Children of the Intifada – Friday August 9th 2002

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At first glance the boys playing in the swimming pool of Bidia appear no different from the children at summer camps in many other countries at this time of year.

However, Bidia is not a holiday location in some safe rural idyll but a small village in Palestine next to some of the biggest and most important Israeli settlements in the West Bank and it has been more than two years since these young lads have been able to go for a swim. Most of the time the swimming pool is closed anyway – people are unable to reach it from the nearby villages (Palestinians are not allowed to use the ‘settler-only roads) and can’t afford to spend money on such a luxury (unemployment is high and those lucky enough to retain jobs often cannot reach them because of curfews and closures).

In Palestine even the most ordinary daily activities become a form of  ‘resistance’ and are the outcome of a struggle for basic human rights. If one wants to go to university, one’s office, the doctor or just visit some relatives a few kilometers away, one has to pass road-blocks, risk confrontations with Israeli soldiers, police or settlers who control the Palestinians, trying to keep them inside the borders of their villages that have been turned into large ‘prisons’. Every Palestinian we meet tells us they are in prison and ‘For why?’ they ask.

Going to a swimming pool thus becomes an act of civil disobedience and the boys are aware of it. On their way they are chanting freedom songs that grow even stronger at the sight of an army jeep keeping watch from inside the town of Bidia. The boys gleefully wave their towels and march together to the swimming pool. Their delight and high spirits are a joy to witness as they become ordinary children enjoying the water in the baking heat. While going back over the Bidia roadblocks, the soldiers keeping watch over the pile of rubble and stones, get nervous at the sight of 50 boys aged from 5 to 12 and point their machine guns at them from the hill. The adults supervising the boys notice and shout at the boys to hide under the olive trees trying to get them out of reach of the soldiers as soon as possible. The vans for transporting the boys are a bit late and they have to wait, everyone is nervous. We two internationals (Maren and Angie) make our cameras conspicuous and place ourselves between the boys and the soldiers. Luckily the vans soon arrive and the boys all get back safely to their village.

Summer camps are nothing new to Palestinian children, they have always been part of the social work that countless volunteers have supervised for decades. Local groups and later the PNA organized them knowing how important it is to guarantee Palestinian boys and girls at least a little fun and pleasure. As it is these children have a very troubled childhood and are forced to grow up too fast. So even this year, in spite of the many problems arising from the last months of Israeli military attacks, the destruction of towns, continuous military incursions, and the damage to essential infrastructure like electricity and telephone lines, water and sewage pipes in the villages, Palestinian society has made it possible everywhere in the Occupied Territories for boys and girls to be offered the possibility of enjoying at least a week or two of summer camps together with their friends.

Fatima, one of the organizers and volunteers of the summer camps in the Salfit area near Nablus, told us of the twofold aims the camps have this year. “We want to give the children a place where they can enjoy themselves and have fun but we want to provide them as well with the possibility to talk about the traumatic experiences they have had in the last months”, she says. In the summer camp organized in Salfit, two days of the one week program were dedicated to telling the events that had happened to the children in the last months, games that helped them to talk about their experiences and to share them with their class mates.

The traumas these children have suffered are the results of the Israeli occupation of their homes and lands. It may be the tear gas thrown into the courtyard of the elementary school in Hares, the witnessing of the soldiers beating up friends or parents in front of them, small boys threatened with death or being beaten up themselves or hours of waiting at a checkpoint in an ambulance in order to get medical treatment. The children react in many ways. The mothers tell about their boys losing control of their legs at the sight of Israeli soldiers and being unable to stand up, another little boy literally loses his capacity of hearing in the presence of the soldiers. Others suffer from less evident but just as debilitating symptoms of trauma.

The celebrations at the end of the camps are not only a great event but are also fun for parents and children. There is singing, dancing, somersaulting through hoops of fire – but interwoven through it all are scenes from the daily terror and humiliation of the brutal Israeli military occupation.

A little play shows a scene of land confiscation, an arbitrary execution by soldiers and imprisonment – and amazingly it draws a huge amount of laughter and applause. The tumblers climbing up on each others shoulders take up the Palestinian flag with them and the songs are about freedom and their land. But at the end of the performance Fatima tells us that she is especially proud of the “free drawing” session on the last day of the camp: almost no weapons, tanks or soldiers can be seen, but trees, flowers and good wishes for the future.

Another important part of these summer camps is the transmission of Palestinian culture the mere existence of which is so often denied. Many of the older generations have gone to prison for having put Palestinian flags up or having asserted their existence as a separate and distinct People. Nevertheless, the songs and the dances, the stories and the handicrafts have survived and are taught on these occasions to the younger generations. Inevitably, the songs of the Palestinians are full of pain and suffering, of lost lands and homes, of oppression and humiliation, of losing their loved ones. But they also express the hopes that they will one day be able to live in a free country and they show the determination of Palestinians to continue their struggle for their rights and to overcome the occupation one day.

[Written by Angie and Maren, Pics by Angie, 15/8/02]

The Craziness of the Occupation – Hares – Monday August 19th 2002.

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A dusty roadblock on the outskirts of Hares village prevents vehicles trapped inside from accessing the main road just a few yards away. People fit enough to walk through may find taxis and buses to take them to work or hospital if they are not stopped at manned military checkpoints. All of the good tarred  roads around here are for Israeli settlers only. Any use by the local Palestinian population is severely limited by the random application of a variety of measures used by soldiers and settlers that ranges from rocks being thrown on their cars and buses, to being stopped by armed soldiers who harass, arrest and beat up the occupants. Only yesterday morning 2 villagers were hauled out of their taxi by soldiers as they tried to travel to Salfit (the nearest large town). Their whereabouts are still not known by their worried family. These arbitrary arrests can lead to equally arbitrary imprisonment without trial that can last for months and even years. The soldiers’ behaviour is never accountable to the Palestinians who seem to have no-one to appeal to.

The constant harassment by the Israeli soldiers who have shot and killed three people, two of whom were children, and severely wounded and disabled 50 others in the village of Hares, over the last 18 months, has traumatized people here. And the ‘siege’ on the town is now leading to severe shortages of basic foodstuffs and medicines.

At 9a.m. the Red Cross arrived in their pristine air-conditioned van and a bull-dozer came trundling through the village to the road-block. The Israeli District Liaison Officer arrived with another armed soldier in their smart white jeep. The bulldozer was given permission by the Israelis to start clearing the roadblock. If Palestinians do this without permission they are  liable to be shot and the bulldozer confiscated – without the chance of a court hearing to argue the rights and wrongs of course.  Soon the Red Cross Trucks arrived but had to wait for over an hour for a passageway to be cleared. Some of the trucks went off to other villages and three went through the cleared roadblock into Hares. The Israeli soldiers stayed at the checkpoint to make sure that no Palestinian vehicles would go through the opened space. This was an arrangement made by the outside world through the Red Cross – not a return to permanent sanity. Just a negotiated and very temporary relief.

These trucks were to deliver food to Hares, Kifr Hares, Qira and Zeita and over the next two days food would be delivered to 15 villages in the area. The food consisted of rice, flour and sugar and had been donated by Kuwait. This delivery was part of a six month food relief programme.

One truck was unloaded at the Mosque in Hares where a village committee had been set up to make sure that the food went to the hungriest families of the village. Several villagers came up to the Red Cross personnel and begged that they help negotiate with the  soldiers to allow in a truck of chicken feed to their chicken farm. Others came forward hoping that this powerful international organization could help negotiate their legitimate transport access. The Red Cross of course could not help.

Several hours later the trucks had been unloaded and returned empty through the opened roadblock. But as soon as the Red Cross had left the soldiers enforced the closure again and the bulldozer was made to seal the village once more. A gun pointed at him, he had no choice.

The Red Cross came, food was brought, the international conscience was eased for a moment. But the root causes of the hunger –  the military occupation and the blatant disregard of international law – goes on. The irony of the Red Cross coming in under the protection of the Geneva Conventions was not lost on any of the Palestinian villagers, supposedly protected by the very same conventions. Yes they were glad for the food, but they will be hungry again very soon. When you are in prison in most civilized countries you get regular food and certain rights, under the occupation a whole population is sealed in and not allowed to organize its most basic of needs – access to food.

Pictures and text by Angie, IWPS, Hares, Salfit, August 20th 2002.

The Return of the Red Cross

The Village Engages in Nonviolent Resistance

Wednesday 21st August 2002

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After the Red Cross had left early on Monday afternoon the volunteer bulldozer driver had been threatened and humiliated at gunpoint by a soldier waiting to see the road-block go back up. The driver managed to escape without putting the huge boulders back. It is one thing to open a road-block voluntarily but why should he have to put it back and imprison himself and his village once again? Thus it was an easy job to push away the rubble and open the road fully the following afternoon.

The soldiers saw it today and sent the troops in. One jeep blocked the open road to prevent people going in and out. Several families trying to get out of the village were turned back even after they begged to be let out. They were just an ordinary family, completely unthreatening.

Whilst this was going on a curfew was called. Everyone was ordered into their homes – for maybe two or three days it was threatened. Four jeeps full of soldiers with the back doors open and the guns bristling out moved through the streets of the village calling the curfew.  Everyone grabbed their children and scurried inside. When asked why the curfew had been imposed the soldiers said the villagers had been throwing stones. Over the last ten days in the village we have seen no stones being thrown at all. When asked why they were breaking international law by collectively punishing a whole village in this way – there was a pause and then a sheepish ‘it is just politics, I have to obey orders’. When it was pointed out that it would be hard to distribute the Red Cross food if there was a curfew imposed – the soldier just stalked back to his jeep.

Back at the road-block two jeeps and 8 soldiers took over the brave and heroic task of keeping civilians imprisoned in their village.

As the District Liaison Officer (a Druze named Rami)  arrived to supervise his soldiers a flock of terrorists casually wandered through with their shepherd close behind clutching his bundle of straw.

Telephone calls to the Red Cross elicited their arrival – they had been called in to enforce the agreement they had made with the Army that the food convoys were only allowed in on condition that the road-blocks were put back afterwards.

A rather slow negotiation process ensued but with the Red Cross engaged in enforcing the Siege, the Army soon left. The villagers made good use of the opening and got various trucks and cars in and out carrying a variety of goods but the go-slow could not continue too long and within a couple of hours the bulldozer driver was persuaded to put the road–block back again …… but for how long…….

Pictures and text by Angie, IWPS, Hares, Salfit, August 22nd 2002.

Keeping them Down

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The settlement of Ariel is the largest in the West Bank. Last night Sharon paid it a visit. He was in the area checking up on the progress of his policy of annexing (by military order under the spurious ‘security’ excuse) the strategic hill-tops for Israeli settlements. All the traffic on the main ‘settler road’ was stopped, helicopters flew overhead and army jeeps appeared on the other roads. There is an excellent view of the roads from the roof of the IWPS flat, which is useful for monitoring.

An hours walk from Hares is a village called Marda. A lovely village filled with flowers and ancient olive trees but dominated by Ariel settlement on the ridge above. Wherever you go in the village you can see the settlement overhead.

On the edge of the village right by the main ‘settler’ road to Ariel is the Marda Sustainable Development Center. Started in 1993 as a permaculture project it worked in the 23 villages of the Salfit District offering training courses in water management, composting, tree nursery management, organic farming and integrated pest management. It had already put over 11,000 local farmers, 2,000 women and 400 agricultural engineers through short courses and nurtured a beautiful working example of many of their methods that was on show at the site in Marda. Nasfat Al-Khufash walked sadly round the now weed-ridden area pointing out the rusting compost bins, the clogged up irrigation system, and the demonstration of grey-water re-cycling. The building was riddled with bullet holes, had been thoroughly vandalized, with most of the contents stolen. There were a few photo displays still on the walls to show what the project had once looked like.

On the 11th November 2000 settlers burnt the tree nursery and in the following days the intimidation and damage got worse. Soldiers started shooting at anyone they saw working on the land or in the building, settlers entered at night and damaged the equipment and trashed the building. Repairs were made and the project tried to continue with its work. But the shootings became so bad that it was too dangerous to continue and the whole project has come to a standstill. Even protestations from the Australian Government who had provided much of the funding for the project got nowhere. Nasfat looked at the brown withered plants, at the weeds choking the seed and nursery beds, and the pile of stones and rubble that had been dumped at the entrance and explained that it was right on the ‘settler’ road and the Israelis destroyed it because they hated seeing the success of the green oasis where Palestinians were developing methods of farming that bypassed the need for the pesticides and fertilizers produced and sold by Israeli companies.

Pictures and text by Angie, IWPS, Hares, Salfit, August 23rd 2002

“We have conquered territories, but without settlement they have no decisive value…. Settlement – that is the real conquest.”

(David Ben Gurion, 1949)

Excerpts of an Interview with Issa Samandar, President of the Land Defence Committees, Thursday, 27th of August 2002, Ramallah

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recorded by Maren of IWPS-Hares. Additional information taken from PALDIS (The Palestinian Land Development Information System) – LDC (Land Defence Committee) Report July 2002 – Ideological Settlement in the West Bank: Areas of Exclusion Enforced Upon the Palestinian Population.

Q: Can you outline some of the most important features of the Israeli settlement policy?

A: First of all, I want to say that normally settlements and settlers are always put in numbers. Sometimes numbers are good for academic research, but it is better to translate them into real life because sometimes one settler can control thousands of pieces of land, impede the access to water, to land, to all kinds of services to the Palestinians apart from the continuous harassment the Palestinians will be facing. And then, if we talk, for example, about five houses that have been demolished, we have to bear in mind that each demolition involves a family, human beings, each house has a history and that particular night the children need a place to sleep, the family needs a tent – this is real life we are talking about.

The settlement policy has to be looked at from the beginning, from the moment the first waves of settlers came from all over the world and took some land. But the real problem is that the policy is not only one of settling but one of taking somebody else’s land and expelling them. This becomes clear if we look at the continuous settlement expansion.[1]

You remember during the Oslo process? On the television they were smiling, but on the ground people soon began to see what it was really about. Here we hoped that at least one day would pass where we didn’t witness a bulldozer, confiscation of land, demolition of a house[2]. How can you convince a man whose house is demolished that this is peace? People cannot understand the nice words of peace while seeing the opposite on the ground. This is why we say that the first good-intention step must be from Israel. The people will not believe in peace processes as long as they see the bulldozers on their land. Who can understand peace better than the people that are suffering most? This is why we never talk about peace but about ‘just’ peace. Peace is a very nice word but it has been used so badly, it has been a marketing trick.

The agreements between Israelis and Palestinians signed during the Oslo Process have been elaborated without taking into account any Palestinian voice. First, the army decided where it would deploy its forces and made up the maps, then it gave them to the government for ratification and then they passed them on to the settlers and then they gave them to the Knesset. So the Palestinians were never asked about anything. Only at the end of the process were the resolutions given to the Palestinians who were told “This is what we want and you have to implement it”.

Before this Intifada the Israeli governments at least tried to maintain some appearance of legal procedures. They were based on Israeli law or military law. But this period is over, now the settlers and the army can do what they want. In fact, inside the civil administration it is the settlers themselves who are in some of the most important positions. The person responsible for housing licenses is a settler as well as the person responsible for the registration of land. They have become the real planners and organizers. In addition, the IDF now uses what they call ‘military orders’. For example, the villagers of Deir Qaddis, a village close to the Green Line, once had 9000 dunums and are now left with only 1300 and the expropriation of land still goes on. They have three settlements around them. And they will now lose 5000 trees. What have the Israelis done? They have sent them a military order to tell them that they will use 8 dunums of land until 30th of June 2006. What happened was that when they began to work they took 200 dunums and just recently we heard that there are another 900 dunums to be taken and then they will build on it, construct fences and so on. They start, as usual, with one caravan and then they put services like water, electricity, and roads in immediately. The week after, you will find four caravans there, but what is new now is the military order, this is real confiscation of land.

This is the second stage of Sharon’s strategy. After the massacres and the killings, now we see his ground work. They have already succeeded in building important settlements near Jerusalem and the Green Line. And so the big threat is brought now to the areas between Ramallah and Nablus, where they will build a strip that will cut the territory apart. From the news that we have received on the behaviour of the settlers, it is also clear that they want to take the area South of Hebron, too[3].

Another aspect of the settlement question is that the leaders of the settlers have become big businessmen and they are becoming a group of economic and political interest. They have advantages in staying in the settlements because the laws of the settlements are totally different from the laws that apply inside the Green Line and of course the ones that apply to Palestinians[4].

Q: Can you give us some details about the settlement expansion in the Salfit area?

A: Salfit is considered the Governorate of Olives, but the villages in Salfit are becoming more and more isolated, the farmers can’t go out of their villages and the villages lose more land every day. Salfit is next to some of the biggest settlements and now, even in the West, the idea is spreading that if the Israelis accumulate settlement blocks they can claim the area as part of their state. In my opinion, the first deportation will occur in Salfit.

In the 80s the Israeli Army said that they would confiscate 3000 dunums in Kufr Hares, Salfit and Iskaka, because they wanted to create Ariel, that was meant to be the capital of the north. This was part of the Alon plan adopted by the Labour government that suggested putting settlements in good strategic places in the Jordan Valley and on the top of the hills and not in the midst of the Palestinian population. But all this changed when the movement of Gush Emunim, that unites religious and patriotic fringes, became the strongest settlers’ movement after the Likud’s rise to power. They are acting as an extra-parliamentary lobby that can count on the support of at least 55 Knesset Members and which controls almost half of all the settlements[5].

Later, when Sharon elaborated his “Seven Stars-Plan” in 1991 the policies became more radical. The first goal was to separate the communications and relationships between the Palestinians inside and outside of the Green Line. They confiscated another 5000 dunums. In Salfit the people fought very hard. The last big High Court decision was made during the Gulf War whilst a total curfew was imposed on the Palestinian towns and villages which put the High Court in Haifa completely out of reach. The irony is that even when people manage to get to the courts they are being tried within a very hostile legal system. One of the problems we have to face is that we have four legal systems or sets of laws here, the Ottoman law, the British Mandate law, the Jordanian law and the Israeli law and the Israeli court will always apply the most advantageous law for the settlers. And if for some reason the Palestinians who get to the High Court get a favourable judgement, in reality the military court can and does reverse the judgement. So, if we only fight through the courts we will inevitably lose. We have to use other methods like demonstrations or planting trees as well.

In the area, they have suffered continuous confiscations as step-by-step new settlements are being built, making circles around the Palestinian villages. This means that the farmers cannot go to their land as they risk being shot. And in the Salfit area the situation was particularly difficult as it was an experimental area for the new wave of settlements. There were many problems, lots of people in prison. One time, while an old man was dying, a Palestinian collaborator put his finger imprints on a deed saying that he had sold his land and another time they cut a finger of a dead man in order to get the imprint on the deeds. This shows how they wanted to get the land at any cost.

Q: What do you think could be done by local or international groups?

A: I don’t think that one single organization can solve the problem because it is too big, there are millions of dollars put into the settlements. In the Oslo Agreements the settlements were looked at as something easy, they weren’t seen as something growing, in continuous expansion. They just thought that the settlers will move out.

The farmers in the fields next to the settlements are ready to risk and to fight for their right in order to get the harvest done. They only ask a little support, a tank of water, a minimum of organization – that’s what they want: to be organized.

Look at Hebron for example. There were 1500 people expelled from their land in Hebron and there was a big campaign “The new refugees”. The sheep were taken outside the dangerous areas and the farmers slept with the sheep in caves, the army came and demolished everything and put in prison the heads of the families. As soon as the men were released they went back immediately to their lands and slept there. So in the end they got their land back[6]. Unfortunately, now a new military order has been issued and they want to take their land again.

In three to five years, if the settlement activity continues like this the demand for two states will be useless because on the ground it will be impossible to divide the two states. So we should ask what Israel really wants?

Appendix 1

Israeli Settlement Policies

“Settlement Freeze” – June 2001

This agreement between Peres and US Secretary of State Colin Powell approves the subsequent expansion of current settlements by at least 400% and postpones the question of the settlements until final status negotiations. The heart of the text is the Israeli pledge that “no additional land will be expropriated for the purpose of construction”. This, however, looses its significance if we take into account that the amount of land currently under settlement jurisdiction amounts to 2.34 million dunums of which only 96,900 dunums are within built up areas (data released recently by B’Tselem). The clause “for the purpose of construction” affords Israel considerable leeway should it feel the need to confiscate land for military or other purposes (and thereafter be free to re-zone the affected land to residential status). Settlers are already establishing civilian sites on military seized land.

One example is the caravans of the Shilo-Eli settlers adjacent to the antenna erected on Jabal Batn Halawe, north of Sinjil village, Ramallah Governorate. The expropriation was made in early 2001 by the army in order to establish the antenna, but the site’s northern slope is now occupied by a civilian settlement foothold. No additional expropriation order has been issued, nor have any re-zoning procedures taken place.

“Area E (Exclusion)” – the Oslo Process (1995-2001)

Even if the divisions between A, B and C zones have become meaningless after March 2002, the new territorial shaping of the West Bank is already in its formation and follow distinctive patterns which themselves are related to the Oslo II cartography.

The Oslo divisions followed ethnic lines of exclusion and separated the (majority) Jewish/Settler areas (area C) from areas where non-Jews were deemed too numerous and potentially able to exert their rights over infrastructure, natural resources or Jewish-only transport routes (Area B). Only in the tiny urban pockets (Area A) did a minority of Palestinians enjoy some liberties. In Area C, Jewish settlers had exclusive and privileged freedoms, they enjoyed a doubling in their number, vast infrastructure and security boons and became accustomed to a status quo drawn up by themselves and endorsed by their government in the Oslo II Accord of 1995.

The enforcement of the 1995-2001 levels of exclusivity now represents a “withdrawal option” for Israel rather than an unbearable and degrading interim situation. Having re-occupied the remaining territories and been politely invited to “concede” withdrawal to pre-September 2000 lines once it has created an “appropriate partner”, Israel will consider a return to the prior areas of exclusion a major concession and has already maid it clear that this is not an objective even being considered at the present.

Sharon’s “Seven-Stars” Plan – 1991

The then Housing Minister Sharon drew up this plan that intended to break up Arab-Israeli demography and erode the Green Line through the establishment of a string of settlements running along a new “Trans-Israel” highway. In the most part the plan was successful, it led to the development of the large Modi’in and Beit Arye settlement blocs and bound the urban “Shumron bloc” (Salfit-Qalqiliya) sites to high-level communication and industry hubs.

Gush Emunim’s master plan for the West Bank – late 70s

Gush Emunim’s master plan for West Bank settlement was adopted (with very minor amendments) by the Likud government of the late 70s, but the Labour Party had informally approved of the plan even before the Likud (in 1976). During the Likud government, the Land Settlement Department was headed by Matitiyhu Drobles, a Gush associate and the plan he drafted, known as Gush-Drobles plan became the national blueprint for West Bank settlement. It incorporated 59 of the 60 sites Gush Emunim had suggested in their original proposal for a settlement plan.

Appendix 2

Settlement expansion

Some data on the current expansion of the settlements:

· According to Israeli estimations new settlements are presently being erected at a rate of one every 11 days.

· Over the last 18 month at least 45 entirely new settlement sites have been established in the West Bank.

· Mass urban settlement of the “greater Jerusalem”, Gush Etzion and Salfit/Qalqilya (“Shomron” Bloc) areas has been pursued systematically and efficiently by the Israelis and has been praised by much of the international community. The latest approved plans for expansion date to April 2002 when the Israeli authorities passed the request for 350 new apartments and 130 plots for private construction on a surface of 400 dunums. Project that links Elkana ans Sharei Tikva settlements into an even larger urban sprawl over the lands of 4 Salfit and Qalqilya villages.

· The Binyamin Regional Council, in May 2002, announced a campaign to settle 1,000 new families in the new outposts in that area. According to the Council head, Pinchas Wallerstein, “every outpost has a permit from the Defense Ministry or relevant bodies.”

Some data showing the Labour settlement policy and the way Israel undermined the Oslo process through its settlement policies:

· In the single year of Peres’ premiership (1995-96), his government issued 3,942 permits for additional settlement housing.

· Only Ehud Barak’s 3,575 units (over 18 months) rivalled Peres as the undisputed champion of OPT settlement housing in the Oslo period.

· Over the 24 months following the signing of the Declaration of Principles, the Rabin government presided over West Bank confiscations averaging 220 dunums per day and totalling 170 km². Recently prepared statistics show the territory today falling under settlement control to near half the West Bank total area.

In the current context, Gush Emunim settlers and settlement leaders are leading the militarisation of the settlement programme; they have been encouraged and trained by the military to set up a series of armed militias which enforce expanded areas of exclusion upon the Palestinian population in the vicinity of their settlements and bypass roads. This tight level of enforced exclusion, and not the actual number of housing starts or land expropriations is the real measure of the movements impact on the Palestinian population and should be the real point of reference in advocacy aimed at ending Western complicity in furthering the illegal settlement programme.

Appendix 3

Some data on financial aid to the settlements

· The government has recently pledged figures potentially in excess of NIS 500 million to new settlement housing.

· In May 2002, the Knesset Finance Committee put the cost of a single settler unit at NIS 500,000.

· In the first half of 2002, the government authorized a succession of grants and incentives on top of regular settlement funding, prompting one MK to remark: “The poorer the state becomes, the richer the settlements become.” Grants above and beyond regular budget line items include an additional NIS 100 million for “supplementary education programs”, and NIS 74.46 million for Jordan Valley and Golan Heights water, bypass roads and “young people’s grants”.

· The bridge being built to connect the Gush Katif settlements in Gaza is costing an estimated NIS 14million; investment grants for OPT (excl. Jerusalem) businesses have risen 12% since 2000.

· OPT (excl.Jerusalem) housing benefits now cost the Israeli tax payer at least NIS 300 million annually.

· Between 1967 and 1983 Israel invested $500,000 per settler in the West Bank.

Appendix 4

Settlement affiliation and Gush Emunim

Settlements are built through Zionist bodies belonging to political parties or their “youth movements” that provide the “seed” settlers for settlement projects agreed upon by the government and the WZO Land Settlement Division. The movement subsequently follows and supports the development of the site/s and is registered as its “organizational affiliate”, becoming responsible for the running and implementation of government-funded programs – including housing programs and the introduction of welfare/education services.

Settlements generally retain their official organizational affiliation until they reach a size, of around 3,000, entitling them to independent local council funding, where-after they may or may not opt for independent status.

Founded in 1974, Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) today is the biggest settlement movement in the West Bank and has 43% of the settlement sites registered as its affiliates. Originally it grew out of the National Religious Party’s youth movement Bnei Akiva and it represents the messianic Zionism formulated by the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the Mandate Palestine, Rabbi Abraham Yitzak HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) to whom conquering and settling the land with Jews was no mere nationalist aspiration along European lines, but a uniquely Jewish endeavour.

The work of the settlement movements is not limited to the OPT as an important role is played by its branches abroad in Europe and America. The Bnei Akiva centers facilitate and promote Aliyah (immigration) to the OPT through summer/winter camps and 1-2 year programs in Israel and the OPT. The US and Canada Bnei Akiva organisation currently organizes camps in conjunction with the Israeli army, during which North American Zionist Youth “spend five days learning some basics of Tzahal (the Israeli army) … live, eat and sleep in army conditions and become familiar with self-defence techniques, army discipline and rules.”

The success of these kind of activities is underlined by that fact that European and American born Jews made up 94% of all immigrants to the OPT settlements outside Jerusalem during the 90s, with an average of over 2,000 immigrants a year, while Asian (including Jews from ex-UDSSR states) and African immigrants arrived at a declining rate averaging merely 140 a year.

Appendix 5

Some failures

· Gush immigrants from the US and the other main western democracies have played a prominent role in the Gush program, not only through their promotional work within their original community. In December 1993, as a reaction to the Oslo accord, Benny Elon’s Moledet/Gush Emunim pressure group Zu ‘Artzeinu launched “Operation Double” (aimed at doubling the number of settlements through the establishment of one outpost 1km from every existing site). However only a few new outposts were erected and the operation succeeded only in embarrassing the Rabin government.

· Sa Nur is possibly the most remote and unsustainable settlement site in the OPT, lying to the north of Homesh off the road leading through eastern Jenin Governorate on Silat adh Dhahr and Al Fandaqumiya land. YESHA puts its population at 60, the CBS at 52. In January 2002, Ariel Sharon specifically referred to Sa Nur as an “isolated settlement with strategic value” when he reiterated his pledge never to evacuate any sites. However, some 5 months later Israel’s Yediot Aharonot daily reported that the last families had voluntarily left the remote settlement, leaving only a handful of “hard-core” bachelors.

[1] See the notes on Settlement policies in Appendix 1.

[2] See the notes on Settlement expansion during the Oslo process in Appendix 2.

[3] For more information on the current expansion of the settlements see Appendix 2.

[4] About the financial support the settlements receive see Appendix 3.

[5] About Gush Gemunim and the settlement affiliations see Appendix 4.

[6] In Appendix 5 there are a few other examples of failed settlement projects.

Ta’ayush Tries to Break the Siege Saturday 24th August 2002

Report 6

The city of Nablus has witnessed in the last months a great number of war crimes as part of the Israeli strategy of collective punishment: killings of civilians, demolition of houses, mass arrests and a prolonged curfew that has now lasted for over 2 months. All these actions are against the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

In addition to the fear and to being locked up inside the houses, a continuous curfew means a complete stop to life. All movement is prohibited, receiving medical treatment is difficult, there is no provision of medications and it is not possible to renew food supplies. This has impossed on the Palestinian population not only grave psychological traumas but has even led to the first cases of hepatitis among the children of Nablus, left without proper treatment due to the cessation of medical supplies due to the curfew.

Responding to calls from within Nablus asking for baby food and basic food-stuffs, Ta’ayush organized, in cooperation with local Palestinian groups and the ISM, a demonstration that was aimed at bringing humanitarian aid to the city and to break at least symbolically for a few hours the curfew. The peaceful convoy of Ta’ayush that started from Kufr Qasem inside the Green Line was meant to be joined by a march organized by Palestinian groups in Huwwara and, in the end, to meet up with the Internationals coming from inside Nablus.

However, on Saturday 25th August, the IDF was determined not to let this demonstration take place and tried to prevent the Israeli pacifists and the humanitarian aid they were carrying from entering Nablus.

The Internationals inside the city were stopped at the check-point and refused an exit whilst being told that, if they got out, it was better like this “since we want to clear Nablus of all international presence”. A statement that makes one worry about the intentions of the Israeli forces in the next future…

The Ta’ayush convoy of approximately 400 pacifists, that had left Kufr Qasem at 12 a.m., was blocked at the Zatara Junction, some 10km from Nablus. The peace activists, however, couldn’t be stopped and continued by getting out of their buses and walking.

Meanwhile at Huwwara, a village near Nablus, where roughly 200 Palestinians together with around 30 Internationals from the ISM and us two women from the IWPS (Maren and Angie) had gathered, the soldiers tried to scatter the demonstration as soon as it had started with teargas and sound bombs. Locals told us that it was just because of our presence that the IDF did not use live bullets against the protest march. For half an hour the demonstrators tried to hold the street in spite of the heavy teargas, the continuous sound bombs and the army jeeps threatening to roll over the people. No negotiation was possible. The curfew was called out a few minutes after the demonstration had started. “It is forbidden to be on the streets. We don’t want you here. Go home!” were the slogans repeated by the army megaphones in Arabic and also in English for the internationals benefit. Nobody went home – unfortunately not even the IDF – but eventually the Ta’ayush march reached Huwwara at around 3p.m. and the two groups were able to welcome each other. With the presence of the Israeli activists the tension suddenly soothed, the aggressiveness and hatred that soldiers had showed a few minutes before in front of the Palestinian population turned to smiles among the Israeli pacifists.

Even so a show of force was obviously thought necessary and around 7 tanks trooped past with loads of jeeps of soldiers. They positioned themselves in the road just a few metres from the demonstration and the Israeli organisers decided that enough was enough. The food and medicine could probably be smuggled into Nablus one way or another and everyone wanted to live to fight another day. After a few speeches the Ta’ayush coaches were allowed to come through to pick up the activists and take them back over the Green line to return to their comfortable lives. The Palestinians were left to deal with a continuing occupation but with a warmth in their heart left by meeting with their partners in peace from over the line.

One Israeli woman said she had been so pleased to walk into Huwara, to go into a house, meet a Palestinian woman and give her toys for her children. This was what working for peace was all about – reaching out – making contact.

After the peaceful action was over the IDF arrested two young Palestinians who were not fast enough to disappear from their own streets when the curfew was re-imposed by the Israeli soldiers once more.

Text and pictures – Maren and Angie, IWPS.


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Who is terrorising who?

Report 7

On Sunday 25th August 2002 around 50 army vehicles including tanks and armed personnel vehicles entered the small town of Salfit in the Nablus region. Apache helicopters flew overhead. Soldiers started shooting and a curfew was imposed. At the same time a leaflet, in Arabic, was distributed in the streets of Salfit. This is what it said:-

Important Message to the Palestinian Citizens

At the moment the IDF soldiers are carrying out some missions in the area that aim to prevent terrorists from executing their cruel killings and from shedding innocent blood.

You have to know that anybody who helps or is associated in any way with these terrorists will have to pay a high prize.

You have to know that the demolition of the houses of the terrorists and the deportation to the Gaza strip of the members of their families that have helped them to carry out their attacks is just one of the measures the IDF takes against everyone that is in any way involved in the armed struggle.

You have to know that the difficult circumstances you and your family are living in are a result of the armed struggle carried out in your area.

Stop and think!

Your fate and the fate of the members of your family are in your hands.

You have to know that the killings and the bloodshed of innocent victims has had bad consequences for the whole Palestinian society and that the support and the association with those who are carrying out the armed struggle will destroy any hope for you and your family to live in respect, security and safety.

In order to save your life and those of your family and not to endanger your property, do not support or associate with those who are carrying out the armed struggle.

The Commander of the IDF in Judea and Samaria

Leaflets like this have been given to the population in other Palestinian towns and refugee camps (for example in Jenin and Ramallah) in order to discourage and divide the society and to weaken the determination of the population to continue to assert their rights. The Israelis conveniently ignore the fact that every occupied people have a right to self-defence. They also conveniently ignore the international conventions that prohibit collective punishment. Maybe deeper psychological forces are at work – these leaflets may be more for the Israeli soldiers than the Palestinians – a way of justifying the unjustifiable – trying to put the blame on the victims of terror rather than questioning their own actions of taking tanks right into the centre of civilian housing and terrorising the population.

While these leaflets were dropped onto the streets at the doorsteps of many houses, other soldiers arrested 6 young men from families in Salfit and 2 other young men, originally from Gaza, that are residing in the town. The following day IWPS was shown some of the houses that had been raided, saw the bullet marks and broken windows, were shown the routes the tanks had taken.

We visited a family where one of the youngsters had been arrested in his house. We got to know him a few weeks ago when his family granted us hospitality in their house overnight. He is still attending the secondary school and during the evening we spent with his family this presumed “terrorist” was heavily attacked by his father, active member of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, for his lack of political awareness.

We were told that these arrests[1] are only the latest in a wave of arrests that seem to go on for ever. They are seen as part of a systematic strategy of terrorizing Palestinians – so that no-one feels safe even when keeping the curfew, in their own homes. The military laws that govern the occupied territories are in flagrant breach of international law and enable Palestinian detainees to be held incommunicado without access to lawyers for 21 days and even this unacceptable delay is often extended. Some families cannot find out where their relatives have been taken for months. Amnesty International have recorded many instances of Palestinians being held incommunicado for long periods of time and have stated that this time ‘provides the opportunity for torture or other ill-treatment[2]’. With the experience of thousands of their young men[3] having been rounded up and put into prison in the last couple of years and with no area in Palestine having escaped this abuse of human rights, no mother or father can be sure that it will not be their child who will be the next to disappear.

The worry and tension were evident in the tear haggard face of the mother as she worried about where he was and how long he would be held, and if he was being tortured at that very moment.

In such circumstances, the distribution of the Israeli leaflets was greeted with ironic laughter. Who are the real terrorists around here? Unarmed boys in their homes or the soldiers in their tanks keeping Palestinians off their lands while Israeli settlers continue to steal their land and build more settlements on it. If peace doesn’t come soon, if the international community does not immediately pressure Israel to respect International law, there will be no Palestinian land left for a Palestinian state to be built upon – it will have ‘disappeared’ like the Palestinian boys.

Written by Angie and Maren, IWPS. Report 7.

[1] Of those arrested on 25/8/02, 2 were released leaving 6 young men still in custody. These are:-Amar Khalil, Ahmad Abdul Alraos, Abdul Alltis Zghlol, Rami Ishtyh, Hani Ishtyh, and Ali Harim.

[2] ‘Broken Lives – a year of intifada – Israel/Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority’, Amnesty International, 2001, p55.

[3] 15,000 Palestinians have been arrested by the Israelis since September 28th 2000. There were 5,000 in detention at the beginning of August 2002 (10% children under 18).

The Consequences of being Wanted

Report 8

We hear of the constant risk of arrest for being on the roads, out of the villages, trying to carry on with life. On August 10th 2002 Jamal Ahmad Abdul Rahman Al Ahmad was arrested whilst traveling in a service car. The car was stopped on the road near Zatara by a police patrol. Everyone in the van was asked to get out and show their IDs – ten minutes later Jamal was told he was ‘wanted’ and was taken away. His family had no idea where he was taken nor why – this has happened several times in the past – each time he becomes more ‘wanted’ because his police file gets longer but he has done nothing and is eventually released – so far. He was finally tracked down as being in a civil prison with Israeli criminals – rather than in a military prison. Friends and family found him a lawyer and got him before a Judge and some kind of deal was done whereby if 5,000 shekels were paid then he would be released. But with the curfews, checkpoints and risks of arrest few Palestinians would risk travelling to the South of the West Bank from here in the North, walk into one of the most virulently anti-Palestinian settlements, find their way to the prison and negotiate his release.

IWPS was therefore called late on 31st August 2002 and asked to travel to Kiryat Arba to help secure Jamal’s release. The next morning, at 9.30 am various relatives of the ‘prisoner’ arrived, drank coffee and were introduced. They told me his story, his ID number and date of birth, the 5,000 shekels and asked me to collect the paper from the prison, pay the money into a Post Office, collect Jamal and bring him home.

An Israeli number-plated van drove me quickly and safely all the way into Kiryat Arba – the journey took under 2 hours. We entered the settlement with no checks and found the police station where I was able to find a friendly police woman to show me where the prison was. I was informed that Jamal was not there. I insisted that he was and eventually they ‘found’ him and gave me the required piece of paper, which I had to take to the Post Office, which had just closed. The hired taxi driver and his friend drove back to Jerusalem to the main Israeli Post Office in Jaffa Street, the money was paid in, the document stamped and we headed back to the settlement.

This time we were not quite so lucky. The check-point on the main ‘settler road’ just by the blocked entrance-road to the village of Beit Ummar was closed to all Palestinians. After a half-hour of asking to speak to the Officer in charge and then his boss by phone, I managed to persuade the soldiers to let me through at least and to get a settler to take me and drop me at the Kiryat Arbor police station. One step at a time – how to leave the settlement safely could be worked out later!

Behind the barred doors, they gave Jamal back his belt and shoes and he was soon released. The relief was obvious. He showed me the marks on his ankles where the shackles had bit into him. He told how he had been hand-cuffed for 6 of the 21 days he had been kept. We were shown out of the settlement on the Palestinian side of Hebron and friendly, sympathetic locals told us how to get back to Beit Ummar where we found our patient drivers awaiting. On reaching home Jamal’s little daughter of around 4 was delighted – the rest of the family gathered to greet us all.

[Written by Angie 1/9/02]

Land and Water Theft in Falame and Jayus

Report 9

We were invited to visit the villages of Jayus and Falame, in the Qalqiliya district about 30 minutes drive from Hares,  to view the site of one of the latest proposed Israeli land takeovers. Husam, the Mayor of Hares, took us to visit the Mayors of both villages and some of the farmers. He was deeply concerned because the majority of the fruit and vegetable that feed Hares come from these farmers’ lands. The picture above shows the rich, flat land covered in greenhouses and vegetable plots.

Although there have been rumors for over a year now, in connection with the proposed building of the “wall”, it was not until last week that the villagers woke up to discover a plastic shopping bag full of leaflets and maps hanging from a tree in the center, announcing that, indeed, great tracts of their land will be absorbed into the area of the settlement on the other side of the valley when the wall is built. From the maps given, it seems that the wall – or its security “no mans land” zone at least – will run approximately 200 meters from the edge of their village, effectively cutting them  off from their agricultural land and just as crucially, two major and several smaller wells, which provide drinking water for the villages as well as for irrigation. Here is one such pumping station that provides irrigation. When the land has been taken the Palestinian villagers will lose around 70% of their water resources.

The land of these villages includes some of the richest and most productive in the whole of the West Bank, providing 40% of the fruit and vegetables consumed and employment for over 15,000 people. For these same reasons, this area is of prime strategic importance to the Israeli re-occupation and take-over project. The Mayors we met feared that around 80,000 dunams would be stolen from them and spoke of a 6 kilometer stretch of land from the Green Line to the Wall which would form the New Line.

A rough translation of the handwritten leaflet shown to us by the Mayor of Jayus follows. A Hod is an area bloc from the British Mandate Maps that help to locate the exact land areas referred to.

Military Order of the Israeli Defense Forces.

As a leader of the Israeli’s armed forces I have a right to take the land as it is of military necessity because of the serious security situation which we have experienced in this area, and because we need to take steps to stop the terrorist operations. Therefore, I have given these orders. Included with this order is a map on the scale of 1:2000 which shows a part of the overall plan. The land has an area of approximately 293 dunams, the length of it is 4300 meters and the width is between 52 and 85 meters and it is marked with a red line on the map provided. The land which we will take over is in the villages of:

Falame:- Hod no. 5 called Karm Kubir Wahalit

Hod no. 4 called EL Ikraeni and Hareket Jabr

Hod no. 3 called Maruuj Bweifa

Jayyus:- Hod no. 2 called Swaleh, Ard Awwad, Marj Abu Bakr, Salfed Dibbis, Safhet Al Mentav, Hafaret Jameel, Al Weekat, Al Karm Al Kated, Halet Sufim.

The IDF Second in Command announces with this paper to put military authority on this land which we have decided is a military necessity.

In speaking with representatives from these villages, we were told that officially the villagers whose land is to be taken have the right to go to Kdumim settlement and receive compensation. None of the land-owners, however, is interested in selling, they want to keep their land and the livelihood it provides. Moreover, large tracts of land not officially expropriated will be inaccessible once the wall is built – there is no compensation offered for that. Secondly, we heard that the villages were instructed that they had until Wednesday 4th September (which was less than a week away at that time) to file an official complaint with the Israeli High Court. This of course did not give them nearly enough time to assemble all the relevant title documents, appoint a lawyer and file an effective, thorough and detailed complaint at the Court, especially as assembling the documents involves going to the various local settlements and military command posts in the region and at this time, because of the closures, roadblocks and curfews it is extremely dangerous and difficult for Palestinians to move around.

Some kind of official legal complaint has been lodged apparently, and this should supposedly mean that the Army cannot proceed with erecting barricades and destroying agricultural crops and buildings until a court decision has been made. The locals we talked to were very pessimistic as in a recent similar case in Tulkarem Governate the Court had ruled in favor of the Army. Moreover, while in Falame we visited and interviewed Zaher Roha Abdul Khadi Jumaar who told us that over a week ago he was shot at while tending his tomato crops. It is unclear in what respect the Army felt that Zaher represented a security risk, or whether their attack on him was related to the new order detailed above or whether it was more simply the latest in a series of random shootings that occur from time to time during the Army’s regular tank patrols of the area. We were told that tanks regularly come onto the farming lands ordering people to get off the land, crushing water pipes and frightening people away.

The villagers we spoke to told us that they expect the Army to come today (the 9th Sept) to begin to demarcate the territory. They have already begun to erect concrete survey markers, approximately 1 km apart, along the whole length of the proposed wall site in the region, which stretch from Kafr Thult and Qalqilia in the South to Jenin in the North. However, no one is sure if and when the Army will come as they are very used by now to the Army’s tactic of arranging a meeting time and place, and then actually coming at a completely different time and later claiming that they found no significant delegation from the Palestinian side, and take this to mean that the Palestinians have no serious objection.

This happened two weeks ago in Jayus, the Army commanders made an appointment to come at 10:00 and did not in fact turn up until 14:00, by which time most people had left assuming that they were not coming that day. Tired of being able to do nothing except wait for Israeli action and then try to react to it, the villagers of this region have decided to hold a series of pre-emptive silent demonstrations each Friday, one by one at each of the affected villages. Last Friday a silent protest was held in Falame and some internationals from Nablus came and joined. This Friday’s demonstration is due to be held in Kufr Jamal, Claire and Angie from IWPS plan to attend and are contacting international and Israeli peace activists, as well as journalists, to invite them also to join.

We were told by a local farmer that Falame without land would make them refugees. They spoke of the fact that there were no gates planned in these walls and that they had been told that anyone within half a kilometer of the wall would be shot and that all the land the other side of the wall would be taken as it would be enclosed and controlled by the Israelis. The towns and villages affected so far are:- Kufr Thilt, Kufr Zibad, Kufr Sur, Kufr Abush, Kufr Jamal, Qalqilya, Jayus, and Falame. But similar military notices are being given to other villages each day[1].

These new Israeli measures are a part of the settlement and land confiscation activities
committed by Israeli Occupying Forces in grave violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, especially the 1949 IV Geneva Convention. The international community has a responsibility, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the IV Geneva Convention, to meet its legal obligation and to intervene to stop the ongoing violations committed by Israeli Occupying Forces. They must not be fooled by the ‘big lie’ that the Palestinian farmers are ‘terrorists’ – these activities are quite obviously land and water theft on a grand scale. [Written by Claire and Angie, Pics by Angie, 9/9/02]

[1] ARIJ are collecting information and IWPS shall be helping them in the field. The information is not all verified yet but provides a beginning for our investigation. They have had information from the following 13 villages who report military confiscation orders -Umm El Rihan; Nazlit Sheikh Zaid; Tura El Gharbyia; Qaffin; Zeita; Faro’un; Falamah; Habla; Kh. Ras El tira; and Kh. Mughr Al dabi'; Kh. El Mudawar; Sannirrya; and from Azzun El. A’attma. Please see the following website http://www.poica.org/casestudies/security-zones/index.htm


Collecting the Fruits of the Land. Report 10

It was Sunday morning and Diet and Maren of IWPS were at the road block that closes the road access to Hares village witnessing how the soldiers were stopping all the villagers who wanted to go out of the village in order to reach their work, see their friends, or do their shopping. All bags were searched and the men had to lift their shirts in front of the soldiers to show they were not carrying belts with explosives. The usual humiliations and harassment. Two Palestinian women came up to the IWPS Team Members and asked if they would accompany them to their fields where their figs are overdue to be picked. They explained that they had tried to reach their fields three times recently but the Security Guards on the gates at the entrance to Ariel Settlement had fired at them, frightening them away and thus preventing them from accessing their land.

Diet and Maren were taken to the women’s house and heard the whole story. Their land, next to Ariel, had been ‘claimed’ for ‘security reasons’ but the farmers had tried to defend it. As in many other areas, these farmers organized a permanent presence on the endangered lands and camped on it. But, as one of the elders told them, at a certain point they threatened us in every way and it became too risky to stay during the night. So, as the sunset came, everybody left. The morning after there was a fence around the whole area. It was cultivated, fertile land full of fig and olive trees. The access to the land was denied to the owners but the Israeli officers promised the farmers that they would be let in if they were able to obtain a special permission. These farmers of Hares therefore went through the whole bureaucratic process, going to the right offices to get the required documents) and finally received the permission. Most of these offices are located inside the Green Line or inside the settlements, for instance the landownership documents are kept inside Kdumin Settlement, and it takes a great deal of courage and perseverance to get them. However, even after all this effort, nothing changed. Just attempting to walk up to their land by the borders of Ariel led to the guards at the entrance of the settlement starting to shoot at them. It had been five months now since these Palestinian women had been able to go to their fields and the farmers feared not only for their harvest but for the implementation of the Israeli legislation that declares that land that has not been cultivated for three years can be “legallyconfiscated to become State Land .

The members of the family that had contacted IWPS were sure that we would be able to help them to speak with the head of the police in Ariel and to convince him to give them the permission to enter their fields. Without much hope that our presence would suffice to obtain access to the land, we went off to try our best .

In fact, as soon as we got close to the gate of Ariel the guards started shouting, pointing their guns and firing some bullets in the air. The Palestinians had to stop while we continued towards the pointed machine guns. We insisted that we wanted to talk to the head of the police in Ariel . After a while some guards came, insulted the farmers and pushed them away while we were told that we had to wait a long way away – out of their sight – until the head of the police came. We went off and waited until, to our surprise, the head of the police came and, who knows why, granted us access to the land. By this time it was already late afternoon, but the joy and enthusiasm of the family, once more on their land, helped everyone to get most of the harvesting done before dark.

This little success however, was bitter/sweet as no-one could forget that this particular “concession” would not guarantee that they would be able to go to their land in the future. And indeed, the next week-end, whilst IWPS were away working in Ramallah and Jerusalem, these farmers were threatened and turned away once more. IWPS is now discussing further action. [Written by Maren and Angie, Pics Maren, 12/9/02]

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Palestinian Prayer for Justice – Friday 13th September 2002

IWPS Report 11

Three hundred Palestinian villagers held a peaceful demonstration at a tomato and cucumber farm on Friday in an area of rich agricultural lands slated by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) for immediate seizure and destruction as part of its ‘walling in’ project. Despite risking military arrest simply for attending, farmers from villages in the Tulkarem and Qalqilya regions of the Israeli occupied West Bank – all of which have lands that are similarly threatened – gathered in peace to pray, perhaps for the last time, before the bulldozers waiting at the settlement overlooking the valley begin their work. Friday’s demonstration was the second such event organized by villagers from the region since they were informed by the Israeli military of the planned seizures. Talking to journalists from Canada Channel 2, Al Jazeera and Ha’Aretz the mayors of each village compared the aerial maps and handwritten photocopied notices that were all they had been given by the Israeli Army in way of notice, and lamented the fact that, in many cases, the week they had been given to make an official complaint happened to coincide with an Israeli public holiday.

If you piece together the haphazard photocopies of lands to be seized, and add to that the effect of a 500 meter wide ‘military exclusion zone’ stretching away from the wall in to remaining Palestinian territory, the picture that emerges is that local Palestinians are facing the loss of nearly all of the region’s 37 water wells along with over 80,000 dunams[1] of fertile farmland. And that figure is not even counting the (also) Palestinian territory between the other side of the wall and the Green Line, a distance of up to 6 kilometres in places. Although the IOF claims that gates in the wall will be provided, none have been specified on any of the maps, and in any case, Palestinian farmers wanting to reach those lands will have to get an access permit from one of the nearby Israeli residential settlements in order not to risk being shot at for entering the 500 meter ‘no man’s land’. In the name of unspecified and vague “necessary security measures”, the IOF are in the process of capturing (conveniently) one of the most important agricultural areas in the whole of the Palestinian territories, which provides the West Bank with 40% of its fruit and vegetables[2]. Meanwhile, with roadblocks across the entrance to nearly all the Palestinian villages in the region, the only trucks bringing fresh food to the territories on the normal roads are those delivering highly priced food from Israel, or in some cases produced in other Israeli settlements on land seized previously ‘for security reasons.’

In spite of the travel restrictions on Palestinians from the West Bank, the cost of a lawyer with a license to practice in Israeli courts and the short time allowed between their official notification of the seizure and the last date on which they can file an official complaint, Omar Sabhar, General Director, Ministry of Local Government in the Qalqilia District, Palestinian National Authority, 059-837-606/09-294-2989, told the IWPS that the mayors of many villagers still planned to try to get to court. Even those who have appointed a lawyer do not however harbor expectations of success, particularly as demarcation work, and some bulldozing has already gone ahead in Beit Amin, the site of Friday’s demonstration. Some villages believe that it is outright hopeless, they have experienced this before, in cases of previous seizure to build the residential settlements that now ring the area.

IWPS collected quite a few of the handwritten notes and maps that had been given to the villages and took digital photos of them. General Keflinsky had signed them. They are passing this information onto ARIJ in Bethlehem who intend to try to collate the information and superimpose it onto satellite pictures of the area so that everyone will be able to see the overall Israeli colonization plan. IWPS has been asked to travel to the villages to mark on the satellite maps the positions of markers and work that has already begun.

The red painted demarcation lines the IOF had drawn down the side of the greenhouses could be seen plainly at the site. These lines indicate the future position of the ‘wall’. Other red paint marks were on stones, rocks and buildings. Trees on the ‘line’ were marked with red plastic markers. A special area had already been cleared on the hillside nearby and two bulldozers were ready waiting with other equipment alongside the newly erected work-sheds. The farmers expected the imminent destruction of their greenhouses. Meanwhile, whether in futile defiance or out of love, they continue to tend and water their crops. As one man put it, ‘if you had a child that you know was going to die, you’d still give her water if she was thirsty.’

There was a great deal of anger, confusion and depression about the confiscations. Everyone knew it was nothing to do with ‘security’ but everything to do with ‘creating new facts on the ground’ i.e. taking more land for settlement expansion to make it much more difficult for the Palestinians to claim it as their own. No doubt the Israeli Authorities hope that after a few years the international community will ‘forget’ it was once Palestinian. A quiet spoken Palestinian addressed a sermon to the waiting crowd and then the call to prayer was answered in a moving demonstration of faith and nonviolent resistance.

After the prayer the farmers walked, with journalists in tow, to the neighboring community of Izbet Salman. As we climbed the hills we had an extensive view of the fertile valley which includes the Western Aquifer Area which supplies the primary irrigation and drinking water for the surrounding population. The region’s economy
is dependent on these wells and family farms, which have been under cultivation for generations.

As we walked into the village of Beit Amin we were shown ten houses which would be demolished for this ‘security’ wall.  While just down the road the illegal settlement of Sha’arei Tikva, inside its’ wire fences seemed to look out unconcernedly at the tragedy being played out upon its nearest ‘neighbours’.  How aware are its inhabitants that this is all being done in their name? – that they will reap the harvest of this theft?

Palestinian farmers stated that their only hope for holding onto their land is through international condemnation of the Israeli seizures. Please fax, call, email or write to the Israeli Embassy in your country to express your outrage at this callous dispossession of the Palestinians and send copies of your complaints to the press. [Written by Claire and Angie, Pics by Angie, 14/9/02]

[1] One dunam is approximately a quarter of an acre

[2] See IWPS Report 10

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The Right to an Education.

IWPS Report 12. September 19th 2002

“We want to learn, we want to learn, we want to learn” was the chant of kids between the ages of 6 and 11 as they defied the curfew in Nablus along with their teachers on Thursday morning. They bravely marched up the deserted street after a night of shooting and shelling, which had damaged another part of the Old City and left everyone sleepless with fear. They were proudly holding placards they had obviously made themselves – “We are locked up at home – no play, no education”, “90 days under continual arrest, does anyone care”, “Collective punishment is no solution”, “Israeli soldiers, born to kill”, “Human Rights, is there a place for Palestinian children in your dictionary?”, “You cannot occupy our minds”, “UN what are you waiting for”, “Freedom of movement is a right”, “Open our schools, we want to learn”.

It was a short demonstration, but it dispelled some of the desperate feelings of despair and hopelessness that many kids are now feeling at the constant military presence enforcing an inhumane curfew. Although some of the schools in Nablus are managing to organize the children and teachers in ‘safe’ houses, where the kids creep in, dodging the jeeps and soldiers, to try and catch up on a few lessons nevertheless the vast majority of school children suffer alone and in silence.

The Nablus area has been under curfew for eight months, with residents being allowed to leave their homes for an average of 4 hours per week. The lifting of the curfew is erratic and unpredictable. On the first day of the new school term (August 31), curfew was lifted and children could attend their lessons. Curfew has since been re-imposed and children cannot now go to school. The unpredictable and random application of this ‘collective punishment’ is particularly stressful. Children are also affected by the massive process of impoverishment which is a result of the continuous curfew. There is a massive increase in psychological problems due to the constant state of insecurity and the atrocities the children are forced to witness. For instance, on April 2002 400 tanks and 25,000 soldiers occupied Nablus, killing 87 people within four days and shelling the Old City by F-16s to break the strong Palestinian resistance in the Nablus area.

However, Nablus children are not the only ones suffering:-

  • The Israeli army is attacking children all over the West Bank on their way to school, terrorizing, shooting and tear-gassing them. Three students were killed on their way home after buying items for the new school year (a pair of trousers, school bag) by Apache-fired missiles in Tubas.
  • Seven Palestinian schools have been closed by the Israeli Army.
  • 197 schools have been damaged by Israeli shelling and invasions.
  • 3 schools in Hebron have been overtaken and turned into military posts.
  • 25 other schools have been used as detention centers. 
  • During the Israeli reoccupation of all Palestinian areas, which started in late March and still remains in force today, 1289 schools were closed for three consecutive weeks.
  • Based on 28th July 2002 figures: 216 students were killed, 2514 injured and 164 arrested.
  • Teachers and employees were also targeted, with 17 killed and 71 arrested.

The problem of access to education must be put into the overall context of the humanitarian crisis resulting from the Israeli military occupation. Malnutrition rates of Palestinian children have skyrocketed in the past year, with a recent USAID study discovering that 13.2% of Palestinian children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition and 1/5 of children are suffering from anemia.  There’s plenty of food to be bought, but the problem is that the Israeli military bans its transport to the hungry people, or there is lockdown so people cannot leave their homes to get it.  And many times, the family is driven to such poverty from the occupation, that they cannot afford to buy the basic food to ensure proper nutrition for their children.  Thus the physical development of the bodies of these children suffers from poor diet as well as lack of exercise from being forced in their homes for extended periods.  Note as well that 22% of all the recent Palestinian fatalities are children – in other words between September 2000 – 2002, 412 Palestinian children were killed. The March 2002 UNICEF figures estimate the number of Palestinian children injured to be around 7000, with about 500 children being permanently disabled. [Written by Angie, 21/9/02]

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Oiling the Wounds

IWPS Report 14. September 19th 2002

Poverty, malnutrition and mistrust are now grave problems in Palestine due to the throttling of all normal life by the Israeli Forces in the Occupied Territories. Which is why it was such a pleasure to accompany Abu Rabia and Rabi Arik Asherman to Nablus on Thursday.

The project was a great example of trust across the Palestinian, Israeli and international divide showing how good people on all sides can co-operate and work together to alleviate some of the problems of the Israeli Military Occupation. The oil delivery had been planned for some time but due to the curfews and delays in getting a truck had been postponed several times. However, finally a truck did arrive and Abu Rabia and I traveled to a home in Hares where we collected some tanakays of olive oil from the last season. We went on to Kifl Hares, Deir Istya and then to Marda. The oil had been collected and bought from amongst the poorer families in the various villages, helping them economically. It was bought with money raised by Ta’ayush. When the truck was full with 150 tanakays – a tanakay is a plastic jerry can containing around 16 kilos of oil – we traveled to the Huwara Checkpoint with Arik who helped us through and then left us.

We traveled with no problems to a storage depot and unloaded 100 of the tanakays to a local benevolent committee who had agreed to decant the oil into bottles and distribute it free of charge to the poorest families in the Old City, who had suffered curfews for 8 months. There was a curfew on this day too and the streets were eerily empty with just a few brave (or foolhardy) folk risking it.

We then started making our way out to Askar Refugee Camp where we were to deliver the last 50 tanakays. We approached the beginning of Amman Street and were by the green domed mosque called Masjid Ottman Ben Affan when we were stopped by soldiers screaming at us and waving their guns, saying there was a curfew, to go back. A huge tank dominated the cross-roads where this temporary check-point had been set up. We showed our IDs and the permit papers that gave us permission to deliver the oil and Abu Rabia and the driver were questioned and their IDs taken away to be further checked. We joined the queue of other vehicles breaking the curfew – not knowing how long we would have to wait. They were mainly emergency and humanitarian vehicles – ambulances, UN and Red Cross vehicles – all clearly marked. There was even an ambulance which had ‘St.Luke’s Hospital – Donated by the British Government’ printed on its side. All of the drivers of these vehicles were harassed and made to wait for around an hour in the hot sun while their patients pleaded to be let through.

I started taking pictures and asking the soldiers why they were delaying the ambulances. They told me to stop taking pictures – didn’t I know what had happened in Tel Aviv today? I asked what that had to do with them not permitting ambulances to get through? Suddenly the tank began to churn down the street, threateningly pointing its gun barrel at a small car filled with two women in the front and 5 young children under 8 in the back. The woman driver began to scream as the tank got closer and closer aiming its barrel at the car window, towering above it. We all thought it was going to run over the car, a not uncommon occurrence. Several of us ran towards the tank, shouting at the soldier driving it to stop. The terrified screaming of the woman made the soldier stop within inches of the car. By this time the woman was crying and I had my arm around her through the open window of the car and we were all weeping – I said I would stay with her – other bystanders in the cars with their windows were all looking shocked. After a few tense minutes the tank edged away back up the hill and we were filled with relief and then anger.

I spoke to a Red Cross official and asked him why his organization was not doing more to stop the blatant breaches of the Geneva Conventions that were occurring each day, couldn’t he put some pressure on to get the ambulances through?

Another half-hour passed and suddenly we were told that our driver had to go to the police station for further questioning. Abu Rabia and I of course accompanied him in the truck that was led by a police van. A few minutes up the road and out of sight we were motioned to stop and suddenly our driver got his ID back and we were free to move again. It was as if they were just playing games with us. Next stop was Askar where we offloaded our remaining oil. We had succeeded.

We returned to Hares without further incidents only to find that Arik on his way home had passed Hares and found Claire, Mariam and Joan confronting some more soldiers who had been shooting into the home of our friend Abu Fadi. The women had all been arrested for their human rights monitoring work[1]. Obviously there are some Israeli soldiers that do not like to be photographed whilst they do their ‘work’. [Written by Angie, 21/9/02]

Death and Life under the Israeli Occupation

IWPS Report 14. September 21st 2002

An old and respected man in his mid-80’s died yesterday in hospital. His body was being brought back to the village for burial. IWPS was invited to witness how the Occupation affects every aspect of village life and culture.

The men gathered around the Israeli piles of rubbish and stones, blocking the entrance to the village. Everyone was hoping that the Israeli soldiers would not appear and create more trouble just at this particular time.

Luckily the ambulance arrived promptly and the men lifted their dead friend onto the stretcher and carried it over the roadblock and into the waiting car.

The men then took the body to the house of the relatives where many men of the village gathered to pay their last respects. The women gathering in another courtyard nearby.

Meanwhile, the harassment by Israeli soldiers continued randomly in other parts of the village and on the roads around the village.

At around 3.45p.m.for instance the women in the IWPS House (Team Member Angie and a supporter, Shelley, from the Israeli Peace Movement) smelt tear gas coming through the windows and Rabia came up to say there was gas being shot into the Hadjes (roadblock) area. Angie and Shelly went there and quietly made themselves obvious to the soldiers, with cameras and notebooks. Shelley went up to them after a while and asked them why they were throwing tear gas – they said they had had stones thrown at them. They left soon after our arrival.

However, when we questioned our friend, Abu Fadi, who lives right by the Hadjes we were told that the gas was fired without provocation. No stones had been thrown as far as he was aware. There were some young boys under the trees but they were not throwing stones. We were shown two gas canisters on the ground under the trees by an older brother of Abu Fadi’s where the taxi men wait and another 2 in Abu Fadi’s garden and Abu Fadi also told us one was fired on to his roof – he said around 4 or 5 had been fired in all. Abu Fadi said he now had a headache from the gas.

He said they were very vulnerable and got a lot of gas, sound bombs and shots fired into their garden. He told us again of the young boy who had been shot by soldiers just under those very same trees where boys and men still gathered in the shade. He had shown us previously his collection of sound and gas canisters picked up from around his house. He now had a few more to add to them.  He introduced us to his brothers and their families who live in the neighbouring houses and indicated which children were frightened of the soldiers, which had nightmares every night of the soldiers, and more stories came pouring out of the damage the soldiers had done to his land (cutting down hundreds of his olive trees that were on the edge of the road, the damage to the stone walls in his garden, to his house, to his peace of mind, the deaths and woundings he had witnessed.

Later that night, I was called out at around midnight by Abu Fadi who said that stones were being thrown by soldiers. I immediately left and within five minutes had reached the Hadjes where I found Abu Fadi and his family gathered outside the house where they had been chatting in the cool of the evening. I went over the roadblock and found four soldiers lounging around outside their jeep, one sitting on the bonnet, looking relaxed and laughing. I went up to them and asked why they were throwing stones. One said in a sneering manner, ‘Would soldiers throw stones?’, I replied that they had thrown gas into the village this afternoon, that I was monitoring the situation, that I had been told by reliable witnesses that they had been throwing stones and that they should stop it immediately. I then returned and sat in the full glare of their searchlights outside Abu Fadi’s house with the men and kids. After playing around with their searchlights, lighting up houses nearby, for about half an hour, they left. [Written and pics by Angie, 22/9/02]

IWPS report 15

(37th Sept. 2002)

Meanwhile … other news

With international attention focused on the violent siege of Ramallah or invasion of Gaza, and when most news media is interested only in the most gruesome images and ‘numbers of dead’, the toll that such an escalation of tension extracts on the ordinary citizens in the rest of the West Bank remains an untold story. Part of the reason that IWPS set up in Hares, a small village in the West Bank, and not in Nablus or Jenin, was in order to record what the Occupation means in everyday terms, and in its myriad of subtle ways, to rural people… so here is an outline of the last ten days in the life of Hares and its citizens. The period that included[1]:

  • 4 days when Israeli soldiers shot within the residential area of Hares, live and rubber bullets
  • 3 days when Israeli soldiers threw Tear Gas
  • 3 days when Israeli soldiers threw sound bombs – including at least one incident late very at night
  • 2 days of curfew (‘the stay in your house or you’ll be shot’ kind, not the ‘be back by ten or you’ll be grounded’ kind)
  • 1 day when kids could not go to school
  • 7 separate incidents when Israeli soldiers in jeeps entered the village and patrolled around, harassing and frightening people
  • 5 arrests
  • 10 days of the entrance to the village being blocked to cars, and passable only on foot with difficulty
  • 2 incidents of Palestinian youths throwing stones at the soldiers
  • 1 demonstration by young Palestinians in support of Arafat (following the evening news report of the on-going siege of the Ramallah compound)
  • An uncounted number of small incidents of damage to personal property, including windows shattered by bullets or, in one case, stones thrown by bored soldiers, the setting on fire of a pile of wooden crates – again by soldiers, and damage sustained by cars attempting to exit the village across rocky fields …

IWPS members Angie, Mariam and Claire were joined for part of this period by Joan, a volunteer from Ireland and Shelley, an Israeli peace activist.

Sept. 18 17:00 IDF Border Police Branch began circulating through the center of Hares in their jeeps, announcing through loudspeakers that there was a ‘curfew’. IWPS received a telephone call from a villager informing them that soldiers had set fire to a pile of wood in front of the school in the center of the village. Mariam and Joan approached the area and observed approximately 10 soldiers with guns in firing position maneuvering through the village, shooting from various places. From the evidence of bullet casings collected later from the scene soldiers were using both rubber bullets and live ammunition. They were also seen smashing windows with rocks and throwing tear gas canisters. Mariam and Joan visited a number of families to take photos of the damage

19 Sept. 13:45 A total of 9 live rounds were fired by soldiers in the area of the road block Mariam, Claire and Joan were arrested when they tried to intervene in the incident and were forced to surrender their camera equipment, submit to strip searches and sign agreements that they would ‘voluntarily’ leave the area for between 15 and 180 days. (see also IWPS Arrest Report Sept. 20th 2002)

21 Sept. 15:45 Angie and Shelly, who were in the IWPS house at the time, began to smell tear gas, and discovered that soldiers were letting off canisters near the roadblock just up the hill. Abu Fadi, whose house is right next to the roadblock and thus very exposed, said that no one had thrown any stones as far as he was aware. He counted a total of five canisters had been let off, he showed us two in his garden, two on the other side of the road, where the taxi drivers sit, and one had gone up onto his roof.

21 Sept. 23.20, Abu Fadi again called IWPS to say that soldiers had been throwing stones at him and his house for about half an hour. When he asked the soldiers to stop, they continued. When he asked them why, the soldiers replied that they were throwing stones because children were standing outside of the house. Abu Fadi asked why children couldn’t be allowed to stand outside their own house and the soldiers replied that they needed the kids out of the way as that was the direction through which they shot through into the village. They continued throwing stones and when Angie arrived, she confronted them about their actions and one soldier sneered, ‘soldiers don’t throw stones.’ Then, after playing around with their searchlights, lighting up houses nearby for about half an hour, they left. Abu Fadi has a collection of some of the bullets and tear gas canisters that have been deployed around his house. His family suffers terribly from debilitating headaches.

22Sept. 08:00 Claire and Angie were told that soldiers in three jeeps had entered the village. A curfew was announced and one jeep stationed itself at the roadblock to prevent people entering or leaving the village, children were being turned away and told that there would be no school. Inside the village, two other jeeps were circulating, children from inside the village, who had in some cases walked a considerable distance already to get to school, were stranded in the village center, frightened by the jeeps. Claire photographed two jeeps stopping at the entrance to the school, and soldiers deploy from the vehicles and begin to spread around the area. They began shooting and let off some sound bombs. Everyone in the village had retreated into their houses. At one point the jeeps spotted Claire filming them and began to drive right at her, at that point, an old woman opened the door to her house and gestured to her to hide inside.

22 Sept. 21:00, having missed school and spent the curfew day cooped up inside, a crowd of young boys between the ages of 7 and 13 began parading throughout the village – they had just been watching the evening news reports about Araft’s siege in Ramallah and in their anger and frustration had poured onto the street. Some of the boys told Angie and Claire that they were planning to go and throw some stones at the soldiers. We asked them if they thought that was a good idea, some replied yes but others said no, that it would only mean they’d get shot. A few minutes later they began to disperse. An hour later, we heard again increasing sounds of whistling and shouting, coming from diverse areas of the village. We went up to the roof and saw 5 Israeli jeeps deploying into the village, entering from various directions.

At 22:30 seven shots were fired. A few moments later we heard sound bombs. Five sound bombs were discharged within about 14 minutes

It is very hard to sum up the overall effect that such random events have on the morale of the local people, and to explain how the very unpredictable and often unfathomable character of Israeli Forces’ movements is the most debilitating factor of all. Sadder even is the fact that a day when there is an absence of direct attack from the Israeli soldiers is described as ‘aadi’ (ordinary), meaning the litany of minute daily harassments and prejudicial treatment go largely unrecorded or even commented upon, and are beginning to be creepingly accepted as a defeated people normalize to such treatment; Abed got another 150 shekel fine for driving his car on a settler road, bringing his yearly total to over 6000 shekels ($1000 US), Israeli soldiers confiscated the keys and the driving license of another taxi driver and made a third let all the air out of his tires, abandoning the helpless man and his passengers miles from home. Their reason: that it is forbidden for Palestinians to drive on settler roads, even when those roads are the old Palestinian ones resurfaced.

Meanwhile, from about 07:00 to 10:00, four times in the last ten days, soldiers have appeared at the blocked entrance to the village and demanded an ID from every person trying to get in and out of the village, turning back many, delaying all. When asked their reason for such checks, if they reply at all, they will tell you that any Palestinian could be a terrorist and that the roadblocks are necessary to stop the smuggling of arms. So why is it that the soldiers only come for the three hours when kids are trying to get to school and people to get to work? Do terrorists only smuggle arms from dawn to mid-morning on workdays? Or is it much more likely that it is intended only to prevent those people with jobs still intact after these two years from getting to work. If they are finally allowed through, they’re unlikely to find a working taxi anyway …..

In speaking with one of the soldiers the other day, he told me that he was angry that the suicide bombings had meant that his sister was afraid to go out with her friends anymore, and no one felt comfortable at parties, weddings or bar mitzvahs. And he’s right, nobody should have their innocence and their freedom taken away from them like that .. but the key word in that sentence is ‘nobody’

Claire Peak

26th Sept. 2002

[1] These are IWPS collected figures, and can be assumed to be below the real total

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Whose Rights, whose Olives?

Report 16

The Israeli voice on the phone identified himself as Didi from Peace Now, ‘you left a message asking about the level of fanaticism in the settlements in your region,’ he prompted calmly. Yes, I said, we were about to enter into the harvest season and were putting together a campaign for international volunteers to accompany Palestinian villagers – we were interested in trying to determine what was the likelihood of serious attack from settlements nearby. The surreal conversation continued with Didi giving us a run down on the scene in our area, ‘where are you based exactly?’ I told him Hares, near Ariel. ‘Ah, so Ariel isn’t probably going to be too much problem, you know it’s a big settlement, one of the biggest, but most of them are students and so on, you know, what we call ‘quality of life’ settlers. ..but Ravava is near you isn’t it, yes, they are quite serious, and then you’ve got Immanual, they’re Orthodox religious, and because of the shooting there last year, and Ma’ale Shomron and Karnei Shomron, they could be dangerous, and Yakir and Nofim, they are bad, and Altei Menasche a bit further north, and Sharei Tikva and Els Efrayim to the west a bit (he was describing an area with a diameter of less than 20km), but I wouldn’t say they were going to cause as many problems as the settlers around Nablus, they are really crazy .. your biggest problem is going to be Taup’akh … definitely. Those guys, I mean they’re as bad as the settlers in Hebron!’

Three days later in the village of Yasouf[1], Mohammed Obeid picked up the phone to call the Israeli police. ‘They’re at it again’, he told the bored sounding voice on the other end, the settlers from Tapu’akh, they’re down there on my land, picking my olives and threatening my family with their guns.’ The policeman told Mohammed to give him his “position”, Mohammed told him that Yasouf was the Palestinian village on the hill opposite the recently expanded settlement of Tapu’akh. The policeman said he didn’t know where that was and would call back when he had located it on a map. Mohammed replaced the phone on the cradle and sighed, the policeman, who was sitting at a desk in Ariel less than 5 kms away, had to be either stupid or lying. Tapu’akh could almost be said to be an outlying suburb of Ariel, and even Yasouf is marked on the 2000 edition of the Israel Road Atlas (the crude Israeli ‘roadblock’ however, which effectively seals off Yasouf to vehicular access, is not marked). This was the fifth time in three days that Mohammed had called the police about the settlers on his land, if they didn’t act soon it would be too late, and all the olives would be gone.

Today was slightly different however, an international activist, Angie from IWPS, had arrived at the village, and was also calling the same police, announcing her intention to accompany a peaceful delegation of Yasouf farmers down onto the land to approach the settlers and ask them to stop stealing the olives.

Perhaps it is because of Angie’s call that, unusually, half an hour later, Mohammed’s phone rings again and it’s a policeman calling from a patrol car. We can’t find your position”, he says. Mohammed begins again to try to explain but the policeman interrupts him, uninterested. You have to come and meet us so that you can show us where you are’, he explains, ‘meet us in Jama’iin.’ No. Please’, Mohammed is desperate, Jama’iin is too far away and impossible to reach by car from Yasouf, thanks to the roadblock. Were Mohammed to drive to the roadblock and walk to Jama’iin it would take him all day, ‘better that you come to Tapu’akh gate, he tells them, Tapu’akh’s entrance is a concrete, wire and tarmac confection, cosmetically augmented by heavily irrigated flowers beds and shrubs. It feeds onto the Yasouf road just to the unblocked side, making it five minutes by car alone from the main settler highway and Ariel. ‘Can we meet there in ten minutes?’ Mohammed asks. ‘Alright’, says the policeman gruffly, and promptly hangs up.

Angie and the little band of elderly farmers (Rukaya, Rashid, Ahmad, Hasan, Mohamed, Yusad, Marouf and Issa) are approaching the area where the settlers were stripping the trees (they have stopped since they noticed the villagers on their way). Suddenly one of the settlers fires at them, a ‘warning’ shot that hits the ground on the path about ten yards ahead of their feet. The Palestinian villagers sit down, and Angie stands in front them calling out that she is a foreigner and that they have come peacefully and are not armed. Through the trees, although they are still a way off, Angie can see them and they seem to be discussing what to do.

Mohammed has reached the entrance to Tapu’akh, he is waiting a little way down from the entrance on the opposite side of the road – it’s a deserted area but Mohammed is scared to get too close to the entrance in case the security guard in the watch tower fires at him. After a minute he sees the police car, he steps out into the road to wave, the driver looks at him for a split second and drives right past into the settlement. Mohammed – who is a sixty-something father of 6 – tries to run behind the car a little way to stop it, but to no avail. He is standing there wondering what to do when an ear splitting siren starts up and looking down through the entrance to the settlement, Mohammed can see the police car parked in the main square, and armed settlers amassing in response the siren, clambering into cars and racing off out of the settlement through the far gate which leads directly down the hill to the area where Angie and the farmers are stranded. Mohammed is watching, but the police car does not follow the settlers. He waits for fifteen minutes but the police car doesn’t move, not to pursue the armed and angry mob, nor to come and meet Mohammed as arranged.

Angie and the villager’s calls for help from the police are not getting through, or they’re getting the same message as Mohammed ‘we don’t know where you are.’ Now there are armed settlers, one with a dog, pouring down the hill towards their brethren on the hillside. There is a standoff but the settlers are beginning to get closer. Angie speaks again to the police, and, although this is Yasouf-owned land and the settlers are the ones who are trespassing, stealing, shooting and threatening violence, this time the police’s advice is simply for the villagers to ‘leave the area.’ The villagers do decide to leave, and it’s as if this is the cue that the settlers were waiting for, and they rush at the group, throwing stones and shouting. Angie stands her ground while the old men begin to walk back and she is soon surrounded by the angry mob, one man tears the camera from around her neck, another wrestles her bag from her hands. She tries to resist, but there are too many of them. She is about to speak when a settler cuts her off, barking, ‘leave, or there will be bloodshed and you will be responsible.’ She tries again, ‘I’m not leaving. Give me back my bag and my camera.’ Her camera disappears while her bag is searched and papers torn up ending up on one of the settler’s backs, but her passport and money are thrown at her.

After a few minutes, most of them leave, heading down to watch the old villagers being chased further down the hill. At least one stone thrown met its target, when seventy-five year old Rashid Saleh is struck on his shoulder. Two settlers and a dog are left to guard Angie, who is insisting that she will wait there until the police come so that she can have the settlers arrested and get back her things. After almost an hour the two settlers leave her and as there are still no policemen on the scene, she heads back to Yasouf village.

Later that same day, Angie gets to Ariel police station and makes a statement. She is shown photographs of settlers from Tapu’akh who already have records on file at the station, but none of them look like the men who took her stuff. The policeman showing her the photos tells her that they have a lot of problems with Tapu’akh and that they do prosecute them, but they need evidence. However, they refuse to accompany her to the settlement so that she can identify the settlers or to help her search for her things. They allow her to write her statement and file it away. Although it is 10 pm and dark by the time she is through, they drive her only to the entrance to the settlement and she is left to walk the three miles home alone. She leaves with the police promising that they will help to ‘protect’ the Palestinian villagers while they try to harvest their olives.

The next day Mohammed calls IWPS because the settlers are back again. The villagers watch all day helplessly from their houses, but the police never respond and the settlers cart away sack loads more of the precious fruit.

The story of what’s been happening in Yasouf begins to get out, and Arik Asherman from Rabbis for Human Rights has called around and managed to get a group of about 25 Israeli peace activists who are prepared to come to Yasouf to help the Palestinians to salvage what’s left of the olives from the most vulnerable areas closes to the settlement. What begins as a scene of hope and unity ends in a terrible day. The settlers come down from their caravans on the hillside to abuse the harvesters, shouting obscenities and religious slogans, gesticulating rudely and jeering the cameramen and journalists. They are particularly harsh to the visiting Israelis, even confronting them physically in some cases. More worryingly, some policemen seems to agree with them: when a settler with an American accent tells an Israeli to get lost and ‘go home’, and the Israeli tells him to do the same, the policeman sharply rebukes him emphasizing, ‘actually, this is their land, their home.’ A Canadian cameraman wants to interview the settlers, but the police and soldiers won’t let him near them. Suddenly, Angie recognizes a settler, the one who was part of the gang who took her camera and bag, but for some reason, even though at the station she was asked to try to identify him, now police refuse to get involved, and seem much more interested ending this increasingly uncomfortable scene.

And so, while the Palestinians are trying to ignore the crazy situation, between two groups of Israelis, and just get on with harvesting, the Army suddenly declares the area a ‘closed military zone’ and first to have to leave the area are … the Palestinians and their ‘sympathizers.’ No one wants to go, so the police have to start physically pushing them away down the hill, when someone asks the commander why the settlers are still being allowed to stand there and gloat upon the scene, he tells them, ‘because you and the Palestinians are easier to get rid of’. They try to set up their harvesting tools, their ladders and sheets further down the hill, but the Army keep advancing and forcing them all the way down. Some Palestinians are angry, and try to sit down in protest, but a hostile Army with guns at their fingertips can be very persuasive. Some of the Israeli activists offer to take their places on the ground, but it accomplishes nothing, and after a few minutes, it’s the Palestinians who persuade them gently to come away and wash their hands for the meal that the village had prepared in welcome and thanks – and in the vain hope of for once having something to celebrate….. [Report written by Claire and Angie, pics by Mariam, 5/10/02]

The Harvest is just beginning – these IWPS reports will continue to cover their progress in the Salfit region. We will also be summarizing information on settler violence. To get an overall context of settler violence go to www.phrmg.org – Vol5 Issue 2 and Vol 6 Issue 2 of their Monitor magazine for good articles on the disparate treatment in the Israeli Criminal Justice System of Palestinians and Israelis who kill and on Criminal Negligence – settler violence and state inaction. Also useful is the B’tselem Information Sheets of March 2001 – Tacit Consent, Israeli Law Enforcement on Settlers in the Occuppied Territories; and of October 2001 – Free Rein, Vigilante Settlers and Israel’s Non-Enforcement of the Law to be found on www.btselem.org

[1] Yasouf is in what is described as Area C of the West Bank, which means that it is under full Israeli Military control. Prime Minister Sharon recently declared the Oslo Process, which created the concept of three levels of Palestinian autonomy (Area A for many towns like Nablus and Ramallah and surrounding areas, covering 17.2% of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has sole jurisdiction and security control; Area B covering smaller towns and areas in 23.8% of the West Bank, where the PA has civil authority and responsibility for public order, while Israel deals with security issues; and Area C, covering 59% of the West Bank, which would still be under total Israeli control) null and void. Although, the re-occupation of the whole of the West Bank is evident on a daily basis on the ground, nevertheless both Israeli and Palestinian civil servants still refer to the Oslo Zones as if they still are their ‘operating principles’.

Bombed out! For what reason?

IWPS Report No. 17 October 12, 2002

During the night of Tuesday, October 8, 2002 and into Wednesday October 9, 2002, the Israeli Military destroyed five houses and damage twenty one other houses in the town of Salfit.

On Friday, October 11, 2002, IWPS was informed of the destruction of the two houses. On Saturday, October 12, IWPS member Mariam Bhabha, accompanied by volunteers Robin Long and Joyce Carmichael went to the site accompanied by Mohamed Ashqar.

The first house that was ‘officially’ demolished was owned by Hussain Ar-Rasheed. He rented out the house to Hussain Abdul-Kareem, who lived in the house with his wife and four children. As we could not contact Hussain Abdul-Kareem, a neighbour, Mohamed As- Saleh, told us that the house was dynamited at approximately 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, October 9,2002.  This neighbour’s house is also badly damaged. Other houses in the vicinity were also damaged. We saw many houses with broken windows. When asked why this house had been targeted, the people present told us that the family renting the house has 2 sons in Israeli prison.

It must be noted that the two houses immediately next on either side of Hussain Abdul-Kareem’s house were also destroyed by the blast – ‘unofficially’ destroyed. These two families are Ahmed Khamis, his wife and four children and Ali Ar-Rasheed, his wife and five children.

The second house that was ‘officially’ destroyed the same night was located in the centre of Salfit. When we arrived at the scene, there were many men searching through the rubble. One of the men, the son of the owner of the house, Abbas Khader Ali, was searching. On the night of the event, the soldiers gave his family 15 minutes to leave the house in order to search the house. After the search, the soldiers then told his father that he had 10 minutes to take whatever he wanted from the house and that they were going to blow it up. The soldiers refused the father’s request for someone to help him. Then the house was blown up with dynamite. As a result of the blast three adjacent houses were also damaged as well as part of the old souk. The Ali family is now living in a rented apartment.

During our presence the searchers pulled out of the rubble various articles including children’s schoolbooks, blankets, socks, a women’s dress, broken framed pictures and a sack of potatoes. As for a reason for the demolition of the house, one of the sons of Abbas Khader Ali’s is in jail in Israel. We were also told that the fire engine was prevented by the Israeli Military from reaching the burning houses and putting the fires out.

The known facts are that two houses were destroyed in Salfit from approximately 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday October 9, 2002. The collateral damage affected twenty-one other houses with at least three, that IWPS knows of, which are no longer habitable. The people living in the two houses were not told of a reason for the destruction of their houses. The only thing that they do have in common is the fact that both families have sons in Israeli jails.

According to B’Tselem –The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the Israeli army completely demolished a total of 499 houses from 1987 to 2002.[1] It must be noted that this number does not include demolitions of houses built without Permits. The office of the Palestinian Army in the Governate of Salfit stated that 11 houses have been completely destroyed and approximately 80 damaged in the Salfit region since September 2000.

It is difficult to find accurate figures as to house demolition according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The Israeli Government does not keep figures on the number of Palestinian homes demolished.

Where are these children sleeping tonight?

[Written by Mariam, on October 12, 2002

Pictures by Robyn]

[1] B’Tselem website- House Demolitions- Statistics

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‘Today … you won!’

IWPS Report No.18 – 20/10/02

On the evening of the 16th October the loudspeaker of the mosque in Yasouf crackled to life to announce a landmark decision in the village’s history; following a lengthy meeting to discuss on-going settler violence and the problems of responding in kind, the village agreed that tomorrow would witness their first act in a new chapter of non-violent resistance: The message that rang out over the rooftops called upon the entire village to assemble the next morning on the most vulnerable land, and asked each person to confirm that even in the event of settler violence and provocation, they would respond with the classic non-violent tactic of calmly grouping and …. sitting down.

History was made twice in one evening that night in Yasouf when news came through that the action would have the green light from the IDF. The Army had finally concurred with the need to protect the farmers of Yasouf from attacks by local settlers, a particularly violent and reckless group belonging to the organization Kahane Lives – condemned as terrorist by the United States. Feelings were mixed as all retired early to bed that night, some expressed fear that they would simply be giving settlers free rein to wreak havoc, others were excited about seeing lands that they had not dared to visit for over two years … but under it all there was a rumbling sensation of hope; embedded – perhaps unconsciously – in the IDF’s plan were two implicit truths; that the land in question belonged to the Palestinians, and that it was the settlers who were causing the problem.

By 06:30 am the next morning (17th October) 250 villagers had converged on the roadblock, below the ridge where their road crosses the link road between the old and new settlements of Tapuah. With them were 16 Internationals from IWPS and ISM and 9 Israeli activists including Rabbis for Human Rights. Their destination was the valley on the other side of the ridge, from which the village is effectively sealed off by the two settlements perched on either side. All around people were discussing the lands they would be going to and comparing estimates of the harvest. It is supposed to be a bumper crop this year, but there had also been numerous sightings of settlers picking in the area and transferring the olives in the backs of trucks.

At 6:45 am the group reached the ridge and began to descend into their olive terraces on the other side. Less then two minutes later a settler security patrol truck approached along the link road. Four settlers got out, one opened the back door of the truck and out jumped a huge dog. One of the settlers was wearing clothing that identified him as a security guard, the three others were in civilian clothes. All had M16s. They talked in a group for a few moments, watching and pointing at the Palestinians dispersing into the valley below, and then suddenly they took off at a run down one side of the valley, at least two shots were fired. At this point, an Army jeep approached along the link road. Two soldiers began to chase the settlers down the hill, two others remained at the top, talking to the security guard.

The settlers were in loose pairs, they were shoving the scattering Palestinians and threatening them with guns and knives. They were also throwing stones and verbally abusing people, trying to force them back towards the village.

At least one woman was kicked by a settler, others was hit by stones. The Israelis and Internationals interposed their bodies between the settlers and farmers as the stones were aimed mainly at Palestinians, especially the women. One young Palestinian man was extremely provoked and he grabbed a stick and tried to make his way towards where a settler was shoving members of his family, destroying their harvesting equipment and throwing rocks, the next moment his mother and another female relative began haranguing him and wrestling the stick from his hands! Other men surrounded him and convinced him to resist and come and join the group that was huddling in the center of the valley.

The settlers were shouting: ‘Go away – fuck you all – fuck your mother – go back to Saudi Arabia where you came from – go, or you gonna be hurt – you wanna be shot? This land is ours – go, go’. Around 6 or 7 shots were fired during the whole incident. More settlers showed up, they had come around the side of the valley. Two people had their cameras attacked and damaged. Izzat Ahmad Yasim and Mahmoud Abu Saleh reported being struck by rocks and others sustained minor cuts and bruises.

One settler took a pruning saw and threw it into the fields and tried to take other equipment from the farmers. The same person tried to violently remove the camera of an Israeli activist and hit another video-camera. He also pressed his knife onto the throat of an Israeli man. A large number of people were threatened with guns and told they would be shot if they did not move away by photos.

Despite being frightened and threatened, approximately 80% of the Palestinians who had set out that morning stayed and, leaving their ladders and donkeys, calmly came together and sat down in groups. Their behavior was disciplined and calm despite the provocation as the settlers moved around pointing their guns and throwing stones. 2 or 3 Internationals tried to stick to each settler but there were as many as 10 to 15 settlers by that time – however, their exact number is difficult to estimate as they moved from one area to another when thwarted by international or press presence.

The one IDF jeep that had arrived – late – at the ridge was joined ten minutes later by another two more, perhaps the Army had underestimated the level of presence needed to constitute effective protection. The behavior of the soldiers seemed to be largely that of trying to calm the settlers while at the same time moving around with them and preventing any internationals or Israeli activist from getting too close. Some of the soldiers were deployed into the valley but many also simply stood around the jeeps, watching the scene and talking to other settler spectators. In one instance where an international appealed to a soldier to restrain a stone-throwing settler, the soldier responded that it was none of their business and that they should leave because it was a ‘closed military area.’ He did nothing to restrain the settler and simply followed him further down the hill.

Where the Palestinians had formed into sitting groups, the settlers also began to congregate, circling them suspiciously. IDF soldiers stood next to them, there was a lot of conversation, but no attempts to make the settlers leave the area. Needless to say, the Palestinians felt very insecure and unprotected. It appeared that the settlers could stay there as long as they wanted, and as long as they were there, the soldiers would be there. This of course presented a further problem to the Palestinians, who wanted simply to get on with harvesting and couldn’t afford to waste a whole day sitting uselessly in the sun.

The Palestinians could see however that their sitting was having an unusual effect on the soldiers and settlers; the settlers were stymied, they had no idea how to react and could only hang around staring sullenly, some of the soldiers on the other hand relaxed enough after a while to have conversations with Palestinian or international members of the crowd.

The Police eventually arrived, but many of them also stood on top of the hill, watching what was happening rather than controlling the situation. It was about 40 minutes before they went to the groups and disarmed two settlers on their way down the terraces. Slowly the police and army managed to control the settlers and around two hours later the settlers had mainly disappeared. The Palestinians then felt safe enough to start dispersing around the fields again and re-start their picking. For one family there was no cause for celebration, they arrived at their groves to find their olive trees already picked clean by settlers. Others were hugely disappointed to be told (after they had sat patiently all that time and risked so much) that actually their particular area of land was still out of bounds for the day – no further explanation given. Those families packed up dejectedly and left for home on the assumption that they would be allowed to come the next day in any case – the Army had promised protection for as long as it was necessary. One military jeep remained on the top of the ridge, controlling the road and keeping the area free of settlers.

As the Palestinians returned to their picking the Internationals scattered amongst them, keeping a watch out for settlers. They escorted families back home throughout the day as they took their olives home, past the remaining army jeep where settlers were still clustered. Several of these settlers spat at Palestinians and Internationals as they passed by. More settlers re-appeared later on in the day but were stopped by the army from going further. One of these later settlers was also violent and tried on several occasions to take International’s cameras and the soldiers who were watching didn’t intervene. A different soldier however, who had previously explained to an international that he didn’t like what was happening and was counting the days until his tour of duty was over, came to help a Palestinian family over the ridge and called out after them as they descended, ‘today … you won.’

The follow up meeting that night saw most in good spirits, no one had been seriously injured and everyone who had reached their land and retrieved some olives felt the day had been a success. Someone observed that other extremist settlements had recently been calling on their members to follow Kfar Tapuah’s example of taking olives and he hoped that now Yasouf’s example of effective non-violent resistance would be an equally powerful beacon of hope in the face of hate. Villagers began excitedly to predict good yields this year and a somewhat more secure winter – financially – thanks to the crops they can now reach safely. They even began making plans for a post-harvest party….

But with no reason given and contrary to previous assurances from the Army, the next day (18th October), was declared a no-picking day by the Israeli DCL, who decided that in fact there would be no more picking days until the following Monday. The morning of the 18th saw a tank parked on the ridge. When a group of internationals approached the tank and asked the soldiers what it was doing there they replied that it was there for the Palestinians ‘protection’ although the gun barrel was pointing directly into the heart of the village. It was still there the next day, although no Palestinians had dared to contravene the order or the tank. Meanwhile news was coming in from various sources that settlers had been spotted in the valley, but it was a farmer picking on the next hill over who returned to the village that night with the most foreboding news; he had seen the settler security van accompanying another truck out of the valley that evening, with what looked like olives inside!

Sorry Yasouf, today … you lost

[Written by Angie, Claire and Karin. Pics by Angie and Lee. 20/10/02]

IWPS Report No. 19

The Future Of Yanun

October 21, 2002

The small village of Yanun is located in the vicinity of Aqraba in the West Bank. About 150 Palestinians, 25 families live there. As we drove from Yasuf to Yanun, we entered a valley and in the distance we saw Yanun perched on the top of a mountain ridge, as most Palestinian villages are. The fields were freshly plowed and we could see that this was fertile land. The pastoral setting was very picturesque. On the day of our visit the sun was shining, the sky was clear and of a light shade of blue and the scene was infused with that special light that’s given off by the rosy terrain of the holy land.

The bus followed the narrow winding road up the ridge and finally we were at the top. We had come to Yanun after hearing that Jewish settlers from nearby Itamar had chased the town’s people away a few days before. Over the last two years Yanun has been under constant pressure from the nearby settlement of Itamar. Our group consisted of various print and TV media persons including Reuters, BBC, CBC, ABC, Hareetz and others, IWPS members, ISM volunteers, Rabbi for Human Rights and Israelis who oppose the occupation.

Members of Missions Civiles de Protection du Peuple Palestinian (MCPPP) welcomed us. This organization is based in France and representatives had come to Yanun the night before, joined by members of the Israeli organization Ta’ayush, to stay in Palestinian homes in order that to prevent settlers from destroying them or taking possession of them in the forced absence of the Palestinians. When we arrived at noon, one Palestinian family was back in their home and we were told that others wanted to return.

I asked Dr. Marie-Jo Parbot, a pediatrician from France, why she was here. She told me that she was on holiday from October 12 to October 31 and had decided to volunteer her time with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and MCPPP. This is her first trip to Palestine. She said that the horrible situation of the Palestinians in their own land is totally unacceptable under the most minimum requirements of international human rights. Her group, along with representatives of other organizations, will be staying in Yanun for as long as needed to provide an international presence.

Some local people, having learned that a large contingent of people had arrived, asked if we would accompany them to pick olives. As we proceeded to the olive grove down the narrow, winding dirt road we came upon a vehicle parked on the road blocking our passage. On our right a farmer was plowing his field followed by a young man picking up large rocks to clear the ground. On our left were olive trees. The people working the field were settlers. The field was not theirs. The owner of the field was in the group with us and he was visibly disturbed by the actions of the settlers. We then found out that the settlers had taken over his land the year before and that he could not go there anymore for fear of being injured or possibly killed.

The local Palestinians have reasons to fear for their lives. On October 6, 2002, Hani Bani Maniyah, a 22 year old from neighbouring Aqraba was shot and killed by settlers while harvesting olives. The Israeli Human Rights group B’TSELEM claims that the shots were fired from nearby Itamar. One settler was arrested and six others were questioned. Weapons were seized. The arrested settler was released a few hours later and no charges were laid, according to Israeli Police. The field that was being plowed had been totally cleared of the Palestinian farmer’s olive trees. B’TSELEM reports that tens of thousands of olive trees have been destroyed in the West Bank by the Israeli army and the settlers.

Within a few minutes of our arrival the Israeli Army arrived, presumably called by the settlers. The army jeep was placed on the road to block our passage and the settlers took their vehicle away.

The landowner asked why his olives had been destroyed and his land stolen and was told by a settler that this was Jewish land given to them by God. While this was going on Rabbis for Human Rights spokesperson, Arik Ascherman, was negotiating with the soldiers to allow us and the Palestinians to pick olives. In the meantime, IWPS, ISM and others sat on the road to protest to the army’s lack of support.

A compromise was finally reached. We could pick olives on the opposite side of the road to where the settlers were plowing. After consultation with the local Palestinians we started picking. There were approximately fifty persons and we picked for about two hours. The army stayed to provide protection. The owners of the fields were with us as we picked. Once we finished we remained until the olives were safely put on a tractor and taken to the village. There had been a recent incident in nearby Yasuf where farmers had their day’s harvest stolen by settlers from Tapuach settlement.

On the bus back to Yasuf I could not help but feel very sad for the farmer who has now lost his land to the settlers. I shared this sentiment with one young American Jewish man living in Israel. He said that he hopes that the farmer will get his land back when the settlements are dismantled. He is very optimistic that this will happen, as this is the only solution to the Israeli- Palestine problem.

What does the future hold for Yanun? The international presence will need to be permanent to ensure that Palestinians can live in their homes and farm their land.

Yanun is a microcosm of Israeli-occupied Palestine where illegal settlements are allowed to grow and expand in the West Bank and Gaza under the protection of the Israeli army and police.

Today we have heard that 15 of the 25 families have returned. Various international groups as well as Rabbis for Human Rights and Taayush are taking turns in providing support to the inhabitants of Yanun.

Report written by Mariam, pics by Angie. October 23, 2002

IWPS Report 20

“A Thief Locks His Door”

On the 9th November
2002, it was the turn of the villages of Biddya and Masha’s to get the notice
that all Palestinians living near the Israeli border dread; the Israeli Army
(IDF) announced that a section of the separation fence will be built on their
lands. Along with the supplied map of
their villages and the relevant version of the standard letter of ‘Order
Concerning Land Seizure’ in Hebrew and Arabic (for translation see appendix
one), was a handwritten note informing the locals that the IDF would be coming
to the area on Wednesday 13th November.
They didn’t say why, but based on the experiences of earlier villages
along the fence, it would be to visit and formally notify the owners of land or
property that they intend to confiscate and/or destroy.

IWPS received a copy of the
documents from Nawaf Suf, the Salfit region’s Palestinian District Coordinating
Liaison (DCL[1]), who
explained that as his office had adopted a policy of total non-compliance with
the Separation Fence project, he would not be going to the area to take part in
any meetings between the Israeli forces and the Palestinian civilians. He hoped however that IWPS could go along, to
document the event and support the development of local initiatives to lodge
objections and peacefully protest and resist.

Ironically, two members of IWPS
(Kate and Dorothee) had left the previous day for Falamia and Jayyus, two
villages some kilometers to the north of Hares where the wall project is
already fully under way (bulldozers daily uproot olive trees and other
agricultural produce and production material – greenhouses, irrigation lines
etc.- that lie in the way of the wall) to take part in a large demonstration,
planned by the locals and internationals.
We spoke with Kate and she referred us to Abdel Latif Khaled, who works
for the Palestinian Hydrology group and has been very active in organizing and
overseeing the civil resistance and legal proceedings in Jayyus.

Abdel Latif was very helpful
when we contacted him for advice about steps to take in Biddya. Most important of all, he stressed the need
for locals to form a community action group right away and to make sure that
all the relevant land title documents were in order. He also sent us a questionnaire that he had
developed. It should be completed by
each farmer whose land or livelihood is affected by the fence, in order to
estimate, as precisely as possible, the impact the fence’s presence will have. Unfortunately, the Israeli Supreme Court has
already ruled that the fence project in general is ‘reasonable’ so all that
landowners can now hope to do is lodge joint objections to the fence’s precise
proposed location, by arguing that if it were to be moved to this or that side
a little way, say around and not through an olive grove or domicile,
then its negative impact on the local population would be somewhat lessened.
The questionnaire can be used to add weight to such claims. Although not yet successful, in some cases,
such ‘class action’ type complaints, filed on farmers’ behalf by Human Rights
organizations in Israel and Jerusalem, have at least been accepted for
consideration by the court and are still undecided. Of course, the moral
implications that this has for the landowners are complex. Would lodging a
(successful) complaint mean that the farmer could then be said to have
implicitly agreed with the presence of the wall in general? Many farmers, and for that matter the DCL,
take the position that they don’t want to get involved in a process in which
the only remaining question is where the wall should be, and not why it
should be in the first place.

On the 12th
November, the day before the Army’s visit, Karin and Claire from IWPS visited
Abu Thabit, the mayor of Masha, to pass on the contact that we had with Abdel
Latif and to see what the village proposed to do when the Army arrived the next
day. The mayor spoke by telephone to
Abdel Latif and together we looked at the map.
The red line of the proposed fence snakes through the valleys on land belonging
to Masha, Biddya and Sanirya, separating the Palestinian villages from
thousands of dunams of their land and the settlements of Sha’rea Tikva, Etz
Efraim and Elkana. On the map the red
line simply starts and stops, leaving it still unclear as to the direction of
the wall to the north and south. Many
organizations following the procedure of the separation fence project describe
this policy of demarking only short sections of the wall at a time as a
deliberate policy on the part of the Army, to create uncertainty and to prevent
the Palestinian side from being able to launch full-scale political objections,
as they can’t know the full and final extent of what they are objecting
to. Also, it has been noticed that the
position of the wall as marked on the Army’s maps sometimes does not match up
with the realities on the ground[2]. Many fear that the reason the Army only gives
out information section by section is that they are waiting to see to what
extent the Israeli public will allow them to go, and will change their plans to
take in even more territory if – as seems to be largely the case – they don’t
meet with public outcry. It could be for
this reason that the proposed site of the wall along the ‘Trans Shomron’
corridor that bisects the West Bank has yet to be announced; Ariel, a
settlement of over 10,000 inhabitants, and whose continued existence is
described as a given regardless of ‘final status’ – lies along this corridor a
full 15 kilometers deeper into the West Bank than the line the wall currently
‘seems’ to be taking to the north.

Once we’d looked at the map the
Mayor took us to the site of the roadblock on Masha’s main road, which is also
where the wall will pass and divide them from the settlement of Elkana, whose
most outlying houses come astoundingly close – the gap between the nearest
settlement house and its Palestinian neighbor is about 15 meters, at this time
they are separated only by a wire fence and an obvious difference in
socio-economic status. As it is an
elevated area with views of all the land under threat we agreed that we would
meet there at 11 am the next day, a full hour before the Army had said they
would come.

Before we left we
watched a couple of young men trying to unload a delivery of mattresses and
transport them, using an old shopping cart, over the series of roadblocks that
now close off Masha’s main road. The
main highway across the West Bank used to run right through Masha (until the
completion, earlier this year, of the new settler bypass superhighway, the 5/505
‘Trans Shomron’ way) and Masha had one of the West Bank’s most important
small-industry trading zones. The Mayor told us that before the Intifada and
the road closure, the road was nose to tail traffic on a Saturday, with
Palestinians and Israelis buying furniture, pottery, metal work, stone and
tile. Now the rusty and peeling shop signs in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian swing
in the wind and all the shops fronts are closed up, a veritable ghost

The following day we met at the
roadblock as arranged, Karin and Claire with Abu Thabit and dozens of locals.
Suzi, an Israeli peace activist and member of Ta’ayush (‘co-habitation’) also
came. We discovered immediately that the
Army had already been and gone, at least to this site; they came at
approximately 9:30, and told the hapless home owner, Hani Amer, who was alone
at the time, that they had surveyed the area and had no other option than to
position the wall and its accompanying security road on the land to the other
side of his house. They showed him a
copy of their survey map, but did not give him any documents or ask for any
from him.

People were delighted with the
Hani’s reply to the Army, which had been to ask why it was that his
house had to be destroyed and not the closest settlement house, which was
apparently unoccupied anyway. He further
suggested that the fence and road could fit down the already existing 15-meter
gap. The Army spokesperson apparently
took a brief look at the area and went away again, saying they would return
later, they were not clear when, with a final decision.

Suzi commented that the
difference in the Army’s stated and actual time of presence followed a pattern
similarly noted in other areas that have already gone through this process. In
Falamia, the Army said they would be there at ten am and didn’t show up until
after two pm, when many people had gone home assuming that the IDF would not
after all be coming that day. She suspects it is a deliberate ploy on behalf of
the Army in order to try to get at the landowners when they are alone, as this
way they are more easily intimidated. Also, this way the IDF can say they were
there for a meeting and took the lack of significant presence from the
Palestinians as constituting consent.

We sat down to take a statement
from Hani Amer and discuss developments with the Mayors and interested members
of the community. We learned that
Elkana, the settlement that loomed behind us, was home to a number of highly
influential people, including one of the leaders of Mafdaal, The Religious
National Party of Israel. Suzi spoke to the community members at length about
what she knew of the experience of previous villages involved in the wall
issue, and what some of the legal issues were, she reiterated that the current
legal situation, as far as the Israeli courts at least, was that the wall would
exist but its precise location could perhaps be changed[3]. It was decided that there was definitely a
case for disputing the proposed site of the wall in this area, as evidenced by
the map; the fence deliberately loops around a mountain beyond the present
positions of the three settlements, the land on that mountain that is shared by
all three of the villages, over 200 individuals land-owners would stand to lose
all or some of their land, either under the wall or on the other side of

Karin, Claire, Suzi and the
Mayors went to look at the area around the mountain. We stood on the road – it’s marked in red on
the map and runs north/south between the top and bottom section of the ‘loop’
in the fence line (marked on the above map with red crosshatching). The road cuts across the foot of the
mountain; below it is the settlement of Ets Efraim. To the other side of the
road are the mountain slopes, covered in olive groves, but it was immediately
obvious that the Army’s principal interest in the site was strategic: it’s the
highest point in the area. It wasn’t a
complete surprise therefore when news came through from a villager’s mobile
phone that the Army had been spotted again, and there would be a meeting with
all farmers who could make it in time, on that very summit.

An army jeep and a white
jeep arrived at the top of the hill, closely followed by a dozen Palestinian
cars and taxis, many other Palestinians arrived on foot during the meeting. The
meeting consisted of the soldier in charge jumping onto a rock to give himself
a bit of height and announcing, in Arabic, that he didn’t like the fact that he
had to be there today, he was sorry that it had to be this way, and that he
couldn’t answer any questions as he was only the ‘messenger’; he added that the
land all belonged to the Palestinians, that wasn’t in question, and there would
be gates in the wall to allow them access to the land on the other side. “Who’ll
have the key
?’ someone called out. The soldier replied, ‘the mukhtar’,
using an Arabic term that means mayor .. although it is not the term the
Palestinians use, preferring ‘ra’is il baladiyye’ (head of the
municipality). The two Palestinian
mayors we had come with looked surprised and shook their heads, we later
realized that in using the term mukhtar the soldier could also easily have been
referring to the leader of the Israeli settler community – this would make a
lot more sense as in every case where settlements have absorbed Palestinian land
but where the farmers still supposedly have access, it is to the settlements
administrators that they have to appeal for the right to pass, a right that is
increasingly denied[4]. The soldier then proceeded to describe the
area of land that was to be confiscated, and added that the affected farmers
would be permitted to approach the Tulkarem DCO to “check their right to
receive usage fees and compensation”.
For most farmers it was the first time they’d had a chance to look at
the map, and they all crowded round desperately to see if their piece of land
would be under the fence, on the “inside” or the “outside”. Mingling casually
in the crowd was the man who had come in the white jeep, Yigal Tsofir, one
of the leaders of the Israeli Civil Administration in the Occupied
Territories. Some farmers in the crowd
who recognized him appealed to him for answers that they weren’t getting from
the soldier ‘messenger’. He simply shrugged and replied that it was a military
matter and he was only along to witness the event – after the soldiers
presentation however, he took the contact details of a couple of farmers who
wanted their own copy of the map.

According to
the Army’s Order Concerning Land Seizure however, it clearly states,

“The Land will be seized by IDF forces
and the exclusive holding on it will be handed over to the real-estate officer
in the Central Command headquarters by way of the h.q. Officer of Defense
Ministry affairs in the Civil Administration.”

When Suzi and a number
of Palestinians raised with Yigal the issue of the fence’s loop around the
mountain, both he and the soldier gave the same answer, which was that they
couldn’t explain the Army’s reasons. The
soldier pointed out only that, as stated in the document supplied by the Army,
the exact position of the site is not yet fixed and that any farmer was welcome
to file an objection with the military command in Bet El.

And that was it. The ‘meeting’
was over and Yigal and the soldiers left.
The farmers gathered together and discussed what they could do now. IWPS asked a number of farmers if they were
planning on filing objections. The reply from many was ‘no, what good would
that do?’ Many were mildly contemptuous of the idea of a ‘class action’ suit
and felt that a paid-for lawyer would only take their money, and that Human
Rights organizations’ lawyers on a monthly salary or volunteer basis are no
match for the skill and prestige of the Army’s Counsel. Bitter experience has taught them already
that in any situation where ‘security’ is at stake, it’s an open and shut case.
The suggestion of organized peaceful civil protest was also met by many with a
shrug; it would be futile. One man spoke of the last demonstration the village
had arranged, when the settlements were being constructed in the mid 1990s; the
Army had destroyed the clinic and threatened to move on to the school unless
the village stopped resisting. Others however told us that they would be
lodging official objections, and the IWPS members, with Suzi, the mayors and a
number of interested parties, fell in to an impromptu strategy meeting, which
culminated in the mayors’ decision to leave that very afternoon for Jayyus and
begin working with the organizers there to see what they could learn and begin
to work on a plan.

In Jayyus, while IWPS and ISM
members were working with villagers to coordinate the demonstration (see Report
#21), the mayors of Biddia and Masha met with representatives from a number of
Palestinian organizations who together have formed a network devoted to
mobilizing national and international support for the anti-wall campaign.

IWPS will be closely following
the developments of the campaign and getting involved where and how we
can. To be continued ….

Written by
Claire, pics by Claire and Karin

Appendix one – translation of the Hebrew

Israel Defense Force

Concerning Land Seizure number 02/41/t’

By my authority as commander
of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria region and since I believe/estimate it is
needed for military needs, and due to the special security circumstances
prevailing in the region, and the need to employ necessary measures to avoid
terror acts, I hereby order this:


1. In this order:

“The Map” – a map of scale
1:20,000, signed by me, attached to this order and being an inseparable part
of it.

Immovable Property” (The Land, hereafter)
– a strip of land of area ca.
488.5 dunams, (length 8,220 meters and width
varying between 46 and 95 m’) delimited by a red line on the map and which is located within
the lands of the villages:

Saniria (not

Block 2: muwaka: Al-Katzur,
Al-Habata, Al-Mazmagta.

Block 4: muwaka: Beit-Amin,
Halat-Hamed, Al-Basum, Al-Hura (on this muwaka exists m.m. 226/84 registered
file 7929/2 titled Hevrat Tzurim Bniya Ufitu’ah Ltd. (Hebrew company name
s.m.), Karm-Al-Balutah.

Mes’hah (not

Block 2: Muwaka: Wad-Mes’hah,

Block 3: Muwaka: Wad-Mes’hah,
Harik-Mes’hah, Al-Wadat, Al-Waja-a-shami,

Bidia (not fixed/determined):

Block 2: Muwaka: Harik-Bader,

Property Seizure

2. I declare that The Land will be seized for
military needs.


3. The Land will be seized by IDF forces and
the exclusive holding on it will be handed over to the real-estate officer in
the Central Command headquarters by way of the h.q. officer of Defense
Ministry affairs in the Civil Administration.


4. Copies of this order and
the attached map will be handed over, as far as possible, to the landowners
or The Land holders by the TulKarm DCO.


5. Copies of this order and the attached map
will be Placed for the study/examination of those Interested in the following

1. The DCO office
in the Tulkarm district.

2. The office of
the Legal Adviser to Judea & Samaria region.

3. The office of
the h.q. officer of Defense Ministry (affairs) in the Civil Administration.

4. The office of
the controller of abandoned and governmental property in the Civil

Checking Usage Fees and Compensation

6. The land owners will be permitted to
contact the Tulkarm DCO in order to check their right to receive usage fees
and compensations.

Validity from

7. This order is valid as from the date of
signing it And until 31st of December 2005.

The Name

8. This order will be titled: “An Order
concerning Seizure of Immovable Property no. 02/41/t’ (Judea and Samaria),
(Heb. Cal. Year) – 2002”.

Date: (Heb date)

Kaplinsky Moshe, General

8 Nov., 2002

Commander of IDF Forces Judea and Samaria Region

[1] DCL is
the official Palestinian office responsible for coordinating with the Israeli
Army and Police forces in the Occupied Territories.

[2] See
B’Tselem’s arial photograph planned and actual Separation Fence

[3] there
are moves afoot on a political level and on the level of international law to
challenge the wall’s existence in principle, see www.stopthewall.org

[4] The day
before, on our first visit to Masha, we had been approached by a farmer who was
being denied access to his olive groves within the perimeter fence of Elkana.

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IWPS Report 21

Jayyous Resists, But Is It Too Late?

Jayyous is a beautiful village in the Qalqilya District. The people are shepherds, goatherds and farmers. It looks much more prosperous than a lot of the villages in Salfit, probably because there is so much more agriculture possible here; it is one of the most fertile areas in Palestine. But all of that is about to change. The “Separation Barrier”, which residents call The Wall, being built on land belonging to Jayyous (see Reports 10 and 11) will not only wall off Palestine from Israel, but will separate most of the residents of Jayyous from their land, and their livelihood.

There are 13,000 dunums of farmland belonging to Jayyous. 600 dunums will be confiscated and the trees or crops destroyed for the construction of the wall itself. Another 9,000 will be on the other side of the wall, isolated from the people who have owned and worked it for generations. Abdul Latif Khaled of the Palestinian Hydrology Group estimates on the basis of questionnaires distributed in the village over the last few months that the Wall will cost Jayyous the equivalent of 65,000 work days per year. He says, “You would need a huge factory, a Microsoft sized factory, to replace them.” These job losses are directly related to the loss of agriculture: growing and picking the vegetables and fruits, transporting them to the other areas where they are sold, processing them into other products. If you include things like the stores that serve the people who work in those fields – the classic trickle-down effect, the loss would be even greater.

Bulldozing in Jayyous began in mid-October, coinciding with the beginning of the olive harvest and the arrival of volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement. While people were trying to harvest their olives, bulldozers, accompanied always by Israeli military police and private security hired by the contractor, were cutting the branches off of olive trees with chain saws, then uprooting them with digging machines and flattening the land with bulldozers. Internationals not only picked with farmers in Jayyous, but naturally, also accompanied farmers to view the destruction of their land, negotiate with the contractors and the military police for replanting their trees, and participated in nonviolent actions to stop the bulldozers from working. The actions were successful for several days, before they were violently broken up by the Army. One young man from the village was badly beaten by soldiers who said, “I saw you at the protest.”

On November 11, my fellow IWPS team member Dorothée and I joined a small group of ISM organizers in Jayyous to help plan an action with the villagers of Jayyous to end the joint ISM/IWPS Olive Harvest Campaign. After visiting one of the sites where bulldozers had been working for the past month, we met with a group of men from the village to begin planning for the action. Some of the villagers were a little bitter because they felt we had lost an opportunity on Sunday to actually stop the work from happening in an area particularly close to the houses of the village. There had been a confrontation with the Army and the contractor, which the Army had broken up with tear gas and warning shots.

The bulldozers were working in five areas of town. Since it seemed impossible to stop all of them, the villagers decided that they wanted to focus on an area where the Wall is coming right up to the houses. The Wall, when completed, will have two different manifestations throughout Palestine. Near cities, it will be a concrete fortress, such as that one already running through Qalqilya, ten meters high with barbed wire and/or electricity on top, watchtowers and a locked gate through which people may be granted or denied entry. In hillier, rural areas, such as Jayyous, it will be a system consisting of two fences separated by a trench with a patrol road, lights and cameras running alongside, modeled perhaps on the U.S./Mexico border. The villagers feel that having such a system in their backyards will rob them of their privacy, in addition to their land and livelihood. They agreed that if the action presented an opportunity to negotiate with the Army, they would demand that the Wall be moved a few hundred meters further from their homes. We agreed that a small group of internationals would chain themselves to the first trees in the bulldozer’s path, and the rest of us would make a human chain with the people from the village, internationals and women on the in front to hopefully minimize the violence of the Army.

The next afternoon, we went up to look at the proposed site with some of the men and boys. I had been there already in the morning, and was appalled to see how much destruction had been accomplished in just six hours. Probably a quarter mile of trees had been uprooted that day. We walked and looked for a long time. We had just turned to walk back to town, because it was Iftaar (the time when the Ramadan fast is broken), when the military police jeep showed up, waving its Israeli flag. The internationals went out in front and suggested to the Palestinians that we just keep walking, but the Army guys got out and blocked our path. They yelled at Michael to stop taking pictures of them, and he put his camera away. We asked what the problem was, and they said someone had called and told them that kids were throwing rocks. I said, “But there’s nothing here for them to throw rocks at, we’re just looking at the destruction to the land.” “You’re taking pictures?” “Yes, pictures of the destruction to the land.” “Okay, the land, but not of us.” “No, we’re not taking pictures of you.” “He was.” “No, he wasn’t. See, no one has a camera.” The four of us stood there with our empty hands outstretched.

Two of the soldiers suddenly strode toward the group of Palestinian men and kids. I turned quickly to get there in front of them, Dorothée stayed in between the two pairs of soldiers. The soldiers walked up to the Palestinians and one spoke in Arabic. Then one of the men, Hisham, started speaking to them in Hebrew. He said something about what had been done to the land, using the word “haaretz,” and the soldier said, “Lo haaretz, haadamah.” “Okay, b’seder, haadamah.” (Haaretz refers to a spiritual land, such as “Eretz Yisrael,” while haadamah means the physical earth.) The soldier started asking him questions about who the people are, where they live, whose kids were these. I didn’t understand all of what they said, but at a certain point it became a philosophical conversation about who is causing the violence. Hisham was incredibly poised and calm. Some of the other men were clearly terrified, and Dorothée commented later that the soldiers really fed off of that, their arrogance increasing. As the two talked, one of the other soldiers, who had not said or done anything, beckoned to a kid behind me, about eight or nine years old. I had a moment of fear, what if he tried to arrest him, but the kid, whom I noticed before when they all followed us around because he has blonde hair and huge blue eyes, didn’t hesitate to come forward. The man stuck out his hand, and the kid shook it and said, “Shalom,” and then moved back to stand next to me. A minute later, the other soldier shook hands with Hisham, they both said, “B’seder, l’hitraot,” (okay, see you later), the soldiers got back into their jeep and we all headed up into the village.

I was overwhelmed with sadness that where there were olive groves, now there is a big trench with broken olive trees on either side. I took a picture of some of the tortured trees, and Issam, who works for the Land Defense Committee, said, “It’s a massacre.” We got the idea to bring some of the cut branches up and have people carry them in the procession on Thursday. People were standing looking across at the beautifully tended terraces on the other side of the valley, which soon they will not be able to see any more. On the other hand, there’s a settlement waste incinerator which they won’t see any more either.

Groups of internationals started arriving in Jayous on Wednesday afternoon. From 2:00 until 7:00, people kept streaming in, taxis would pull up in front of the house where we had been staying, and groups of young or old people, some dirty, some clean, some with dreds, most with backpacks, would get out, until there were about 55 people there. It really felt like an ingathering of a tribe.

We had a community meeting with the village, which was great except that there were no Palestinian women participating. Well, actually, there was one but she was not from the village, rather she lives in Ramallah and works with the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC). We were given some great information about the wall and how it fits into the project, ongoing since 1967, of making Israel into an apartheid state. One of the speakers was a former Palestinian Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Committee. There were about 150 villagers there, in addition to us, including a lot of young men, and the spirit of the village was great. People really seemed to be looking forward to showing resistance, and they reiterated their determination to break curfew if necessary to participate and to adhere to nonviolence even if provoked.

On Thursday morning we were heading to the land when we heard the soldiers driving around announcing curfew. After we got the people chained to their trees, I called Radikha to ask her to look out for my teammate, Karin, who was just arriving from Haris, and she said “I’m running late because people keep joining us.” By the time I got to the top of the bulldozer’s path, the human chain was already formed. It was beautiful. There were about 200 villagers, including a lot of women and kids, and in addition to the internationals, there were 8 Israelis who had come from Tel Aviv, which is only 20 minutes away. The military police jeep was facing the line, the soldiers had not gotten out, and everyone was singing. People were holding onions against the expected tear gas.

A few minutes after I got there, the jeep disappeared. I never saw the bulldozer, but apparently it was there, a little ways behind the jeep. Soon we saw the jeeps and bulldozers collecting on the other side of the hill. We waited. About 8:30, they turned around and moved away from the area. Soon we realized they were not going to try to work today. We started to talk, as we had previously agreed, about marching to another work area. Then we heard that they had stopped work not only in all the areas of Jayyous but even in Falame, which is the next town over. We planted a new, small tree (the villagers requested an international and an Israeli to join the mayor and a child in planting it). The villagers sang a few songs, and then an older man from Wales led us in “We Shall Overcome.” It was hokey, but even we jaded U.S. activists had to sing it. Then we went on a curfew-breaking celebration march through the village. We marched through the gates of the village with huge three Palestinian flags, and the kids piled onto a pickup and went joyriding out into the road for a few minutes.

On Friday, Nov.16th, villagers and internationals again stopped the bulldozers, but this time the Army came in with the predicted tear gas, rubber bullets, and some live ammunition according to one ISM witness. Ten people were arrested, six men and four women from six countries, including one Israeli man. At 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, my phone rang. I jumped to answer it, it was Susan and she said the four women were about to be released, the men had been taken off to jail. The women wanted to come to our house to sleep. Claire and I made some spaghetti and made up beds for them in the living room. They were so happy when they came in and smelled the food, they didn’t even take off their jackets, they just plowed into the kitchen and gobbled the pasta down. They had been beaten a little bit, and they had been verbally and psychologically abused for twelve hours. At one point they were handcuffed and told they were going to be taken to the airport and deported. They were left handcuffed for two hours, then suddenly released.

We learned later that the men were driven around for an hour, then the soldiers parked the jeep and told them to go to sleep. However, the soldiers banged on the walls of the jeep every few minutes to make sure that the men could not sleep. They stayed in the jeep for six hours, and then were taken to Masyahu Prison, which is a section of Ramla, where deportees are generally held. The women were told to come back to Ariel for further questioning on Sunday. When they did, the police were not expecting them and they waited around for several hours. Then Charlotte, who had a flight to Ireland that afternoon, was taken to the airport, and the others were rearrested and taken to Ramla as well. As of Sunday night, none of the detainees had been able to see a lawyer, and most have not seen representatives of their embassies.

In Jayyous, the people have decided that they will continue to resist with weekly blockades and prayers on Friday. A small group of internationals will remain in the village for the present to forestall retaliation by the Army. Work on the fence is expected to continue there for several months. Karin and I interviewed some of the community leaders in Arabic about what they would recommend to the villages, like Biddia and Mas’ha in this area, which are now faced with the same situation. Their response was, “start resisting now, before the bulldozers arrive.”

Text by Kate, photos by Kate and Karin

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Jayyous résiste, mais … trop tard?

Rapport IWPS © 21.

Novembre 2002

Jayyous est un village dans le district de Qalqilya, perché sur une colline avec une vue superbe sur la campagne, jusqu’à la mer par temps clair. Les habitants sont des paysans, des bergers. La terre de cette région est particulièrement fertile. A l’avenir la prospérité de ce village est en danger à cause de la barrière de separation, que les habitants appellent le mur, qu’Israel est en train d’y construire (voir rapports 10 et 11). Ce mur ne séparera pas seulement Israël de la Palestine mais également la plupart des villageois de leurs terres et de leurs revenus.

13.000 dunums[1] de terres agricoles appartiennent à Jayous. 600 dunums seront confisqués pour la seule construction du mur. En plus de cela 9.000 dunums des terres de Jayous se retrouveront de l’autre côté du mur, isolés des personnes qui les possèdent et les travaillent depuis des générations. Abdul Latif Khaled du Palestinian Hydrology Group, se basant sur les réponses à un questionnaire distribué dans le village, estime que le mur coûtera aux habitants de Jayous l’équivalent de 65.000 journées de travail par année. “Pour compenser cela il faudrait une immense usine”, dit-il.

Les pertes en emplois sont directement liées à la perte de terres agricoles: culture de légumes et d’oliviers, transport dans d’autre régions, transformation en autres produits. Si on ajoute à cela les magasins qui servent les personnes employées dans les champs – l’effet appelé “trickle down” – les pertes sont plus élevées.

Les travaux de terrassement des bulldozers ont débuté mi octobre, en même temps que le début de la récolte d’olives et l’arrivée des volontaires du Mouvement international de solidarité (ISM). Les bulldozers sont accompagnés de la police militaire et de gardes de sécurité privée payés par l’entrepreneur. Les ouvriers des chantiers coupent les branches des oliviers, le bulldozer les déracine avec la pelle puis aplanit la terre. Les volontaires internationaux participent à la récolte des olives mais accompagnent également chaque jour les paysans dans les champs pour voir les progrès des travaux et l’ampleur de la destruction, négocier la replantation des oliviers avec l’entrepreneur et la police militaire et participent aux actions de résistance non-violente destinées à empêcher les bulldozers d’avancer. Les actions avaient un certain succès jusqu’à ce que l’armée les stoppe.

Le lundi 11 novembre, Dorothée et moi, toutes les deux membres de l’équipe IWPS, avons rejoint un petit groupe d’organisateurs ISM pour préparer une action avec les villageois qui devait marquer la fin de la campagne de soutien à la récolte d’olives en Palestine (…).

Il y a quatre chantiers autour de Jayous. Comme il est impossible d’empêcher les travaux à plusieurs endroits à la fois, les villageois ont decidé de se concentrer sur l’endroit où le tracé du mur approche à moins de cinquante mètres des maisons. Le mur présentera deux aspects: près des villes ce sera une forteresse en béton, comme elle existe déjà à Qalqilya, haute de 10 mètres, avec des barbelés et / ou des fils électriques, des miradors, et des portes à travers lesquelles les personnes seront autorisées à passer ou non. Dans les régions rurales, comme à Jayous, le mur consistera en deux clôtures séparées par une tranchée avec une route pour les patrouilles, des reverbères, des caméras, peut-être conçu sur le modèle de la frontière Mexique – USA. Les villageois estiment qu’un tel système de clôtures quasiment devant leurs portes leur volera leur intimité (privacy ???) en plus de leurs terres et et de leurs revenus. Ils souhaitent que dans les négociations avec l’armée le tracé du mur soit déplacé de quelque deux cents mètres et éloigné de leurs maisons. Il était décidé qu’au cours de l’action quelques volontaires d’ISM seraient enchaînés à des oliviers sur l’itinéraire des bulldozers tandis que le reste des personnes, villageois, et volontaires internationaux, formeraient une chaîne humaine, les femmes et les volontaires internationaux dans la première rangée dans l’espoir de minimiser la violence de la part de l’armée.

Dans l’après-midi du mercredi, 13 novembre, nous visitons le site de l’action du lendemain avec quelques hommes et garçons du village. En l’espace d’un journée l’avancement des travaux était impressionnante. Nous avons longuement regardé les dégâts: terre éventrée, oliviers renversés, branchages partout; de l‘autre côté du petit vallon, appartenant aussi à Jayous, des terrasses magnifiquement entretenues qui bientôt seront inaccessibles; plus loin une montagne artificielle de déchets des colonies qui fume.

Nous allions rentrer au village pour le premier repas de la journée (pendant le mois de Ramadan), juste après le coucher du soleil, quand und jeep de l’armée apparut. Nous nous approchons des quatre soldats. L’un d’eux hurle que nous devons cesser de prendre des photos (…). Les hommes et garçons restent en arrière. Lorsque nous demandons aux soldats pourquoi ils sont là, ils répondent parce qu’on les a appelés pour signaler que des enfants jetaient des pierres. Je leur dis, “Ici personne ne jette de pierres, nous regardons les dégâts dus aux travaux”. Deux soldats foncent vers les Palestiniens 50 mètres derrière nous. Je marche devant eux et Dorothée se place entre eux.

Un des soldats s’adresse en arabe aux Palestiniens. Un Palestinien, H., lui répond en hébreu et lui explique ce que nous regardons ici: ce qui a été fait à la terre. Il utilise le mot “Haaretz”. Le soldat corrige et dit” Lo haaretz, haadamah”. Le Palestinien répond, “B’seder, haadamah” (‘Haaretz’ signifie un pays spirituel, comme dans ‘Eretz Israel’, alors que ‘haadamah’ signifie la terre physique). Le soldat lui pose des questions sur les personnes présentes, leur lieu d’habitation, les enfants. Je n’ai pas tout compris, mais à un certain moment la conversation prend un tour philosophique portant sur la violence et qui la commet. H. est incroyablement calme. La plupart des hommes ont l’air terrifié, et Dorothée remarque plus tard que la vue d’une telle peur augmente peut-être l’arrogance et le sentiment de supériorité des soldats, extrêment jeunes en l’occurrence. L’autre soldat, qui ne dit rien, regarde les hommes. Il fait signe à un garcon d’environ huit ans. Celui-ci s’avance, lui tend la main et dit “Shalom”. J’avais craint un instant qu’il n’essaie de l’arrêter. Une minute plus tard, le premier soldat tend la main à H., dit “B’seder, l’hitraot” (bon, à une autre fois). Les quatre soldats retournent dans leur jeep. Nous retournons au village.

J’étais bouleversée en voyant ce qui restait des oliveraies. Je prends quelques photos des arbres torturés et I., qui travaille au sein du Comité de défense de la terre, dit, ”C’est un massacre”.

Des volontaires internationaux arrivent par petits groupes depuis les villages où ils sont répartis pour la récolte des olives. Ils viennent pour participer à l’action du lendemain. Finalement 55 personnes sont présentes dans la soirée et prêtes à soutenir l’action des villageois de Jayous.

Le soir, dans la grande salle il y a environ 150 personnes. La seule femme palestinienne vient de Ramallah, et appartient à l’Union des Comités Palestiniens de Secours Médical (UPMRC).

Il y a plusieurs discours sur la situation économique de la région, la politique d’expropriation systématique de la part des gouvernements israéliens, et sur la stratégie d’apartheid qui a commencé dès après 1967. Un des orateurs est un ancien ministre

d’agriculture palestinien et membre du Comité legislatif palestinien. Les personnes présentes se réjouissent de participer à une action de résistance et réitèrent leur determination à ne pas respecter le couvre-feu si nécessaire, et d’adhérer aux principes de la non-violence même en cas de provocation.

Le jeudi matin, 14 novembre, au moment de partir nous entendons les soldats annoncer le couvre-feu par hauts-parleurs. J’étais responsable de l’enchaînement des 4 volontaires aux oliviers. Au moment de retourner en direction du village je vois la chaîne humaine d’environ deux cents personnes, y compris les femmes et les enfants, ainsi que 8 Israéliens venus de Tel Aviv, qui n’est qu’à 20 minutes en voiture. Face à la chaîne humaine une jeep de l’armée: les soldats n’en sortent pas. Tout le monde chante. Les gens sont prêts à utiliser des oignons ou de l’eau pour se protéger contre le gaz lacrymogène.

Peu après la jeep part. Nous attendons la suite. Les bulldozers, apprenons-nous bien plus tard, ont cessé le travail sur les autres chantiers ainsi que dans le village voisin de Falame. Au bout de quelques heures trois personnes plantent un petit olivier: le maire, une volontaire internationale et un jeune Israélien. Les villageois chantent quelques chansons dont leur hymne national. Puis un vieux militant gallois entonne “We shall overcome” et un Palestinien lance la deuxième strophe” We shall live in peace”. L’action se termine par une marche paisible à travers le village: quelques jeunes sont agglutinés sur et autour d’une camionnette avec trois drapeaux palestiniens.

Vendredi 15 novembre les villageois et les volontaires internationaux ont de nouveau arrêté les bulldozers. Mais cett fois-ci l’armée est arrivée avec ses gaz lacrymogènes, ses balles en caoutchouc et quelques vraies balles, selon les témoins. Dix personnes sont arrêtées, hommes et femmes d’entre les volontaires internationaux. A trois heures dans la nuit au samedi, un appel de Susan (volontaire des USA) nous annonce que les femmes sont sur le point d’être relâchées. Après douze heures de détention et menaces d’expulsion du pays elles étaient soudain relâchées. Les hommes sont transférés en prison.

A Jayous les gens ont décidé de continuer à résister avec des manifestations et des prières tous les vendredis. Un petit groupe de volontaires internationaux reste sur place pour atténuer, peut-être, les représailles de l’armée, en tout cas pour témoigner. Ce travail de protestation contre le mur doit se poursuivre pendant quelques mois. Karin et moi avons interviewé quelques responsables de la communauté de Jayous pour leur demander ce qu’ils recommendent d’entreprendre à des responsables d’autres communautés, comme Bidya et Mas’ha dans le district de Salfit, qui viennent d’être avisées que le mur passerait par leur village et qui sont confrontées à la même situation. Leur conseil: “Commencez à résister maintenant avant l’arrivée des bulldozers!”.

Texte: Kate. Photo: Kate et Karin. Traduction: Dorothée. Novembre 2002

[1] 10 dunums = 1 hectare

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No Way Out

IWPS Report No. 22, November 18, 2002

On most mornings, one or two of us who are spending the day in Hares go down at 7:15 to check the roadblock. Often, soldiers are stationed there, checking ID from all the young men going to school and work and stopping Palestinian cars traveling on the settler roads. We watch them. Do they only ask for ID cards, or do they add the humiliation of making the men pull up their shirts to show that they don’t have anything strapped to their chests? Do they take ID from everyone in the cars, or only the drivers; do they make anyone get out of the car? Are they curt or polite? Do they speak in Arabic, or only Hebrew? Do they look at the ID and let everyone go, or are people sent back? How long do people have to wait? Will they be late to work?

We are at an intersection of two settler highways. We look up and down each to see if any green-plated Palestinian cars and buses are passing. If not, we know that there are roadblocks further down, maybe at Zatara, which the Israelis call Tapuach Junction, and Mas’ha Junction, by the settlement of Elkana. When the roads are blocked, people can wait two or three hours to go ten kilometers, to work at Barquan Industrial Area or to Al-Quds University in Salfit.

For us, this is part of the human rights witnessing and documentation part of our work. If people are being hassled, we take pictures and notes. If we feel the soldiers are being particularly unreasonable or aggressive, we may ask them why or ask the people they are holding if they are all right. For the Palestinians, it is a daily reminder that they are not free, that they have no guaranteed rights in their own land. We are not afraid when we approach the soldiers; they may or may not talk to us, they might be friendly and want to talk, or they might ignore us and refuse to speak English, but they do not aim their M16s at our heads, or train their sniper scopes on us. We are at most a minor annoyance. For our neighbors in this village, this almost daily routine begins their day with a jolt of fear: will this be the day they will encounter a soldier who is looking for someone to hurt? Will they be threatened, arrested, beaten, even shot?

When they are allowed to continue, the Palestinians go on to one road or the other to wait for buses, “service” (shared) taxis, private taxis or Palestinian cars to hitch rides from. (When we want to go somewhere, most of us also have the option of the large air-conditioned settler buses or getting rides from Israeli settlers driving yellow-plated cars.) Many of the people who are waiting for transport on the roads have their own cars. They cannot drive them out of the village, however, because all the village roads are separated from the settler roads by roadblocks ‑ piles of earth and boulders created by the infamous bulldozers. The main one at the entrance to Hares has the remains of an old car as a centerpiece.

The Army says the roadblocks are necessary to prevent the infiltration of suicide bombers into Israeli territory. However, the villagers point out that bombings have increased since the appearance of the roadblocks, that most suicide bombers come from cities, not from villages, and that there are already so many checkpoints they must pass through, it is unlikely that someone who passes through Huwarra, Zatara and Kafr Qasem (Sha’are Tikva Junction) on the way from Nablus, would be unable to get across Hares.

If someone needs a new refrigerator, as we do, they must find a truck to bring it from the nearest large town, carry it across the roadblock and put it into another truck they rent or borrow to go the few blocks to their house. When some Israeli activists, who were picking olives nearby, wanted to come get 14 tanakays of Palestinian olive oil to sell to their friends in Jerusalem, we had to carry them one by one out to the shop on the road; they were so heavy that we needed two hands for each one, so it took two of us 7 trips, because the Israelis could not just drive up to the house and load them into their bus. Even a dead body must be carried in from the ambulance (see Report #14). If your child is going off to college in Nablus, you cannot just load up their luggage and books into your car and drive the 15 minutes. Instead, you must get all their things together, take a taxi, which may be going illegally on the settler road, to Zatara, walk across the roadblock, take another taxi to Huwarra, go through the checkpoint and then walk two kilometers. Generally, each time you change taxis, you pay roughly the same as you would pay for the whole trip if you could go straight, so if you are poor, which most Palestinians are, you cannot go at all, even if you have children in Nablus, Jenin or Ramallah. Mohammed, who lives in Jayyous, has a very nice, pretty new car. He said he hadn’t taken it for maintenance in two years, and Kate asked, “Is that because it is too expensive?” He laughed. “No, it’s because the roads are all blocked.” The mechanic, it turns out, is in Nablus, and there’s no way to drive there from Jayyous.

Sometimes, Palestinian taxi drivers and their passengers stopped at makeshift checkpoints on the settler roads simply have their IDs checked and are allowed to go ahead. Other times, they are told to turn around. Still other times, the drivers can be arrested for driving without permission on the roads, which are intended for Israeli cars only. If this happens, they will be beaten as a matter of course, held for four days and fined 2000 shekels ($500).

These are the aggravations and indignities of the roadblocks. When there is a medical emergency, the roadblock literally becomes a matter of life and death. The ambulance cannot get to a house to pick up someone who has had a heart attack, and the person may die while they are being shuttled from car to ambulance. The ambulance may be stopped repeatedly on its way to the hospital, and simply the fact that it is a medical emergency does not guarantee that it will be allowed through. If someone becomes ill at night, and no taxi is available to take them to the roadblock, they may not be able to reach the ambulance, which can also take hours to get through the checkpoints from Nablus.

On Saturday morning, on our way back from checking the roadblock, two young men approached Karin and Kate. One of them, H., said he wanted us to call the “big boss” of the Army, tell him that there had been no “problems” in the village, no stones or Molotov cocktails thrown, for three months, and ask them to remove the roadblock. Kate asked whether, if IWPS were willing to dismantle the roadblock without permission, they would help us. H. said no, because the soldiers would shoot him. We talked about it in the house and agreed that it is not our role to ask the Army to do things, and that by doing so we would be acknowledging, on some level, that the Israeli government has the right to place the roadblocks and take them down. However, we know that opening the roadblock would make the people’s quality of life much better here, and we wanted to do something, so on Sunday, we called H. and said we wanted to meet to talk about what could be done. We arranged to meet him at the roadblock (appropriately enough) at 3:30.

When we got there, H. and his friend O. and 2 other men were already working with a shovel and hoe, removing boulders. A number of young boys were helping them. We quickly called Claire to come with the video camera to document the action. A couple of us tried to help, but one of the boys seized the boulders that we were trying to move. We asked H if he knew whether others of the village would support the action, and he responded, “The village is behind it. We don’t throw stones; we need this road for the old people.” We then asked him what he wanted us to do if the Army came, and he said to talk to them and explain that the people wanted to open the roadblock and why. Two of us went out in front to be prepared to deal with the Army if they came, and two stayed behind taking notes.

Pretty soon an Army jeep showed up and the young men took off running into the village. Two of us went to talk to the soldiers, but they brushed past us, long-range guns at the ready. One of them was looking through binoculars, apparently trying to identify the men who were running away. We asked one of them why they were there, and he said, “Someone called us and said there’s a problem.” We answered, “But there’s no problem, so you can go.” Not surprisingly, they didn’t. They pointed their guns at the villagers who were watching from behind the roadblock. There was a man with several small kids trying to walk out through the roadblock, and the soldiers said to us, “Tell them to wait.” “Why don’t you tell them yourself?” we asked. The soldiers gestured to the people who were coming into the village to go, then let the family go out. People’s fear was palpable, but as the confrontation turned into a standoff, villagers started to drift back toward the area right behind the roadblock.

Karin talked to one of the soldiers who came from Haifa. He told her that he was 30 years old, and had only a month to go in his reserve service. After that, he planned to emigrate to Canada with his wife and children. “I don’t want to hear any more from this country,” he said. Dorothée had a conversation with another soldier, who said, “In two weeks, you and I can demonstrate together in front of the Knesset. That can make a difference. Your presence here at the roadblock at the entrance of a small village won’t solve anything… As a citizen I may have ideas like yours, but as a soldier I obey my officer and have total solidarity with the others soldiers”… I am the generation that fought in the Lebanon war. I feel that I have not done enough to prevent the younger generation from having to do this (war) here (in the Occupied Territores) now”. On the other hand, one soldier told Kate, “It’s people like you who are the source of the problem. If you lived here, you would understand.” When Kate said, “But we do live here,” he shook his head. “No, you don’t.”

Claire moved forward and started removing some of the small stones from the roadblock. A few minutes later, Karin and Kate joined her. One of the soldiers approached us, shook hands with each of us and introduced himself as Eran, the Commander in Chief of this area. As it turns out, he is the commander for this month, which means he knows virtually nothing about the village, but he asked lots of questions about who we were and what we were doing here, and said, “That’s good. That’s a good thing to do. You’re welcome to stay here,” which was good of him since it’s not his land to invite us into. He gave us a long lecture, masked as a dialogue, in which he tried to explain that we didn’t understand the “macro picture,” that we “both believe in human rights,” and stated repeatedly that “the people in these villages do not have a simple life.” His main point, however, was that we should leave the roadblock alone. We tried to explain that it was not we, but people in the village, who decided to remove it, and that we could only pass his request on to them.

Suddenly, a police jeep pulled up. The police got out and crowded close to us, seemingly eager to make arrests. Claire and Mariam thought they recognized one of the women who strip searched them when they were arrested in September. Eran refused to make eye contact with them, but told us, “The police want to handle this in a typical police way, but that is not the way this unit does things.” Eventually, the police got bored and asked if they were going to do something, and he said, “No, leave it,” so they left. He said that while he was in charge, there would be no human rights abuses; he gave us his mobile number and said if we saw any injustices, we should call him. We chorused, “Well, we are standing on a huge injustice,” but that he did not want to hear about. However, in the end he said that he would “look into the facts” about the village’s recent history, and if “everyone behaves,” and no stones or Molotov cocktails are thrown on any of the roads for some unspecified period of time, he would ask his commander about opening the road. “It won’t take a few days,” he said, “but you can call me in a week.”

In the meantime, the sun had set and Abu Fadi brought a tray of food for Mariam to break fast with. The soldiers said they were hungry too, so we all agreed to call it a day. That night, after Iftaar, we met with some of the men in the village at H.’s house. We discussed what could be done, not about the roadblock in particular, but about the occupation in general. People were very pessimistic, saying that the world knows what happens here and does nothing. Claire suggested that the village might set an example by boycotting Israeli milk and Coca-Cola, which is such a strong symbol of U.S. economic domination. One of the men said, “So we don’t drink Coke and we drink RC. RC is a British company.” “No,” said Claire, “you can drink water, or juice.” The horror in the room was tangible.

Someone then said that they understood the police had confiscated the film that Claire shot. We were horrified. “No, no,” Claire said in Arabic. “I have it.” She asked them if they wanted us to release it to the media, and they emphatically said no, that it would be too dangerous for them. Later, Abu Rabia, who owns our house, called to tell us he had also heard that the police had taken our film. He explained that the Israelis might try to discredit us by arresting someone for the action and saying that we had given them the film. We felt that we should have thought more carefully about the possible repercussions of filming Palestinians involved in illegal, though completely nonviolent and justified, activity.

Monday morning, Kate went out to the roadblock at 7:15 as usual. There were seven soldiers there, about four more than usual. Three were stopping the people walking; two were standing in front of a strip of wood with nails in it, checking the few Palestinian cars, while the yellow-plated cars zoomed around their temporary blockade; and two were on the hill, looking through sniper scopes. The occupation rolls on.

Text by Kate

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Sans issue

IWPS Rapport 22, 18 novembre 2002

La plupart du temps, lorsque nous sommes à Hares nous nous rendons , souvent à deux, au barrage à l’entrée du village vers sept heures du matin. C’est l’heure où les hommes vont au travail et les jeunes à l’école et souvent des soldats de l’armée israélienne contrôlent les pièces d’identité. Ils arrêtent également les voitures pour vérifier l’identité des conducteurs, mais aussi celle des passagers. Nous observons ce qu’ils font et remarquons que les voitures israéliennes ne sont jamais arrêtées. Demandent-ils seulement les papiers ou ajoutent-ils à cela l’humiliation de faire lever les pullovers ou chemises pour vérifier si quelque chose est attaché autour de la taille? Font-ils sortir les passagers des voitures? Sont-ils polis ou rudes? Parlent-ils l’arabe ou seulement l’hébreu? Laissent-ils passer les gens après vérification ou leur disent-ils de retourner chez eux? Combien de temps les gens doivent-ils attendre? Seront-ils en retard au travail?

L’entrée du village se trouve à l’intersection de deux routes de colons[1]. Si nous ne voyons pas passer de voitures à plaques blanches (i.e. Palestiniens des Territoires Occupés), c’est qu’il y a quelque part un barrage routier, peut-être à Zatara que les Israéliens appellent croisement de Tapuah, ou à celui de Masha, près de la colonie d’Elkana. Lorsque les routes ont bloquées les gens peuvent mettre deux ou troi heures pour aller au travail, par exemple dans la zone industrielle de Barqan ou à l’université Al Quds à Salfit.

Notre rôle consiste ici à documenter et à témoigner des violations des droits humains. Si les gens sont mal traités nous prenons des photos et des notes. Si nous estimons que les soldats sont particulièrement déraisonnables ou agressifs il arrive que nous leur demandions pourquoi et nous demandons aux personnes questionnées si tout va bien. Ces tracasseries rappellent aux Palestiniens quotidiennement qu’ils ne sont pas libres et qu’ils n’ont pas de droits sur leur propre terre. Nous n’avons pas peur lorsque nous nous approchons des soldats, ils peuvent nous répondre ou non, ils peuvent avoir envie de parler et être aimables, ils peuvent dire qu’ils ne parlent que l’hébreu, mais ils ne pointent pas sur nous leurs armes M16. Les villageois quant à eux, commencent leur journée avec cette angoisse: aujourd’hui sera-t-il marqué par la rencontre avec un soldat qui cherche quelqu’un à blesser ou à tuer? Seront-ils menacés, arrêtés, frappés ou même tués?

Lorsqu’ils sont autorisés à poursuivre leur route les Palestiniens traversent la route pour prendre un taxi collectif, un taxi privé ou un bus. (lorsque nous voulons aller quelque part nous pouvons prendre un bus des colons, dont la plupart est climatisée, ou faire du stop et monter dans les voitures à plaques jaunes, en général des colons de la région.

La plupart des gens qui font la queue pour attraper une voiture sur la route possèdent une voiture mais ils ne peuvent s’en servir que dans le village. Ils ne peuvent pas sortir du village en voiture parce que toutes les routes sortant du village sont barrées à l’endroit où elles croisent les routes des colons. Le barrage coonsiste en gros blocs de pierres et de tas de sable formés par les bulldozers. L’entrée de Hares comporte en outre une carcasse de voiture.

L’armée dit que les barrages routiers sont necessaires pour empêcher les attentats suicide. Les villageois font remarquer que les attentats suicide ont augmenté depuis l’apparition des barrages, que la plupart des attentats suicide sont le fait de citadins, et qu’il y a tant de barrages à passer partout que la personne en provenance de Naplouse qui a réussi à passer les barrages de Huwara, Zatara et Karf Qasem (croisement de Sha’are Tikva) ne sera probablement pas bloquée par celui de Hares.

Si quelqu’un a besoin d’un nouveau réfrigérateur il faut qu’il trouve un camion pour le lui livrer depuis la ville la plus proche, transbahuter le réfrigérateur par dessus le barrage et reprendre un camion loué ou emprunté pour le transporter jusque chez lui. Lorsque quelques militants israéliens,, qui avaient soutenu les Palestiniens dans la récolte d’olives, voulaient acheter quelques bidons d’huile d’olive pour les vendre à leurs amis de Jérusalem il a fallu les transporter un à un jusqu’à la route des colons parce que leur voiture ne pouvait pas entrer dans le village jusqu’à la porte de notre maison. De même, une personne ayant fait un malaise pendant la nuit doit être transportée jusqu’au barrage, portée par-dessus le barrage et transferée dans une voiture de l’autre côté du barrage.(…). Le coût de ces multiples transports est bien sûr plus élevé qu’un simple transport en une seule course. Mohammed, habitant de Jayous, possède un jolie petite voiture. Il n’a pas pu la faire réviser depuis plus de deux ans. Lorsque Kate lui demande “Est-ce que c’est trop cher?”, il rit et dit: “Non, le mécanicien habite à Naplouse et il n’y a pas moyen d’y aller!” (Naplouse est à 15 kilomètres de Jayous).

Il arrive que les chauffeurs de taxis et les passagers soient arrêtés à des barrages routiers improvisés sur les routes des colons. Ils peuvent être contrôlés et autorisés à continuer. Quelquefois on leur dit de faire demi-tour. D’autres fois encore les chauffeurs sont arrêtés parce qu’ils empruntent, sans autorisation, les routes réservées aux Israéliens. S’ils sont arrêtés ils sont quelquefois battus, détenus pendant quatre jours puis relâchés avec une amende de 2000 shekels ($500). Voilà les harcèlements et traitements indignes liés aux barrages routiers. Lorsqu’il s’agit d’une urgence médicale, le barrage devient un affaire de vie et de mort.

Samedi matin en rentrant de notre tour au barrage à l’entrée du village, deux jeunes hommes se sont adressés à Kate et Karin. L’un d’eux, H., nous dit qu’il voudrait que nous parlions au “grand chef” de l’armée pour lui dire qu’il n’y a pas de problèmes dans le village, que depuis 3 mois personne ne jette de pierres, ni de cocktails Molotov, et que par conséquent le barrage devrait être démoli. Après en avoir débattu dans l’équipe IWPS nous décidons que ce n’est pas notre rôle de demander quelque chose à l’armée puisque ce faisant nous reconnaitrions que le gouvernement a le droit de monter et de démonter des barrages. Par contre nous savons que sans barrages la qualité de vie des gens serait bien supérieure. Dimanche nous rappelons H. et lui proposons de le rencontrer pour réfléchir à ce qui pourrait se faire. Nous fixons le lieu de rencontre avec ses amis au barrage à l’entrée du village à trois heures et demie.

Lorsque nous (Kate, Karin, Mariam et Dorothée) arrivons, nous découvrons que H, son ami O. et deux autres hommes travaillent à soulever les énormes blocs de pierres. Quelques garçons les aident. Nous appelons Claire pour qu’elle filme la scène.

Nous demandons à H. si d’autres personnes du village soutiennent son action. Il répond: “Le village est derrière moi. Nous ne jetons pas de pierres, nous avons besoin de cette route pour les personnes agées”. Nous lui demandons ce que nous devons expliquer à l’armée. “Dites que les gens ne veulent plus de ce barrage et pourquoi”. Peu de temps après une jeep de l’armée arrive, les jeunes hommes et les garçons s’en vont en courant. Deux d’entre nous vont au devant des soldats qui, l’arme au poing, passent en courant derrière les jeunes. Un soldat regarde avec les jumelles le long de la rue où courent les jeunes. Lorsque nous leur demandons pourquoi ils sont là les soldats répondent: “Quelqu’un nous a appelés parce qu’il y a un problème”. Nous répondons “Il n’y a pas de problème , vous pouvez repartir”. Ils sont restés. Ils pointent leurs armes vers les fenêtres, les toits. (…). Karin parle avec l’un des soldats, qui baisse son arme lorsque Mariam et elle, placées devant lui pour lui dire qu’ici personne n’est armé. Il est de Haifa. Il a trente ans et encore un mois de service de réserve à faire. Après cela il projette d’émigrer au Canada avec sa femme et ses enfants. “Je ne veux plus entendre parler de ce pays!”, dit-il. Dorothée a une conversation avec un autre soldat, qui dit: ”Dans deux semaines vous et moi pouvons manifester devant la Knesset (parlement israélien). Cela peut avoir quelque influence. Votre présence ici par contre ne résout rien… En tant que citoyen j’ai sans doute des idées proches des vôtres, mais en tant que soldat j’obéis à mon officier et suis solidaire des autres soldats…. Chaque génération en Israël a sa guerre. Je suis de la génération qui a combattu au Liban. … Je suis sûr que je n’ai pas fait assez pour épargner aux jeunes de vingt ans de faire cette guerre-ci ici” (les Territoires Occupés). D’autre part un soldat dit à Kate: “C’est des gens comme vous qui créez les problèmes. Si vous viviez ici vous comprendriez.” Lorsque Kate lui dit:”J’habite ici”, il secoue la tête, “Non, c’est faux”.

Claire commenceà enlever des pierres de petite taille du barrage. Kate et Karin se joignent à elle. Un des soldats se présente . Il s’appelle Eran, commandant en chef pour ce mois, ce qui signifie qu’il ne sait quasi rien du village, mais il pose des questions sur ce que nous faisons, d’où nous venons. “C’est bien”, dit-il, “C’est bien de faire ce genre de choses. Vous êtes les bienvenues ici”, ce qui est gentil vu que ce n’est pas son pays où il pourrait nous inviter. Il nous a donné une longue leçon, camouflée en dialogue, dans laquelle il démontre que nous ne comprenons pas la situation dans sa totalité, qu’il croit comme nous aux droits humains, et que les gens du village n’ont pas une vie facile. Son argument essentiel, cependant, est que nous ne devons pas nous occuper du barrage. Nous essayons de lui dire que ce n’est pas nous mais les gens du village qui ont décidé de s’en débarrasser et que ne faisions que transmettre leur requête.

Soudain une jeep de la police apparait. La police en sort et nous entoure, apparemment sur le point de nous arrêter. Claire et Mariam pensent reconnaitre une des femmes qui les ont soumises à une fouille corporelle en septembre. Eran remarque que la police a son style typique de police mais que l’armée gère les choses à sa façon. Au bout d’un temps la police repart. Il ajoute que tant qu’il sera responsible, il n’y aura pas de violations des droits humains. Il nous donne son numéro de portable en disant que si nous voyons une injustice, nous pouvons l’appeler. Nous répondons, “ Nous sommes au beau milieu d’une injustice”, mais il n’a pas voulu entendre. Il nous assure qu’il va “vérifier les faits” sur l’histoire récente du village et que si “tout le monde se comporte comme il faut” et si aucun cocktail Molotov ni aucune pierre ne sont jetés pendant une durée qu’il na pas precisée, il demanderait au haut commandement de rouvrir la route. “Appelez-moi dans une semaine”.

Entretemps le soleil s’est couché et Abu Fadi a apporté un repas sur un plateau pour permettre à Mariam, musulmane, de dé-jeûner. Les soldats aussi disent qu’ils ont faim. Ils s’en vont. Ce soir-là, après le premier repas de la journée (c’est le mois de Ramadan) nous discutons dans la maison de H. de ce qu’on peut faire, non avec le barrage en particulier mais avec l’occupation en général. Les personnes présentes sont très pessimistes, disant que le monde entier sait ce qui se passe ici et ne fait rien. Claire suggère que le village pourrait essayer de boycotter le lait israélien et le coca-cola, qui est un puissant symbole de la domination économique des USA. Un des hommes dit “Dans ce cas nous ne buvons plus coca-cola, et nous buvons RC, qui est une compagnie britannique”. Claire dit “Vous pouvez boire de l’eau ou du jus de fruits“. La stupeur dans la pièce est tangible.

Quelqu’un dit alors que le film que Claire a fait de l’après-midi au barrage a été confisqué par la police. Nous sommes horrifiées. “Non, non”, dit Claire en arabe, “Je l’ai toujours, ce film”. Elle demande s’ils veulent que ce film soit remis aux médias, mais ils ne veulent pas parce que c’est trop dangereux pour eux. Plus tard, Abu Rabia, le propriétaire de la maison où nous louons un appartement, nous appelle pour nous dire qu’on l’a informé que la police avait confisqué notre film. Il nous explique que les photos que nous prenons des actions illégales des Palestiniens risquent d’être utilisées par les Israéliens, ce qui par la suite peut nous discréditer. Nous sentons que nous devons soigneusement réfléchir aux suites lorsque nous filmons des Palestiniens en train de faire des actions illégalles, même si elles sont légitimes et non-violentes.

Lundi matin, Kate va au barrage à l’entrée du village aux environs de sept heures. Il y avait sept soldats présents, quatre de plus que d’habitude. Ils arrêtent les gens à pied, contrôlent les voitures palestiniennes, alors que les voitures aux plaques d’immatriculation jaunes passent sans même ralentir, et surveillent les alentours avec leurs jumelles. L’occupation poursuit son cours.

Texte ©: Kate. Photos: xxxx. 18 novembre 2002. Traduction: Dorothée.

[1] Une route des colons (settler road) est réservée aux colons et aux autres Israéliens. Elle relie les colonies les unes aux autres et celles-ci à Israël. Elles contournent les villages palestiniens. N.B.: Les noms des villages palestiniens ne sont pas mentionnés sur les panneaux routiers (n.d.t.).

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IWPS Report 23

Did you say “apartheid”?

November 2002

Three IWPS women (Kate, Mariam and Dorothée) went to Jayous, very early on Friday morning, November 22nd, very early in order to participate to the weekly peaceful demonstration of the people of the village[1] and people from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) as well as Urgence Palestine (Switzerland). A group of about 12 internationals and 30 men and youth from the village were already on the construction site where the weekly symbolic action is to prevent the bulldozers from doing their work for a few hours. It is a minute and perhaps futile sign of protest against the adamant and ongoing plan of building this apartheid wall, as the Palestinians call it. Thus the Apartheid Wall Campaign writes in one leaflet (November 12th): “The separation rhetoric, which should remind everyone of the Afrikaans word for separation – “Apartheid” – is not a reflection of real geographic or a historic physical divide between two peoples, but rather is reference to Israel’s continued campaign of forcible, unilateral separation and expulsion plans that disregard national or economic sovereignty for Palestinians”[2]. Moreover the villagers of Jayous have an economic interest in keeping their land and their livelihood. They are aware that the construction of the wall is well under way but they want to cry to the world and the Israeli government that this policy not only deprives them of precious land but also creates the soil for further violence and hatred.

Soon after this group had set a strategy an army police jeep appeared followed by a jeep with two armed guards of the contractor and the bulldozer. About 15 Palestinian women joined the lines of blockaders. The jeep stopped at about 200 meters from the3 lines of people. 3 soldiers, with assorted weapons (rubber bullets, tear gas, live ammunition) walked towards the first line of people composed of internationals and the Palestinian spokesman and a few Palestinian women. The group held placards with slogans like no more curfews, no more roadblocks, no more closures, and give us back our 15.000 trees, 70% of our land and 7 wells. The conversation between one soldier and A., the village delegate and P. a delegate of the ISM turned around “I am doing my job”, ”We can do nothing about it”, I give you five minutes to decide”, “The bulldozers will work at another site today”, which showed that the mood of the soldier was not aggressive nor vindicative. It is true that the small group of demonstrators between the olive groves and the bare land, right under the ridge of a hill did not look frightening.

Young men and a German “ecumenical accompanier” from the World Council of Churches were calming the young boys who were very excited by the sight of the soldiers, constantly urging them back towards the first line of the demonstration. An English man who was fluent in Arabic had a certain influence on the boys because he had met them in their school the day before, had told them about the reason and the purpose of the peaceful demonstration and encouraged them to think about playful ways of spending the hours between the arrival of the bulldozers and the midday prayer that was to close this action.

At a certain time the soldiers retreated, at about 200 meters downhill, around their jeep and a football game was improvised on the slightly sloping area. Inevitably the ball rolled towards the jeep and the younger men were quite busy keeping the boys back from approaching the soldiers. Slogans were chanted in Arabic and English which made the demands of this demonstration clear.

The wind then played into the hands of the boys as it blew the green, red, violet and yellow balloons towards the jeep. The soft bouncing of balloons was at times interrupted by soldiers as they tried to catch them or kick them or crash them under their boots as they passed by them. Each reaction of the soldiers was either booed or applauded. This created a certain friendly atmosphere. So much so that a 12-year old child advanced extremely cautiously towards the soldier who was sitting on the hood of the jeep with the gift of a pink balloon. Was it a test of his own braveness or a rare gesture of kindness? At every move of another soldier he was ready to leap away. Yet the soldier invited him to approach “Ta’al” until the child handed his pink balloon over to him The soldier put the balloon into his jeep.

The chanting of slogans gets stronger and just when I have the feeling that it is heating up there is a sudden, almost explosive rush of a soldier behind a youngster who had apparently thrown a stone. The brutality of the reaction of the soldier and the stampede that followed was incredible. Everybody ran to help, either to protect the young one or to calm the soldiers. Mariam spoke with the only soldier left at the jeep who was about to throw a sound bomb. She tried to calm him down and told him not to be afraid though he was standing alone, with the 3 others running through the olive grove. The yound man whom the soldiers wanted vanished into the village.

Some time later the soldiers negotiated with the demonstrators to let a digger go through in order to have it make holes for a farmer so he may replant his uprooted olive trees that were standing in a row, without branches, some 4000 meters behind the demonstrators. It was agreed. The digger followed by the jeep and a jeep of armed security men passed behind the lines of the demonstration.

Around midday, on the site of the demonstration there was a muslim prayer, with about 6 rows of men and boys, and a small group of women staying behind them. After the prayer everybody was about to leave except young boys in the late teens who wanted to confront the army. They were eager to throw stones with their slingshots that propel stones at an impressive distance and speed. The effort of several adults and internationals to dissuade them from doing this did not succeed. As the digger and the 2 jeeps were coming back to leave the site, some young ones around the groves threw stones, the army and the security men retaliated with shots. We stood there and waited till everybody left.

This enormous amount of energy of the young Palestinians who do neither study nor work, because they literally live in a prison, expresses itself only by throwing stones. The village is under curfew several days a week, but the army generally is not there to enforce it, so the only effect it has is that the children do not go to school Their strength and courage could be used in other ways if they were given alternatives. Who will tell them that there are other means of affirming oneself than confronting, practically bare-handed, the super equipped army and a ruthless Israeli occupying force? A young man when asked by B., the German woman, why he wants to throw stones if the army throws tear gas, was totally surprised by the question? He sees that this is the only thing to do. B. tried to explain in English that he is then doing exactly what the army needs to have the “right” to retaliate.

I am not sure the message went through, because of language problems and because the very notion of alternative or choice seems to be absent.

The next day, November 23rd. Back in the village of Hares at the morning a group of soldiers check people who go in and out, but mainly prevent people from getting out. When I went towards them with a young woman who wanted to go to Salfit, the main town in the governorate, because she is studying there, the soldier answered me: “There have been problems in the village yesterday, people have been throwing stones. The orders are: nobody gets out except for medical reasons”. “Studying is important too” I said. He agreed, “ I am studying too. But I have orders”. When I suggested he be generous – I avoided to say human or reasonable – he mentioned again the orders. We went back towards the village. A man who was with the young woman and me suggested she go through the fields to the road to catch a ride on a collective taxi, a means that is commonly used by the Palestinians. He even suggested we cross the field right beside the soldiers, about 50 meters away in full view. I hesitated. “Fish mushkuli” (no problem), and indeed we took the young woman to the road and she left. Both the man and I walked back on the road to the village roadblock, where the soldiers were. Men going into the village had to stay in rank and file, pass one by one when called, lift the shirts to prove they did not have a belt with explosives. The man and I passed the soldiers, I met the eyes of the soldier who had spoken about the orders. He did not say anything.

It is hardly surprising that the Palestinians feel that the weird and arbitrary treatment they have been experiencing for three decades is “apartheid” in its crudest form: there are those who get fair treatment, and those who can be bullied around, closed in or fenced off in a ghetto.

On November 21st, Ha’aretz published an article in the English edition about ending the war: “Key to ending the conflict is to be found in the exhaustion on both sides”. Maybe another key is to be found in opposing the moronic way the army works: obeying orders. It looks like an anachronistic demand on men who in civilian life are quite normal, respectable and civilized people, because every human being has the right – and the duty – to think and behave humanly.

Text IWPS ©: Dorothée. Pictures: Dorothée. November 22nd, 2002

[1] See report IWPS 21

[2]Palestinian Environmental Network NGO (PENGON): info@pengon.og or www.stopthewall.org

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IWPS Report No. 24, November 16, 2002

Kibbutz Metzer and the effect of the
proposed Israeli “Security Fence”

For the third evening in a row Palestinians and Israelis have been sitting together mourning the loss of five lives. The deaths of the five, a woman 42, a man 44, two children, 4 & 5 and their mother, 34, has sent shock waves throughout Kibbutz Metzer and the surrounding areas.

The kibbutz was built in 1953 and many of the original residents still live here. It was built on land belonging to the town of Qaffin, since 1967, in the West Bank. The land ended up on the Israeli side of the Green Line -the line that established the borders of the State of Israel at its founding in 1948 and the town on the other side. There are at least three generations of Jewish immigrants from South America who make up the present population of 400 in the kibbutz.

The neighbouring Arab village, Meisar, received the news of the killings with great shock and dismay. They rushed over to the families of the victims to express their condolences and to voice their feelings about the tragedy that had profoundly affected them as well.

This evening there are about 150 people cramped into the common room of the Metzer kibbutz. Many villagers from the ‘Arab Triangle’ in Israel – the area encompassing the towns of Um El-Fahm, Wadi Ara, and Baka al-Gharbiyeh - are here tonight. . The first person to speak is the Mayor of Um El-Fahm, Suleiman al Gharbiyeh. His message is that we are here to be with you, we are against what happened, we are sorry that our people did this. He says that this happened because of the Occupation. An end to the Occupation and a two states/two people is the only way to put an end to the bloodshed on both sides. Other Arab leaders present tonight echo the same message.

The Jewish message is that they do not blame their Arab neighbours. There is no target that could justify the killing of women and children. The message carries hope for the Arabs, they are told that their presence this evening and the previous evenings gives power to the kibbutzniks to face what happened. The Arab presence also gives them hope for the future seeing so many of them during these hard times. The Jewish voices are also calling to put an end to the suffering on both sides. They support the call for peace. They are calling on the leadership on both sides to stop the killing and the cycle of violence.

In September 2002, during a visit to kibbutz Metzer, I heard many people express their opposition to the security fence being built by Israel that will divide the kibbutz from its Arab neighbours. The people from the kibbutz do not think that a fence is needed. They feel that the fence will only encourage more violence; a fence can never be high enough. They say that the fence is bad for the Jews of Israel; that the occupation of Palestine is bad for Israel.

Yohnan M., 36, was born on the kibbutz. He remembers as a child, the Arabs from the nearby village helping the people of the kibbutz and the people of the kibbutz helping the villagers in times of need. After more than 30 years of living peacefully side by side he feels that the fence is unnecessary This year the Arab farmers were not allowed by the Israeli authorities to pick their olives. Yohnan voices his fear that such repressive measures by the Israeli government can only cause the people of the surrounding villages to turn into terrorists. There are more Arabs living in this area than Jews, he says. Arabs also work on the kibbutz. To him the actions of his government appear extremely provocative.

Ibrahim Suleiman Kafian is set to lose 200 dunams of land, roughly 50 acres, due to the construction of the Israeli fence. The land is his only source of income. In 1948, when Israel was established, his father lost the part of his land that fell on the Israeli side of the Green Line. Now, the rest is being taken from him and his family. It is best for him to die, he says. Like Yohnan he also feels that the border has been very peaceful since 1948. He is asking Yohnan to help him in his fight. Even a Jew, Yohnan, feels powerless. The Israeli government is not listening to the people. “In making this fence, they are making big problems,” he says.

What prompted the November 10 attack on Kibbutz Metzer? As the Jews of the kibbutz and Arabs of the surrounding villages ponder this question they leave no doubt about what they think of the Occupation. To them a first step towards a lasting peace is to put an unconditional end to the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land.

Text: Mariam

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They cannot wipe us out

On Monday morning three women from IWPS, Kate from the US, Megumi from Japan and Karin from Austria, walked down the settler road between the Palestinian village Hares and the illegal Israeli settlement Revava. We went to meet with a family from the neighbouring village, Deir Istia, who plucked up all their courage to pick their last trees left right under the settlement.

As soon as we were close to the little path leading through the grove, Hassan* came out of the fields with his wife and daughter. With him was the donkey, packed with all the equipment for harvesting the olives. While we were walking towards their field, the family told us about their life and their land behind the settlement.

The family has been living in Yemen for a long time and came back when the situation in the West Bank seemed about to get better, Arafat was back from exile, and the infrustructure was increasing. Although the occupation was still there, they were motivated to finally come back to their homeland where their roots are and hoped that they would soon be living in a free country.

Hassan and his wife Suha* both studied in Lebanon – he is a religious lawyer and she a chemist. Hassan´s family is still living in Deir Istia, where he was raised. Suha´s family left Deir Istia in 1948, and ended up in a refugee camp in Lebanon, where Suha was born and her family still lives. Her parents are not able to come to visit because they are both old. Suha is afraid, that if she goes to Lebanon to see her parents before they die, she will not be allowed to enter again at the Israeli border.

In Deir Istia the young family bought a small house in the picturesque old city, keeping animals and maintaining a little garden within the ancient walls. They live a modest life with their three children – two teenagers and a five year old.

Since they came back to Palestine, five years ago, the situation and the living conditions have been getting worse and worse and it seems as if there is no future on the horizon. Suha is very worried about her children, who become more and more frustrated, especially because they tasted another life, a free life with rights in Yemen.

What remains to them now is their olive trees, which are not only a symbol of their heritage and roots in the country, but also their only income.

They told us sadly that two years ago, the Israeli army imposed curfew on the little village for two days in order to cut and uproot olive trees around Revava. Other families were also affected, but Hassan´s family alone had a loss of around 200 trees on a land of about 50 dunams. Only 25 trees were left and so they asked us to accompany them to the area to pick their olives, because they were afraid that the security guard from the settlement would not allow them to access their land.

Hassan was walking in the front with the donkey and suddenly stiffened, looked straight for quite a while, then slowly turned around and said in a sad and slow voice: “We have no trees anymore. They have cut the rest. We can return home.”

We were shocked and walked into the fields, Hassan remained where he stood and stared into nowhere. There was a lot of brushwood and brambles, uprooted trees, some of them burnt. When we walked up towards the fence a security guard showed up immediately and the nineteen year old Aischa*, the eldest daughter, got frightened, that her father would be shot. Her mother a strong woman, stuted: “This is our land, so we can be here. I don´t care about him. This guard has nothing to say here.”

Karin went with Suha through the thorns to some single little trees which were left and could gather a handful of olives. There were only one to ten olives on each tree. For Suha it was clear: “The trees are sad. They don´t want to carry fruit anymore under these circumstances. Also the soil couldn´t be ploughed and that’s very bad for the trees. But we were afraid coming here. The life of my husband is more important than the trees.”

In the meanwhile Aischa went with Kate and Megumi to the fence of the settlement, which was built on land from Deir Istia, Hares and Qarawat. When the armed guard approached the three women Aischa went towards him and told him: “You killed all our trees”. The guard just said: “Leave from here, please”. When Aischa came back to the two Internationals he shouted to them: “Go away”. Kate replied: “Why should we go away? This is her land”. He demanded: “Show me the papers”. And Kate retorted: “She doesn´t have to show you”. It seems that he understood who was right as he just said ok and went back to the settlement.

We sat down under an olive tree of the neighbour´s groves and the family insisted that we eat some of the sweets they only brought for us, because they assumed that we are not fasting during Ramadan. They told us, that their family who was in Deir Istia when the settlement was built in 1985 fought for their land and trees then. In 1999 they went to the court the last time. They showed us the papers of ownership and from the lawyer as well as maps from their land later when we were in their house.

Now the former olive grove looks like a wild and useless field. That makes it easier for the settlement to expand and build new houses. The strategy seems obvious. If the land gets useless to the farmers because their trees are uprooted and burned, they won´t risk being shot trying to start from the beginning. After three years this gives the Israeli Occupation Forces the legal right to annex it as Israeli property.

Before we went back to their home, we spent some time walking through the sad fields. Around the cut stumps of the ancient trees, which were cut two years ago, wild new branches are growing rampant and stubborn towards the sun as if they wanted to say: “We will resist. Our roots and seeds are deeply in this earth. Whatever you do to us. You can´t wipe us out.”

We hope to accompany the family again to this field to plough the soil and plant new trees.

* Names changed. Personal details with IWPS.

Text IWPS ©: Karin; Pictures: Karin, 27th november 2002

The Return of the Red Cross

The Village Engages in Nonviolent Resistance

Wednesday 21st August 2002

Report 3

After the Red Cross had left early on Monday afternoon the volunteer bulldozer driver had been threatened and humiliated at gunpoint by a soldier waiting to see the road-block go back up. The driver managed to escape without putting the huge boulders back. It is one thing to open a road-block voluntarily but why should he have to put it back and imprison himself and his village once again? Thus it was an easy job to push away the rubble and open the road fully the following afternoon.

The soldiers saw it today and sent the troops in. One jeep blocked the open road to prevent people going in and out. Several families trying to get out of the village were turned back even after they begged to be let out. They were just an ordinary family, completely unthreatening.

Whilst this was going on a curfew was called. Everyone was ordered into their homes – for maybe two or three days it was threatened. Four jeeps full of soldiers with the back doors open and the guns bristling out moved through the streets of the village calling the curfew. Everyone grabbed their children and scurried inside. When asked why the curfew had been imposed the soldiers said the villagers had been throwing stones. Over the last ten days in the village we have seen no stones being thrown at all. When asked why they were breaking international law by collectively punishing a whole village in this way – there was a pause and then a sheepish ‘it is just politics, I have to obey orders’. When it was pointed out that it would be hard to distribute the Red Cross food if there was a curfew imposed – the soldier just stalked back to his jeep.

Back at the road-block two jeeps and 8 soldiers took over the brave and heroic task of keeping civilians imprisoned in their village.

As the District Liaison Officer (a Druze named Rami) arrived to supervi

The Return of the Red Cross

The Village Engages in Nonviolent Resistance

Wednesday 21st August 2002

Report 3

After the Red Cross had left early on Monday afternoon the volunteer bulldozer driver had been threatened and humiliated at gunpoint by a soldier waiting to see the road-block go back up. The driver managed to escape without putting the huge boulders back. It is one thing to open a road-block voluntarily but why should he have to put it back and imprison himself and his village once again? Thus it was an easy job to push away the rubble and open the road fully the following afternoon.

The soldiers saw it today and sent the troops in. One jeep blocked the open road to prevent people going in and out. Several families trying to get out of the village were turned back even after they begged to be let out. They were just an ordinary family, completely unthreatening.

Whilst this was going on a curfew was called. Everyone was ordered into their homes – for maybe two or three days it was threatened. Four jeeps full of soldiers with the back doors open and the guns bristling out moved through the streets of the village calling the curfew. Everyone grabbed their children and scurried inside. When asked why the curfew had been imposed the soldiers said the villagers had been throwing stones. Over the last ten days in the village we have seen no stones being thrown at all. When asked why they were breaking international law by collectively punishing a whole village in this way – there was a pause and then a sheepish ‘it is just politics, I have to obey orders’. When it was pointed out that it would be hard to distribute the Red Cross food if there was a curfew imposed – the soldier just stalked back to his jeep.

Back at the road-block two jeeps and 8 soldiers took over the brave and heroic task of keeping civilians imprisoned in their village.

As the District Liaison Officer (a Druze named Rami) arrived to supervise his soldiers a flock of terrorists casually wandered through with their shepherd close behind clutching his bundle of straw.

Telephone calls to the Red Cross elicited their arrival – they had been called in to enforce the agreement they had made with the Army that the food convoys were only allowed in on condition that the road-blocks were put back afterwards.

A rather slow negotiation process ensued but with the Red Cross engaged in enforcing the Siege, the Army soon left. The villagers made good use of the opening and got various trucks and cars in and out carrying a variety of goods but the go-slow could not continue too long and within a couple of hours the bulldozer driver was persuaded to put the road–block back again …… but for how long…….

Pictures and text by Angie, IWPS, Hares, Salfit, August 22nd 2002.

se his soldiers a flock of terrorists casually wandered through with their shepherd close behind clutching his bundle of straw.

Telephone calls to the Red Cross elicited their arrival – they had been called in to enforce the agreement they had made with the Army that the food convoys were only allowed in on condition that the road-blocks were put back afterwards.

A rather slow negotiation process ensued but with the Red Cross engaged in enforcing the Siege, the Army soon left. The villagers made good use of the opening and got various trucks and cars in and out carrying a variety of goods but the go-slow could not continue too long and within a couple of hours the bulldozer driver was persuaded to put the road–block back again …… but for how long…….

Pictures and text by Angie, IWPS, Hares, Salfit, August 22nd 2002.