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A Palestinian Blogger on Life in the Blast Zone

A Palestinian Blogger on Life in the Blast Zone

What follows are excerpts from the blog of Mona Elfarra. Mona Elfarra
is a Palestinian physician and women's rights activist living in the
Jabalia refuge camp in the Gaza Strip. Please visit
http://www.fromgaza.blogspot.com to view the complete blog.

--Friday, June 30, 2006
The power is still off. It comes on and off irregularly. The
electricity company is trying hard to supply power to 1.5 million
people who used to get electricity from the power plant that was
completely destroyed two nights ago.
Tonight another electrical generator was attacked and destroyed
completely. I tried to explain to my daughter the complicated
mechanisms of power distribution and how the electrical company is
trying hard. But she was so frustrated to learn that we will be
receiving patchy power for another three months at least.

They are attacking Gaza City right now, Jabalia and Beit Lahia. The
emergency room at Al Awda Hospital received seven casualties.
They launched at least 15 missiles, and the noise of the jet fighters
and Apache helicopters interrupted my already interrupted sleep. I am
fully awake now. I have not gotten good sleep for four days.

--Saturday, July 1, 2006
My friend Hoda lives next to the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza,
which was hit last night with two rockets. The attack occurred at 2
a.m. yesterday. (Please forgive me about the accuracy - I am starting
to lose track of days and nights, and how many times we were attacked).
Hoda told me that her whole building was shaking. She went out in her
pajamas, and all the residents were out in their nightwear; children's
faces were too pale, some of them were crying hysterically. The fumes
filled the place. I live 150 meters [about 164 yards] from Hoda's
place. Nobody is safe, no one is immune.

The power is still off. We had it for three hours yesterday, enough to
recharge my laptop and mobile phone and to do some cooking. I am highly
concerned about the hospitals; the fuel supply to run the local
generators is running down. The medication and medical supplies are
running down too. Water is scarce too. We need to ration our water use.
We are going through a big humanitarian disaster.

Sonic booming happens when the jet fighters go quickly through the
sound barrier. We experience this sort of terrifying raid at least
seven times during the day and night. How can I let you know my
personal feelings during these raids? If I am sleeping, my bed shakes
tremendously; my daughter jumps into my bed, shivering with fear and
then both of us end up on the floor. My heart beats very fast. I have
to pacify my daughter; now she knows we need to pacify each other. She
feels my fear. If I am awake, I flinch and scream loudly; I cannot help
myself. OK, I am a doctor and a mature middle-aged woman with a lot of
experience, and an activist too, but with this booming I become
hysterical - after all we are all humans and each have our own
threshold.

--Monday, July 3, 2006
We in Gaza face great pressure. For those who need to be reminded,
since the start of this intifada (in September 2000), Gaza's economy
has been severely affected by the continuous Israeli atrocities:
roadblocks, border closures, destruction of agricultural areas and home
demolitions. The current rate of unemployment more than 50%. The vast
majority of Palestinian families are living on humanitarian aid, and an
increasing number of families live under the poverty line. Gaza is just
360 square kilometers [about 139 square miles] with nearly 1.5 million
residents, so we have a very high population density.

After four months of economic sanctions, we in the health field face a
collapsing health system. We do not have medications in our stores and
have had to prioritize surgical operations due to lack of medical
supplies. The last thing we needed is the power cut off.

--Wednesday, July 5, 2006 - 1:45 a.m.
Big explosion, very big and so loud; I'm fully awake, and so is Sondos,
my daughter. We hardly can see anything. It is very dark. The drone hit
the Ministry of Interior building again with a missile. That completely
destroyed the building, according to the news from the radio.

I contacted Hoda, who lives next to the building, and found her
hysterically screaming and shouting in pain, trapped under her broken
windows, all the windows of her flat broken, the fumes filling the
place. She is waiting for the emergency team to evacuate her.

I can hear the hysterical sounds of her neighbors over the phone. I
feel helpless and don't know what to do. Five of her neighbors were
injured, some of them the terrified kids I mentioned in one of my
previous blogs.

When I visited Hoda four hours ago, we both were tense. A third friend
asked us to talk about anything but not politics or what is going on in
the Palestinian scene. We tried to but couldn't. I left her, walked
home.

I have no analysis. Maybe you can try to help me to know why they would
hit an empty building twice. I see it as desperation, eagerness to
revenge themselves.

It is not because of the soldier. They dropped thousands of shells on
Gaza, killing women, children and old people, even before he was
captured. Fatah and Hamas signed a national agreement. There could have
been negotiations.

But Israel would have to give up control of our land, our resources.
They want to destroy our government. They want to destroy our will to
get our rights, to live a normal life in our land.

--Wednesday, July 5, 2006 - 3 a.m.
It is dark. Sondos is asleep. I cannot go to bed. I have no batteries
for my transistor. I do not know where Hoda is. My mobile needs to be
recharged. I have no power; I am restless, anxious and helpless.
My laptop is gasping too.

--Thursday, July 6, 2006 - 8:13 p.m.
It seems that the Israeli military operation is escalating. 1:30 p.m.
our local time, casualties started to reach the Al Awda hospital
(Jabalia refugee camp). The hospital medical team received 13 civilians
seriously injured and 2 dead militia men. The hospital's 3 operating
rooms worked with its full capacity, for continuous 5 hours. I was
told by Mr. Abusaada, one of our ambulance drivers, that they evacuated
the injured under heavy fire. Mr. Abusaada, told that they were
working under fire, I always think of him and others and how they work
under the most difficult circumstances, the worse, he faced when he
evacuated the Galia family from the beach 3 weeks ago.

Today he told me he was not allowed to reach one of the injured who
bled on the ground for at least half an hour (when one minute can make
a difference for bleeding case ), before passing away. Other
hospitals received 15 injured civilians as well, different ages, no
children, were hurt in this incident. I hope I will not give news
about dead or injured children. 18 Palestinians were killed today in
Gaza strip tens were injured, mainly in the north of Gaza.

My main concern now is to find a way to get medications and medical
supplies through the borders, into Gaza. The hospital medical
resources are exhausted, the borders are completely sealed, some very
crucial medications are lacking.

The Rafah borders in the south, was opened today for 3 hours. There
are at least 2,000 Palestinians on the Egyptian side, waiting to enter
Gaza. They have been waiting since last Sunday. When the "summer rain"
operation started, internationals were asked to leave Gaza, via Eretz
checkpoint, that was opened for 2 hours only (for us here in Gaza this
is alarming sign). Karni checkpoint, the commercial checkpoint, was
opened to let in some stuff for 4 hours, maybe to let in more candles,
transistors and torches.

It seems that this business is booming in Gaza those days. On my way
back from the hospital, I could see people queuing to purchase candles.


--Saturday, July 8, 2006 - 1:00 a.m.
The Gaza hospitals medical resources is critically decreasing , the
number of causalities increases as the operation continues, in 2 days
34 Palestinian were killed, of the many injured 33 were children. The
city's 3 hospitals are working round the hour they urged people to
donate blood. I told you earlier on that the civilians are not avoided,
it is a battle that lacks the balance of power; with the resistance men
and their comparatively limited weapons, and the most powerful army in
the region, with the full support of the USA.

I was at Al Awda hospital this morning. The staff enjoys good spirit,
but they are exhausted. They complained of their worries regarding the
shortage of the fuel that runs the electrical generators. It has to be
used for the ambulances too. It was quiet in the morning, casualties
started to arrive in the late afternoon. I shall be there tomorrow.

I hate war, it is ugly so is the occupation.

--Saturday, July 8, 2006 - 12:40 a.m
I did not tell you before about my mother. She lives in Khan Yunis, 22
km to the south of Gaza City. I was born and brought up there, until I
was 16, when I left to university in Egypt. My mother is 84, she is
living alone after the death of my father, and she is physically
disabled. She is well looked after. I visit her whenever I have time,
and this happens twice weekly at least, my elder sister lives next door
and since the start of the "summer rain" operation, by the occupying
Israeli forces, I couldn't reach her.

I was overwhelmed with the situation, besides the 2 bridges that
connect Gaza in the north and Khan Yunis in the south, were destroyed
in the 1st few hours of the military assault, as well as the power
plant. I was afraid to use the unreliable side roads. I was not ready
to risk by leaving Sondos alone, with all the consequences, air raids,
sonic booming, no power, complete road block, and staying away of my
daughter and my work.
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2.) Bil'in: Palestinian Villagers Move into Israeli Settlement!
July 6, 2006

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/07/06/bilin-moves-in/

UPDATE, 6 pm: The three Palestinian families have been evicted by the
Israeli police and were taken away in Border Police vehicles to the
other side of the Apartheid Wall. Mohammed Katib said that they had an
order to remove the families. No Palestinians or Israelis were
arrested. This evacuation is a stark contrast to the fact that when
Israeli authorities claimed that "there was nothing they could do"
when they were notified that settlers have moved in illegally to the
Mtityahu Mizrah outpost. See.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

This morning at 11am, three families from the village of Bil'in moved
into empty apartments built on land the village owns in the Matityahu
East settlement, west of Israel's apartheid barrier. As of 8am this
morning, the Israeli military has declared the whole area a closed
military zone until the 8th of July. Amongst the first inhabitants of
this new neighborhood of Bil'in are the families of Abdullah
Abu-Rahme and Mohammed Katib from the Bil'in Popular Committee
Against the Wall and Settlements. The families intend to actually live
in the apartments, and more are set to follow. This will make a
statement about their rights to the land and act as a direct,
non-violent challenge to the apartheid of the Israeli state. Matityahu
East was built illegally on land belonging to the Palestinian village
of Bil'in. According to Israeli law, anything found on land that you
own also belongs to you.

Despite an Israeli Supreme Court injunction forbidding the occupation
of structures in the Matityahu East settlement, Israeli settlers have
been moving in. This morning's bold move by Bil'in villagers has
put the state of Israel to a test. The Police and Military have done
nothing to stop Jewish settlers creating facts on the ground in
defiance of the Supreme Court. Yet when Palestinian villagers, legally
taking up residence on their own land try to move in, they use military
orders in an attempt to prevent them.

On the 24th of May, Ha'aretz newspaper reported that at least two
settler families moved into apartments in the settlement. This happened
despite Bil'in's attorney Michael Sfard calling the Police. They
arrived after he threatened to file a motion charging them with
contempt of court unless they stopped the settlers, but they did
nothing to stop them from moving in.

The apartheid barrier under construction runs through Bil'in, and
separates the village from substantial parts of its land, including the
portion on which Matityahu East was built. Although in public Israel
claims that the route of the wall there is purely for security reasons,
the route accommodates planned future expansion of the settlement,
exactly following the settlement master-plan. As now acknowledged in
the Israeli media, Matityahu East was stolen from Bil'in residents
through fraudulent land purchases. The affidavit affirming the transfer
of ownership was signed by an attorney representing the settlers,
instead of by the head of Bil'in, as is required.

On Sunday, July 9th, at 10am, the Israeli High Court will hold a
hearing concerning two petitions of Bil'in: one against the illegal
building in the Matityahu East settlement; and another in which the
Court is asked to annul the declaration made in 1991 that the village
land earmarked for the settlement and its expansion are government
property. There is a criminal investigation of the civil administration
official involved in this transfer. There is also a decision pending in
the Israeli court on the route of the wall.

For more information contact:
Abdullah Abu-Rahme: 054 725 8210
Mohammed Katib: 054 5573285
Iyad Burnat: 054 784 7942
Yonatan Pollack: 054 623 7736
ISM Media office: 02 297 1824 or 0599 943 157

For pictures of Israeli settlers moving into the settlement on the 24th
of May, while Police help them see the Ha'aretz article, reposted on
the ISM website:
www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/05/24/bilin-rouge-settlers/
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3.) Beit Ummar and Halhul Pray for Justice - Israeli Army Kidnap
Villager
July 7, 2006
by Ernesto in Beit Ummar

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/07/07/pray-for-justice/

Today, Friday July 7th, 2006, at noon, over 300 farmers and residents
of the Palestinian villages of Beit Ummar and Halhoul held Friday
prayers together on their land that has been ravaged by Israeli
bulldozers in the past week. International and Israeli supporters
accompanied them in a non-violent march to the land in order to observe
the activities of the military and the settlers, and support their
struggle against the illegal expansion of the settlement Karme Tzur.

They demonstrators marched around the settlement on the land where
trees and grape vines have been uprooted because of the construction of
a new wall that will enclose the settlement, illegally annexing
Palestinian land to it. The residents, mostly men and children, carried
signs that said, "No to the Policy of Damaging Land and Human
Beings" and other things. The Israeli soldiers attempted to stop the
demonstration but eventually they passed.

The march and prayer were beautiful and non-violent, however armed
settlers descended on the group and waved their rifles in the air as
they called in reinforcements from the military. More military arrived
and they lined the hill above the demonstrators as prayer services
ended.

While the majority turned back to the village after prayers, the army
prevented those who wanted to stay from being on their land. They were
told that they were too close to the settlement.

Young kids threw stones at a light pole and then the soldiers began to
shoot rubber bullets at the young kids. Eventually the soldiers shot
many rubber bullets and tear gas grenades. One young man named Saqir
Sadiq Abu Mariya, 35, was shot by a rubber bulet in the torso and taken
away by an ambulance. Many people fled the scene because the gas was
becoming unbearable.

At 7pm this evening, three jeeps entered the village shooting tear gas,
rubber bullets, and sound grenades at people in the streets for about
an hour. Keefeh Kamael Bahar, 20, was taken from his home and arrested
during the raid of the village.

Non violent activist and organizer Musa Abu Mariya, 28, is still
imprisoned by the Israeli military after being arrested when he lay
down in front of an Israeli bulldozer tearing up Beit Omar lands on
July 4th. Palestinians can be held without, any charges or access to a
lawyer for eight days before being brought in front of a military judge
who can prolong the period. According to a report by the Public
Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), "Each month, hundreds of
Palestinians were subjected to one degree or another of torture or
other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (ill-treatment), at the
hands of the GSS (General Security Services) and bodies working on its
behalf. "

Please donate to the ISM legal fund so that we can offer legal support
to these Non-Violent activists!
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4.) Basque and Bil'in Demonstrators Keep the Beat
July 7, 2006
by Zadie and Jennie in Bil'in

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/07/07/bilin/

On July 7th, at 13:00 the people of Bil'in, joined by a Basque
Nationalist musical group and International and Israeli activists,
started their weekly rally to protest the ongoing construction of the
illegal Apartheid wall on their lands. One hundred people started the
march, which was launched in front of the mosque and ended at the gate
in the wall.

The Basque musical group, in traditional ceremonial attire and
formation, kept the beat for the demonstration by marching with large
bells that they wore on their lower backs, led by an individual in
front who blew on a traditional horn. They were chased away by rubber
bullets and sound bombs from the soldiers but returned to perform their
art and pass through the line of soldiers that were holding people
back. They stated their intent of solidarity with the Palestinians:
"we too have been fighting an occupation of our lands for
generations", and wished to express their support for the Palestinian
resistance.

The Israeli military became violent as soldiers tried to arrest
non-violent protester, Iyad Buranat, a member of the Bil'in committee
against the wall and settlements . Other Palestinians and came to his
aid to try to prevent his arrest and were caught between the Jeeps and
the barbed wire as soldiers beat them. They grabbed the hands of the
soldiers to stop the beating and were successful in deescalating the
situation so they could talk with the soldiers.

Iyad Buranat was again targeted for arrest and pulled inside the gate,
separated by the group by rolls of barbed wire. Several people ran to
his aid, despite being blocked by soldiers, and a small group was able
to successfully prevent his arrest.

The demonstration ended with five people injured. Ahmed Mohammed Hamad,
55, of Bil'in suffered damage to his right ear from a sound bomb.
Mohammed Katib, 33,A member of the Bil'in committee against the wall
and settlements, suffered bruises and tears to the skin in his left
torso from soldiers roughing him up. Michael, 23, from the US, suffered
tears in the skin of his forearms from schrapnel from a sound bomb. His
right forearm was damaged when he was thrown by one soldier against
another's shield with extreme force. Ashraf , 22, of Tulkarem,
suffered a rubber bullet to his upper left thigh as he was walking by
the soldiers. Khaled, 18, of Bil'in, was hit with a rubber bullet in
the leg.

This evening the army revoked the order declaring the area a closed
military zone. A team of three internationals gained access through the
gate which had been denied to them after the demonstration. They have
now relieved the lone Palestinian who was manning the outpost, and the
area has been declared open for the time being.
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5.) Bulldozers Stopped, Palestinian Activist Still Arrested
July 5, 2006
by Em and Zadie in Beit Ummar

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/07/05/1332/

[to view video]
http://dc.indymedia.org/usermedia/video/2/biet_ummar.mpg

UPDATE, 6th July: As far as we have been able to acsertain, Musa
Abu-Marya still remains a captive of the Shabak.

Yesterday in Beit Ummar, a village of 15,000 in the Israeli occupied
West Bank, non-violent direct action continued in opposition to the
illegal Israeli annexation and destruction of Palestinain farm land.
Surrounded by cautious Palestinian youth who observed from a safe
distance, a group of 2 Palestinians and 9 internationals approached a
backhoe and bulldozer uprooting trees in Palestinian orchards. The
demolition, begun on Sunday, is to make way for a new Israeli wall
encircling the settlement of Kurmei Tsur and will conveniently -and
illegaly- steal yet more land from the bordering villages of Beit Ummar
and Halul for the Israeli settlement - itself illegal under
international law. The prospective wall will be built 300 meters from
an existing one, grabbing land without the permission or compensation
of Palestinian land-owners.

Upon arriving within thirty meters of the construction equipment the
activists were chased and assaulted by approximately 15 members of the
Israeli Offensive Force. Activists were strangled, punched, kicked, and
struck with the barrels of guns by these soldiers, causing bleeding,
numerous bruises, and difficulty swallowing. One activist had hair
ripped from his head. Another had a soldier's finger stuck in his eye
in an effort to incapacitate him. Another was kicked in the groin. At
one point, a Palestinain activist and journalist asked a soldier "why
do you attack civilians? is this what you are trained for?" In
response, a seething soldier declared "You are my enemy", which the
Palestinian caught on camera.

Four activists were restrained and put in plasti-cuffs. But three, all
internationals, were allowed to leave, while the other detainee, Musa
Abu-Mariya, a Palestinian from Beit Ummar, was arrested and taken for
indefinite interrogation, highlighting the apartheid nature of the
Israeli legal systems. After prior arrests by the Israelis, Musa has
reported physical abuse by his captors.

Later in the morning another Palestinian, a 15 year old named Asim, was
arrested in a nearby orchard. According to reports from villagers in
Beit Ummar he sustained injuries from the IOF.

Advocate Nasser, a lawyer representing the municipality of Beit Ummar
and Halhul succeeded in getting a temporary stop work order from an
Israeli court. The mayor of Beit Ummar presented the soldiers with the
order, forcing a temporary halt in the destruction and theft of about
5000 dunams of farmers' land. The order says that they must stop all
work on building the wall around Karme Tzur settlement until there is a
decision in the Isreali Supreme Court on the lawsuit filed by the
village of Beit Ummar against the construction.

One of the Palestinians arrested yesterday was released last night,
fifteen year-old Asam Abu Mariya. Non-violent activist, Musa Abu
Mariya, 28, is still being held at an unknown location and has had no
contact with any lawyer.

For the past three days Palestinians and internationals have had some
success at stopping the destruction of the land by sitting down in
front of the bulldozers and demonstrating on the land. However,
hundreds of trees and grape vines have been already been uprooted. The
Israeli army has used force to stop the protestors and enforce the
confiscation of land while bypassing all legal channels. There are
various lawyers working on enforcing the rights of the landowners and
protecting the land from confiscation.
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6.) South Hebron Villages Persist to Resist
June 30, 2006
by Zadie

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/06/30/persit-to-resist/

"We call on the international community to intervene and stop settler
violence against us."

Today, June 30th, the people of Qawawis accompanied by people from
Tuwanwi and other neighboring villages as well as Israeli and
international activists demonstrated against the settlements and the
wall. About 50 people gathered and marched to the wall. The Israeli
group Rabbis for Human Rights also donated ten bales of hay that will
be used to feed the sheep to replace what was burned by the settlers
earlier this week.

The settlers have a history of aggression towards people in Qawawis and
neighboring villages. They have damaged villagers' wells and harassed
and attacked children and farmers.

One month ago an inner barrier was built along the road that passes
Qawawis. This barrier separates farmers from their lands and makes it
hard for tractors and sheep to pass.

There were very few army and Border Police present and no journalists
representing any of the local or Arab media because of the attention on
Gaza. Despite this fact, the people of Qawawis continued to demonstrate
their resolve to resist the illegal settlements and the wall.
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7.) Ynet: "Look who's been kidnapped"
July 5th, 2006

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/07/05/ynet-kidnapped/

Hundreds of Palestinian 'suspects' have been kidnapped from their
homes and will never stand trial

by Israeli reservist Arik Diamant, Yedioth Ahronoth

It's the wee hours of the morning, still dark outside. A guerilla
force comes out of nowhere to kidnap a soldier. After hours of careful
movement, the force reaches its target, and the ambush is on! In
seconds, the soldier finds himself looking down the barrel of a rifle.

A smash in the face with the butt of the gun and the soldier falls to
the ground, bleeding. The kidnappers pick him up, quickly tie his hands
and blindfold him, and disappear into the night.

This might be the end of the kidnapping, but the nightmare has just
begun. The soldier's mother collapses, his father prays. His
commanding officers promise to do everything they can to get him back,
his comrades swear revenge. An entire nation is up-in-arms, writing in
pain and worry.

Nobody knows how the soldier is: Is he hurt? Do his captors give him
even a minimum of human decency, or are they torturing him to death by
trampling his honor? The worst sort of suffering is not knowing. Will
he come home? And if so, when? And in what condition? Can anyone remain
apathetic in the light of such drama?

Israeli terror

This description, you'll be surprised to know, has nothing to do with
the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. It is the story of an arrest I carried
out as an IDF soldier, in the Nablus casbah, about 10 years ago. The
"soldier" was a 17-year-old boy, and we kidnapped him because he
knew "someone" who had done "something."

We brought him tied up, with a burlap sac over his head, to a Shin Bet
interrogation center known as "Scream Hill" (at the time we thought
it was funny). There, the prisoner was beaten, violently shaken and
sleep deprived for weeks or months. Who knows.

No one wrote about it in the paper. European diplomats were not called
to help him. After all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the
kidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years of occupation we
have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was
captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or
jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any
information about the captive.

When the Palestinians do this, we call it "terror." When we do it,
we work overtime to whitewash the atrocity.

Suspects?

Some people will say: The IDF doesn't "just" kidnap. These people
are "suspects." There is no more perverse lie than this. In all the
years I served, I reached one simple conclusion: What makes a
"suspect"? Who, exactly suspects him, and of what?

Who has the right to sentence a 17-year-old to kidnapping, torture and
possible death? A 26-year-old Shin Bet interrogator? A 46-year-old one?
Do these people have any higher education, apart from the ability to
interrogate? What are his considerations? I all these "suspects"
are so guilty, why not bring them to trial?

Anyone who believes that despite the lack of transparency, the IDF and
Shin Bet to their best to minimize violations of human rights is
naïve, if not brainwashed. One need only read the testimonies of
soldiers who have carried out administrative detentions to be convinced
of the depth of the immorality of our actions in the territories.

To this very day, there are hundreds of prisoners rotting in Shin Bet
prisons and dungeons, people who have never been -and never will be
- tried. And Israelis are silently resolved to this phenomenon.

Israeli responsibility

The day Gilad Shalit was kidnapped I rode in a taxi. The driver told me
we must go into Gaza, start shooting people one-by-one, until someone
breaks and returns the hostage. It isn't clear that such an operation
would bring Gilad back alive.

Instead of getting dragged into terrorist responses... we should
release some of the soldiers and civilians we have kidnapped. This is
appropriate, right, and could bring about an air of reconciliation in
the territories.

Hell, if this is what will bring Gilad home safe-and-sound, we have a
responsibility to him to do it.

Arik Diamant is an IDF reservist and the head of the Courage to Refuse
organization
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8.) Robert Novak: "Holy Land Christians blame Israel"
July 5th, 2006

by Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times columnist

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/07/05/christians-blame-israel/

On June 19, two young members of Congress received an extraordinary
letter from Jerusalem. On behalf of Christian churches in the Holy
Land, they were told a House resolution they were circulating blaming
the Palestinian Authority for Christian decline there "is based on
many false affirmations." The Very Rev. Michael H. Sellers, an
Anglican priest who is coordinator of Jerusalem's Christian churches,
said the real problem is the Israeli occupation - especially its new
security wall.

Prior to hearing this, freshman Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of
Austin, Texas, and four-term Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York
(Queens) had collected 21 co-sponsors (mainly conservative Republicans)
for their resolution. Sellers' communication was followed two days
later by a letter from Rep. Henry Hyde, House International Relations
Committee chairman. He told the two congressmen their claim of
systematic persecution by the Palestinian Authority is "inaccurate
and incomplete."

McCaul and Crowley put their resolution "on hold" going into the
long Fourth of July recess. So apparently ends an audacious effort by
Israeli public relations to place full blame for the Christian exodus
from the Israeli-controlled Holy Land on Muslims. Instead, problems
caused by the security wall have been highlighted once again.

The House was pulled into this issue by Justus Reid Weiner, an Israeli
lawyer with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Weiner, who long
has blamed Christian misfortunes on the Palestinian Authority,
contacted Ari Stein, a staffer in McCaul's congressional office.
Stein in turn brought in Crowley, a prominent Democrat, through his
staffer, Gregg Shelowitz.

The result was a "Dear Colleague" letter from McCaul and Crowley
blaming the Palestinian Authority for "the systematic destruction of
the oldest Christian community in the world." The staff-written
letter asserted: "If we do not act now, Christians around the world
risk losing control of and access to the most ancient and holy sites in
Christendom."

Their subsequent resolution spent three pages detailing alleged
persecution of Christians by Arab Muslims, even assailing the State
Department for failing to put "treatment of Palestinian Christians by
the Palestinian Authority" in its annual report on human rights
violations. The resolution immediately picked up 16 Republican
co-sponsors and five Democrats.

This process was slowed by Sellers' letter from Jerusalem. He said
Christian churches in the Holy Land that he represents can take care of
any problems with Muslims and "are not seeking your interference in
their internal problems." Where Congress could help, he added, was
influencing Israeli government policy: "Your support for the
Christian presence in the Holy Land will best be served by helping to
remove the separation wall (which has converted all the Palestinian
towns into big prisons for Christians and Muslims alike) and by helping
to bring occupation to an end with all its inherent types of oppression
and humiliation."

After his letter to McCaul and Crowley, Hyde made an unscheduled
appearance last Friday at an International Relations subcommittee
hearing on the plight of religious minorities. He argued the problem
for the Holy Land's Christians is not Muslims but Israel. Long a
steadfast supporter of Israel, Hyde testified: "I have been unable to
understand how the currently routed barrier in Jerusalem - which rips
asunder the existential poles of Christian belief, the Nativity and the
Resurrection, and encloses 200,000 Palestinians on the Jerusalem side
of the barrier - will improve the security of Israel's citizens."

Hyde was followed at the hearing by the Rev. Firas Arida, the
31-year-old Roman Catholic priest in the West Bank village of Aboud.
Asserting that the Israeli security wall causes his parishioners to
lose water and olive trees, he said "the Israeli occupation must
end," and "there must be no more settlements on Palestinian
land."

McCaul and Crowley did not attend Friday's hearing and surely have
not been to Aboud. Both Catholics, they might well visit the village
and talk with Firas' flock while prudently keeping their
ill-considered resolution on hold.

Ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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