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Amnesty International - Update

November 29th, 2006

Amnesty International - Update

1. Amnesty International: "Israel: Fear for Safety"

2. American priest and nun join Palestinian non-violent resistance in Gaza

3. Conference on popular non-violent joint struggle

4. Four day military detention for non-violent Bil'in activist

5. Non-violent Bil'in activist Ayad Burnat, released on bail

6. Another attack on human rights worker by Hebron settlers

7. Hebron settlers trespass on Palestinian family's land with IOF complicity

8. Military launches investigation into 2003 shooting of ISM activist Brian Avery

9. Carmel-Agrexco's UK headquarters blockaded for the third time

10. Soccer Showdown Shakes Shuhada Street 11. Palestinian families separated by Israel take action

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1. Amnesty International: "Israel: Fear for Safety"

URGENT ACTION, ISRAEL/OT: Human rights defenders in the Occupied Territories web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150922006?open&of=ENG-346

Human rights defenders working in the Occupied Territories are at risk of attack by Israeli settlers. Amnesty International is concerned at the latest such attack against those who seek through their presence to afford protection to Palestinians and to bear witness to the abuses perpetrated against them by Israeli settlers in the area.

On 18 November, Tove Johannsson, a 19-year old Swedish human rights defender, was assaulted by Israeli settlers as she accompanied Palestinian school children through an Israeli army checkpoint near the Tel Rumeida Israeli settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The attack against Tove Johannsson, a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a solidarity group of peace activists, was witnessed and documented by several other international human rights defenders. They reported that the group was surrounded by up to 100 Israeli settlers who spat at them, kicked and shoved them, while Israeli soldiers standing at the checkpoint nearby took no action to prevent the attack.

Tove Johannsson was then hit in the face with a broken bottle by an Israeli settler, and sustained a broken cheekbone and a fracture near her eye. Her colleagues reported that as she fell to the ground, a group of settlers who were watching the attack clapped and cheered and some tried to take photos of themselves next to her bleeding face, giving the camera a 'thumbs-up' sign.

According to the ISM, one of the human rights defenders who witnessed the attack identified three of the assailants to the police but, after detaining them briefly, police released the three settlers, and threatened to arrest the remaining human rights activists if they did not leave the area immediately. Tove Johannsson filed a complaint with the Israeli police and her colleagues gave witness statements, but none of the assailants are known to have been arrested. On 21 November, the Swedish Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the assault.

This latest attack is one of many perpetrated by Israeli settlers against international human rights defenders in recent months and years, seemingly in an attempt to discourage and eliminate the presence of international witnesses, thereby depriving the local Palestinian population of this limited form of protection.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In August 2006, a Swedish and an Austrian national working for the international organization, the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), were attacked by Israeli settlers in the Southern Hebron Hills area as they accompanied Palestinian shepherds to their land near Israeli settlements. CPT members have worked in the Hebron area for several years accompanying farmers to their land and monitoring the conduct of Israeli settlers in the area, and have themselves been frequently attacked by Israeli settlers. Amnesty International delegates were also assaulted and beaten with wooden clubs by Israeli settlers in the Southern Hebron Hills area in October 2004, as they were investigating repeated attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian children from isolated villages on their way to and from school.

No investigations are known to have been carried out into the complaints lodged with the Israeli police by Amnesty International delegates and by dozens of International human rights defenders who have been attacked by Israeli settlers in recent years. The same is true for the complaints lodged by Palestinian victims of settlers' attacks. The impunity enjoyed by the settlers responsible for such attacks has in turn encouraged further attacks.

A detailed study published earlier this year by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights, which seeks to promote law enforcement in cases of settlers' violence, found that 90 percent of complaints filed with the Israeli police against Israeli settlers' attacks were closed without indictments being issued; and that in the rare cases when assailants were indicted and convicted for such attacks, the sentencing was not commensurate with the nature of the attacks (see: www.yesh-din.org/site/index.php?page=report&lang=en )

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to remove Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, which are illegal under international law.

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2. American priest and nun join Palestinian non-violent resistance in Gaza

Updated by the Michigan Peace Team, November 23

On November 21 and 22, Father Peter and Sister Mary Ellen of the Michigan Peace Team visited the homes in Jabalya and Beit Lahia, Gaza, that have been surrounded with Palestinian men, women, and children, in order to prevent the Israeli military from destroying them.

Peter and Mary Ellen were the first internationals to join the group of about 75 Palestinians at the family home of Mohammed Wael Baroud, a leader in the Popular Resistance Committees. Villagers have been gathered at the house since the evening of Saturday, November 18th, when the family received a phone call from the Israeli military that they had 30 minutes to evacuate. Over 200 neighbors and friends converged at the home to protect it from destruction.

While the media has been reporting that Hamas is using people as human shields -a violation of international law- Father Peter and Sister Mary Ellen have found that this was not the case. The people in Gaza have voluntarily decided to use their presence as a form of non-violent resistance against Israel's overwhelming military power. Men and women alike are keeping a continual presence at the house, which is home to four families -22 people, 10 of whom are children-- and have stated that they will not move until the demolition is completely called off and the soldiers apologize.

It is a violation of international law for Israel to collectively punish the people of Gaza. Since June, the military has demolished 73 homes of suspected militants, causing hundreds of civilians to become homeless. Peter and Mary Ellen's message to the media remained consistent: "We do not believe in any use of violence by any side. The occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli military is the fundamental violence. The use of collective punishment such as the destruction of homes is a violation of international law. It is never legitimate to destroy the homes of women, children, and elderly for the actions of one person."

Palestinians expressed great gratitude to the priest and nun for their willingness to be there in solidarity and to share in their risks. They handed Peter and Mary Ellen their infant children to hold as a sign of trust. Palestinian mothers had a message for the mothers in the United States: "Come to Gaza. Visit our home. You will see we have no Apache helicopters, we have no bombs. Come to Gaza. You are welcome."

While in Gaza, Father Peter and Sister Mary Ellen also met with a Palestinian Catholic priest and the Director General of Emergency Services for Gaza for the Palestinian Authority. Both leaders described the absolutely dire situation in Gaza.

With the recent attacks by the Israeli military in Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, hundreds of civilians were killed and injured. There has been a lack of consistent electricity and running water since Israeli forces destroyed much of the civilian infrastructure this summer.

Much of the agricultural land has been bombarded and is now covered in white ash and no longer able to sustain crops. The priest told them that over 150,000 fruit trees have been destroyed in Beit Hanoun in the last two years alone. Malnutrition is on the rise, and children often eat little more than pepper sandwiches.

Children in Gaza have been traumatized. The priest told them that at times, the F16s fly so low children are thrown from their beds. He spoke of the increase in stunted growth, failure to thrive and signs of trauma, including an increase in bed wetting among 12-15 year-old children.

Since Israel froze tax money and the United States and European Union halted aid shortly after the election of Hamas, government employees have not been paid. Peter and Mary Ellen were told that since June 25 when the Israeli soldier was captured, there have been over 400 Palestinians killed - mostly women and children.

The priest and nun had the chance to visit the Palestinian government hospital in Beit Lahia. They saw how it used to hold 70 beds, but in the past 2-3 months has needed to add another 70. The director general of emergency services spoke of the weapons being used against Palestinian children - missiles from Apache helicopters and F-16 fighter jets. He has seen tiny missile fragments cut through skin, and a white phosphoric powder burn the wound. This type of injury does not seem to be responding to treatment.

The Michigan Peace Team members will return from Gaza within a few days.

Corrected November 25th.

See also this article on the Gulf News website: www.gulfnews.com/region/Middle_East/10084628.html

For photo see www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/23/priest-nun-gaza/

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3. Conference on popular non-violent joint struggle

The Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall and Settlements invites you to the 2nd Annual Conference on Popular Non-violent Joint Struggle

April 18-20th, 2007 - Bil'in, West Bank

This conference hopes to create a network to improve coordination, share resources, support each other's work for justice, and create joint campaigns to stop the Apartheid Wall and end the Israeli occupation.

We will continue to devise bold ways of non-violence that say "no" to occupation and "yes" to a just peace.

We will learn from each others practical experience, share tactics and build on one another's strengths.

Come and be part of the joint Nonviolent struggle!

About Bil'in

Bil'in is a Palestinian village that is struggling to exist. Since early 2005, the state of Israel has annexed close to 60% of our land for Israeli settlements and for the construction of Israel's apartheid wall.

Bil'in is fighting to safeguard our land, our people, and our liberty.

Bil'in's Popular Committee and village residents, supported by Israeli and international activists, have peacefully demonstrated every Friday since February 2005 in front of the "work-site of shame" in opposition to the presence of the Apartheid Wall. The Israeli army has consistently responded with teargas, sound bombs, clubs, rubber-coated steel bullets, and live ammunition.

Bil'in is a symbol of what is happening across all of Palestine. By participating in the conference in Bil'in, you help everyone in Palestine continue their struggle for liberty.

Details and Registration

Participants will stay with families in Bil'in. The cost of the conference is 15 Euros (roughly $20) per day. This price includes room and board. To register, send an email to bel3en@yahoo.com

For photo see www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/23/nonviolent-conference/

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4. Four day military detention for non-violent Bil'in activist

by the ISM media team, November 24th

At today's weekly protest against the apartheid wall in Bil'in, villagers tried to reach their land on the other side of the wall with a tractor to plough it. Bil'in villagers have been prevented from taking agricultural vehicles through the illegal gates in the wall to work their land, and recently soldiers have also tried to prevent internationals joining villagers on the other side of the wall. Around 50 villagers were joined by international and Israeli activists for today's tractor-led march to the wall.

As the protesters attempted to remove the razor-wire in front of the gate, soldiers fired multiple sound bombs and used their shields against the non-violent activists. The soldiers refrained however from using tear gas, probably because the wind would have blown it back towards them.

Non-violent activist from Bil'in, Ayad Burnat, was seized and badly beaten by soldiers when he reached the other side of the gate. He was then arrested and is currently in detention in Ofer where he will be held for four days. Villagers have been told Ayad has been charged with throwing stones, a clearly false charge - Ayad was with the peaceful demonstrators the whole time, and often prevents children from throwing stones at Bil'in demonstrations. Today's arrest follows the targetting of four other activists on Tuesday evening.

The IOF followed up this arbitrary arrest by clambering over the gate to 'guard' the razor-wire from further attention.

After the demo soldiers shot 10 children and a journalist with rubber bullets as well as firing tear-gas at residents' homes on the edge of the village.

For photos see www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/24/bilin-24-11/

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5. Non-violent Bil'in activist Ayad Burnat, released on bail

by the ISM media team, November 28th

Bil'in peace activist Ayad Burnat, who was arrested at a peaceful demonstration in Bil'in last Friday has been released from Ofer military prison on NIS 4,000 bail. He was detained for four days on the false charges of violating a military order, causing property damage to the apartheid wall and assaulting a military officer. The IOF has yet to issue an indictment or any evidence of these charges.

During the almost two-year long campaign of weekly protests against the apartheid wall cutting though their land, countless villagers from Bil'in have been targetted for arrest by the IOF. Last week four non-violent activists were seized from their homes in the middle of the night by the IOF and held for nearly 24 hours 'for a chat' about their role in the weekly protests. Despite this campaign of intimidation the spirit of resistance in Bil'in refuses to die.

For photo see www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/28/ayad-burnat-release/

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6. Another attack on human rights worker by Hebron settlers

by ISM Hebron, November 23rd

At 11.30 three of us went to the olive groves to protect the Palestinian families living in isolated homes among the olive trees.

Two settlers came towards us from the Seyaj House yelling abuse at us "Fuck Jesus. We killed Jesus and we'll kill you too!" We began filming and kept ourselves between them and the Palestinian homes. They tried to enter Hani's house where we knew there were a number of small children and two women. We refused to let them up the path and they headed off up into the Abu Haikal olive orchard. We contacted other human rights workers (HRWs) to make sure that there were people at the Abu Haikal house in case they made their way there.

We did not see them again but as we were checking the olive orchard to see where they had gone we noticed another settler, dressed all in white, sitting in the far corner of the orchard and either reading or praying. We kept an eye on him. At around 4pm we saw him move towards the Abu Haikal house so another HRW and I climbed up into the orchard to follow him. We began to film him since he was already trespassing on Palestinian land. He began to climb the wall towards the Abu Haikal house but was not able to get over the fence at the top of the wall. He started shouting and waving to the settlers who were on top of the military observation post close by.

After a while he came down and began to move back towards H's house. The other HRW had moved out of the orchard back to the Hedad House. I was worried about the children there so I moved through the orchard quickly to try to get to Hani's garden first. Suddenly he started to run and charged straight at me. This was the first aggressive move he had made so I was taken by surprise. I ran towards Hani's house. To get into Hani's garden I had to climb down a rough stone wall about a metre high. He reached me as I got there and gave me a savage push over the wall. I hit my head on a stone and fell into the garden. He laughed at me. As I lay there I turned the camera on him and he began to run away. I got up to follow him and shouted to warn the other HRWs whom he was running towards. There was a group of about 20 settler tourists standing next to the Hedad House listening to a tour guide and he ran through them and down the hill towards Shuhada St.

I could see that my thumb was gashed but not too badly. I could not see the wound on my head but it did not seem to be too bad. My ankle was not too painful. I had a bit of a headache but I decided to keep working as we had another hour before sunset and there was a large number of tourists hanging around the houses. At one point there were over 80 settlers gathered around a tour guide and stopping at various points in the olive groves. One or two of them attempted to enter Palestinian land but went away when we told them they could not enter.

At around 4.30 I heard some loud chanting from somewhere near the mosque. I assumed it was the settlers but when I went to investigate I discovered that a large group of Palestinian children were demonstrating against the large settler presence outside their houses. The settlers left and there was no trouble.

At around 9pm one of the other HRWs in our apartment offered to clean up my head wound for me. She discovered that it was quite deep and long and thought it might need stitches so I went to Al Ahli hospital where I was given 2 stitches. They x-rayed my left ankle and decided it was not broken but probably sprained. They bandaged it up for me and cleaned and dressed the wound on my right thumb.

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7. Hebron settlers trespass on Palestinian family's land with IOF complicity

by ISM Hebron, November 26th

November 15

At 12 noon a human rights worker at the crossing on Tel Rumeida St. noticed that there were two settlers on top of the military outpost on Palestinian land next to a huge old olive tree. He photographed them. He raised the alarm and asked the soldiers who told him that there was no problem and that they had all the relevant permits to run this new green electrical cable. The Palestinian family who own this olive tree were terrified that these were preparations to cut the tree down but nothing further happened that day.

November 17

Human rights workers noticed that there were settlers in the Abu Haikal orchard next to their house. Two HRWs went to the house to talk to the family and began to film. Two others began to film from our apartment. As another HRW approached the land he noticed that two police officers had already stationed themselves on the Palestinian land and were quietly observing. Then he saw several young settler women approaching from the olive groves. He photographed and filmed them as they entered the Abu Haikal property through a gap in the fence. He called over to the police officers to ask them why they were allowing settlers to trespass on Palestinian land but they refused to answer. He moved next to the house where he could film the whole gathering. Most settlers were arriving from up the military stairs and past the military observation post through a gap in the fence at that end of the orchard. It now became clear why settlers had been running electric cables up to the observation post two days earlier "with all the correct permits". They had been fixing up a powerful light so that the settlers could see the path through the fence.

About 80 settlers gathered in all, mostly quite young in their 20s. A group of men were dressed in black. They began to pray, to chant and to sing. It was very frightening for the family as they had been given no warning that this was to happen and it was not clear how things would develop. Some of the chanting was very loud and aggressive. This huge gathering was right next to the house where the family was gathered.

Two soldiers were patrolling back and forth around the house and one of them attempted to take photos of all the human rights workers and family members as they entered or left their house. Some of the family got very angry at this provocation. It seems the soldiers were trying to take revenge because HRWs often photograph them when they are harassing Palestinians.

After about an hour the settlers with very young children left and 15 minutes later everyone left. The group of young men in black stayed the longest, singing and dancing. It was very clear that this event had been planned in advance with the authorities and had active participation by the police and army.

November 23rd

At 2pm Abu Haikal family members heard machine noises on their land. They went to look and discovered a male settler clearing weeds with a weed-eater (strimmer) on the land behind the military post and olive tree, at the bottom of the garden wall. They called the police and after 15 minutes one of the daughters went to talk with the man and ask him to leave their land. Her aunt joined her. He ignored the request and attacked her with the weed-eater, hitting her on the ankle. He then phoned for help and five settler women came up the stairs including the deranged woman from Gaza. Two soldiers removed the Palestinians from their own land. They were then joined by 4 more soldiers.

At 3pm the settlers moved into the almond orchard (lot 52) and began to cut the grass and weeds in there. At 4pm the soldiers finally removed all the settlers from the land. By this time they had probably done most of what they wanted to do to prepare for the Sabbath celebration the following night.

November 24th

The Abu Haikals had heard that the settlers were planning to trespass on their land again for a Shabbat celebration. A human rights worker visiting the Abu Haikals called the DCO * to ask what the plans were for this, since last week's trespass had clearly been co-ordinated with police and soldiers, as well as presumably the DCO. The DCO hung up several times and refused to answer questions. Eventually they said that they knew nothing about this.

Later another HRW at the house noticed 2 soldiers on the garden path behind the house at 4.40pm. Looking closer he realized that there were also 4 adult settlers and a child standing at the top of the stairs next to the military post on Abu Haikal land. Another HRW began filming from below and pointed out that there were more settlers coming up the stairs from Tel Rumeida settlement. Soldiers made no attempt to stop them.

By 4.55 18 settlers had gathered around the military post and they all moved into the Abu Haikal orchard together. By 5pm there were 36 settlers in the orchard, just below the Abu Haikal house. They all faced away from the house, presumably to avoid being photographed. They began to sing and to pray. Later they were dancing.

At 5.10pm two 2 settlers moved up the orchard towards the hole in the fence near the house. When they got there they discovered a squad of 6 soldiers patrolling on foot with a vehicle near the mosque. They turned back and rejoined the other settlers.

At 5.30 the HRW called the DCO again. Again they tried to hang up and initially were refusing to talk to an international. He asked if they wanted to talk to Mrs Abu Haikal. They declined and said they could not discuss rumours of possible activity. The HRW pointed out firmly that this was no rumour. He was standing looking at 40 settlers right next to the house. The DCO said he would check this out and call back in 2 minutes. He never did call back.

The HRW had noticed that there were no police present this week so he tried to call the police to get them to remove the trespassers. The police were not answering the phone and in the meantime the settlers had all moved off the land together, down the stairs and gone back into Tel Rumeida settlement. A few of them headed off towards Beit Hadassa settlement.

* DCO - District Co-ordination Office, the civilian administration wing of the Israeli military in the West Bank.

For photos see www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/26/abu-haikal-trespass/

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8. Military launches investigation into 2003 shooting of ISM activist Brian Avery

Haaretz: "Military probe ordered in 2003 shooting of American in Nablus" www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/792510.html

by Yuval Yoaz, November 26th

The Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Avihai Mandelblit, has instructed military police investigators to open a probe into the question of whether Israel Defense Force soldiers bear criminal responsibility in the shooting of a 24-year-old American citizen and leftist activist in the Jenin refugee camp in April 2003.

The investigation was opened almost two years after Brian Avery, of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), petitioned the High Court of Justice for a criminal probe in his case, and after both Mandelblit and his predecessor, Major General (res.) Menachem Finkelstein, refused to order such a probe, arguing that the military investigation after the incident should suffice.

Avery, from New Mexico, came to Jenin as part of his work with the ISM in April 2003. He extended humanitarian aid to local residents, among other things, assisting doctors treating the residents. On Saturday April 5, Avery and his flatmate, Jan Tobias Carlson, heard shooting. When the shooting stopped, the two called other activists and went to find out if anyone had been injured. According to testimony by ISM members present at the scene, Avery was standing under a streetlight and wearing a red vest with the words "doctor" on it in English and Hebrew on front and back. Four eye-witnesses said an IDF armored personnel carrier (APC) and a tank came into the street, and Avery and his companions raised their hands to show they were unarmed. The witnesses said the APC and the tank continued to approach Avery and when they were a few dozen meters away, the APC opened fire and shot about 30 bullets. Avery was hit in the face, his cheek was torn, and his eye-socket, mouth and jaw bones were smashed.

The IDF probe stated there was no proof the shooting had been by IDF soldiers.

In the petition, Avery's attorney, Michael Sfard, said an operational investigation by the IDF was "not a reliable tool," adding that "in a number of cases soldiers have been cleared, while the military police investigation revealed incriminating evidence and resulted in harsh indictments."

Three months ago the High Court ordered the military advocate general to show cause why he would not open a criminal investigation into the incident.

The state responded last Thursday that the chief military prosecutor saw no reason to change the previous decision. However to remove any doubt, he decided to order a military police investigation.

The state also agreed to pay Avery's court costs of NIS 15,000.

Sfard said "it is unfortunate that it takes three and a half years and pressure of the High Court justices for the military advocate general to order what is fair and desirable in a place where human life is not worthless. There are a few soldiers who were involved in the incident and thought the story was over. The message from the High Court is that the story is not over. Brian and I will continue to fight until the truth comes out," Sfard said

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See also our press release into the previous Supreme Court hearing on September 20th and the resulting instruction of the Court to the IOF: www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/09/19/brian-appeal-20-09-06/ www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/09/20/brian-20-09/

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9. Carmel-Agrexco's UK headquarters blockaded for the third time

from Indymedia UK, November 27th www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/11/357149.html

For the second time this year, Palestine Solidarity activists blockaded Israeli company Carmel-Agrexco's UK headquarters in Hayes, Middlesex, in the early morning of 26 Nov 2006 . The action was part of an ongoing non-violent protest against recurrent breaches of human rights and international law in the occupied territories of Palestine and to highlight Agrexco's illegal activity in court.

The blockaders braved torrential rain for nearly 6 hours, completely stopping all deliveries to and from the depot. A structure was erected from metal fence panels, blocking Agrexco's main gate. Two activists were locked onto the company's vehicle access gate, inside the company grounds, while another two secured the second gate.

Once again, Agrexco made a decision not to prosecute the blockaders for fear of the negative publicity another court case could generate.

Carmel-Agrexco in Hayes is the main UK depot of Israel's 50% state-owned export company. Agrexco is responsible for exporting the majority of fruit and veg from illegal settlements in the West Bank to the UK. The UK is a large part of the market for settlement produce, making up 60% of Agrexco's total exports.

Agrexco profit from Israel's illegal occupation and entrenched system of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories. In the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank, Agrexco cultivate stolen Palestinian land while Palestinians work for them for less than a living wage. Carmel-Agrexco can deliver fruit and veg to Europe in 24 hours while the produce of Palestinian farmers rots in the fields because the farmers are prevented from bringing it through Israeli military checkpoints.

For photos see www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/28/third-agrexco-blockade/

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10. Soccer Showdown Shakes Shuhada Street

by ISM Hebron, November 28th

On Sunday, at around 2:30pm, three neighborhood kids came by our place for the afternoon soccer game they'd scheduled with us. I was not planning on playing, and I am no good at soccer, but playing against 11-year-olds evens the odds a bit. So we bought two soccer balls, pumped them up, and headed straight for the flattest part of this neighborhood - Shuhada Street.

Once a lively neighborhood shopping area, Shuhada Street and the surrounding area got a lot quieter after the Baruch Goldstein massacre in 1994 *. The old city market around the corner was shut down in 1997, roadblocks were placed on Shuhada Street in 2001, and the area was finally closed by military order in 2002. At one end of Shuhada Street is the Tel Rumeida checkpoint, and at the other end is the Beit Hadassah, Jews-only settlement. Some of the houses here are, on occasion, used by the Israeli military, but many are kept empty. This place, like much of the old city, is a ghost town - even the people who live in the area don't play or hang out here.

We didn't even get three kicks in before Israeli soldiers told us to stop. Of course we didn't take them too seriously at first (who the hell has a problem with soccer?) and kept on aimlessly kicking around. The soldiers got more insistent so we stopped what we were doing; as some of us moved the game to the top of very steep hill, the rest stayed to negotiate and argue. "These kids live here, and you're telling them that they can't play here? Where else are they supposed to play?"

To this, the soldier -an American serving in the Israeli military- responded, "For you to try to make the children play here is very irresponsible. This is seen as provocative, you know. The Jews see a crowd of Arabs and they will then throw stones, just as when Arabs see a crowd of Jews they will throw stones. My job is to keep the peace here and protect the Jews. You can go play at the top of the street." He said this despite the fact that the soldiers regularly allow the Jewish settlers to play in their army posts at the top of Tel Rumeida street, right next to Palestinian homes.

And so began another stupid, pointless verbal confrontation.

The daily view of Shuhada street under occupation

As some human rights workers attempted to negotiate with the soldiers on the scene and their superiors on the telephone, the rest of us went to the top of the hill on Tel Rumeida Street to start a game with some teenagers. Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago, the soldiers prohibited the kids from playing at the top of the hill - exactly where they told us to go play this time. We divided into mixed groups of three for "winner stays loser leaves;" for every goal scored, the losing team would be replaced by another team; in short, each team plays until they are scored against.

With all the action up at the top of the hill, I had totally forgotten all about Shuhada street until an American human rights worker came up the street to tell us that, after 90 minutes, the DCO (District Co-ordination Office, the civilian administration wing of the Israeli military in the West Bank) verified her claim -that the kids had every right to play on their own street. At that the soldiers relented.

During this time, though, the soldiers had told the kids they couldn't play on Shuhada street and shooed them away, so we figured that a few of us would go down and kick the ball around ourselves, so we did. After a few minutes, a couple of kids approached -with some noticeable trepidation- and joined in. Bit by bit, the Shuhada street kids, after seeing that it was okay to play here, came out of their houses and joined in. Bit by bit, passers-by stopped to crack a smile and maybe even kick a ball.

Within 15 minutes the neighborhood kids from this block were doing something they haven't done in AGES - playing on their own streets. It may have taken a bunch of pushy internationals with cell phones to get a green light, but it took the Shuhada street kids to transform their neighborhood from a militarized ghost town into the best soccer field in Hebron.

Goal after goal under a setting sun, I saw six soldiers watching the game from their checkpoint and thought, "how could anyone see anything wrong in what these kids are doing?" I hope that some hearts were touched - I can't imagine how anyone could find fault with what they tried to stop, and I never will. Maybe the soldiers looked down the street and thought, "man, those kids have every right to be here, and we were wrong to stop it." Maybe they looked down Shuhada Street and saw something beautiful.

* Baruch Goldstein was a Jewish fundamentalist settler from America who in 1994 killed 29 Palestinians at prayer in the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron.

For photos see www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/28/shuhada-soccer/

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11. Palestinian families separated by Israel take action

by the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory www.righttoenter.ps/

Hundreds Of Foreign Nationals Meet To Consider Legal Action Against Israel For Denying Them Access To West Bank And Gaza

(Al-Bireh, Occupied Palestine - November 28, 2006) - Hundreds of foreign nationals packed into the Al-Bireh Municipality Hall to listen to legal experts explain the options available to them in light of Israel's refusal to permit foreign nationals access to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The audience was full of families with children, fearful that they will be forced to separate within days.

In a standing room-only lecture, Al-Bireh Deputy and Acting Mayor Omar Hamayel made a clear appeal that the Israeli policy of denying access to Palestinians who are foreign nationals be called ethnic cleansing. Attorney Abdallah Hammad from the Jerusalem Legal Affairs Center and Attorney Muhammad Dahleh discussed collective and individual actions that can be considered by those affected by Israel's de-facto deportation of residents of the oPt.

Atty. Dahleh, a human rights activist and renowned legal expert noted that the proper legal reference for the issue lies in International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law. He also spoke regarding those Palestinians who have previously applied for family unification which allows for permanent residency. Israel has closed this door and created a reality where the Palestinian population is being forced from their homes. The final result of Israel's practice could be the emptying of over 500,000 Palestinians from the occupied cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and others in a very short time as Palestinian residents leave to keep their families together.

Basil Ayish, spokesperson for the Campaign, noted that although the event was looking into legal options for affected families that are faced with forced separation, the issue is ultimately a political one, and that victims of Israel's practice should take all measures to protest this action with the country of their citizenship. The Campaign stated that more than 80 percent of the latest Israeli denials for visa extensions are U.S. citizens.

The questions and comments of those in the audience articulated deep frustration and anger at their respective foreign governments and at the Palestinian Authority for not taking more concrete steps to immediately resolve this issue or at least raise it to a level of public debate.

Ends

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