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ISM Updates and Reports/IWPS Activist Reflects

ISM Updates and Reports/IWPS Activist Reflects

1. Farmers Attacked in Jayyous:

"Friday was the first day of Ramadan, and it is common that many farmers go home earlier than usual to break their fast before returning to their land..."

2. Patience and Perseverance-both are tested here:

"Despite the inhospitable terrain, the trees persevere. I can see why the olive trees are a symbol of the Palestinian people. Despite the inhospitable conditions of living under occupation, Palestinians persevere."

3. Sick and Tired of Occupation

"...by confronting the past, we can carve a future."

1. Farmers Attacked in Jayyous

Saturday, 16 October 2004 Jayyous (Qalqilya district, Occupied Palestine) David

Yesterday, two Palestinian farm workers in the town of Jayyous reported that they were detained and assaulted by Israeli forces before being released a short time later.

Shortly after the incident, three members of Boston to Palestine, as well as two Ecumenical Accompaniers sat with several Palestinian villagers as the younger farmer, with the help of a translator, related what happened.

Local villagers said that the two males went missing at approximately 8:00 pm yesterday evening, when the tractor they had been using was found with its motor still running and neither farmer in sight.

After roughly half an hour, the farmers reappeared and reported that they had been taken by surprise by five uniformed Israelis hiding amongst trees in the dark. It is not clear at this time whether they were soldiers or Border Police. The two farmers (one in his forties, the other 17 years old) claimed to have been restrained with plastic handcuffs and forced to lie on the ground where they were stepped on and hit by two of the officers.

Friday was the first day of Ramadan, and it is common that many farmers go home earlier than usual to break their fast before returning to their land in the evening to finish the day's work. The young man, "M" (name withheld), and the driver of the tractor, "D" (name withheld), were in the process of bringing water to the cows of M's uncle when they encountered the armed Israelis.

In addition to having their backs stepped on and beaten, the Palestinian young man also reported that they were hooded and had their ears and mouths covered, presumably to prevent their hearing and responding to shouts from searching family members. After half an hour, "M" and "D" were released and told they were not to return to the land near the annexation barrier (the so called "security fence") that Israel has erected. Here as in many other areas of the West Bank, the annexation barrier runs several kilometers inside Palestinian territory, and within approximately 30 meters of Palestinian homes at one point in Jayyous. At least one of these homes is even prohibited from opening its west-facing windows because they look out onto the barrier. Jayyous is a small farming community northeast of Qalqilya. For more than a year now, farmers have reported frequent harassment near the opening in the barrier here known as the South Gate. This is in addtion to the many problems farmers have encountered when attempting to cross through the North Gate. Through its convoluted permit system, Israel requires Palestinians to apply for permission to access their own land. This permission is often denied. And even when permits are granted, farmers often find the gates open on an arbitrary and unpredictable schedule--or not at all.

For more information, please contact:

David: 972-547-794-122 Ahmad: 972-544-491-326

-------------------------------

2. Patience and Perseverance-both are tested here:

"Despite the inhospitable terrain, the trees persevere. I can see why the olive trees are a symbol of the Palestinian people. Despite the inhospitable conditions of living under occupation, Palestinians persevere."

15 October 2004 - Qalqilia Joe

Patience and perseverance. Both are tested here. Plans change constantly and it has taken awhile to get used to that fact. When I expressed my frustrations with friends who have been in this part of the world, they all said the same thing - let it go, but be persistent.

I took a break and went to Ein Gedi which is a resort on the Dead Sea way out in the desert. The Dead Sea is extremely salty and as a result, no fish live in it. But people can float in it without trying. The Dead Sea is also supposed to have therapeutic powers. The most therapeutic part for me was seeing Jews, Muslims, and tourists enjoy the resort together.

The penpals are now set! The exchanges are: Grand Isle with Qalqilia, South Hero with Bethlehem, and Lawrence Barnes (Burlington) with Ayda refugee camp in Bethlehem. Hopefully, students in Vermont will get their return letters within a month. However, it's Ramadan, now, so schools aren't in session as often plus the public schools in the West Bank are on strike. Things will work out, enshallah. Now I can explore the options to help with olive harvest.

In Qalqilia, the effects of the wall/separation barrier have been depressing. Before the wall was built, farmers had access to their citrus trees and Israelis regularly visited the city to trade despite the occupation. Then the wall got built around the city and prevented farmers from reaching their fields. The only Israelis people see now are the army. Lots of people have left Qalqilia. Those who remain face 60% unemployment.

In Bethlehem, the effects of the occupation have also been crippling. Things are relatively calm, now, but in 2002, the army imposed curfews on the little town. A curfew here is not the same as in America. Here, curfew means house arrest. You are not allowed to leave your house unless the army says it's okay. You can't even poke your head out the window otherwise you might get shot. Your chance to get food lasts 2-4 hours every few days. Bethlehem endured a bunch of curfews including a 40 day one. Bethlehem's economy is built on tourism and the tourists rarely come here any more. It's really sad to see the emptiness and desperate merchants.

On my travels throughout the West Bank, I regularly see Palestinians being detained while the Israeli army/police "check" their identification. I've seen long lines of cars waiting to get through checkpoints between West Bank cities - no exceptions made for ambulances. I've seen places where construction of the wall has stripped the land of trees (which are rare here to begin with) and replaced them with concrete walls, fences, razor wire, and pavement.

There are beautiful sights here, too. Farmers landscape their groves such that the trees are on big steps or plateaus. This is so that what little soil there is doesn't erode. Despite the inhospitable terrain, the trees persevere. I can see why the olive trees are a symbol of the Palestinian people. Despite the inhospitable conditions of living under occupation, Palestinians persevere.

Masalaame. Joe

-----------------------------------------------------

3. "Sick and Tired of Occupation"

October 9, 2004 Kate International Women's Peace Service

I am sick of the occupation. Literally, sometimes.

Um Rabia came up this morning with some rice and soup for me, because she thought maybe I was sick. She asked, "Are you tired?" I said no, not too much. It was a lie. I am tired all the time. Of course, I do not get enough sleep, but that's not the reason. I am tired of occupation. I'm tired of worrying and wondering, what terrible thing might happen now. Of always being on guard against one thing or another. I am reading a wonderful book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi, about her life in the newly revolutionary Iran.

She describes the ordinariness that fell over the atmosphere of terror: "It is amazing how everything can fall into a routine. I seemed not to notice the unexpected and breathless quality of everyday life that belied every form of stability. After a while even the revolution found its rhythm: the violence, the executions, public confessions to crimes that had never been committed, judges who coolly talked about amputating a thief's hands or legs and killing political prisoners because there was not enough room for them now in jail. I, like others, went about my business. It was only at night and in my diary that my growing desperation, my nightmares, poured out uninhibited."

The gate at Mas'ha was locked today. They said it would not be open Thursday, Friday or Saturday, and the mayor had it announced from the mosque. But then yesterday, it was open, but of course no one came because they heard it was going to be closed. The soldiers assured Raad it would be open again today. But this morning, it was not, and they apologized profusely, but did not open the gate. Raad called me, and I told him to call Abu Rabia, and I suppose he did but surprise! it didn't do any good. So people had to go all the way around, 45 minutes or so, to reach their fields through Azzun gate.

I picked olives yesterday with Fatima and her family. I had a great time. Shams didn't want to pick, because she has exams coming up, and Maisa says her friends do not have to pick because they have big families, but they were all fairly good natured about it once they were out there. They were all appreciative of me being there; it made them feel cared for. I listened to them fighting about this and that, and thought, the olive harvest is hard enough, just dealing with school and the housework and your job and getting the heavy bags of olives back if you don't have a donkey, certainly if you are a single mother like Fatima. Then there is Ramadan. Really, they do not need soldiers and settlers and fences and wall gates to worry about. Mohammed told me that this year he needs two permits to get to some of his land, one for the wall gate and one to go into the settlement, Alfei Menashe. It's majnoon. I am sick of it.

Late in the day yesterday, Maisa, who is about 15, asked me, "You loved boys when you were a girl, right?" I said, "Well, yes, I thought I did." I asked her if she does. Yes, she said. I could tell she wanted to talk about it.

"Is there someone in particular?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "His name is Marcel." He lives in Deir Balut. She has seen him around there.

She said, "He doesn't know me."

I asked why not. "Because I cannot talk to him." There is another boy, who lives in Qarawa, and his name is Ibrahim. Him she knows a little bit, because she knows his sister.

I tried to think what to say. It must be very hard to be a Muslim girl here, with all the raging hormones of any 15-year-old, but not allowed to explore the feelings. And then, if Fatima is your mother, you know that it is possible to do things differently than is expected, but when you are that age, you also know the consequences of being different. In the end, I just told Mais that I want her and Shams (her sister, who is 16) to come visit me in the States, in a few years when they are old enough to travel by themselves. It would be a blast to have them in San Francisco. San Francisco might never be the same.

Toward the end of the day, their uncle came to help them a little. He said to Maisa, "Next year, you will get married." At first, I thought I was hearing wrong, but she said, "No, I am studying." He said no, you will get married. When he was gone, she and Shams asked me, "Did you understand him?" Yes, I said, that was not a good thing to say. "He is a bad person," she said firmly. I said, "But I was glad, that you said no you are studying." She said, "That's what my mom teaches me."

As we picked over the last olives, Shams and Maisa sang in their beautiful voices, love songs, patriotic songs, and one about the harvest. Everyone in the family asked me to spend the night, even Milad, who never says more than a word or two to me. But they were uncharacteristically gentle and did not push it.

When I came home, I spent hours fixing a PowerPoint that Hannah made from our Ashamnu, which has a soundtrack of a nine-year-old girl from Jayyous singing "We Shall Overcome" in English. Since I was working on the timing of the video clip at the end, I had to listen to it over and over and every time I came to the beginning of the last verse, "We shall live in peace," which happens to fall on a slide depicting some hideous racist graffiti in Hebron, I felt like crying. It is not much to ask for, to live in peace. But here, it is like asking for the moon.

October 11, 2004

I have no right to say I am sick of the occupation. Ten months, and I am sick of it? Soon I will go home, to the States, maybe never to return. I just read an article by Uri Davis, in which he says, "I am not in the frying pan and I'm not in the fire in the sense that I haven't been sentenced to life imprisonment for membership in an illegal organization. I haven't had tanks under my window terrorizing my children. I haven't seen a relative suffering from cancer die because he was denied access to hospital treatment, or a birth aborted at a checkpoint because a pregnant mother was not allowed to cross the checkpoint into a clinic."

This is exactly true for me. So how dare I say I am sick or tired of the occupation? What do I know about living under occupation? But it seeps into your soul, as my friend Naomi pointed out.

I am tired of having this in-between nowhere status. It is like being a plastic person. We are assumed, in some ways, to have no feelings. People can say whatever they want to or about us, they can criticize our Arabic or our Hebrew, our weight or our hair, our ethnicity or nationality, and we are expected not to react. I am tired of being always on display, always having to be correct, to do the expected thing, to smile and say something polite even if people are rude to me, always worrying about what people will think. I am sick of not being able to be who I am, of having to make sure I'm covered up enough, that I do not meet a man's eyes or offer to shake his hand unless he initiates it.

My ability to say several sentences in a row in Arabic is turning out to be a dangerous thing, because I am increasingly unwilling to keep to myself the frustration I feel that the occupation continues unchallenged. When Palestinians say, "Shaife?" "Do you see?" I am tending to say, "Bashuf. I see. But I did not come here just to see how terrible the army is. I came to help you change it, so what do you want to do?" Is this inappropriate? Ten months is not a long time to live with occupation. In 56 years, I am sure you get accustomed to biding your time. (For those of you who might think I am being doctrinaire in saying that the occupation has lasted for 56 years, consider this fact, which I only recently learned: The Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel lived under military rule from 1948 to 1966.

(www.usatoday.com/news/ world/2001/09/11/israel-dismay.htm, www.adalah.org/eng/backgroundhistory.php, www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl111102ed41.html)

I have to wonder why it was ended the year before the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began.

Change here cannot be determined by my timetable. Just because I am ready to leave, and want to feel I accomplished something, helped move the situation toward positive change, doesn't mean that it's a good time for Israeli or Palestinian activists to step up the resistance. On the other hand, it is indisputable that letting things continue here the way they are is not doing anything good for anyone, and one of the reasons we come here is to energize those who are interested in resistance.

It's a delicate balance.

I think more than anything else, I am tired of feeling simultaneously defensive and repulsed because I am a Jew and Jews here are doing unspeakably awful things in the name of all Jews. I am tired of having to feel scared and hurt when people say, as an ISMer from Denmark did the other day, that the reason the U.S. backs Israel so unequivocally is because the Jews control everything. I am tired of being trapped in a world of "identity politics" that seems to have no possible result except another group of people becoming the oppressed. It doesn't make that much sense to me. Pretty much anyone I know, if they cause someone pain on a personal level, they feel bad about it and want to make it better. Why does that instinct disappear when we are causing hurt collectively?

I ask myself, why is a Jewish identity so important to me? I was brought up to value and cherish it, but if it can cause so much harm, can it be something worth holding on to? Will the result of this experience for me be that I stop wanting to identify as a Jew? I can't imagine that, but maybe I should be able to.

If I and others like me make that choice, then the Zionists have truly succeeded in subsuming Jewish identity under Zionist identity. But they also did not create the tradition of Jewish separatism. The anti-Semitic movements in Europe were in part in response to the perceived self-isolation of a people who considered ourselves "chosen," though there are many interpretations of what chosenness means. Of course the Jews are not at all unique in wanting to remain apart from the dominant communities in which they are living. But it is unquestionable that this history of separating ourselves from our neighbors has always been deadly for us, and now is deadly for our neighbors.

I am horrified at having these thoughts. But I cannot help it. Not when I walked, yesterday, an hour to reach some olive groves where the settlement of Elkana has built a huge sewage system. The old rusted broken pipe lay next to the new one, which is also broken, and from both of them seeps raw sewage, which is loosely covered with branches. The stench wafts up to the place where we are picking, and the women say to me, "Look, they took our water and our land and replaced it with their waste."

The only response I could make was one of the first words I learned in Arabic: "Haram!" "shame."

One positive thing from the last week was our trip with a group of primarily Jewish Israelis who are trying to deal with the shame. Zochrot, which means "We Remember" in Hebrew (their literature says that they use the feminine plural form, " to represent an alternative, less militaristic, and more humanly inclusive conception of collective remembering.") (www.nakbainhebrew.org) organizes activities to acknowledge and commemorate the Nakba, Catastrophe, which the creation of Israel wrought in the Palestinian communities. Zochrot, which is only about two years old, "is a group of Israeli citizens working to raise awareness of the tragedy of the Nakba, particularly among the Jewish population of Israel. Our hope is that this awareness will make a positive difference in the politics of the region, including by broadening public recognition of the Palestinian right of return."

Zochrot organizes commemorative tours and ceremonies to mark the villages from which Palestinians were forcibly expelled in 1948. Several of us attended one they did last week in Al-Lajun, in the northwest of Israel. It was such a simple, beautiful event. There were at least 100 people there, Jewish, Palestinian and international, and several men who had lived in Al-Lajun were there to tell us what life used to be like there. There was a bus company, schools, a mosque, a spring, and now there is Hebrew graffiti celebrating the Israeli army on the walls of what used to be the mosque. At the end, we sat in a circle near the spring and two old men played traditional folk music, and then we all piled on buses which changed their route to drop people off at the demonstration in front of the defense ministry to protest the massacres in Gaza.

We could not go to that demonstration, because we needed to get back to the West Bank, but we did organize a small protest of our own. On Wednesday I made four coffins, two small child-size ones, and two big ones, out of refrigerator boxes, and Um Rabia and Hannah painted names of people who have been killed in Gaza on them in Hebrew and Arabic. Thursday afternoon we took them into Tel Aviv transporting them across the Green Line along with seven of us was pretty funny and together with about 20 Israelis, we had a funeral march along the beachfront where people were celebrating the last of the Jewish holidays. Many people yelled things at us, but a few came out of the coffee shops and joined us. The next day, Ta'ayush used them in their big protest at the "Love Festival," which is a huge mainstream queer festival in Tel Aviv, and the police attacked them, apparently in part because of the coffins. So even though we couldn't go to that action either, we felt we had a part in it.

I just read that sales of apartments in the Occupied Territories has risen by 20.5%, at the same time that there has been a drop in sales inside the Green Line. There is a huge settler demonstration planned for Jerusalem on Thursday evening, and some of the Israeli peace groups are planning a counter-protest. That night is supposed to be my "hafle," party, to celebrate finishing my stint with IWPS, and I am going to request that we all go to the protest together, and then have dinner in Jerusalem. Except for Stacey, who is going to start fasting even before Ramadan, for some reason.

There were settler attacks all over the West Bank yesterday. An olive grove was burned in Yasouf, and people who were picking near there beaten and some of their equipment taken. Three settlers were actually arrested, because they had charcoal on their faces. Presumably, they feel so confident that nothing will happen to them, they don't even bother to clean themselves up after setting a fire. Settlers again attacked international peace workers escorting kids to school in Hebron.

I think about the joy with which people go out to pick, the pride they take in their trees, how they know the distinctive characteristics of every tree; no one would ever get confused and start to pick his or her neighbor's trees. But in communities like Yanoun, Yasouf and Einabus, that joy is wiped out by the terror of what might come down the hill.

One of the slides in Hannah's PowerPoint is of two settlers, in the garb of religious Jews, about to throw a rock at a family picking olives. Every time I see it, the hatred in their faces, I feel ill. How could the tradition I love produce such cruel inhumanity?

Tonight, Stacey, Sherrill and I were returning from a visit to another village. There were soldiers at the entrance to Hares, where they have been for nearly 48 hours; they are looking for someone. (I suggested that by now, everyone knows they are here, so the person they are looking for is unlikely to try to come this way. Cryptically, they said that "There might be a problem in the next few days.")

They asked us a few questions about what we are doing here, and one of them said, "I am also on the left. I want peace. But first we have to separate. We cannot live together. The Palestinians must be here, and we will be there."

I said, "But how can you separate? You already have Palestinians living in Israel."

"We will separate," he asserted. "They are not really living with us."

Yesterday, the mayor of Salfit called to ask if we could help them pick olives near the Ariel fence beginning on October 22. I said I didn't know if we could, because our groups are committed elsewhere, but that we could ask the Israeli groups to help.

"Are you willing to work with Israelis?" I asked.

"Of course," he responded. "We are all going to have to live together one day. So if they are willing to come here, they are most welcome."

Is it possible to bridge the gulf between the soldier, who says he is a leftist, and the mayor, who is not normally a hopeful person, but who acknowledges that the two peoples here are now inextricably bound together? I feel Zochrot might provide part of the answer: by confronting the past, we can carve a future.

International Womens' Peace Service

IWPS Palestine is an international team of 16 women based in Hares, a village in the Salfit Governorate of Occupied Palestine's West Bank, which began for three continuous years from August 2002. IWPS documents human rights abuses, works with the media, and non- violently intervenes in abuses. IWPS joins Palestinians in acts of non-violent direct action to oppose human rights abuses and the confiscation and destruction of land and property of Palestinian people. This includes joining demonstrations and opposition to the Apartheid Wall, helping remove roadblocks, and accompanying ambulances and Palestinians whilst they farm. IWPS supports Palestinian and Israeli anti-occupation groups in their grassroots resistance to end the brutal and illegal military occupation.

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