ISM: Update From Palestine
1) "A snake winds through Bil'in" by ISM activists, August 5 2) "Checkpoints destroy our economy" by Sarita, Aug. 4 3) "They still find ways to have fun in Kifal Hares" by Devon, August 3 4) "Closing the Gates to the Old City of Hebron," by JoAnne Lingle, August 5 5) "Donky Justice" by Michael Goode, August 4 6) "Is Deheishe aa graveyard?" by Howard Taylor, July 31 7) "The roots of the trees are the bones of our grandfathers" by Jen, August 3 8) "It's not the Palestinians who are going to throw us into the sea, we're doing it ourselves by Hannah, Aug. 4
1. A SNAKE WINDS THROUGH BIL'IN August 5 by ISM activists
PHOTOS: https://israel.indymedia.org/media/index.php Carrying a 20-foot long mock snake with a dove baring the colors of the Palestinian flag in its mouth, about 100 Palestinian peace activists in the West Bank village of Bil'in on Friday were joined by 50 Israelis and 30 internationals in a march toward the construction site of Israel's illegal annexation wall. The display represented how is snaking through Palestinian land, killing the possibilities for peace.
While Israeli soldiers attempted to turn the situation into chaos with tear gas and sound grenades, peace activists were able to maintain two lines, with their arms locked, and walk toward the soldiers until they retreated back as television cameras from Aljzaeera and other news agencies recorded footage. Soldiers injured some protesters with shrapnel from sound grenades. Others were kicked or punched by soldiers. 13 Israeli activists were detained. Four people were arrested, two Israelis and two foreign peace activists.
Friday demonstrations in Bil'in' begin at 1 p.m. on the dot. The Aug. 5 wall protest was no exception. As the demonstration neared the last house in the village, Israeli soldiers were prepared, standing with shields and riot gear behind razor wire. They immediately declared the area a closed military zone. Palestinians shouted back "This is Palestinian territory!" and continued chanting, singing and dancing for about half an hour.
As some of the protestors continued chanting, the Israeli military started to move toward the demonstrators, firing tear gas and throwing sound grenades into the crowd. Israeli soldiers then pushed the demonstration back toward the village.
A peace activist from India was knocked down and kicked in the head. He said later that the soldiers had talked to him as though they thought he was a Palestinian. Another man — an actual Palestinian — was injured in his leg by shrapnel from one of the sound grenades tossed into the crowd by soldiers. Of the four arrested, the two internationals, one from Germany and the other from Denmark were released hours later. Two Israelis are still under arrest and accused of assault. One soldier has claimed that one of the Israeli peace activists "bit" him.
The demonstrators reformed into clear lines and linked arms and were beaten with shields by the Israeli military. Palestinians were specifically targeted with brutal force. Despite the large number of Israeli soldiers, the demonstration was able to peacefully stand its ground and move the soldiers back to the original stand-off point.
2. CHECKPOINTS DESTROY OUR ECONOMY Street theatre and demonstration in Deir Ballut, Salfit District August 4 By Sarita
Photos: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2005/08/06/ checkpoints-destroy-palestinian-economy-2/
Deir Ballut villagers were joined today by 30 International and Israeli activists in a demonstration against the military check point blocking the entrance to their village. Deir Ballut, southwest of Salfit, and its neighboring villages Rafat and Zawiya, are projected to be imprisoned by the Apartheid Wall and have been living under continuous closures. Twenty-two houses are isolated from the rest of the village behind this check point. No one except for the residents of these houses are allowed access to the area, and villagers are routinely submitted to humiliating treatment when attempting to access either their homes, their lands, or the rest of the village. When completed, the Apartheid Wall will isolate and surround Deir Ballut, cutting it off completely not only from its fertile agricultural lands, but also from the rest of Salfit District and the surrounding towns.
Shouting "Free, Free Palestine" the demonstrators reached the blockade placed by the soldiers to stop the protest from reaching the checkpoint. The protestors erupted into a vivid theatrical display that mimicked the deadly reality of Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, carrying plastic water guns, wearing bowls on their heads to serve as helmets, and carrying a big sign to mark the theatrical checkpoint. Several friends from within the demonstration pretended to try to pass through their checkpoint and were refused and shot. The Israeli activists chanted, "We don't fight, we don't cry, we refuse to occupy." The demonstration ended peacefully and everyone returned to the village to feast.
The people living in Deir Ballut and its neighboring villages used to rely on work inside the Green Line before the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000. But with the intensification of the Occupation policy of closure, villagers were unable to reach their workplaces inside the Green Line. This meant that most of them had to return once again to agriculture as their primary work, and they have since relied on working the land as a basic source of income.*
Today's action is part of a series of actions organized in the Salfit district that highlights the occupation and ghettoization of the West Bank. Work on the Apartheid Wall in Deir Ballut began in June 2004. The wall confiscates hundreds of dunums of Deir Ballut's lands while isolating 80% of the village's agricultural lands. The settlements of Badue'l and Ale Zahav plan on building an additional 550 housing units on the village's lands. In the western area, the Wall will ghettoize three villages in total (Deir Ballut, Zawiya, and Rafat). reating a "bantustan" isolated from surrounding villages and towns, villagers will have no connection with the outside world except through the Zawiya "tunnel", which leads to Masha village in the north. The "tunnel", referred to as a "hole" by Palestinians, will be under control of the Occupation Forces. They will regulate and determine Palestinian life and movement through it. When completed villagers (assuming they have passes and are allowed to access the Zawiya "tunnel") will have to make a long journey to reach the key city of Salfit which provides essential educational, cultural, social and economic services. Villagers will be forced to detour far to Qalqiliya, then to the city of Nablus in order to reach Salfit city. What is now a short trip will soon require a full day's travel — and that is if there are no Occupation checkpoints along the way to slow the trip down or make it simply impossible to pass.
(Statistics and background form the Stop The Wall Campaign website: www.stopthewall.org)
3. THEY STILL FIND WAYS TO HAVE FUN IN KIFL HARIS August 4 by Devon
Sixty percent of the West Bank village of Kifl Haris are children under the age of 17. on August first some of the village's children demonstrated with us and stayed non-violent in the face of a foreign military shooting teargas and sound bombs. I would not have been that brave when I was their age. They grow up fast here; they have to.
I think that where ever one goes in whatever circumstances, children will find ways to have fun. After the action they invited me to play football and basketball with them. An ocean of children running back and forth having a really good time is quite a contrast to the Palestinian man who got hit in the mouth with a tear gas canister earlier that day; it shattered his jaw and there was blood all down his shirt. I think Gandhi would have been proud of the villagers that day.
I wanted to tell you about the children's sweet voices, but I can't do them justice in writing. I wanted to show you their smiles and I wanted you to hear them laugh. I wish you could come play with them and demonstrate with them, because if you did you would be touched in your heart of hearts - after that you would never forget the children of Palestine and you would forever wonder if they are still doing okay.
4. CLOSING THE GATES TO THE OLD CITY OF HEBRON August 5 by JoAnne Lingle
On August 3, 2005, the Israeli Military installed five iron gates on the main entrances to the Old City of Hebron. The previous week, a locked iron door was installed at a tunnel entrance near the Beit Romano checkpoint. The only remaining access to the old city is the checkpoint. The old city has become a de facto jail with Israeli soldiers holding the key to the door.
"Citizens of the Old City are now locked into their houses and wondering how to get into and out from the city and how they will have a life!... by sealing all its entrances and exits, the Israeli authority are aiming at evacuating the old city from its original inhabitants by making their lives impossible,... giving more space and free hands for the settlers and their enclaves in the Old City. With this action, the Old City of Hebron (has) become like a big prison." (Hebron Rehabilitation Committee press release, 3/8/2005)
CPT urges individuals and organizations to pressure the Israeli government and international community to alleviate the oppression of the Palestinian residents imposed by this closure of the Old City of Hebron.
5. DONKEY JUSTICE August 4 Michael Goode
When a foreign nation is occupying your land and one of its citizens commits a crime against your person or property, who are you supposed to call for help? The police? Several weeks ago, Al-Hajj (not his real name), a Palestinian Bedouin living near At-Tuwani, asked CPT to accompany him to the Israeli police station in Kiryat Arba so he could file a complaint against a group of settlers from nearby Carmel who had tolen his donkey.
As I soon learned, filing a simple complaint can turn into an all-day affair. When Al-Hajj and I arrived at the police station, at least an hour away from At-Tuwani via Palestinian roads, we had to enter at the rear where there was a locked gate with no one around. Several phone calls and forty minutes later, an officer finally walked out to let us in. Once inside, an Arabic-speaking officer informed us that we would have to make the complaint at Carmel and a police jeep was being prepared to take us there in forty-five minutes. While we waited, a friendly Israeli settler passed by and assured Al-Hajj that, although he was a settler, he carried no weapons and only wanted to live in peace. Even assuming his sincerity, the settler still missed what was obvious to the Palestinians sitting in an Israeli police station: There was no need for him to carry weapons. He and his settler cohorts had arrayed around them a very sophisticated security apparatus dedicated to their protection. Any Palestinian concerns were at best secondary and at worst interfered with their primary mandate. We waited almost two hours before being told that the jeep would not be going out today and that Al-Hajj would have to find his own way to Carmel. Since Al-Hajj is a Palestinian, he was not permitted travel on Israeli-only 'by-pass' roads. This meant taking an indirect route that added an extra hour of travel time. Our Homeric trek to Carmel included taking three separate taxis, crossing two Israeli military roadblocks, and walking four miles along an Israeli 'by-pass' road before Al-Hajj managed to flag a Palestinian taxi to Carmel. When we arrived, I could see a police jeep at the main entrance with four settlers, a private settler security officer, and a donkey waiting behind the gate. The police at Carmel took Al-Hajj's complaint while the gate opened and the settlers walked up to the jeep with the donkey. Remarkably, they seemed to take this token defeat in stride and with a little sarcasm. They photographed themselves next to the donkey, and one of them even turned to me and smirked, "Peace and love, right?" The most remarkable part of the story is not that Al-Hajj got his donkey back. It is rather the manner in which the Israeli police handled his case. It was obvious to me that Al-Hajj wouldn't have his donkey without international help. The biggest scandal of all was the barely concealed fact that the Israeli police knew who had the donkey all along. It was there when we arrived. Perhaps the most outrageous sight was watching one of the Israeli police officers get chummy with the settlers, putting his arm around one of them and patting him on the back while they exchanged a good laugh. Imagine that you called the police to report a stolen television, and the officers showed up with the thief acting as if they were schoolyard buddies. You, too, would wonder whose side they are on. Michael Goode is a member of Christian Peacemaker Team, which has maintained a constant presence in Hebron for 10 years.
6. IS DEHEISHE A GRAVEYARD? July 31 by Howard Taylor
"I was born here and I hope I will not die here", said a 40 year old resident of Deheishe, a refugee camp just outside Bethlehem. To say refugee camp might lead you to think of temporary dwellings and a cluster of UN tents. This is not the picture of Deheishe. Some cemeteries stack corpses on top of corpses as years go by and there isn't enough land to lay them side-by-side. In Deheishe, the living are stacked up one on top of the other, in cement houses piled on top of the original one story room. As families grow their apartments' stack gets taller. Deheishe was established in 1948 as temporary housing for 3,000 refugees, each family allotted one 12 by 12 foot concrete room. Fifty-seven years later Deheishe is a warren of three and four story apartments housing about 12,000 people, 62% of whom are children. The apartments and infrastructure are incomplete, always in varying stages of building or disrepair, held together with whatever materials that can be salvaged. Who are the refugees? The refugees of Deheishe are displaced people, most of who were forced from their homes near West Jerusalem in 1948. In many ways, they have maintained their village identity in the camp all these years. But, the camp has never been a permanent home for them, even as the decades have passed and they remain. Many people here have ownership papers for homes and land in the villages they were forced to leave. The Israeli courts are unable or unwilling to process their claims. Two-thirds of the adults in the camp have personally experienced jail and since whole families are refused work when one member has been jailed, there is little hope for work. Still they remain hopeful. As one man said, "All we need is a little justice - that's all." In the midst of all of this, people here try to carry on a normal life for their families as best they can. One evening, we sat rinking tea with a family under the grape arbors that shade their porch. Viewed from outside the camp is crowded and trash is left in the streets, but inside the apartments are clean and well kept. There is a pride of place, even if this can't truly be considered their home. People here are hospitable and very happy to share what little they have. On Friday evening, we walked over to the brand new Al Feneiq community center. The place was packed with people of all ages - a wedding in the banquet hall, children on the playground, teenagers laughing and talking; adults sharing stories, opes and dreams. The large garden is a place for everyone to gather and children to play on grass for perhaps the first time. A few years ago when the Israeli military evacuated some land adjacent to the camp, the residents of Deheishe had hoped to expand the area of the camp to relieve some of the overcrowding. But when only a small area of the land was allotted for the camp, residents decided to use it to benefit everyone in the camp. As wonderful as it is, the center can't erase the difficulties of living in this concrete graveyard; this patch of grass doesn't relieve the overcrowded conditions or the lack of work. It cannot bring back relatives from prison, or replace the homes and lands lost. But the center is a source of pride and a ray of hope in an otherwise dark existence. The community life here is what makes Deheishe a place to live, and not simply to survive. But how long must the people of Deheishe live in a graveyard?
Michael Goode works with Christian Peacemaker Team
8. THE ROOTS OF THE TREES ARE THE BONES OF OUR GRANDFATHERS August 2 by Jen
Life here is like prison, it is an intense system of control set up by the IDF to drive the Palestinians off of the little bit of land they have left. Parallel to this system of control is a strategic and manipulative form of censorship that prevents the international community from seeing this hell that the Palestinians are being forced to live in. With guns pointed, the soldiers tell us where we can and cannot take a picture. If they don't like a picture you've taken, they'll force you to erase it. Censorship in the states is more subtle, here it is live and armed.
Racism and opression in the states are also more subtle, here they take the form of a 30 foot apartheid wall made from cement and topped with barbed wire, lined with watchtowers resembling a maximun security prison. The IDF has nearly completed building this wall under the guise of "security." Before coming here, I was under the impression that the wall was a division between Israel and Palestine. Once arriving and seeing it with my own eyes, it quickly became clear that the wall has little to do with this border. It snakes all around the occupied territories, separating Palestinians not from Israeli's, but from their own land, livelihood, families, and villages. The wall cuts right through the center, and in places around the circumference of Palestinian villages that are nowhere near Israel. Graffiti on the wall reads, "From the Warsaw ghetto to the Kalkilya ghetto," referring to a city that has been completely surrounded, 360 degrees by the wall. Business is dead because nothing can be delivered in or out, farmers canot access their land which has been stolen, people canot travel to work outside the city, which is now a prison. This is not security, it is control, it is an attempt to make life so difficult for Palestinians to survive that they are driven off their land.
But Palestinians are survivors with deep connections to their land. I have heard from several people that they would rather die on their land than leave it. Munira, a poet, told me, "The roots of the trees are the bones of our grandafthers... If you cut open my arm, and looked at my blood, every particle of my blood would say Palestine." Over and over again I have met people whose strength to live a life of resistance is beyond anything i could ever imagine. We met a woman who lives in a Palestinian village that now borders a Jewish settlement. The IDF wanted to build the wall right over her house, but she refused to leave, so they built it right next to her house, separating her from the village, putting her on the same side of the wall of the settlers, her enemies. She literally lives in a cage with the wall on one side, and a fence on the other. You have to go through a checkpoint just to go to her house. We went to visit her, to have tea and hear her story. The soldiers told us that we couldn't go to her house because it was a closed military zone. These decisions are made at the whim of the 18-year- old soldiers on duty. Despite all this, she chooses to stay, living out her beliefs.
Inside this prison, the IDF murders Palestinians indiscriminately. These murders are not reported, at least not in the international media. Last night I was invited to dinner at one of the refugee camps in Tulkarm, where I am now staying. As we sat on the roof, looking out on the tiny cluster of land (10,000 sq meters) that is the home to 20,000 people, we heard an announcent broadcasted from the Mosque that someone was killed by the IDF yesterday in a neighboring village. (If you're interested, try looking for this murder, Muayed Mussa, yesterday-7/28 in Izbet Shofe, West Bank) There was a brief pause to listen to the announcement and then conversation resumes as normal. The person I was talking to, noticing my concern, told me this is normal- you can't find a single person in the refugee camp that hasn't lost a family member. If they're not dead they're in prison, or both. The person I was talking with has survived 5 assasination attempts by the IDF and was recently released from prison where he was held, tortured, and interrogated for several months. When he was released, he couldn't walk and had to be hopitalized. This is part of the censorship- he is a writer who has several friends who are journalists. He has several books he has written about the situation that he has not published for fear of assasination.
Last week we met with Addameer, a human rights organization focusing on prisoners. here is some of what we learned. Over the past week since this meeting, I have heard much of this repeated in first-hand accounts. The IDF can legally arrest children of any age, and can hold children ages 14-16 for up to 6 months. 650,000 people have been arrested in the current intifada, almost every family has a member that has been arrested. Interrogation can last up to 180 days. Since 1967, torture has been used routinely as part of interrgation. Methods of torture include severe beating, sodomy, electric shock, burning with cigars. More recently pychological torture has been used, and other forms of torture that do not leave a trace on the body such as: stretching the body, continuous sleep deprivation, exposure to loud sounds, placing foul smelling sacks on the head of the prisoner, and shaking profusely which can lead to brain damage.
I have come to understand "suicide bombing" in a different way in the past week. I put it in quotes because when we say "suicide bomber," some Palestinians say freedom fighter. Before I came here, I understood these actions to be part of the armed resistance movement to the Israeli occupation. While I did not and do not condone violence on either side, I realize that under extreme violence and oppression, people are driven to violence. What has changed is my understanding of the suicide. I have often heard people say things like, "suicide goes against human instinct" as if these people who would take their own lives are inhuman. What I now understand is that they are living under conditions that are inhuman. The Israeli army is inhuman. If you had survived torture and imprisonment, your home was destroyed, your land stolen, your friends and family members killed, your son in jail, and you had no food or money to feed your family, there wouldn't be much will left to live. Under these conditions, it is surprising that more people don't turn to suicide.
Jen is an educator, an activist, a gardener and a rock climber brought up in the Jewish tradition of social justice. As an American Jew, she feels a personal responsibility to work towards an end of the occupation. BostonToPalestine http://www.ismboston.org
9. ITS NOT THE PALESTINIANS WHO ARE GOING TO THROW US INTO THE SEA; WE'RE DOING IT OURSELVES August 4 by Hannah I'm only able to sit down and write after having recovered from the initial shock of being back in the US, which probably would have lent itself to deeper reflections. The sunburn on my nose that I got at Huwara checkpoint last week is nearly faded, and I'm finally sleeping through the night and not waking up at 5 in the morning thinking it's the middle of the day. Palestine is more or less out of my system. The separation — the break — needs to happen or I could go insane. So much, and so little, depends on where on this globe I choose to position myself. And I have that choice. I can fly out of occupation and all my Palestinian friends are left to struggle to live their daily lives. I'm not sure how best to deal with this, and of course the bigger question is not how I'm going to cope but rather how we have created and maintained a world in which such disparity in living exists and is taken for granted. and how we're going to change that.
So I'm back in the United States, and I'm noticing the grandiosity of things, even down to the nature around us. The trees are so big, I think upon looking around, walking around, driving around. So big, and yet still they seem to be built into the building structures and not the other way around. In Palestine the houses are planted into the land - you can just look around and see people's connection to the land in the way they build. Here (at least in the suburbs of Philadelphia) everything is compartmentalized. I don't even know the names of the trees, other than maple and pine. I don't know what fruit they give, if any. I miss the olive trees, the fig trees, the almond trees of Palestine. Even as they continue to be uprooted and destroyed and stolen, especially as they continue to be uprooted and destroyed and stolen.
It seems Jewish fundamentalism has reached new levels. Not only has the state - through settlers - stolen the land, but now the settlers act violently, and threaten more violence, in an attempt to maintain control over that stolen land. They claim a connection to the land even as they destroy it. Now that I'm back in the US, I can't report to you about life as I experience or witness it in the West Bank, a life that is being totally ignored as any media in the area focuses exclusively on the Gaza disengagement plan. But I can relay news I've read in the past days. Today a settler who is active in the Kach movement (a Jewish terrorist group that is outlawed even in Israel, although the government continues to fund their settlements in the West Bank) opened fire on a busload of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Druze village of Shfaram (inside Israel). He killed four, including the bus driver, before being killed himself. I read the story on the Ha'aretz website, as well as dozens of comments calling for the Jewish terrorist's home to be demolished, or for curfew to be instated in his settlement of Tapuach, or any number of other collective punishment measures. These suggestions, of course, are made tongue-in- cheek. In actuality he will simply be considered a crazy person, like Baruch Goldstein was - an outsider, not representative of Jews or Israelis.
Yesterday an article reported that a significant number of teenage boys from Gaza settlements have threatened to drown themselves in the sea as a mass suicide if the disengagement plan goes forward. An act wrought with symbolism, of course, and maybe a lesson for Jews: It's not the Palestinians who are going to throw us into the sea; we're doing it ourselves. When I started my Palestine work a couple years ago, this was perhaps what compelled me most: I saw that we were "throwing ourselves into the sea" - basically, the soul of the Jewish people was at stake. While I still believe that is true, I no longer prioritize the soul of the oppressor over the physical existence of the oppressed. They are linked, of course. My work hopefully benefits both. But now when I think about my work I think about my Palestinian friends, their lives, their loved ones lost to death and prison, their land lost to settlements and the Wall. This is human existence we're talking about, nothing more and nothing less.
website & journals: http://www.palestinemagnets.net
Hannah lived in Boston before leaving on this trip, and has
returned to Philadelphia with her family.