ISM Update On Palestine
1. Bil'in Protest against the Wall - Two Internationals Arrested 2. Hope for the future by Kim 3. Palestinian stories by Mary 4. Fida from Rafah by L 5. Qawawis log book entries 26 March 2005 – present 6. Another Settler Attack in Yanoun by Hanna and Anna from IWPS
1. Bil'in Protest against the Wall - Two Internationals Arrested 15 April 2005
After Friday prayers at 1:30pm, approximately 150 villagers of Bil'in together with 21 internationals and 10 Israeli activists marched towards the construction site of the Annexation Wall to protest its construction.
Before reaching the site, 8 soldiers stopped the march and declared that the site was a closed military zone. Palestinian, Israeli and internationals requested to reach the land that will be annexed by the Wall, but were denied access and ordered back to the village border. Israeli soldiers started firing tear gas canisters into the village, with Palestinians responding with stone throwing. At the same time two more jeeps from the Israeli army had entered from the western side of the village from the neighboring village of Saffa. The protest split into two groups to assist villagers where needed.
At 2:20pm the Israeli Army started using rubber coated steel bullets. At the edge of the village close to the construction site, two internationals were arrested after not complying with the Israeli Army's orders to leave the area, arguing that the village was not part of the closed military zone. Other internationals present tried several times to secure their release, but failed.
At 2:45pm, the protest regrouped for another attempt at marching to the construction site, but was met with volleys of tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and sound bombs. Confrontations continued, with the Israeli Army entering the village several times, until they left at 3:30pm.
One Palestinian broke his arm after a sound bomb exploded next to him, and another was shot in the leg by a rubber coated steel bullet.
Fearing Israeli Army incursions and at Palestinians request, international activists stayed in the village overnight.
The two foreign nationals that were arrested are Lasse Shmidt, a Danish English teacher at the Arab American University in Jenin (AAUJ), and Soren Johansson from Sweden.
According to Suzanne Belleci, Lasse's wife and fellow AAUJ faculty member, "Lasse runs a nonviolent club at the Arab American University in Jenin where he is showing a film series about nonviolence around the world. He is the last person that anyone should be afraid of."
Shmidt and Johansson spent the night in police custody in the Binyamin police station in the Israeli settlement of Beit El. They were brought in front of a judge tonight (Saturday) and released on bond. They will be summoned to a hearing with the ministry of Interior in the next three days to determine if they will be deported.
2. Hope for the future by Kim 14/04/05 In one of those strange coincidences that I've learned not to question, I found myself lying on my mat half asleep last night recalling, of all things, the scene from Fiddler on the Roof that depicts a joyous village wedding interrupted by a cruel pogrom that brings a beautiful evening to a terrible close.
We had just spent an unforgettable evening feasting and celebrating with friends from the village, Israeli activists, and many internationals. What a party under the clear, cool Palestinian sky! Communal plates heaping with hummous, red cabbage, sundry salads, and grilled chicken. Laughter, stories, serious talk. After dinner puffs off hookahs and arabic coffee. A sweet plate of smoking perfume circulated among the guests. At many points in the evening, I found myself saying, "This is what our world needs to look like. Here is the hope of the future."
Among the attendees was Jonathan, the young Israeli activist who was seriously injured a couple of weeks ago when a tear gas canister thrown by an Israeli soldier slammed into his head, causing in an internal hemmorage that resulted in his hospitilisation. After dinner, the men from the village who were hosting the party quieted everyone down in order to present Jonathan with a special award for his solidarity work against occupation and the wall. The inscription on the award was read aloud in Arabic, Hebrew, and English.
This was a night I will never forget. By 11:30 or so the evening was winding down and the women staying here decided to call it a night.
I was half asleep and thinking, as I said, about a scene from a long- forgotten film, when several men came into the house to tell us that the army had come into the village and to get dressed and join the others outside.
Earlier that day, the village held its weekly Wednesday demonstration at the site of the wall's construction. The focus of the demo yesterday was the Caterpillar bulldozer used here to put up walls and tear down homes. The village had decided to unite its voice with others around the globe on this international day of protest against the U.S. produced, and U.S. tax funded Caterpillar corporation that stands of a symbol of the occupation. Yesterday's protest was fairly quiet. Signs reading "Stop Caterkillar," "Caterpillar is Catastrophic," and "Peace Means Bridges, Not Walls" along with many other slogans were carried and rocks at the site were spray painted with the colors of the Palestinian flag. One of the Israeli activists was arrested, but all in all, the demonstration went smoothly.
If I have learned nothing else in the small village of Bi'lin, however, I have learned that when Palestinians protest they will inevitably pay a price. With the exception of some rather benign and essentially symbolic stone throwing by the young boys in the village, the demonstrations here are nonviolent and orderly. I am having a hard time coming to grips with the heavy, militarized hand used by the Israeli army against demonstrators who march peacefully. While I have encountered bully cops and harsh police tactics back in the States during protest actions, I have never encountered anything like this. The message here is clear: If you are a Palestinian who dares to lift your voice against the theft of your land, the destruction of your home, orchards, and livelihood, the assault on your rights under both moral and international law, you will - without question - pay dearly. If you dare to celebrate, to feast, to party in the face of this occupation, you will be put in your place.
Last night's visit by the soldiers was simply an assertion of power - a reminder that when the demonstration is over and the party has ended, the army still wields the club here.
The soldiers arrived at a home on the far side of the rural road on which we are staying. Grabbing flashlights and cell phones, our substantial group of villagers, internationals and Israeli anarchists walked quickly down the dark road to confront the soldiers who were outside the home. Surprised by our number as well as our rapid response, they angrily retreated in their jeeps within minutes, a temporary victory for the village.
Fearing that they would return later in the evening, however, the family asked for a small group of internationals to spend the night in the family home in order to thwart potential aggression and, perhaps, even discourage any returning soldiers from entering. The soldiers were not looking to arrest anyone in particular; their modus operandi, as the family explained later, is to single out a home and in the middle of the night appear to terrorize the inhabitants in retribution simply for being Palestinian and vocal. In other cases, soldiers come in the night to arrest young boys spotted throwing stones during demonstrations. Finally, the five women from Michigan Peace Team along with an Israeli filmmaker volunteered to stay with the family.
It was undeniably tense as we sat outside until about 2 A.M. drinking coffee and talking with the family, a warm, affectionate family that consists of mother, father, and ten children.
Our filmmaker film took advantage of this quiet time to tape the story of one of the sons in the family whom we had met several times before wheeling around the village in his khafiya-draped wheelchair. R. was a university student studying engineering when he was shot in the chest by an Israeli soldier in Ramallah on the day that Ariel Sharon entered the Harim al-Sharif, the provocative action that started the second intifada. As R. showed us the incision that runs from his neck to his stomach, the hollow indentation in his back from the bullet, and pictures taken at the scene where he was believed dead, we saw again the effects of this terrible occupation.
Finally we settled in for a restless night of sleep punctuated by barking dogs and tossing and turning as we awaited the pound on the door by soldiers. Finally, the morning dawned. The soldiers had not returned - at least for one night. This awful waiting for soldiers to kick in the door at night is one example of the real terrorism visited upon the people of Bi'lin and Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories.
As morning broke, we were invited to the shed outside the home where bread and Arab cakes are baked in an underground stone oven in a matter of minutes. For a couple of hours, we sipped tea and dipped this delicious bread in olive oil produced from the family's orchard which will be, to a great extent, lost to the wall. With the Israeli filmmaker serving as a translator, we had a good discussion on politics, family, and farming.
The soldiers did not come last night, but they will assuredly return to harass and intimidate the hospitable people of this village who just want to be left in peace with their property intact. People who welcome internationals, including Americans who pay for this occupation, and - yes - Israelis into their homes with open arms.
As we talked with the family, we could hear the incessent rat-a-tat of machinery in the close distance preparing to clear the way for the wall.
Much Peace, Kim
Bi'lin Pop: Approx. 1,800 Primary source of income: agriculture 4,500 dunams land; the wall will appropriate 2,000 of these dunams (43%) Because of wall construction: Garbage collection site had to be moved. 2 wells will be taken from the village. Construction will probably result in cracking of existing well.
************** 3. Palestinian stories by Mary 4/12/05 -
It's early evening in Ramallah, and M & I are sitting on the tiny balcony of the apartment building the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). He lights up a cigarette from his pack of Marlboros and smiles as he tells me in his think accent that he has cut down to only a pack of cigarettes a day. Nearly all the men I've met in Palestine smoke heavily and I wonder at how fervently this universal habit from calming nerves has taken hold here. Ahmed draws deeply on his cigarette, and as he slowly pushes the smoke back out of his lungs he comments on the beauty of the evening: he is looking skyward as fingers of sunlight pull themselves away from the last of the day. "I used to enjoy hunting on a day like this - - deer & small birds", he muses. It was good to be outside, and if we maintained our gaze skyward, it felt peaceful and relaxing. Eventually, though, my eyes are drawn downward to the narrow street below. Two old men argue in front of their shops - - neither leaves his post, but gesture wildly as they speak, and eventually it becomes clear to me that they're not really battling with each other, but a common unseen aggressor. Ahmed turns to me - perhaps in response to the discussion below held in a language that he (but not I) understands - and says "Everyone in Palestine has their stories. You cannot live here and not have your stories. And some of them are funny stories. Those are the ones that keep us alive. My brother was being held by the soldiers, eh....They had him on the ground like this" (and he demonstrates handcuffed hands and ankles tied together from behind) "and they were kicking him and yelling at him and he did not know what he had done, but they had kept him like that for three days with no food, and the water they poured over him, and he was losing a lot of strength. And then they threw another prisoner into the cell with him, and because he was tied up like my brother, they could not see each other. My brother said to the man "Who is my new neighbor?", so the soldier him with a baton for speaking. But the new prisoner recognized my brother's voice and whispered, "Someone who has news for you! - - Your wife has had your baby. It came yesterday." And my brother was filled with joy and began to move as best he could, struggling all around, and the soldiers beat him and ask "What are you doing?" My brother said, "I am dancing, for there is a new life, a life that will take my place." "You see", M confides to me, "They can never win as long as there is one of us alive. And as long as one of us lives, we know that there is hope for us - -that someday we will again be free". He finishes his cigarette and retreats into the darkness of the apartment just as a neighbor child climbs out onto her own nearby balcony. She is beautiful and fearless, a radiant smiling face wreated in dark curls. She silently plays peek-a-boo with me for awhile, pleased that I understand the game without our having to exchange a word. She pulls herself up onto the railing to get a closer look at me - so very obviously a foreigner - and I warn her to be careful even though I'm aware she knows no English, and when she steps back down from the rail I gratefully breathe one of the few Arabic words I've learned: "Shukran" - "Thank you". She giggles and then scampers into her own apartment at the sound of what could only be her mother's beckoning voice. For a short while, this little street in Ramallah is quiet, save the sounds of birds on the wire and the background clatter of an evening meal being prepared. Then, as the sun sets, the melodic call to prayer reverberates through the street. A lone voice crys out to the people of Ramallah to remember their God who loves them, and will lift them up from their struggles. And I remember that the God of Mohammad is also the God of Abraham and Moses, and wonder at the absurdity of the political system that would try to divide a family, separate one child from another, and expect to be successful, or revered, or even tolerated. Mary
4. Fida from Rafah by L I have been staying in Rafah (in the Gaza strip) for the last couple of days with this amazing young woman named Fida and her family. Their home was demolished last year by the israeli military. Since the demolition her family has been homeless having to move from place to place every few months from relative to relative's house until they are asked to move on. Their family of 6 is all sleeping now in one room in part of the house of friends. Their dad has not been able to live with them because there's not enough room and so he's been living in a shelter of some kind. Now, however, he is in egypt getting some medical treatment for his heart. Fida says he has not been well since the house was destroyed. Yesterday she took me to the pile of rubble that is its ruins. The israeli army came without warning and told them to get out. She was in the shower. They announced they would destroy a whole series of houses in that neighborhood which were along the path of a barrier wall they were building on the border with the egyptian part of rafah. This border was created in 1948 cutting the town in two, splitting many families in half, including fida's who's uncle still lives on the other side. When the army announced they all had to get out of their homes in an hour, she tried to organize the women of the neighborhood to put themselves between the bulldozers and the houses, in order to give people more time to remove their possessions. I have her story in her own words on video, so that will convey all the details. But suffice it to say, with incredible courage, she manged in this way to negotiate with the soldiers - without words - and to buy a little more time for her family and neighbors to save a few of their things. the israeli soldiers in rafah, and gaza in general, do not show their faces directly to the palestinians here. They stay in their tanks and bulldozers and towers and they "negotiate" by firing or not firing shots, by rolling forward or veering off. in this case, they moved the vehicles in such a way as to indicate the people were being granted a bit more time. they got 3 hours. still, fida only left with her ID and the clothes on her back because of her trying top help the whole neighborhood. She didn't even see her own house go down. The only thing that looks recognizable about it now is a fridge on the edge of a mound of rubble. Like the rest of the neighbors, they were never told why their house was demolished. They just lost everything, their land, their home, and everything they couldn't carry - like fida's computer. now they wait for the PA to build them a new house on land that they will be given. They have a sure hope that this will happen one day. in the meantime, they live out of a few crates and bags, sleeping on mats on the floor. The only piece of furniture that I can see is a small table they move around and use for everything - homework, meals, etc. When someone needs to pray (they are quite observant and do so 5 times a day) they just do it in the middle of their one room while life goes on around them. They are so generous with the little they have, I am totally humbled. They work so hard to survive. To make a few shekels. Fida goes to university, works in an internet cafe, as a photographer, and as a video camera woman - so we have something in common. She does weddings and birthdays (awful work - which i have done before) and she also did some work on "the killing zone" which some of you may have seen. Anyway, things are mostly quiet here now since the so called cease-fire. Even so, last night as we slept, we heard a big explosion. No idea what it was. but it wasn't very near so we just kept sleeping. But then every hour there was another - I counted 7 in all. Fida says thats just normal. Just harassment. Nothing happened, they just don't want to let people sleep. Anyway, gotta go now. I am truly lucky to be here in a "peaceful time" . Sadly, Fida and everyone else here do not get to leave tomorrow.
5. Qawawis log book entries 26 March 2005 – present
26 March (all times approximate) 2pm - 4 settlers approached Qawawis from the west. One was armed. They skirted the village and stopped under the trees to the south, close to the road leading to the settlement.
2:40pm - 11 more settlers approached from the west. One ISMer approached them and talked to them while others called the police. The settler who spoke to ISM said he was Ezra from Sioux City Iowa. The settlers walked throughout the village. ISM asked them to leave and they refused.
2:50pm - the police arrived and asked the settlers to leave and after 15 minutes they did. At 3:15 and 3:55pm the army came and went.
At 4:30pm the DCO and settlers security arrived with more soldiers. They told the villagers to take down a tent they had just set up next to the house. 15 minutes later Ezra from Taayush arrives with 3 photographers and the DCO and settlers flee. Soon after, the army leaves. 27 March
3 settlers wearing masks brought their sheep from Susya to graze on Qawawis land at 10:30am.
Another settler rode into the village on a donkey. Police arrive and the settlers leave after an argument.
At 4:30pm another settler comes with another herd of sheep but grazed them on the land south of the road to the outpost. 1st April Settler with square glasses and long black beard stopped his white Nissan hatchback 8th April
A blonde, very overweight settler with curly hair, middle aged told the villagers to get their sheep away from the road. A woman with him shouted "why don't you all go to hell". The army came and read the paper with the court decision in Hebrew and left. 9th April Some settler tourists asked to be shown around the village because they said they visited the area two years ago. Both were armed with automatic pistols. After 30 minutes of having the current legal situation explained to them they left. 10th April The settler who called himself Ezra from Iowa arrived with 2 people, one of whom had been present on 24th March, and they filmed Palestinians and Internationals with a video camera. They told the shepherds to move away from the road and the internationals that they were breaking the conditions of their tourist visas. One settler threatened to take the ISM to the police. The settler kept asking which group the internationals were from but we did not tell them. 11th April In the afternoon, the same blond, fat, curly haired settler arrived with a woman and got out of his car and chased sheep away from the road, shouting at the Palestinian shepherd. His car is a metallic light blue van, registration 5358419. He left the woman somewhere and came back, shouting "you dogs". About 15 minutes later a white hatchback with 4 men dressed as soldiers arrived and forced the Palestinians and sheep to retreat about 150m away from the road. They refused to give the name of their commanding officer and did not like being photographed. The Palestinians thought they were not real soldiers but settler security. 13th April 4 soldiers arrived in the afternoon and refused to listen about the high court order that they should protect the Palestinians while they graze on their land. They pushed the Palestinians again about 200m away from the road. After 15 minutes they came back and then they demanded the ID of 2 Palestinians and asked them why they had come from Yatta to graze the sheep, and the Palstenians told them it was their land. They refused to look at the high court order in Hebrew even though a shepherd showed it to them. 14th April The blonde settler drove past and shouted at the Palestinians 'go back home' and made threatening gestures, slowing down his car but not getting out.
6. Another Settler Attack in Yanoun by Hanna and Anna from IWPS April 12, 2005
On March 20, 2005, two Palestinians farming at opposite sides of Yanoun village were attacked by settlers from the Itamar outposts that surround and repeatedly threaten the tiny village. On the day of the incident, several Israelis from Rabbis for Human Rights were on their way to accompany the farmers, but arrived just too late.
Amar, a farmer from Aqraba, was reportedly plowing his land in upper Yanoun with several villagers when four settlers drove up in a car, got out, and attacked him. He was hit in the head with the butt of one settler’s gun. The four attackers then proceeded to lay Amar down and walk up and down his body before leaving.
Shortly after, Khader, a villager plowing his land in lower Yanoun, was approached by the same group of settlers, one of whom punched him in the nose.
Both victims were taken to a hospital in Ariel
by the local DCO after soldiers arrived and called the
police. Amar has since recovered from his injuries, but
Khader is still in serious need of treatment.