IWPS House Report No: 67
IWPS SNAPSHOTS OF THE ELECTION IN PALESTINE, 2005
On the day of the Palestinian Presidential Elections, two groups of three IWPS volunteers travelled the Salfit region throughout the day, visiting voting centres in Bruqin, Kufr ad-Dik, Deir Ballut, Mas’ha, Sarta, Karawat bani Hassan, Hares, Kifl Hares, Deir Istiya, Salfit and Yasouf. We recorded, as unofficial observers, the mood around the election, and noted if there were any problems with the voting.
One group started their day in Hares. Near the voting centre (Girls Secondary School) the bus was picking up and taking the unregistered voters to the special voting centre in Salfit. The bus driver told us that this would happen throughout the day, perhaps every hour or so.
Bus for Special voters leaving Hares
The atmosphere in Deir Istiya was very jovial. The Mayor pointed out to us the voting rooms, but we were not allowed in according to CEC rules. There were many women at the centre and the one we talked to said that most of the women in the village had voted. The old man in Kifl Hares was very happy and proud to have voted and then to have his photo taken.
Old man in Kifl Hares having just voted
Israel had made assurances that there would be freedom of movement for the 72 hours around the election. Although we noted road blocks and earth mounds removed, and were told everyone was able to reach their voting centre, we noted no reduction in army presence. If anything, there seemed to be an increase in flying checkpoints. These were in Bruqin and Kifr ad Dik.
The Marda earth mound was removed for the day. The two earth mounds blocking the way out of Yasouf were also moved back. But at 4pm we observed a humvee stationed nearby, parked on the side with the soldiers inside.
The three kilometre journey from Hares to Bruqin was passable for cars for the first time in months. This applies to the new, paved road. (The old road, more of which is rough track, is still blocked. Last year it sported a row of seven consecutive rubble barricades!) Although the road was clear on the afternoon of the day before, on election day itself the site of the block hosted a “flying checkpoint”: four soldiers who stopped every car, and checked papers. Why would these four soldiers be stationed on this backwater? The same question applied to the four soldiers who staffed a flying checkpoint on the junction beyond Kufr Ad-dik, (to which Bruqin is linked by a dirt track). We put the question at both checkpoints.
At the first checkpoint, which we passed in a cab, the approach was formal and gentlemanly. “I’m only doing my job”, the young French-speaking soldier told Dorothée an IWPS volunteer. “That’s what everybody says,” replied Dorothée pointedly. At the far checkpoint, which we passed on foot, we were asked for our passports by a surly soldier. The others hung back. When Dorothée demanded whether anyone spoke French, one of the others came forward. The surly one checked all our passports, the French speaker was casual and almost apologetic. He would rather not be doing this, he mumbled in French, but the army was under pressure at present, and was cracking down. That guy, he said, is determined to create problems, and ends up picking on the wrong people including volunteers like us. We walked on and at the permanent checkpoint at the next junction (the Deir Ballut checkpoint) the soldiers ignored us. We did not encounter other checkpoints that day.
Turnout was brisk at the voting centres we visited. There were crowds outside, and Palestinian police on the door. We were assured that voting was smooth, that the ballot papers had arrived in time, and that each centre had been visited that morning by international observers. In one or two centres we were allowed into the voting room, and saw the screened booths that gave privacy. All this was encouraging.
EU Election observers
However, the rules allowed people who cannot read and write to bring a trusted friend to help them with the voting. We observed a woman who could not write being taken to the voting station with her son who was helping her vote. The suspicion that women were being directed by their menfolk (under the pretence that they could not read) was put to us by one local official monitor.
The crowds outside, we were led to suspect by more than one commentator, were Fatah pressure groups, warning voters that if they did not vote for Fatah there would be trouble.
The indelible ink, with which the thumbs of those who had voted were marked, was often visible, and clearly would be staying a while. However, sometimes it was not. One woman we met and asked if she’d voted showed us her marked thumb. It was five o’clock (two hours before formal closing of vote) and there was no ink mark visible at all!
Mark or no mark?
Most of the people we spoke to were eager to vote. While there was an awareness that voting will not remove the occupation, people were glad to be able to show the world that Palestinians believe in and respect democracy, and that they believe in peace. One person we spoke to emphasised that the problem has never been that Israel has no partner to talk peace with, but that the Palestinians don’t have a partner for peace!
There were some who believed that voting for the party of their choice will bring positive changes and reforms. A DFLP supporter (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine), said it was time to let other parties into power in the Palestinian Authority and begin to break Fatah’s stranglehold on the levers of power. A Fatah activist said it was important to establish whether Mahmoud Abbas has a clear mandate because it would prove most people “agreed with the Fatah way”. He did not specify what distinguished the “Fatah way”.
There were those who were not going to vote. They branded the process “a joke”, and believed that voting would change nothing for them. Similarly, there were those who welcomed the process, but did not believe that Palestinians have the political power to change anything while under occupation. They would be voting but would spoil their ballot paper by either not putting a cross on the ballot or placing more than one cross on it.
Date: 10 January 2005
Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.
This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work. Non-profit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for non-profit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.
IWPS House Report No: 68
KILLING AND DEMOLITION IN A PALESTINIAN VILLAGE
I write from Hares. I have just returned from a day and night spent in the village of Qarawat Bani Zeid (QBZ). I sit now, trying to organise my thoughts and emotions. I say to myself… I hope people are not becoming too used to hearing of these sorts of things… another army incursion, another two people killed, another house demolished. I hope that the human element is still of some importance to all people for it seems clear to me that these facts alone do not tell the story of such an invasion, of the human anguish and fear and anger and sadness that is caused…
While all these emotions are still fresh I wish to record them, to tell what I saw and what I sensed the people around me were feeling as the soldiers shot at them and as the bulldozer erased a family home and all that was invaluable within it. This was not just material possessions, but a wealth of memories. I will try to record the incidents that struck me most forcibly throughout the day, that revealed to me the great colourscape of emotions experienced by all the people who were there. It ranged from anger and frustration, to a deep yearning that something would change, that something would happen to make Palestine a home again: a secure and peaceful land for children to grow up in.
On the morning of the 12 January at 8am, Dorothée and I arrived at QBZ by foot from the neighbouring village of Farkha. At the entrance of the village were soldiers. They would not allow us into the village and rudely ordered us back to Salfit. An ambulance arrived a minute after us and was also refused entry even though they had received information of injured and dead in the village…We entered through an olive grove out of sight of the army and were just congratulating ourselves on slipping into the village unnoticed when a chorus of welcoming shouts from all the rooftops soon ended our inconspicuousness! …We felt a little lost when suddenly a young girl with very bright eyes appeared beside us and led us through back passages and over fences to the house of R who had called us early that morning. She said in Arabic: “Do not be afraid!” and smiling, quickly vanished.
The first two hours after we arrived were painfully tense. We did not know why the soldiers were surrounding an empty house, or why they were fixing their guns through the broken glass of the windows. People spoke quickly and under their breath and many stories and explanations were being passed from group to group. Were there people still alive inside the house? Were they injured? Were the soldiers filling the house up with explosives? The attention of the watchers was momentarily diverted with the arrival of the press and I was struck by this. How much it meant to these people that the outside world would hear of their struggle. Our attention was then diverted from the press when we realised that the paramedics were finally allowed into the guarded house.
And then something happened that I shall never forget. The first body, covered in a white sheet, was carried from the house on which everyone’s attention had been so painfully focused for the past hour. There was first one lone cry from the crowded rooftop and then an instantaneous response by the hundreds of people who were watching.
corpse being removed by paramedics
The young men cried out and the women sung out and then there was clapping and chanting and spontaneous applause for him who, for whatever reason, had been killed. I looked up at the crowded roof and then at the stretcher and just started to cry. The atmosphere was so extraordinarily charged with emotion. I felt the intensity so acutely that it hurt… I looked back up at the many figures on the rooftops and saw that now the chanting was coming from the young men of the village. They were almost joyful as they worshipped the dead man…It quietened down as suddenly as it had begun, and all eyes fixed upon the house again, waiting for the exact moment when the second body would be seen…At that moment there was again the spontaneous response from all voices: The Village Cry to honour their dead.
Dorothée and I were speechless. I noticed that the woman from the New York Times who had lost briefly her male colleagues and had come to us, was as speechless and had also being crying.
We could say nothing. This was their time. Their battle. Their way of showing how they could retain their dignity in the face of such an unjust occupation. We were there by chance, or fortune perhaps, to be reminded again of the sacredness of Life and the power of Death…
A little later we were swept by the crowd to the door of a house that was being searched and in which the occupants were being held. My memory of this time is of total chaos and anger. The people of the village were angry and were demanding the right to enter and protect the rights of
Soldiers denying a woman entry
the violated family. I remember at one moment an old woman grabbing my hand and gesturing that ‘they are calling for help. They have no food. Help them!’ I then looked and saw the little pale faces of two children at the window looking out, too afraid to cry. I felt like shouting with the rest and saying to the world “How dare we allow the young to suffer like this, to experience fear like this!…”
The 2 children standing at the window
Then there was utter chaos as sound bombs and canisters of smoke were thrown into our midst…
In the midst of the smoke, while Dorothée and I sheltered around a corner, I saw a policeman leaping from his jeep and taking deadly aim at the retreating crowd. It was terrifying.
The next four hours were totally emotionally draining for all the people who witnessed the systematic destruction and demolition of a family home. The massive army bulldozer came from behind the village, leaving a track of uprooted olive trees behind it, and oblivious to the cries of horror that came from the women and the shouting that came from the ‘shabab’ the drivers of the machine set about their work with horrible efficiency. The bulldozer reached the house and crushed on to its roof and burst the water tank. The tank wept its tears as well as the watchers and some of us had to look away as the walls crashed in on the family’s belongings.
Bulldozer demolishing the house Villagers watching the demolition from a roof top
Time and time again the villagers were pushed back brutally with sound bombs and smoke canisters and I found myself at one stage with a young girl by my side clinging desperately to my hand every time the soldiers hurled confusion into our midst. I remember that the old women were tripping and falling over the uneven ground as they tried to stay out of the path of the soldiers, and I remember too moments of disbelief and pride when I saw young men resisting the soldiers with a calmness and authority that was utterly commendable in the circumstances. One particular incident stands out in my memory of those four hours: A youth was sitting quietly on a rock while his friends were all rather wildly chanting and clapping behind him. Two soldiers approached him and threatened him and finally shoved him off his seat. He went calmly and quietly and in that second he was the strongest of the three, despite their guns and bullets and smoke canisters and sound bombs…
The soldiers left at 4pm. In the quiet stillness of the evening the villagers all converged on the mound of rubble that the day before had been a home to a family. I just sat and watched as the little daughter of the house searched through the debris until she recovered her crushed school bag and her work books and had clambered down to the road with them…
Date: 14 January 2005
Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.
This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work. Non-profit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for non-profit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.
IWPS House Report No: 69
25 January 2005
The Plight of Three Villages Against the Apartheid Wall
Talab Raddad is the Mayor of Az Zawiya, a village in the district of Salfit, West Bank. He takes us to the roof of the Baladiya, the municipal council building. He shows us the area where the Wall was to be built, right around the school of the village. Now after a successful court-case the Wall will be built several hundred meters further west, that is: a little closer to the Green Line.
After showing us the path of the Wall from the rooftop, the Mayor took us to his office to show us what work he has been doing to resist the building of the Wall. He gave us many details and showed us the maps that show clearly the impact that the Wall will have on his village.
He told us of how the village has been successful in opposing the initial path of the Wall that was to rob the village of 90% of their farmland, but how the new path of the Wall will still rob them of 60% of their land. He spoke of many demonstrations held to oppose the wall from June to October 2004. The village council is in the process of filing yet another appeal against the present path of the Wall. The village owns 24,000 dunums (10 dunums = 1 ha) of land but if the Wall proceeds on its present path, 14,000 of these dunums will be taken away.
The Mayor has in his possession a large petition signed by all the farmers whose land is under threat and he will be taking the matter to the High Court.
The date of this hearing is at present unknown. However, while this action is in process the Wall is being constructed and work on clearing a path for it is proceeding day and night. The width of the path being cleared is at places more that 100 meters wide and already 8,000 olive trees have been uprooted. The Mayor told us that often the construction team clear hundreds of meters of land only to then decide to change the pathway slightly and hence leave even greater areas of devastated land behind them.
The lawyer who is to represent Az Zawiya in Jerusalem is Sliman Hasheen, a Jerusalemite. The Mayor is not allowed into Jerusalem and hence will not be able to attend the court case. We asked what the Mayor hopes to achieve in this second court case and he told us that he is hoping to have the wall withdrawn to the Green Line (the internationally recognised border since 1967) so that the farmers of his village are able to retain their 24,000 dunums of land.
The mayor of Deir Ballut, a village 3 kms south of Az Zawiye, takes us to the end of his village by car and beyond that on foot to the promontory overlooking a valley to the south, Wadi Mosmar, and the hilly region toward Ras el Ein or Rosh Ha Ayn with the skyline of Tel Aviv in the distance to the west. Between the two directions, towards the south-west, half a dozen barracks line the crest of the hill. The rumor has it that it is a US military base. None of the Palestinians is allowed to approach it, not even the Israeli Palestinians we were told. As for Wadi Mosmar, the eastern part of it is cultivated, whereas the western part is a no-man’s land because it is close to the construction site of the Wall. So much loss again, when the Wall is not even built.
The yellow-brownish construction site for the Wall is burrowing its way through the green landscape of olive trees and bushes, on Jabel el Maloun.
The new path of the Wall has been reset on a line passing west of the first path. A successful lawsuit has established that this new path be pushed several hundred meters westward from its initial path. The Mayor and the whole municipality are appealing this decision as they want the Wall to be built on the Green Line. A year ago, in January 2004, the Mayor, Abu Firas, had had an outcry of impatience: “If they want to have a Wall, we’ll build it for them free, if at least it is on the Green Line!”
The village of Deir Ballut owns a total of 80,000 dunums (10 dunums = 1 ha). 80% of the land would have been stolen from the village if the Wall had been built on its initial path. The Mayor, Abu Firas, notes that Ras el Ein, a town on the other side of the Green Line, in Israel, was built on Deir Ballut land. After the court ruling, on August 25, 2004, the second path of the Wall still results in Deir Ballut losing 16,000 dunums of its land. Added to this is the land taken for the actual construction of the Wall itself – the path of the Wall – which amounts to 6 km2.
The court-case taking place in Jerusalem is not defended in the presence of the Mayor and his council because Israel refuses entry to citizens of the West Bank. The lawyers from the Jerusalem Center for Human Rights defend the village in their absence.
On the way along the promontory we meet a shepherd who is aware that the Wall will considerably reduce the pasture of his goats and sheep. And a trace of history meets us as we walk back toward the car: we walk on an old Turkish, then British, military stony road that the cavalry of a previous military power used decades and centuries ago when travelling from Yafo to Deir Ballut. We admire the hilly and windswept country while one of the men who accompanied us explains that Deir Ballut received it’s name from an ancient monastery, as Deir suggests, surrounded by forests of oaks (ballut). Saplings of oaks are still to be seen, so we are told.
We meet some young men who travel westward on the stony road to get to work. As the tarmacked roads or settler roads are not allowed for Palestinians, and the checkpoints do their part in preventing the people from moving freely from one place to another, the men who still have work in Israel, walk or ride a donkey several kilometers through the hills toward roads where they are picked up by an Israeli employer. This last chance of accessing their workplace will go when the Wall is erected, with perhaps its gate, that will be opened or not, according to the whim of the patrolling soldiers.
The insanity of the ‘security fence’, as the Wall is publicized in Israel and the rest of the world, should rather be called the ‘Thieves’ Wall, as it is a pretext to swallow a big chunk of Palestinian land, which itself is only part of what has been left to the Palestinians by the UNO partition plan of 1947.
Rafat, a village between Deir Ballut and Az Zawiye, is yet another example of the systematic theft of land. While these two municipalities have been able to regain some land by a court appeal, the village of Rafat has been cheated: the construction site has been moved westward by 50 meters, the Mayor, Dr. Adnan Ayash, said, instead of the 2-3 km according to the court decision on August 25, 2004, in a common appeal with the municipality of Deir Ballut. The controversial area is Jabel Azraq, the blue mountain, whose name stems from the light blue tone of the stone. It is a round hill that extends from Ras el Ein or Rosh Ha Ayn and Rafat. The mountain is claimed by Israel because the Israeli town leans towards it. Bare of olive trees because it is too far from the village, we are told it was cultivated with wheat and used by shepherds. There are still several tents of Bedouins that we see scattered on Jabel Azraq and the neighbouring hill. We walk towards the hill before sundown, passing 3 flocks of goats and sheep with their shepherds, and we can count the diverse machines and cars of security guards that busy themselves on the construction site. The village would lose 10,000 dunums, the Mayor says, if the path of the Wall stays as it is now. Would the villagers stand up against such a loss? The Mayor thinks that 70% of the villagers would participate in demonstrations against the Wall, because that is the amount of villagers affected by the intended land grab. But they wait for the sentence of the second appeal that they have filed with the municipality of Deir Ballut.
Text by Dorothee, photos by Dorothee
Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.
This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission
IWPS House Report No: 70
‘Relative calm in the West Bank’
In an article I read this morning on SABCnews.com entitled ‘Israel says Palestinians agree to truce, they deny it’, 23 January 2005, the following paragraph and words grabbed my attention:
While the mistrustful sides danced around the issue of who should do what first, relative calm prevailing since Abbas began trying to swing Palestinian gunmen behind his agenda of non-violence suggested an effective truce was taking shape. We discussed this ‘relative calm prevailing’ over a porridge breakfast.
The Palestinian Presidential elections earlier this month should have heralded a time of relative peace in the Occupied territories of Palestine. This hope and need for peace and calm was echoed throughout the international community and amongst the Palestinians themselves. Then why we ask has the words ‘insane’ and ‘insanity’ become so frequently used in the house? We, as internationals in Palestine, have over the past 17 days witnessed everything but a ‘relative calm in the West Bank’.
We could begin by giving you a rhetoric of our daily witnessing of this ‘insane’ Occupation – but maybe that would bore you, so instead we will tell you about just one day- the 25th January 2005 – yesterday.
Our day began in the small village of Iskaka, east of Salfit. So many times we have traveled past this small village on our way to Salfit city, not thinking much of the village or the villagers, but after yesterday this has changed. Under cover of the “Disengagement Plan”, construction of the Apartheid Wall continues in the West Bank. The construction of the Wall surrounding the settlement of Ariel in the Salfit District, some 24kms east of the Green Line, began early this week. The construction of this wall will divide the Salfeet district into four areas, confiscating approximately 150 000 dunums of land, making the living of a normal life for the villagers of the Salfit district impossible and preventing the eventual foundation of a viable Palestinian state. Villagers from Iskaka and surrounding villagers, International and Israeli activists gathered to demonstrate non-violently their resistance against this Occupation. A parliamentarian of the Palestinian National Council, Ahmed Ad Deek, was also there supporting this demonstration. Old and young, men and women walked together, carrying flags and olive branches with a common purpose and strength towards the ugly yellow bulldozers that could be seen on the top of the hill.
78 year old Um Akram, carrying an olive branch walked with a resolve and determination, leading her people toward their land. The threatening presence of the army soldiers and police attempted to prevent Um Akram from reaching the bulldozer but the strength of this old woman and her people was much greater then theirs. As internationals and Israeli activists were stopped and threatened with arrest and deportation by the police on the pretext that this was a military zone, Um Akram with two other women and Arafat moved on. We watched their retreating backs with admiration and dread. The dread of what could happen to them, and of how we would not be able to prevent it – and the sheer admiration of their determination.
As Um Akram marched on to see her land and confront the over-powering force of every green and blue uniform that stood in her way there were two sound bombs thrown into the crowd. There was also an altercation between a shabab and a blue uniform, when an international activists threw herself in, preventing the shabab from being beaten. The cameras of the press rolled on and on, interviewing villagers from Iskaka whose lives would be impacted by this Wall. The commitment and conviction to non-violent resistance to this Occupation was evident from the behaviour of the shabab (young men). As many stones as there were on the ground, none of them were picked up.
As soon as this demonstration in Iskaka had ended we received a call of an army invasion in Qarawat Bani Zeid (QBZ).
Renee and Ridwana set off immediately for QBZ. We first encountered the ambulance at the entrance of the village and then found ourselves running through the olive groves, praying that we would not be seen by the soldiers. The silence of the village scared us. The situation was so surreal that we were expecting to hear the voice of the director of this horror movie shout ‘CUT’! Then we heard the gun fire and saw the jeeps. This was all very real.
On the roofs of all the houses we saw the villagers looking down. We went onto the roof of one of the houses that was close to the one that was occupied by soldiers. After a few minutes we became accustomed to the continual noise of gun fire and sound bombs. We were immediately spotted as internationals by two soldiers and to our absolute horror – were shot at. They obviously did not want any pictures taken of their barbaric behaviour. We all ducked, men, women, children and us. Nervous laughter then broke out as we saw the clothes line pegs that had caught the brunt of the bullets lying on the floor of the roof.
Clicking the camera we watched with dismay as the soldiers prepared for their invasion of the house below us. Thirteen fully armed baraklava-clad soldiers broke into the house. The tense silence of the village was broken by the sound of shattering glass. We stood holding our breath hearing the search and destruction that was going on inside the house.
Forty-five minutes later the soldiers marched out of the house. We ran to the house watching the retreating jeeps and as we stood there trying to take pictures of them heard the shrill screams of two girls whose house had just been invaded. They were not older then thirteen. One of the girls fainted while the other ran screaming toward the jeeps. Another woman pulled her back preventing her from reaching the jeep, while we took off the head scarf and gave water to the one that had fainted – surrounded by the woman of the house.
We were horrified at the destruction caused by the soldiers in that family home. Every single room had been ransacked, furniture broken, bullet holes scarring the walls and ceilings and shattered glass everywhere. The twenty-three year old son of the house had been arrested.
Such was the relative calm in the West Bank village of Qarawat Bani Zeid.
Back in Hares while the sun was setting, we were lulled into a false sense of calm. We walked to the shop to buy laban (yogurt) and noted the spectacular sight of the full moon next to the minaret of the village mosque. We were then stopped by a villager who told us of the presence of many soldiers at the village water collective this entire day. They were afraid and very suspicious of what the soldiers could have done or did at the water collective. He also told us of the invasion of his home exactly a week ago, at 2am, when sound bombs were thrown into his house terrorizing his wife and four young children. He insistently told the soldiers that he did not know who they were looking for, and who ever they were looking for was not in his house. He said that he believed that they had arbitrarily chosen his house that night. Such is the nature of collective punishment.
At 7pm we received a call from one of the villagers telling us of the presence of 4 jeeps in the main street of the village. Two of the house team members went out to investigate but by then the jeeps had left.
At 9:30 pm we received another call telling us that there were between 20 to 30 soldiers walking in our village. We debated whether to go out or not. At the end reason and rationale triumphed, and even though we wanted to go and see what they were doing we did not.
With a heavy uneasiness and the doubt of having any sleep we prepared for bed. We were awake when the phone rang at 2 am. There were 4 jeeps in the village. This is the modus operandi of the Israeli army: Harassment then Invasion. Yet again we debated leaving the house and confronting the soldiers. We did not. But lying awake in bed this morning, we wondered which father had been humiliated, what mother and child had been terrorized, and where was this relative calm they speak of?
Text: Ridwana and Renee
Date: 26 January 2005
Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.
This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work. Non-profit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for non-profit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.
War of Attrition in the West Bank
At the end of last year a young man from an agricultural village in the West Bank was issued an order to appear before the Shabak for an unspecified reason. He did not go. In the first month of 2005 the youth was passing through a check point and was arrested.
We were in the village on the day that he was arrested and spoke to some of his friends. They were not surprised and some spoke as if this was to be expected, and yet we knew how upset they actually were. They all went to visit his family in the evening and on walking in discovered that he had returned. Their joy however was unmistakably mixed with fear and the knowledge that this was not the end of the Shabak’s involvement with this family.
The youth had been beaten in the back of the jeep and had spent two hours in the police station before being released. He had walked for an hour towards his village before managing to hitch a ride the rest of the way.
He had been issued with a further order to appear before the Shabak the following week.
He was determined not to go but was also aware that if he did not go there was the possibility that the army would come to his village and invade his family’s home, terrorizing his younger sisters and brothers and his mother.
We had the opportunity to speak with this young man about his experience and the very real threat many villagers face in his situation of being forced into compliance with the Israeli Authority. I had not realized before how powerful a weapon this sort of tactic would be and although we knew how delicate the conversation would have to be, felt that this young man would be willing to share his thoughts on his position.
“This is true for some people,” he said, “But for those who are weak. Not weak on the outside; perhaps they are very strong and can fight and throw stones a long way, but I mean weak on the inside. I am not weak.”
The bus interrupted our first conversation with him on this subject but he came back to us the following day and said: “Yesterday you asked me a question, but I want you to understand that a man who falls before the Shabak sells his country.” And I could see how hateful this thought was to him.
The following week this youth visited us on the day he was to go to the Shabak. He was very quiet and I could only imagine how afraid he actually must have been. All day his friends awaited his return and I saw his mother carrying her ten-month old baby around as she stoically continued her daily chores. Many of the village mothers greeted her and I thought how each one of them must be suffering with her, how each one of them must daily fear that their sons will be picked up like hers was, and will suddenly have his name on some secret list that until the Occupation is over will make living an ordinary life impossible. I thought how many of them actually had sons serving ridiculous sentences in some prison that they could not visit and I found myself in a terrible state of tension throughout the day.
In the late afternoon the young man returned and walked into the room where we and his friends were passing the time playing cards.
There was such a feeling of relief as we saw him enter and heard him quietly greeting everyone and then he announced to us that he must return to the Shabak next week for another interview.
Then I realized how endless this process would be. We could be relieved that he had returned this day, and maybe again next week and the week after that, but this was nothing, his family would be facing the same threat for the next month and the following month, and for years to come.
Perhaps a time would come when he would refuse to play the Shabak’s game any longer and to retain his own sense of dignity would not go to their office. Then what would happen? He would become a ‘wanted Man’ and the army could justify an invasion of his home and the arrest of him.
How often do we read the words: ‘army invades a village in the West Bank and conducts military searchers of houses known to shelter men wanted by the Israeli Authority’?
“Army Invades” means the terrorizing of a whole village and the shooting with rubber bullets and with live ammunition of women and children (and Internationals) sheltering on the rooftops.
“Conducts Military Searches” means entering a family home and ransacking it, putting bullets through every wall and window and braking every dish and glass in the house.
And what does “Looking for Wanted Men” mean? How many of these men were made to be “wanted” because they could not play the Israeli game? How many of these were “wanted” because they had no other way to resist the occupation than by staying true to their Falastiin?
Two days after the youth came back to his home we received news from a woman that we knew in the village that her brother was taken in the middle of the night.
He was one of these wanted men. He had been ‘sold-out’ by a village collaborator and now his fight to free his Falastiin was over. I had met him twice in the past and while it is not appropriate to write much about him I was both times struck by his composure and dignity although he was once covered in mud and both times had spent nights on the run.
One of his brothers had been killed, the other at 16 years bore terrible scars from shooting, one sister was blinded by a bullet of the army. Was it a wonder that this young man had taken arms to fight an army that had so tortured him?
And now as I write I know that he has spent the first 24 hrs of his imprisonment in some unidentified jail and that he is wondering as I am which of his own country men could have done this to him. Had they been threatened as our first young man had been and had they failed to resist the pressure of so massive a force as the Israeli Authority is? Or what other pressures and thoughts tormented them and motivated them to turn upon their own people?
These questions have been haunting me for the past days, and last night with the thought of this mans imprisonment, I could not sleep at all.
Is collaboration within the Palestinian Society so strong that it will in the end undermine the whole process of resistance or is it, by its very nature, a force that in the end will fail?
At the moment I can not answer this question, as I hear the world proclaiming the Truce and the Handshake I think of the issues that are so vital to the Palestinian people and that are not being addressed. Of the thousands of prisoners that are being held and interrogated and punished for crimes that they have not committed, of the thousands of young men made to visit the Shabak week after week until they are forced to comply with the Israeli Authority or are made into ‘wanted men’ and so will have to live out their years on the run or in prison, of the women and men who ‘disappear’ and leave their friends and relatives despondent of ever seeing them again, and of course the building of the accursed Wall that will make traveling in the West Bank worse than it already is and will economically devastate an already too poor country.
Are these really the ingredients of a viable peace? Or even of a truce that will give the people a time to assess their position in all this? Do the Palestinians have one moment to think when they are faced with checkpoint harassments and roadblocks and arrests and invasions every single day?
On Wednesday we heard immediately of Hamas launching rocket attacks in Gaza, and yet it was a Palestinian youth who died, killed by the Israeli Army, before any attacks were launched by Hamas.
And we all knew this would happen, and we all accept it when it does. What else can we do?
The young man from the beginning of this article will return to the Shabak next week and the week after and one day he will just not return to his home or maybe they will forget about him. The man arrested 24 hours ago will be tried in some closed military court and no one will know what happens to him and his family will be left to mourn the loss of yet another one of its members, and the Worlds Eye will be focused elsewhere: On big meetings and major catastrophes, on economic politics and sporting events, and it will continue to ignore the small and personal tragedies that combine to make this struggle in Falastiin so heart-breaking and so immense.
Written by: Renee
Date: 11 February
On the 10th of February, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction against the State of Israel and the Commander of the IDF forces in Judea and Samaria against the building of the Apartheid Wall on the land of the village of Iskaka in the West Bank of Palestine. On the 25th and 28th of January the residents of Salfit organized and conducted demonstrations against the building of the Wall on their land. The demonstrations were well attended by the people of the area, Israeli peace movements, international solidarity movements, officials from the PNA, and other officials, including Mustafa Barghouti. See Actions on our website for details: www.iwps.info.
This section of the so-called Security wall shows that the building has nothing to do with security and everything to do with the continued theft of Palestinian land and the dividing of the West Bank into cantons that would be non-contiguous. It is part of the greater plan of the Israeli State to make life as difficult and impossible for Palestinians so that those who have not been physically forced off the land would leave because life in these cantons would become extremely hard. Freedom of movement for Palestinians that is already seriously curtailed by inhumane checkpoints and blocks will be much more severely hampered by the building of the Apartheid Wall and the destructive path that it is taking through Palestinian lands and lives.
The building of the Wall at Iskaka is a point in Sharon’s policy to create facts on the ground. The reasoning behind building the Wall this far, is to incorporate the illegal settlement of Ariel into Israel. Ariel is an illegal settlement 23km east of the 1967 Green Line. It is built on stolen Palestinian land, and because of its presence villages that were once neighbours, now have to follow long and bad roads to get to each other (see map under: www.ochaopt.org). Also to protect the ‘security’ of this illegal land invasion many of the villages around it have their main access roads blocked forcing villagers to use long and badly-kept agricultural roads to travel around.
This is all happening in the face of the so-called resumption of ‘peace talks’ between Sharon and Abbas that happened at Sharm El Sheikh at the beginning of February. While talks continue between an Occupier and the Occupied, the peace that they are supposed to be talking about is not happening on the ground for the Palestinian people. What started as illegal land invasions is now being accepted by the world as part of the illegal State of Israel. Silence is tacit approval. Settlements on the West Bank continue to grow daily. Their continued expansion threatens Palestinian life and land. Where do the rights of the Palestinian people and their right to their land, peace and security, feature in this expansion?
Iskaka is one village that has been handed a life line for 21 days, and as this deadline looms many wonder if this is just a temporary reprieve. We will know soon enough. For many of the other villages that are being threatened by the Wall the resumption of the ‘peace process’ means nothing. In the village of Saffa the villagers have had their livelihoods wrenched from them. A demonstration on the 22nd of February in this village was in vain. An old man was left wretched, as he witnessed the uprooting of the olive trees that have been in his family for generations. He sobbed and called out to God, as the bulldozers ripped through his dignity, through his life. The building of the Wall will place his land on the wrong side of the Wall for him.
An old farmer at Saffa demonstration
Two days before, on February 20th, the village of Bil’in demonstrated against the rape of the land by the bulldozers to make way for the Wall. The people of the village tried their best to get to the bulldozers to stop their destructive path. Each attempt was met by violent resistance from the occupation soldiers. The villagers are people of peace who know that the land belongs to them and that what is happening to them is a gross violation of their human rights.
soldiers at the Bil’in demonstration
Yesterday, the 25th of February, the village of Rafat engaged in what was the beginning of Days of Action Against the Occupation. The villagers took part in a demonstration that was jarred by the occupation soldiers’ use of teargas. Many of those who took part in the legitimate, peaceful demonstration were choked by teargas thrown into the crowds without any provocation. The Israeli government steals the land of Palestinian people and then does its violent utmost to curtail any kind of protest against it. Many in the world also believe that the Palestinians should just lie down and accept the violence of the Israeli State against them. Abhorrent!
The midday prayer at Rafat Demonstration
A few internationals and some Israelis were at the demonstrations with them, as most demonstrations are organized in conjunction with their support. As internationals and Israelis at these demonstrations we supposedly provide some form of protection for the Palestinians. We hope that our presence, apart from expressing our solidarity, helps to make the peaceful demonstrations less violent from the side of the occupation soldiers. Palestinians still get beaten up and violated even with this presence. As witnesses we use this opportunity to counter the propaganda of the Israeli State that Palestinians are a people of violence. For me, it is precisely that they are an accommodating people who are highly evolved in the culture of hospitality that the ethnic cleansing of them as a nation by the Holocaust state of Israel, has come so far.
Two thirds of the Palestinian population live as refugees many as residents of crowded refugee camps inside of Palestine and the rest as refugees outside of the homeland. There are Palestinian refugees spread throughout the world, from Venezuela to Australia. They all live in the hope of their right to return being recognized some day. That would be justice for them. That would be recognition of the injustice that has been heaped upon them. That would be recognition that the world has stopped ignoring their plight. When will this day come? I hope to be alive to see this day when as a refugee told me “ I will be able, as you a South African have, to go forward and help another people who are struggling against oppression, occupation.” My struggle as a South African will never end as long as I know that when I go to sleep at night someone somewhere is having his/her rights violated. As long as I know that there is a child somewhere who lives in fear of soldiers and the mechanisms of War violating his/her right to security. I have to struggle with them; I have to speak out against the Injustice. It is my duty to stand with them against oppression. It is my duty, as it as that all of people who reflect and recognize injustice and oppression and violations. We must. We must . We must. It is the only way. Someday, soon I hope, right will win over wrong, justice will win over injustice, kindness will win over aggression, someday soon…….
Text: Fatima G. In memory of my best friend. May our love and friendship last for eternity.
Date: 26th Feb. 2005
Living Despite the Occupation
When we speak of the lives of Palestinian People living under occupation we think of the effect it has on their daily existence, on their loss of freedom of movement, on their experiences of incursions and night time invasions. We understand their frustration and anger because of the injustice perpetrated against them and the unwillingness of the international community to do more than pay lip-service to their struggle, but it seems that at times we do not pay full attention and credit to their ability to still find beauty in life and to retain an integrity in the face of all their hardships. Hardships that I believe many societies would fail to endure.
At the time of writing a week and a half has passed since the Tel Aviv bombing and all the victims have been put to rest. Since then the part of the West Bank where I live has been a zone of provocation and harassment and collective punishment. Every day the roads are blocked for hours on end, flying checkpoints are being put up sporadically and often with in five minutes of each other on the same road. Farmers attempting to plough their fields are being beaten by settlers every day and thousands of families are waiting for news of their sons who are in some prison, somewhere, and are being interrogated for information that the Israeli Army does not need to have to implement their use of force on the ground.
I have attempted to engage with many of the soldiers while waiting at these checkpoints and they tell me that they have information that someone traveling along the road is carrying explosives and grenades in their car. I wonder how they get this information and I wonder also how they expect to find this car. Would it travel on the main road and patiently wait in a two-hour queue to be searched? I myself while attempting to reach a demonstration last week bypassed three checkpoints, two by car and one on foot and I am sure that the army is as aware of this possibility as any militant transporting arms. Then what purpose do the checkpoints serve?
In some instances a degree of human leverage can still be used and soldiers will allow you to escort an elderly or ill person across the ‘military zone,’ but I have noticed this occurring less and less often lately. Checkpoints are being institutionalized, no human discourse is possible at all and it makes me wonder which is worse for the Palestinian people: To be humiliated by an arrogant soldier at a flying checkpoint yet knowing that sometime that soldier will be gone, or to be faced with the seemingly permanent mechanical and inhuman structure of checkpoints such as Huwara and Qalandia?
These questions can be labored over for days and months and it can become very depressing for an outsider who feels the pressure of time, knowing how little has actually been achieved in the brief time allowed us to be in the country.
Yet despite all this, the living of a full and rich life continues in Palestine. And over the past few days I have felt more and more the need to speak about this side of my experiences in Palestine….
Last week Um Rabia visited her son in prison. When she returned we all visited her. She was radiant! She had seen the boy whom she had raised with such love and devotion and she rejoiced because she had seen him. Her little son, she told us, had cried when he had seen Rabia but Rabia had been allowed to embrace him and that was good, she told us. I was amazed at her strength and beauty that night and at her joy for such a small thing. She showed us the gifts that Rabia had made for her and we saw how much these meant to her. I thought of her son, imprisoned for supposedly connecting two potential terrorists, carefully working on these gifts for his family in such an environment as the prison, and again I was humbled. Humbled by his devotion and by his mother’s calm acceptance of her sorrow. A sorrow that is shared by so many of the Palestinian people.
‘Yes, there is too much of sorrow’ another young Palestinian woman said to me a few days ago when I visited her family home in a village in the Ramallah district. Her brother is still in the interrogation period of detention and no one has been able to find out anything about him. Her eldest brother was killed two years ago, her second brother has been in prison for months and her ‘dearest’ brother, a 16 year old boy has endured two years of physical and psychological torture as a direct result of the Israeli Army.
I asked her how her family manages to continue so stoically in these circumstances and she said to me, ‘It is not easy. Do not make the mistake of assuming that we are not aching every moment of every day for what has happened to our family. We are. We are thinking about our brothers all the time. I and my sisters are weeping for them inside ourselves all the time. But we must still live and work.’
She then took me into her sister’s room.
‘This is what my sister does.’
The room was filled with drawings and paintings and little Styrofoam sculptures. I looked closely at them and had to choke back my tears when I saw that each one of them was a dedication to one of her four brothers. Each piece created with love and admiration for one of her family members who had been taken from her.
‘She spends hours in this room every day. It is her way of coping I suppose.’ said the young woman.
We left this little sanctuary and sitting in the dining room again I asked about their mother and how she manages to continue in such circumstances and she said that her mother has no choice. ‘Our suffering is not unique. This does not make it any less painful of course, but we know how many families are suffering as we are.
How would it help our country to complain of our individual worries and pain? Why should we expect more attention than anybody else because of them?’
Again I felt humbled listening to her. I thought of the media attention that most people from where I come from seek at every opportunity, and while I was thinking this the two younger sisters burst into the room. Their faces were flushed and they were laughing. They ran giggling into their room and five minutes later burst out again to join us carrying a new Styrofoam cut-out that they had just created: It was my name written in Arabic.
You beautiful girls! I thought, and yet in their bright faces I could see how truthfully their sister had spoken: They were living and creating and laughing and learning and all the time they were also weeping inside for the four brothers they had lost and would always love….
Four days ago I spent one of my happiest days in Palestine while accompanying farmers to plough near the village of Awarta. For the past four years farmers in the West Bank have been unable to plough their fields in spring because of the fear of settler attacks. For this reason Israeli peace organizations with the assistance of internationals accompany the farmers when they wish to plough. It was a day where one could smell and sense spring in the air and the earth and the young man whose father’s fields were being ploughed for the first time in four years picnicked with us under the olive trees and amongst the wild flowers.
He spoke to us about his life and his love for Fatima, his girlfriend, who studies at An Najah University in Nablus. ‘One day we will marry’ he said ‘and we will be very happy.’ He comes from a family of twelve children ‘but we will have twenty children at least!’ We laughed a lot that day and later on he and two friends who came to visit, took us around the olive grove and showed us all the different flowers and plants that were growing wild, explaining to us which ones could be eaten raw and which ones must first be cooked.
And of the settlers? ‘Majnoon!! Majnoon!!’, they laughed…, crazy of course!
While passing through another village yesterday on my way back to Hares I dropped in to a family who have become very dear to me. Two months ago I had sheltered with the two little daughters on the roof top while the soldiers fired at us and I had spent many hours with a sleepless little girl on my lap telling me about the ‘jesh’ (Israeli army). This village has had a period of three weeks now where the ‘jesh’ have only driven through and have not stopped. So last night I could play ball and skip with the little girls and I could listen to them speaking about games and childish things, and every second word of theirs was not ‘jesh’. I cant explain how wonderful this was, and how the hours flew by, our games interrupted by big brothers stealing our ball and skipping rope instead of by the whistling villagers signaling the approach of the army; by their beautiful mother returning home from the fields, rosy of cheek, with a bundle of green almonds in her arms over which we all fought and then shared! What a beautiful life they were living at that moment, respectful of the simple things, because so often they could not enjoy them….
I can not explain how humble I feel in the face of all this. Amazed to witness it, afraid to leave it and return to the upbeat way of life that is the norm in the cities of Australia. There is richness to life here, an integrity and belief in its beauty that can not be found in stock- market obsession and fear of changing interest rates. There is love between individuals that can not be experienced in Hollywood-style romances, or relationships based on image and popular culture. There is a dedication to children that is totally absent in a world where the day-care system of convenience replaces the struggle of child-raising and the deep if bittersweet joy that comes with those hardships. This is also what life under occupation is about. It is not due to the occupation, but survives in spite of it, and I, for one, feel honored to see this.
Early yesterday morning Ridwana, a friend I met here and have since worked with, and I sat on the steps outside Damascus Gate waiting for the Taxi that would take Ridwana to Jordan and then to her home in South Africa. We sat silently thinking over the past three months that we have spent together until Ridwana spoke for us both. ‘I prayed that I would be given what I deserved in Palestine when I left home last year…I have been given so much…I don’t understand how I deserved to be given so much…’
We were then silent again praying that even as we were fortunate in what we had experienced, our Palestinian sisters and brothers from the West Bank would one day be able to sit where we were right now and watch the people coming in and out of that beautiful gate as we were watching them; would be able to see the Al-Aqsa mosque that so many of them speak of so often, and pray within it if they chose to; that their children would be able to keep playing ball and skipping and laughing as all children have the right to do, and that the farmers would be able to go unafraid to plough their fields in spring….
Wadi Qana – History, Pollution, and Resistance
More than 30 women from the Salfit area gathered in Wadi Qana on March 30, 2005, Palestinian Land Day, to celebrate their land and protest its destruction by Israel’s impending Wall and pollution from settlements. Land Day commemorates the 1976 killing of six Palestinians in the Galilee by Israeli troops during peaceful protests over the confiscation of Palestinian lands.
Protesters gathered near the polluted water carrying signs and flags against the Israeli military occupation and the Apartheid Wall. Despite the noxious smells, the women were enthusiastic and focused, chanting and singing as journalists and photographers clicked away on their cameras. Women of all ages and colors stood together in defense of their land and the freedom it represents.
There was no army present until the demonstrators sat down to rest and eat and an army jeep pulled up and parked above the peaceful women. One child began to cry from fear, and her mother tried to comfort her. Suddenly some of the younger women began to cheer and sing, and as the other demonstrators joined in, the child stopped crying; the women had taken back control. The protesters left shortly after, with the army still parked and watching.
Women step on rocks to avoid sewage Girls lead chants facing soldiers who sit in jeeps above
Why Wadi Qana?
Wadi Qana is a place almost as soothing as it is beautiful: a fertile valley with seven main natural springs and nine smaller ones, and the endless Wadi Qana river running through it. The river meanders from Huwara, south of Nablus, to Jaljuliye, south of Qalqilya, and then flows into the Yarqon, or Naher el Ooja River. Wadi Qana is between two ranges of hills, making it very suitable for citrus plantations. Indeed, the orange trees and lemon trees spread along the river and shine in the morning sun.
One of the local farmers harvesting oranges, Abu Nafez, is particularly enthusiastic about the richness of the yield and offers the visitors delicious oranges of the “Valencia” and “Fransiya” sort, the latter being sweeter and smaller.
Wadi Qana is also the name of a village that was emptied of its inhabitants because life became simply intolerable. Its former residents now live in Deir Istya, a village in the Salfit district that historically contained all of the current Israeli settlement land that now surrounds Wadi Qana. Deir Istya is now only a tiny fraction of its original size.
The beauty of the Wadi Qana valley hides rampant pollution that has plagued the village since the surrounding Israeli settlements were built. Sewage pours down the hillsides into the valley, some through pipes and some directly onto the landscape.
The settlement of Imanu’el, built in 1982 to the east of Wadi Qana, poisons the entrance of the valley. Just off the main road, there is a large grey-colored pool. Once an active water source, now greyish bubbles rise to the surface. Nearby is a filtration/recycling station built in 1985, which was always far from sufficient to recycle the constant sewage, most of which pours from Imanu’el’s houses and agricultural industries.
Ironically, this valley has been classified as a nature reserve by Israeli authorities. But the river is black and grey. The surrounding vegetation is dead.
South of the valley, Yaqir stands as two settlements, one built in 1982 and the other in 1987. Yaqir sends sewage down a lateral pipe into the valley. This pipe is too small for its content and from the beginning it has been overflowing into the valley. The first spring that was contaminated by Yaqir is called Ein el Joze, “the source of the nut tree.” Another polluted spring nearby was once called Ein al Maghassel, “the source of the washing place,” where women came during Ottoman times to wash clothes and carpets.
To the north, two settlements—Nevi Menachem, built in 1987, and Karnei Shomron, built in 1978—and one outpost—Nov Qana, built in 2002—release their sewage down into this precious valley.
To the west, the settlement Ginot Shomron, built in 1983, closes the circle around the valley.
Besides pollution, Palestinans must deal with other factors harming their land. The Karnei Shomron settlers have often raided the land in the valley, uprooted trees, damaged and destroyed irrigation systems, greenhouses, and especially expensive water pumps. Palestinian farmers cannot even prevent land damage caused by wild pigs that some locals fear were introduced by settlers: villagers are unable to kill or use traps to control the pigs as it would fall under the prohibition of Palestinians to possess weapons.
Deep in the valley there still exists a spring that has not been polluted. One local explains, “It was not a major spring before the environmental contamination, but now it is the only clear water source we have.” The running water, gathered in a concrete and stone basin surrounded by iron wire and a gate, refreshes visitors. “The settlers have tried to break the fence of the water collector”. The criminal raids of settlers who want to chase away the inhabitants are visible even here.
The area was once a spring of life: children went to school on foot to Deir Istya, five kilometers away (British rule had introduced school for all in 1923). The fruitful valley provided the village’s main sources of income: agriculture (oranges, lemons, plums, wheat, vegetables, chickpeas, and lentils) and animal farming (sheep, goats).
The mayor shows visitors the ruins of the house of his great grandfather and quotes the famous Zionist lie about “a country without people.” He was born here, raised in a lateral valley, west of Wadi Qana, called Khirbet el Shehadi. Another villager, now a member of the municipal council of Deir Istya, added that he and many others had lived there, grazed goats with his grandfather, drunk the water, and learned to swim in the river amidst the chalk rocks.
Around 350 people used to live in the valley until most of them were forced to leave in 1986. The ruins of their houses are still visible beneath the Karnei Shomron settlement. The mayor recounts a typical example of the army’s policy of eviction which happened to his uncle, Yusef Mansour: he built a house in the valley, only to have it demolished in 1982 by the Israeli army. He then placed a metal shack on his land but was never allowed to live in it. Only temporary life is possible here.
Wadi Qana, a paradise despite the ugliness of pollution, is being throttled by the ever growing presence of settlers. The “baggers” and bulldozers work daily, pounding the earth with their brutal thumps, perhaps to prepare for more settlers to come (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided in the last days of February 2005 to build six thousand more housing units in the West Bank).
A map showing the expected path of the wall reiterates that Israel claims this land. The same claim was made clear again as visitors to Wadi Qana were interrupted by a broad squatting military vehicle, demanding what pedestrians were doing there. Visiting was permitted.
One last image remains from near the only remaining fresh water spring. A eucalyptus tree rises from an old uprooted stem: a small sign of hope and strength.
Text: IWPS Team
Pictures: Dorothée and Hannah
Sources of information about Wadi Qana include the mayor of Deir Istya and a member of the municipal council of Deir Istya. For more information contact IWPS.
Copyright © 2005 by IWPS. All rights reserved.
This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work. Non-profit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for non-profit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.
April 19, 2005
House Article #75:
The Forgotten Villages of Salfit
After almost three years in Hares, there remained a few small villages in the Salfit region that we’d never gotten around to exploring… that is, until recently. Recently, IWPS has been visiting the families living in the areas, two of which can be described as family estates and one an ancient village without a permanent population now. All are somewhat removed from other populated areas, and none have electricity or running water. All three are likely to be taken to the “Israeli” side of the Separation Wall that is supposedly being built for Israel’s security. The series of walls and fences, however, has stolen and destroyed thousands of dunums of Palestinian land and hundreds of thousands of olive trees. Most villages themselves are being left in the West Bank. These small population areas are the exception.
The following is a chronicle of our visits.
March 18, 2005
Izbet Abu Adam: 11 km east of the Green Line
After trying unsuccessfully to obtain names and phone numbers of any inhabitants of Izbet Abu Adam, we decided just to go. Our taxi driver pointed out Abu Adam’s son’s store in Sarta on the way from Qarawa roadblock and then continued up the twisty rocky path towards the izbe. We arrived to a baffled but welcoming family who was undoubtedly not used to foreigners coming to visit, especially foreigners who had come specifically to see them because their home was marked on a map.
Izbet Abu Adam consists of two houses, at least one cave, two wells, a palm tree, and many crops and animals, including sheep, chickens, and rabbits. The family owns a total of 150 dunums of land, and the area actually referred to as Izbet Abu Adam, or “the izbe”, comprises 35 of those dunums. The family has ownership papers from the Ottoman Period, and has been living there consistently at least since the 1930s. In the 1950s, Abu Adam built a house and moved out of the cave, but members of the family continued to sleep in the cave for many years.
The izbe is a peaceful place, and was even more peaceful before the construction of a nearby major settler highway that has taken much of their land. The neighboring factories of Barqan settlement also took land from this family and others in Sarta when its southern area was built in 1982, but fortunately the settlers and Israeli authorities have not yet tried to encroach on the izbe itself.
Most of the family members had never seen a map of the Wall, and a few of them knew nothing about its path, which is expected to pass between Sarta and Izbet Abu Adam, cutting the family off from school, work, and all other services. The children may not be too fond of their steep walk to and from school in Sarta everyday, especially in the mud of the winter months, but it is certainly better than not attending school at all. Perhaps they will get Israeli citizenship and attend Israeli schools, we joked, knowing full well that this was not the case.
March 24, 2005
Izbet Abu Basal (and surroundings): 14 km east of the Green Line, 8 km west of Ariel’s eastern border
Looking southwest out our office window across the settler highway and atop a steep hill, there is a house. According to our map, this should be Dar Abu Basal. After arranging a meeting time with the family living there, we set out on a beautiful day to walk in as straight a line as possible from our home to his. Ignoring the longer but easier path of the roads, we walked up and down terraces, across roads, and through olive groves and tall grass with budding flowers marking the beginning of Spring. We found Sahim working in a field next to his house.
We discovered quickly that this house was not Izbet Abu Basal, but Izbet Dar Qaid (Qaid is their family name). One family of 10 currently lives on the land, although members of their family have been living there longer than anyone knows. Their ownership papers, given to them by the Ottoman Empire in 1910, reflect only some of the history of the family’s presence in that spot. On their 253 dunums of land are a variety of crops and animals, although it has been too difficult to bring their 500 goats back and forth between the izbe and Kifl Hares since the settler highway was built a few years ago. They face threats from the army and from the cars that drive too fast along the road. Mohammad Qaid, Sahim’s father, was hit by a car and killed last year at the age of 76 as he was crossing the road with his donkey.
The family has seen other deaths as well. In 2001, Ariel settler authorities cut down 500 of the family’s trees, claiming that the land was Ariel’s. The family went to court with their ownership papers, and was told that the land was not theirs, but Ariel’s, and that if they didn’t demolish their own home the army would come do it for them. Their home has not been demolished, and the family has not been bothered since then, although they are well aware that the path of the Wall will go next to or through their land, and that they will be caught on the wrong side of it if completed as planned. Sahim will no longer be able to ride his donkey around a mountain to work every day in Kifl Hares, the children will not be able to go to school (or will have to live permanently in Kifl Hares to do so), and, similarly to the situation in Izbet Abu Adam, the family will be completely separated from the rest of the West Bank.
From Izbet Dar Qaid, we finally spotted Izbet Abu Basal, our original destination. Figuring we couldn’t stop now, we continued our hike, this time along a small agricultural road. We arrived to a group of very talkative sheep that let out loud “Baaa!”s each time we hollered “Salaam Aleikum!” but nobody else—human, that is—was there. We started to head home, and happened upon an older man with a herd of goats. He was just the man we wanted to speak with, one of the few remaining inhabitants of the izbe. We had a short conversation, curtailed by our limited Arabic skills, his limited hearing, and the intense attention paid to keeping his many goats from running loose. We discovered that the family moved to the hill in 1948, refugees from Kfar Saba, and has been living there since then. The man’s wife lives most of the time in Salfit, as do his sons who work there. We had heard from Sahim that one of the man’s sons was killed after throwing a stone at a jeep last year. This was confirmed by the man, who was visibly upset when we mentioned the incident, so we did not push the matter further. The conversation ended quickly after when he ran off for good to get a goat and we continued on our way, trying to find the road that would lead us back to Hares. We found ourselves inside the nearby Ariel industrial area, which Ariel claims as its western boundary despite the 4 kilometers of Palestinian land between this area and the westernmost inhabited part of Ariel. A confused security guard asked us what we were doing as we walked out through the gate, but we ignored him, found a taxi, and returned to Hares.
March 31, 2005 (trying to find information about Khirbeit Susa)
Bruqin and Kafr Dik: 10 km and 8 km east of the Green Line
Nobody we knew had any information about Khirbeit Susa, the last mysterious place on our map, but most people thought the owners of the land were from Bruqin, so we stopped by the mayor’s office unannounced one morning. “We have no idea about Khirbet Susa,” they told us, “but the people of Kafr Dik might – it’s their land.” So we left, jumped in another service taxi towards Kafr Dik, and asked for the city hall. A woman sitting next to us said, “The city hall isn’t open now. What do you need?” When we told her we wanted to find out more information about Khirbeit Susa, her face lit up as she exclaimed, “Susia is ours! That’s our family’s land! You’ll come home with me, and we’ll show you pictures and tell you about it.”
We arrived at Amine’s house, drank the customary coffee and tea, and talked with her and her sister-in-law, Nihad. They told us about Khirbeit Susa (or “Susia”), a hill that the family owns a couple kilometers from the village. Khirbeit Susa is the best place for crops in the area, the family told us, and because of this it had a mosque where people used to come and pray when they were sleeping on their land (either in Susia or on one of the surrounding hills). Nobody seemed to know exactly when the mosque stopped being used, but they promised they could show us the land if we came back the following Thursday. Two Thursdays later, we found ourselves on our way to Khirbeit Susa.
April 15, 2005
Khirbeit Susa: 9 km east of the Green Line
Nihad’s son Mohammed met us and joyfully showed us to the land. He took us on foot, showing the path that they walk when it’s not blocked by soldiers, and the path under the highway that they use when they’re not allowed to cross the road.
We reached the land and met Najee’a, a 58 year-old woman (one year older than Israel, we joked), who comes to the land whenever she can. She works in Israel and only comes home every once in a while, but when she does she loves to sleep near Susia. Fifteen years ago she built a house on the land, and five years ago settlers built a settlement overlooking her house. The small remote hill that is Susia, however, remains untouched. Or almost untouched. Looking inside one of the caves, we found a sound bomb. Mohammed explained that the army comes to look for wanted people who they think are hiding out in caves. The soldiers are scared to go into the caves, so they throw sound bombs and hope people will come out.
Aside from the sound bomb and the distant view of a settlement, Khirbet Susa remains free of the occupation. Many kinds of crops grow on the hill, and the water well fills up every year with the rain and then lasts until the next year’s rains. We saw the remnants of the mosque and the houses (inside caves, mostly), probably from hundreds of years ago. Nobody seemed sure when Susia was a permanent dwelling place, but they all insisted it was “min zamaaaaan” (a very long time ago), certainly before anyone living, or even their parents or grandparents, were born.
According to Najee’a, the story of the village goes something like this: In the old village of Susia, there was a bride passing through town on her way to her wedding. She was coming from far, possibly Yaffa, and she was going to get married in Aqraba. The night before the wedding she stopped in Susia and slept there. That night, a religious leader in the village slept with her, and in the morning when it was time to go, she refused. The people asked her why, and she just said, “I won’t go.” The people in Aqraba got word of what had happened, and that night, as the people of Susia were sleeping, the people of Aqraba came and killed everyone in Susia. This was the end of the village, and since then there has been nobody living there. People still pray at the mosque occasionally as individuals, but no longer in groups.
Nobody was certain exactly where the Wall would come. The map itself is somewhat unclear, but it seems that if completed as planned, the Wall will separate Khirbeit Susa from Kafr Dik. Najee’a was unsure and even doubtful about this, but was sure, being someone who works “inside” (inside Israel) that the Israeli “disengagement” plan is to move settlers out of Gaza and into the West Bank. She pointed to the settlement above her house and said, “They’ll move in here.”
Settlements, Wall, occupation: Can these huge systems be fought by the small dots on the map? Not with force, surely, and probably not through the courts. Maybe not even through demonstrations. But with persistence, with steadfastness, the izbes and Susia will remain where they are, an important acknowledgement of current reality and a tribute to ancient and not-so-ancient history.
IWPS House Report No.76
Palestinians Elect New Local Leaders:
Six Salfit villages elect 13 women
On May 5, 2005, Palestinians from 82 districts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip voted in local elections to choose their village council members. This was phase two of at least three phases of local elections that began in December 2004 and should finish by the end of the year. While some villages have held regular elections, this was the first national effort to elect local governments since 1976, when elections were managed by Israeli occupation authorities and therefore, according to many, cannot be considered true and fair elections.
This year the elections are under the supervision of Palestinian authorities, specifically the Ministry of Local Government and the Higher Committee for Local Elections. Using some of the experiences of the recent national executive elections, the committee put in place systems to manage and document the election process and results.
A previous law stated that each village council must have at least two women, but not all the municipalities complied, and many women were only symbolic members of their councils. One major change that this year’s elections brought was the enforcement of a similar new law which stated that wherever there were women candidates, at least two women must be elected to the council. The Higher Committee for Local Elections reports that despite the fact that there were no women candidates in some villages, and only one or two in others, women overall exceeded the quota limitations, and now 172 women sit in more than 18% of the village council seats, compared with 58 women previously.
In the Salfit region, six villages (Azzawiya, Bruqin, Deir Balut, Hares, Marda, and Salfit) participated in this round of elections, electing 66 representatives, among them 13 women (there were previously 2 women). Reem, a woman in Deir Ballut who will serve as deputy mayor, explains the importance of women’s presence in the political scene: “Women in Deir Ballut, in all of Palestine, and everywhere, are the same as men. There is no difference in our abilities. It is important to have women on the village council because women fight for women’s rights more than men do. I care about everyone in the village, though, and not only the women.” When asked why she wanted to run for office, and specifically why she wanted to be deputy mayor, Reem responded, “I want to know everything that happens in Deir Ballut. If I were a regular council member, I would not see every person and every issue that enters the municipality, but now I am able to do that.” She added, “When I won, all of the women in Deir Ballut won.”
Um Fadi, one of 2 women elected in Hares out of 5 female candidates and 28 male candidates, gives her reasons for running: “It’s important for women to be on the council, so that men are not responsible for everything. Why me? Because I am a leader, and I can do projects well and take care of issues.”
On election day, the ballots listed candidates by name in the order of when they signed up to run in the election. Voters put check marks next to the names of the people they wanted, and were permitted to vote for any number of candidates up to the number of seats on their village council (people in Hares, for example, could vote for up to 9 candidates; people in Salfit could vote for up to 15). The new council members would then vote or decide among themselves which one of them would be mayor.
Only individuals’ names appeared on the ballots, without political parties. In some villages, however, political parties endorsed lists of candidates and made campaign posters and flyers that they posted around the village. In Hares, everyone ran as an independent candidate, although the common understanding is that the vast majority of villagers identify with Fateh. In the Salfit region as a whole, Fateh members won a majority of the seats in 5 out of 6 areas. In Marda, the council is split among members of PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), Fateh, Hamas, and independents.
Some areas saw more diversity, and some saw surprises. In Bethlehem, for example, the council now holds members from 5 different political parties, and the party that won the most seats, with 5 out of 15, was Hamas. This surprised many people, since Bethlehem has almost as many Christians as Muslims, and most people guess that Christians would not have voted for Hamas, a religious Muslim party. A friend from Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem was horrified by the results. Moreover, as a refugee living in a camp controlled by the UN, he does not have the opportunity to vote in any local elections. “I can’t believe so many people voted for Hamas,” he commented. “In the cities and the villages, Hamas won far more seats than they should have. People aren’t religious, but they just don’t know what’s good for them.” When it was suggested that perhaps people voted for Hamas as a protest vote against Fateh, he shrugged it off, saying, “There are plenty of other parties that are alternatives to Fateh and are far better than Hamas.”
Votes were counted by volunteers, with official local and international observers. Each candidate had one observer inside the room during the count. If any part of the process was suspected to be unfair, candidates had the opportunity to appeal to courts for recounts or to rerun elections in a certain area. The Central Court in Gaza, for example, has ordered 45 polling stations in Rafah to rerun their elections. Closer to the Salfit region, the village of Sannirya counted four more ballots than the number of people they had recorded as voting. This could be a result of either deliberate cheating or accidental neglect to cross off the list four of the people who came to vote. Even with only this small discrepancy, the court ordered a rerun, as election results could be affected (there were only two or three votes between several candidates).
Aside from these few mishaps that are currently being dealt with, elections seem to have run smoothly. According to Um Fadi, elections in Hares transpired without problems. One man who lost by only 3 votes appealed to the court, but the court rejected his appeal. After a bit of arguing inside the village, the issue seems to be settled. The new village council members met on Saturday, May 14, and in a 6-3 vote re-elected Sheikh Omar as Hares’ mayor.
By the end of May, the remaining 206 West Bank and Gaza villages should know exactly when their elections will be. The Higher Committee for Local Elections hopes to run them in two phases beginning in September or October of this year. Palestine will also hold national legislative elections this year, tentatively scheduled for July 17.
Text and photo: Hannah
Date: 21th May 2005
Source: Higher Committee for Local Elections – documents and conversations
Saturday, 11 June 2005
IWPS House Report No.77
Week of Palestinian nonviolent resistance met with Israeli military violence
- Marda village, Salfit region, West Bank
Twenty kilometers east of the Green Line, the settlement of Ariel (population 20,000) looms above a village one tenth its size. Marda was one of the four villages named in a recent Israeli court decision that canceled all previous injunctions halting construction of the Annexation Wall in the area. The government is now free to uproot trees and begin to clear the path for the Wall, and the affected villages have been promised that in the case of a decision reversal on June 21, when the final path will be decided, the damage will be undone. Villagers of Marda recognize this empty promise for what it is, knowing that the damage done is irreversible.
On Wednesday, June 1, Israeli workers with chainsaws began to cut Marda’s trees, and in a five day period, they had cut more than 800 trees. Monday, June 6, bulldozers arrived to begin uprooting the cut trees, and they have been working every day since. After years of occupation, land theft, random arrests, and army invasions, this latest offense has caused Marda villagers to say, “Enough!” Ariel already has a fence surrounding it, they note. Why does it need another? And why on our land? Ariel has already stolen most of our land; why take even more? Determined not to sit quietly while their land is destroyed, Marda farmers, in cooperation with the Popular Committee against the Wall and the entire Salfit region, and Israeli and international groups, decided to reclaim their right to be on their land and on their roads.
Saturday, June 4, 2005
The march from Marda to Kifl Hares was supposed to be proactive, preventative. Little did Marda know, when they scheduled the demo two weeks in advance to coincide with the anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank, that their land would begin to be destroyed so soon. Little did they know that their march from Marda to Kifl Hares, along the main settler highway (which had been used by Palestinians for decades before Israel’s occupation), would be more than symbolic. That they would be marching not only for the impending land destruction, but for the hundreds of trees whose crop had been cut from them just two days before.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the center of Marda to begin their march to Kifl Hares, which would end directly next to the entrance of Ariel settlement. More than 50 soldiers met demonstrators at the entrance of Marda before they left the village, telling the crowd it could not proceed beyond a white ribbon the army had placed across the road. The front line marched directly through the ribbon with arms linked, and came face to face with a line of soldiers, also with arms linked. Soldiers were armed with guns and batons, demonstrators with flags and signs, proclaiming, “Build trust, not walls,” and “Uproot settlers, not trees.”
As villagers and supporters continued to move forward, soldiers lunged at the crowd, beating several people, including one Israeli who had to be taken to a hospital. After Palestinian village leaders and officials like Mustafa Barghouti and Kadura Fares spoke with the army commander, the army finally allowed the crowd to walk through the olive groves and across the main road to get to a new road that Israel is building on Palestinian land. Villagers slowly made their way across, happy to see that the army had closed the road completely, to both Palestinian travelers and Israeli settlers. One boy who stayed in the road longer than soldiers wanted was grabbed and taken to a jeep, only to be taken back by three Palestinian leaders just minutes later.
Demonstrators successfully made their way to Kifl Hares, followed the whole way by soldiers who continued only to let one lane of traffic pass on the settler highway. The demonstration was a huge success: Villagers completed their intended walk, closed the settler highway for some time, and made a statement to the settlers and soldiers of Ariel that their land could not be quietly stolen from them.
Sunday, June 5, 2005
Sunday morning, villagers saw Israeli workers with their chainsaws once again, cutting trees near the top of the hill as they had been the previous week. Again, farmers would not let this destruction happen without trying to stop it. About 20 adult men and one IWPS woman started up the hill, and were quickly followed by about 30 boys who ignored their elders’ order to stay below. We made our way towards the cut trees, and shortly before arriving, security guards and soldiers, whom most of us still could not see over the terraces and through the olive trees, began yelling at us not to come any further. When villagers advanced, one of the security guards fired a shot towards the ground directly in front of the crowd. “Do not move!” they screamed. “Can we talk to you?” people asked. Each time the response was, “Do not move!”
Despite the fear inspired by the private guards and army, Israeli workers had left the area quickly upon the group’s arrival, a major victory for the farmers, who had also stopped the work with a quiet confrontation the previous week.
The standoff continued for a while, with occasional pushing and shoving on the army’s part and chanting on the young men’s part (“hayalim labayta” – “soldiers, go home”). One man was hit on the arm and leg with the butt of a guard’s gun.
Soldiers briefly entered the village, throwing sound bombs and leaving quickly. The villagers stayed above, surveying the damage to their land. No soldier would claim responsibility for the situation or for the other soldiers’ or guards’ behavior, so there was no person to speak or negotiate with until Gilad from the DCO arrived. After brief negotiations, Gilad promised that the work would stop for the day and that the army’s lawyer and the village’s lawyer would have a meeting the next morning to decide how to proceed.
About a half hour after we returned to the village, the work resumed. The army had broken its promise.
Monday, June 6, 2005
At 7:30 Monday morning, farmers gathered in hopes of walking to their land to sit and stop the cutting of their olive trees. 10 farmers, 8 internationals and Israelis, and approximately 40 young men and boys walked up the hill towards the settlement of Ariel where 100-200 soldiers were spread out across the land, concentrating in two different locations on the hillside.
No Wall work was happening at first, but the farmers quickly noticed that a bulldozer had begun to uproot trees near the top of the hill east of where we were standing. The group walked towards the olive trees and was immediately met by tear gas. Soldiers fired approximately 200 canisters of tear gas in the next two hours, hitting two Palestinians directly. One farmer was taken to Rafidiya hospital and two Red Crescent ambulances treated 20 Palestinians.
At 11:00, 3 army and police jeeps entered the village and began to throw sound bombs. Palestinian boys threw stones, hitting a jeep, and four border police entered a Palestinian home, presumably looking for the stone throwers. Many cameras filmed this and the police left quickly without arresting any one.
The uprooting of olive trees continued unobstructed.
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
At 5:30 Wednesday morning, curfew was imposed on Marda, and the entire area of Marda, Iskaka, and Salfit was declared a closed military zone. The army and border police repeatedly entered the village from 5.30 am, throwing sound bombs and firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition into the air. Three internationals attempted to enter Marda at 6:45 am, but were stopped by soldiers and border police and threatened with arrest. Later, 5 Israelis and 2 internationals were able to enter the village and were also ordered to leave and threatened with arrest.
One young Palestinian man had his identity card taken but it was later returned to someone else in the village. Just before midday occupation forces arrested a 25 year old Palestinian. After many hours of confusion and concern, his family discovered that he had been taken to Qedumim. He is still being held.
Approximately 20 Palestinians were injured, among them a Red Crescent ambulance worker.
Friday, June 10, 2005
As villagers in Marda tried to make their way to their fields to pray the Friday midday prayers on their land, accompanied by media, internationals, and Israeli peace activists, tear gas clouded the skies. Four bulldozers that had been uprooting Marda’s trees stopped working as soon as the villagers began their march.
Mere minutes into the ascent upwards and only a few hundred meters up the slope, Israeli soldiers began firing tear gas and sound bombs at the villagers. While a number of soldiers fired from the hill, other military vehicles made their way into the village. Tear gas and sound bombs turned into rubber bullets, and the rubber bullets into live ammunition, reportedly fired directly at children. Soldiers shot tear gas towards the mosque and into a sewing factory where dozens of women were working. Four were taken to the hospital for gas inhalation.
Three Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, one in the stomach, one in the leg, and one in the arm. One Palestinian’s thumb was broken when a tear gas canister hit his hand. Others were treated for tear gas inhalation. One international was detained for several hours and taken to Ariel police station, but was later released.
The DCO later claimed that the Israeli army fired only one rubber bullet and no live ammunition, and that a Palestinian had been shooting a Kalachnikov rifle. Villagers and Israelis collected the bullets and casings, however, and they were clearly from M16s, the rifles that the military uses.
Israeli soldiers threatened to return later that night.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
It is now Saturday, Shabbat, the day that most Israelis do not work. This apparently includes the chainsaw and bulldozer operators who have been coming daily from Ariel to destroy Marda’s land. It is a quiet day. The Israeli holiday of Shavuot begins tonight and will last for two days, hopefully ensuring that the work in Marda will not resume during this time. Shavuot commemorates Moses’ ascent to Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments. Will the villagers of Marda be able to ascend their own mountain and receive anything other than tear gas and bullets?
Text: Hannah, Joy, Suraiya
Date: June 11, 2005
IWPS HOUSE REPORT NO. 78
The Ariel Finger and its Impacts as revealed to the
International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS)
Background about IWPS
IWPS is a team of international women working on a project of third party nonviolent intervention in the Salfit district of the West Bank. Living and working here 24 hours a day allows us to witness the effects of the occupation firsthand. Beyond the reach of the media and even Israeli activists, we are in a unique position to be able to document the daily realities of life for the residents of this district, with respect to freedom of movement, the economy, the construction of the wall, settlement expansion, pollution, and other aspects of the occupation. IWPS is available to lead tours of journalists who are interested in this region.
Ariel settlement – the strategy then and now
The settlement of Ariel was established in 1978. Its founding population of forty settlers has burgeoned due to its strategic location (close to Tel Aviv and approximately in the middle of the West Bank) and generous government aid to a present population of almost 20,000. Over the years Ariel has been built on land expropriated from nearby Palestinian villages and towns including Salfit, Yasouf, Iskaka, Marda, Hares, and Kifl Hares. The built up area of the settlement covers about 750 acres (3,000 dumans), but its municipal boundaries (areas slated for expansion) cover an additional 2,700 acres (10,800 dunams). It is situated (at its furthest point East) approximately 22 km inside the Green Line, adjacent to the intersection of Israeli bypass roads #60 (which crosses the West Bank from North to South and #5 (the ‘trans-Samaria’ highway).
Ariel is the first reported case of colonizing efforts in the Salfit district, which at the present time has a 1:1 ratio of Israeli settlers to Palestinian residents. The Salfit district has become an extremely important location for Israeli settlement policy, and now Israeli settlements (24) outnumber Palestinian villages (22) and cover almost 10% of the land area of Salfit. Ariel settlement is the most well known and largest of the Salfit settlements, and with its own college, municipal court, and police station, has long been thought of within Israeli society as just another ‘town’, rather than a settlement in the West Bank. Some of the factors that help to explain Ariel’s significance within Israeli settlement policy include the abundance of water and agricultural resources in the Salfit district (known as the breadbasket of the West Bank). Additionally, a major ‘Israeli population center’ in the geographical heart of the West Bank ultimately acts as a ‘fact on the ground’, cementing Israel’s control of the area and acting as an impediment to Palestinian territorial contiguity.
Impact of Ariel on surrounding Palestinian communities
The presence of Ariel has effectively limited the development of the town of Salfit (pop. 10,000), which serves as the ‘urban center’ for the entire district. The location of Ariel forms a physical barrier for most of the residents of the district who (since the year 2000) must travel around the entire length of the settlement’s municipal boundary to reach Salfit. Palestinian residents from Haris, Kifl Hares, Deir Istiya, Mas’ha, Biddya, Sarta, Deir Ballut, Azzawiya, Qira, Marda, Zeita and Zeita-Jemai’in must travel a minimum of an additional 15 kilometers. Additionally, Ariel’s massive land area prevents the town of Salfit from being able to expand and younger residents therefore have a disincentive to remain once they are old enough to begin having families. The presence of Ariel, it’s large municipal area, surrounding bypass roads, and security apparatus effectively contribute to the underdevelopment of the entire Salfit district by limiting access to most Palestinian residents to the cultural, economic, and municipal resources of Salfit town.
The Ariel Finger
In June 2004 land razing began on the lands of Salfit and Iskaka (another village contiguous with the Ariel boundary). This 9 km section of the work is slated to confiscate approximately 6,243 acres (24,972 dunams) from Haris, Kifl Hares, Marda, Iskaka and Salfit, with over 800 acres isolated from the village of Marda alone. Appeals raised in the Israeli High Court temporarily halted the work but it was resumed again on January 24th, 2005. On February 10th 2005, the Supreme Court issued a ‘temporary injunction’ that again halted the work, but that decision was again reversed on May 16 and work has begun afresh.
As Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has recently noted, it is no coincidence that the Sharon government is giving orders to speed up construction of the segregation wall while media attention is focused on the ‘disengagement’. Effectively, in exchange Gaza’s four kilometers, hundreds more will be confiscated inside the West Bank for the construction of the segregation wall. Publicly the Gaza pullout is being hailed as an important step toward a peaceful resolution, however the irrevocable effects of the separation wall are a direct contradiction to this. The Ariel finger, due to its drastic nature has even prompted criticism from the U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher criticized this section in June 2004, saying that it would make Palestinian life more difficult and undermine any remaining chances for Palestinian statehood.
In addition to taking their case to the courts, Palestinian residents from the Salfit district have organized popular resistance to the building of the wall. The necessity for grassroots resistance is clear since even the condemnation of the international community, as expressed through the ruling of the International Court of Justice (July 2004) has not succeeded in putting pressure on Israel to stop construction of the wall. The ruling stated that the segregation wall is illegal and must be dismantled, and any damages done must be compensated. The plan for the ‘Ariel finger’ is perhaps one of the most glaring examples of violations of human rights and the environment to date in the building of the segregation wall. Grassroots mobilizations have materialized from effected villages, and assisted by Israeli and international activists, Palestinians have sought to lay claim to their lands and prevent further destruction of their property and livelihoods. Over fifty nonviolent actions have taken place in the Salfit district over the last year in opposition to the wall. Whether direct actions intended to prevent work from taking place, or symbolic actions designed to deliver a message through media attention, the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Salfit has helped to organize a population that is frustrated from over two decades of being forced to adjust to the negative impacts of the presence of Ariel settlement.
Marda: Resistance and Uncertainty
One of the villages most directly affected by the presence of Ariel is Marda (pop. 2,000) which is situated directly to the North, with settler Highway #5 forming the other boundary for the village’s built up area. Marda village has suffered a long history of abuse because of the presence of Ariel settlement on the hill above it. Land confiscation, uprooted trees, settler violence, and the effects of pollution from the waste of the settlement are all unfortunate consequences that the residents of Marda have had to contend with.
Much of Marda’s agricultural land has been expropriated for Ariel settlement and the bypass road. Farmers from Marda still have pockets of cultivated land within the settlement which have effectively been annexed to the settlement. Additionally, cultivated land that abuts Ariel’s municipal boundaries is dangerous for farmers to reach, and international accompaniment is often requested in these areas. Therefore the mere proximity to the settlement renders additional hundreds of acres of cultivated land inaccessible to Palestinian farmers who are dependent on this land for the livelihood of their families. Waste water created by the settlement has contaminated the underground water resources of the entire district, and in the case of Marda, Ariel’s trash heap is perched precariously on a hill overlooking the village.
Since the destruction began on June 1, cutting a swathe across the length of the hill above the village and below Ariel, at least 1,000 olive trees owned by farming families in Marda have already been uprooted. When the work began, farmers, accompanied by International and Israeli activists, attempted to reach the affected lands several times to assess the extent of the damage and to try to intervene to prevent work from continuing. However, these nonviolent activities were met with gunfire from private security guards, and later tear gas and sound bombs from the army. During the peaceful protests that followed (conducted primarily in the village) the army has continued to respond with violence and the village has had to suffer from periodic invasions and curfews as a result.
Resistance is made all the more difficult by the fact that Marda’s land beneath Ariel settlement is on a steep hill, making it very threatening for anyone to approach the work. Due to the intense repression by the army, farmers have largely ceased to try to reach the bulldozers. Peaceful demonstrations have continued, organized by the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Salfit, but they are primarily located within the village and do not attempt to interrupt the work of the bulldozers.
Marda: Personal Profiles
The small village of Marda is unique in that many of its residents have lived outside the West Bank in Venezuela and are bilingual in Spanish and Arabic. Like the rest of Salfit, agriculture is both a source of income as well as part of the Palestinian cultural fabric. Every family has some land in the proximity of the village and includes family members who are full time farmers. Because Marda residents have been living in the shadow of Ariel settlement for so long, many have the sense that ‘Ariel gets what it wants’. Coupled with the danger of attempting to intervene in the work, the situation leaves village residents extremely worried about their future, while simultaneously doubtful about the possibility of preventing the completion of the Ariel finger.
Abu Samih is a farmer from Marda who spent 10 years going back and forth between his village and Chicago. Shortly after September 11 as he arrived in O’Hare airport, he was detained by the INS for thirty days. Planning on applying for political asylum, he decided to return to his home rather than spending time in detention indefinitely. Abu Samih has 55 dunams (about 12 acres) of olive trees that are located inside Ariel’s settlement boundary that he cannot access. For Abu Samih, the presence of Ariel settlement acts as a ‘cancer in the body’ eating away at agricultural land and disrupting the livelihoods of all of the residents of Marda. Still, he is committed to non-violence, and doesn’t believe in harming anyone. With five children total, and two studying at unversity, Abu Samih is very concerned about the future survival of his family if the Ariel finger is completed. He sees a dire vision of de facto ‘transfer’ for the residents of Marda.
Jamila is the eldest daughter of Abu Samih and speaks excellent English. Like her father, Jamila is not optimistic about the future of the village. If the International Court of Justice Ruling means nothing, it is hard for Jamila to imagine what the simple farmers of Marda can do to change their fate. Her wish is to finish her education and get a good job. Despite her worries, Jamila relies on cultural wisdom which says that no matter how bad things get, there is always a possibility that they will get better. She has been profoundly impacted by interactions with Israeli activists who have come to the village to support the nonviolent demonstrations. “When I sit and talk with these Israelis I feel that in that moment I can transcend history,” she remarks. “I do not hate Israeli people”.
Abu Munthar is a Marda farmer who, like Abu Samih, also has land inside Ariel settlement totalling approximately 20 dunams (5 acres). Three hundred olive trees belonging to his family are currently being destroyed in the path of the wall – and when these trees are gone he will have completely lost his family’s legacy. Abu Munthar was there on the morning of Sunday June 5, when farmers and international activists ascended the hill towards the bulldozers uprooting their trees. They were met with live ammunition fired toward the ground by private security guards. Later an Israeli army representative promised the farmers that work would cease until the next morning when he promised there would be a meeting between the army’s lawyer and the village’s lawyer. Such a meeting never took place and the work resumed. Abu Munthar used to work in Israel and he knew his boss’ family including one of the younger sons. During a recent olive harvest when interacting with one of the security guards of Ariel settlement he realized the man was none other than this boy, now grown up.
During the Palestinian olive harvest of 2001, Um Amir’s husband Abu Amir was harvesting olives about 3km from the center of the village, on Marda’s land close to Ariel settlement. Suddenly he heard barking dogs and looked around only to see guard dogs from settlement security running toward him. Abu Amir began to run in the direction of the village, trying to escape the dogs. At the edge of the village, Abu Amir collapsed of a heart attack, and died. Um Amir and her seven children lost their father as well as all of their land because of Ariel settlement. They had 20 dunams (5 acres) of olive trees as well as the same amount of land not cultivated with trees that was confiscated in the building of the settlement. She has lost income from the loss of her land as well as the loss of her husband, who used to work in Israel as a metal worker. She is also not optimistic about stopping the Ariel finger.
Abu Hassan is the head of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in the Salfit District. Prompted by the negative impacts of the occupation and settlement policy, he and others from Marda initiated a permaculture and sustainable agriculture center in the village that opened its doors in November of 1993. Based on the idea of ‘local resources for local needs’, the center was designed to support farmers to maintain their self-sufficiency despite confiscation of their lands. The center, funded by organizations in Germany, Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Holland and Australia, became a regional hub of training and rural development. Over three hundred varieties of native seeds were cultivated and preserved, and farmers were trained in composting and the use of organic pesticides. Agricultural roads were opened, plants and trees distributed, training courses in irrigation and grey water recycling were conducted. Agricultural engineers from universities all over the West Bank came to Marda to do additional training. The center also provided training courses for women including computer and English language skills. The success of the center and its ability to provide a measure of self-sufficiency for the local population sparked the ire of the occupation forces, including the settler population and the army. On November 8, 2000, at 5:00 a.m., after seven years of successful work, Israeli soldiers invaded and attacked the center. They destroyed the nursery, the seed bank, the computers and all of the files. Some of the activities of the center continue, but they still have not rebuilt the site which is a broken-down shell of its former self and a testament to the vulnerability of Marda, sandwiched between Ariel settlement and the bypass road #5.
For more information about Marda, the Ariel Finger and its impacts, and the Salfit region generally contact:
IWPS 09-2516-644; firstname.lastname@example.org
Nasfat (Head of Popular Committee Against the Wall in Salfit) 059-984-1006
Report prepared by Nijmie in consultation with Marda village.
Sources: Applied Reseach Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ); B’Tselem, “Land Grab: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank”, May, 2002
IWPS House Report No. 79
“Just Another Occupation Story”
The story is of the family of Hassan Sa’id (or Abu ‘Attaf) and his wife Rawda (or Um ‘Attaf) and their family of 12. Hassan and Rawda have 10 children, three boys and seven girls, and live in two rooms. The small room is 9′x10′ and the large one is only slightly larger. The family owns no refrigerator, and no phone (neither cell nor land line). They own one fan. The furniture in the big room consists of some plastic school type chairs. The small room functions as a kind of storage space with two large storage bins covered by blankets – it was not clear what was behind the blankets, but from the looks of the place, there was not much of value. Hassan works as the guard for the local trash dump, and makes 1000 NIS per month. That is the equivalent of a little over $200. With this he feeds his family of 12.
Because the family only owns one fan, they all sleep in the same room when it is hot. The village they live in, Deir Istiya, is in the same area as Hares, which gets extraordinarily hot in the summers. It was often impossible for me to sleep because of the heat, even under the best of conditions – with beds, a mosquito net, only four women to a room, and a working fan when we had electricity, that is. They are 12 to a room on thin mattresses which would make the heat an added barrier to comfort. The night that I am writing about, the heat was intense, and as a result the whole family was in one room to benefit from the one fan. The following is the story as told by Hassan and Rawda in our interview. The second part of the interview also contains pieces by the children. I have put my own clarifications in parentheses and (only where I felt it was necessary to comprehension) changed some phrases particular to Arabic into more understandable English. For the most part I have tried to keep to the story as told by them. Hassan let us interview him for hours. He chain smoked throughout the interview.
At the beginning of the interview Hassan tells Shannon and me that at 1:30 AM Rawda woke Hassan and told him there is a noise outside. “She went and opened the door and found two soldiers with guns in their hands.”
Rawda: While I was sleeping I heard someone calling “open the door!” I woke up frightened. I had many feelings at the same time – I was in my sleeping clothes and my daughters were as well, and I saw someone looking into the window. I was shy and frightened. I tried to open the door but I couldn’t because they had used a tool to open it. There was a soldier with a gun who said “shh” and put the light off.”
What must be made clear before I go on in this story is that nobody in this family was suspected of anything. The house was being used as a lookout point to capture others in the village. It is centrally located, and looks out on several places in the village. The soldiers had no interest in this family, only in the two room house.
Hassan continues to talk: All my children were shaking and I prevented them from making a sound because of the instructions – In the dark I used my hands to prevent them from making a noise. For forty minutes we lay under a blanket. After that a soldier whispered in my ear ‘what’s your name?’ I told him. For forty minutes the soldier kept asking me ‘do you have a telephone? A mobile phone?’ I answered ‘We haven’t. We are poor.’ He was finally convinced. The soldier put his mouth on my ear and said ‘go to the other room one by one quietly.’ I argued ‘but that room is too small!’ The soldier said ‘if you don’t we will damage the house before we leave it,’ so we did.
Shannon: How many soldiers were there?
Hassan: There were eight soldiers inside the house.
Shannon: Why do you think they were there?
Hassan: I am used to being absent from the village from 7:00 (in the morning) to 7:00 (in the evening) and didn’t know what was happening. When they came I thought they came to kill everyone and that this is the last night for me and my children. I’d like to mention that I spent twelve days after that where I couldn’t walk normally or sleep properly. At that time (the night the soldiers were there) I remembered all my friends and my mother and father. I can’t describe it. And I thought I’ll die all alone without them and I thought to myself ‘I am a man! How must my wife and children be feeling?!’
Rawda: I felt the same, but I thought ‘What if they kill us and leave my children, or kill my husband and leave me and the children, or kill just some of us? How will life continue if they kill part of us? All my daughters were crying and I wanted them to be quiet.
Hassan: I spent all my life just to build this house. I have no car, no land, no telephone – just this house to sleep safe in my house, but on this day I found the soldiers came without making any noise. I don’t know how. And they came not like the Eastern people! My wife was in sleeping clothes!
It is a source of great shame for a woman in Islam to be seen without being entirely covered, not only for her but for her husband or father as well. Very little is more important for a man in Palestinian culture than his honor. It is only through accepting this fact that it is possible to understand Hassan and Rawda’s words here.
Hassan continues: I felt that I am nothing. How did I spend my whole life building this house and I’m not safe? Is there a way to kill myself and kill them at the same time? All my honor is broken. Then, when I did the 4:00 prayer I said I want to wash and they prevented me. I wanted to make tea for the kids but they prevented me. At 8:30 I said I wanted to pray again, and I was allowed. But I went to the toilet to wash and when I exited the toilet I found a soldier at the door. The door to the toilet is only a blanket and I was again humiliated. I prayed with a soldier next to me.
The soldier asked me about my fourteen year old son “does he throw stones at jeeps?” I said “no, he goes with me, I am a guard at a rubbish heap – I have to go to my work. It’s late.” The soldier said “you’ll say that you were ill today.”
It was twelve of us in one room and it was a hot day. There was no fridge. I wanted to go to my brother to get cold water, but they wouldn’t let me. When my wife took one of the girls to the toilet a soldier stood by the blanket and again she was humiliated.
Finally they let my wife make tea and we found we haven’t bread. The kids started to cry ‘we want to eat and to drink cold water.’ The two year old boy began to cry.
Shannon (to Rawda): How were you feeling then?
Rawda: I can’t describe my feelings. I had many bad feelings. I was in the toilet with my daughter and when we finished the soldier was there. My two year old boy made waste on the floor and it smelled very bad but they didn’t allow me to get water to wash it. Nothing can describe it. We felt like less than animals at the time.
Hassan: The two year old boy touched the gun of the soldier and the soldier shouted at him. I said ‘He is two years old. Why are you shouting?!’ He touched it again and I thought the soldier would hit him. I took his hand and said ‘He doesn’t know what he is doing!’ The soldier tried to hit the boy but I stopped him.
I asked again if someone could bring cold water. He said ‘no!’ and said that if anyone comes to the door we were not to open it. The neighbours came to check on us. I found a soldier taking pictures through the window. I said ‘how would you feel if I saw your wife like this?! Where is democracy?’ He answered ‘Democracy is inside the state (i.e. on the other side of the green line). Here we are here to kill two wanted people and then we’ll leave.’
I said ‘I only have one place for water. In the kitchen.’ I filled a cup and said to the soldier ‘see – it’s hot. Let me get cold water.’ The soldier said again ‘No. Today nobody enters. We’re here to kill two people and then we’ll leave.’
The soldiers kept us inside the small room and stood behind the door. We needed fresh air. I tried to open (the door) and he tried to close it and we had a struggle. I couldn’t open it. The soldiers kept changing guard (and so they could get fresh air), but we had to stay inside. In the end I managed to open the door and saw one of the soldiers stealing my olive oil and putting it in his luggage.
During the day I finished my cigarettes. I asked for a cigarette but the soldier repeated the same thing again. I said to him “There are no armed people. This is fireworks.”
At 4:00 they began to take off their military clothes and I saw that there were wires and microphones in their clothes. They opened the doors and I saw two military jeeps with soldiers. I saw these soldiers go out and shake hands with the other soldiers.
After they left the house I found they had used our water bottles for a toilet and food was on the floor.
Rawda: I spent two hours cleaning. The smell was very bad.
Hassan: They broke a window and pushed it out into the alley – if it had fallen on someone it could have killed them.
Shannon: How did you feel?
Rawda: It’s the judgment of the stronger on the weaker. I’m more concerned with the fact that we’re all safe.
Hassan: After they left she (Rawda) felt sick. We called a doctor and he found that her temperature was 40 degrees. From then until now she has been bleeding. They found that the baby inside of her is dead. They did a cleaning process but she is still bleeding. Two days ago they did tests and found rotting pieces of the baby still inside her. They said that if the bleeding is like this they will postpone the surgery but if it gets to be a lot then we should come to the hospital. This also caused a poison to come into her blood and into her milk. She is nursing our two year old now and he has now gotten sick from it.
Rawda: I felt they are the reason for the baby’s death. This is not my first pregnancy or birth. I have done this nine times and I didn’t feel tired. Now I feel everything has changed. This is the first time in my life that I feel old and tired, and I ask God to take my revenge.
With this the interview ended that night.
As we were leaving that night one of the boys ran out of the house and yelled “wait!” We slowed down and waited and as he bounded down the stairs, he handed us each a cucumber. Shannon and I thanked him profusely – we were both really hungry. As we were walking back, I bit into the cucumber. At that moment it hit me with all the force of a terrible tragedy – this is the most expensive cucumber I’ve ever eaten.
The following week we arranged with Riziq, our local contact and translator to go back. We wanted to talk to the kids a little bit, to hear what they felt that night. We also had a few questions we still wanted to ask Hassan and Rawda. Hassan immediately began talking again, recounting the aftermath of the soldier’s stay.
Hassan: When the soldiers left I entered and found it dirty. There were bottles filled with the soldiers’ waste. This affected us very badly. It had a psychological effect. I felt unsafe, and that my family isn’t safe and my house isn’t safe. I feel afraid and unsafe. Imagine that your wife and daughters are in sleeping clothes and a stranger opens the door! Because of this shock I spent a week tired. I felt that every part of my body is tired and sick. As I said before, my wife also became very ill. We sent her three times to the hospital.
This was catastrophic. First of all, we are poor. Second, this is the tenth time she is pregnant. Everybody takes it on differently. I feel my life is useless. My honor was broken when they saw my wife and daughters in this state in their night clothes.
Shannon (to Rawda): What is it like to lose a child?
Rawda: I can’t describe my emotions but I can say that as much as anyone loves his son or his coming son…
Also there is the process of physical pain and financial problems…
Shannon: If you could say anything you want to the soldiers without being afraid, what would you say?
Hassan: That if I would go to one of their houses or any Israeli house and open his room and see his wife and daughters sleeping would he accept it? He has to ask how he would feel if I did that. They came and broke my honor and I lost my baby and they made another one sick. If I go to any Israeli city they have the right to kill me. But they are in my house. They didn’t ask me if they could come in. I woke up and found them at my head.
The next night they came and slept at the stairs. And we feel that any night they may come. But if they do, they can kill me, but I will try to prevent them.
Now we go to sleep at 1:00 or 2:00 at night because we’re afraid they will come again.
And still now, if a cat or wind or something moves outside, all my children wake up and think it’s the soldiers coming back.
Shannon: What do you think will happen if they come again?
Hassan: They will kill me, and I’m not afraid. They may shoot me. I’m sure I’ll face danger, but I’ll do it. No Palestinian would make problems for them, but if they make problems for a Palestinian we will make problems for them.
Hassan continued: I want to ask “who is the terrorist? Me, or them?” The terrorist is the one who comes to our house and makes problems for us.
I work for the municipality, 4 kilometers from the village and the place is used to throw garbage. They came with their jeeps and drove past three times. They had military hats and guns and they pointed their guns at me and said “why are you here?” in a provocative way. I was in a shelter that I had made. I said “I work for the municipality.” I’m new – so I don’t yet have a card. They said “If you haven’t got a card we will kill you. You can’t stay here without a card!” This is the terrorist.
Hassan continues: My problem is not the money charged for everything, rather, first I lost my baby, my second baby is ill.
And the worst problem is I don’t live as a full husband and I can’t have a sexual life and I have asked my wife for a divorce.
My salary is 1000 NIS and I have ten people in the house. Last month’s salary is gone from the hospital and transportation. Soon school will open and I have to cover my children’s needs for school.
Every morning when my children wake up they ask “did the soldiers come last night? Did the soldiers come last night?” and sometimes they come but I say they didn’t.
Shannon: Why do you think Israel is doing this?
Hassan: They know that we are weak people. We can’t resist them. We haven’t got guns. They did it in Deir Yassin and Sabra and Shatila and the main reason is we haven’t a way to resist.
Shannon: But why do they want to harm you?
Hassan: Their aim is to get us to leave these lands and to be alone in these lands but in history they lived in Islamic society and nobody treated them badly. But in Europe they started to make problems for them and they moved them to our lands.
Shannon: So you think they are scared?
Hassan: Yes. (He repeats the line about being weak). I’m sure if we had the power to resist they would not do this.
Rawda: They came to the house because it is in the center of the village and from this house they can talk to people about where the soldiers are. The proof is the question about the phones (Here she is talking about the soldiers’ insistence about giving them a phone when they first arrived).
Shannon: Do you have a hope of peace?
Hassan: I don’t hope there will be peace unless the Israelis leave the land. (He turns to Riziq) You are an Arab like me – if you come and try to steal my house – we will fight. The problem is not that they are Jews. It’s because they do this to us. If they go to their state and let us live in ours – peace will come.
Hassan goes on for a while but we want to try and speak to the children. We begin with Ayisha, who is 11 years old. She is shy and we do not have a great deal of time to spend getting her to feel more comfortable with us, which would have been ideal. As a result, her answers are short.
Shannon: Can you tell me what happened that night?
Ayisha: I was sleeping and one of my sisters woke me. I felt afraid but my older sister took me to the other room. I was very afraid – one of the soldiers stomped on my hand and this was painful. I was very afraid because of the sounds they made.
Shannon: What did they look like?
Ayisha: Like monkeys. (Hassan smiles and explains that the soldiers were wearing blackface).
Shannon: What did they sound like?
Shannon: If you could tell them anything without being scared, what would you tell them?
Ayisha: Don’t come to our town and don’t kill our people and don’t frighten us.
Shannon: Do you still think about that night?
Shannon: What do you think about?
Ayisha: I’m still terrified from when they were speaking.
We speak to Doach, who is 13 years old. Hassan prompted her a lot, and I didn’t write down what he told her to add, although what he said about it is that she is shy but that she talks to him a lot about it and so he is just reminding her. What I wrote down is just what she said unprompted.
Shannon: What do you remember from that night?
Doach: I was very afraid. We moved rooms and it was very hot. (Here she says something I don’t quite understand) The soldiers hurt some of us and pushed me with a gun.
Hassan cuts in: By morning we couldn’t stand it. The kids tried to use books as fans. The soldiers took the books and told the children to be quiet.
At this point the sound of the call to prayer rings out from the mosque. The apartment is right next to the mosque and hearing anything over the noise is impossible. Hassan suggests that he show us the room in which they spent the night and the majority of the next day. Hassan first points to a fan which hangs on the wall of the small room.
Hassan: I bought a new fan but I haven’t paid yet, but I’m afraid it will happen again. We were in 1/3 of the room – the soldiers had thrown all the furniture in storage on the floor. I have a disc problem and back pain which makes me have to move. When I moved, sometimes I stepped on my children (the room was dark and he couldn’t see the kids). I told them, and they gave us a small lamp and I put it here.
This is a storage room for furniture. Sometimes the kids use it for study. Sometimes I used it with my wife while the children slept in the other room. Now I don’t use it anymore. I live with my wife as with my sister. I feel desire but I’m tired and her bleeding and the psychological situation don’t allow me and also her psychological condition…
The sounds of the mosque stop, and we return to the other room and continue talking to Doach.
Doach: The most painful moment is when my father came home from the hospital alone and I thought “I will live my life without my mother” and I became crazy thinking “how will I live without her?!”
They imprisoned us in a small room. It was very hot and I was very afraid. I felt they may kill us or my father. When we wanted to go to the toilet they prevented us. When we wanted cold water they prevented us. They hurt us and frightened us.
Shannon (to Doach): How would your life look if there was no army?
Doach: I would be very happy and comfortable. I would play with my friends and go safely. All Palestinians would live in freedom and safety and my relationship with my friends would be better.
Doach: Because we wouldn’t feel afraid to go to each other and play and I wouldn’t hear all the time that there’s another one killed.
Shannon asks Doach: What is the solution for Palestine and Israel?
Doach: The solution is that the Israelis will leave our land.
Hassan cuts in: From my point of view, which is hard, we are poor and I worry about my wife, even so, my message is that if Jews live in their country I guarantee no-one will hurt them and they can live safely. It’s enough for them. They have Tel Aviv, Petach Tikvah. They have the cities. We need pressure from other countries. I guarantee that not only Palestine but all the Arab countries won’t hurt them. We have history. The Christians and the Jews have lived safely in Moslem lands.
I want to emphasize, when Israel divided us I was seven years old. Since then I feel afraid because of the stories I hear. The soldiers killed that one, the settlers killed this one…We want to live in peace, plant on our land, discover science and we want our history to talk about new inventions not bombs. All money and science concentrates on weapons. We don’t want this. We want money and inventions to concentrate on things that are good for people. What I want to understand is – until when will the US and Europe stand behind Israel? Why don’t they judge all human beings by their acts ?…
Sarra: Tell me what you think about suicide bombings.
Hassan: This happens because of pressure. We live forty years waiting for peace – we try every way – peaceful demonstrations, Lebanon (Riziq says that he is referring to the PLO in Lebanon), and harvest nothing. The whole world supports Israel. Some people think this is the only way to force them to withdraw, but if they withdraw and go to their state I guarantee nobody will do this.
They kill our sons in prison. Our daughters. We are poor. They stole our lands and the international community supports it. What can we do? Anyone in our position would do what we do. The problem for us is that we feel we are alone and we will be killed.
We turn to ‘Attaf, who is 15 ½ years old.
Shannon: What do you remember from this night?
‘Attaf: I remember that I woke up hearing them asking my father to go to the other room and saying “if you don’t go to that room we’ll damage your house.” When he stood up they hit him with a gun on his shoulder. They took us to the other room and told us to be silent and when any of us made noise they hit us.
Shannon: What was it like to see your father hit?
‘Attaf: I was frustrated because I couldn’t protect him or avenge him.
I remember when my father asked about a fan they refused. When he wanted to open the windows they refused. When he wanted cold water they refused. They allowed him to get water but it was hot.
Shannon: What were your thoughts at the time?
‘Attaf: My main feeling was that I was frightened.
Shannon: What were you afraid of?
‘Attaf: That they would kill us – slaughter us. What will my relatives say if they find out the next day that we were killed in our house?
Shannon: Why do you think they came?
‘Attaf: I thought they were coming to kill us.
‘Attaf: Because we heard they killed people, and every day we hear it
Shannon: Why do they do it?
‘Attaf: It’s a kind of strength, and we are weak.
Shannon: Is your family different since it happened?
‘Attaf: Mainly they are afraid and feel exposed to their visits at any time.
Hassan: When I talk to my children they are always asking me “If our mother died would you marry another woman?” or “What is her health situation?” and they also ask their mother “If the soldiers kill my father what will happen?”
The last person to talk to us that night was Qosay ‘Al Kaadi. He is a 13 year old boy who had been kind of playing around with me as I was writing and listening. He had a very sweet smile and kept smiling at me the whole evening. For the first little while he was just getting my attention and playing around, but after a while he clearly wanted to be interviewed. I told him that after ‘Attaf finished we would interview him, but that in the meantime he had to be quiet. So now it came to his turn. I turned to Shannon and said “he wants a turn.” We put him in the interviewing chair and he began…
Qosay: I don’t want you to ask any questions. I just want to tell my story. (We agreed).
I am not a son, I am a nephew. In the morning at 8:00 that morning I came to play. I came and knocked but there was no answer. I went back to my home opposite, and I looked, and I saw soldiers in the house. Me and my father and mother asked “what’s going on?” and we were afraid they had killed our family. We were afraid to knock – that they would kill us because nobody answered.
My granddad and grandmom, the parents of Sa’id, are ill, and when they heard this they became more ill because of anger and fear. I crawled to Sa’id’s house and knocked but there was no reply.
We spent the whole time asking each other what’s going on and when they will leave. At 4:00 in the evening my uncle opened his door. We thought there were no soldiers but I saw soldiers coming out and shaking hands and saying congratulations.
The whole time I was worried about Sa’id’s situation. I knocked many times that day but there was no reply. We had to planned that I would go with my uncle to the fields and help with the fields but there was no reply. I was worried that he was hurt.
Shannon: What do you think of the soldiers?
Qosay: They are wild creatures. We thought if they didn’t have guns we could open the door, but the problem is their guns. They are stronger than me because of the guns. If I had a gun I would go and make them leave our lands.
My notes stop here, and I don’t remember if there was much that came after this or not, but I do remember his last words. They went something like this: “I await the day when I will become a suicide bomber and become a martyr for my people.”
Interviews from 03/08/05 and 10/08/05, conducted by Shannon and Sarra