ISM Update: American Activist Sentenced
A) In Catch 22 Ruling, Israeli Judge Silences Jewish American Activist B) Ibda'a is the Intifada C) Israeli Military Fails to Intimidate Izbit Al Tabib D) Nablus After the Elections
A) In Catch 22 Ruling, Israeli Judge Silences Jewish American Activist
January 16, 2005
An Israeli judge today refused to hear US Jewish lesbian activist Kate Raphael Bender's appeal of her deportation. Judge Tal said he could not hear Raphael Bender's case because her visa was no longer valid. Her visa expired yesterday, after five weeks in detention. Nonetheless, in a minor procedural victory, the judge ruled that Raphael Bender's appeal of her deportation would remain undecided, allowing her the possibility to return at a later time and reopen the appeal.
Commenting on the ruling, Raphael Bender said, "To lock up a non- violent human rights activist until the day her visa has expired, deny her request to move the hearing so she would have time left on her visa, and then say she has no right to appeal because her visa has lapsed is conduct we would expect from a totalitarian regime, not a country which wants to be called a democracy. In violation of international law, Israeli courts have also sanctioned the construction of Israeli settlements and the segregation wall on Palestinian land, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the killing of Palestinian civilians and the detention without charge of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners. The judge's decision was a clear effort to silence dissent and avoid hearing arguments against the wall and Israel's violations of international law."
Raphael Bender was arrested at a peaceful protest against Israel's segregation wall on December 14 in the West Bank village of Bil'in. She was videotaping the beating of a Palestinian protester by Israeli border police when she was arrested. Her three month tourist visa expired yesterday, January 15 2005. She had petitioned the court to have her hearing held on or before January 9, prior to the expiration of her visa.
40 Israeli and international activists filled the court in support of Raphael Bender. After the hearing, Raphael Bender was forcibly removed from the court by Israeli police as her supporters attempted to say goodbye. She expects to be deported in the coming days.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Kate Raphael Bender: 972 (0)54-7870-198 International Women's Peace Service: 972 (0)9-2516-644 Mobile: 972(0) 54 694 0602/(0)54 691 6841 ISM Media: 972 (0)59-676-782 or 972(0)54-6253451
B) Ibdaa is the Intifada By Aaron January 12th, 2005 – Dheisheh refugee camp, Bethlehem
If I had my head pressed hard under a gun, shivering, and praying for my life, what would I do? Where could I find hope? Could I find strength?
I think I would give in. And I would think that giving in would be the only human reaction. But today in Bethlehem, I was proven wrong. Today in Bethlehem, I was inspired by people under that gun. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the Ibdaa cultural center, which sits just on the edge of the Dheisheh refugee camp. But you wouldn't notice it was a camp right away. Like many things under the occupation, the signs are somewhat subtle. I want to write about Ibdaa because I feel compelled to. I feel that the world needs to know about the existence of this place. The residents of the camp certainly need this place acknowledged. The kids who are serving as our guides for the afternoon tell us that a few years ago, the children and residents of the camp were skeptical and cold to Westerners coming into the camp with cameras and recorders, but after years of the Intifada and desperation, they see it as beneficial and necessary for the eyes of the world to be here. But back to Ibdaa. We enter the building, and my friend Izzy and I are immediately taken aback by the powerful murals in the stairwell depicting the Palestinian culture and resistance to the occupation. As is the custom here, we are warmly received in the tea room by Ziad Abbas, the co-director of the center. Even though he is clearly a busy man, he makes time for us, and we hadn't even set up an appointment. We sit down over tea with Ziad, and he starts explaining the center, listing off all of Ibdaa's activities. A health clinic, radio station, TV station, dance troupe, basketball teams, leadership groups, arts workshops – he goes on for minutes, barely stopping for air. We can't believe this place! Aren't people in refugee camps under occupation supposed to be living in misery and sadness? This place is truly a beacon of light.
Ziad calls two teenage boys over to our table. They are both involved in the leadership program at Ibdaa. Nor, one of the boys, will be our guide through the camp. He tells us he's been living here his whole life and that his father was shot dead by the Israeli army at a checkpoint outside the city. We ask him if the tour will cost money, and he looks at us as if we're crazy. This boy has lived through so much, yet his humility is overwhelming. At times wandering through the camp with them, I almost feel like I'm in old Jerusalem with its winding and narrow streets, and strange plant growth emerging through the concrete. But this place is no Jerusalem, and it is far away from tourist eyes. All of the sudden, it really hits me that we're in a refugee camp. Rubble and crooked steel beams are everywhere. Children no older than four are playing in it. You can feel the density here, and it is no surprise that 12,000 people live in 1km square. Since there is no room for refugees to build out, they build up. Everyone lives on top of each other. You can also see signs of the Intifada everywhere here – from the graffiti that covers every single wall, to the stenciled pictures of the martyrs (and Dheisheh has had many during the Al-Aqsa Intifada), to the buildings bombed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). We learn that one building blown up by the Israeli army this past December/04 was home to the kindergarten program for Ibdaa. It is here that Ahmed, another 17-year old Palestinian on the tour with us, tells me something that will stick with me forever. I ask him what the youth of the camp do to oppose the occupation, expecting an answer like throwing stones or taking up arms. No. Instead, he tells me this: "There are two ways I oppose the occupation here. One is that I study and try to keep learning. The other is through Ibdaa and the activities I do there like the dance troupe. I can't let the occupation ruin my life."
I was stunned silent. The Ibdaa is the Intifada. Later on in the tour, Nor is telling me about some of his family members who have migrated to New York City. He tells me he longs to visit NYC in the near future, see the sights, and be with his family. This seems to be the feeling of the Palestinian youth here. Instead of looking down, they have their heads up, looking ahead. I can't understand how. On the way out of Bethlehem, going through a checkpoint in the dark, something frightening happens. I pass through a metal detector and set it off. The one soldier on duty in the both is startled and points his automatic riffle in my face. Izzy is so scared that it brings her close to tears, and we both quickly get out our passports. The soldier lowers his gun, looks at the passports, sees they're British and Canadian, and apologizes quickly. But Izzy really cracks me up. She takes back her passport and through her gasping and tears says, "Shukran….I-I mean t-toda!" quickly changing her Arabic to Hebrew so that the soldier isn't offended. Only in Palestine.
To view the website of the Ibdaa cultural center, visit; http://www.dheisheh-ibdaa.net/
To view my photos of Dheisheh, visit; http://gallery.cmaq.net/album25
C) Israeli Military Fails to Intimidate Izbit Al Tabib
A West Bank village of 300 residents, Izbit Al-Tabib, was left without water for two days after an Israeli bulldozer damaged water pipes while constructing road blocks there on Friday. Located west of Azzoun in the Qalqilya district, the village of Izbit Al Tabib has never been recognized by the Israeli government, and is regularly subject to a high level of harassment. Demolition orders have been issued for a number of homes in the village, and Israel's Apartheid Wall has cut off important agricultural land.
A contingent of 20 Israeli soldiers, three jeeps and a bulldozer converged without warning on the quiet village around midday Friday. It created three roadblocks - about two and a half metres high – by transferring large boulders, debris, rocks and earth onto the main road leading into the village.
Israeli soldiers gave no explanation as to why the village was targeted.
The road block cut off access from the village to the main highway and nearby Qalqilyia. It also trapped families living in five houses caught between the two main roadblocks and buried the damaged water pipes.
Women and children were forced to climb over the tall mounds in order to get out. Several ill children and a disabled child were not able to go to hospital for treatment because of the blocks.
The large mounds of concrete and debris also made it impossible for locals to repair the water pipes that had been buried deep underneath.
The roadblocks were removed by Israeli soldiers on Sunday after lobbying by the International Solidarity Movement and Israeli human rights groups throughout Saturday.
An army captain later described the decision to build the roadblocks as a `mistake'.
Village councillor, Bayain A-Tabib, said the village had been unfairly targeted.
"They said it was a mistake, but it is clear it was not a mistake," he said.
"They made the block without any reason. There is no problem in our village, but they did this anyway.
"It is just intimidation, but we are living here and we will not leave. This is our village, this is our land."
Mr A-Tabib thanked the international and Israeli organisations for their intervention.
"We might have been waiting a long time without water if not for this help," he said.
D) Nablus After the Elections ISM Nablus
Nablus, Saturday, January 15th 2005
After some quiet days (at night the army regularly shows up) following the elections, military activity is becoming "normal" again. This morning two jeeps destroyed a few market stands at the main entrance of Balata camp and provoked the kids in the street, who responded with stones. The jeeps kept driving into the camp for about two hours and finally left, after the front window of the bigger jeep got hit by white and blue color so as the driver couldn`t see anything anymore.
Some other episodes: an old man from the municipality collecting garbage right in front of one of the jeeps, one jeep driving right into the vegetable shops, making all the bananas fall on the ground. A father coming and grabbing his young son, telling him that he was not supposed to be there and to go home… During these confrontations nobody got injured or killed.
In the afternoon the IOF came back. This time they announced curfew in the area around the UNRWA girls' school, but then went to the other side of the camp near the graveyard. The usual exchanges between soldiers and kids followed. Internationals walked several children and women past the jeep and tried to stand in the line of fire to prevent to occupation forces from shooting. After a while, a young boy got hit by several rubber bullets from close range, medical volunteers, locals and internationals carried him to the ambulance. His injuries were not too serious. No other casualties occurred. Later on, one of the jeeps got hit in the engine by resistance fire, causing the army to withdraw soon after towards Huwaraa army base.