ISM Update From Palestine
1. Friday, 15 Jul 2005: Daily killings by the IOF. Who will dry these mother's tears? 2. Saturday, 16 Jul 2005: Tulkarem, An IOF Unilateral Change of Plans 3. Saturday, 16 Jul 2005: For Immediate Release: Week of action in Salfit postponed due to assassinations and incursions 4. Saturday, 16 Jul, 2005: Abu Rabia was right, it was the beginning of something 5. Saturday, 16 Jul, 2005: Events in the West Bank village of Immatin 6. Tuesday,12 Jul: "Look at these children… How can a park be more important, than roof over their heads?" 7. Thursday, 14 Jul 2005: Why Nino? Why now? 8. Friday, 15 Jul 2005: Women like Fatima give us hope
1. Daily killings by the IOF. Who will dry these mother's tears? 15 July, 2005, Mansour
This evening, two Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Occupation forces (IOF). Another two were killed this morning, then another and another. Palestinians are being killed daily by the IOF, and we hear no comments, no condemnations. All we hear is talk about uprooting and dismantling the terrorist networks and terror bases.
Two days ago there was a bombing in Natanya where five Israelis were killed and many others were injured. The international community condemned the bombing. The Palestinian people are also against the killing of any civilian, but what on basis does the international community use to measure which civilian death is worse than another?
Last Friday, I was standing and talking with a few internationals during a demonstration against the Apartheid Wall in Bil'in. A young Palestinian man brought water out to us and was standing near his home, listening to us speak. An Israeli soldier aimed at this man and shot him in the head with a rubber bullet. I was shocked and immediately carried him to the ambulance, away from the tear gas and sound grenades that the soldiers began firing at us indiscriminately. He was taken to the hospital in Ramallah, then transferred after two days to Al Muqased hospital in Jerusalem to receive medical treatment.
After the demo ended, we were on our way home when we received a call from one of our friends. A 15 year-old boy was shot dead by Israeli private security in the nearby village of Beit Likiya. What did he do? What was his crime, and why was he shot? The only answer was that the boy was close to the well-armed bulldozers that have been working on the construction of the Wall. The Israeli soldiers and private security present didn't even try to talk with him, but they decided to take his life away from him.
What will the international community have as an answer if the mother of this boy asks, "Where is your justice?" What kind of tissues will the international community give to the mother to dry her tears? Is it made-in-the-USA weapons that the Israeli soldiers used to kill her son? How many tissues will they need for all the Palestinian mothers who have lost their children?
If the international community continues to ignore the violations of human rights and international law by the Israeli government, how will they answer the questions from their own kids about peace and justice?
The Palestinian people have resisted for 57 years, and we know well how to keep our morale and spirits up and strong, but we need you around us. We accept the tissues of our friends to dry our continuous tears.
2. Tulkarem: An IOF Unilateral Change of Plans 16th July 2005
We arrived in Tulkarem yesterday, two days after the Israeli invasion of the 14th. The attack began with the customary show of force: two Palestinian policemen guarding the checkpoint at the western entrance of the city were shot. Mohammed Shihade was killed, and his companion, Mohammed Ghannam is in critical condition in the local hospital. Both men are twenty years old.
The city has been under curfew, and the army has patrolled the streets, shooting live ammunition, sound bombs and tear gas. They have occupied houses and arrested many people from inside the city as well as the surrounding villages and refugee camps. We were told just after our arrival that seven people were shot the day before, and one is in critical condition.
This IOF invasion has shredded the Sharm Al Sheikh agreements. Israel was supposed to withdraw completely from Tulkarem and Jericho. The Palestinian Authority, supposedly in control of the area, received no warning of the invasion and Israel's unilateral change of plan.
Normally, the streets of Tulkarem are bustling, but as we walked through the city, the shops were closed and the crowds gone; only a few manic children and the rare pedestrian kept it from being totally deserted.
Near our apartment, we discovered a house flying an Israeli flag from a window: one of the many houses in the city that had been occupied by the army. The few people we saw kept a wary distance from the house, generally staying out of view (except, of course, for the irrepressible children), and the occasional passers-by who were unaware of the situation hurried away when they realized the house was occupied. A man on the street informed us that the family was still inside, being held hostage by the soldiers.
Sometime after we walked away from the house, we heard gunshots from that direction; later we learned that a teenage boy had lost his kidney to an Israeli sniper. It seems likely that it happened on the same street.
Of the eleven or so families whose houses were occupied last night (more houses have been occupied since), not all of them were forced to remain inside. We were asked by one family to help them retrieve some possessions from their home, as they had been forced to flee to a relative's house with few of their belongings. Our plan was to talk to the soldiers in the house and convince them to let us come in with the mother of the family, who could locate easily what the family needed. As we approached, however, a soldier peeked out from under the curtain: "It is bad for us for you to be here. We're not allowed to talk to you. Please go away." Then he disappeared from view and further attempts to engage the soldiers were met with silence. They just ignored it when we rang the doorbell. Today our attempts were more productive. We managed to help a woman retrieve some medicine, clothes and a car from her occupied house. The remnants of normality lay visible outside the house: a few pairs of slippers by the door and a child's bike lying in the driveway. They emphasized the incongruity of a squad of soldiers who were occupying a pleasant suburban neighborhood. The next house we visited was in the Tulkarm refugee camp. As is common practice for the IOF, the family and their neighbors had been rounded up into one room, forced to remain there indefinitely whilst the occupying soldiers made use of the rest of the house. This tactic ensures the soldier's safety while they are in the building: no Palestinian would attack a house whilst the family is still inside. The families are effectively human shields. The soldiers allowed us to enter and deliver food and water. There were twenty-two people in the room: at least eight children and one baby. It was unbearably stuffy, and the people looked exhausted. We were told that one woman had diabetes, but our attempts to negotiate with the soldiers to let her go were fruitless. The number of people arrested so far is uncertain. This morning we witnessed a big squad of soldiers going from house to house and apparently arbitrarily arresting people they found inside. A crowd of women and children waited on the median in the middle of the road. There were perhaps ten jeeps in the area and one large vehicle in which the arrested people were driven away. Sniffer dogs were also being used. Nobody is allowed out of the city. The Enab Gate, open since the Sharm Al Sheik talks, has been shut, blocking the main road between Tulkarm and Nablus. Today curfew was lifted from noon to 4pm. The streets erupted with people, hurriedly buying what they might need for the next… who knows? When will people be able to move freely again? How long is this incursion going to last? Meanwhile people are talking about Gaza and Salfit, where people have been killed by air assaults; Hebron and Bethlehem, where a lot of people have been arrested. It is so hard not to keep wondering what will happen next, what is the next stage in Israel's unilateral grand plan? Peace is clearly not on the agenda, nor is an Israeli 'withdrawal' from Tulkarm, Gaza, or anywhere else, nor is there any guarantee that the civilian populations will not be subjected to a military onslaught.
3. For Immediate Release: Week of Action in Salfit Postponed due to Assassinations and Incursions 16th July 2005
The five days of actions against the Apartheid Wall in the Salfit district, due to start on 16th July have been postponed due to IOF activity, which resulted in the deaths of three people, including a 16 year-old boy. These activities had been planned by the National Committee Against Settlements and the Wall in Salfit, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS),
The coalition of peace groups and local organizations responsible for planning the event will announce the revised program as soon as possible.
4. Abu Rabia was right, it was the beginning of something. Saturday, Jul 16, 2005: Written by Shannon
When the IOF invaded the first time, Abu Rabia stood next to me on the roof. I watched him slowly shut down each little muscle in his face, as he stared forward like a stone, "I just keep thinking, what is this the beginning of?" I couldn't understand what he meant then. My body was in enough shock that I didn't feel scared, even when soldiers waved their guns in front of me. Now I am scared everyday, and even the washing machine can make me jump.
Abu Rabia was right,it was the beginning of something.
In the press I am sure you all read about the suicide bomber. Many of you have written me about it. It is indeed a sad thing that civilians in Israel died. But these bombings are disproportionately reported. Did any of you read in your papers about the15 year-old boy was shot in the head by Israeli security while picking grapes? Had I not been living in a neighboring village, I fear I would have never heard of this tragedy. But because I am here, because I have seen houses raided in the middle of the night, because I have awoken to hear soldiers creep around the edge of our house, I know that terror can come in many forms.
If the army doesn't invade our village, it is likely that we will at least get a call from a neighboring village. In Deir Istiya, soldiers took over two houses and locked the family in the front room. They went to the roof and set up guns in all the windows and told the family they were using their house as a military base. They promised to return until the two wanted men were dead. In one house they threatened to kill the sons. In the other, they urinated in their water bottles and stole their olive oil. The pregnant woman in the house suffered a miscarriage, most likely due to the stress. The family is too poor to afford a doctor and is too frightened to leave their children home alone, so the mother continues to bleed without aid.
Last night, the family in Deir Istiya called again. The army had kept their promise to return. It was night, and no cars could take us to the village. I lay awake in my bed. I usually get nauseous from motion sickness. This time I think I was sick from my own stillness.
Abu Rabia was right, it was the beginning of something.
I went to the action in Immatin. I marched at the front, where the Palestinians asked the internationals to be. I was feet away from the soldiers and could even recognize some of their faces as from the invasion of Hares. They started shooting canisters of teargas. I saw Neta, passed out while two Palestinians carried her away.
The tear gas was so thick that I started dry heaving and couldn't even see my hands. My friend Wendy grabbed my shoulder and we made our way back a bit. We waited, and then tried to go forward again. They pushed us back. We waited and tried to go forward again. They pushed us back. This game kept going until two jeeps drove toward us. The ambulance drove ahead with the injured and the Palestinians pushed huge rocks behind it so the jeep couldn't follow.
All this happened on Palestinian land, more than 20 km inside the West Bank.
We returned and the clinic was full. Thirty-one people had been injured and 3 were arrested. Women wrung there hands and looked down the trail asking, "Where is my son? Did he come back with you?" I looked at the ground and said nothing.
Later the military surrounded the clinic and detained 20 people. Activists and women from the village fought to keep them from being taken away. The army responded by shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into the village. The hardest part was the feeling of defeat. Hope is the most dangerous weapon against the occupation, so the army must bomb it out of all of us.
Abu Rabia was right, it was the beginning of something. I hope these demonstrations, where Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals gather together to peacefully resist, are the beginning of something too.
Just in case we didn't get the message, the army invaded the village the day after the action and declared curfew. Wendy and I rushed over to join two other internationals. We walked around the village until a group of men asked us to accompany them to the Mosque. We waited outside while they went inside to pray. A group of 12-14 year-old boys rushed into the mosque, pursued by a jeep. As it screeched to a halt, two soldiers ran out with their guns and ran to the door. They paused and looked over at us as we slowly approached with our hands to our side. We tried to ask them why they had come to the village, but they kept repeating that this was closed military zone and if we didn't leave, we would be arrested. We kept asking questions and trying to delay them. They called the border police and as they talked together, we slowly snuck away and continued to patrol the village.
We went to the top of a roof and heard sound bombs and tear gas being fired near the Mosque. We later discovered that one man was beaten and the army had set off sound bombs at the Mosque during the daily prayer.
Three Israeli activists met us when we returned to the house. They had heard about the troubles and came to be with the Palestinians in solidarity. When one of the Israeli women told a little girl she was from Israel, the girl gave a wide-eyed stare back. She had only seen soldiers from Israel, and this Arabic- speaking, kind, playful young woman was a totally new type of Israeli. This interaction gives me so much hope.
When we returned home we received the news that two had been killed in Salfit (the region where I live) by an Apache helicopter which dropped a rocket. We still don't have the details about who was killed or why. But we know that Salfit is under curfew. We have heard the army has been entering into the hospitals trying to find and arrest some of the wounded men.
However, we cannot go and confirm these facts, because there are several checkpoints between us and Salfit, and the military has sealed off all entrances. Again, it is the inability to react that kills me.
So I go to bed, hoping that the army doesn't wake me before 8 am. This is life in Palestine.
5. Events today and yesterday in the West Bank village of Immatin, a small village of about 2000 inhabitants. Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 Written by Dorothy
Yesterday was my first time in Immatin. I and several others arrived early— before 8:00 AM--mistakenly understanding that the protest march was to begin at 8:30, when in fact it was scheduled for 11:00. Others had slept there, and they invited us to breakfast with them. As we sat at the tables on the porch, I looked at the view and at our gathering of about 18 people.
"How lovely," I thought, as I had on other like occasions. How wonderful it could be if there peace. We could then have been on the same porch enjoying the meal, one another's company, and looking forward to a lovely day. Instead, although we savored the moment, we all knew that what lay ahead would be less than pleasant.
None of us who were there to protest the uprooting of Immatin's olive groves and the theft of its land are violent—not the Palestinians, not the internationals, not the Israelis. But the IOF is. We are not treated with kid gloves, as are the settlers, who are often violent. Three ambulances on hand for the event were insufficient yesterday. Driving back and forth on the narrow rocky path between the protesters, they were followed by others bringing those overcome with tear gas or otherwise wounded on stretchers. The ambulances made multiple trips, as did the stretchers.
As in other places, on this hot, hot day in this small modest (not affluent) village, the IOF won out for the time being over the heartbreak of the villagers losing their land and trees. They are helpless and about to be closed in from all sides by the damned wall.
6. "Look at these children… How can a park be more important, than roof over their heads?" Tuesday12 Jul: Written by Palle and Ninna
Dahiyat al Salam is a village near Jerusalem, where all the houses are `illegal', because they're built without permission from the Israeli occupiers. This permit is nearly impossible to get for Palestinians, and therefore almost any newly-built Palestinian houses in the areas around Jerusalem have demolition orders against them. In this particular area, 148 houses are to be demolished, and many houses have all ready been destroyed. Some families built up their houses again after they were demolished. Other less fortunate families have to live in tents or sheds.
The IOF had arrived at 7 AM, and had given the family 5 minutes to pack their stuff and leave their home before the bulldozers started. The family, of course, protested against this treatment, and one of the soldiers pulled a small baby from the mother. They were all pushed out of the house, and detained until the demolition was finished about 15 minutes later.
The family is very poor, the grandmother is deaf, and the grandfather is blind. They had rented the house for free from another family who helps them out. Now they don't know where to stay, but they are hoping that the Red Cross would provide a tent for them.
On the hill next to the house, there are about 30 tents and sheds, where other families live who have lost their houses. Even these sheds are occasionally demolished by the Israeli authorities, and, on the next hill, there are huge new bungalows built by illegal Israeli settlers. They also have no permission to build, but Israeli authorities look the other way, when Israelis are breaking this law.
Across the street from the destroyed house lives a man whose house has been demolished 5 times, and each time it has been rebuilt by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Now it has become a meeting place for activists and is named after Rachel Corrie the American ISM activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003.
We went to the house for coffee, but after only ten minutes we were told that another house was being demolished in Silwan, another area inside Jerusalem, and that we might be needed there.
We hurried out and got into a taxi, but when we arrived, the place was surrounded by soldiers. We were told that the demolition was almost finished. We are also told that about 88 houses have demolition orders against them in this area, because the Israeli government wants to build some kind of archeological park.
A man who burst into tears said to us: "Look at these children… How can a park be more important, than roof over their heads?"
8. Why Nino? Occupied Nablus, Palestine 14th July 2005
There was a bombing in central London last week, and we've just been to the third funeral since then. Two of the dead were children; all were victims of a campaign to kill and to destroy a society and way of life.
But we're not in London, we're in Nablus, Palestine. The IOF came into Palestinian streets and opened fire, killing the last three as they've killed thousands before.
A little over a year ago, Mohammed Alassi, 26, also known as Nino, escaped the wreckage of the car that was bombed by the IOF, killing the Balata Al- Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader Khalil Marshood. Nino was killed late last Wednesday night.
The Israeli army admits it shot an unarmed man who was running away. The photographs show he was clearly unarmed, wearing nothing but a vest and underwear. Witnesses say the army surrounded the house. When Nino tried to run out of a side entrance, they threw a spotlight on him and shot him in the ankles as he tried to jump a wall. After he fell, witnesses say the soldiers came and shot him many times before dragging his body away.
The photographs from the morgue show that he was shot two or three times in the right ankle and several times in the left, destroying the bone. He had also been shot many times in the groin, torso and in the head.
Why did the IOF kill Nino, this way, at this time? Their press release says that they killed "a militant". Nino was wanted by the Israeli authorities since he was in the siege at the Church of the Nativity in 2002, but he is not a senior figure in any of the resistance brigades, and he is not accused of having any role in the Netanya bomb, a response to the killings of tens of Palestinians since the Sharm Al Sheikh ceasefire. By killing Nino at a friend's home in Nablus, Israeli forces sent a message that they can get anyone, anywhere, anytime they choose. No one is safe from them, Israel knows everything. Whatever may have been said in international conferences, Israel is maintaining levels of fear and intimidation among the Palestinian population that fuels ongoing hostilities.
Why shoot to disable an unarmed man, only to fire a dozen more bullets into his body and head? To shoot an unarmed man in the ankles, then approach him on foot, suggests an in intent to arrest. To stand over the body of an injured man who posed no threat, then shoot shows bloodlust or indoctrinated hate or fear. It does not show intent for peace.
Why Nino? While Israeli ground troops have killed civilians indiscriminately, they assassinate tactically. Israeli forces have selectively killed not just the effective leaders of the resistance brigades but also the popular figures. Nino was a well known and well liked resident of the camp.
All the factions participated in his funeral procession, carrying his shrouded body on their shoulders from the far side of Nablus city to his family-home in Balata camp. PA forces lined the streets outside the bomb-damaged muqata. In the camp, men clambered to pat the shroud or stroke his face. Nino's big brown eyes would not shut.
In response to all the recent killings of Palestinians by the IOF, the brigades had announced they would no longer keep to their part of the ceasefire. I sent a report to say I hope that the media was reporting that fairly and that they would acknowledge that Israel had never kept to its part of the ceasefire. Minutes after I emailed that report, the Netanya bomb exploded.
Few journalists put the bombing in its proper context. None of them reported the deaths of three children this week. Nino's death is reported only in the context of an association with a foreign woman.
Since his death, journalists have plagued the internationals here with telephone calls, trying to track down the woman Nino was visiting when he died. There is only a small foreign community here, westerners are not too hard to locate. Today a number of people 'claiming to be journalists' have arrived in Nablus. The credentials of some do not check out; the others are known to have published anti-Palestinian articles. Israel controls movement across the region. Unsurprisingly, it seems that they have informed and facilitated the entry of only selected writers. Israel is controlling the reporting of its actions and therefore the world's perception of events here.
The bare facts are that Israel has a huge military might, funded in part by the billions of dollars of support from the west, in particular the US. It also has control of the media and most of the land. But Palestine has the largest part of the death toll.
9. Women like Fatimah give us hope Fri, 15 Jul 2005: Written by Shannon
There are still many problems with the IOF entering our village, as well as ones nearby, at night. The protest today was difficult, but no serious problems. Thirty-one were injured. I was tear gassed pretty heavily today and having difficulty recovering, but nothing too serious.
Fatimah went from the ambulance to our car, "They took my bullhorn!" The wrinkles around her eyes lifted in a smile as she passed around orange drink to cool our freshly tear-gassed throats.
Just hours earlier this limping woman led internationals, leaders of the village, and shabob (young men) as they marched towards the IOF. The peaceful demonstration was met with IOF sound bombs and tear gas. As others ran back, she stood on the front lines with her bullhorn, singing and chanting. When people began to run, she shouted, "It is better that we stay together and die, than that we leave and are not allowed to live."
Over dinner I asked her if she was scared. She said that she was always worried about what would happen to her children if she got arrested. Her husband left her years earlier because of all her social work. She works in an organization called "Women for Life" which empowers girls and women to fight against the occupation. The situation here is horrifying and after only a week, even I can feel hopeless. But it is women like Fatimah and demonstrations such as this one, that give me hope.
The repercussions from our demonstration were severe. They threw sound bombs as soon as we got close and, as we were retreating. The IOF decided to throw tear gas. Tear gas makes you feel like you can't breathe, so you don't. It is a microcosm for the occupation. Teargas makes you feel like you can do nothing, so sometimes you don't. At another demonstration that day (which my friends in IWPS attended), they shot rubber bullets. Don't let the name fool you, metal-coated bullets would be a more accurate description, and they can cause severe damage. That day a man was hit in the head and taken to ICU where he slipped in and out of consciousness. Another man had a bullet surgically removed from his stomach.
Other weapons the IOF has used in recent demonstrations include sponge bullets, salt bullets, and the `scream'. Sponge bullets are metal on one end and large plastic sponges on the other. When they hit you, the sponge melts to your skin and leaves a major wound when you pull it off. Salt bullets penetrate your skin and push salt into your blood stream, causing debilitating pain. The scream makes a noise that affects your balance, causing disorientation and vomiting. But it's nothing a wad of cotton in your ears can't fix.
I am very thankful they are using non-lethal methods. However, I worry that the press and outsiders don't give these methods as much attention as they deserve, because they think the damage is minimal. However, no matter what their physical result, when forceful methods are used against peaceful demonstrations, we must take it very seriously.
And the methods go beyond these weapons. My second night, I spent the night in Belin. At 3:30 am the soldiers came to the house where I was staying and woke the entire house. It took six men with guns in two jeeps to summon one man to a police station. They gave no reason, but we suspect it may be his position as an organizer.
I have dedicated a lot of time to writing about the demonstration. But more important than the demonstration is understanding why the demonstrations are occurring. Both of these demonstrations were a direct response to the wall. Here are some facts from the Stop the Wall Campaign.
The wall is not being built on the 1967 Green line, but in many cases cuts deep into the West Bank Territories
When completed the wall will annex 47% of the West Bank
The residents in Gaza and the West Bank, including 1.5 million refugees, will be living on only 12% of historic Palestine, 16% of Palestinians will be outside the Wall, including 200,000 residents in East Jerusalem.
Many Israelis will say that this is the price that must be paid for security. But walls have been poor security measures since they invented the catapult. So what does the wall achieve, if not security...land grabbing and economic strangulation. The land grab needs hardly any explanation in light of the above facts. If the wall is not being built on the Green Line, but miles into Palestinian land. Imagine if your neighbor wanted to build a fence because he was afraid of your dogs, but he built it, not only on your land, but a good 10 feet into your property.
Would you believe it was simply for her security?
Economic strangulation is more difficult to explain. First, many of Palestinian resources such as olive trees are being destroyed during the construction of this wall. Second, the wall cuts Palestine off from important resources such as water. Finally, the wall makes it difficult for Palestine to have any economic control, because all its boarders are guarded by Israel.
Here is a concrete example of how this is already working. When you go to the market in Ramallah you see that all the fruits are being sold from Israeli boxes. The fruits were mostly grown by Palestinian farmers, but to get them to Ramallah, they must sell them to Israelis, because they can't get them through checkpoints and over security barriers. The Israelis sell them to Palestinians who then sell them in the market.
These problems are recognized by human rights organizations world-wide. One year ago from the International High Court called for the building of the wall to cease. One week later the UN affirmed the decision. Yet the UN and world leaders have done nothing to actually stop the building of the wall.
I have observed the direct effects of this wall on many villagers. In Belin (the village where my friends attended the demo) a woman and her children took me on a small tour. They showed me their village clinic,which had been destroyed to make room for the wall. Then they showed me the soon to be destroyed olive trees, which their family relies on for income.
In Masha (the village where I attended the demonstration) I visited a house surrounded by the wall on three sides. The family lives in a virtual prison. The soldiers can lock the gate and keep them from leaving or coming. When the father comes home from work, he stares through the gate at his family, sometimes waiting hours till the soldiers let him through. The child who lives in this house, they call him Abu Mushcala He is so distressed by his situation that his mother says he has been acting out in very violent and rude ways. Is a prison a good environment to raise up men who will want to live with you in peace?