Sunday, November 29, 2009
Palestinian officials have always and consistently reiterated their commitment to the peace process. Bilateral negotiations are seen as the main strategy to achieve the legitimate Palestinian objectives of ending the Israeli occupation, achieving statehood and freedom as well as solving the issue of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UNGA Resolution 194.
However, the peace process has so far lasted 18 years and there are diminishing reasons to believe that it will accomplish its objectives and bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Although the process has been through severe crises before, the one we are experiencing now appears to be the most difficult.
This is so for several reasons. First, both Israeli public opinion and Israel's political elite have been moving away from the basic assumption underpinning the peace process, namely the end of occupation. Second, the prolonged process has enabled Israel to expand its control over most of the occupied territories through the illegal settling of Jewish populations in those territories, contrary to international law.
Third, public opinion in Palestine is less confident than ever of the effectiveness of the bilateral approach as a means to ending the occupation and as part of a comprehensive peace settlement. Finally, international actors have been using the peace process mostly as an excuse not to fulfill their obligations to the human and political rights of the Palestinian people.
Thus, while this latest crisis was brought on by the failure of the new American administration to make Israel comply with its obligations under the first phase of the roadmap, particularly freezing settlement construction, it has become a crisis of the bilateral process itself rather than of aspects of it. This has caused Palestinians to think of alternative strategies for achieving their legitimate objectives.
The failure of the peace process seems to have been anticipated by the Palestinian government, which only a month ago came up with a two-year plan specifically to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state. The government justified the timing of its plan by saying that if the peace process were successful the plan would ready Palestinians for statehood. If, on the other hand, the peace process failed, then Palestinians needed an alternative based on managing their own affairs and enhancing the steadfastness and resilience of the people, in addition to building the institutions of state. The government plan thus seeks to convince the international community to recognize Palestinian rights to statehood and sovereignty without necessarily gaining Israeli consent.
There are two schools of thoughts among Palestinians vis-a-vis alternatives to the bilateral process. The first, which represents a significant minority, is to go backward by dissolving the Palestinian Authority and declaring the failure of the Oslo project under the assumption that this would bring us back to pre-PA days of direct occupation and end the confusion created by the presence of the authority, thereby unmasking the ugly reality of the Israeli occupation. This, it is then argued, will lead us back to a struggle against occupation and the international solidarity such a struggle would bring with it.
The other alternative is to move forward, i.e., to dissolve the PA within the institutions of an independent Palestinian state. This approach considers that building an authority on Palestinian territory is the second most important achievement of the Palestinian people after the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization and should not be wasted. Rather it has to be used as a tool to achieve complete independence.
This strategy relies on the ability of the Palestinian people to actively and effectively prepare for independence and statehood as well as on positive changes in the international dynamic regarding a two-state solution on the borders of 1967. There are some indications that such a dynamic is in place. Israel has never been criticized as it is being criticized now, and support for Palestinian statehood was never as strong as it is now. Hence, many Palestinians look at preparations for statehood and a possible direct approach to the UN Security Council for international recognition as the most constructive and positive approach.
This approach could have another positive side effect. It puts pressure on Israel to allow a resumption of constructive negotiations on the basis of the roadmap, which calls for ending the occupation in return for peace, security and integration. The only clear indication that Israel is willing to enter such a serious process would be a total freeze on Israeli settlement construction in all occupied territory.
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views. - Published 23/11/2009 © bitterlemons.org
Friday, November 27, 2009
Last update - 09:32 25/11/2009
The human rights organization Yesh Din says not one of the 69 complaints filed during the past four years on damage to Palestinians' trees in the West Bank has resulted in an indictment. The organization released a report on the matter Tuesday and makes specific reference to damage caused to olive groves, central to the livelihood of Palestinian villagers.
The olive harvest season is coming to an end in most parts of the West Bank this week, with the exception of those areas at higher elevations. Attacks targeting trees harvested by Palestinians - olive trees in particular, but also almond, fig, lemon and others - has been on the rise in recent years.
During the past four years, Yesh Din filed 69 complaints which are under investigation by police in the West Bank. The toll involves many thousands of trees in numerous areas, from Susya in the southern Hebron Hills to Salem in northern Samaria.
According to the report, 27 cases (40 percent of the cases for which complaints were filed) were documented between January and October of this year. Notwithstanding Israel Defense Forces reports that the olive harvest passed "quietly" during the months of September and October, the human rights group reported dozens of incidents in which hundreds of Palestinian trees were damaged.
According to the reports, not a single one of the 69 cases under investigation has led to an indictment of the suspects. Fourteen cases are still under investigation; another four are being evaluated by police and state prosecutors, and a decision is pending on whether the authorities will press charges against the suspects.
"Continuous damage to the livelihood of Palestinian families is not met with immediate response from the law enforcement authorities," said Lior Yavne, head of research at Yesh Din.
"Yesh Din's multi-year follow up on the results of investigations into violations carried out by Israeli citizens against Palestinians shows that nearly 92 percent of the investigations fail, and the cases are closed without charges being filed," he added. "The incidents of damage to the trees, [and] the rate of failure of the investigations conducted by Judea and Samaria District [police] is 100 percent."
In response to these claims, the Yesha Council of settlements says "We have followed for years the dozens of cases of damage to Jewish farmers, and our report, 'Who will Defend my Olive Tree?' shows that selective law enforcement exists. All authorities go out of their way to protect the Arab farmer. On the other hand, they do not even investigate the complaints of the Jewish farmer. There are restraining orders against Jews during the olive harvest season but nothing against the Arabs."
to view the Yesh Din report and data sheet (English):
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
As she awaits a final verdict, Bethlehem University student Berlanty Azzam (who was sent blindfolded and handcuffed back to Gaza last month) can at least take some consolation from the global campaign on her behalf. Human rights NGOs and the media have pushed her case enough to put genuine pressure on the Israeli government and their policy toward Gazan students.
Most Palestinian students will not share the world's shock at Azzam’s case. To them there is nothing strange about suffering for their degree. Israeli restrictions seem designed to thwart academic potential, arresting lecturers, embargoing equipment and shutting down whole universities.
Birzeit University, situated on the main road from Ramallah to Nablus, attracts the cream of Palestinian students. Entrance demands are comparable to Oxford and Cambridge. Its reputation is founded on liberal values that treat women as equals and leaves no intellectual stone unturned, including thorny political issues. This partly explains why 85 of its students are currently locked up in Israeli prisons, bringing the total detained to over 400 in the last six years.
Ala Masalmeh, a final year English student, believes the reason for their treatment is both practical and symbolic. "Education is the main reason for the development of any society. They don't want Palestinian people to be literate and intelligent.
"Very few of my friends take higher education because of the problems we face. If you tell a soldier at a checkpoint you are a student they will keep you for hours, searching and interrogating you."
Masalmeh's cousin was a prominent activist in Birzeit's Islamic society and has recently been released after three months in jail, during which he was accused of plotting terrorist attacks. Masalmeh believes the pressure and scrutiny of Israeli police has succeeded in keeping students away from politics.
"In the last few years these movements have not been popular, because people are scared to be arrested," he said. In one recent case an engineering student, who wished to remain anonymous, was held for almost six years after being filmed at a campus demonstration. He was told his degree course was "dangerous" and switched for fear of further punishment.
Aman Muhrar studies journalism and agrees there is no longer the appetite for activism on campus. "I used to be involved in such movements, but there is not so much awareness here. Students are like blind sheep, they don't want to read or learn what's really happening."
But Muhrar she doesn't blame Birzeit’s faculty for what she sees as a downturn in activism. "We have great lecturers, like Dr. Sami Hamuda who taught in the US, and the dean, Dr. Saleh Al-Jawad. They try to give you the whole picture, not just opinions, so that you can make up your own mind." Al-Jawad's commitment to free thought is evidenced by multiple arrests, the last for staging a sit-in at the checkpoint which was making all his students late. Sadly his passion is not matched by students. The school of political sciences, located above the cafeteria, is one of the least subscribed to departments in Birzeit.
It is a similar story in Hebron University, according to Student Council leader Nayim Adoud. "The campus is not very political and the Student Council does not like to make waves. We already have too many teachers and students in jail and administrative detention [indefinite imprisonment without charge]."
Indeed Hebron University has suffered as much as any West Bank institution. As recently as 2003 it was shut down for eight months by the Israeli military, who explained their decision by claiming it was a "wing of a Hamas terror cell," a decision condemned by the UN as an "utterly unjustified and illegal act of collective punishment." This was not the first instance of education being effectively banned in the city. A three year closure in 1987 was followed by a six month ban in 1996.
Iyad Barghouti, head of the Ramallah Cultural Centre for Human Rights Studies, says it is "an old argument to connect all student activities with security. We have had tanks on our campuses and attacks on our schools for generations. They try to say that students and terrorists are the same." As a timely reminder, three Hebron students were arrested last week to be held indefinitely for what the military termed “involvement in an Islamic group.”
The frequency and unpredictability of these attacks makes it difficult to arrange courses with any confidence that they can be completed. "We cannot draw a yearly calendar and we never know when to schedule courses because there are so many obstacles," says Hebron’s Adoud.
These obstacles are higher still for students from Gaza. Despite movement restrictions, the trauma of constant violence and an embargo that has made even paper difficult to come by, students there have maintained an excellent academic record. Almost 2,000 Gazan students were offered scholarships to international universities in the past year. As recently as 2005 there were 370 students from Gaza enrolled at Birzeit, before Israel made it illegal for them to cross the divide "Israel continues to regard the West Bank and Gaza as separate entities and Gazans are being punished for their government. They cannot pass through Rafah (into Egypt), so most of them have lost their places at foreign institutions," said Barghouthi.
Of the 2,000 with scholarships, 985 have lost their places, leaving them in limbo, awaiting a change of mood from the Israeli authorities who block their travel. "The siege is destroying every part of human life in Gaza, every part of society. They [Israel] want people to be isolated and living only from foreign aid,” says Barghouthi.
“Schools and factories are especially targeted. Resources are not allowed through the borders so they have to be smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt. Because of this even basic resources like paper cost four times more than in the West Bank."
Students in Gaza who wish to study abroad rely on an inconsistent system of permits, which have no reliable timescale and can be withdrawn at any time. There are many cases of students waiting so long for permission that their place is cancelled by the time it arrives.
Could the Universities do more to help their potential students? The London School of Economics held large-scale protests on behalf of Gazan Othman Sakallah, another victim of the siege. He has been given the now honorary title president of the LSE student union, which is working hard to pressure both British and Israeli governments. Birzeit students don't believe their University has any power to help the Gazans who have been ostracized from the West Bank. "If the government can't do anything, neither can the University," believes Jaha Satta, a Birzeit media student, to unanimous agreement from her table.
"We can support them on websites like face book and try to send materials there but help must come from outside. The PA should do more but they won't because of the Fatah/Hamas split,” Satta added.
One potential method is the academic boycott, part of the Boycot, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has gained a foothold in the US and South Africa among other nations. While it may seem perverse to stifle Israeli academics who logically would have the best knowledge of the issues, boycott supporters believe it would hit Israel, a nation that prides itself on intellect, where it hurts.
Sahar Francis, director of Prisoner’s Support Human Rights Association in Ramallah famously pronounced that "activism is illegal" in Palestine. It’s true that Israeli security has been effective in suppressing such activity, but their campaign goes deeper, to attack the right to education itself. Whether their much-hyped attempts to link students with terror is a sincere belief, or if they would rather preside over a less capable population, the microscope provided by Berlanty Azzam’s story must not go to waste. The imprisonment, restriction and abuse of Palestinian students goes beyond the immediate victims to attack the core values of every democratic nation.
Kieron Monks is a freelance reporter from London. He is working as an assistant editor of Palestine Monitor in Ramallah, as well as news magazines and websites in the UK.
Monday, November 23, 2009
By Gideon Levy
The old tractor sputtered up the hill, its engine seemingly about to expire, but its big wheels bumping across the rocky terrain. We stood in the back, swaying wildly, holding on for dear life. On the hilltop loomed the big antenna of the settlement of Yitzhar, whose houses lay on the other side of the hill. The very knowledge of their presence inspired dread. It was a glorious sunny day, the spectacular valley sprawling below. The houses of the Palestinian village of Burin lie in this valley, which lies between two hills: on one stands Yitzhar; on the other, Har Bracha, outside Nablus.
Burin is caught between a rock and hard place, between Har Bracha and Yitzhar. We have visited Burin often, most recently after settlers burned down some of its homes. Settlers once stole a horse from a villager, torched fields, demolished a home in the village and uprooted olive trees. We have frequently documented the uprooting of olive trees: Less than a month ago, in this space, we told the story of the beautiful vineyard belonging to the agriculture teacher Mohammed Abu Awad from the village of Mureir, whose 300 trees were felled by intruders - probably from the illegal outpost of Adei Ad - using buzz saws.
Here, clues left by the criminals suggest that they used handsaws and ripped out the crowns of the trees with their hands, one crown after another, one branch after another, rending and wounding the trees. In Mureir, the agriculture teacher wrapped the stumps in sacks, giving them the look of figures in shrouds. Here, in Burin, the stumps remain where they were hurled on the ground, stacks of dead wood, branches withering, until finally the farmer will use them as firewood to heat the village's clay ovens, the tabuns.
But the feeling is the same, the affront is the same and so is the grief. In October, the farmer Abu Awad said about the ruins of his vineyard in Mureir: "What must you feel if you plant and tend and then it's all cut down? What must I feel? If I had been there, I'd have told them, cut off my hands, but don't cut down my trees - What did the tree do to them, for them to treat it like this?" (Haaretz Magazine, October 16)
And now the farmer Ibrahim Imran tells us in Burin: "These trees are like my children." Hands or children, the grief of those who tend their olive groves is searing and deeply moving. The inability of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and of the officers of the Israel Police to protect the groves of these farmers, to protect their property and their honor, is the inability of all of us.
We stood on the rear fender of the tractor as it clambered its way up the hill. Standing with us was Ruth Kedar, an activist from Machsom Watch, which monitors checkpoints, and Yesh Din (Volunteers for Human Rights). She has crisscrossed the territories in her private car for years, documenting wrongs and injustice. Her husband, retired colonel Paul Kedar, is also active in Yesh Din. It's worth lingering over his riveting biography: Paul Kedar comes from a Revisionist family; his father was one of Ze'ev Jabotinsky's secretaries. He himself was one of the founders of the Israel Air Force and later served as air attache in Paris during the period of the Sinai Campaign. He has been in the Mossad and served as consul general in New York, among other state posts. He was a friend of Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres. He too now devotes his time to documenting the occupation and struggling against its abuses. The Kedars, now in their eighties, will soon receive the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and deservedly so.
Above the noise of the tractor, one of the Palestinian farmers tells us that he heard that his neighbor, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, from Yitzhar, has permitted the killing of all non-Jews. Indeed, Shapira, head of the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva in Yitzhar (named for the biblical Joseph), recently published a book, "The King's Torah," in which he states that it is permissible to kill every gentile who constitutes a threat to the Jewish people, even if he is a child or an infant.
When Imran arrived to work his land early Thursday morning, he was appalled. It was, he says, "the height of frustration," and adds: "After God, I rely only on my olive trees. These trees are no less than 70 years old. My great-great-grandfather planted them."
Imran called everyone he could think of - the District Coordinations Offices, the International Red Cross, B'Tselem and Yesh Din - and also filed a complaint with the Israel Police at Ariel. Investigators came to the grove and took fingerprints, he says, but he has yet to receive confirmation of having submitted a report. Yesh Din is now handling his complaint.
An IDF jeep suddenly arrives to see what's going on - just the kind of jeep that rarely shows up when the settlers go on a rampage.
A spokesman for the Shai (Samaria-Judea) District of the police stated in response: "On November 12, a resident of Burin complained that he noticed that 90 olive trees on his land had been chopped down. The damage was documented by the criminal investigations department at the site, and trackers scoured the area to find footprints. Testimonies were taken from two locals: the owner of the land and his worker. The police are conducting additional investigative activities, among them locating suspects and witnesses. The Samaria District police are also operating on the intelligence plane."
Friday, November 20, 2009
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent
Fatah had made a strategic decision to declare a third intifada against Israel, movement officials told Nazereth-based newspaper Hadith Anas, citing the failed peace talks as the reason for their resolution.
The newspaper report quoted Fatah Central Committee members as saying that the movement wished to implement a decision made during its sixth convention, which assembled last August in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
One of the movement's top officials interviewed by Hadith Anas said the third intifada will have a widespread popular base, adding, however, that unlike the previous popular struggle against Israel, which was sparked in September 2000, the movement will not endorse an armed struggle or the use of firearms.
"We want thousands of Palestinians to demonstrate daily near the settlements of the occupation, carrying out a human siege, and calling for the end of the occupation," one senior official said.
According to the report, Fatah chief and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to the resolution in principle, stipulating only that the struggle mustn't become a violent one.
Sources estimate that Abbas could prepare the conditions which would allow for such a move by stepping down as PA President as well as by declaring the dissolution of the PA by the end of the year.
Fatah officials had commented recently on the need to duplicate the weekly anti-separation fence rallies in the villages of Na'alin and Bil'in in locations across the West Bank, as well as turning some of those demonstrations against nearby settlements.
A senior member of an Arab-Israeli Knesset party, who maintains close ties with top Fatah and PA officials, said that anti-separation fence rallies could spark renewed popular resistance, if they continued to escalate as they did week ago near the Kalandia checkpoint.
The official said that PA sources have come to understand that unarmed popular resistance, centering on symbols of the West Bank occupation, could garner sympathy for the Palestinian cause in international circles as well as embarrassing the Israeli government.
"The first intifada gained significant diplomatic ground as far as the Palestinians are concerned since its symbol, a boy throwing rocks at a tank, made it impossible for Israel to claim it was defending itself against terror as it did in the second intifada, followings the city-center bombings," the official said.
Today's news from the Palestinian non-violent struggle:
Maan News -- Palestinian shot at weekly anti-wall protest
Maan News -- Previously banned 'tutu' bullets return to Nil'in
ISM -- Inciting non-violence: support Bil’in’s struggle
ISM -- Burin celebrates successful olive harvest, despite numerous settler attacks
Video from this week's demonstration in Bil'in village:
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Extensive Israeli Campaign Against Palestinian Civil Construction Activities in Area C; New Demolition Orders Issued Against 60 Palestinian Houses, Apartments and other Civilian Facilities in the West Bank
Israeli Occupation Forces have escalated their systematic campaign against Palestinian civilian construction activities in areas under their full control according to the Oslo Accords signed by the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993. Areas classified as Areas C in the West Bank are currently subjected to extensive Israeli campaigns aimed at undermining the Palestinian presence. Israel is also expanding construction activities in settlements and the annexation of new areas of Palestinian lands in Area C, including occupied East Jerusalem and its surroundings. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns all these measures taken by Israel and stresses the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). PCHR calls upon the international community to urgently and promptly take serious action to compel the government of Israel, the occupying power, to put an end to all illegal measures. The international community’s inaction with respect to the impunity granted to Israel encourages Israel to commit further violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, the Organization and Construction Department of the Israeli Civil Administration issued 35 orders to demolish or stop construction works in houses and other civilian facilities in Areas C. In addition, the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem issued an order to demolish an apartment building of 25 flats in occupied East Jerusalem. Approximately 275 individuals, including 180 children, live in these houses and apartments. According to Palestinian sources, since the beginning of 2009, Israel has issued approximately 2,300 demolition orders.
Recently, Israel issued orders to demolish or stop construction works in Palestinian houses or civilian establishment as follows:
- On 8 November 2009, the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem issued a decision to bulldoze an apartment building belonging to Sharhabil ‘Alqam in Tal al-Foul quarter in Beit Hanina village, north of Jerusalem. ‘Alqam began construction works in his apartment building in 2002 on an area of 500 m2. The 7-storey building is composed of 25 residential apartments and was sold to Palestinian families comprising more than 150 members.
- On 12 October 2009, Israeli forces delivered notices to stop construction works in 12 houses and in a bird farm in al-Salahat area in Roujib village, east of Nablus. Five of the threatened houses are resided by 33 individuals, including 22 children.
- Also on 12 November 2009, Israeli forces delivered notices to 11 Palestinian civilians to demolish or stop construction works in houses and establishments in Um al-Kheir area to southeast of Yatta village, south of Hebron. The notices threaten 17 establishments, including residential houses where 57 individuals, including 39 children, live. The majority of the owners of the threatened establishments are members of the Bedouin al-Hathalin tribe. The owners of these establishments stated that notices were delivered to demolish or stop construction works in establishments that are between 50 and 300 meters to the north of the fence of “Karme’el” settlement.
- On 18 November 2009, Israeli forces delivered notices to demolish five houses in ‘Azzoun village, east of Qalqilia. The houses, home to 35 individuals, including 20 children, are located in the east of ‘Azzoun village where the Israeli settlement of “Ma’ale Shamron” is being established.
- Israeli forces also delivered a notice to al-Bireh Municipality to stop construction works in al-Bira Municipality’s International Stadium under the pretext of the lack of a building license. Sources from al-Bira Municipality stated that the Israeli Civil Administration in “Beit Eil” settlement delivered a notice to the contractor to stop construction works in the Stadium under the pretext of lacking a building license saying the project is in Area C.
First: according to International Humanitarian Law and numerous UN Resolutions, the Palestinian West Bank, including east
Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are classified as occupied territory.
Second: the natural growth of the Palestinian families requires that these families implement construction activities in order to meet their growing living needs. Because of the complications of getting building licenses, Palestinians are forced to carry out construction works above their houses to meet their residential needs.
Third: Settlement activities in OPT are illegal and constitute a war crime. Israeli forces apply an apartheid system regarding construction works in Palestinian villages on one hand and in Israeli settlements on the other.
PCHR strongly condemns Israel’s recent measures and all settlement activities and plans in the occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and calls upon:
- The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal and moral obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure Israel's respect for the Convention in the OPT. PCHR believes that the conspiracy of silence practiced by the international community has encouraged Israel to act as if it is above the law and to continue to violate international human rights and humanitarian law, including continued measures to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.
- The international community to take urgent and prompt action in order to compel the government of Israel to put an end to all settlement activities in the OPT, especially in occupied East Jerusalem, and to dismantle Israeli settlements, which constitute a war crime under International Humanitarian Law.
- The European Union/ EU member States to activate Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel must respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation between the EU States and Israel. PCHR further calls upon the EU States to prohibit importation of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Dear Mr President,
You will probably not read this letter due to your busy schedule and the huge number of messages you receive from presidents, kings, princes, sheiks, and prime ministers. Who is a Palestinian academic from Gaza, after all, to have the guts and write an open letter to the President of the United States of America?
What has triggered this letter is a picture of your Excellency sitting with the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said. That, of course, happened before 2004, i.e. before you underwent a process of metamorphosis which I personally think is unprecedented in history. Seeing you with Edward Said, I must say, surprised me. Said, a true public intellectual must have said something to you about the suffering of the Palestinian people. In the picture, you and your wife seem to be listening attentively, and admiringly, to him. But the point remains; did you really understand his eloquent, passionate defence of the rights of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine? Judging from your recent policy shifts, I very much doubt it. It is precisely the incongruity between the photograph and these policy shifts that has prompted this letter.
The whole world celebrated your election as the first African-American president of the US. I did not. Neither did the inhabitants of the concentration camp where I live. Your sympathetic visit to Sderot—an Israeli town which was the Palestinian village of Hooj until 1948 when its people were ethnically cleansed-- three years after your first visit to a Kibbutz in northern Israel in support of its residents, and after your pledge to be committed to the security of the State of Israel and its "right" to retain unified Jerusalem as the capital city of the Jewish people—to give but few examples—were all clear indications of where your heart lies.
Another reason for the writing of this letter is shock at the indifference and arrogance with which Secretary of State Hilary Clinton dismissed Palestinian concerns about Israel's illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank. Only a few weeks ago you made the admirable statement that all Jewish settlement must halt, and you made it clear that this included expansion of existing settlements as well as the construction of new settlements. However, when Netanyahu let it be known that he had no intention of stopping settlements, you missed an historic opportunity to draw a line: no more billions and no more weapons for Israel unless and until this condition is met. Now Secretary of State Clinton has the Herculean task of pretending that your position on Jewish settlements has not changed, though it is clear you have chosen not to use the very real power at your disposal to bring Israeli policy into line.
About six months after your election, you gave a speech in Cairo, addressed to the Arab and Islamic worlds; which some people found impressive. I found it impressive in form, but not in substance because your actions have not matched your rhetoric. Why did I not buy the new language of the new American administration? Because while you were giving your speech, we were burying my neighbour, a terminally ill patient, who needed treatment in a hospital abroad, since, thanks to the siege imposed by your own administration and Israel on the Gaza Strip, the facilities that would have saved his life are not available in Gaza. Like more than 400 terminally ill people in Gaza, my neighbour lost his life. In spite of the fine Arabic words of peace, “salaam aleikum,” you made it crystal clear that the point of reference in any negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Israel's security. By doing that, Mr. President, you are effectively marginalizing the whole issue of Palestine, and unfortunately setting the stage for renewed Israeli assaults against a starving Gaza, an entity that has, thanks to your "unbreakable” ties with Israel, been transformed into the largest concentration camp on Earth.
Your failure to support the Goldstone report, your indifference, not to say your contribution, to Palestinian suffering and the process of “politicide” against the Palestinian people of Gaza is, to say the least, unfathomable, coming from a man who listened so earnestly to Edward Said. Your advisors must have told you about the cutting off of medicine, food and fuel to the concentration camp where I live. Patients in need of dialysis and other urgent medical treatment are dying every single day. A majority of our children, many the same age as your two beautiful daughters, are badly undernourished.
You must have skimmed through the executive summary of the Goldstone report detailing the horror inflicted on 1.5 million civilians for 22 days, horror caused by F16s, Apache helicopters, and phosphorus bombs made in American factories. Hundreds of children were burnt to death by phosphorus bombs; pregnant women were brutally targeted in what Israeli soldiers boasted off on their T-Shirts: "1 bullet, 2 kills." And yet, not a single word of sympathy, Mr. President! Edward Said had this to say upon his first visit to Gaza: "It’s the most terrifying place I’ve ever been in… it’s a horrifyingly sad place because of the desperation and misery of the way people live. I was unprepared for camps that are much worse than anything I saw in South Africa." This was back in 1993, Mr. President, before conditions dramatically deteriorated. Gaza has now become, as the leading Israeli human rights organization B'tselem describes it, “the largest prison on Earth.”
Unlike your predecessor, you seem to be a smart man. You must have realized that a two-state solution has been rendered impossible by Israeli colonization of the West Bank, by the war on Gaza, by the construction of the apartheid wall, by the expansion of so-called Greater Jerusalem, and by the increase in the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. You must have realized also that there are six million refugees, most of whom live in miserable conditions waiting for courageous, visionary leaders committed to true democracy, human rights and international law to implement UN resolution 194. And yet, you and your State of Secretary, like every U.S. president since 1967, have decided to support Israel in creating conditions that made the two-state solution impossible, impractical and unjust.
Were you a supporter of the Bantustan system in South Africa under the Apartheid system? Are you opposed to equal rights and the transformation of Israel/Palestine into a state for all its citizens? The two-state solution means the Bantustanization of Palestine, a solution you, to our knowledge, never supported for South Africa. Are you, Mr. President, opposed to civic democracy, which is the demand of most Palestinian civil society and grassroots organizations? This is what your role models, Martin Luther King and Steve Biko, died for. Was Nelson Mandela wrong to spend 27 years of his life in pursuit of justice by demanding equality for the indigenous people of South Africa? Do you realize that what you are supporting in the Middle East is a racist solution par excellence? A solution based on ethnic nationalism. Your secretary of state and envoy to the Middle East, unashamedly, stood with beaming smiles next to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who, not only defends openly the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but also calls for a new genocide in Gaza. Do you realize, Mr. President, that this Hitlerite fascist might become Israel's next prime minister, thanks to your administration's complacency and support?
Our only immediate demand is that your administration insures that Israel fulfills its obligations in terms of international law. Is that too much to ask?
Mr President Barak Hussein Obama,
We, the Palestinian people, are fed up!
Professor Haidar Eid
Haidar Eid is an independent political commentator and Professor in the Department of English Literature at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Maan: "Palestinians breach wall near Tulkarem"
Bethlehem - Ma'an - At least six demonstrators were arrested in the northern West Bank after they breached a section of Israel's wall on Saturday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.
The protesters said they intended to march to lands that were left isolated behind the wall in Deir Al-Ghusun, northeast of Tulkarem, and managed to break open one of the barrier's gates before Israeli soldiers invaded the village.
One demonstrator was lightly injured after being struck with a rubber-coated bullet in the leg, onlookers said.
"Today's demonstration was the opening salvo for a public campaign by the Deir Al-Ghusun municipality and the affected farmers," said Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli group, in a statement. "As the demonstration was coming to an end, a large group of soldiers surprised a group of the protesters by closing in on them from the direction of the village, and arrested 18 of the village's youth."
A spokeswoman for Israel's army said soldiers and military police units responded to a riot, using non-lethal means, northeast of Tulkarem, and that six were detained for damaging the barrier.
Jonathan Pollak, one of the group's founders, told Ma'an that 18 demonstrators were originally detained, but added he was looking into the possibility that some were later released.
The wall in the area of the village cuts deep into West Bank land, leaving about 2,500 dunams (620 acres) of the village's land on its west side, affecting 120 land owners, including dozens who have never received permits to tend to their farmland. Elsewhere, the barrier snakes through the interior of the West Bank, looping around Israeli settlements and fragmenting Palestinian communities.
Marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Palestinian demonstrators breached the wall near Ramallah on Monday. Last Friday, protesters in the village of Ni'lin also managed to tear down a section.
In an advisory opinion issued in July 2004, the International Court of Justice in the Hague declared the path of Israel's wall in the West Bank illegal in its entirety, and ordered its removal.
Maan: "Medic among two hurt by live fire in Nil'in"
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli forces used live fire on Palestinian demonstrators protesting Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Nil'in on Friday, activists said and the military confirmed.
Rumors had been circulating that the Israelis would respond more harshly than usual due to the activists' success in pulling down a section of the wall at the Qalandiya military checkpoint a week earlier.
"These rumors were confirmed," said Ibraheem Amera, coordinator of the Nil'in popular committee. "A huge army of Israeli soldiers was awaiting [protesters] and immediately started [to] fire huge amounts of tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and also live ammunition."
Amera said the popular committee had warned protesters to be extra cautious on Friday, because he believed a "decision was made by the Israeli military, because in Nil'in the wall has been taken down twice already by the people, and after the fall of the wall in Qalandiya, the Israeli military is afraid that the 'Nil'in falling wall virus' will start to spread throughout the whole West Bank."
Two Palestinians, including a medic, were reportedly injured, according to a statement from the committee, after Israeli forces made an incursion through fields from three different sides, closing in on a group of around 100 demonstrators. "The army was shooting live ammunition from a distance of less than three meters... and two people sustained minor injuries from grazing shots."
A witness said one soldier ran up to a Palestinian Red Crescent Society media, "grabbed him by the neck and pushed him to the ground, then the soldier started beating him. The volunteer sustained no serious injuries, except for some bruises."
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that soldiers fired .22 calibre rounds, but insisted that they were used within the army's rules of engagement, and only when protesters turned violent. She pointed out that a soldier was lightly injured by rocks that she said were thrown by protesters.
Protests continue throughout West Bank
In the nearby village of Bil'in, residents gathered at a large demonstration called by the popular committee in honor of the death of Yasser Arafat. They were joined by international and Israeli activists, as well as a group of members and supporters of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) and a delegation of members of the Palestinian People's Party.
The protest was led by Israeli Knesset Member Mohammed Baraka, the front's general secretary. One international activist was injured and dozens suffered tear-gas inhalation when Israeli forces opened fire. Protesters expressed solidarity with Baraka, who will stand on trial in next week as a result of his participation in one of the demonstrations in 2005.
Demonstrators wore t-shirts with a slogan commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, "From Berlin to Bil'in, The Wall Shall Fall." They also chanted slogans against the Israeli wall.
An international activist from the United States was also injured, the popular committee said.
In Al-Mas'ara, a village near Bethlehem, residents gathered raised Palestinian flags and banners demanding that farmers be allowed to access their lands to pick olives. As they have every Friday for the past three years, protesters were intercepted by Israeli soldiers who had set up a barbed-wire fence at the entrance to the village, effectively cutting off the villagers' access to their lands.
Demonstrators chanted against "the discriminatory policies of the occupation and reminded [them] that only this morning, farmers who were picking olives on their lands in the surrounding villagers were harassed by settlers while Israeli soldiers stood by," the local popular committee said in a statement.
In Arabic and English, protestors asked the soldiers to reconsider their occupations and join the Palestinian, Israeli and international civilians "on this side [of the wall] who abide by the international human rights and who work together for just peace."
Protestors attempted to remove the barb wire and continue their march towards their lands and the site of the wall, including one who managed to get by. "A woman from the village asked the Israeli soldiers what they were doing here in her village and pushed them out of her way, succeeding in continuing her walk towards Um Salamoneh, defiantly carrying the Palestinian flag," the statement said.
Jody McIntyre writing from Bilin, occupied West Bank,
Live from Palestine,
5 November 2009
|So far Israel's night raids into Bilin have failed to suppress Palestinian resistance. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)|
Mohammed Ahmed Issa Yassen, 20, lives in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where he works in his family's car garage business as a mechanic. He is also a student at the al-Quds Open University, but since he has joined the Israeli intelligence's "wanted" list from the village, studying has been difficult. The Electronic Intifada contributor Jody McIntyre interviewed Mohammed about living under the constant threat of arrest:
Jody McIntyre: How many times have the Israeli army been to your house?
Mohammed Ahmed Issa Yassen: During the most recent wave of arrests in the village [which has been over the last four months], the army have been to my house eight times. The first time they came was 3 July; I was not at home, so they started trashing our house and destroying the furniture. My mother, who is 52 years old, was at home at the time, and they told her to bring her son to prison. Each time they came, they were more and more aggressive towards my mother. Nowadays, she can't sleep at night.
They also went to the house of my older brother, Mazen, and gave him an invitation demanding that he hand me in at Ofer military complex, so that they could arrest me. They didn't say why they wanted to arrest me.
JM: How have the night raids affected your life?
MY: I can't live a normal life. I can't sleep at home during the night, because I fear that the army will come to arrest me, and during the day I must work; my father passed away in January of this year, so I must earn money for the family. We don't live a luxurious lifestyle, not by any means, but we need to have food on the table.
My young nieces and nephews used to come over to my house to stay with [their] grandmother, but on one occasion the army invaded while they were here, and now they're too afraid to sleep over again. It's not just my family though, it's a problem for the whole village -- no one can sleep at night anymore.
JM: What about your studies and relationships with friends?
MY: It was difficult to continue my studies before the night raids, because of the expense of traveling to university and paying the semester fees, but now it is pretty much impossible. The night raids have ruined my education.
Some of my friends are afraid to hang out with me now, because they fear that they might also be arrested. I don't want to go to stay at my friends' houses anymore, or to have them over to stay, because I don't want to drag them into my problems.
JM: Has anyone else from your family been arrested in the past?
MY: At the beginning of the nonviolent resistance in Bilin, towards the start of 2006, they were using a similar tactic as recently, invading the village at night and arresting the participants of the demonstrations. They arrested my oldest brother Bassem, and kept him in jail for four months.
At around the same time, they arrested my younger brother Abdullah. He was just 14 years old at the time. I was 16, and it was the first time I had seen the soldiers at such a close range ... the first time I'd had a chance to look them in the eyes. I was terrified.
During the second or third of the most recent raids in my house, they arrested Abdullah, now aged 18, again. He's been in jail for the last two months, and won't be released for another four and a half. I miss Abdullah so much ... before he was arrested, we would spend the whole day working together in our family's garage, and then playing around afterwards. I would give him some money from the business' takings, without telling our mother ... sometimes we didn't have enough money to go around, so I would give him some from my own pocket, just to make him feel like he was living a normal childhood. Since our father died, I've felt like a father to Abdullah.
JM: Why do you think the Israeli army want to arrest you?
MY: I don't know why they have made me into this big criminal ... I have to work all day to make sure my family has bread, so I don't even have time to go to the demonstrations! Young boys from the village, under intense interrogation, supposedly "confessed" that I had thrown stones in the past -- this isn't true, but even if I had, what difference does this make to the fourth largest army in the world? After all, they are the ones stealing our land!
It seems that every couple of years, the army in Bilin, perhaps under different leaderships, try a new tactic to stop our nonviolent demonstrations. Sometimes they arrest people from the village, like they are doing now, sometimes they impose curfews, and sometimes they kill people ... like my friend Bassem Abu Rahme.
They think they can stop the demonstrations in Bilin, but they can't, so they punish us instead.
JM: What is your message to the Israeli government who want to put you in jail?
MY: Leave me alone so that I can go back to my studies, to play football with my friends, and to continue with my normal life. And release my brother Abdullah so I can see him again.
If Israelis want to meet me then we can go to the playground and have a game of football, not in a military prison!
JM: Do you think there will ever be a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
MY:I just want to see a peaceful solution in my house and in my village. For now, it is difficult for me to think about the bigger picture.
Jody McIntyre is a journalist from the United Kingdom, currently living in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin. Jody has cerebral palsy, and travels in a wheelchair. He writes a blog for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, entitled "Life on Wheels," which can be found at www.ctrlaltshift.co.uk, where a version of this article was originally published. He can be reached at jody.mcintyre AT gmail DOT com.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Israel's Supreme Court has said a Palestinian woman whom the Israeli army deported to Gaza from the West Bank should be able to challenge the move.
Bethlehem University student Berlanty Azzam, 21, was deported two weeks ago.
The Israeli military said she had been given a permit in 2005 allowing her to spend only a few days in Jerusalem.
But an Israeli human rights group says that when Ms Azzam left Gaza there was no such thing as a special permit for Palestinians to enter the West Bank.
The organisation, Gisha, believes tens of thousands of other Palestinians in the West Bank are also under threat of deportation for similar reasons.
Ms Azzam was stopped at a checkpoint in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers at the end of October, two months before she was due to complete a degree in business management in Bethlehem.
When they saw that the address listed on her identity card was in Gaza, she was detained for six hours, then blindfolded and handcuffed and told she would be taken to a detention centre in the southern West Bank.
"The driving took longer than it should have and I started to think something was wrong. I started to wonder, what are they doing to me?" Ms Azzam said.
After the car stopped and the blindfold was lifted, she saw she was at the Erez crossing to Gaza. She was then forced to enter the territory without being given the chance to speak to a lawyer.
"The decision that a person's address listed in the Population Registry constitutes an essential condition for the legality of his/her residence at that address - with no explicit legal basis and with no official notification... undermines the fundamental principles of the law," said a lawyer for Gisha, Yadin Elam, in its petition to the Supreme Court.
Gisha warned that if Ms Azzam's deportation were permitted, an estimated 25,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank who had Gazan addresses on their identity cards risked being removed.
The human rights group also noted in its petition that Israel had made no security allegations against Ms Azzam, and that the manner in which she was removed had violated her right to due process.
Regarding the army's claim that Ms Azzam was present in the West Bank "illegally", Gisha argued that at the time she left Gaza, a special permit for Palestinians to remain "simply did not exist".
Furthermore, it said, Israel did not allow people to change their addresses from Gaza to the West Bank, and had not issued a single entry permit for the purpose of travelling to study to Palestinians from Gaza despite an Israeli High Court ruling in 2007 saying they should be allowed.
At Thursday's hearing, the Supreme Court ordered the state to give Ms Azzam the chance to challenge the process of her deportation.
There will be an "administrative hearing", before Israeli military officials, at the Erez crossing next week, for which she will be entitled to legal representation.
"I'm dreaming of the day when I can return to my studies. I am worried and fearful of what might happen, and I hope that my right to education will not be violated," Ms Azzam said.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
By Kevin Coval, The Electronic Intifada,
5 November 2009
|Build equality, not walls. (ActiveStills)|
Last week I was disinvited from my second Jewish conference in two months for poems I'd written in solidarity with Palestinians, poems that make an unapologetic call for justice. Subsequently, I and the poet I was to read with at the J Street conference, wrote a response to being censored. People from all over the country wrote to us supporting free speech, supporting art as a tool for change, supporting real talk about the degradation of Palestinians, and people wrote to let us know they disagreed. Some more thoughtfully than others.
We decided to hold our reading anyway in Washington, DC during J Street's inaugural conference at an alternative location. We were hosted by the Busboys and Poets space. The room filled with a spectrum of ideas. We read our poems and during the question and answer period, no one was shouted down. Not the Israeli army refusenik, not the liberal Zionist apologist, not the Palestinian student who asked us to include more about the Palestinian people in our poems, not just the land or idea of nation-state, a point beautifully made and incredibly profound. No one shouted down moderator Laila al-Arian, a brilliant journalist and activist, whose father was a Palestinian political prisoner in America, now freed because of his daughter's persistence. The crowd was cool and civil, though broad in opinion.
Since the second Palestinian intifada I have thought, written and spoken about these issues, but over the course of these last several weeks, I have arrived at a new beginning. Prior to now, I muddled this issue in complexity. But I have come to realize it is actually simple and clear. I am a Jewish-American man in solidarity with the Palestinian people. I am in solidarity with Israeli and American and All people who work and risk their lives and livelihood for justice. I am not restricted to working within the confines of the Jewish-American community. Justice and resistance to imperialism is a global, human concern for all people. For Jews, yes, but not Jews alone. For Palestinians, yes, but not Palestinians alone. It will take us all to push and demand governments and corporate interests to create fair, equitable living conditions. It will take all peoples to hold history accountable for the atrocities that occur.
This is an analogy. America celebrates Columbus day even though Columbus and American settlers killed, enslaved and pushed indigenous peoples off land they lived on. Tragically, indigenous peoples have been nearly wiped out of existence and pushed to the furthest margins of our culture that revels in amnesia. Main St., mainstream American culture does not expect Native Americans to celebrate Columbus, nor care nor know nor imagine if they do or not. Native Americans are not a demographic population Hallmark cares to account for. It is preposterous to think Jews would celebrate Kristallnacht, the night of glass when SS troops stormed and terrorized their German ghettos. In Israel, Independence Day is called Yom Haatzmaut. Communities gather to play music, dance and watch fireworks. The Chief Rabbinate has declared this day a Jewish holiday in which prayers should be said. But Palestinians remember 1948 and the formation of the State of Israel as al-Nakba, the Catastrophe. A day of murder, displacement and forced Diaspora. A day families are torn apart and ripped away from their homes. A state-sanctioned celebration of their dehumanization and second-class citizenship.
For this reason alone, I cannot believe in the integrity of the Zionist project. It's built on bodies and lies. It denies the existence of people and a people. One of its slogans, rooted in the same malicious revisionism as American history and Holocaust denial, is a land without people, for a people without land. Columbus didn't discover shit. He enacted the desires of empire and the fetishization of "discovery." The formation of the State of Israel is rooted in blood and deceit, is the same story as all colonies built in the name of imperialism, capitalism and dehumanization. Therefore, I am not Zionist.
I am not pro-Israel because in January Israel murdered more than 1,400 Palestinians. They bombed schools and hospitals. They bulldozed homes and bodies. Israel builds a separation wall, as Germany did, as the United States does between here and Mexico, as the rich do between themselves and the rest of us. I am not a believer in borders. I have been mistaken for Italian, Puerto Rican, Arab and Muslim, but I am a suburban Jew who sought out hip-hop cultural space across red lines and Chicago segregation. I learned borders are to be contended and crossed. Israel believes in borders. Israel practices apartheid. On one side, irrigated lawns and swimming pools in illegal Israeli settlements. On the other side, Palestinian disenfranchisement, denied access to drinking water, medical assistance, jobs, the ability to earn an income or vote in the country that governs them, that limits their movement with passports, checkpoints and curfews and closes them into open-air prisons. I cannot be in favor of these practices, nor the state that enacts them. These practices are to be resisted, protested and pushed against. Those whose bodies are legislated against, contained, detained and maimed by state-sanctioned terror are to be stood with and listened to.
This week has provided clarity. This is not a complex issue. There is the brutality of governments and the need for the liberation of a people, all people. I am a Jewish person who stands with Palestinian people relegated to second-class citizenship and Israeli soldiers who refuse to enact racist militarism. I am not a nationalist; therefore I am not a Zionist. I am against the oppression of any person and people. I am not a builder of walls. I believe in equity and democratic practice, therefore I am not pro-Israel. I am an advocate for truth, justice and reconciliation. I believe in this. I believe in this now. I believe in the work ahead.
Kevin Coval is the author of Slingshots (A Hip-Hop Poetica) and Everyday People and co-founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival. He can be reached at kc AT kevincoval DOT com.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
By, Bil’in Popular Committee
6 November 2009
The 20th anniversary to the fall of the Berlin Wall will be marked this Friday in mass demonstrations across the West Bank calling for an immediate dismantling of Israel’s wall and settlements
Exactly twenty years ago, On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall came crumbling down in two days that inspired hope for a world in which walls could no longer keep people apart. Today, a wall twice as high and five times as long is being built by
Israel in the West Bank, in blunt contempt of international law, to separate Palestinians from their lands.
Despite the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion from 2004, which had pronounced Israel’s wall illegal, and called for its removal, no significant changes on the ground were made.
The demonstrators raised a model of the Wall at the Wall itself, which stated that, as the Berlin Wall fell twenty years ago, the Bil’in Wall must fall today.
The anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has been declared an international day of action against Israel’s barrier. Today the protesters called for its removal, and attempt to implement the ICJ’s decision.
Several demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation from canisters thrown at them by the Israeli occupation soldiers in their attempt to suppress the weekly protest of Bil’in citizens and solidarity groups.
The demonstration was called by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and started directly after the Friday prayers. Bil’in citizens were joined by a group of international and Israeli peace activists and together they raised Palestinian flags and banners condemning the occupation, racist policy of building the Wall and settlements, land confiscation, road closures and detention and killing of innocent people.
The Brecht-Eislerchoir of Brussels Belgium sung several songs of solidarity and resistance to support the struggle in Bilin. The choir has presented in Belgium a choral piece ,The Shouting Fence, on the Palestinian situation with text by Mahmoud Darwich. After the concerts we wanted to see with our own eyes what the effects are in the daily life of Palestininans. Our attendance in the demonstration in Bilin strengthens our commitment to the Palestinian struggle for freedom In this way we try to raise awareness in Belgium about the occupation and the apartheid wall. In addition to that we have anther group from Ireland from IPSC .
Two days before, a large group of European diplomats made a visit to Bil’in, and went to the Wall to see how it has stolen the villagers land. They then held a meeting with the Popular Committee where they heard about the affects of the IOF’s night raids into the village. Diplomats visited from Romania, France, Slovenia, Sweden, UK, Portugal, Denmark, Netherlands, Malta, Austria, Finland, Czech Republic, Poland, EU, Ireland and Belgium.
Ni’lin demonstrators topple 8 meter tall concrete wall
6 November 2009
20 years to the fall of the Berlin wall: Demonstrators toppled 8 meters tall concrete wall in Ni’ilin
Three protest marches were held today in the West Bank to mark the 20th anniversary to the fall of the Berlin wall, which has been declared an international day of action against Israel’s barrier. In Ni’lin, the 300 demonstrators managed to topple a part of the eight meters tall concrete wall that cuts through the village’s land. Following the direct action, the army fired scores of live rounds at the demonstrators.
The concrete wall in Ni’lin – five to eight meters (15 to 25 feet) in height – has only recently been laid on the path of the wall cutting through Ni’lin’s lands, in addition to the already existing electronic barrier and razor-wire.
Since the Wall was built to allow more land to annexed to the nearby settlements rather than in a militarily strategic manner, demonstrators have been able to repeatedly dismantle parts of the electronic fence and razor-wire surrounding it. The section of the Wall in Ni’lin is the only place along the route of the barrier where a concrete wall has been erected in an attempt to deal with the civic, unarmed campaign waged by the village in protest of the massive land theft that will enable the expansion of the illegal settlements of Modi’in Il’it and Hashmonaim.
Since Israel began its construction in the year 2002, This is the first time demonstrators succeed in toppling a part of Israel’s barrier which is a concrete wall. One of the demonstrators, Moheeb Khawaja, said during the protest: “Twenty years ago no one had thought the monster that divided Berlin into two could be brought down, but in only two days in November, it did. Today we have proven that this can also be done here and now. It is our land beyond this wall, and we will not give up on it. We will win for a simple reason – justice is on our side.”
Israel began construction of the Wall on Ni’lin’s land in 2004, but stopped after an injunction order issued by the Israeli Supreme Court (ISC). Despite the previous order and a 2004 ruling from the International Court of Justice declaring the Wall illegal, construction of the Wall began again in May 2008. Following the return of Israeli bulldozers to their lands, residents of Ni’lin have launched a grassroots campaign to protest the massive land theft, including demonstrations and direct actions.
The original route of the Wall, which Israel began constructing in 2004, was ruled illegal by the ISC, as was a second, marginally less obtrusive proposed route. The most recent path, now completed, still cuts deep into Ni’lin’s land. The Wall has been built to include plans, not yet approved by the Army’s planning authority, for a cemetery and an industrial zone for the illegal settlement Modi’in Ilit.
Since the Wall was built to annex more land to the nearby settlements rather than in a militarily strategic manner, demonstrators have been able to repeatedly dismantle parts of the electronic fence and razor-wire surrounding it. Consequently, the army has erected a 15-25 feet tall concrete wall, in addition to the electronic fence. The section of the Wall in Ni’lin is the only part of the route where a concrete wall has been erected in response to civilian, unarmed protest.
As a result of the Wall construction, Ni’lin has lost 3,920 dunams, roughly 30% of its remaining lands. Originally, Ni’lin consisted of 15,898 dunams (3928 acres). Post 1948, Ni’lin was left with 14,794 dunams (3656 acres). After the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the illegal settlements and infrastructure of Modi’in Ilit, Mattityahu and Hashmonaim were built on village lands, and Ni’lin lost another 1,973 dunams. With the completion of the Wall, Ni’lin has a remaining 8911 dunams (2201 acres), 56% of it’s original size.
Ni’lin is effectively split into 2 parts (upper and lower) by Road 446, which was built directly through the village. According to the publicized plan of the Israeli government, a tunnel will be built under road 446 to connect the upper and lower parts of Ni’lin, allowing Israel to turn Road 446 into a segregated-setter only road. Subsequently, access for Palestinian vehicles to this road and to the main entrances of upper and lower Ni’lin will be closed. Additionally, since the tunnel will be the only entryway to Ni’lin, Israel will have control over the movement of Palestinian residents.
Israel commonly uses tear-gas projectiles, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators.
Since May, 2008, five of Ni’lin’s residents were killed and one American solidarity activist was critically injured from Israeli fire during grassroots demonstrations in Ni’lin.
* 5 June 2009: Yousef Akil Srour (36) was shot in the chest with 0.22 caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.
* 13 March 2009: Tristan Anderson (37), an American citizen, was shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas projectile. He is currently at Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv with uncertain prospects for his recovery.
* 28 December 2008: Mohammed Khawaje (20) was shot in the head with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition. He died in a Ramallah hospital 3 days later on 31 December 2008.
* 28 December 2008: Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) was shot in the back with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.
* 30 July 2008: Yousef Amira (17) was shot in the head with two rubber coated steel bullets. He died in a Ramallah hospital 5 days later on 4 August 2008.
* 29 July 2008: Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.
In total, 19 people have been killed during demonstrations against the Wall.
Israeli armed forces have shot 40 demonstrators with live ammunition in Ni’lin. Of them, 11 were shot with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and 24 were shot with 0.22 caliber live ammunition.
Since May 2008, 87 arrests of Ni’lin residents have been made in relation to anti-Wall demonstrations in the village. The protesters seized by the army constitute around 7% of the village’s males aged between 12 and 55. The arrests are part of a broad Israeli intimidation campaign to suppress all demonstrations against the apartheid infrastructure in the West Bank.
al-Ma’sara demonstrates against the Apartheid Wall
By, Al-Ma’sara Popular Committee Against the Wall
November 6, 2009
In today’s demonstration against the illegal construction of the Apartheid Wall that is designed to steal the agricultural lands of the villages of Southern Bethlehem, the people of al-Ma’sara celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany. In chants and speeches, the demonstrators insisted on the illegality of the Wall and of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, while international and Israeli activists showed support using percussion instruments.
Evoking the removal of the Wall, the children of the village succeeded in removing the barb wire and cross the arbitrary barrier which the Israeli army puts up every Friday to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the actual construction site of the Wall. Several children sustained cuts on their hands while stepping over the barb wire. The soldiers threatened the demonstrators with arrests and violently pushed the children back across the fence.
Meanwhile, one military vehicle entered the village from the back and parked on the main road, thus encircling the demonstrators from both sides. On their way back to the village, the demonstrators stopped at the vehicle and crowded in on the soldiers, singing, clapping, and playing drums. A female protestor from the village asked the soldiers why they insisted on penetrating deep into Palestine, always as aliens to this land.
Friday, November 06, 2009
A resolution supporting the report passed the UN's largest body with 114 votes in favor versus 18 opposed. Forty-four states abstained."
the complete Maan article:
UN General Assembly backs Goldstone report
BBC coverage: UN backs Gaza war crimes report
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz Correspondent
The parade of the self-righteous got underway Sunday night: Yaakov Teitel was described as a "foreign element," "wild thorn" and "rotten apple." Even if he acted alone, spoke and hallucinated in English, even if he was mentally disturbed, as his attorney claimed, it does not change the fact that Jack the Ripper from the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel - contrary to his predecessor in London - acted on ground that was fertile like no other.
Yes, the settlements and especially the illegal outposts where Teitel lived and hid his weapons, along with the Kahanist settlement of Kfar Tapuah where he got his start - these are the places for such dangerous nuts. This is their refuge, where they can hide arms without being bothered and go on hate-filled killing sprees without being seen.
for the complete article visit:
Swedish reporter in Israel: Not all criticism of you is anti-Semitism
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz Correspondent
Donald Bostrom didn't know he needed this. With Moses, a gigantic bodyguard in a suit and tie watching over his Tel Aviv hotel room with an earpiece and a concealed gun; with a handful of demonstrators who greeted him in the wee hours of the morning at Ben-Gurion International Airport; and with the program for his visit to Israel, in which it is explained that during his trip to attend the Dimona Media Conference, he will be accompanied by two bodyguards, that the details of his visit will be "classified" and that he will wait in a "security room" before and after an interview to be conducted with him today by Yair Lapid.
Donald Bostrom didn't know he needed this. He arrived here Sunday, in an attempt to explain to Israelis what he meant in his scandalous article about alleged organ harvesting by the Israel Defense Forces - a brave step on his part and a no-less-brave step on the part of the organizers of the Dimona conference - who were already attacked by Minister Silvan Shalom, who decided to boycott the gathering and withdraw the money his ministry had pledged to the conference...
for the complete article visit: