall and the falafel seller on a street full of small storefronts, across from the big, empty lot where shared taxis to the West Bank arrive and leave.
I was tired, and nervous, and wondering if I were doing the right thing. I'd been trying to call Neta for two days and hadn't gotten through. I rang the bell, and the door was opened by a young man. I peeked inside, thinking both that I was too old to stay in youth hostels and that, if I were really going to the West Bank, I'd be staying in much worse places and I'd better get used to it.
"Welcome! Welcome!" Hisham, the manager of the Faisal, boomed out a greeting and beamed at me with a smile so friendly that I immediately felt better. When I told him I was a friend of Netas', his smile grew even wider. She had been there the night before. He called her in Tel Aviv, and she came back. We stayed awake half the night, talking as if we'd known each other forever. The next day, she tried to sneak me into the Al Aqsa Mosque dressed up as a Palestinian woman.
The soldiers who guarded the mosque didn't buy my disguise-the hiking boots under the long white skirt probably gave it away. Instead, we went to Bethlehem, which at that time was under siege, walking through the surreal streets of a silent, shuttered city to Nativity Square, where tanks were still stationed.
The following day, she had me doing a training for internationals that was interrupted when he heard that Balata camp was being invaded by the military.
By nightfall, we'd hiked through the mountains above Nablus to get into the closed city, then down to the camp, and were sleeping in the home of a Palestinian family who feared soldiers coming to search in the night. I was remembering this all as I retraced the journey from the airport to the Faisal, where Hisham greeted me even more warmly than before.
He'd had a stroke, and now limps badly, but invited me in and gave me tea and the phone that had been procured for me. It was a special phone – it had belonged to Rachel Corrie, the young woman who exactly a year before had been killed in Rafah trying to stop the demolition of a home by a bulldozer that deliberately ran over her. I'd gone down to Rafah to do support for the team that had been with her. Today my friends will be at a vigil for her at the Israeli Consulate. There will be vigils all over the world. My own action is coming here.
The Faisal really needs a John Le Carre to do it justice. It has a back terrace that overlooks the Damascus gate, a screened porch where volunteers for the ISM and backpacking travelers and the more rugged breed of journalist all congregate, smoke, drink tea, exchange news and rumors and tips on how to get to the places the authorities don't want you to go.
The bathrooms are covered with a thin scum of grey around the sink handles and the corners of the showers, the rooms are very basic, bunk beds or a bare mattress and cement walls, but the price is cheap and the information you can gather on the terrace makes up for the grime. Ironically, every actual Palestinian home I've stayed in has been far, far cleaner than the Faisal, even in the most crowded refugee camp. For that matter, they've all been far, far cleaner than my own house. But I can't stay at the Faisal – I want to get to Ramallah before the checkpoint closes at nine o'clock. I hoist my pack, say goodbye, and walk round the corner to find the busses for Kalendia, the checkpoint outside Ramallah.
Out on the street, I'm struck with a sense of double vision. East Jerusalem is truly a different world from the Jewish- Israeli suburbs of the west side. The Old City looms before me, enclosed by its walls of stone, and I am thinking that for thousands of years travelers have gone down this street looking for transport. Damascus Gate – in Hebrew, Sha'ar Shechem, the Gate of Shechem, which is now Nablus. I am feeling just one of the many deep ironies of being who I am, a Jew in this land who has come here to stand in solidarity with the people whom my own people are dispossessing – moreover, a Jew who was raised and taught and conditioned in every fiber of my being to believe that this land is mine by birthright, my ancient heritage.
Standing at the gate of Jerusalem, I can't help but feel that this is, indeed, the place above all others where my ancestors walked, the place woven into our prayers and dreams, embedded in the very language we use to describe the sacred. We "go up", in the synagogue, to read the Torah, make an "Aliyah", because Jerusalem itself is in the mountains, and you must ascend to get there, and climb again to reach the old city and the temple mount. I turned fifteen the first time I came to Israel, with the summer Ulpan study program of the Hebrew High school I belonged to. That was in 1966, when the Old City was still held by Jordan, and off limits to us.
I remember how I rejoiced in 1967, when it fell into Israel's possession. Now I stand for a moment, remembering what the passageways inside the gate look like in the day, when they are thronged with people and food carts and street vendors and falafel makers and women coming to shop in their long coats and headscarves or laying out their wares on blankets. The stone streets wind into the labyrinth of passageways and markets, covered by domes and arches, the very archetype of "city" intact from some ancient era when pilgrims would have ascended these same stones carrying lambs for the sacrificial altar or fruit and grain for the offering.
There is nowhere else on earth I can feel both so at home and so strange, so akin and so alien. I can understand, in my very bones, why my people want this place.
But my own sense of kinship is poisoned by the knowledge of the incredible injustices we are perpetuating in order to claim it. I know the power of the story I grew up with – that we were homeless for two thousand years, despised and oppressed by every nation, but now we have come home, to our own true home, and by God no one is going to take it from us ever again. It's a powerful myth. The Palestinians, unfortunately, have no role in it.
Their very existence spoils the tale. When I think back on my childhood, on what I learned in Hebrew School, on the history we were taught and what we were shown on the trips we took on that summer Ulpan, I'm struck by how rarely the Palestinians were even mentioned. When I was in Balata, there was one family that were held prisoner in their own house by soldiers who took it over to use as a command post. Men, women, small children – for days they were confined to one small room, not let out nor allowed to have contact with the outside world, not allowed to go out for food or milk for a sick baby. While meanwhile, soldiers took their ease in the rest of the house, lay down their guns to relax for a moment, played cards, ate, relaxed. How could they, I wondered, with such misery locked away just on the other side of the doorway? But then I realized that in effect, that's exactly what we'd been doing to the Palestinians as a people, to the whole reality that this land was, in fact, occupied before we occupied it. Whenever I write about this issue, I get a small but steady trickle of responses that say, in effect, there's wrong on both sides and if you want peace, you won't "take sides". What I say is, as long as we barricade that door what is able to burst through from time to time will carry with its great destructive force – but that is not a reason to keep the door closed, but to open it, to look inside, to acknowledge the reality of what we have done, to face the guilt and pain and discomfort it brings up, and to begin to make amends. That is the only way I can see to begin the work of peacemaking.
So I'm looking at Damascus gate and thinking about all the doors, all the portals, all the checkpoints, all the walls and barriers and fences and barricades that have divide this land. But as I turn and walk to the bus that will take me to one of them, I'm feeling at home. Men crowd around me, stopping at the storefronts still open or waiting to pick up a falafel.
At one time I would have felt afraid to be alone in this crowd after dark – now I've traveled alone in Palestine enough to know that I'm as safe here as I could be anywhere. And I feel a sudden sense of gratitude. Hard as the work can sometimes be, it allows me to walk these streets and stand at this gate without fear. It gives me a role I can play here with integrity, and so allows me to stand here in the presence of my ancestors, who are also the ancestors of the Palestinians, and be at home without needing to possess anything.
The van to Kalendia is full of tired, grim faced men going home to their East Jerusalem homes. It winds through streets of concrete buildings and neon signs and the grime and dust of any shabby part of the third world, and finally stops at Kalendia, the major checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah and the central transfer point for busses and taxis to anywhere in the north of the West Bank. Ramallah is the most open of the West Bank cities. Cars and taxis are backed up here, waiting hours in a haze of diesel fumes and dust, but no one stops those of us who are walking into Ramallah. I follow the men on the path that leads past the fences and the barbed wire. A young boy insists on taking some of my bags, and gets me a taxi. I give him five shekels, and the taxi takes me to meet Neta who has been at the candlelight vigil for Rachel in the town center, which I have missed. We buy falafel, and go back to her apartment.
I greet Nizar, her husband, who is lean and quiet but very sweet, and her baby, Nawal, whom I helped deliver just a year ago. Nawal is truly adorable, with big, gray-green eyes and lots of dark hair, one of those babies who seem to find everything in life funny. She has just learned to wave, and we wave at each other and smile and laugh and wave some more.
Neta is big with her second child, now, her belly round and low. The baby was due yesterday, but doesn't seem in a hurry to come out. Neta and I sit up far too late talking, and at last jet lag catches up with me I fill my water bottle, charge my batteries, take note when I lay down where all my things are in case I need to grab them in a hurry. I'm back in the West Bank, where things can change without warning.
PRESS RELEASE Date: March 22, 2004
NON-VIOLENT DEMONSTRATORS IN NEW YORK ARE FOUND GUILTY BY A JURY OF THEIR PEERS A year after demonstrating against the war in Iraq and Rachel Corrie's killing, Americans are facing a guilty verdict.
[New York City] On March 22, 2004, the trial of sixteen New Yorkers comes to a close, as the jury finds them guilty of misdemeanor charges.
The sixteen defendants, who come from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim backgrounds, and range in age from 22 to 43 years old, protested against the occupation of Iraq by the United States and of the Palestinian Territories by Israel, in an impromptu demonstration on Fifth Avenue one year ago, on March 26, 2003. Eight of the people on trial have been to Palestine, volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement, the same movement with which Rachel Corrie was volunteering when she was killed.
After the verdict was rendered, the judge announced that sentencing will take place on April 19, 2004. The defendants' supporters expressed shock and disbelief at the criminalization of non-violent protest by the justice system.
For more information, please contact: Contact: Jack Cohen (917) 596-2476
DEMONSTRATION AGAINST CATERPILLAR AT CAT HEADQUARTERS [Peoria – Illinois] On April 23rd, we will rally in Peoria, Illinois and march to CAT headquarters to demand James Owens, the current CEO, meet with a delegation of victims of violence and destruction perpetrated using CAT equipment. The delegation, backed up by activists and concerned people from around the country, will seek an end to the Caterpillar corporation's business with the Israeli army.
Thousands of homes have been illegally bulldozed to the ground, many with people still inside, and countless orchards and olive trees have been uprooted using Caterpillar's equipment. This equipment is sold with full advance knowledge of how it is going to be used.
A Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer was even used to brutally murder a brave American ISM volunteer, Rachel Corrie.
Please join us to demand that Caterpillar immediately cease all sales to the Israeli army and publicly explain why it did so.
See a video document on a former CATERPILLAR action in San Leandro California at:
details contact: "Stop CAT" Coalition or ISM-Chicago:
312-491-1789 A23@stopcat.org ISMinChicago@aol.com Visit: