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Basketball against Apartheid

1. Israel is failing the moral test by Pat O'Connor
2 Basketball against Apartheid by ISM Spain
3. Settlers Chase Palestinian Shepherds from Their Fields by Operation Dove
4. War of Attrition in the West Bank by Renee Bowyer, International Women's Peace Service (IWPS)

Israel is failing the moral test By Pat O'Connor

According to Israeli authorities, one reason for my arrest two weeks ago in Biddu and my denial of entry into Israel in 2003 is that I "organized and participated in illegal demonstrations." Israeli authorities frequently use the term "illegal demonstrations" to describe peaceful protests against Israeli government violations of international law. This twisted reasoning needs to be exposed and rejected. What is legal often does not completely correspond to what is moral. However, when what is moral is described as illegal, there is a major problem.

Why is it "illegal" for hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children to march peacefully to assert their right to their land in the face of Israeli soldiers, who are defending the construction of a wall that has been declared illegal by the world's highest legal body, the International Court of Justice? Why is it "illegal" for communities to try and implement the ICJ decision by walking together to their farmland to try peacefully to block Israeli contractors from bulldozing their land, from building a wall to cut them off from their land and from imprisoning them in their villages?

Apparently, it is forbidden for Palestinians to use the tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to try to save their land and their communities from destruction. Apparently, Israeli authorities believe that it is legal for Israeli soldiers to club Palestinian men, women and children, to use tear gas on them, shoot rubber bullets and live ammunition at them and arrest them for peacefully protesting. This use of violence against peaceful protesters is "legal" even though the ICJ declared the construction of the wall on Palestinian land illegal. The Israeli government explains the soldiers' violence as "Palestinian clashes with security forces," even though the Israeli military invariably initiates the violence and young Palestinian men only occasionally respond with rocks.

According to this perspective, Israelis and internationals like me who support Palestinians in peaceful protest for legitimate rights, are acting illegally. Therefore, we must be stopped, arrested and deported at all costs. The International Solidarity Movement documents that 68 international activists have been deported, and more than 100 have been denied entry to the country, many for protesting the wall. For this reason I have been held at Ma'asiyahu Prison for more than two weeks and am awaiting deportation. I was arrested leaving the village of Biddu after planting olive tree seedlings with Palestinians, Israelis and internationals along the path that is being bulldozed for the construction of the wall through Biddu's olive groves. Nonetheless, I am proud to have nonviolently protested against the wall in Jayyous, Tul Karm, Al- Zawiya, Budrus and Biddu.

In reality nonviolent protest has been declared illegal because it is threatening for Palestinian civilians to face Israeli soldiers with a stark and public moral choice - to allow protest for legitimate rights or to crush it with military force. Unfortunately, the Israeli military and government have repeatedly failed that moral test.

Hundreds of peaceful protests against the wall have been met by Israeli military force; six protesters have been killed. Thousands have been wounded - some seriously, including Israelis Gil Na'amati and Itai Levinsky. Hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli and international protesters have been arrested, including Palestinian protest leaders Ayed Morar, Naim Morar and Ahmed Awad of Budrus, and Mohammed Mansur of Biddu.

Foreigners and Israelis continually lecture Palestinians that they must use nonviolent means to gain their freedom from Israeli's military occupation. However, these same people have done nothing to oppose the criminalization of these nonviolent means. These people now have a responsibility to demand that Israel respect peaceful protests. The Israeli government's criminalization of legitimate protest suggests that its goal is not simply to stop terrorism, but is rather to crush all forms of Palestinian resistance. The Israeli government seems to be seeking submission, surrender and the abandonment of Palestinian rights. Thus the Israeli government puts itself in the category of repressive regimes throughout history that have attempted unsuccessfully to stop legitimate protest.

Israelis should carefully consider if they can accept laws that contradict morality, and if they endorse their government's efforts to criminalize nonviolent protest against the wall.

Pat O'Connor is an Irish American volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. He managed humanitarian aid programs for 11 years in Africa and the Middle East, including three years in the Gaza Strip.


2. Basketball protest against Apartheid by ISM Spain Barcelona, Thursday January 10, 2005 Pro-Palestinian activists in Spain protest Israeli Apartheid at a basketball match between Israel's Macabi Tel Aviv and Barcelona.

The action started by distributing leaflets and small Palestinian flags to the public, displaying several banners and Palestinian flags around the stadium and several people painted the Palestinian flags on their face.

After the break an ISM activist entered the court carrying a Palestinian flag. The 15 seconds that it took the secret service to remove the activist outside was enough time for the public to see the flag and to show their support.

The match was broadcast live on television.

The activist carrying the flag was detained by the police, and then released.

Police also confiscated a banner which called for an end to Israeli apartheid forcing the people holding the banner to leave the stadium and detained by another activist for distributing Palestinian flags.

The ISM action was joined by several Palestinian solidarity groups and other individuals who support the Palestinian struggle. Israel will have several sporting events in Europe in the coming months.

ISM Spain calls on all activist and solidarity groups to organise anti-occupation actions such as those that opposed the anti- apartheid movement during the apartheid years in South Africa.

During the current peace negotiations, Israel continues its policies against the Palestinian people such as the construction of the apartheid wall and the siege of Palestinian cities.

We urge the international community to demand that Israel dismantle its apartheid system and put an end to the Israeli military occupation in Palestine.


3. Settlers Chase Palestinian Shepherds from Their Fields by Operation Dove

February 14, 2005

Yesterday afternoon three settlers of Maon settlement in the West Bank verbally assaulted and threatened Palestinian shepherds from the nearby villages south of Hebron.

One of the shepherds reported that he was beaten by a settler. Another Shepherd told us he was threatened. "I know who you are and where you live and if I see you here again I will come to your home and kill you."

Italian volunteers of Operation Dove, a project of an Italian Catholic Association, ran to the scene and tried to speak with the settlers but were accused both of being liars and of helping the Palestinians steal the land that God has given to the Jewish people.

These events occurred on Palestinian property which is not under military restriction.

According to the Oslo Agreements the Israeli government has full control and this area. In the past few days, Palestinian shepherds have been chased and threatened by the settlers of Maon as they grazed sheep on their own property. These Palestinian shepherd have been subject to such violence, including beatings, shootings, and assaults, for many years without the intervention of the Israeli authorities. Consequently, the Palestinian inhabitants of this area have asked for an international presence to reduce the level of violence in the area.

Two weeks ago, two volunteers from Operation Dove, including an American, were also given a death threat by a settler from Maon settlement as they accompanied shepherds in their fields.

In October 2004, an Italian volunteer of Operation Dove was beaten by settlers of Maon while he accompanied children as they walked to school. In September 2004, two American volunteers of the Christian Peacemaker Teams were beaten and hospitalized by settlers from Maon as they accompanied children who were walking to school.

Operation Dove – Nonviolent Peace Corps of the Association of Pope John XXIII Community Italian office: ****************

4. War Of Attrition in the West Bank by Sarah IWPS International Women's Peace Service: 11 February 2005

At the end of last year a young man from an agricultural village in the West Bank was issued an order to appear before the Shabak for an unspecified reason. He did not go.

In the first month of 2005 the youth was passing through a check point and was arrested. We were in the village on the day that he was arrested and spoke to some of his friends. They were not surprised and some spoke as if this was to be expected, and yet we knew how upset they actually were. They all went to visit his family in the evening and on walking in discovered that he had returned.

Their joy however was unmistakably mixed with fear and the knowledge that this was not the end of the Shabak's involvement with this family. The youth had been beaten in the back of the jeep and had spent two hours in the police station before being released. He had walked for an hour towards his village before managing to hitch a ride the rest of the way.

He had been issued with a further order to appear before the Shabak the following week. He was determined not to go but was also aware that if he did not go there was the possibility that the army would come to his village and invade his family's home, terrorizing his younger sisters and brothers and his mother.

We had the opportunity to speak with this young man about his experience and the very real threat many villagers face in his situation of being forced into compliance with the Israeli Authority. I had not realized before how powerful a weapon this sort of tactic would be and although we knew how delicate the conversation would have to be, felt that this young man would be willing to share his thoughts on his position. "This is true for some people," he said, "But for those who are weak.

Not weak on the outside; perhaps they are very strong and can fight and throw stones a long way, but I mean weak on the inside. I am not weak."

The bus interrupted our first conversation with him on this subject but he came back to us the following day and said: "Yesterday you asked me a question, but I want you to understand that a man who falls before the Shabak sells his country." And I could see how hateful this thought was to him.

The following week this youth visited us on the day he was to go to the Shabak. He was very quiet and I could only imagine how afraid he actually must have been. All day his friends awaited his return and I saw his mother carrying her ten-month old baby around as she stoically continued her daily chores. Many of the village mothers greeted her and I thought how each one of them must be suffering with her, how each one of them must daily fear that their sons will be picked up like hers was, and will suddenly have his name on some secret list that until the Occupation is over will make living an ordinary life impossible. I thought how many of them actually had sons serving ridiculous sentences in some prison that they could not visit and I found myself in a terrible state of tension throughout the day.

In the late afternoon the young man returned and walked into the room where we and his friends were passing the time playing cards. There was such a feeling of relief as we saw him enter and heard him quietly greeting everyone and then he announced to us that he must return to the Shabak next week for another interview. Then I realized how endless this process would be. We could be relieved that he had returned this day, and maybe again next week and the week after that, but this was nothing, his family would be facing the same threat for the next month and the following month, and for years to come.

Perhaps a time would come when he would refuse to play the Shabak's game any longer and to retain his own sense of dignity would not go to their office. Then what would happen? He would become a `wanted Man' and the army could justify an invasion of his home and the arrest of him.

How often do we read the words: `army invades a village in the West Bank and conducts military searchers of houses known to shelter men wanted by the Israeli Authority'? "Army Invades" means the terrorizing of a whole village and the shooting with rubber bullets and with live ammunition of women and children (and Internationals) sheltering on the rooftops. "Conducts Military Searches" means entering a family home and ransacking it, putting bullets through every wall and window and braking every dish and glass in the house.

And what does "Looking for Wanted Men" mean? How many of these men were made to be "wanted" because they could not play the Israeli game? How many of these were "wanted" because they had no other way to resist the occupation than by staying true to their Falastiin?

Two days after the youth came back to his home we received news from a woman that we knew in the village that her brother was taken in the middle of the night. He was one of these wanted men. He had been `sold-out' by a village collaborator and now his fight to free his Falastiin was over. I had met him twice in the past and while it is not appropriate to write much about him I was both times struck by his composure and dignity although he was once covered in mud and both times had spent nights on the run. One of his brothers had been killed, the other at 16 years bore terrible scars from shooting, one sister was blinded by a bullet of the army. Was it a wonder that this young man had taken arms to fight an army that had so tortured him?

And now as I write I know that he has spent the first 24 hrs of his imprisonment in some unidentified jail and that he is wondering as I am which of his own country men could have done this to him. Had they been hreatened as our first young man had been and had they failed to resist the pressure of so massive a force as the Israeli Authority is? Or what other pressures and thoughts tormented them and motivated them to turn upon their own people?

These questions have been haunting me for the past days, and last night with the thought of this mans imprisonment, I could not sleep at all. Is collaboration within the Palestinian Society so strong that it will in the end undermine the whole process of resistance or is it, by its very nature, a force that in the end will fail?

At the moment I can not answer this question, as I hear the world proclaiming the Truce and the Handshake I think of the issues that are so vital to the Palestinian people and that are not being addressed. Of the thousands of prisoners that are being held and interrogated and punished for crimes that they have not committed, of the thousands of young men made to visit the Shabak week after week until they are forced to comply with the Israeli Authority or are made into `wanted men' and so will have to live out their years on the run or in prison, of the women and men who `disappear' and leave their friends and relatives despondent of ever seeing them again, and of course the building of the accursed Wall that will make traveling in the West Bank worse than it already is and will economically devastate an already too poor country.

Are these really the ingredients of a viable peace? Or even of a truce that will give the people a time to assess their position in all this? Do the Palestinians have one moment to think when they are faced with checkpoint harassments and roadblocks and arrests and invasions every single day?

On Wednesday we heard immediately of Hamas launching rocket attacks in Gaza, and yet it was a Palestinian youth who died, killed by the Israeli Army, before any attacks were launched by Hamas. And we all knew this would happen, and we all accept it when it does. What else can we do? The young man from the beginning of this article will return to the Shabak next week and the week after and one day he will just not return to his home or maybe they will forget about him. The man arrested 24 hours ago will be tried in some closed military court and no one will know what happens to him and his family will be left to mourn the loss of yet another one of its members, and the Worlds Eye will be focused elsewhere: On big meetings and major catastrophes, on economic politics and sporting events, and it will continue to ignore the small and personal tragedies that combine to make this struggle in Falastiin so heart-braking and so immense.


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