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ISM News 20 April 2005

International Solidarity Movement News 20 April 2005


1. Court Dismissal of Suit - Victory for ISM 2. For the moment we have won 3. Nazlat Issa cut by the wall 4. Parents of Peace Activist Killed by Israeli Bulldozer Target Caterpillar 5. 'Let me fight my monsters' by The Guardian

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1. Court Dismissal of Suit still ISM victory 19 April 2005

Judge Dismisses Suit "Without Prejudice" and Rejects Awarding of Court or Legal Expenses to Right-wing Journalist

The Israeli Bet Shean Magistrate Court was forced to dismiss the libel suit by ISM volunteer Radhika Sainath because Sainath was unable to raise the 25,000 shekel bond (approximately $5,700) needed to continue her libel suit against right-wing Israeli journalist Judy Lash Balint. Nonetheless, the Court's attitude throughout the case was clearly supportive of Sainath's suit, and serves as a warning to journalists who attempt to distort the truth about ISM. "It's a shame that Israeli law demands that non-Israeli plaintiffs post large sums of money just to get a libel case started," said Sainath, who has worked in social justice and human rights movements for the past five years. "That way, only the rich can afford justice." Ms. Sainath spent nearly a year in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), supporting Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the Israeli military occupation.

Ms. Sainath, represented by Attorney Shamai Leibowitz, filed the libel suit over a particularly defamatory article Balint published on her website in November 2003. Following the filing of the suit, Balint removed the article from her website. In a July, 2004 hearing the judge recommended that Balint apologize to Sainath for the article and allow Sainath to post her own article on Balint's website.

Despite the Court's clear sympathy for Sainath's libel suit, on February 24, 2005, Judge Asher Kola ruled, "…[S]ince the bond has not been deposited within the date specified by the court, I have no alternative left than dismissing the suit without prejudice. However, because of the special circumstances of this case [defendant's refusal to compromise], I will not award the defendant any court or legal expenses."While right-wing journalists have attempted to portray the dismissal of Sainath's libel suit on technical grounds as an affirmation of Balint's false accusations, according to Attorney Leibowitz, "The judge's decision represents a victory for the ISM, because the judge denied Balint's request that Sainath pay the enormous court and legal expenses that Balint incurred—a request normally granted when cases are dismissed in favor of the defendant. Unfortunately, the judge was bound by Israeli law to impose the bond, thus making it virtually impossible to continue with the case. " Leibowitz added, "But h

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2. For the moment we have won By Mary 4/13/05

Tonight we are Bil’in, a small village outside of Ramallah. The day began with a gathering of internationals at a vacant apartment, where signs protesting Caterpillar (the tractor maker) are made. Caterpillar, an American-based company, supplies bulldozers to the Israeli government, which then in turn uses them to either tear down the homes of Palestinian families they suspect of being "terrorist sympathizers", or to uproot centuries-old olive groves as they work to build an ugly 3-story tall cement wall that separates not only Israelis from Palestinians, but Palestinians from each other and from their own land. Most of those present today in this simple, unfurnished apartment speak English, but the different accents and inflections used give testimony to a small but important global awareness of what is going on in Palestine. The sun is hot and high in the sky before we gather with townspeople at the mosque to begin the protest march to the Apartheid wall. At first there are smiles , and some posing for the

"Get up! Get up!" It is very late (or is it very early?), and in the pitch blackness the whisper holds urgency. "The soldiers have entered the village". Are they coming to collect the boys they think threw stones? We scramble to get shoes on, grab a flashlight, pull on clothing. A cacophony of voices and accents and languages as this small slice of global concern comes together en masse to confront the Israeli raiders. We gather in the courtyard for a head count, then turn and sprint at a fast walk towards the home that has been targeted. Annette links her arm through mine so I can keep up. "Yalla, Yalla!" "Hurry, hurry!" It is so dark I can barely see the person in front of me, and the ground below me, not at all. The air is thick with the urgency held in that whisper, and my eyes strain to see the intruders through the night veil. Suddenly, we are upon them -- three soldiers make a quick escape to their jeep. They rev the engine loudly, and pretend to charge us - - no one moves. T hrowing the jeep into rev

A discussion ensues in Arabic between the ISM coordinator and some of the townspeople. It is decided that some of the Internationals should sleep at the house that had been targeted this evening, offering a buffer of safety for the family should the soldiers return before daylight. All of women with MPT volunteer, so we return to the ISM apartment to gather cell phones and warm clothing. Tonight, 5 american women sleep on a layer of thin mattresses at the foot of the bed of household's oldest son: paralyzed from the chest down by an Israeli bullet through the neck, the punishment he received for participating in a demonstration against the Occupation. The hospitality offered by this poor family goes beyond description, but the head of the household is realistic: We have protected them, but just for the night. The Occupation is not over, the soldiers will return, more houses will be raided, more children arrested, more lands confiscated, more people will die. We've stopped the onslau ght, but only for a littl

************* 3. Nazlat Issa cut by the wall By David and Abdul Karim.

This morning, in the flattened market place that once housed two hundred stalls in the village of Nazlat Issa near East Baqa’a in Tulkarm district, a dozen soldiers kept one hundred demonstrators away from a section of the wall which has divided the village for nearly two years. Presidential candidate Mustapha Bagouthi was amongst the speakers who vowed to pull this wall down as others had the Berlin wall. Perhaps the wall was more fragile than it appeared. (After all, for contractors to stint on the cement mix is nothing new). At any rate international observers found it curious to see soldiers protecting a wall which is meant to protect Israel. The procession was led by small children and a scout band but soon gave way to macho eyeballing and determined resistance from angry demonstrators despite moments when rifles were poked in their chests. For a while Israeli and Palestinian women, squeezed between the line of soldiers and the protestors calmed things down until a shove from t he soldiers and an attemp

The reasons for such anger and ongoing resistance are not hard to find. Forty individuals in seven houses are on the wrong side of the wall, yet, being west of the armistice line have Palestinian IDs and so are not allowed to go up the road to West Bakka in Israel. Their children have a daily trek to school and back through the check point. Those with Israeli IDs who happen to live the West Bank side of the wall must now travel 20km each way to get to their designated school in West Bakka. Israeli settlers of course go straight through the check point. We met a woman with a bucket full of oranges who said "I need to visit my elderly parents who live the other side of the wall every day but I can't always do the round trip". She showed us a grassy field where her house stood until 2003 when it was destroyed, as it lies just next to the wall. 200 dunums of land were also taken to accommodate the wall and its perimeter road.

Fakhiye Kitani told us "My children, aged eleven, ten, seven, six and four live with their mother on the other side of the wall. They have Israeli IDs. They can only visit me once a month at this check point, or sometimes we can meet at Qalandia check point (which is about 60 km away). At the demonstration my wife and children will be on the other side. Will I see them?" As the soldiers stopped the demonstration well before the check point Fakhiye didn't get to see his family.

The wall has destroyed the business of what was recently a prosperous village. Poorer Israelis including Ethiopians used to come and shop here, and Palestinians from as far as Hebron. Several small factories were destroyed along with the market and now most shops and businesses have closed shutters. The doctors and pharmacists have left. Only the school children going home at the end of the day, gave the village a semblance of normality, albeit past the startling replica of the wall graffittied in Kreuzburg in Berlin 20 years ago.

The story of Abdul Halim Hassan illustrates well the cruel absurdity of the wall. He was a prosperous business man who made money through the trading of olive oil. He built a grand house for his sons, including a garage for vehicle repairs, a coffee shop and store room. He brought specially from Jenin the bowl of a very ancient olive tree to set out in his courtyard. Unfortunately for him the wall was scheduled to go right through the house. Having money however he fought through the courts. First the authorities relented and said they would only take five meters off. He kept fighting until he had the right to keep his house, except that an observation post complete with Israeli flag occupies the roof, two windows are obscured by a huge external steel staircase for the soldiers, and the wall runs flush with his own. His house happens to be right on the green line and commands a great view. One side is Israel, including his marooned black plastic chairs he used to sit on with his (Is raeli) neighbor as the wa

Abdul Halim, a well turned out man in his fifties said "I haven't the heart to finish the house. Even to put a water tank on the roof would entail another court battle. It's as if I need official permission to have a shower. My sons have left to work elsewhere in any case. I used to sit out here and chat with friends and customers until 2am. Now there's nothing to do except tend the garden. I used to sell so much coffee. Now I ask a relative to bring me some from Tulkarm (about 10km away)". He showed us the spot where he dropped money on to the Israel side for his daughter who had just come out of hospital recently with her new born baby. He could not get permission to see her at that moment. His son earns money in Israel and is allowed to put cash in a plastic bag and pass it through a tiny gap in the fence, supervised by a soldier looking down from the roof.

It's as if Palestinians were trapped in a nightmarish black Jewish comedy, in which that famous self depreciation has turned inside out to engulf the lives of others.

Yet, having seen the house, we sat in the garage awning sipping Abdul Halim's wife's tea, scented with her sage and mint, guests of classic arab hospitality. And as we admired the old olive tree Abdul showed us the place inside in which he will plant an olive seedling. Nothing better illustrates the resilience of Palestinians.

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4. Parents of Peace Activist Killed by Israeli Bulldozer Target Caterpillar By Maxine Frith by the Independent/UK April 14, 2005

>From boots to baseball caps, the Caterpillar fashion range is marketed as upmarket outdoor wear for label-conscious youth.

But customers are now being urged to boycott the construction and clothing company because it supplies bulldozers to the Israeli government, which uses the vehicles to destroy Palestinian homes, roads and olive groves. They have also been used to build the controversial "security wall" which has attracted international opprobrium.

Campaigners held an international day of action yesterday against Caterpillar, with demonstrations outside British plants and "flashmobbing" of the company's shops where protesters asked to try on shoes then sat reading a report that detailed the firm's alleged complicity in Israeli human rights abuses.

Craig and Cindy Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist who was crushed and killed by an army-driven Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, are backing the boycott. Yesterday they handed in a copy of the report by the lobby group War on Want to the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street.

John Lewis and the high street chain River Island are among the stockists of the clothing range.

Mr and Mrs Corrie announced last month that they are suing Caterpillar for violating the Geneva Convention and American torture laws in allowing its equipment to be used against the Palestinian people and their homes.

Mrs Corrie said: "Stores should not be selling Caterpillar clothing and people should not be buying it because of what is happening in Israel.

"Our daughter was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer and in the last four years, a tenth of the population of the West Bank have lost their homes as a result of Cat bulldozers being used by the military."

She added: "The company knows what is going on, but they have refused to meet with us or to do anything about our concerns.

"Rachel was always in favor of direct action, and people should realize that this is something they can do to register their protest against Caterpillar."

The Corries were in London for last night's opening of a play based on their daughter's life and writing.

The Caterpillar boycott is backed by more than 20 campaign groups and charities. They claim that more than 50,000 Palestinians have been made homeless by the Israeli army's use of Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozers in the last four years.

Water wells, schools and hundreds of thousands of trees have been razed by the Israeli army.

The equipment has also been used to destroy ancient olive groves and roads in the West Bank and to construct the security wall cut into Palestinian territories which has been condemned by the International Court of Justice.

Louise Richards, chief executive of War on Want, said: "Caterpillar provides the Israeli military with bulldozers, knowing full well that they will be used for house demolitions in Palestine.

"We are asking people to boycott their range of clothing and other products until they stop the supply of equipment to Israel's military."

Caterpillar Incorporated made more than £1bn in profit last year.

The Israeli army has more than 100 D9 bulldozers in use and recently placed an order for a further 25 vehicles.

A spokesman for the firm said: "Caterpillar shares the world's concern over unrest in the Middle East and we certainly have compassion for all those affected by the political strife.

"However, more than two million Caterpillar machines and engines are at work in virtually every country and region of the world each day.

"We have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of that equipment.

The Caterpillar campaign comes at a time when consumers are increasingly being urged to shun stores and companies that are said to have a bad ethical record.

Lobby groups such as No Sweat have been effective in highlighting the exploitation of low-paid workers in developing countries where highly profitable brands such as Nike and Gap have factories.

Boycotts and campaigns against Gap led last year to the company revoking contracts with more than 100 factories in Mexico, China, Russia and India because of their exploitation of staff and poor working conditions.

War on Want plans to publish reports similar to the Caterpillar dossier on the supermarket giant Wal-Mart, notorious for its anti-union practices and Nestlé, which has been accused of breaking rules against the marketing of baby milk in developing countries.

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5. 'Let me fight my monsters' The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1454952,00.html Friday April 8, 2005

Two years ago Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American protester, was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. Since then she has become a potent symbol for both sides of the conflict. But who was the real Rachel? Katharine Viner, who has edited her writings for a new play, on an ordinary woman with an extraordinary passion

There is a particular entry in Rachel Corrie's diary, probably written some time in 1999, four years before she was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes. She is aged 19 or 20. "Had a dream about falling, falling to my death off something dusty and smooth and crumbling like the cliffs in Utah," she writes, "but I kept holding on, and when each foothold or handle of rock broke I reached out as I fell and grabbed a new one. I didn't have time to think about anything - just react as if I was playing an adrenaline-filled video game. And I heard, 'I can't die, I can't die,' again and again in my head."

Last year, I was asked by the Royal Court theatre to edit the writings of Rachel Corrie into a drama with Alan Rickman, who was also directing. I had read the powerful emails she sent home from Gaza, serialised in G2 in the days after her death, and I'd read eye-witness accounts on the internet. But I didn't know that Rachel's early writing - before she even thought of travelling to the Middle East, from her days as a schoolgirl, through college, to life working at a mental-health centre in her home town of Olympia, Washington - would be similarly fascinating, and contain such elements of chilling prescience. Nor did I have a sense of the kind of person Rachel Corrie was: a messy, skinny, Dali-loving, listmaking chainsmoker, with a passion for the music of Pat Benatar. I discovered all that later.

Rachel was killed, aged 23, on March 16 2003, by a Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer, a vehicle especially built to demolish houses. Three decades before, her father had driven bulldozers in Vietnam for the US army. Her death was the first of a string of killings of westerners in Gaza in spring 2003, as the war was taking place in Iraq: Briton Tom Hurndall, 22, shot on April 11; another Briton, cameraman James Miller, 34, shot on May 16. She and Hurndall were activists in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an organisation set up "to support Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israel's military occupation". Rachel was killed only two days before the start of the assault on Baghdad while the world was mostly looking elsewhere.

She became a martyr to the Palestinians, a victim of their intifada who had stood up to the mighty Israeli army; Edward Said praised her actions as "heroic and dignified at the same time". But many Israelis considered her at best naive, interfering in a situation she didn't understand. And to some Americans she was a traitor; websites blared that "she should burn in hell for an eternity"; "Good riddance to bad rubbish"; "I'm thankful she died."

Those close to Rachel would rather she had not become famous for being the blonde American girl who got killed. As her ex-boyfriend Colin Reese said in the documentary Death of an Idealist: "The person that I knew has been summed up as a bullet point... Everything that Rachel was, every brilliant idea she had, every art project she did, it doesn't matter, because she has become her death." Reese committed suicide last year.

In developing this piece of theatre, we wanted to uncover the young woman behind the political symbol, beyond her death. As Alan Rickman, whose idea it was to turn Rachel's work into drama, says: "We were never going to paint Rachel as a golden saint or sentimentalise her, but we also needed to face the fact that she'd been demonised. We wanted to present a balanced portrait." We hoped to find out what made Rachel Corrie different from the stereotype of today's consumerist, depoliticised youth. Having received permission from Rachel's parents to shape her words into drama, we were sent an enormous package - 184 pages of her writing, most of which had not been seen before.

The material revealed a woman who was both ordinary and extraordinary: writing poems about her cat, her friends, her grand mother, the wind; but also, from a strikingly young age, engaging passionately with the world, trying to find her place in it. The earliest material we have is political; aged 10, Rachel wrote a poem about how "children everywhere are suffering" and how she wished to "stop hunger by the year 2000". Her juvenilia shows, as Rickman says, that she "already knew what language was. She was witty, a storyteller, she had flights of fancy". It also shows a rather sweet seriousness, and an insight into the wider world and her place in it. Aged 12, she writes, "I guess I've grown up a little. It's all relative anyway; nine years is as long as 40 years depending on how long you've lived".

In her teens, Rachel started to write about the "fire in my belly" that was to become a recurring theme. She visited Russia, a trip that opened her eyes to the rest of the world - she found it "flawed, dirty, broken and gorgeous". And she engaged in a striking way with her parents, with writing that beautifully expresses ordinary anxieties about safety and freedom, which become particularly poignant in light of Rachel's violent death. Aged 19 she wrote to her mother, "I know I scare you... But I want to write and I want to see. And what would I write about if I only stayed within the doll's house, the flower-world I grew up in?... I love you but I'm growing out of what you gave me... Let me fight my monsters. I love you. You made me. You made me."

She stewed, in typical late-teens fashion, on her future, and wrote about men and sex, from falling "in love with someone who is perpetually leaving you... and tells all stories as if they are blues songs" to bumping into an ex-boyfriend with his "hoochie-ass" new lover. Her wit was of the sardonic kind, and is one of the main things her friends remember about her.

Rachel's political evolution gathered pace in her early 20s. She went to Evergreen state college, a famously liberal university in Olympia, itself a famously liberal town. She began railing against how "the highest level of humanity is expressed through what we choose to buy at the mall". After September 11, she became involved in community activism, organising a peace march, but questioned the wider relevance of what she was doing: "People [are] offering themselves as human shields in Palestine and I [am] spending all of my time making dove costumes and giant puppets." When she finally decided that she wanted to go to the Middle East, she explained her reason quite specifically: "I've had this underlying need to go to a place and meet people who are on the other end of the portion of my tax money that goes to fund the US and other militaries."

When Rachel arrived in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, as Rickman says, "the rhythm of the writing changes dramatically. She has less time to consider but you can feel the growing fear." The Gaza dispatches are hard-hitting and intense, representing a profound experience. On arrival in Jerusalem she was shocked to see the Star of David spray-painted on to doors in the Arab section of the old city: "I have never seen the symbol used in quite that way... I am used to seeing the cross used in a colonialist way". In Gaza, she carried the body of a dead man on a stretcher while the Israeli army shot in front of her, but mostly her activism involved protection: staying overnight in the homes of families on the front line to stop their demolition; standing in front of water workers at a well in Rafah as they they came under fire; "close enough to spray debris in their faces". (Before her death, Rachel believed, as did many activists, that her "international white person privilege" would keep her relatively safe.) Witness

But the quantity of the material left us with a series of questions. How much of Rachel's life before she went to Gaza should we include? And should we quote other people? The trend in political theatre, from David Hare's The Permanent Way to Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo's Guantánamo, is journalistic: the use of testimony, of interviews and on-the-record material rather than invention. But for us there could be no re-interviewing to fill in the gaps. We had a finite amount of words to work with, as Rachel was dead. I was very keen to use some of the emails that Rachel's parents, Cindy and Craig, sent to their daughter while she was in Gaza. They are full of the kind of worries any parent might have if their child was in a dangerous situation, but because Rachel never came home, they have a devastating poignancy. Two weeks before her daughter's death, Cindy emailed Rachel: "There is a lot in my heart but I am having trouble with the words. Be safe, be well. Do you think about coming home? Because of t

And what about the voices of Rachel's friends? I interviewed many fellow ISM activists, most of whom have been deported from Israel since her death. We watched tapes of two of the moving memorial services: one in Gaza, which was shot at by the Israeli army, another in Olympia. We viewed documentaries on the subject, most notably Sandra Jordan's powerful The Killing Zone, and considered using video grabs. But in the end the power of Rachel's writing meant that, apart from a few short passages quoting her parents and an eye witness report of her death, her words were strong enough to stand alone.

The challenge, then, was trying to construct a piece of theatre from fragments of journals, letters and emails, none of which was written with performance in mind. It helped, as Rickman says, that Rachel's writing "has a kind of theatricality. The images jump off the page." As the process went on, the difference between my usual job, journalism, and theatre, became obvious: stagecraft is what makes theatre what it is, and there was no point creating scenes that read well on the page if the actor playing Rachel, Megan Dodds, could not perform them.

We've tried to do justice to the whole of Rachel: neither saint nor traitor, both serious and funny, messy and talented, devastatingly prescient and human and whole. Or, in her own words, "scattered and deviant and too loud". We chose Rachel's words rather than those of the thousands of Palestinian or Israeli victims because of the quality and accessibility of the writing: as Rickman says, "The activist part of her life is absolutely matched by the imaginative part of her life. I've no doubt at all that had she lived there would have been novels and plays pouring out of her." The tragedy is that we'll hear no more from Rachel Corrie.

• My Name Is Rachel Corrie is at the Royal Court, Sloane Square, London SW1 until April 30. Box office: 020-7565 5000.

ENDS

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