ISM Updates From Palestine
1. Election Campaign: Update on ISM role
2. Report from Beit Ula: Repression of Non-violent protests
3. Report from Balata Camp, Nablus
4. Second Report on Beit Ula and Passing References
5. Israeli Army Demolishes Homes and Damages a Kindergarten in Deheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine
1. Election Campaign: Update on ISM role
ISM Election Campaign: December 1-January 15, 2005 Training in Palestine every Friday and Saturday
Israel has so far ignored repeated calls to fulfill its promise to help facilitate the upcoming January 9 Palestinian Presidential elections. Although promises of facilitating the election process have been made, concrete steps have not taken place.
In addition to ongoing closure policies and repeated incursions inside Palestinian cities and towns, Israel is banning opening voters' registration centers in East Jerusalem. This will hinder the election process in the city.
A Palestinian from East Jerusalem, reporter Majdah Batsh, has expressed her intentions of running for the PA chairperson position.
It is extremely doubtful that Israel will allow Batsh or any of the seven other candidates to run for election in Jerusalem.
An election campaign cannot be limited to allowing voters to vote without allowing them to register until election day. Voter registration must not be repressed by the Israeli occupying forces.
In coordination with Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, ISM intends to invite all candidates to run a full election campaign in the city, including public meetings, rallies, and debates.
For this to be possible, Israel must open East Jerusalem to Palestinians from the West Bank. Failing to do so is a violation of its commitment to help facilitate open and democratic elections and will influence the elections results.
ISM monitors will be asked to take part in all campaigning efforts in the holy city and accompany every candidate who attempts to enter to the city and meet with electorates. ISM activists will monitor and report any attempt from the side of Israel to interrupt the election process. Monitoring activities will include facilitating access and travel, campaigning activities and documenting arrest campaigns by the Israeli Army..
In addition, trained ISM teams should be ready to join protests and direct non-violent actions against any Israeli measure that obstructs election campaigns.
West Bank & Gaza:
Safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is an essential part of the election campaign. If Israel fails to provide such a passage it will hinder the ability of Palestinians to run open and democratic elections.
ISM monitors will join any candidate who seeks to commute between the two separate sections of the Palestinian occupied territories. They should be ready to join protests or direct non-violent actions if Israel fails to provide free movement between the two areas.
Other Palestinian Areas:
ISM monitors need to be ready to go to Palestinian cities, villages, and refugee camps if reports of incursions or added layers of closure are received. All such violations need to be monitored and reported during the full election campaign period.
In particular, ISM monitors will work to examine if Israeli daily arrestment campaigns are linked to attempts to influence election results.
If necessary, ISM monitors need to be ready to stay in areas where violations are occurring and ongoing.
ISM will also coordinate efforts with Israeli activists who are willing to join in the effort to help Palestinians run free and democratic elections.
Monitoring tours: Groups of ISM monitors, after receiving a two days training, will move as to different areas of the Palestinian occupied territories. Activists should document and report any witnessed Israeli violations. The group will be prepared to join protests organized by the community against such violations.
Stationed Monitors: in areas where increased and ongoing violations are reported, small groups of ISM monitors will be asked to be stationed there for longer periods of time to carefully monitor such violations and support community protests.
All groups will be guided and assisted by ISM local coordinators in various Palestinian areas and will use ISM accommodations. All reports, documentation (including photos and video footage) will be forwarded to the ISM media coordinator.
To get the best effect of ISM monitoring work, activists are advised to establish media links in their countries and to continually send updated information. In addition, the ISM media office needs to establish relations with all groups, organizations, and official country representatives in order to insure a wider impact of ISM monitors.
Violations need not only to be reported and protested, but should be combined with a call for action to all ISM members, friends, and supporters. Actions will include demanding free and open elections with phone calls, letters, and e-mails from across the globe.
Please join us in Palestine for this crucial period! Contact us at: email@example.com
In solidarity, ISM/Palestine
2. Report from Beit Ula: Repression of Non-violent protests
DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST THE WALL IN BEIT ULA VILLAGE, Southwest of Hebron Lina
"If you think with your heart instead of your gun, you will also understand that peace is the way... Your weapon is your enemy…"
The 2nd of December 2004 was the day for the second demonstration against the wall in Beit Ula, a village southeast of Hebron. On the way out to the land, a Palestinian man from Beit Ula village next to me in the car pointed on the ancient caves we were passing:
"Jews and Muslims used to live here together back in the days", he said. "I believe in that, in coexistence, that it is possible to live in peace together. We are not primarily Jews or Muslims, we are humans."
With those words in my mind, we reached the place for gathering. 500 meters away I saw the arm of a bulldozer working for Israel to destroy Palestinian land. Obviously, not everyone share the humbleness and peaceful mind of the man in the car. Beit Ula is a village of 10000 inhabitants and 5500 of them are more or less dependent on the 1000 dunums of land that they will lose if the wall is completed.
The village has a great will and a general determination to stop the construction as soon as possible. So even when their first demonstration a week ago ended up in 20 injured, they were prepared to continue. This time we were around 150 people from the village, 15 internationals, 15 Israelis and a lot of media.
The night before the demonstration representatives from the village had agreed upon one main goal: to reach the bulldozers and to stop their work. Although, when we reached the place for gathering on the land, some people had brought a tent to carry along with us. There were about 35 soldiers confronting us after two minutes walk. The demonstration immediately went confused and it seemed like people did not know what to do with the heavy tent. We managed to break the soldiers' initial line but then a man from Hebron Popular Committee designed himself to take the initiative and made the crowd stop. We ended up in discussions and small attempts to move forward, resulting in soldiers trying to arrest and beat people. ISMers ran from place to place to de-arrest those being taken. There was a lot of scuffling and some harsh treatment from the soldiers: kicking, pulling, pushing and grabbing us. Finally they succeeded in taking 2 Palestinians and 1 Israeli activist. They declared the area a closed military zone and after a while some of us started to move down the valley to find another way around the soldiers.
They soon reached there and grabbed one of the internationals. Nobody managed to de-arrest him and he was taken to the militarybase.
By then, the demonstration had already passed its function as a demonstration, people were split up and sat down, chatting and drinking juice. Five hours after the start of the demonstration, villagers held a prayer on the land. The soldiers sat 20 meters away as they understood nobody would make another move.
Afterwards it seemed like some of the villagers considered the demonstration successful, while many others, me included, felt we could have advanced much further if there would have been a common understanding of what the goals were and people would have followed that.
In the evening, we met with people from the village to discuss strategies for the coming days. They were all convinced that the struggle must go on, day after day, until the construction of the wall is completely stopped or at least moved to the green line.
"There is no settlement close to Beit Ula and no settler- nor military roads. If the wall would have been about security, they could have built it on the green line. But they want to steal land and force us to move", one of the inhabitants expressed.
The two arrested Palestinians were released in the evening and so was the Israeli activist later on. The Irish naitonal is going to court on sunday, threatened to be deported.
So, next day followed. We arrived to the land and place of gathering around 11 o'clock and we immediately felt a bit nervous. There were a very low number of people, only six ISMers, almost no press and on the hill we saw the soldiers preparing themselves to complete yesterday's work. But the villagers decided to start with a prayer on the land where we were standing and meanwhile more people arrived. When we set off we were around 300 persons, marching towards the bulldozers. Children were in the front with banners and were stopped immediately when we met the soldiers on the hill. Instead of standing still, as yesterday, the whole march took of to the left and started to move faster. Some seconds later we were all running or walking very fast around the soldiers who failed in keeping our speed. It was a beautiful view. Hundreds of people steaming down the valley, like a train of energy and determination. The wind helped us and made the teargas seem like a breath on a cold day. When we reached the construction site, the bulldozer was already gone. We sat down in front of the soldiers and Jamal from the municipality of Beit Ula held a speech.
"This land does not belong to any religion or God, it belongs to the people." Later on, he turned to the soldiers and said: "If you think with your heart instead of your gun, you will also understand that peace is the way... Your weapon is your enemy, it will destroy you. And if you really care for the security of your children, you must work for the just peace."
The soldiers tried to make the crowd nervous by stepping forward but everyone remained calm. Encouraged by the success, representatives from the village kept the initiative by declaring to the soldiers that "we will leave when we want to leave, not when you tell us to" and telling that "if the bulldozer is here tomorrow, we will also be here to stop it". Fifteen minutes later we started to walk back up the hill. A boy with a Palestinian flag were seen from far away, giving color his people's courage.
There is a huge portion of symbolism in these demonstrations but what Beit Ula managed to do today was more than that. They actually stopped the construction. And I am sure they will do it again.
3. Report from Balata Camp, Nablus
In Balata on the 30 November a Fateh activist, (not a resistance fighter! )was shot down on his way home. Anecdotal evidence suggests that he was murdered by Israeli special forces in an attempt to create a fight between Hamas and Fateh in Balata. While no one has owned up to this atrocity anecdotal evidence suggests that Israeli special forces committed the murder in order to create a fight between Hamas and Fateh in Balata. This theory is backed up by articles in The Jerusalem Post and Arab News. Furthermore as one of the many people who heard the shots it sounded like 2 or 3 gunmen firing in concert with automatic weapons in a 2-3 second burst. (Far too efficient to be locals.) Fortunately this plan has backfired and Hamas and Fateh continue as before. In unity. ( Palestinians may feud occasionally but they generally stay together for the big events. ) On the same night Israeli Offensive Forces raided 2 houses, In one they threw an incendiary Grenade in to the living room as a leaving present after turning the house upside down ands destroying furniture, In another they just turned the house upside down and arrested a man not connected with any fighters brigade. Meanwhile in Nablus Israeli Occupiers destroyed several shops and arrested another innocent man. If anyone is thinking of coming out here soon I suspect the run up to the Elections would be a good time foe Human rights observers. Simon
4. Report on Beit Ula and Passing References
I had not planned on sending another update, but it has been an eventfullast few days. I fly out in about 12 hours.
I left off my last e-mail with us being called at 8:40 pm due to military in Nablus. We responded to find 6 Israeli vehicles leaving another refugee camp near the city. We found the next morning that a 14 year old boy was shot, but he is alive.
Tuesday night was even worse. Israeli soldiers came into Balata camp at night, assassinated a local political leader then fire-bombed another house. They also demolished buildings in Nablus.
Today we participated in a demonstration outside the village of Beit Ula, near Hebron. Many Palestinians, young and old, Israeli citizens who do not agree with their government's policies toward Palestinians, as well as many internationals gathered. The protest was to oppose the construction of another section of the Wall that runs right through the land of local farmers. There were several arrests, including an International from Ireland, an Israeli, and Palestinians. I tried to make myself useful by shadowing Palestinians who were being pushed and grabbed by soldiers, getting between them when possible. I must say that it's tough to stomach being shoved by an 18 or 19 year old soldier who is doing his required service, with a weapon almost as tall as he is. At one point I talked to a 20 year old soldier and told him that if he were my son I would take away his car, stick him in his room for a year and be very ashamed of him. He thought that was funny. John and Simon were hand-cuffed, dragged, then released after protecting a Palestinian man from Israeli soldiers.
The other day when leaving Nablus we were met by Adrienne Arsenault from CBC at the Huwwara checkpoint. She said that she was there to document the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and said that she'd be at the protest today. There were many media folks there today, but not CBC.
At the Huwwara checkpoint a soldier asked how we got into Nablus region as it is a forbidden zone, then he joked that he would give John $ 5,000 for his US passport, but didn't care about Canada. I told him that I wasn't surprised that he would say that, as the Israeli army exists because of US funding. The trip from Nablus to Jerusalem should take 20-30 minutes by car, but because of checkpoints it took 3 hours. I can't imagine dealing with this daily.
I bought a black sweater the other day. I think it fits the state of affairs here. Life and death are so vibrant here, celebrated and sacred. Whether talking with a resistance leader, a shopkeeper, a youth worker, the response is universal. "We want peace. We don't want to be occupied anymore than Iraqis do. Why can't Israel respect international law and leave us our land?"
Lots of goodbyes the last couple days, of course some tears (and teargas) at times, many colorful impressions over the past few weeks, and a few stereotypes shattered.
I can see what inspired Rachel Corrie and others to give their lives to this struggle. It's so clear it's almost blinding. See you all soon.
5. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Israeli Army Demolishes Homes and Damages a Kindergarten in Deheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine
MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Organization
Contact: Yifat Susskind, Associate Director (212) 627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org
Israeli Army Demolishes Homes and Damages a Kindergarten in Deheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine
December 1, 2004 - New York. On Tuesday, November 30, the Israeli military demolished the homes of two Palestinian families living in Deheisheh Refugee Camp. The demolished apartments were located in a building shared by the kindergarten of MADRE's partner organization, the Ibdaa Cultural Center. The entire building was rendered structurally unsound by the explosions; Ibdaa's kindergarten was badly damaged.
The Hamash family homes were destroyed as retribution for violence allegedly committed by Mahmud and Mahammad Hamash, who are in Israeli custody. Yet, neither the Hamash children, who have now been made refugees for the second time, nor the Ibdaa kindergarteners are responsible for these alleged crimes. Indeed, international law defines house demolition as a form of collective punishment and a war crime, stating that "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed" (Article 33, Fourth Geneva Convention).
Ibdaa co-founder Ziad Abbas witnessed the demolition. He said, "At a quarter to four this morning at least 12 Israeli army jeeps invaded Deheisheh Camp and surrounded the Hamash families' two flats, in the same building as Ibdaa's kindergarten. The army ordered the families outside into the damp and cold early morning air. They were given 30 minutes to remove their life's meager possessions. After the explosions, children's books and paintings from the Ibdaa kindergarten mixed with the rubble in the streets."
MADRE, an international women's human rights organization, forcefully condemns the illegal, immoral practices of Israel's occupation. Every day, Deheisheh's youngest children face a combined assault of Israeli army violence and grinding poverty. They have been shelled and shot at, their houses invaded by soldiers in the middle of the night. Their most basic rights to food, clean water and health care have been violated by soldiers enforcing closures and curfews. Yet, until today, the children of Deheisheh had a sanctuary at the Ibdaa kindergarten. Inside its bright walls, they played and sang, learned and laughed. Ibdaa's commitment to safeguarding the childhood of Deheisheh's youngest generation is not shaken by the brutality of Israel's occupation policies. MADRE rededicates itself to working with Ibdaa to strengthen its programs for Deheisheh's children and families.
MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that works in partnership with women's community-based groups in conflict areas worldwide. Our programs address issues of armed conflict and forced displacement; women's health and reproductive rights; economic justice and community development; Indigenous Peoples' rights and resources, food security and sustainable development; human rights advocacy; youth; and US foreign policy. MADRE provides resources and training to enable our sister organizations to meet immediate needs in their communities and develop long-term solutions to the crises they face. Since we began in 1983, MADRE has delivered over 21 million dollars worth of support to community-based women's groups in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and the United States.