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Get Off Our Land

Get Off Our Land

1. Get off our Land… Protest against the Toxic Chemical Factory on the edge of Tulkarem, 5th July 2005

2. Harassment of Palestinian Gandhi continues, 6th July 2005

3. Qawawis, written by V., 5th July 2005

4. Means of Expulsion: Violence, Harassment and Lawlessness Toward Palestinians in the Southern Hebron Hills, Written by B'Tselem, July 2005, Summary

5. Letters from Rafah, Gaza Strip. Written by K and M, 5th July 2005

6. "Where shall I go now?" A new wave of house demolitions in East Jerusalem, Written by ICAHD, 4th July 2005

7. Israeli army enters Hares village, harass youths, Written by IWPS, 2nd July 2005

8. Transcript of Abdallah's Interrogation, 6th July 2005

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1. Get off our Land… Protest Against the Toxic Chemical Factory on the edge of Tulkarem

5th July 2005

Today's Freedom Summer action was focused on the presence of a toxic chemical factory at the edge of Tulkarem. The Israeli-owned factory was originally located near residences in Israel, but was deemed to be polluting beyond acceptable legal levels and following a court case in Israel it was moved to the West Bank city of Tulkarem in the mid-eighties. The complex of factories has been expanding ever since, spreading like the cancer that the output from the factory induces. It represents a particularly dangerous dimension of the occupation for the Palestinian people. As I stood looking up at the chimney and IOF watchtower inside the factory compound it occurred to me that this was a large, ugly weapon, slowly but surely attacking the people around it.

Tulkarem has the highest cancer rates in Palestine, and people living near the factory also suffer disproportionately from respiratory tract diseases and other health problems. The land around the factories has been labeled unsuitable for agricultural production and farmers have faced extreme difficulties getting to it. One farmer has been shot at a number of times by the owner of the chemical factory. He has decided to convert his farm to organic production – a decision which reflects the strength and resilience of the Palestinian people. No attempt is made to clean the surrounding environment or dispose of the chemical waste safely - it has been repeatedly dumped on nearby Palestinian land.

The protest began with a march from the centre of Tulkarem towards the factory. We wore blue surgical masks to highlight the danger of inhaling the factory fumes, but as we approached the factory and began to smell the foul stench in the air I was genuinely glad that I was wearing it.

As our group of Palestinians, Israeli, and ISM activists proceeded from the center of Tulkarem to the factory, located at the city's edge, we carried signs in Arabic and English shaped like gravestones and proclaiming the death of the environment, justice, freedom, and human rights, as well as organisations like the World Health Organisation and the International Court of Justice.

Arriving at the factory, which is extremely close to the Apartheid Wall around Tulkarem, the demonstrators placed the gravestones outside the main gate and began to chant. Messages were sprayed on the wall and we banged on the gate with stones, but nobody responded and the military did not turn up.

I only hope that they do not punish the farmers involved in the protest later, when we have left the city.

Photos can be viewed on:

http://freckle.blogs.com/photos/no_more_poison/

The factories in Tulkarem are one of many sites throughout the West Bank where Israeli industrial complexes are situated. The companies are free to operate outside of Israeli laws regarding health and safety, the environment and the treatment of workers. The Palestinian workers come from a pool of very cheap labour; they have no rights and, following the economic strangulation of Palestine over the last five years, are desperate to work, even if this means going to a settlement and working in unhealthy or dangerous conditions. The factories are built on stolen land and disfigure the beauty of the West Bank, causing environmental problems and flattening agricultural land with concrete.

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2. Harassment of Palestinian Ghandi continues. 6th July 2005.

Bil'in, 6th July 2005, 3.20 am: Israeli Occupation Forces bang on the door of Abdallah Abu-Rahma, prominent member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall, demanding that he attends an interrogation session at Ofer Military Base at 12 o'clock midday with "Rizik", or else "there will be trouble". The notice was served on a handwritten piece of paper from a note book and did not identify which branch of the Occupation Forces "Rizik" works with. Abdallah, however, is only too aware that "Rizik" is the head of Shabbak in the region.

Bil'in village will loose 2,300 dunams, over half of its land, behind the Annexation Wall, which will facilitate a huge expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the area. Bil'in has been at the front line of Palestinian resistance to the Wall, with regular demonstrations and creative direct action that utilise the non-violent methods of Muhatma Ghandi. Abdallah Abu-Rahma has been a driving force behind Bil'in's struggle.

On 17th June Abdallah, along with his brother Rateb, was arrested at a demonstration in Bil'in and charged with throwing stones. Video evidence of the demonstration shows that no stone throwing took place and that the army opened fire on the non-violent protestors with potentially lethal crowd dispersal weapons without provocation. This was acknowledged by the judge at Rateb's bail hearing, who said that the reality of what had happened was "strangely different, to put it mildly, from the testimony of the prosecution witnesses", a border policeman. Nevertheless, Abdallah awaits trial on the 28th of September and Rateb has a trial pending.

Meanwhile, the harassment of non-violent protesters continues. When Abdallah arrived for interrogation today what he received was more of a warning. He was told that what he is doing in organizing demonstrations is worse than throwing stones. He was reminded of Biddu, where five people were killed by the Israeli military during demonstrations against the wall. He was told that he is being watched closely, that they know everything he does and that. He was warned against making trouble.

A transcript of the interrogation follows (See 8. Transcript of Abdallah's Interrogation)

On Friday, 8th July there will be another demonstration against the Wall in Bil'in at 11am.

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3. Qawawis, written by V., July 5th

The psychological and physical harassment in the village of Qawawis continues.

The sheperds living in the hamlet of Qawawis, South of Hebron live in constant fear of the settlers living in the nearby illegal settlement outpost. All settlements are illegal under International law but the settlement outpost near Qawawis is illegal even by Israeli standards, a fact that doesn't seem to have any effect on the Israeli authorities. The illegal outpost is hooked up to electricity, water and a road that is paved to it's entrance, while the native Palestinians have no access to any of these services. The illegal outpost structures and residents are protected by the Israeli military and police, while the native Palestinians are forced to live in caves. If the natives of Qawawis build any structure, It is immediately threatened with demolition and will be torn down.

I stayed In Qawawis for three days. On the first day a group of settlers appeared on a hill that is part of the village. The Palestinian family living on this hill have recently returned there after they escaped from settler violence to a nearby town, two years ago. Shortly after the appearance of the settlers, who each carried a machine-gun, an army jeep arrived and waited for the settlers to leave for 40 minutes. On the third day a settler car stopped on the settlement road and two settlers came out and walk towards a Shepard and his flock hurling verbal abuse for about 10 minutes before continuing on their way.

These two incidents ended without violence but this is not always the case. The community lives under constant threat. The families of Qawawis are defenseless. They urgently ask for your help.

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4. Means of Expulsion: Violence, Harassment and Lawlessness Toward Palestinians in the Southern Hebron Hills.

Written by B'tselem.

July 2005, Summary

http://www.btselem.org/English/Publications/Summaries/200507_South_Hebron.asp

In the southernmost West Bank , some one thousand Palestinians have maintained the way of life of their ancestors: living in caves and earning a living from farming and livestock. In the 1970s, the Israeli military commander declared the area a "closed military area," and for the past five years, Israel has been trying to expel them from the area.

In November 1999, soldiers and Civil Administration officials expelled the cave residents and confiscated their meager belongings. The army sealed caves, destroyed wells and outhouses, and prohibited the residents from returning to the area. The cave residents petitioned the High Court of Justice, and in March 2000, the Court issued a temporary injunction, returning the residents to the area and preventing the state from expelling them until the court reaches a final decision in the matter. Since then, the residents live with the threat of expulsion hovering over their heads.

Israel contends that expulsion of the cave residents is justified because they are not permanent residents of the area, and that the expulsion is an "imperative military need." B'Tselem's report demonstrates that these contentions are baseless, and shows that Israel has continually sought to annex the area and expand the nearby settlements.

In addition to the threat of expulsion, the cave residents are victims of violence and property damage from the residents of nearby settlements. Due the intensity of this violence, the residents of two villages to abandon their villages in 2000. In a survey conducted by B'Tselem, some 88% of the Palestinians in the closed military area were victims of settler violence or witnessed such violence against a member of their immediate family. The abuse reported in the survey can be divided into four patterns: blocking of roads and preventing access to fields (51 percent of the cases), property damage, including destruction of crops and theft of sheep and goats in particular (21 percent), intimidation (17 percent), and physical violence (11 percent).

The police do little to enforce the law against the settlers, and the army does even less. In some cases, soldiers have even assisted settlers in carrying out their violent acts. On a few occasions, the army at its own initiative destroyed the residents' farmland by driving tanks and other armored vehicles onto the fields. In addition, the Civil Administration prohibits the residents from building in their villages, contending that the area is designated for agricultural use. The prohibition also covers construction to ensure proper water supply and to meet other basic needs.

The report documents Israel 's attempts over the past five years to expel the cave residents through legal proceedings, and describes the lives of the residents under the intimidation of settlers, the military, and the Civil Administration.

The bleak picture of Israel 's treatment of the cave residents, as described in the report, raises the concern that Israel is attempting to gradually wear down the residents to get them to leave the area , an achievement they have not yet been able to attain in court. B'Tselem protests the attempted expulsion and Israel 's current policy toward the residents, which severely infringe their human rights and flagrantly breach international law. For these reasons, B'Tselem urges the government of Israel to:

revoke the order declaring the caves area in South Mt. Hebron a closed military area and cancel the eviction orders currently pending against the cave residents;

instruct the army and police to protect the cave residents and to seriously enforce the law against violent settlers;

recognize the right of the cave residents to live in their villages and to build and develop them to meet their needs;

compensate Palestinians whose land and personal property were damaged by settlers, the army, or the Civil Administration.

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5. Letters from Rafah, Gaza Strip.

Written by K and M.

5th July 2005

Special greetings again from Rafah. There is just no way to describe life here at the southern end of the Gaza Strip. We are the only International people in all of Rafah and the news has traveled fast and everyone knows we are here.

This afternoon all of us, along with our two interpreters went over to the Block O neighborhood which is just a short distance from the building where our apartments are located. M, the young man who is serving as translator for the men, lived in Block O before it was destroyed by the Israelis in 2004.

We had visited Block O the first week we were in Rafah and were shocked by the level of destruction. M showed us the mosque where he and his friends would go to pray mosque that was all but demolished. He told us they used to play football in the square in front of the mosque. Now they call it the "Square of Death". We could not venture close to the wall for fear of being shot without warning. I worry about the children who are not allowed to be children.

While we were climbing among the ruins of Block O, some of M's friends from the university walked by and invited us to visit his home. We walked along a street strewn with rubble (I didn't think anyone could possibly be living on this street) and entered a courtyard. It too was a mass of rubble. I noticed a piece of tile that may well have been someone's living room or kitchen.

From this courtyard of destruction we entered a small yard that was like another world. Roses and other flowers were blooming in a small garden. Several large pieces of cloth created a shady tent-like structure.

Before long, S brought out the usual assortment of lawn chairs and we were joined by his parents, a brother, several young nieces and a number of young boys from the area. We have not gone anywhere in Rafah without attracting a cadre of preadolescent boys.

This family lives at the very edge of the pile of rubble that is now Block O. The mother of the family was a very animated woman who spoke her mind. She told us that she lives in fear of her family's home being destroyed just as most of the other Block O homes were. The family home is not too far from one of the Israeli "security" towers and we did hear shooting from the tower while we were with the family.

This family also asked us questions as United States citizens. They asked us if we thought Muslims were terrorists and what we thought about U.S. efforts to "export" its brand of democracy around the world. They also expressed their dismay that George Bush was elected president. A number of people have asked us about the election. They can't understand how a democratic nation would choose someone like Bush. The father of this family had the saddest face I have seen, and in Rafah, we have seen many very sad faces. The image that stays with me from our afternoon is Block O is the roses blooming in this most unlikely of places. Maybe peace will come to this troubled land in some unlikely way.

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6. "Where shall I go now?" A wave of house demolitions in East Jerusalem, Lucia and Angela of ICAHD ( The Israeli committee against house demolitions)-

Monday 5th July 5005

Again yesterday, houses were demolished in East Jerusalem. In the early morning the bulldozers moved into the neighborhood of Isawiyya, where they demolished a gas station. Then, they moved towards the neighborhood of Tel al Ful in Beit Hanina, were volunteers and staff from ICAHD where present at the site of the houses of Bassam Ramlawi and Nur al Din Damiri. At 9 a.m., dozens of police jeeps and ambulances appeared on top of the hill, and started to move down toward the houses. Two Israeli activists, Amnon and Shai, chained themselves to the fence on both sides of the dirt road leading to the houses, trying to block the passage of the many vehicles. However, when they saw the massive presence of border police and particularly the yamam (Special Forces) coming their direction, they knew it was hopeless and decided to unchain themselves. They feared they would be beaten up by the yamam, who have a reputation of being particularly violent. Even before they had the chance to totally remove the chains from the fence, members of the police cut open the locks which fastened the chains together.

Police then spread out to secure the area, and female border police tried to remove Amal Ramlawi from the doorway of her home. When she resisted, more Information Center filming and photographing the demolitions, where told to move away by the army. One of them refused, and after a short argument and pushing, was eventually removed and dragged up the hill, where he was asked to stand at a distance from the house. Amal was also finally removed from the house. Next, two orange Daewoo bulldozers appeared on the hilltop and started descending towards the houses. At 9:30, they began their work, demolishing the house of Bassam Ramlawi.

Meanwhile, at the house of Nur al Din Damiri, the family had been up since 2 a.m., removing their belongings from their modest two room house. The foreign workers, who were contracted to remove furniture from the houses, found themselves without work. At 9:54, the second bulldozer moved towards the house, and began to demolish it. Nur and his wife Ataf where standing at a safe distance from the house, watching the destruction of their home. It took the bulldozer exactly 7 minutes to demolish the house and dig up the foundation, thereby making 6 people homeless for the second time in two years. Nur worked for the Jerusalem police for 28 years, which didn't prevent the exact same police from making him homeless twice. Out of desperation, Nur shouted at the police and soldiers in perfect Hebrew, asking them where he and his family would now go; a very valid question considering that all resources, both financial and personal, have run out.

At 10:25, the bulldozers had completed their work, and began climbing up the hill, leaving 4 adults and 13 children homeless. From there, they moved on to the Wadi al Dam area in Beit Hanina, where they demolished another two uninhabited structures.

Today three houses were demolished by the Ministry for the Interior. A house in A-Tur belonged to the Abu Sneineh family; amongst those now without a roof over their heads are three handicapped children. Bravo, Ministry for the Interior. The other two demolitions were in Ashkariya, Beit Hanina. The names and details are still unknown to us, but the Ministry for the Interior is no doubt proud of its fine work and wouldn't want such a small detail to prevent us from celebrating. Let the Ministry for the Interior triumph!

We are at the beginning of a huge wave of new demolitions, judging from the examples of today and yesterday (9 buildings in two days); not to mention that in Silwan the municipality still has cancelled neither the project nor the demolition orders. ICAHD is extremely concerned that as the "Disengagement" from Gaza approaches closer, so will the number of house demolitions rise. We are worried that the media may be becoming less and less sensitive to the issue of house demolitions – apart from two Palestinian photographers, no press arrived today or yesterday, despite the notice going out to everyone. The even more worrying issue is that many diplomats, politicians and journalists seem to believe the official Israeli line that houses built "illegally" should be demolished and there is therefore no issue here.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions would remind everyone that the silence on the part of those who are aware of the situation, probably due to the fact that so much else is happening (that day's new crisis) is what allows the Municipality, the IDF and the Ministry for the Interior to continue these immoral and dangerous policies which so harm the chances for peace.

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7. Israeli army enters Hares village, harass youths,

Written by IWPS,

2nd July 2005

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 2, approximately eight Palestinian children were playing at the entrance of Hares village. They ranged in ages from 1 year to 12 years old. An Israeli army jeep passed by and, according to villager accounts, stopped at the entrance to the village. Several soldiers approached the children and began to push and harass them. It is unclear to Palestinian residents why the soldiers decided to target these children. The Israeli soldiers left after 15 minutes.

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8. Transcript of Abdallah's Interrogation

6th July 2005

Abdallah waited until 2pm to be lead into the interrogation, accompanied by an international and an attorney. They were not present during the interview. Captain Rizik did not participate in the interrogation but typed into the computer, whilst the other man present (S) spoke with Abdallah.

S: Are you a man? Why did you bring those two sluts with you? [Referring to the women who were with Abdullah]

A: She is my lawyer. I know that this is a state that works according to law.

S: No. there is no law in Israel.

A: There is.

S: The Mukhabrat [Intelligence/Secret Service] has no law. Your lawyer says the paper we gave you is not official, so why did you come? It is not a problem if you don't come, we will just write it on the computer and then come and take you from your house. What is your job?

A: I am a teacher.

S: In Bil'in?

A: No, Bir Zeit

S: What are you doing in Bil'in? You are doing something wrong. You don't get called to the Mukhabrat unless you have done something very wrong. Where were you last week?

A: In jail.

S: Why were you in jail?

A: I was taken from a peaceful demonstration.

A: How long were you there?

S: Five days.

S: And then what happened?

A: The judge said that I was arrested by mistake and that I should be released.

S: All of you are arrested by mistake. You know now there are no demonstrations in Biddu?

A: There are demonstrations there.

S: Do you know what happened in Biddu?

A: Yes. They moved the fence further away.

S: Yes, but what's the price?

A: Five martyrs.

S: No. Five people killed. The people that used to speak on the microphone and organise the demonstrations, do you know where they are? They are sitting in their homes, they are not demonstrating now. Five people were killed and then they stopped demonstrating.

A: If you take a balloon and you step on it what will happen?

S: It will burst.

A: That's what you are doing to Bil'in. Bil'in used to be called the village of peace. You are strangling it. We are left with no land. Where is my son going to live? The wall in Bil'in will be moved back, but it will happen by peaceful means. We have decided that we are going to resist peacefully.

S: You throw stones. What about the soldier who lost his eye?

A: At the demonstrations stones are not thrown, but when the army enters the village and starts firing between the houses people throw stones at them.

S: We know everything you do.

A: I know you know everything I do and I have done everything according to the law. I haven't thrown stones.

S: You do something worse than throwing stones. You tell the people to go out on demonstrations. We have reports about you. We know you make problems. Go home, sit quietly in your house, enjoy your life, don't make problems. We are watching you very, very closely."

ENDS

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