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The Forgotten Villages

The Forgotten Villages

1. 'When is Our Mother Coming Back?'" by Ali Samoudi 2. This Place I've Grown to Love by Kim 3. Back to Balata by Henry 4. The Forgotten Villages of Salfit by IWPS 5. West Bank Villagers Threatened with Imminent Expulsion - By Gush Shalom

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1. 'When is our mother coming back?'" by Ali Samoudi April 21, 2005

A 13 year-old girl from Jenin Refugee Camp is writing a letter to Kofi Anan. Sandy Nasser Al Sa'di is appealing to international organizations to help her reach the UN General Assembly in New York. Sandy wants to hand-deliver her letter to the Secretary General of the UN. She fears if not hand-delivered, the Israeli government may confiscate her letter, or it may take a place among many others on the dusty shelves of the UN marked "Palestine."

Sandy is trying to tell the highest international committee of her suffering, and that of her three small siblings. In the letter she insists on writing without help from others, Sandy describes the loneliness and sadness she feels at being deprived of her mother.

"I am calling on the Secretary General of the UN, whose job was established to guarantee the human rights, the dignity, and the life of human beings. I am calling because the Israeli oppression has reached to a certain point, and my life has become a small prison that is not so different from the bars of the prison that are holding my parents. This is the time that we live different suffering and oppression at the hands of the occupation that reached my mother, Qahira Al Sa'di. She was taken from our house.

"Tens of soldiers invaded our house in the middle of the night and they took our mother from her bed. They have deprived us from her sympathy and protection. Our screams and tears did not help her when the soldiers handcuffed her and took her to the arrest center to face the torture and the hard investigation."

Sandy continued, "For two years, Your Excellency, I am tearing my insides out with nostalgia to see my mother who is isolated, arrested and oppressed in the Telmond Prison.

"They were not happy just to arrest her, to torture her, humiliate her, take away her dignity, and deprive her of the minimum of her rights, which are visits with her children.

"Since her arrest I didn't see the face of my mother and each time I try to see her with my brothers they are refusing and insisting on torturing us in that way."

Sandy continues in her letter, "The feasts and the happy occasions come, and my mother is away from me, arrested without a reason, only because she's Palestinian.

"In the feasts I don't wear the nice clothes and I don't know the taste of happiness. The Occupation deprived me my childhood, my right to life. How can I be happy while my mother is in prison? From where does happiness come while the symbol of motherhood, sympathy, and humanity, are imprisoned and under siege, threatened by hard levels of torture?

"I am dying seeing the children in the arms of their mothers. I am dying from inside. I now hate school, life, and the street because the imprisonment of my mother deprived me from all the tastes of happiness and life. My brothers, Your Excellency, are crying all the times and sometimes refusing to eat or drink. They don't know what the playgrounds are. They sleep with fear and tears, and wake up with fear and tears. They have only one question: 'When is our mother coming back?'"

Sandy continues in her letter, "You are the United Nations. They refuse to release my mother even for a few hours. They prevent us from meeting her, even for a few seconds. They torture us every second. And because we are Palestinians, the arrest of my mother was not enough because a year ago they invaded our house again and took my father. It is a scene I will never forget, our General Secretary, because I woke up to the sounds of bullets and bombs, and the screams of soldiers and their faces were painted black and they were holding all sorts of weapons. They invaded our house, arrested our father and left us alone without a mother or a father. We still do not know until when this destiny will continue.

"My father and mother are imprisoned and I am asking for all the living conscience in the world to try to help us while we are alone again and our grandmother is crying day and night. Some of her sons were killed and others arrested. We are crying and all we know in this life are tears and despair. The occupation is not listening to our screams. It's depriving us our childhood. So do you hear our cry?

"We don't want money or petrol or gold or houses or games or playgrounds. We have only one wish. We are asking you to help us reach her. We are tired from waiting, begging and hoping, while going between the Red Cross, Red Crescent and the Prisoner Society. We want the chance to feel the warmth of our mother and our childhood. We want our mother and our father."

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2. This Place I've Grown to Love by Kim

April 18, 2005

I am sitting on an ancient boulder watching shepherds tend their sheep and goats while keeping an eye out for the mistauteneen, or settlers, who make it a practice to regularly harass, threaten, and terrorize the people of Qawawis, a tiny cave community in the South Hebron Hills where I have been staying for the past few days.

This is the place where a couple of internationals were recently beaten by masked settlers and where an elderly shepherd and his sheep were held to the ground with knives to their throats by settlers who released the man only after slitting the throat of one of his sheep.

This is the place where just last Saturday, the people of Qawawis along with MPT' activists were greeted by machinegun-toting settlers out for a Shabbat stroll on the land these settlers believe is theirs. This is the spot that is home to the most extreme, ideological settlers in the West Bank.

This is a place I have grown to love.

Qawawis is located south of Hebron in an area of rolling brown hills, green valleys, and rocky terrain dotted with patches of olive trees. This small area is ringed by the Susya settlement right up the road and two outpost settlements that tower over the village from nearby hills. A large area behind one of the outposts and the Susya settlement is designated as an IDF military training site. There is no electricity or running water in Qawawis, but the fresh water drawn from wells outside the caves and the conversation and meals shared around a kerosene lantern and candles more than compensate for the lack of modern amenities.

The people of this small community are physically and spiritually beautiful.

From the 75-year-old hajja dressed in her traditional embroidered dress to the younger women with their dangling, gold earrings and colorful hijabs, the people of Qawawis are striking and hospitable beyond belief to us internationals who have been staying here.

The people who make up the Qawawis community originally lived in the area south of the caves that is currently being used as a bombing range for the Israeli Army. In 1967, three or four of the families displaced by the military's appropriation of their land migrated to the empty caves that today make up Qawawis; by the mid-80's this basin community expanded to approximately 500 people.

Although the shepherds of Qawawis were hassled by settlers in the surrounding area during this time, the situation escalated dramatically in 1999, when two outposts consisting of mobile caravans, floodlights, and barbed wire were set up on the two hilltops closest to Qawawis. Established by highly armed fundamentalists, the outpost settlements became centers of terror for the people of this small community. In addition to being subjected to verbal and sometimes physical intimidation, shepherds and their flocks were now being shot at by settlers who believe that they have a divine mandate to kill, if necessary, in order to seize land that they believe is theirs.

By 2001, settlers were sniping farmers at the caves' entrances and the families of Qawawis were sometimes trapped inside the caves for days on end. The situation was so grim that within a year the population, which had already decreased to 80, was reduced to 20 as families sought refuge from settler terror in nearby Karmel. In 2002, the Israeli Army evacuated Qawawis, telling the Palestinians who had the courage to remain that it was doing so for its own good. After the evacuation, the Army bulldozed the community and filled in many of the cave dwellings. Soon after the people of Qawawis were forced out by the Army, settlers moved into the area where they ironically adopted the same lifestyle of simplicity and sustenance farming practiced by their predecessors.

By the end of 2003, the Israeli Army decided that it wanted the land for itself in order to expand its training ground and it, in turn, drove the settlers off the land.

Events took an unusual twist in early 2004 when the Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem, secured through one of its lawyers an order from the Knesset stating that the Palestinian inhabitants have the right to return to Qawawis. The Knesset order names the four patriarchs of the Palestinian community and does not specify a limit on how many community members may return.

Since the order was handed down in early spring, former inhabitants who had moved to Karmel to escape settler violence have been slowly trickling back and rebuilding the cave community. The construction of stone walls, animal pens, and the underground oven where the bread is baked in such a short period of time is a testament to the determination and community spirit found here.

Despite their legal right to be here, however, the situation is far from secure at this point. On March 4, the people of Qawawis went to the nearby village of Tuwani where the Christian Peacemaker Team has provided an ongoing presence in the face of similar acts of terror instigated by ideological settlers (this was the site of the recent sheep poisoning that received international attention) to ask for similar support. Since that time, ISM has provided a continuous presence here in Qawawis.

In an ironic twist on the history of this village, the Israeli Army has declared Qawawis a closed military zone to everyone EXCEPT the people of the village. Many soldiers, however, are not aware of this designation and the settlers do not seem deterred by a military order to stay off this property. On the day that internationals began their solidarity work in Qawawis, for example, the lone house in the village - a simple, cement structure - was occupied by 20settlers who greeted the activists with religious songs. Since that time, there have been several other incidents involving settlers. As it stands currently, the United Nations has asked the people of Qawawis and internationals to keep a log book documenting settler harassment and violence. Each week, this report is typed up and sent to B'Tselem. The situation is tense and tenable at best given the extremism of settlers who driven by a belief system that does not allow for any semblance of dialogue or mutuality.

As I gaze at the ugly outposts with their garish lights strung across this pastoral area, I feel a sense of despair. I know that sheep were poisoned in the village down the road and I wonder how long it will be until something like that happens here. I ponder the fresh, clear water drawn from the wells with a plastic, orange bucket and wonder what would happen if the settlers tainted the water consumed by the people here. After prayer, Halil and Haj sleep outside on a large slab of stone and I wonder whether the settlers on the hillsides above would do them harm. I think of dark, cozy caves where children sleep and families eat and realize that they have no doors. To live here is surely to be vulnerable. Yet to live here is, in many ways, such a celebration.

There is an order - a holy routine - to the days here that speaks of lost values in a world driven by consumerism and greed. Here we eat slowly and we eat well, guests of the various families in the community. Always it is the same. We sit on mats and are served first while the family waits for us to finish before they begin their meal. Initially, it was very difficult to eat in front of the children especially, but I have learned to simply accept this hospitality with a "zaki" ("tasty") and "shukran." ("thank you"). Then it is tea - lots of sweet, hot tea and fragments of conversation. The youngest of children are adept at pouring tea and follow the example set by their elders.

We internationals go out with the shepherds with cameras and cell phones in case there is a problem with settlers. The sheep and goats graze and with a few simple commands the flocks respond to the shepherds. When the animals have had their fill, it is back to the home for lunch and a nap. Later, the animals are taken out again until dark when it is time for dinner, tea, and early bed. Throughout the day the women work but also take time to rest and laugh. During my time here, I have helped sweep goat and sheep droppings with a homemade whisk broom deep inside the cave where the animals sleep and I have helped remove bread from the underground oven fueled, I think, by droppings placed beneath a layer of hot stones. The children are loved, loved, and loved some more by their parents and extended families and there is a natural flow to family life, including a lot of humor, which I have not seen in the West. As difficult as it was to my Western sensibilities, I even agreed to allow the women of the village to wash my hair and bathe me yesterday in a rather elaborate ritual that taught me a lesson in trust, humility, and gratitude. Theirs is a hard life, but a good life. I feel at home here.

On Monday, two men from the United Nations came by and made arrangements for a mobile medical clinic to visit the village on Wednesday. A doctor and female nurse will give health examinations first to the women and children and then the men. The people of Qawawis seem to be looking forward to this visit. Several explained to the UN that they have health problems that need addressing and this is an initial effort to connect the people of the community with a new health center in Tuwani. Also, a veterinarian came by today to treat the animals for TB, another good sign that this small community is not forgotten.

And yet . . . ringed in as they are by settlers I wonder what the future holds for the people of Qawawis. As I said earlier, the settlers in this area are not seeking land for the sake of simply owning valuable real estate. These settlers are the true believers who do not want nor seek peace with their neighbors. They feel they are on a divine mission to purge the land of "Arabs" by any means necessary. One of the internationals told me this morning that in trying to engage one of them in a discussion, a settler casually said, "We will probably have to kill all these Arabs." Clearly, some of the younger children of the village are terrified of the settlers. Little Noor, who can't be more than two, stiffens and screams at the sight of us internationals with our light skin, Western-style dress, and sunglasses. These children have been terrorized and one can only wonder about the long-term effects that this type of emotional trauma might exact.

I also wonder what the village's proximity to the Army training area portends. It is a very strange juxtaposition to hear loud bomb blasts in this rural place and the sound of Apache helicopters flying over unlit caves at night. My cynicism leads me to hypothesize that perhaps the Israeli government will remove the outpost settlements as a show of goodwill and then extend its military operations to include Qawawis. In an even more chilling scenario, I fear that settlers from Gaza will find their way to this area, a prospect I do not even want to think about.

For now, however, I feel privileged to stay with the people of Qawawis whose future seems as uncertain as next year's crop. I have learned so much from these people who live so close to the land and to one another. There may not be electricity here, but there is a great deal of light.

In Solidarity,

Kim

P.S. Just before leaving for Jerusalem to join the Mordechai Vanunu delegation, we met Mordechai the settler on our last watch with the shepherds. He pulled upon the side of the road in a large van filled with (his?) children and started verbally harassing the village shepherd whose flock was near the settler road. L got pictures of him and by the time B and I neared his van, the UN medical corps whizzed by. After flipping off the UN, Mordechai was on his way.

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3. Back to Balata by Henry

April 20, 2005

Sadly, the report of my friend Omar Al-titi was not good. He is in England, but the Israelis' physical abuse took its toll during his 6- month detention with no charges. A. from the ISM office in Balata claims that Omar is "different" and twitches constantly.

Better news is that the merchant Samer has moved on to a job up north, and his younger brother is maintaining the shop. Also, the Al- titi home is still in existence, having survived bullets and threats of demolition.

Best news is that I was re-united with sandwich-shop owner Muhammad Ali, who greeted me with the same warmth and love he exhibited 2.5 years ago, when after I explained to him and his friends that I was Jewish, he replied "Welcome to Palestine". We parted this morning with moist eyes, and a promise to meet in America.

Odd news, is that the living conditions in the Balata camp are different, and if you shared only the two experiences: one two years ago, and one today, you would conclude life is much easier on the Palestinians now than it was.

True, there were no tanks in sight. Few jeeps could be seen. No soldiers were walking down the streets. There were more shops open: many barbershops, a new hardware store, a second internet café.

But what is missing tells more of the story. A visitor cannot forget that Occupation is still in evidence: gunshots fired in the night. Random entries by the Army. Fully visible guard towers and high-on- the-hills army outposts. A very guarded population still unable to travel freely, even though foot traffic seemed to flow more freely through Huwarra checkpoint.

Our minibus today was stopped twice at temporary checkpoints, while Jewish driven vehicles sped by. Young soldiers stick their heads in the cars, and demand pieces of paper from the Palestinians, but much less often from the Americans.

A two-tiered society is much in existence. I have met in another region a worker whose visa is expired, and one innocent pass through a checkpoint will expose this legal hiccup. Then what? She will be deported, most likely. Her feelings about deportation, however, reflect no fear of legal consequences. "I won't be able to visit my friends anymore" is her comment which reflects her true, human fear. She realizes she has it good, however, in comparison to many of her friends who find themselves in the predicament that is a consequence of Zionist ideology: people are "legally" trapped in the towns they now find themselves. Visiting friends or relatives, or taking a child to a doctor in a neighboring village presents problems far more foreboding than our 15 minute delays at checkpoints.

To whom can Palestinians turn for relief? Should they feel satisfied that there are no longer tanks rumbling nightly thought the streets of their depressed refugee camp? Should we Americans, who supply the monies for the invisible-for-the-moment-but-still-there tanks, jeeps, APC's etc., counsel our Palestinian friends to "cheer up"?

Work for Peace

Abolish apartheid.

Henry

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4. The Forgotten Villages of Salfit by IWPS

April 19, 2005

After almost three years in Hares, there remained a few small villages in the Salfit region that we'd never gotten around to exploring... that is, until recently. Recently, IWPS has been visiting the families living in the areas, two of which can be described as family estates and one an ancient village without a permanent population now. All are somewhat removed from other populated areas, and none have electricity or running water. All three are likely to be taken to the "Israeli" side of the Separation Wall that is supposedly being built for Israel's security. The series of walls and fences, however, has stolen and destroyed thousands of dunums of Palestinian land and hundreds of thousands of olive trees. Most villages themselves are being left in the West Bank. These small population areas are the exception.

The following is a chronicle of our visits.

March 18, 2005

Izbet Abu Adam: 11 km east of the Green Line

After trying unsuccessfully to obtain names and phone numbers of any inhabitants of Izbet Abu Adam, we decided just to go. Our taxi driver pointed out Abu Adam's son's store in Sarta on the way from Qarawa roadblock and then continued up the twisty rocky path towards the izbe. We arrived to a baffled but welcoming family who was undoubtedly not used to foreigners coming to visit, especially foreigners who had come specifically to see them because their home was marked on a map.

Izbet Abu Adam consists of two houses, at least one cave, two wells, a palm tree, and many crops and animals, including sheep, chickens, and rabbits. The family owns a total of 150 dunums of land, and the area actually referred to as Izbet Abu Adam, or "the izbe", comprises 35 of those dunums. The family has ownership papers from the Ottoman Period, and has been living there consistently at least since the 1930s. In the 1950s, Abu Adam built a house and moved out of the cave, but members of the family continued to sleep in the cave for many years.

The izbe is a peaceful place, and was even more peaceful before the construction of a nearby major settler highway that has taken much of their land. The neighboring factories of Barqan settlement also took land from this family and others in Sarta when its southern area was built in 1982, but fortunately the settlers and Israeli authorities have not yet tried to encroach on the izbe itself.

Most of the family members had never seen a map of the Wall, and a few of them knew nothing about its path, which is expected to pass between Sarta and Izbet Abu Adam, cutting the family off from school, work, and all other services. The children may not be too fond of their steep walk to and from school in Sarta everyday, especially in the mud of the winter months, but it is certainly better than not attending school at all. Perhaps they will get Israeli citizenship and attend Israeli schools, we joked, knowing full well that this was not the case.

March 24, 2005

Izbet Abu Basal (and surroundings): 14 km east of the Green Line, 8 km west of Ariel's eastern border

Looking southwest out our office window across the settler highway and atop a steep hill, there is a house. According to our map, this should be Dar Abu Basal. After arranging a meeting time with the family living there, we set out on a beautiful day to walk in as straight a line as possible from our home to his. Ignoring the longer but easier path of the roads, we walked up and down terraces, across roads, and through olive groves and tall grass with budding flowers marking the beginning of Spring. We found Sahim working in a field next to his house.

We discovered quickly that this house was not Izbet Abu Basal, but Izbet Dar Qaid (Qaid is their family name). One family of 10 currently lives on the land, although members of their family have been living there longer than anyone knows. Their ownership papers, given to them by the Ottoman Empire in 1910, reflect only some of the history of the family's presence in that spot. On their 253 dunums of land are a variety of crops and animals, although it has been too difficult to bring their 500 goats back and forth between the izbe and Kifl Hares since the settler highway was built a few years ago. They face threats from the army and from the cars that drive too fast along the road. Mohammad Qaid, Sahim's father, was hit by a car and killed last year at the age of 76 as he was crossing the road with his donkey.

The family has seen other deaths as well. In 2001, Ariel settler authorities cut down 500 of the family's trees, claiming that the land was Ariel's. The family went to court with their ownership papers, and was told that the land was not theirs, but Ariel's, and that if they didn't demolish their own home the army would come do it for them. Their home has not been demolished, and the family has not been bothered since then, although they are well aware that the path of the Wall will go next to or through their land, and that they will be caught on the wrong side of it if completed as planned. Sahim will no longer be able to ride his donkey around a mountain to work every day in Kifl Hares, the children will not be able to go to school (or will have to live permanently in Kifl Hares to do so), and, similarly to the situation in Izbet Abu Adam, the family will be completely separated from the rest of the West Bank.

From Izbet Dar Qaid, we finally spotted Izbet Abu Basal, our original destination. Figuring we couldn't stop now, we continued our hike, this time along a small agricultural road. We arrived to a group of very talkative sheep that let out loud "Baaa!"s each time we hollered "Salaam Aleikum!" but nobody else—human, that is—was there. We started to head home, and happened upon an older man with a herd of goats. He was just the man we wanted to speak with, one of the few remaining inhabitants of the izbe. We had a short conversation, curtailed by our limited Arabic skills, his limited hearing, and the intense attention paid to keeping his many goats from running loose. We discovered that the family moved to the hill in 1948, refugees from Kfar Saba, and has been living there since then. The man's wife lives most of the time in Salfit, as do his sons who work there. We had heard from Sahim that one of the man's sons was killed after throwing a stone at a jeep last year. This was confirmed by the man, who was visibly upset when we mentioned the incident, so we did not push the matter further. The conversation ended quickly after when he ran off for good to get a goat and we continued on our way, trying to find the road that would lead us back to Hares. We found ourselves inside the nearby Ariel industrial area, which Ariel claims as its western boundary despite the 4 kilometers of Palestinian land between this area and the westernmost inhabited part of Ariel. A confused security guard asked us what we were doing as we walked out through the gate, but we ignored him, found a taxi, and returned to Hares.

March 31, 2005 (trying to find information about Khirbeit Susa) Bruqin and Kafr Dik: 10 km and 8 km east of the Green Line

Nobody we knew had any information about Khirbeit Susa, the last mysterious place on our map, but most people thought the owners of the land were from Bruqin, so we stopped by the mayor's office unannounced one morning. "We have no idea about Khirbet Susa," they told us, "but the people of Kafr Dik might – it's their land." So we left, jumped in another service taxi towards Kafr Dik, and asked for the city hall. A woman sitting next to us said, "The city hall isn't open now. What do you need?" When we told her we wanted to find out more information about Khirbeit Susa, her face lit up as she exclaimed, "Susia is ours! That's our family's land! You'll come home with me, and we'll show you pictures and tell you about it."

We arrived at Amine's house, drank the customary coffee and tea, and talked with her and her sister-in-law, Nihad. They told us about Khirbeit Susa (or "Susia"), a hill that the family owns a couple kilometers from the village. Khirbeit Susa is the best place for crops in the area, the family told us, and because of this it had a mosque where people used to come and pray when they were sleeping on their land (either in Susia or on one of the surrounding hills). Nobody seemed to know exactly when the mosque stopped being used, but they promised they could show us the land if we came back the following Thursday. Two Thursdays later, we found ourselves on our way to Khirbeit Susa.

April 15, 2005 Khirbeit Susa: 9 km east of the Green Line

Nihad's son Mohammed met us and joyfully showed us to the land. He took us on foot, showing the path that they walk when it's not blocked by soldiers, and the path under the highway that they use when they're not allowed to cross the road.

We reached the land and met Najee'a, a 58 year-old woman (one year older than Israel, we joked), who comes to the land whenever she can. She works in Israel and only comes home every once in a while, but when she does she loves to sleep near Susia. Fifteen years ago she built a house on the land, and five years ago settlers built a settlement overlooking her house. The small remote hill that is Susia, however, remains untouched. Or almost untouched. Looking inside one of the caves, we found a sound bomb. Mohammed explained that the army comes to look for wanted people who they think are hiding out in caves. The soldiers are scared to go into the caves, so they throw sound bombs and hope people will come out.

Aside from the sound bomb and the distant view of a settlement, Khirbet Susa remains free of the occupation. Many kinds of crops grow on the hill, and the water well fills up every year with the rain and then lasts until the next year's rains. We saw the remnants of the mosque and the houses (inside caves, mostly), probably from hundreds of years ago. Nobody seemed sure when Susia was a permanent dwelling place, but they all insisted it was "min zamaaaaan" (a very long time ago), certainly before anyone living, or even their parents or grandparents, were born.

According to Najee'a, the story of the village goes something like this: In the old village of Susia, there was a bride passing through town on her way to her wedding. She was coming from far, possibly Yaffa, and she was going to get married in Aqraba. The night before the wedding she stopped in Susia and slept there. That night, a religious leader in the village slept with her, and in the morning when it was time to go, she refused. The people asked her why, and she just said, "I won't go." The people in Aqraba got word of what had happened, and that night, as the people of Susia were sleeping, the people of Aqraba came and killed everyone in Susia. This was the end of the village, and since then there has been nobody living there. People still pray at the mosque occasionally as individuals, but no longer in groups.

Nobody was certain exactly where the Wall would come. The map itself is somewhat unclear, but it seems that if completed as planned, the Wall will separate Khirbeit Susa from Kafr Dik. Najee'a was unsure and even doubtful about this, but was sure, being someone who works "inside" (inside Israel) that the Israeli "disengagement" plan is to move settlers out of Gaza and into the West Bank. She pointed to the settlement above her house and said, "They'll move in here."

Settlements, Wall, occupation: Can these huge systems be fought by the small dots on the map? Not with force, surely, and probably not through the courts. Maybe not even through demonstrations. But with persistence, with steadfastness, the izbes and Susia will remain where they are, an important acknowledgement of current reality and a tribute to ancient and not-so-ancient history.

International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) Hares, Salfit

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5. West Bank villagers Threatened with Imminent Expulsion - By Gush Shalom

April 19, 2005

International action alert

After the background information follows a request for sending your protest letter (sample letter given) to an also given list of email and fax addresses. Included is the address of a website from where you can send faxes all over the world as a free internet-based service. Yesterday morning (April. 18) the tiny Palestinian village of Aqaba, south-east of Jenin, received a new visitation from Asher, the local boss of the Israeli army's "Civil Administration". Aqaba villagers have long come to dread Asher's visits. On one past occasion, he had come to decree that the village's mosque and kindergarten were "illegally built" and had to be pulled down - a threat removed only after half a year of struggle. This time around, Asher came with expulsion orders for people. Three Aqaba families - twenty seven adults and children in all - were handed orders stating: "You are staying illegally in a closed zone, proclaimed according to article 70 of the Judea and Samaria security ordinance 378 of 1970. You are hereby ordered to vacate said closed zone within 72 hours. Failure to heed this order may result in your removal by force and the confiscation of your livestock, and you may be held accountable to refund the army's expenses for said removal."

Nobody knows with certainty how long the village of Aqaba had been declared "a closed zone" according to occupation law. Aqaba has the bad fortune to be on the edge of the Jordan Valley, an area earmarked for annexation to Israel as far back as the Alon Plan of the early 1970's which still very much guides the policies of the present government. The intended annexation of the Jordan Valley appeared in a map published just last Friday (April 15, 2005) on the front page of Yediot Aharonot, reportedly reflecting the territorial ambitions of the Sharon Government. Over the decades, its inhabitants endured numerous acts of harassment by the Israeli military, evidently aimed at making them go away "voluntarily".

The people of Aqaba have little recourse except appealing to the help and support of people of good will, inside Israel and internationally. In the past, such support proved effective, and with your help it can prove so again. We ask you to send, either the sample letter following or a text of your own, to the addresses provided, and in addition try to get your newspaper and/or radio or TV station interested in the issue.

---sample letter----

Dear Sir or Madam

I was shocked to hear that on the morning of April 18, the "Civil Administration" of the Israeli military government issued deportation orders to three families, altogether comprising 27 adults and children, ordering them to leave within seventy-two hours their village - the village of Aqaba, south-east of Jenin on the West Bank. Let me note that Aqaba is a tiny village numbering no more than a few hundred people. No violent incidents had ever been marked there even at the height of the fighting of the past four years. No charges were made against the people marked for deportation other than "being illegally present in a closed zone". This kind of behaviour by the military authorities would be unacceptable at any time - all the more at what is supposed to be a period of rapprochement and a renewed hope for peace. I ask you to do all in your power to get this inhuman decree annulled forthwith, and also to remove the classification of Aqaba village as "a closed zone" under occupation law, which gives a "legal" base for such expulsion orders.

[your name and address]

-----end sample letter-----

Hereafter follow the addresses to which we hope you will send your complaint; the best is to send where possible NOT ONLY an email but ALSO a fax, and therefore the first information which follows is about a website from which faxes can be sent - NB, it is a free advertiser based service:

Send faxes by email - free of charge:

http://www.tpc.int/sendfax.html

(instructions at: http://www.tpc.int/faxbyemail.html )

Send your complaint to the following addresses

To: the Civil Administration of the West Bank military government:
Fax 972-2 9977326

+ copies

To:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street, P O Box 187
Jerusalem 91919, Israel
Fax: +972 2 6705475
E-mail: pm_eng@pmo.gov.il

To:
Minister of Justice Tzippi Livni
Ministry of Justice
29 Salah al-Din Street
Jerusalem 91010, Israel
Fax: +972 2 6285438
E-mail: sar@justice.gov.il

To:
Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz
Ministry of Defence,
37 Kaplan St., Tel-Aviv 61909, Israel.
Fax: +972-3-69-62757/16940/17915
e-mail: sar@mod.gov.il or pniot@mod.gov.il

To:
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Silvan Shalom
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
9 Yitzhak Rabin Blvd., Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91035
Fax 972-2-5303367
e-mail:
Foreign Minister's office - sar@mfa.gov.il
Director General's office - mankal@mfa.gov.il
Spokesman's office - dover@mfa.gov.il
Public Relations - pniot@mfa.gov.il


To: the nearest Israeli Embassy:

(Addresses of Israeli embassies worldwide can be found at
www.embassyworld.com/embassy/isreal1.htm or go to the Government of
Israel website at www.info.gov.il/FirstGov/)

To:
President George W. Bush,
Fax: +1-202-456-2461;


To:
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice,
Fax: (+1)-202-261-8577;

To: the office of the special middle east coordinator fax: (+1) 202
647 4808

To: Tony Blair, Prime Minister, Britain (Fax +44-207-925-0918)

And last but not least:

Copies to
Aqaba Municipality aqaba2006@yahoo.com
Gush Shalom info@gush-shalom.org


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