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Land Day/Volunteers journals

Land Day/Volunteers journals

Please find below,

1/Press release: MOBILIZATION FOR THE 28th ANNIVERSARY OF LAND DAY IN PALESTINE 2/Journal: Teenagers' war game, By Rebekah, March 15, 2004 3/Journal: From Kharbatha Bani Harith, By Mary, March 24, 2004

MOBILIZATION FOR THE 28th ANNIVERSARY OF LAND DAY IN PALESTINE Day of demonstrations to protest the confiscation of Palestinian lands

[Beit Sahour, BETHLEHEM] Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 30, 2004, Palestinians will be joined by international peace activists to commemorate the 28th anniversary of Land Day. Several demonstrations have been scheduled throughout the Occupied West Bank to continue the protest over the annexation and destruction of Palestinian land by the Israeli military and government. - In Beit Duqqu, northwest Jerusalem, villagers from the neighboring region will meet at the mosque at 9:30am and peacefully head to their farmlands to pray for their land. For more information, please contact: Shora (English): +972.67.254.910 or Mohamed Ayesh (Arabic): +972.67.395.422

- In Beituniya, southwest Ramallah, where the army has started to work on the wall, the villagers will gather in front of the Municipality Council at noon to march to the worksite and try to prevent the bulldozers from destroying their land. They will be supported by the villagers from Budrus who will join them in their first action against the Apartheid wall. For more information, please contact: Perla (English): +972.66.261.670 or Nazih (Arabic): +972.59.786.525.

- In Nablus, people will gather at the Duar, in the town center of Nablus where a large rally will be held beginning at 10:30am. For more information, please contact: Judah (English): +972.52.351.534

- In Tulkarem, workshops and speeches on the wall and the land will take place at 11am in the local Chamber of Commerce located in the center of the city and a strike is scheduled from 1pm to 3pm. For more information, please contact: Ghali: +972.52.320.481 or Abdul Kareem: +972.59.836.783

Land Day has been commemorated yearly since the killing on March 30, 1976 of six Palestinians by Israeli troops during protests over the expropriation of Palestinian-owned land by the Israeli government in the north of Israel. This date has become a symbol for all Palestinians of the struggle for the land. This year's commemoration comes in the midst of a increasing land grab that continues due to the construction of the Apartheid wall on Palestinian lands.

For more information, please contact: ISM Media Office: +972.

Teenagers' war game, by Rebekah, March 15, 2004

When other activists were coming back from Palestine and kept writing about how young the soldiers were, I was always really annoyed. It seemed so patronizing and condescending, somehow useless in describing occupation forces. Then I came here and had some confrontations with soldiers and I understood that it was not about their youth but about their immaturity, their lack of skills, of understanding of the world; the fear in their eyes. It is terrifying to think that someone with the insecurities and issues of an 18 year old boy could control life in their hands. It is terrifying to see how scared the soldiers are of a group of 12 year old boys with nothing but stones in their hands.

I was in Jerusalem over Purim, the Jewish holiday where everyone gets drunk. I just could not stand seeing all these people acting like fools and getting dressed up and having fun 30 feet away from the "Green Line". It seemed absurd. I feel like I am in the theater of absurdity after I spent the last two days watching young soldiers playing war games.

In Beit Liqya, the wall is being built on one hill and the village proper is located on the next one. In between lies a wide valley where I went down today with older Palestinian men and international activists to confront the soldiers and attempt to get up to the work site. This area is covered by a court injunction ordering the work to stop for a week but the soldiers ignore it.

At first, I thought I would just be a legal observer. I would go up and try to talk to the soldiers asking them why they were holding the people at this one place; why Palestinian civilians weren't allowed to move freely through their lands. But, when a group of women came down, and one of the soldiers began to push them back a little, I stepped in. All this time the shebab were upon the closest hill to the village, waiting to see what would happen. They could not be convinced to come down for some sort of direct action, They probably wouldn't be allowed to do so anyway as soldiers do not care what kind of force they use against Palestinian youth. "Non- violence" is simply not an option.

I don't know what I expected. I guess the soldiers looked so much like cops and the demonstration seemed so ordinary. Every once and a while there would be an unexplained flare up. We heard rubber-coated metal bullets going off on the top of the hill near the shebab, but we never saw any rock throwing. There were some random sound grenades, but it seemed quiet.

But I forgot that the soldiers are not cops, and no matter how much we would like to make the connections between occupation elsewhere and conditions at home, this has nothing to do with the NYPD. The main difference is that while cops can be satisfied with busting a few heads but otherwise simply containing a crowd, the Israeli military believes their country is at war with the 12 year old children. The soldiers cannot leave until the battle is won…

First they set off sound grenades. They fired a couple of them into the crowd of women, who had not before participated in the demonstrations. They created chaos and since the men were simultaneously retreating from bullets behind them, and there was a ridge next to them, the women and young girls could not go anywhere. They were also frightened, as was I, and essentially fell on the ground trying to cover each other. They could now be considered by the advancing army "out of commission" but this was not enough. The army then threw sound grenades on top of the pile of women, exploding on their heads and backs, setting their clothes momentarily on fire. We eventually were able to get up. I was doing my usual walk very slowly away. Some soldiers were pushing me in the back with their clubs, telling me to move, when one of the guys I had been talking to when we were lined up during the standoff, decided to take a run at me. I stared him down as I would a cop, told him to let go of me and he did.

Then a kid was shot by a rubber-coated steel bullet from 5 feet away in the stomach. A soldier was poking him with his baton, and then signaled to another man to come pick him up. It was my first escort under rubber bullet fire to an ambulance. They were also shooting live ammunition at the shebab on the hill so that it was difficult to tell what they were shooting at. One soldier was gesturing at a small boy about 8 years old, holding out a sound grenade to him just as he was pulling the pin. The shebab were throwing some rocks from the above ridge that landed some 30 yards in front of the soldiers down in the valley with us. Apart from that, nothing came anywhere near the soldiers around us.

And then, something really bizarre happened. It was probably the oddest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. The army went into formations. Only one or two soldiers remained running around between trees taking cover, and covering one another with their guns, trained up the hill as rubber bullet snipers aimed and fired. A jeep came to refill their ammunition and they would cover each other like in some war movie as they slowly retreated to the jeep, hiding behind it with snipers moving to advantageous points along the hill while the others refilled. It was bizarre because I kept wondering what they could possibly be taking cover from? They were acting out this ritualistic war game; at some points one or two diving to the ground and shooting from a lying down position while others stood over them and furtively glanced around at all of us, who were by this point sitting on rocks having a cigarette and cheering on the shebab.

I then realized why this is not the NYPD, why occupation is fundamentally different. It is the war game. The idea that they are under threat and therefore must retaliate, not just to obtain control by any means necessary but to win a war is essential. The difference may just be semantics, but it is in fact an issue of legitimacy. Annihilation is an appropriate end. They shoot not because of some excuse of fear but because they are there to shoot, they exist to shoot. No amount of international press or me with my blue passport that looks as absurd in this situation as a green hat or a red armband makes a difference because there is no such thing as popular opinion on this war. People cannot see that it is a war where the opponents are children with pebbles and the battlefields are simple construction sites.

Everyone here says, "we do not hate the Jews, we hate the occupation" But we're not supposed to believe them. In order to justify to ourselves as the Jewish people that this terrorizing of the Palestinian people is acceptable we can't believe that the absolute hatred is not directed at our identities, but at the conditions of our own making. The court case in the Israeli supreme court trying to stop the construction here includes 200 Israeli petitioners from the nearby neighborhoods of Jerusalem (Beit Liqya is just outside annexed East Jerusalem) because the Israelis said they did not want the wall because they had never had conflict between them and the Palestinians in the area and they knew that the building of the wall would increase tension and reduce security.

They are right. Beit Liqya and Biddu and the other villages in the area have been totally quiet during this Intifada, there have been no bombers from the area and no Israeli military presence in the villages until now. These are the first rocks these children have thrown in their lives. After years of checkpoints, arbitrary roadblocks, restrictions on movements, including the 10 minutes trip to Jerusalem, impossibility to reach workplace, to get to Ramallah and to the universities on some arbitrary days; random humiliation and stories of their fathers and uncles who were tortured by Israeli forces during the first Intifada… After entire lifetimes of oppressed existence, they now have to sit and watch the sanctuary of their own villages being destroyed. Watch over the shoulder of some 18 year old kids in uniform, getting a kick out of eating his candy bar and throwing pieces of the wrapper on this field he has no business in while a bulldozer decides to go after one olive tree after another after another. And you know that they will come again and again and again and again, and you will never get past the rubber bullets and the tear gas and the sound grenades, because even if you rush the army and get through, they're not the police. They won't just take a baton to you and arrest you. If you cross a line of soldiers, especially if you are young and male, you can die.

Today the army said they saw a young Palestinian with a homemade weapon that could somehow shoot bullets. As the women, men and internationals and I attempted to go back to the village over the hill, we were stopped by soldiers from crossing the ridge because they wanted to protect us from the live ammunition they were firing at the retreating shebab. They then threw sound grenades and tear gas at us as we went hurtling down the hill. Again, as they crouched behind the boulders aiming at the fleeing teenagers, I couldn't help thinking, "what in the world have they been told that makes them think that they must take cover from rocks? And why does the rest of the world believe them?"

As I told one of the soldiers in the beginning of the day, when they were still acting like little crowd control cops: the worst that could happen that day to him was that a rock would go bouncing off his helmet. I then asked him about the shebab on the hill: "what's the worst that will happen to them today?" He shrugged his shoulders, fingering the gun in his hand. I then looked over his shoulder at this enormous bulldozer tearing out olive trees, the last source of a means to survive for this community, and I just keep thinking: what more will happen here?

From Kharbatha Bani Harith, by Mary, March 24, 2004

While in Palestine last year, I was very busy with actions and witnessing. This did not allow for much personal time and therefore not much reflection. I think maybe this was a good thing for me. Things are much different this year. I spend most of my time meeting people and discussing the many issues surrounding the Occupation. I am so grateful for my time here and the beautiful people I meet, however, I am dealing with the situation much differently now. I have a lot of time to think and process what is happening here and throughout the rest of the world.

My heart is really heavy right now. I do not usually ask for help but I really need each and every one of you to help me right now. Every time our government, politicians and corporations act, they are speaking for you and me. Even if you are not directly involved in these actions, you and I bear a large part of the responsibility. I truly believe silence is compliance. If you are not doing something about the injustices committed in our name you are indirectly supporting them. Please forgive me if what I am saying is unclear. I have spent days listening to stories that would break your heart: a sixteen year old boy in jail for a year and his family has never spoken to him; a man forced to divorce because his wife is in Jordan and they haven't been allowed to travel to see each other in over three years; life in a refugee camp; death, humiliation, poverty, loss of opportunity, no HOPE…

Well, I wrote this a week or so ago. I don't know what I was thinking other than I wanted people to know my heart is bruised right now. I want to make myself understood, Palestinians make a clear distinction between Americans and the American Government. They do not hate us. There are many questions about what we think and why we are not helping Palestinians. It is difficult to see so much pain and suffering. I just feel a lot of pressure and need help sharing the burden of trying to repair some of the damage done in our names. I will not continue with this as there is much more I want to talk about.

Tom and I went to Jerusalem for a short break and to collect information and maps that will help us continue our work at home. Last Friday, I went and stood with Women in Black in Jerusalem. Women in Black is now worldwide, but started here with Palestinian and Israeli women standing silently in solidarity against the Occupation and the violence. I held three signs that said "Stop the Occupation" one in Hebrew, one in Arabic, and one in English (I don't think I need to explain why). It was a wonderful experience and I meet people from many places including Minnesota. I really felt like I was doing something important. Please know that many Israelis were very angry. We were cursed at and spit on by many passersby. I never stopped smiling. I still reach out with love and kindness and said, "I understand." I refuse to be part of the violent cycle, even verbally. I believe in love and kindness even if I am still learning to incorporate it into every part of my daily existence.

Later that night, Tom and I went to get some ice cream outside of Damascus gate. We heard gunshots and found two Arab men shot by Israeli soldiers. We later found out the two men had been fighting and the soldiers shot them to break up the fight. One man was shot in the hand and the other in the chest. What was really disturbing about this event is what followed. A small crowd gathered around the men and the soldiers were becoming increasing irritated. They yelled at people to leave and charged them with batons when they did not. I was standing a good distance away but letting the soldiers know of my presence. They charged again and I did not move. They ran past me and beat a man who was in the back of the crowd running away from the soldiers. The man fell to the ground and lost consciousness. When two men attempted to make it back to where the soldiers were so they could call for help, they were chased off and threatened with guns. Help finally came about a half and hour later. I lost my appetite for ice cream after reaffirming my belief that the Occupation and the Army are constantly increasing tensions and doing harm not just in the Territories but also within Israel.

Tom and I also took a trip to Abu Dis. It is a town outside of Jerusalem but within the Occupied Territories. I had seen areas where the Wall was being worked on and the actual Wall from a distance, but never up close. So we went. It was a long walk and a fairly quiet one between Tom and I once the Wall came into view. I hope you have seen the pictures and do not believe the propaganda that is being fed to us by America and Israel. I looked at the Wall for some time and finally had to touch it.

All I want to say is the WALL is cold, ugly and built with money provided by you and me.

I have one last thing to tell you about. For the past five days, I have been living in a village called Biddu outside of Ramallah. The Wall is being built in several areas simultaneously in this area. I do not have time to explain all of the effects of the Wall right now. I will say it is stealing the land and livelihood of thousands of Palestinians and cuts them off from necessities and loved ones. It truly is a strangulation Wall.

On Sunday, we went to a demonstration against the Wall in a village named Kharbatha. When the five internationals, including myself, first arrived in the village there were young boys running away from the demonstration suffering from teargas. We approached with caution and concern. A few of us went to the front of the crowds where Palestinians and soldiers were face to face.

This was my first time involved in a demonstration like this so I did not engage verbally at this point. All of the sudden, the soldiers began running away from the crowd and I was quite confused. A Palestinian man hollered at me in Arabic and I understood the word "head." I looked back and the Palestinians were running away and taking cover. I got down immediately. By the time I realized I was not protected it was too late. I was on top of a fairly flat rock like a lizard catching sun.

First came the tear gas, next the sound bombs, and finally rounds and rounds of "rubber bullets." They are actually steel that is coated in thin, hard plastic. They were closer than I care to tell and you could hear them and see them. I was more scared than I have ever been in my life. I wanted to leave and realized that I had no way out. If I got up or even picked up my head, I would be in greater danger. This is how it went for hours. The soldiers would run up and confront the crowd and then cower behind their guns. I finally found my strength when three female teachers and their female students marched to the demonstration and walked right up to the front. They were chanting and sitting peacefully when soldiers approached. Drawing on their strength, I decided to engage with the soldiers. I was in-between the two groups. I was asking the soldiers to look into the eyes of the people they were beating. I told them I understood they were angry, frustrated, and didn't necessarily want to be there. I told them to realize they have the power and the choice to use it wisely. There was no reason to tear gas and shoot at women who were chanting and sitting peacefully. Some soldiers looked at me and even responded. Most just ignored me but others began shoving, pointing their guns, and yelling at me.

During this short time, over 37 people were treated after being shot with "rubber bullets." All but a handful was shot above the waist. Many more were shot and did not seek medical help. I know this because Tom was shot in the ribs and I wasn't with him nor could I go to him for fear of flying bullets. I heard the news over a telephone although he was maybe twenty yards behind. He is bruised but strong. He continued filming and bearing witness with amazing courage. I try not to cry to often but I really want to scream. During the day I saw two individuals shot in the head (although there were more). The first was a elderly woman who briefly put her head up to say "God is Great" and the other an Israeli activist who was confronting the army and demanding they put down their weapons and cease firing upon innocent civilians. Unbelievable!

Eventually the soldiers were sick of internationals like myself and they called in the border police who have the ability to arrest us. The number of soldiers and police were close to 100. They took out binoculars and we could tell they were pointing out the internationals who were on the front lines and engaging with the soldiers. There was one final attack. We knew it was coming because many soldiers put on large orange "necklaces" each one consisting of about eight sound bombs. They charged and dispersed the crowd with at least thirty sound bombs in a matter of seconds. It was really sad to turn back and look at the faces of the soldiers as I fled and covered my ears. They were laughing and pointing at me as I was no longer standing with them face to face. They felt they had won some contest. The truth is everyone is losing. I yelled so they could hear, "you have guns, I only arm myself with peace and love."

One female international, Sonja, was arrested. Tom was forced to flee by himself down in a valley hiding from soldiers surrounding the area. My friend Gurdy and I were caught in a small clash and then cornered off by the police. Without explaining everything, we were detained with the intention of being arrested. I refused to go with them and slowly moved away while talking calmly and hopefully rationally. We provided the arresting Commander with an out and were able to usher a Palestinian detainee to safety with us.

I could go on but it is still painful for me to think about it. After the demonstration, I talked with many young girls and boys. The boys fed me beans they picked from a nearby field and the girls painted my fingernails a bright orange color and put glitter on my face. For those who ask, this is why I am here.

I continue to work and to attend demonstrations. I struggled before I wrote this email. I know many of you will worry. This is not the purpose as I am but one of millions to worry about. The purpose of this email is to distribute the truth. I believe in it and I will fight for it and the truth will win the conscious of the world!

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