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Palestine: Ramallah Invasion

Ramallah Invasion

1. Israeli Army Invades Centre of Ramallah, Kill 3 Injure Scores May
24th

2. Sunbula’s journal: ‘Farmers in Bil’in successfully plow their land behind the Wall’

3. Wire Cutting Action in Beit Omar May 22nd

4. Successful Land-Access Action in Beit Omar

FOR PICTURES SEE: PALSOLIDARITY.ORG

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1. Israeli Invades Army Centre of Ramallah, Kill 3 Injure Scores

May 24th, 2006

Update: Palestinian ISM activist Mansour who had gone to the scene was injured by shrapnel when soldiers opened fire at bystanders. Luckily he wasn’t hit directly but he was hit by shrapnel in the head and required stitches. At the time of writing this update, 3 are confirmed dead, including 21-year old Issa Qasim from Jenin, and over 35 injured. Sunbula reports from the media office:

The Israeli Army have invaded al-Manara, close to the center of Ramallah in order to try and apprehended resistance fighters. They are rather uncomfortably close to the ISM apartment and we can see smoke rising in the distance and hear gunshots. I was about to go out with a friend but it’s not really a good idea right now.

Two of our Palestinian ISMers have gone to the scene of the action. We are now sitting in the ISM apartment watching al-Jazeera (that really is worth watching to find out what’s going on) and Neta’s daughter runs with her little baby footsteps toward the window every time there’s a gunshot to see what’s happened. She seems a lot less worried about things than the rest of us, she is rather more concerned with eating as many of the biscuits I bought a couple of hours ago as possible.

It’s really bizarre to see the place that I had wandered through the last time I was there and just a couple of days ago looking like a war zone on TV. Will update more on what’s happening as more developments come. The shebaab are trying to set up roadblocks and there are at least 12 injured. The latest is that it would be preferable not for internationals to go to where there is an impromptu demonstration happening near al-Manara. Just heard that two people were killed.

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2. Sunbula’s journal: ‘Farmers in Bil’in successfully plow their land behind the Wall’

May 23d, 2006

Today there was some plowing of the land around the outpost in Bil’n and as always and international presence was needed to help ensure soldiers didn’t attack Palestinians (the Popular Committee in the village decided to build this outpost at the end of last year in order to ‘counter-settle’ the land being taken from the village see this article).

Trying to cross the fence in order to get there has become harder since I was last there in January. There is now a guard tower on the ‘security’ road with soldiers in it. They can’t really stop us or Palestinians from going to the outpost because of a court order permitting the residents from reaching their land but they can harass plenty as they do. There still hasn’t been a response to the village’s petition to stop the building of wall on grounds of illegality, but instead a court order permitting the residents to pass through a gate in the fence. In addition to the army, there is also the Border Police and civilian security for the settlers.

Another ISM-er and I had to get to the outpost in near-dark with one of the village shebab (youth) and we were stopped by one of the Israeli patrol cars, and between their lack of English, my broken -ammiyya (colloquial Arabic) and Ashraf’s broken Hebrew, there was some awkward communication which I think eventually frustrated the guy enough for him to indicate to us to buzz off.

I was eager to know what had been going on since the last time I was there. The outpost has expanded a tiny bit and there are a few more places to sleep outdoors. However, my friend told me he is usually the only one from the village who is there regularly, all the time, because the other shebab are afraid to come to the outpost now. The police have been turning up to their homes and either arresting them or confiscating their IDs for allegedly throwing stones at the Friday demonstrations against the wall. His brother is among these and he just got out of jail two months. So, basically, internationals are needed more than ever to be permanently at the outpost. There was only one visit from the army that night, one of their more routine stops for no particular reason other than to scare the Palestinians. I was more disturbed by the mosquitoes buzzing around my head all night.

On Tuesday, for the planting and plowing, we were joined by a group of older Israeli peace activists and some more internationals. Some of the Popular Committee leaders came along with youth and some of the farmers.

Plowing some of the land took place successfully, along with some sheep grazing (they were adorable) and we started digging a hole in the ground for an eventual bathroom. Everyone took their turns at digging and scooping up earth in a pail. There’s something about the earth that gave it a really nice texture - Palestinian earth that has so many stones in it and is so fertile.

There was just one visit by an army jeep that seemed more curious than anything else to check out what was going on. It’s somewhat upsetting to think that farming your own land needs to be a planned ‘action’ with international presence, and that despite an order from the court of the occupying country saying you have the right to do.

For a Video of Bil’in Action May 19th

Click here to watch http://mishtara.org/hingus/?p=52

Click here to download. http://content.mishtara.org/bilin-19-5-06.wmv

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3. Wire Cutting Action in Beit Omar

May 22nd, 2006

Today, May 17, two international and one Israeli human rights activist joined a small group of Palestinian farmers in their non-violent action of cutting up 50 meters of a 500 meter long barbed wire fence. A fence the Israeli army illegally had set up the previous day on Palestinian owned land.

Together with the two other international activists I reached Beit Omar early this morning. We met up with Ahmed, one of the owners of the land that was now defaced by army barbwire. We bought some food and water and then went altogether in a car to Ahmed’s fields situated just outside the village of Beit Omar, opposite the farmers’ university of Arob village. It was a hot morning and we all sat down in the shadow of Ahmed’s grapevine, pear and all kinds of other sorts of trees to eat and he started to tell us the story of his land and the newly set up barbed wire.

He told us that the land we’re sitting on belongs to him and his family and that the surrounding parts of the field belong to two other families. In total the size of the land of the three families is 6000 square meters and altogether 40 people are living off and depending on the products and the incomes this land is bringing them.

The previous day the army had come and set up a 500-meter long barbed wire fence crossing straight through the bottom part of the lands of the three families. It effectively makes it impossible to enter the field with a tractor and all the farmer equipment necessary for the work. And though it’s possible to get around the fence by foot, even this is a disrupting and unpleasant 500 meters hiking in difficult terrain. Ahmed continued, ‘It’s spring! We’re soon going to harvest. If we’re not able to work in the fields now and prepare for harvest and then not even be able to do the actual harvesting, 40 people will starve this year!’

When Ahmed asked the army commander, Izik Affasi, in charge of the military operation, for a reason why the barbed wire was set up he got the answer that there had been Palestinian kids throwing stones from this land on settler cars on the close by settler bypass road. When Ahmed then asked the commander for papers proving that there was a court decision behind this operation he was told they didn’t have any papers right now but that they would bring him papers the following day.

When we, the internationals, later had the possibility to speak to the commander in question he made it clear that there were no accusations against the landowners or their families of throwing stones. The commander even said he knew that the kids came from another village close by, but then he added that the army still holds the landowners responsible for what ever happens on their land at whatever time.

Whether there had ever been any kids throwing stones from Ahmed’s and the other families’ lands or not, we could all agree on three things.
First there were no legal papers shown to the landowners when the barbed wire was set up, so there was no reason for them to let it stay there. Second of all the stone throwing accusations weren’t directed to the farmers or their families and they should therefore not have to be the ones suffering for it. That’s called collective punishment and is, from what I know, illegal by international law. Thirdly the barbed wire doesn’t, in any way, serve the purpose of keeping stone throwing kids away. It’s perfectly possible to stand either in front or behind the barbed wire and throw stones. When this was made clear the internationals started to cut up the fence and effectively removed all the barbed wire from Ahmed’s land.

At 11 o’clock soldiers showed up and though they were obviously angry, after awhile they actually started to listen to what the farmers had to say. Showing the soldiers the damage the barbed wire caused on his groves, Haj Mahmoud, one of the neighbor landowners, argued the absurdity of the barbed wire being put in the middle of his land ‘Why does it have to be here, in the middle of our fields? Put a high wall on the side of the road instead!’ To demonstrate Haj Mahmoud picked up a stone from the ground and threw it on the now empty road: ‘Even me, an 80 year old man, can reach the road with a stone from this side of the barbed wire!’ A couple of hours of discussion actually made them agree on our arguments and it was decided that all of the remaining barbed wire could be removed and instead a wall will be set up on the side of the road, allowing the farmers full access to their land. No one was arrested.

We’ll have to wait and see if this agreement will be adhered to or not.

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4. Sunbula’s Journal: ‘Settler Brats and Weed Pulling’

May 20, 2006

From Jerusalem to Beit Omar, you need to change taxis three times in order to get there, partly because of two Israeli checkpoints. It is a small village outside Hebron (al-Khalil) past Bethlehem. An international presence was needed there today in order to help the farmers farm their land outside the village which is being encroached upon by an illegal settlement. The settlers have been harassing the villagers and attacking them to stop them from working on the land, in order to try and annex more of it.

We were received in the house of Ibrahim Abu Marya and his family and then walked with other internationals from the Christian Peacemaker Teams and Israeli anarchists and peace activists to the fields. Army jeeps were driving past us and when we got to the land just in front of the settlement, there were soldiers gathered. I thought they were going to harass us, but they were mostly trying to stop the settler children from coming and provoking us and the villagers.

The settler children, some of them probably under 10, were gathered there and cursing at us in Hebrew, shouting such nice things as ‘Nazis’, ‘sons of whores’ and ‘Hitler needs help’ and giving us middle fingers. This is one of the things I detest most about the settlers - they send their little children to attack Palestinians and peace activists because they know the army can’t and won’t do anything against them. Talk about cowardice. The soldiers today seemed rather indifferent to the settler kids and seemed to have a bored ‘I want to go home’ expression on their face, which I don’t blame them for.

We were lucky in that sense that they didn’t help the settlers today.
This behavior from settlers is pretty mild compared to what goes on in Hebron city, where the faithful of Meir Kahane, Baruch Goldstein, the Kach and other such nutcases live; they are considered racist and insane even by mainstream Israeli political standards, which is saying something, but they have money and influence in the Israeli establishment and from sections of American Jewish communities, who believe they are helping to settle the land of Greater Israel.

The internationals and Israelis helped pull weeds from the land and just stay there to prevent the settlers from attacking. The army is more likely to restrain them, in fact much more likely, when there are internationals present, which is why the presence of international solidarity activists is so important and why the Israelis harass people at the borders whom they suspect of being activists. The army is less likely to beat and shoot Palestinians at demonstrations when there are international faces present, watching, photographing, recording, and protesting.

It was fairly peaceful today overall, which is the way it should be more, especially after the large number of injuries at this Friday’s protest in Bil’in village. It was also fun, everyone was impressed by my Arabic and the village kids surrounded me and kept chatting with me about various things. They also demonstrated their ability to sing, in unison, ‘we shall overcome’ and ‘we will rock you’, clearly showing their varied and eclectic taste in western music. I also learnt lots of vocabulary relating to nature and plants, which should hopefully be helpful.

I am off to Ramallah tomorrow, leaving Jerusalem, for the ISM office and the training for newly arrived people. Excited to meet people I had befriended last time and my good old first Palestinian friend, Mansour the big joker from Biddu.

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