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ISM Update From Palestine


1. Adding Insult to Injury: Court Martial of Soldier who Killed Tom Hurndall closed on Sunday 22nd May

2. Bil'in Villagers March to Muqata to deliver letter for George Bush 23rd May 2005

3. Eight internationals activists and a Palestinian family attacked in Hebron. Written by Sarah, 21st May 24, 2005

4. Freedom Written by Mansour, 21.05.05

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1. Adding Insult to Injury: Court Martial of Soldier who Killed Tom Hurndall closed on Sunday 22nd May

The family of murdered British peace activist Tom Hurndall faced additional attacks during the military trial of the soldier who killed Tom, a 22 year old photographer and International Solidarity Movement volunteer. Tom was shot in the head in Rafah refugee camp, Gaza, in April 2003 whilst trying to move children out of the range of Israeli military sniper fire. He was in a coma for nine months and died in January.

Defence lawyer for Wahid Taysir, Yariv Ronen, claimed that Tom "did not die from the wound but because the doctors, together with the family, made a very clear decision to end his life." He accused doctors of denying Tom antibiotic treatment and giving him an overdose of morphine, charges that are "outrageous" in the words of Jocelyn Hurndall, who said her son had the best medical treatment possible.

These allegations should be viewed in light of the fact that medical treatment for Tom was delayed immediately after he was shot because the Israeli occupying forces prevented him from getting out of the invaded area and that Israel refused to cooperate with a British coroner's inquiry.

Former sergeant Wahid Taysir, 20, is charged with manslaughter, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of submitting false testimony, one count of obtaining false testimony and one count of unbecoming behavior. Since Tom's death the Israeli authorities have persistently lied about the circumstances in which he was shot, twisting these lies to implicate individual soldiers when it was no longer possible to sustain their position. We "can only conclude that the command colluded in the soldier's original lies, and colluded in it for weeks until they couldn't sustain it any more" said Joycelyn Hurndall.

Aymad Atawna, a soldier now convicted of inappropriate conduct, told investigators that Tom shot towards Israeli troops. He later confessed that he had lied and that Tom was not armed, and was subsequently sentenced to 5 ½ months in prison.

The original military report, and reports in the Israeli press, claimed that Tom was wearing combat fatigues and brandishing a weapon. Photographic evidence and witness statements prove that these allegations were false: Tom was wearing a bright orange jacket clearly identifying him as an international volunteer. His only weapon was his camera.

"The soldier might be convicted but the trial is not concerned with the wider justice to do with the chain of command and the culture of lies," said Jocelyn Hurndall outside the Kastina military court in Israel. "The soldier has said himself that he has been used as a scapegoat ... I'm sure that's what happened."

Although Taysir has confessed to killing Tom, the defence is now claiming that his confession was forced.

Tom's family have shown unerring courage in their fight prove the truth about Tom's death. Their work in collating witness statements resulted in the initial official whitewash being exposed. During their time in Gaza they were also shot at by the Israeli military and Tom's brother Billy was denied entry into Palestine to investigate Tom's death.

Internationals working in Occupied Palestine today can feel to some degree assured that through challenging the impunity with which the Israeli security forces have killed internationals and Palestinians alike, Tom Hurndall's family have perhaps made their time here safer. Iain Hook, Rachel Corrie and James Miller were all killed by the Israeli military and their killers faced no reprisals – as is the case for many thousands of Palestinians. Last month, the army dropped charges against the soldier who shot the British journalist James Miller in the Gaza strip. In Tom's case, at least, there been a hint of justice.

The Hurndall family have never failed to point to the wider context, to the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians on a daily basis. Yesterday was no exception.

"There are thousands of people who don't have access to an investigation, and we are hoping that the outcome of this trial will mean that there will be more investigations for those who have been killed or wounded," Jocelyn said. The Israeli military has arrested only a handful of soldiers for harming Palestinians. Jocelyn said that while there was an investigation into her son's death, she hoped the trial would result in a change.

The impunity with which the Israeli military kill Palestinian civilians was perhaps best described in the words of Taysir himself, who said that the only reason the army had charged him in the case was because the victim was British. "If he was a Palestinian, the army would have closed the case along time ago," he said.

Taysir also claimed to have been discriminated against because of his race: "If I were Jewish, I would have been freed a long time ago. It's… because I am a Bedouin".

The verdict is expected June 26. Jocelyn maintains that regardless of the outcome, justice will not have been done because of "a culture of lies… From the start there has been a cover-up… (to) protect senior officers right up the chain of command".

Taysir faces a sentence of up to 20 years. Sources: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1489992,00.html http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/578963.html http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml==/news/2005/05/23/whurn23.xml

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2. Bil'in Villagers March to Muqata to deliver letter for George Bush 23rd May 2005

Residents from Bil'in, a village in the Western West Bank, gathered in Ramallah yesterday to march to the Muqata and deliver two letters: One for Abu Mazen and one for him to deliver to US President George Bush when he visits the White House in the next week.

This was the latest in a series of protests that the villagers have taken against the apartheid Wall, which is being built on their land and which will result in over 50% of their land being annexed to nearby Israeli settlements. There are currently five of these colonies close to Bil'in and, once the necessary land has been annexed, the Israeli government plans to join them together to make one huge city.

In their letter to George Bush Bil'in residents describe the impact of the wall on their village and highlight the fact that it was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. They tell of the repression and violence the village has experienced at the hands of the Israeli military as they have protested non-violently against the wall. They ask the US President to "make a stand so that we can achieve our freedom by peaceful means".

Yesterday about 150 villagers and 10 internationals grouped at the Manarra in the centre of Ramallah and marched in a torch-lit procession to the Muqata. As they approached the compound they were met by Palestinian military, who attempted to prevent them proceeding by firing ammunition into the air. However, the protesters managed to reach the compound entrance and were eventually allowed inside. Many paid tributes at Arafat's grave and then prayed outside the memorial. The letters were delivered.

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3. Eight internationals activists and a Palestinian family attacked in Hebron. Written by Sarah 21st May 2005

Hebron is like no other city in the West Bank. The settlers have illegally established themselves and their homes within the boundary of the Palestinian city. This inevitably creates tension and hostility, quite often to the detriment of Palestinian community.

On May 21st, myself, eight other internationals and a group of forty Israeli peace activists decided to visit a Palestinian family in order to discuss of their situation.

The Israelis were not allowed to enter the area. When we arrived the army came, ordering us to leave the house. We refused and stayed sitting in the living room.

One of the soldiers declared the home a "closed military zone!"; Mr. Abu Haikal, the head of the family, told them that it was his private property, but if they wanted to they could assist in our meeting.

We were eventually granted permission to stay but the three Al- Jazeera journalists, who were filming the meeting, were forced to leave.

At one point in the meeting, myself and other internationals were outside with the children. Suddenly the settlers, who are the neighbors of the Haikal's family, arrived in the garden and threw stones and glass bottles at us. They broke two of the windows of the house. To protect his kids, who were near the broken window, Mr. Abu Haikal went out with a stick to protect himself against the violence of the settlers.

After ten long minutes of fear and screaming, the soldiers came and asked us to go inside. We asked them why they did not do anything about the settlers, who were the aggressors. The soldiers decided to arrest Mr Abu Haikal "to calm down the settlers". He was released after half an hour but nothing was done about the settlers.

When we came back we were attacked a second time by a group of young settlers who threw stones at us once again. This time, two soldiers who were in the street came and pushed the settlers away from us.

I was very scared by the violence of these people. I also felt that we had all been lucky that nobody was hurt. I experienced during two hours what this family and other Palestinians living in Hebron experience every day.

The violence of the settlers, their impunity, the position of the army who do not hesitate to take part in their favor, makes the situation very hard and difficult for the Palestinians living in Hebron.

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4. Freedom Written by Mansour, 21.05.05

The kind of life that other nations have is the kind of life that we, the Palestinians, resist for. We want to move freely, we don't want to carry proof of our identity every time we visit our relatives or friends, whether that is during the day or night, or in our villages, cities or towns.

During my time in Canada, the UK and the USA I used to ask my friends: should I bring my passport? Their reaction was to smile, saying: "you are here, you are not in Palestine, there are no checkpoints..."

I thought carrying their passports is the minimum thing that people do here, but that does not happen. Police are there to serve them, while in Palestine, we face the army of the occupation (not the police) when we walk to buy flour to make bread.

Last week we had a rally in Chicago town, and the police were walking with us and saying to the people walking: "Please, stay away from the street because you are in the way of the cars and they could hurt you by mistake". I looked, and listened to them talking together (the people and the police) and I thought: What kind of army are we facing? Why are our nonviolent demonstrations and marches met with shooting and beating? Then we get killed or injured, and many times arrested for demonstrating on our agricultural land or in our destroyed streets inside the villages.

The thing I realized is that nobody can be free when they are people under occupation. This is the thing that makes the peace activists all over the world feel with us and come to be in solidarity with us.

At the same time our friends, the Israeli peace activists, know that their government is occupying us militarily and they also do not feel free in their society.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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