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International Solidarity Movement Digest 4-1-08

ISM Digest 4-1-08; Breaking the siege on Gaza, Remembering Rachel Corrie, 'Land Day' demonstrations, Road 443 closed to Palestinians by High Court, ISM activist deported, Gaza's 'bigger holocaust'

1. International Action in Solidarity with Gaza is stopped by Egyptian authorities.

2.Demonstrations across the West Bank to commemorate 'Land Day'.

3. Ha'aretz: High Court ruling closes off Route 443 to Palestinians.

4. Jerusalem Post: PA urges Palestinians to 'return'.

5. ISM activist Blake Murphy is deported to the US.

6. Ma'an: Israeli police ordered to shoot Palestinian demonstrators along separation wall.

7. Rachel Corrie's parents speak at Nablus demonstration to remember those killed in Gaza.

8. Women of the Underworld: On Being Thrown Out of Israel.

9. Demonstration at Beit Furik checkpoint calling for its removal.

10. 5 years on, we remember Rachel Corrie.

11. Demonstration takes place on playground near Qalqiliya, two days before it is due to be demolished.

12. Gaza's 'bigger holocaust'.

13. Demonstrations take place in Gaza and the West Bank for International Women's Day.

14. Anti-Wall demonstrations marked by violence.

15. Adalah-NY: In Ha'aretz interview Leviev "spins" protests against his companies' settlement construction.

16. Breaking the Siege of Gaza, Taking to the Streets.

17. Non-violent march through Ramallah streets ends reading the names of the fallen in Gaza at the Muqata.

18. Palestinians are shot as they take to the streets in response to Gaza massacres.


1. International Action in Solidarity with Gaza is stopped by Egyptian authorities

On March 31st, an international action to take supplies to the Rafah border crossing into Gaza was stopped in the Sinai by Egyptian authorities. As protesters attempted to 'Walk to Gaza', they were threatened with arrest before eventually turning back to Cairo.

Original press release: End the siege of Gaza!

End the world complicity to the Israeli occupation and crimes against the Palestinian people!

A group of international participants decided to act against our countries' complicity to the inhumane and devastating siege of the Gaza Strip.

A delegation including participants from the Basque country, Austria, Scotland, Norway, Italy, Netherlands, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, America and India intend to reach the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza in order to deliver a truckload of food and medicine and in protest against the inhuman siege imposed on the people of Gaza, with the complicity of our own governments.

We protest against the genocide of the Palestinian people and condemn the hypocrisy of European and other governments who blatantly violate the democratic will of the Palestinian people and have taken positions in the interest of the Israeli and US agenda of occupation and domination.

We strongly condemn the European Union for backtracking on their responsibility, as stipulated in past agreements, to facilitate and oversee the flow of people through the Rafah border crossing. The European governments are therefore directly complicit in the Israeli- imposed siege of the Palestinian population of Gaza, their confinement to an open air prison and denial of access to the most basic goods and services, resulting in massive suffering and a humanitarian disaster.

Our protest must also be seen in the light of the 60th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba -the massive expulsion and forced flight of the Palestinian people as a result of the Zionist aggression which paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel- as well as the on- going Nakba and Israeli occupation, marked by expansion policies, expropriation and bloodshed.

We emphasize the urgent need to enforce and broaden the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli Apartheid State and its policies of occupation and oppression.

Solidarity with the people of Palestine!!! We call on everyone wishing to participate to join the delegation to Rafah!!!

European Campaign Against the Siege of Gaza


2.Demonstrations across the West Bank to commemorate 'Land Day'.

Demonstration in Umm Salamuna calls for solidarity from Arab nations

On Sunday, March 30th, more than 200 protesters took to the main street in Umm Salamuna to demonstrate against the Apartheid wall. What is usually a small weakly demonstration in Umm Salamuna, was this week host to an increased amount of demonstrators in honor of Land Day. Local community members, students from El Sawara high school from the nearby El Masara village, 5 Israelis and 3 Internationals attended this week's protest. But this increased amount of protesters meant a higher level of military presence. The demonstrators walked from the center of Umm Salamuna and up the main road, where they were stopped by the army who had blocked the road with barbed wire. Four people suffered minor injuries, when the army physically pushed the protesters away with the barbed wire.

Two members of the community spoke about land day and the significance of the 1976 events when 6 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. They also sent out a call for solidarity to the Arab Nations meeting in Damascus this week

To date, 14 km of the wall have been completed in the Umm Salamuna area. The construction of the apartheid wall in this area, 12 km from the green line, means the confiscation of thousands of dunums of fertile farmland from the local people. This land will be annexed to the nearby Efrat settlement, which has announced the construction of 54 additional housing units. Local farmers access to the land has been made difficult; daily, they are harassed or denied access to their land by the Israeli army.

Water accessibility has also become a problem in Umm Salamuna. The Efrat settlement is polluting their source of water, as well as leaving only a short supply of water, especially in the summer months, for the local Palestinian villages.


Demonstration at Huwarra checkpoint to mark Land day

Two people were arrested at the Huwarra checkpoint in Nablus on 30th March, when approximately 250 Palestinians and internationals protested there as part of the Land Day actions and commemorations that are taking place throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

Whilst the demonstration was a collaborative effort between many local organisations, including local political parties; various health care committees; the union of women's committees; Tanweer centre for cultural enlightenment; the Disabled society and representatives from the Nablus refugee camps and villages, organisers were disappointed with the turnout. "There are not many people here because they are afraid. These days...the soldiers will kill any person," said Myasser, a member of the Women's Committee.

The demonstration to protest against the system of checkpoints that imprisons Nablus, congregated approximately 500 meters from the Huwarra checkpoint, before marching towards it, led by member of the Nablus disabled society. The march paused to witness the erection of a large billboard, which read: 41 Years of Israeli Occupation; 2738 Days of Barriers and Siege; Until When? We insist on our Right of Freedom, Justice and Peace.

As the protesters approached the checkpoint, they were confronted by two Israeli army jeeps, obstructing their path. Israeli soldiers told the protesters to go back, but demonstrators responded "No! You go back!" and continued their advance.

The Israeli soldiers then began to drive their jeeps forwards, attempting to push the demonstration back, but protesters held firm. "This is a peaceful protest", some shouted in English, whilst others yelled in Arabic "This is apartheid!" As more soldiers and border police arrived, tear gas and sound bombs were thrown into the crowd, in an attempt to disperse it.

Two residents of Nablus were arrested, and one man injured, as police charged at the protesters, hitting demonstrators with their guns and threatening people with tear gas and sound bombs.

The crowd finally dispersed as more and more soldiers arrived, advancing upon the demonstrators, throwing numerous sound bombs, and taking up sniper positions on the embankments.

Land Day demonstrations will continue throughout the West Bank today and tomorrow, as Palestinians commemorate the deaths of six Palestinians at popular protests against land confiscation 32 years ago today.


Tulkarm Continues Land Day Commemoration, Israeli Military injures 2

On Friday, March 28, 2008 two demonstrators were injured with rubber- coated steel bullets (one seriously), as the second of Tulkarm's Land Day demonstrations took place in the village of Deir al Ghusun, 8km north of the center of Tulkarm. The focus of the demonstration was against the separation wall - which prevents farmers accessing their land, as well as preventing freedom of movement.

Approximately 100 people took part in the demonstration, which was organized by the local municipality, in conjunction with the local popular committee and heads of political parties in the area. Protesters carried banners that read: "On Land Day we will continue our struggle against the wall; the occupation; and the siege."

Demonstrators marched to the wall that separates them from their lands and families, chanting and waving flags. As they approached the gate that allows only ten percent of farmers to pass through to their lands on the other side of the wall, Israeli soldiers threw sound bombs into the crowd, causing protesters to scatter. The soldiers then fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters from behind the gate, injuring one man, Fariz Tanib, aged 50 years, in the leg, and an employee of the local municipality, Hazem Omar, aged 41 years, in the forehead. Hazem was rushed to hospital with a head injury that required 4 stitches.

The protest marked a refusal to submit to the loss of land that has occurred since 1948 - when 18,000 dunnums of village land were assigned to Israel by the green line; and more recently in 2004 when the separation wall isolated farmers from an additional 2,400 dunnums of their land, as well as taking 300 dunnums for the route of the wall itself. Abu Sayad, member of the Deir al Ghusun popular committee, says that now there is only 6,000 dunnums left for the village, which has a population of 10,000.

Local political party leaders today committed to continue the demonstrations against the wall weekly.


IMEMC: Israeli military attacks weekly Bil'in protest, 17 injured including 7 journalists

On Friday March 28, 2008 scores of residents of Bil'in, a village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with their international and Israeli supporters, took to the streets to conduct their weekly nonviolent protest against the Israeli wall and illegal confiscation of the village's land. Israeli troops manning the wall and its gate that cuts off the villagers from their land showered the protesters with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets immediately after the protesters reached the gate.

17 people were injured including seven journalists. Medical sources identified some of the injured journalists as Fadi Al Arouri, a photojournalist, Najud al Qassem, a cameraman, Moheb Al Bargouthi, a reporter, and George Haltah, a cameraman.

Also among those injured was Eyad Burnat, of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall, who said, "I was trying to protect one of the village youth who was attacked by the soldiers when soldiers attacked and beat me up."

The parents of Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who was killed by the Israeli army in Gaza five years ago, took part in the Bil'in protest. Her father, Mr. Craig Corrie, praised the nonviolent resistance in Bil'in and called for more support for the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom. Rachel Corrie was killed in 2003 in Rafah city, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, when an army bulldozer ran over her while she was protecting a local family home from being demolished by the Israeli army.

For original article:


Tulkarm Holds First of Many Actions Commemorating Land Day

On Thursday 27th March, the city of Tulkarm began the first of its Land Day demonstrations - a national event held on 30th March each year to commemorate the killing of seven Palestinians citizens of Israel by Israeli soldiers in 1976, during protests over land confiscation.

The city began by replanting trees along Al Khadouri Street - once a tree-lined avenue, now barren because the trees were destroyed by Israeli bombing during the first and second Intifadas. Organized by a collaboration of local and national institutions, such as PARC, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Farmer's Union, the local municipality and Palestine Technical University, around one hundred conifer trees were prepared to rehabilitate the street.

Approximately forty children from local primary schools, internationals, Israelis and local Tulkarm identities such as the mayor, all took part in the planting, which extended from the site where the first tree was destroyed, all the way to the Israeli-owned Geshuri chemical factories that cause enormous pollution and health problems for the residents of Tulkarm. Asme, from the Public Relations department of Palestine Technical University, explained that involving the children in the action by getting them to plant trees helped to "explain to the children the importance of the land; to mark the anniversary of Land Day in an active way. When the child plants the tree, and every day he sees the tree, it will be very good. He will watch it growing."

Once the street was completely re-lined with trees (identical in species to those destroyed), approximately 150 demonstrators marched the length of the street, in the direction of the Geshuri chemical factories, and then along the compound wall of the factories themselves, to protest against the presence of such dangerously polluting factories in Tulkarm.

The Israeli chemical factories, including factories for ammonia, fertilizers, plastics, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, were originally built within Israel, near Tel Aviv, explains local activist and journalist Abdul Karim. They were forced to shutdown in 1984, however, because of the danger of the pollutants they produce. They were relocated to Tulkarm in 1987, onto land confiscated by the Israeli government, a large percentage of which belonged to the agricultural college of An Najar university. The local residents of Tulkarm are not the only ones concerned about the dangerous pollution that purportedly gives Tulkarm one of the highest rates of cancer in the West Bank (some claim in the world) - Abdul Karim reports that Israelis on the other side of the factories (which border on Israel and are in fact surrounded by the separation wall) protested against the factories also. However, because the location is within the West Bank, Israeli authorities apparently claim that it is out of their jurisdiction. The Israeli's protests did, however, grant one concession: now every year in May, (the one month in the year when the winds blow from East to West, instead of from West to East) the factories are forced to halt their operations, so that nearby Israeli's do not suffer from the pollution that is blown across Tulkarm for the other eleven months of the year.

Demonstrators gathered at a disused gas station across from the factories - damaged by Israeli army tanks in 2002, and forcibly abandoned along with all of the other shops and restaurants along this once bustling strip, due to persistent army presence and firing from 2001-2003, when the area became a combat zone.

The owner of the abandoned gas station addressed the crowd, explaining that what happened to his building is reflective of what is occurring across the entire West Bank, and called for the chemical factories to be uprooted. Jamal Said, advisor to the governor of Tulkarm, then spoke of the high cancer rates in Tulkarm, and the general negative effects of the chemical factories on the health of those living in all of Tulkarm, but especially those living close to the factories.

These actions marked the first in a week of Land Day activities for Tulkarm, which included two more demonstrations against the separation wall, as well as photo exhibitions and festivals throughout the city.


3. Ha'aretz: High Court ruling closes off Route 443 to Palestinians

The interim decision issued 10 days ago by the High Court of Justice on the use of Route 443 marks the first time the justices have issued a ruling to close a road traversing occupied territory to Palestinian use, for the convenience of Israeli travelers. The interim ruling on a petition by six Palestinian villages adjacent to the highway, which links the coastal plain to Jerusalem, gave the state six months to report progress on the construction of an alternative road for Palestinian use. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which submitted the petition on behalf of Palestinians who have been injured by the travel ban, noted that had the justices sincerely sought to consider opening the road to all, without regard to race or nationality, they would not have requested details on the building of an alternate route, which entails the destruction of additional land and costs tens of millions of shekels.

The decision was issued after both parties argued their positions. According to ACRI, the ruling marks a High Court precedent in upholding a policy of separation and discrimination with regard to movement that has already earned the name "road apartheid." It violates international law, ACRI holds, permitting the expropriation of land from the local population for the protection of the occupying power.

About 10 kilometers of Route 443 was paved on private Palestinian land in the early 1980s, on the grounds it was needed for the West Bank Palestinian population (and not for "security purposes"). A large part of the expropriated land had been earmarked for a housing development for local teachers. In response to a petition from a Palestinian whose land was expropriated for the road, the High Court ruled that the military government cannot plan and build a road system in an area held by its soldiers if the purpose is solely for the creation of a "service road" for the state. As a result, the state promised that the road was to be open to all.

Shortly after the start of the second Intifada, after attacks on Israeli vehicles, the army closed the road to Palestinians. MK Ephraim Sneh, deputy defense minister at the time, admitted in an interview that the closure was not approved by the political leadership. The closure cut off the villages on either side of the road from their main city, Ramallah, and the rest of the West Bank. In court, the Civil Administration offered to issue travel permits for 80 vehicles, for a population of about 30,000 villagers. The villagers refused to cooperate with Israeli authorities and continued their legal battle for right to use the road on their lands. ACRI claimed in court that the Israel Defense Forces had recently begun frequent raids on the six villages that included the use of illumination bombs, pressure grenades, rubber-tipped bullets and live rounds. The IDF Spokesman's Office said at the time that these were routine operations in response to the throwing or rocks on vehicles traveling on Route 443.

ACRI officials say they fear the High Court stamp of approval for the illegal and immoral policy regarding Route 443 could be cited as a precedent for additional human rights violations. The petitioners protest what they call a lack of judicial process, noting that even though the decision was on an important principle, it was issued without any accompany explanation and with absolutely no reference to the points raised by the petitioners. In addition, they note, the alternative road will not provide for the needs of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in areas bordering Route 443.

For original article:


4. Jerusalem Post: PA urges Palestinians to 'return'.

The Palestinian Authority is planning to mark Israel's 60th anniversary by calling on all Palestinians living abroad to converge on Israel by land, sea and air.

The plan, drawn by Ziad Abu Ein, a senior Fatah operative and Deputy Minister for Prisoners' Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, states that the Palestinians have decided to implement United Nations Resolution 194 regarding the refugees.

Article 11 of the resolution, which was passed in December 1948, says that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."

The initiative is the first of its kind and is clearly aimed at embarrassing Israel during the anniversary celebrations by highlighting the issue of the "right of return" for the refugees.

Entitled "The Initiative of Return and Coexistence," the plan suggests that the PA has abandoned a two-state solution in favor of one state where all Arabs and Jews would live together.

"The Palestinians, backed by all those who believe in peace, coexistence, human rights and the UN resolutions, shall recruit all their energies and efforts to return to their homeland and live with the Jews in peace and security," the plan says.

"Fulfilling the right of return is a human, moral and legal will that can't be denied by the Jews or the international community. On the [60th] anniversary of the great suffering, the Palestinian people are determined to end this injustice."

Abu Ein's initiative, which has won the backing of many PA leaders in Ramallah, calls on all Israelis to welcome the Palestinians "who will be returning to live together with them in the land of peace."

The plan calls on the refugees to return to Israel on May 14, 2008 with their suitcases and tents so that they could settle in their former villages and towns. The refugees are also requested to carry UN flags upon their return and to be equipped with their UNRWA-issued ID cards.

The Arab countries hosting Palestinian refugees are requested to facilitate the return of the refugees by opening their borders and allowing them to march toward Israel. The plan specifically refers to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, whose governments are asked to provide logistic support to allow the refugees to carry out their mission.

Palestinian refugees living in the US, EU, Canada and Latin America are requested to use their foreign passports to fly to Ben-Gurion Airport from May 14-16. The plan calls for the Palestinians to hire dozens of boats flying UN flags that will converge on Israeli ports simultaneously.

To ensure international backing, the plan calls to invite world leaders, the UN secretary-general, journalists and legal experts from around the world to declare their support for the Palestinians' "right of return." The Palestinians, in return, would promise to practice their right peacefully and to denounce terror and violence.

Arab governments are requested to provide both financial and political backing for the initiative. The plan stresses that the Palestinians can no longer expect to achieve the "right of return" at the negotiating table with Israel. "We must take matters into our own hands," it states. "Negotiations, slogans and UN resolutions are not going to bring us our rights."

For original article:


5. ISM activist Blake Murphy is deported to the US

Blake Murphy, an American activist from Bedford, MA, working in the West Bank, was beaten and arrested by Israeli army and police forces on Friday 14th March 2008. He has had to face a series of evidently false charges from the Israeli authorities due to his work supporting non-violent resistance to the occupation of Palestine. He was deported to the United States on Friday 21st March after a week in detention. While in custody, Blake has had many of his legal rights abused by the Israeli authorities.

Blake was arrested while attending the weekly demonstration in the village of Bi'lin, where the separation wall annexes much of the Palestinians' land. Blake was singled out for arrest during the demonstration by the Israeli forces. He was violently assaulted and pepper sprayed before being taken away and subsequently arrested. Blake was then beaten and abused by the soldiers while handcuffed.

Upon arriving at the detention center, after being beaten and sprayed in the eyes with mace, Blake was interrogated while still recovering from the effects of the mace. The police only offered him water to rinse the mace from his eyes, which only makes the effects of the mace worse. There have been days when Blake has been given only bread as a meal.

Injuries inflicted by Israeli solders on Blake Murphy were severe enough that he was taken to the hospital. He appeared in court on the 15th of March, where the judge prolonged his detention until the 18th March. He was told that he would have to reappear in court on the 18th. Blake was woken up on the 18th at 5:00am and taken from the detention center to the court. He was held there for 8 hours, three hours past the time he was told he would appear, locked in a room with only 8 chairs and 15 other people. At the end of this long day, Blake was informed that a mistake had been made and there had never been an appearance scheduled for him on that day. While in custody, Blake was denied a translator in court, been brought before a judge without his lawyer being informed, and also been made to appear for a trial that was canceled without him being informed.

Blake Murphy had been working for the last 8 and a half months in the Palestinian Occupied Territories with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). For over 6 months he was working as the full-time media coordinator for the ISM and was therefore highly involved in supporting Palestinian non-violent resistance towards the occupation. It is for this reason that he was targeted by the Israeli authorities and has undergone such inhumane treatment.

For video if his arrest:


6. Ma'an: Israeli police ordered to shoot Palestinian demonstrators along separation wall

Israeli authorities have given new directive to border police operating along the Israeli separation wall surrounding Jerusalem enabling them to open fire directly on Palestinians who try to demonstrate near the barrier, the Israeli daily Maariv reported on Wednesday.

According to the new rule, sniping is forbidden if there are Israeli or foreign citizens amongst demonstrators.

For original article:


7. Rachel Corrie's parents speak at Nablus demonstration to remember those killed in Gaza

On March 20th, 200 residents of Nablus and internationals gathered to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie by Israeli forces in Rafah, Gaza, as she tried to prevent a bulldozer from demolishing a family home. The demonstration also protested the ongoing attacks on Gaza by the Israeli army, and the occupation of Iraq - taking place on the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion.

Present were bereaved parents of Rachel Corrie, Craig and Cindy Corrie, who were visiting Nablus for the first time. The Corries expressed their gratitude for the continuing remembrence of their daughter, but stressed the importance of focussing on the atrocities carried out against Palestinians everyday. Her mother stated:

"While we remember Rachel, it is important to remember the children of Palestine, because Rachel knew and Rachel taught us that it is about the people of Palestine, not about Rachel.

"We know that the people of Nablus have suffered for many, many years, and have suffered many, many losses that are like our loss, except they go on and on for them."

Working tirelessly on education about the plight of the Palestinian people, through lobbying efforts, public speaking and the establishment of The Rachel Corrie Foundation, this is the Corries' third visit to Palestine. Of their work, Rachel's father, Craig Corrie said:

"There's nothing more we can do for Rachel, but we can all work so that these children, our children - for they are all our children - can have a life that we would all want our children to have. And we will work so that bulldozers do not destroy the garden walls of a family's garden, but that they destroy the walls that imprison us here, and people everywhere."

The protesters carried 122 black balloons, to commemorate the 121 Palestinians killed in Gaza during the Israeli army Operation Hot Winter, as well as one for Rachel Corrie. The also carried Palestinian flags and pictures of those killed in Gaza.

Representatives from many organisations in Nablus addressed the crowd, including the Women's Committee; Tanweer Centre for Cultural Enlightenment; and Centre for Global Consciousness; as well as Palestinians whose family members had been murdered by Israeli forces. Many spoke of the links between the occupation of Palestine and the occupation of Iraq, demanding freedom and justice for both.

These connections were also expressed by Rachel Corrie, which she wrote to her parents from Palestine before she died, which her mother Cindy shared with the crowd,

"I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope for people struggling all over the world.''


8. Women of the Underworld: On Being Thrown Out of Israel

By Starhawk

What stays with me most from the last few days is the kindness of women. Just ordinary women, caught in bad circumstances, being nice to one another.

I've spent a lot of the last week being searched, questioned, detained, jailed, and ultimately denied entry and deported from the State of Israel-that land which I had been raised to believe would always be the ultimate refuge for anyone born Jewish. But not, apparently, for me.

I was refused entrance because of work I have done in the past with the International Solidarity Movement, a group which supports nonviolent resistance against the Occupation. ISM works in the West Bank and Gaza, bringing internationals as witnesses, moral and practical support for nonviolent Palestinian initiatives-like the ongoing campaign against the Wall, which the Israeli military is building to protect the illegal settlements which have encroached deeply into the territory once designated for a Palestinian state.

I came to join the ISM out of a deep belief that nonviolence is a powerful means of struggle, that the Jews of Israel who after all are my own people are good people and a nonviolent struggle would touch their hearts and turn the tide toward real justice. I saw efforts to establish a nonviolent movement as a small ray of hope in an endless cycle of killing begetting more killing and revenge begetting revenge.

Four years ago, I spent a month or more working with the ISM. When I left the country, I was questioned and warned that I might have difficulty returning.

But I chose to try, anyway. This time my intention was to work with ecological groups, doing permaculture presentations and trainings. I had invitations from three green Israeli organizations, and the assurance of a lawyer that that would be enough to get me in.

The lawyer was wrong.

There's a jail that they take people to, who are refused entry into a country or being deported for one reason or another. It's not a horrific place-no one was being beaten or tortured, no screams echoed on the concrete walls. Those places exist, too, and most Palestinian men and many women have spent time in them, under conditions so much worse than anything I have ever experienced that the strength it takes to survive is hard to fathom.

But this jail is just a kind of limbo, a place to wait, for a forced flight back home, or for a few lucky or intrepid ones with lawyers, for a hearing and a trial. Most people are there for a few hours, maybe a day or two. Some are there longer, as their court cases drag on.

There's a human tide of immigration that washes around the world, lured by the gravitational pull of jobs and hope. Now and then, the waves crash up against the seawall of a border and leave behind a human being as the sea leaves mementoes of driftwood and shells.

Now I had become a piece of that detritus. And for the other women with me, some tide of hope has also gone out. The first night, I am with Tina, the young American law student of Palestinian descent. She and her brother are plucked from a student tour group and refused entry. All the indignant protests of their law professor, traveling with them, and their professional friends cannot change their fate. Tina, in her headscarf and white poncho, has spent months planning and organizing the trip, and she sobs in disappointment when it finally becomes clear she will not be able to stay.

With us is Zmerna, who I begin to call the Bewildered Brazilian. She is slim, dark-haired, dressed in her good jewelry and high heels. She speaks nothing but Portuguese, and no one else speaks her language-not the guards, not the Security or the Ministry of Interior or anyone she has contact with through the whole process. A couple of us speak Spanish and at times manage to communicate some simple concepts.

"Prison?" Zmerna says in alarm as the guards marched us into the locked entryway. Tina and her brother have been told they were going to a hotel, where they would have wifi and access to their luggage and computers.

"Not prison," says the guard. But they separate us from Tina's brother, and lock us into a small room full of bunk beds. I say, if you're locked in and can't get out, you're in jail. It's not the worst jail I've ever been in. I note its attractions: plastic mattresses, wool blankets, a toilet with a door that actually closed, a shower. Tina has a horror of germs, and has to force herself to use the facilities. I try to comfort and reassure her. She tries to comfort me. We both sit down and try to comfort Zmerna, who is crying on the other bunk.

Tina's course, which she will now miss, is, ironically enough, a human rights course. I tell her she deserves an 'A'.

"Get some sleep," I said. "You'll need your rest." Bur I find it hard to take my own advice. There's an energetic field that seems to underlie Israel, like a nest of high voltage wires that short circuit continuously, buzzing and jangling. It's hard to hold an uninterrupted conversation, a train of thought. I find myself able to doze lightly, but not able to relax and truly sleep. My mind keeps buzzing and I keep fighting with it, doing my meditations, grounding, trying to draw some help and nurturance from the land itself. But all I can really feel are walls and fences, barriers to any flow.

By morning, Zmerna and Tina are gone. I refuse the first flights that are offered to me, waiting to hear back from the lawyer my friends have hastily arranged to take my case. One of the guards, round and hard as a billiard ball, with a round beer belly and sharp, round eyes, tries to intimidate me, shouting and bringing out a pair of handcuffs to show me. But his heart isn't really in it, and he soon gives up and admits that they will not physically force me to get on a plane.

Instead they move me to a new room, with Sol, a young Phillipina with an acne-scarred face, six months pregnant, who is trying to resist going back to the Philippines. With her is Marie, from Moldova on the border of Romania and Ukraine, who has been here for a month, while her lawyer push her case slowly through the courts. Sol is heavy bodied and tired and sad; Marie is slim, blond, and radiantly cheerful, washing out her underwear in the sink, stalking about the cell in her gold, high heeled sandals, creaming her face and chattering on the cell phones. They are economic refugees. In Israel, one of the results of the Intifada and the closures is that the low- level jobs once done by Palestinians are now taken by a stream of immigrants from Russia and Central Europe, Africa and Asia. They come, as immigrants all over the world come, with the hope of bettering themselves, making money to send home, finding love and fortune. When they overstay their welcome, or when the system decides, for its own reasons, not to admit them, they end up here.

Marie gives Sol most of her lunch. I try to give her mine. For some reason, I just can't eat. It's not my usual reaction to stress- usually, the worse things get the more I'll eat anything in front of me. But for once in my life, I have entirely lost my appetite, even though I tell myself that I should eat something. "Eat when you can, sleep when you can, and whenever you get a chance to pee, pee!" is my usual rule. But this time I just can't force down the mystery meat, the plentiful but greasy and dead-looking chicken wings, potatoes and rice. I do eat some aged salad, and an orange.

To cheer Sol up, I offer to read her cards, as I have my pocket Tarot deck with me. Her face lights up as I predict something good happening for her, soon. Love, celebration, joyfulness-the cars are like a window into all the bright possibilities on the other side of the walls.

Marie's cards show trouble ahead, but I comb through them for every hint of good fortune. Strength is at her crown. "You are a strong woman," I tell her. In truth I am amazed at her ability to smile, to radiate cheerfulness and grace after a month in this place, which, for all its amenities, is still driving me crazing with boredom after less than a day.

"Ani 'zkah," she agrees, smiling and nodding with confidence. "I am strong."

And then Sol gets called by the guards, to be ready to go. Whatever is happening to her, she seems joyful about it. The cards' prediction is confirmed, and she leaves us, smiling.

The guards, for reasons of their own, move me to a different cell. I am settling into the solitude when the door opens and they usher in Irina, from Russia-Siberia, to be exact. Irina is plump and middle- aged, like me, and she makes herself at home, taking off her blouse and relaxing in her slip. She wears a gold icon around her neck and gold, spiked earrings and she tells me she is a doctor, a gynecologist who has been in Israel for eight years. She speaks fluent Hebrew but little English, and we communicate in Hebrew words I drag up from my deep memory like archaeological relics. She has a big bagful of food and drink, and she makes me drink a cup of Orangina and shares her face cream. Although we are both fifty-six years old, I can't help but notice how much better preserved she appears. Her hair is still brown, her face neatly made up, her mouth a red rosebud and her skin clear of wrinkles. Whereas I have no hairbrush-it disappeared in the original search at the airport, my skin is dry and covered with a fine net of wrinkles, and I am coming to more and more resemble the Hag of the Underworld.

Irina does what I think of as 'the woman thing'...she flirts with the guards, purses up her little rosebud mouth and lowers her eyes, scolds them from time to time, pleads with them. I can't do it. It's not that I don't know how, I just can't bring myself to do it even though I know that the way I am with them-clear, calm and stubborn-makes them angry.

Irina comforts me as I get bad news from my lawyer, news that convinces me that I have little chance of winning a case. My own cards look consistently dismal.

Irina goes off to Moscow. I try again to sleep. In the night I am jolted awake with the conviction that I have made a terrible mistake in abandoning my case. But in the morning, when I might still get word to my lawyer to carry on with it, the cards say over and over again that it is useless, and time to make a strategic retreat. I can't ever know, really, if they're right or wrong, if I've lost all objectivity, if my own inner sense of agreement with their verdict is accurate or influenced by the stress of going cold turkey from all my usual addictions and comforts: food, tea, exercise, and above all, work. In the end, I have to make some decision, so I decide to go.

The morning brings two sweet, doll-like Filipina women, sisters who have come, they say, to spend Holy Week with a friend. Immigration has not believed them, and after yelling and shouting and threatening, is sending them back. They are slim and delicate and beautiful, and one speaks English quite well. She is studying for a Bachelor of Science in Tourism, she tells me, and says, again and again, repeating it like a mantra: "You come to the Philippines, you will not need visa." They huddle on the bunk in a state of shock, two delicate, frightened birds, while I urge them to eat, to rest, and assure them that they don't need to be afraid, that nothing terrible will happen to them. Finally I read their cards, too. I feel like I have become the Hag of the Underworld. I'm glad to see their faces brighten a bit, imagining they can go home now with at least a good story and a bit of confidence in a brighter future predicted for them by the old Witch in the bowls of the Israeli jails.

Just as I finish the second sister's reading, the guards come to escort me to the plane.

I'm in the back of the van with the tall, good-looking guard whom Irina told me was the good one, the one with a heart of gold. "I noticed you were doing something with the cards," he says. "You read them? What are they called?

And while they load my luggage onto the plane, I read his palm.

Israel is a place where faith is either magnified or abandoned, where belief becomes delusion easily, shifts to fanaticism, or burns itself out into cynical ash. From my first visit there with my Hebrew High School student trip when I was fifteen, For me, something in the air or the water or the energy always challenges every system of belief or faith I come in with: from my childhood faith in a personal God that deserted me in the midst of the Hebrew High School youth trip I was on at fifteen, to my belief that nonviolence would easily turn the hearts of the Israelis back toward justice for all people of the land. And my faith in a refuge.

But I continue to believe in this: that in even the terrible places of the world, we find. The small hands of sisterhood, reaching across boundaries and borders and walls, across gaps of culture and language and belief to do acts of kindness for one another. And that in the end, that power is strong enough to break down the walls.



9. Demonstration at Beit Furik checkpoint calling for its removal

At 10am on Saturday 15th March 2008 approximately 250 Palestinians and internationals gathered at the Beit Furik checkpoint near Nablus to protest against the checkpoint. Internationals and residents of Nablus joined villagers from Beit Furik and Beit Dajan to march to the checkpoint - one of seven that surrounds the city of Nablus, cutting the nearby villages off from the city. Organised by the Beit Furik municipality, protesters demanded the removal of the checkpoint, which is open only from 6am until 9pm each day, only allowing ambulances to pass through after 9pm. The checkpoint also only allows residents of Beit Furik and Beit Dajan to pass through, denying any visits by friends or family to the village. Even this is uncertain though, the mayor of Beit Furik, Abu Hakeem, explained - often the soldiers prevent the passage of any persons through the checkpoint, including those seeking medical treatment.

Demonstrators were quickly confronted by Israeli soldiers, who demanded they move back from the checkpoint and cease filming the demonstration, and closed the checkpoint, refusing to allow anyone to pass. Protesters held their ground for over an hour, whilst soldiers wielded guns and tear gas threateningly, despite standing just one metre from the demonstrators.

After long negotiations by the mayor of Beit Furik and a representative from Beit Dajan, the commander of the Israeli soldiers announced that anyone from the demonstration who wished to pass through to the checkpoint would be allowed to do so, reopening the checkpoint to the queues of pedestrians and cars that had formed.

The Beit Furik checkpoint causes major obstacles to the lives of residents of Beit Furik and Beit Dajan, often preventing them from reaching work and university, with students suffering particularly during exam periods, as well as creating economic depression for the villages who cannot easily transport goods and must pay a lot of money to reach Nablus. This is especially true for residents of Beit Dajan whose main road to Nablus was closed by Israeli forces in 2000, almost doubling the length of the route from Beit Dajan to Nablus.

The peaceful demonstration demanded not only the removal of the checkpoint, but also an end to the Israeli occupation that imposes the checkpoints throughout the West Bank. Protesters also carried banners calling for an end to the siege of Gaza, and protesting against the recent Israeli army attacks that killed over 100 people, including 25 children and injured more than 200 Palestinians.

This demonstration marks the first in a planned series of fortnightly demonstrations against the checkpoint, demanding its removal.


10. 5 years on, we remember Rachel Corrie

Original article by Louise France published in The Observer newspaper, 2nd March 2008.

It is impossible to underestimate quite how much life for Rachel Corrie's family has changed since she was killed by an Israeli army Caterpillar D9 bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. As Rachel's elder sister Sarah puts it: 'What was normal doesn't exist for us now.'

'After Rachel was killed.' When I meet the Corries, it swiftly becomes clear that there is a great deal they want to speak out about, but it is these four words, heavy with loss, that they have repeated most over the past five years.

Before Rachel was killed trying to prevent a Palestinian home in Rafah from being demolished, they were a pretty ordinary West Coast American family. It has been said in the past that she came from a left- leaning, alternative background, but this is not strictly accurate. Craig Corrie is an insurance executive, who has spent 24 years of his career working for the same firm. Cindy Corrie is a musician and teacher. Since the mid-Seventies they have mostly lived in the same slate-grey house in Olympia, a small town with many coffee shops an hour's drive out of Seattle, and it was here that they raised their three children, Chris, Sarah and Rachel. True, the Corries liked to debate politics around the kitchen table. They also liked to talk about the cats and the chickens, going skiing at the weekend, the vegetable plot, the family holiday cottage in Minnesota. Whenever the conversation did turn towards the Palestinian issue, Craig and Cindy's sympathies would instinctively fall on the Israeli side.

After Rachel was killed, life changed abruptly. Over the past five years they've had to deal with the loss of their youngest daughter, at the age of 23. Cindy, a quietly spoken woman not given to over- statement or, indeed, self-pity, describes a period of mourning that will never really end.

Rachel's parents and sister have not returned to their jobs, although their schedule is relentless. Last week Craig and Cindy were in Vancouver. Next week they're heading to Alabama. As part of their work for the Rachel Corrie Foundation, an organisation they set up after their daughter died, to promote peace and justice in the Middle East, there are school talks and early-morning radio interviews about the human rights situation in Gaza and the West Bank, lobbying to have her death properly investigated and campaign meetings supporting their bid to fulfill Rachel's ambition to establish a sister city project between Rafah and Olympia. Twice they have visited the contentious 40km by 10km strip of land where Rachel died. Before Rachel was killed, Cindy had never been to Europe, let alone the chaotic, squalid, potentially dangerous refugee camp that is Rafah.

The routine of day-to-day life has been cast aside. Their two-acre garden, from where you can see the creek where the children used to swim in the summer and the rushes in which they'd play hide-and-seek, has an elegiac, abandoned feel. They're away so often the family cat now lives with Sarah. Even if Cindy had the time to cook dinner, she'd have nowhere to serve it up. Every surface of the house is smothered with paperwork.

Rachel had been a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, a non-violent pro-Palestinian activist group. Within days of her death, the eloquent and vivid emails that she had sent from Gaza were published, with the consent of the Corries, in the Guardian. In 2005 they became the inspiration for an acclaimed play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, based on Rachel's writing. Following two sell-out runs in London and a controversial last-minute cancellation in New York, the dramatic monologue, which follows Rachel's life from messy teenage bedroom through to Palestinian refugee camp, has been performed across America and Canada.

Later this month, on the fifth anniversary of Rachel's death, it will be staged in Israel and the Corries will be there to watch the first performance in Arabic. This is a typically frenetic month. Next week sees the publication of Let Me Stand Alone, a collection of Rachel's writing and drawings from the ages of 10 to 23, the final piece written four days before she was killed.

Craig and Cindy Corrie have become well known in Olympia. This modest middle-aged couple with silver hair and sensible waterproof anoraks - in the winter it rains so much in this part of the world that umbrellas are pointless - are stopped in the street. Teenage girls in skinny jeans hover, wanting to say hello to the parents of Rachel Corrie. Cindy, in particular, lights up, as though caught in the glow from a torch beam. I ask Sarah if her mother and father are often approached.

'All the time,' she says. 'I've got used to it.'

'In the first hour after Rachel was killed,' Cindy recalls, 'I remember saying: we have to get her words out.'

I'm sitting with Cindy and Sarah in one of Olympia's oldest coffee shops, a place where the Corries used to come as a family when the children were growing up. One by one they piece together the events of 16 March 2003. It was a humdrum Sunday. Sarah, not long married to her husband, Kelly, was living in the family home while her parents were based temporarily in North Carolina, where Craig was working.

'I caught the end of a message on the answer machine, someone saying, "I just heard the sad news,"' says Sarah, 'and it dawned on me. It was something to do with Rachel.' She found out her sister had died by reading the ticker tape along the bottom of the television screen: 'Olympia woman killed in Gaza.'

'My first thought was that maybe it wasn't Rachel. My next was that Mom and Dad didn't know. I started trying to dial and I remember looking at the handset and thinking, "I don't know how to punch in the numbers."'

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Craig was doing the laundry when the phone rang. Cindy picked it up. It was her son-in-law, Kelly.

'I could hear that there was something wrong in his voice,' recalls Cindy. 'I could hear Sarah crying hysterically in the background. She came onto the phone and said, "It's Rachel." And I said, "Is she dead?" I just knew I had to ask about the very worst possibility so that maybe that option would go away.'

While she took the phone to her husband, the news was confirmed on the television screen back in Olympia. 'It says her name,' Sarah told her mother. 'It says her name.'

It would be days before they had a chance to mourn in private. First they flew to Washington DC to be with their son, Chris - 'He was the only one who could function,' recalls Craig - from where they began the logistical nightmare of organising the return of their daughter's body. Craig was in such a hurry to pack he slung a pillowcase into his overnight bag mistaking it for a shirt. A journalist pitched up on their driveway in Olympia. There were more in Washington. A congressman suggested they hold a press conference. The death of an American citizen in Gaza was front page news - all this at a time when the atmosphere in America was already intense. The Iraq war would begin four days after Rachel was killed.

Craig recalls how, at one point, he picked up the telephone to learn that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was on the line. 'He told me: "She is your daughter but she is also the daughter of all Palestinians. She is ours too now."'

'If someone had told me 10 years ago that this was going to happen to us,' says Cindy, 'I'd never have predicted any of the things that we have done. I would have said, "You're crazy. If anything happened to a child of mine I would not draw another breath." But, amazingly, you do take the next step.'

For Cindy, as for the rest of the family, that next step seemed to be exploring the words Rachel had written. 'Immediately I was drawn to the writing,' she says. 'Because the writing was what we had, and what we still have, of Rachel. Nobody was thinking of a book back then but, even early on, when we were in such searing pain, we were drawn to what Rachel had written. As a comfort, as a connection.'

Most of Rachel's words had been kept in plastic tubs in the garage, or the attic. Journals, email printouts, poems, letters, assignments for creative writing classes, scraps written on paper napkins. Sarah, who has painstakingly edited the book over the past year, recites one of the first lines she read after Rachel died: 'There is something that I'm supposed to do. I know there is something big that I am supposed to do. I just don't know what it is yet.'

In the early pages of Let Me Stand Alone there is the sense of someone comfortable with the notion of revealing her inner world on the page: the style is uninhibited, experimental, confident. While it's clear this is a dreamy little girl who likes to dance and to visit her grandmother, she also has an easy relationship with words. Her parents don't describe themselves as writers but they remember their daughter sitting on the floor with pens and crayons before she went to nursery.

What emerges is someone who could be variously idealistic, knowing, self-deprecating, earnest, quirky, pretentious, fanciful, melodramatic, obsessive, flip and wise. Some of the pieces are uneven - whose private musings wouldn't be? - but at its best Let Me Stand Alone is a window into the private preoccupations of a singular girl growing up in middle-class America in the Eighties and Nineties, a girl discovering her own lucid and original voice. Some of the passages, particularly her accounts of her intense love affair with a young man called Colin, are breathtakingly vivid and personal.

It is impossible to read about how Rachel lived without thinking about how she died. There are times when her words are chillingly prescient as she describes dreams about falling, fears of tumbling, being out of control. 'Death smells like homemade apple sauce as it cooks on the stove. It is not the strangling sense of illness. It is not fear. It is freedom,' she writes on 19 May 1993. Aged just 14.

Early on there is a surprising empathy for outsiders and I realise that in a media obsessed with the Paris Hiltons of this world, we don't often get to hear about young, politicised American women. 'Maybe,' writes Rachel, aged 11, 'if people stopped thinking of themselves, and started thinking of the other sides of things, people wouldn't hurt each other.' But there is a healthy streak of self- obsession too, and a wicked sense of humour. She grows up into a chain- smoking Pat Benatar fan. Some of the most poignant moments are Rachel's 'to do' wish lists. A teenager who imagines there are years and years ahead of her.

A trip to a remote part of Russia as a teenager, just after the fall of Communism, is clearly a catalyst. So are stints staffing telephone crisis lines and volunteering for mental health organisations. 'I know I scare you,' she writes to her mother when she's 19. 'But being on a tightrope, with a safety net and a costume, doesn't work for me... I have to do things that scare you. I'm sorry I scare you. I hope I'm not ugly in your eyes. But I want to write and I want to see. And what would I write about if I only stayed within the doll's house, the flower world I grew up in?'

She is a student at Evergreen State College, a famously liberal university with a tradition of activism, when the two planes fly into the Twin Towers. Rachel Corrie, blonde, skinny, high cheek-boned, carelessly beautiful, is already looking beyond the claustrophobic confines of Olympia and into the world beyond. However, when it emerges that she is saving up to go to Gaza in order to volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) the rest of the family are dead against the idea. Her sister remembers the tension: 'I didn't want her to go. It was extremely stressful; I couldn't talk to her about it.'

Her mother adds: 'I think all of us hoped that Rachel would not quite get her act together to go.'

Her father: 'I was concerned. Why not work in a soup kitchen or something like that, I said to her. But if that is what she really wanted to do, you can't ask your child to do less.' This quietly thoughtful man, a former Vietnam veteran who masks his sadness with a droll sense of humour, pauses. 'I was concerned. But not really, really frightened. To be honest, it wasn't until she got there that I got really, really frightened.'

The writing from Rafah, Gaza, steps up a gear. Her emails home are passionate, articulate and forensic. She's been criticised for being naive about the dangers. I suspect many people, even seasoned war reporters, might admit to being blindsided by the situation on the ground in Gaza. She researched the region before she got there and attended an ISM training session, but the shock of being in the midst of chaos is immediately apparent. A day after arriving she's helping someone move the body of a child. She describes a colleague with shrapnel in her shoes.

Gradually Rachel seems to adapt to this new level of anxiety. She makes friends with Palestinian families, looks after their children, learns bits of Arabic. Television footage of Rachel from this time shows her draped in the traditional black and white kaffiyeh, looking drawn. A tank rumbles by in the background. She sounds resolute: 'I feel like I'm witnessing the systematic destruction of a people's ability to survive,' she tells the reporter. 'It takes a while to get what's happening here. Sometimes I sit down to dinner with people and I realise there is a massive military machine surrounding us, trying to kill the people I'm having dinner with.'

I wonder if the family understood that, along with other ISM volunteers, she was acting as a human shield - or 'a bulldozer cowgirl' as she puts it. Cindy says: 'We knew what she was doing. We knew she was staying at different houses.' Initially Craig believed that the worst that might happen was that she would be arrested. 'But then when she started reporting back, I realised that this was a military out of control, where there was no discipline. I said to her brother a week before she was killed: "She can't continue to do this sort of thing. Sooner or later it's not going to work."' Cindy adds, 'You were just holding your breath.'

It sounds agonising for the family left behind. Sarah agrees. 'You may not be talking about it every day, but you're thinking about it. She knew that was what we would be doing. I don't think it was an easy decision for her to be there knowing how worried we were going to be.' Has Sarah ever been angry with her sister? 'People ask that,' she replies. 'I never feel angry about Rachel because she didn't intend to die. There was no part of her that intended to die. I can't be mad at Rachel for something she didn't intend to happen. So, no.'

This kind of bereavement, premature and violent, is hard to imagine. Now add the fact that Rachel swiftly became both a worldwide news story and a debating point and it's difficult to comprehend the amount of stress the family must have been under. Within a few hours, Cindy's email account had crashed. Absurdly, in the first hours of mourning they were trying to work out how to set up a new computer inbox. They received 10,000 emails in the first fortnight alone. In one of what must have been many dream-like moments, Craig recalls a candlelit vigil held three days after his daughter died: a stranger carried a huge poster-sized picture of Rachel, a photograph he hadn't even seen before.

Overnight in Rafah there was graffiti dedicated to the young woman who believed there would be a democratic Israeli-Palestinian state in her lifetime - 'Rachel was a US citizen with Palestinian blood.' She had become a victim of their intifada, a heroine who had stood up to the mighty Israeli army. New mothers christened their daughters Rachel. A kindergarten was named after her. Palestinians living in America would approach the Corries crying, barely able to speak. 'It should have been me,' they told them.

Elsewhere the response was more mixed. The death of a young blonde female American in the Middle East aroused extreme reactions. Angry messages to pro-Israel websites suggested 'she should burn in hell for an eternity'. Critics of the Palestinian cause suggested that the houses in Rafah hid tunnels which supplied arms. A picture of Rachel burning a makeshift American flag in front of Gaza schoolchildren was circulated. There was heated debate on the campus at Evergreen. Sarah and her brother Chris began filtering out some of the hate mail that arrived.

'I don't think people understand how divisive this issue is, and how much people care,' says Craig. 'I don't think we did.'

Rachel Corrie was both lionised and demonised. 'In some ways,' says Cindy, 'both reactions are threatening. Because Rachel was a very human person. I used to worry about the adulation - what happens when they find out that the real person was as flawed as we all are? On the other hand, I know she has given a lot of people hope and something to aspire to. I think it is important to people to have figures in their lives that provide that for them.'

The Corries take me around Olympia in their car, past the places where Rachel grew up. While Craig drives he recalls descriptive passages from her journals and tries to retrace his daughter's steps in his mind's eye. Even on a winter's day you can see how beautiful it is: noble Douglas firs, a glint of water, secluded wooden houses with verandas.

Two years ago some of the Nasrallah family visited Olympia. They were the owners of the concrete house, pockmarked with tank shell holes, that Rachel had died defending. The two families were invited on a speaking tour to talk about the situation in the Middle East. When Khaled Nasrallah saw where Rachel had grown up he turned to her parents and said, wide-eyed: 'She gave up this paradise, for us?'

In turn, the Corries have twice visited Gaza since Rachel was killed. 'My feeling,' says Craig, 'was that she wrote about those people with warmth. Going to Gaza was a real need to see who Rachel wrote about and to thank them for the care they took of her while she was there.' They negotiated the same checkpoints, the same rubble-strewn streets as their daughter had done. Armed men in watchtowers looked down on them. At night they slept through the sound of tracer fire. I imagine how proud, and perhaps astonished, their daughter would have been (on occasion she'd railed against her father for having 'his head in the sand' politically). The Corries' instinct is to play down the danger they were in: gunfire whistled past Craig and, one evening, dinner with the Nasrallah family was interrupted by the menacing sound of a bulldozer outside the window. On their second visit in 2006 they were woken in the middle of the night by men with Kalashnikovs. Craig and Cindy Corrie would be valuable bargaining tools in an area that has become even more desperate since Rachel was killed. As it was, the Nasrallahs managed to persuade the men to go on their way. It was said that they killed two security guards on the Egyptian border instead.

In one of her final emails home Rachel said, 'This has to stop! I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop.' It's clear that her parents have taken her at her word. Sarah says, 'She wanted them to go there. In her writing she says you need to meet these people. Now our lives are intertwined with what goes on in Rafah and Gaza and Israel and Palestine.' Meanwhile, in the five years since Rachel was killed, the humanitarian situation in Gaza - effectively imprisoned by Israel, with limited fuel, electricity and medical - has grown worse, not better.

The family is still seeking information about what happened to Rachel and to have her death accounted for. According to former US secretary of state Colin Powell's chief of staff, the Israeli government's report was not 'thorough, credible or transparent', yet there is no sign that the US government plans to take any further action. Four months ago Sarah discovered distressing reports that Rachel's autopsy was not carried out according to their stipulations. The Corries, along with four Palestinian families, are waiting for court action against Caterpillar Inc, the American company that makes the bulldozer that killed Rachel, to be reheard.

Sarah recalls, three weeks after Rachel died, her mother meeting the family of Amy Biehl, an American anti-apartheid campaigner killed in South Africa in 1993. 'I remember Mom asking Amy's mother, "Do you ever get the normal back?" She paused for a long while and in the end she said, "No, not really." I knew then that this is what was going to happen to our family. First you have to mourn Rachel. Then you have to mourn the loss of your family and the life that you had.'


11. Demonstration takes place on playground near Qalqiliya, two days before it is due to be demolished

A large protest took place today in the West Bank town of Azzoun against the planned demolition of the children's playground in the town. 450 protesters came from the local area, the village Women's Development Association and the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), who celebrated their 25-year anniversary at the demonstration.

Speeches were given by members of the municipality, the village women's development association and PARC. Protesters also planted trees in the area to symbolize how although the playground may fall in area C, it is still Palestinian land. Entertainment was provided for the children by local clowns.

The playgrounds construction was near completion when on the morning of February 22nd, 2006, bulldozers accompanied by Israeli soldiers arrived and demolished half of the park - which consisted of two swimming pools and changing rooms.

The justification given by the Israeli army for the demolition was that the park lacked a building permit for that specific ground, an area which falls within Area C, thus under Israeli civil and military control. Building permits for Area C are notoriously unattainable, applicants being denied by the Israeli authorities-run Civil Administration, even when building on private land. In a recent Peace Now report, it was shown that 94% of housing permits have been denied over the last seven years. The Israeli army had, prior to the demolition, given orders to stop the building several times, but despite that, the village decided to continue, strengthened by the knowledge that the building was taking place on Palestinian land.

An Israeli lawyer is still fighting the case, and is awaiting an interim decision on the appeal. If the town loses the appeal, they have promised to take the case to the Supreme Court.


12. Gaza's 'bigger holocaust'

By Fida Qishta

Rafah, the Gaza Strip, 3 March - Israeli officials said today that they finished their military operation in the Gaza Strip, but the Israeli attacks continue, and we fear that Israel is still planning a major invasion. On February 29th, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai warned of "a bigger holocaust" for Palestinians.

>From February 27th - March 2nd, the Israeli army killed around 110 Palestinians in Gaza, about half of them civilians, and nearly a quarter children, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza. Hundreds were injured. Palestinians killed two Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian.

What is happening in Gaza hurts all Palestinians, not just Hamas. Before this assault, the Gaza Strip, with 1.5 million residents, was already like a prison under siege, with dwindling supplies of food, medicine, fuel, clean water and electricity, and growing poverty. Many families eat just one meal a day. We have no electricity for 6-12 hours daily.

On March 1st, I was home with my family in the city of Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, watching TV to see what was happening in northern Gaza. Around 10 PM we suddenly heard Israeli F16 fighter planes overhead. I said to my mom, something is going to happen. The sound of the F16s grew louder. Then we heard very loud rocket explosions.

My sister ran crying, saying, it's close. My mom was cut in the hand trying to prevent glass from hitting her head. Many of our windows were broken. We ran outside because the electricity went off. My father said it's safer in the street. At least we can see where the rockets are going and where to go.

Four Israeli rockets hit the mosque 150 meters away, killing six civilians and injuring 30. One of those killed was my 30 year old cousin Samer. Samer, a policeman with Fateh's Palestinian Authority, was married with a young daughter.

The latest Israeli attacks began on February 27th when Israel assassinated five Palestinian fighters in Gaza. Palestinian fighters responded by firing rockets into Israel, killing an Israeli teacher in Sderot. Israel fired more rockets, and invaded.

Most deaths were in northern Gaza. When I visited there on February 29th, a mother from Beit Lahia explained what happened the day before, "My sons went to the playground to play football, and I said to myself they will be safe." She completed the story crying, "but they weren't safe anywhere. One of them was killed and the second was injured." I began to cry also as she asked, "My son, why have you left me?" Twelve year-old Omar Dardona died immediately, and eight year-old Ali Dardona died on March 1st.

Another woman there told me, "I didn't believe there were tanks in the neighborhood, and I looked through the door's peephole, and there really were. I didn't know what to do. I saw on TV yesterday eight children were killed, and I was thinking of my children. My husband climbed over our house wall and I passed the kids one by one to their father. They crossed the street and reached their grandfather's house safely."

Some Palestinians see shooting rockets into Israel as the only way to respond to continued Israeli attacks that have killed so many civilians and children, the only way to protest with a loud voice. Israel besieged Gaza after Hamas won the Palestinian elections in January 2006, and killed 823 Gazans in 2006 and 2007, according to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem. Hamas has repeatedly offered a truce, but the Israeli government has rejected those offers. Fourteen Israelis have been killed by rockets from Gaza since 2000.

It seems like the world knows that Israelis in Sderot are scared because of rockets from Gaza, but they don't see what the Israeli army is doing. I feel sometimes like people in Gaza are in a different world.

The Israeli army bulldozed and destroyed our family home in 2004. In 2006 they bombed a house 40 meters from where we were living. Saturday night they could have hit our house. I fight hard to keep hate from my heart, but I get scared sometimes that it will overcome my resistance. I hope that I can continue to win this struggle.

Violence and death bring more violence and death. Hope brings more hope. Despite everything, children in Rafah tell me they hope to play, have fun, travel, and meet Egyptian children. It is these children's dreams that renew my spirit.

Fida Qishta, an educator and journalist, is the founder and manager of the Lifemakers Center, which serves 70 children aged 6-18 in Rafah.


13. Demonstrations take place in Gaza and the West Bank for International Women's Day

Ma'an: Women march for rights, end of occupation in Gaza

Women staged two demonstrations in the Gaza Strip on Saturday to demand a stop Israeli violence that has recently led to the death of 18 women, including two infants recently.

Women marched to the slogans "Under what fault was she killed," "Where is my right to live in peace and safety?" and "I am a peace dove suffocated by the blockade."

One of the marches went to the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, where women from throughout the Strip delivered a letter demanding an emergency United Nations meeting to lift the Israeli- imposed siege.

The letter was handed over by organizer Soad Hijo, the head of the women's program at the Al-Ghawth relief center, demanding that the international community pressure the occupying power to end its war in Gaza and grant Palestinian women the rights that are owed women throughout the world.

The letter also called for the release of all female and male Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and an end to all forms of discrimination against women.

In the second march, organized by the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, protesters gathered in front of the Legislative Council headquarters in Gaza carrying banners calling for women's rights and the need to end the suffering of the Palestinian women

A Palestinian called Om Raefat stated, " I am here to tell them how I wish for the unity of the Palestinian people, for people feel suffocated and what to live in internal peace."


Women's Day March in Nablus

On Thursday 6th March 2008 the Women's Committees of Nablus marched through the centre of the city to protest against the recent massacre in Gaza during which more than 115 people were murdered. In preparation for International Women's Day on the 8th of March, the women of Nablus took to the streets carrying banners and flags demanding an end to the atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza.

Internationals joined the demonstration in solidarity with the Women's Committees, holding pictures of some of the 27 murdered children of Israel's 'Operation Hot Winter'.

The rally culminated in a gathering at the central plaza where speeches were made by members of the Women's Committees and representatives from the governorate, condemning the attacks on Gaza.

This year's International Women's Day actions and celebrations in Palestine will mourn and honour the deaths of the 6 women killed in their homes during the recent Gaza onslaught, which has brought the total of women killed by Israeli forces this year to 13. (PHCR, 2008)

PHCR, 8th March 2008: On International Women's Day, the Suffering of Palestinian Women Continues,


14. Anti-Wall demonstrations marked by violence


Friday, March 8th, saw a large demonstration in the West Bank town of Qaffin against the annexation wall. The demonstration was organised by the Qaffin municipality and featured a large block of activists from the Democratic Union. Approximately four hundred Palestinian and international demonstrators marched to wall to be met by two Israeli army jeeps. The soldiers initially fired live ammunition into the air and then in the direction of the protesters. Tear gas and rubber- coated steel bullets were then used to attack the non-violent demonstration. Three people were hit by the rubber coated bullets, but were not seriously injured. After an hour the protesters returned to the town.

Qaffin, just north of Tulkarem has a population of around 10,000. The size of the town has more than halved in the last 13 years as settlements and the annexation wall have stolen the towns agricultural land. 120,000 olive trees are currently on the west side of the wall, and a further 12,000 were razed to make way for the walls construction. The Israeli army also regularly invade the town, and 280 of the towns population are currently in Israeli jails.


IMEMC: Bil'in

Dozens of residents of Bil'in, a village near Ramallah, took to the streets on Friday in their weekly demonstration protesting the illegal confiscation of the village's land through Israel's continued expansion of the wall.

The residents were joined by many International and Israeli peace activists, in addition to supporters of the Palestinian Democratic Federation Party (Fida), who were celebrating their eighteenth anniversary.

Protesters carried signs condemning the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and others demanding the dismantling of the wall that is causing serious hardships for farmers in the village.

The protesters were stopped by Israeli soldiers at the pass-through gate of the wall and were prevented from reaching the land that has already been confiscated from their village. Israeli soldiers then used tear gas and sound bombs to disperse the demonstrators.

Palestinian youth participating in the demonstration responded by throwing rocks at the soldiers, who then began firing rubber-coated steel bullets. An Israeli peace activist, identified as Marina, and a Palestinian protester, identified as Naji Shouha, were moderately wounded by Israeli gunfire. Additionally, a number of Palestinians and Internationals were treated for tear gas inhalation.


15. Adalah-NY: In Ha'aretz interview Leviev "spins" protests against his companies' settlement construction (see excerpt from Ha'aretz interview below)

New York, NY, March 7 - In a rare interview in the March 7 English edition of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz Daily, Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev responded to questions about recent protests and calls for a boycott of his companies in response to their settlement construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Issa Mikel, a spokesperson for Adalah-NY - the group that has organized eight protests outside Leviev's Manhattan jewelry store since it opened last November - commented, "Leviev's responses were disingenuous and troubling. Leviev neglected to mention that his company Leader is building the settlement of Zufim, that he is a major donor to a company that acquires Palestinian land for settlements, and that all Israeli settlements violate international law. Leviev also portrayed his company's monopoly over Gaza's fuel supply as somehow charitable. Finally, as independent human rights activists, we challenge Leviev to provide evidence to support the completely false accusation he made that we have any relationship with or are "funded by business competitors."

In the Ha'aretz interview by Anshel Pfeffer titled "We need Judaization" (, Leviev responded to Pfeffer's question, "Do you have a problem with building in the territories?" by saying, "Not if the State of Israel grants permits legally. But Danya Sibus is only a subcontractor; I didn't even know it was building there." Yet Danya Cebus' construction in Maale Adumim and Har Homa was highlighted in multiple newspapers due to possible losses to Leviev's Africa Israel, Danya Cebus' parent company. Furthermore, in an August 24, 2004 interview in Globes, when asked about neglecting Israel, Africa Israel CEO Pinchas Cohen responded, "Heaven forbid! Our subsidiary, Danya Cebus, recently signed a very large contract to build 2,500 apartments in Matityahu Mizrach (Upper Modi'in), for a $130 million investment." It seems unlikely that Leviev was unaware of all this construction.

Leviev also co-owns the company Leader Management and Development which is building the settlement of Zufim on the village of Jayyous' land. Due to the strangulation of Jayyous caused by the construction of Zufim and Israel's wall, more than 50% of families from this once prosperous farming village are now receiving food aid. The secretive, right-wing settler company the Land Redemption Fund, which Leviev funds according to a 2005 article in Yedioth Ahronoth, used fraud and deceit to secure Palestinian land from Jayyous and Bil'in for eventual settlement construction by Leader and Danya Cebus.

While Leviev uses Israeli law to justify his companies' settlement construction, all Israeli settlements are judged to violate international law according to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Israeli organization B'Tselem, the International Court of Justice, the United Nations, and every government in the world besides Israel.

Leviev asked Pfeffer, "If they want to demonstrate, why against us? After all Dor Alon, in which Africa-Israel owns 26 percent, is the only company that sells fuel to the Palestinians." Yet, as the monopoly fuel supplier to Gaza, Dor Alon has profited for years from Israeli occupation by benefitting from non-competitive fuel provision to a "captive" market. Though a major offshore natural gas field with an estimated 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lies twenty miles from Gaza's coast, for nearly a decade Israel has blocked the development of that resource, which could provide the foundation for sustainable economic growth and Palestinian fuel self-sufficiency.

Responding to Leviev's professsed incomprehension of why groups are demonstrating against him, Adalah-NY spokesperson Ethan Heitner summarized, "Leviev has invested heavily in New York real estate. He and his former partner Shaya Boymelgreen have been singled out for their mistreatment of workers, their shoddy construction and their displacement of communities here. We also have close ties with Palestinian and Israeli activists working to save villages like Jayyous and Bil'in from Leviev's settlements. Finally, when Leviev opened a swanky jewelry store here and we learned of his companies' role in exploiting and abusing poor communities in Angola through his diamond mining, we said, enough. We must hold Leviev accountable for his business practices."

We need Judaization, Anshel Pfeffer, Ha'aretz Daily, March 7, 2008 (Excerpt)

"In recent weeks there have been pro-Palestinian demonstrations in New York and London, calling to boycott Leviev's jewelry stores because of the construction being done on the other side of the Green Line by the Danya Sibus firm, which is owned by Africa-Israel. Leviev suspects that financial interests are behind the demonstrations. 'I don't know what this is - after all, if they want to demonstrate, why against us? After all Dor Alon, in which Africa-Israel owns 26 percent, is the only company that sells fuel to the Palestinians. I think that it's more groups that are funded by business competitors.'

Do you have a problem with building in the territories?

'Not if the State of Israel grants permits legally. But Danya Sibus is only a subcontractor; I didn't even know it was building there.'


16. Breaking the Siege of Gaza, Taking to the Streets

Palestinian Youth Network (PYN), Paz Ahora, and ISM Spain

March 5, 2008

After three and a half weeks of waiting at Rafah with much needed medicines for Gaza, on the evening of Wednesday, March 5, Saif Abu Keshek, General Coordinator of the Palestinian Youth Network (PYN) managed to enter the besieged Gaza Strip. Carrying 50,000 euros worth of medicines unavailable or in very short supply in Gaza, Saif has been at Rafah since February 12, 2008, waiting for permission to enter, each day told to wait a little longer. "I finally made it in," said Saif, "but there are tons more aid for Gaza in dozens of trucks, still held up at the border."

Last week's Israeli military onslaught on Gaza, which killed over 120 Palestinians, many of them women and children, was met with deafening silence from government leaders and international agencies. This reality should not only sadden and enrage us, but also make us realize how important it is that civil society steps up to defend human rights in the face of organized impotence. Saif's entry into Gaza shows that the siege can be broken, but it needs pressure and persistence and pressure, which governments and the United Nations are not willing to exert. Currently that is not happening, and as the situation worsens, foreign journalists are being told to leave the Strip.

On the evening of Sunday, March 2, Palestinians young and old took to the streets of Ramallah banging loudly on pots and pans, blowing whistles, and screaming for people to wake up! Wake up we must. We must wake up and believe that we indeed have the power to effect change; then we must organize to show our representatives and decision- makers our strength.

Below is an email sent from Saif on March 3, two days before entering Gaza, describing the scene on the border.


Escaping Death

March 3, 2008

The sound of ambulance sirens all over the place; wounded people here and there... This one is shouting and the other almost dying; and its red... everywhere is filled with blood. "Run fast," I heard them shouting. "We need an ambulance, now, now, now... This guy is dying. Please help him, please bring a doctor, give him pain killers... Do anything, just help him."

The medical response is much slower than his painful cries. The medical workers must check every one. They must decide who is more critical to move first, taking the risk that someone may die before being checked. Hundreds of people are waiting on the other side. Some people have been waiting for a month to go back to Egypt; Palestinians who entered to visit their families and now have no exit. Others, Egyptians who went to visit Gaza and are now stuck. But the most compelling are the Palestinian mothers and other family members who are watching the ambulances depart with their loved ones, praying that they will see them again, but not knowing. They cannot know. Maybe they will die along the way? Or perhaps they will receive the needed treatment but then get stuck in a detention center before being allowed to go back home. You can never know. In this place every thing is luck, or casualty.

I told them we have medicine to take to Gaza; this medicine is needed for urgent operations. They answered, "well, many wounded people are now in Egypt, why you don't give your medicine to an Egyptian hospital?" Did they really open the border? Who is going to be with the wounded ones? They will see no family before going back to Gaza. Visits are very restricted, and you can talk to no one.

These people are escaping death, but to an unknown destiny. They hope to find some mercy away from the Israeli killing machine. They are in an ambulance taking them to a hospital, and they don't know when they will return home, if they will. How painful it is to be wounded, almost dying, with no family around you, with no visitors. And how painful it is for any family not to be with their loved ones while they are being treated, or maybe living their last moments in this life. For some these last moments can be the only peaceful moments in their life, what an irony, you escape death to live your last moments dying away from your family.

The brutality of this occupation, that it is living in us, it is living everywhere, hunting us wherever we go. Perhaps some managed to escape death today, but death is still hunting the rest in Gaza.

Isn't it time to reclaim the streets? Isn't it the time to force change?

How many more must die before we realize that our silence is just part of the story; that one protest is not the answer; that the life of many

Palestinians depends on what the civil society may or may not do? Maybe it is time to get more radical. Maybe the Palestinians will help us to escape death, a different kind of death -- the death of our humanity!



17. Non-violent march through Ramallah streets ends reading the names of the fallen in Gaza at the Muqata

On Sunday, March 2nd, Palestinians marched alongside international supporters through the streets of Ramallah, banging pots, chanting, and making noise. They were protesting the massacres in Gaza, the continued siege, the silence in the international community, and the ongoing violations of international law.

Around 200 people gathered near the Manara Square in central Ramallah and walked through roads and refugee camps singing, chanting, banging noise into the night in order to express their outrage and encourage bystanders to join. In the end they arrived at the Muqata, where Yassir Arafat is buried, and negotiated with the police to enter the closed off area. Inside, the names of the newly dead in Gaza were read to the crowd. After, a member of the P.A. spoke, and the entire crowd turned their backs to him and walked away, possibly signifying their outrage at the P.A. reaction to the massacres in Gaza.

This non-violent demonstration was organized by the Gaza 3ala Bali group and contained people from all walks of life, children from Qadurra camp, students from Bir Zeit, and Mustafa Barghouti, all came to show their support.


18. Palestinians are shot as they take to the streets in response to Gaza massacres

(Edited from Ma'an News and Human Rights Observers' reports)

Dozens of Palestinians have been injured in towns across the West Bank after Israeli troops cracked down on demonstrations against the Israeli mass killings in Gaza.


Today, students marched to the Israeli separation wall near Rachael's Tomb. Young Palestinians pelted Israeli military vehicles with stones and empty bottles. The soldiers fired live ammunition, tear gas and sound grenades. Ten people were injured, witnesses said.

Israeli soldiers shot 16-year-old Nabil Nayif Al-'Eisawi in the chest. Sources at Beit Jala government hospital described his injury as "critical." The rest were injured moderately and slightly.



In the Hebron district in the southern West Bank, about 20 Palestinians have been injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire in various place, reporters said on Monday.

Ma'an's reporter said that at least 10 people have been injured in Bani Na'im, east of Hebron and six others have been injured in Beit Ummar, north of Hebron.

Local sources said that 16-year-old Muhammad Khlayyil was was seriously injured during the confrontation in Beit Ummar. Eyewitnesses told Ma'an that clashes erupted in the morning and continued into the afternoon. Israeli forces overran the town firing live ammunition, tear gas and sound grenades, witnesses said.

Two people have also been injured in Al-Arrub refugee camp and several people in Hebron itself, including one seriously injured.

Eyewitnesses in Al-Arrub refugee camp stated that an Israeli settler was injured after his car was struck by stones. Palestinian young people set fire to car tires and threw stones at Israeli military vehicles. Israeli soldiers intervened to disperse the demonstration using live ammunition, rubber-coater metal bullets and tear gas canisters.

In the town of Surif, north of Hebron, eight Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers. Four others were detained.

Israeli sources said that a Jewish settler was hospitalized after being injured near Surif.



A Palestinian student was killed on Monday morning after Israeli forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in the West Bank against the Israeli mass killings in the Gaza Strip

19-year-old Muhammad Shreitih was killed at the student rally in the village of Al-Mazra'a Al-Qibliya, near the city of Ramallah.

Palestinians across the West Bank took to the streets for a second day on Monday, confronting Israeli troops and expressing solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Relatives of the deceased told Ma'an that students marched to the Israeli settlements near the village. Clashes erupted between the students and Israeli soldiers near the Talmon settlement. Shretih, a student in his third year of secondary school, was shot in the head and died on the way to Khalid Hospital in Ramallah.

Israeli media reported that an Israeli settler named Moshe Benbenishti, a student in a Jewish school in the settlement opened fire at the Palestinians.

Israeli security sources commented on the incident, saying, "The settler felt he was endangered when 200 Palestinians were pelting his car with stones, so he fired at them."

Meanwhile, Israeli forces stormed the village of Ni'lin, also west of Ramallah, closing all entrances to the town as fierce clashes erupted between the invading forces and Palestinian youths.


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