2003

No Witnesses

IWPS Report 27, January 9, 2003

On Sunday, December 29, three women from IWPS, Kate, Maggie and Mariko participated in a demonstration in Jayyous where international activists and Palestinians from many villages in Qalqilya were attacked with tear gas, sound bombs and live ammunition.  A Palestinian journalist was arrested, and a Palestinian member of the International Solidarity Movement was shot twice.  The attack occurred when activists and villagers attempted to visit one of the many areas where bulldozers are uprooting trees and clearing land for the “security fence” or Apartheid Wall (see Reports No. 9, 21, and 23).  Earlier that day, tear gas was fired at a group of ISM activists and villagers attempting to photograph the work being done on the wall in Izbet Salman, a village about 20 kilometers from Hares in southern Qalqilya.

That same afternoon Karin and Nijmie walked to Ariel settlement to meet Cathi, our new volunteer.  Because of the difficulty of transportation to Palestine from the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, we recommended that Cathi take the settler bus to Ariel and that we would pick her up from the gas station that is just inside the entrance to Ariel property.  Unfortunately, that is by far the quickest and easiest way of reaching us; the alternative is to go to by way of Jerusalem which can be expensive and take up to four hours.

The weather was so nice that they decided to walk through our village and a neighbouring village, then cross the settler road into Ariel.  When they were about 50 meters from the entrance to the gas station, a car slowed down to scrutinize them.  The man on the passenger side rolled down the window and began firing questions in harsh tones. ‘Where are you going?  What are you doing?  Who are you?’  The two replied ‘We’re just here to pick up a friend who’s come in on the bus.’  They also responded that they live in Hares, which made the man extremely uncomfortable.

The unmarked car did not appear to be a security vehicle.  When asked to show our ID’s, we demanded to know who our questioners were.  They mumbled something about being ‘settlement security’, and then showed us some type of identification card after first confirming that neither of us can read Hebrew.  The old man in the car commanded us to wait on the sidewalk until he could call ‘security’.  We asked him why as we were only going to meet our friend, but he insisted that we wait, and he commissioned two soldiers who were standing by, to prevent us from moving forward.  After about five minutes, two men came walking up to us.  These men were also not identifiable.  We asked who they were and they also said cryptically ‘security’.  They asked for our identification.  Nijmie showed a copy of her passport, but Karin had left hers at home.  They again posed a litany of questions to us in very harsh and angry tones, suggested that we were trespassing and we had no right to be there, and that they didn’t believe our story about why we were going to the gas station.  We attempted to explain about the bus coming in but they argued saying that the bus had already passed.

After about ten minutes of interaction with these unpleasant people, who were incidentally carrying M16 rifles, we decided that we should wait for Cathi back out on the street.  We told them that we would do this, and they responded by saying that we were forbidden to leave, and that they were calling the police.  When Karin and Nijmie tried to leave, one of the men grabbed Karin and pulled her hands behind her back as if to put handcuffs on her.  He had a bunch of plastic handcuffs through his belt cuff.  About fifteen minutes later, the police came.  We attempted to negotiate with the police for another half an hour.  During this time, Cathi finally emerged from the Hotel in Ariel and came toward us.  Despite the fact that an Israeli ally from Rabbis for Human Rights intervened on our behalf, the police took Karin to the Ariel police station, and we had to go home and bring the requested documents there before she could be released.  What began as a quick errand ended up being a four hour ordeal that underscored the difficulty that internationals are facing when we are suspected of working in support of Palestinian human rights.

Moments after Kate returned to Hares from Jayyous, her mobile phone rang.  It was Angie, reporting that she was being denied entry to Israel and held at the airport pending deportation.  Since the project began, we knew that it was a real possibility that we would be deported, or not allowed into the country at all.  The Israeli government has increasingly been attempting to prevent international witnesses from crossing its borders, excluding over 10,000 journalists, human rights workers and peace activists in the last two years.[1] At our training last summer, we talked about the best strategies for passing the airport screening and how to tell the truth without raising any alarms.  When two of the first team members were arrested and threatened with deportation, we worried that the project could be short-lived.  In the last four months, however, as team members and volunteers have been admitted with no problems and there have been no further arrests, we came to believe that the Israeli government did not perceive our presence as a threat.

Suddenly, it seems that even a small women’s human rights group in a remote village in Palestine affronts the Israeli government’s desire to avoid criticism from the international community.  Angie, who was coming now in order to testify at the trial of an armed settler who attacked her in the Hebron area last December, was told that she was on a “list” of people who pose a “security threat” to the Israeli state.  She was placed in a holding cell (with a deportee from Mongolia who had been there for three days and expected to be there another week waiting for a flight) and told she would be sent back to London immediately.  On Monday afternoon, they tried to force her onto a plane, while an Israeli lawyer was appealing the deportation order.  She resisted, and they wrapped her in a blanket and carried her to the tarmac and onto an Austrian Airlines plane.

Angie complained loudly that she was being deported against her will in order to prevent her from testifying against armed settlers who attack Palestinians and international observers.  She made sure that everyone on the plane heard, and reports that people were getting out of their seats to hear what was happening.  The flight crew decided that they would not have her on board, so she was returned to the holding cell.

On Tuesday morning she learned that the case against the settler who attacked her would not go to trial, because a plea bargain had been struck, whereby the man would pay 3500 shekels to compensate her for the camera he broke and would do some community service.  It was of course disappointing for Angie not to get to tell the story of the attack, which occurred while she was trying to stop teenage girls from a Hebron settlement from throwing stones at an elderly Palestinian man.  However, her lawyer says that most cases of settler violence do not get prosecuted at all and it is quite a victory that the man pled guilty.  Certainly, the government had tried hard to make the case disappear; they dropped it once and only reopened it because of the intervention of Palestine Human Rights Monitoring Group and the UK Consulate on Angie’s behalf.

At the hearing, the Ministry of the Interior openly said that Angie was not welcome in Israel because she was coming to do human rights monitoring.  The judge agreed and told Angie she was not welcome in Israel; Angie pointed out that she had many Israeli friends who do welcome her, and the Israelis in the courtroom stood up and said that this was true.  The judge said she meant the State of Israel didn’t welcome her.  Israeli supporters surrounded Angie and refused to move, which was the only thing which prevented the government from forcing her onto a plane before her lawyer was able to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.  Eventually, however, the Supreme Court also rejected the appeal of the deportation ruling, and Angie was returned to England, with a secret police (Shabak) agent sitting next to her.

A statement released by the Israeli Embassy in London after Angie’s deportation claims, inaccurately, that Angie was deported when she left in November, and says in part, “The Government of Israel welcomes the legitimate humanitarian activities of the international community and facilitates these activities on an ongoing basis. Members of the peace organisations visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority regularly, and both communities enjoy the benefits of this voluntary assistance. However, no country in the world can accept the entry of people who were intending to harm the security of its citizens or who are subject to a deportation order.”

On Monday morning, while Angie was sitting in a holding cell at Ben Gurion, Kate, Mariko and Cathi went to Huwara checkpoint, where IWPS does checkpoint watch once a week.  Checkpoint Watch was pioneered by Israeli women and is done by various groups of internationals.  Our main goals are to let the soldiers who run the checkpoints Palestinians have to pass through to get to work, school or homes know that their behavior is being monitored and recorded, and to document for human rights organizations and people in our home countries the obstacles to freedom of movement people face here.  People always thank us for being there.  Some feel that our presence actually makes the soldiers pass people through more easily.  Others simply appreciate knowing someone is paying attention to the daily humiliation and frustration of their lives, the hours spent waiting in line and being verbally and even physically abused at the whim of 19-year-olds who tell us they would rather be somewhere else.

We have been doing checkpoint watch at Huwara and Zatara, the main checkpoints in our area, for just over a month.  The reaction of soldiers has varied, from curiosity about who we are and what we are doing, to grudging tolerance to open hostility.  Our activities have also varied, depending on what is happening at the checkpoints.  When we arrived at Huwara this Monday, things seemed to be moving pretty well.  Cathi and Kate sat near the soldier and greeted people and watched them answer his questions.  Mariko stood at the bus stop on the other side of the narrow pedestrian walkway and watched the cars and ambulances being searched.  We counted, as we always do, how many yellow-plated Israeli cars and how many green-plated Palestinian cars were stopped, searched, sent back or passed through, and how many men, women and children passed through or were sent back.  Nablus was open, so people’s IDs were checked and they went through.

The soldiers had set it up so that there was just one narrow opening for people to go through, and not only did people have to get out that  way, but the people coming from the other side had to get in.  More and more people were arriving, and suddenly the line wasn’t moving.  The soldiers would call, “Banat!” (meaning “girls,” a disrespectful way to call women of all ages) and all the women would try to come, from the very back as well as the front, and it would make even more chaos in the line.  The soldiers decided they didn’t like this, and the two who were working the cars suddenly came into the pedestrian area and started pushing men, yelling at them, trying to make everyone stand in a straight line.

The two soldiers were really worked up and screaming at the crowd.  They announced that the checkpoint was closed.  Pretty soon there were about 200 people waiting.  The soldiers came to us and told us to leave.  We asked why and they said it was a “closed military zone.”  Mariko argued that she couldn’t be in a closed military area because she was at a bus stop.  “It’s only a bus stop for Israelis,” she was told.  We moved further away, and called some of the numbers we have for Army generals and Israeli organizations who resolve checkpoint problems.  The soldiers continued to tell us to leave.  A border police jeep drove into the middle of the crowd.  The soldiers stood up and cocked their rifles, aiming at the air.  The other soldiers ran toward the front of the line, also waving guns.

One soldier told us “I need to use my power, and you’re going to make me look bad.  You’re taking pictures, and people are going to see and think it’s bad.”  Cathi said, “But if you’re just doing your job and using your authority properly, you should be proud to have people see it.”  “I don’t care,” he said.  “I think they should just open this shit up and let them all go, but I can’t do that.”  “Well, maybe not, but you can check their ID and let them through.”  “Well we would but they won’t stand straight.”  Cathi explained that they couldn’t stand straight, because there were so many people and more people would come and push from the back.  “I know what these people can do,” he said.  “I didn’t just get here, I’ve been here about three weeks.  You’ve seen me here before,” he said to Kate.  “Yes,” she said, “and that day you were just doing your job and we didn’t bother you, did we?”  “It’s wrong for you to be here.  Get the fuck out of here.  I tell you to leave, and I don’t care if you sue me.  I hope they put me in jail.”

At least 20 people with medical needs came to us with prescriptions and appointment slips from hospitals and doctors, and asked if we could do something to help them get through.  Medical cases are supposed to get priority, so we called Physicians for Human Rights to negotiate.  While this was happening, the border police arrived with the regular police.  Kate and Mariko were arrested; police looked for Cathi but she was in the crowd of men and they didn’t find her.  Kate and Mariko were held at Ariel police station for 8 hours, being told they were to be deported, but at the end of the day they were released, Mariko with no conditions and Kate on a promise to stay out of the West Bank for 15 days.

Israeli activists speculated that the problems at the checkpoint might have been a response to Sharon’s call for “increased pressure on the Palestinians,” which he stated should include “extrajudicial executions” such as those carried out in Ramallah two weeks ago.  Fear is mounting in Palestine over what will happen here when the U.S. invades Iraq.  On January 6, in response to the previous day’s bombings in Tel Aviv, soldiers announced to IWPS members at Zatara that “the entire West Bank is now closed to people with cameras.”  A Palestinian journalist from Jemaiin village who works in Ramallah reported that he was held two and a half hours at Qalandia because of this alleged new ban.

Whenever there is an attack in an Israeli city, people all over Palestine call their Israeli friends to check that they are all right.  Our neighbor came over on Sunday evening and several times we heard him speaking softly in Hebrew on his mobile phone, talking to one friend after another, asking “Hakol b’seder?”  Dunya went to the New York Times website and there was a slideshow of the carnage in Tel Aviv.  When we called an Israeli friend who lives in Tel Aviv to make sure she was okay, she said that over 55 Palestinians have been killed in the last month (another report said 189) and the deaths have not been reported in the Israeli or international press.

Our witnessing and documenting activities feel more important than ever.  Yet it is clear that the Israeli government will try to curtail our ability to continue this work.  We will keep our eyes open, and rely on you to help us tell the stories of the people among whom we are living.

Text:  Kate and Nijmie; photos: Kate


[1] “Entry Denied,” Haaretz, December 14, 2002.

A War Against Children

IWPS Report #28, February 10, 2003

On November 27, Ali was a normal teenager living in a small Palestinian village under Israeli occupation.  He went to school, whenever it was open.  He helped his parents harvest their olives and his sisters care for the chickens.  He never got in trouble.  He hung out with his friends and his older brother, Jihad, who was studying for his Taojihi, the final examination that high school students must pass to go on to university.

Now Ali is a casualty of the Israeli government’s war on Palestinian youth, especially the young men it fears are most likely to become involved in resistance to the occupation.  Since November 28, Ali, who was then only 14 years old, and Jihad, 17, have been sitting in Israeli military prisons.  Ali is charged with throwing stones at Army jeeps and with being the lookout for someone planning to throw a Molotov cocktail.  Like nearly all kids who are taken for “questioning,” he “confessed” to the stone throwing, but he has consistently denied being involved in the Molotov cocktail incident, despite the heavy coercive tactics of Israeli interrogators.[1][1]  Kids charged with throwing stones who have not been arrested before are normally released after questioning.  The Molotov cocktail charge is considered much more serious and is probably the reason Ali is still in prison.

IWPS was contacted about the arrests the night they occurred, by a text message from a friend in Deir Istya.  We made phone calls for the next several days and finally located the boys, though there was a lot of confusion about where they actually were.  Initially, the Army denied having them at all.  Then, someone reported that Ali had called his parents and said he was in Qdumim, a military prison in the Tulkarem district.  Qdumim is the nearest detention center to our area and most of those arrested in the villages in Salfit start out there.  Qdumim does not hold children, however, so officers we spoke with denied that the kids were there.  Hamoked, an Israeli legal organization which traces prisoners, said that they were in Qdumim.  The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) Spokesperson’s office, which also traces prisoners, called and told us they were in Shechem prison near Nablus.  It was nearly a week after Ali and Jihad were arrested that anyone was able to tell their parents definitely where they were:  Ali was in Qdumim and Jihad had been moved to Ofer, near Ramallah.

Since Hamoked was already involved in the case, we felt there was nothing more we could do.  They connected the family with Defense of Children International (DCI), which assigned a lawyer to represent Ali.  Israeli law requires that children be allowed to post bail, and that they be represented by a lawyer at any hearing.  However, Ali’s family was never given the opportunity to bail him out. He was taken to a military court and with no lawyer present, ordered held until March 4, when there would be another hearing to determine his fate.

On Thursday, December 27, Ali’s father came to see us with a friend who speaks English.  He wanted to know what we could do for Ali.  He told us that Ali had never been visited by a lawyer or anyone else, in the month that he had been held.  His lawyer had met with the prosecutor and tried to get her to drop the charges, but she refused to do it.  He had not filed any papers in court.  We offered to go with him and his wife if they wanted to try to visit.  He said they would like that very much.  I called the Army office in charge of the prison to see if that would be possible on Friday.  The guy I talked to said it was impossible that Ali was there, that they never hold anyone that long and certainly not children.  I said that we knew Ali was there, and we were so anxious to have the visit because it is illegal for a child to be imprisoned without representation and without being able to see his family.  He said, “I agree, that’s why I don’t believe it.”  He said he would check into it, and I should call back in half an hour.  When I called in half an hour, I was told that he had left.

Frustrated, I called an Israeli lawyer we know and he offered to call the prison.  A little while later, he called back and said that he had confirmed that Ali was there and that we could visit.  I asked if it would be a problem to go on Friday morning, because I know that Friday is kind of a half-day-off for a lot of Israelis and especially government offices don’t tend to work much on Fridays.  He said no, he was told there is visiting on Friday.

On Friday morning, Ali’s parents, Abu and Um Saad, picked up Karin and me at 8:30 and we went to Qdumim.  They had brought a tote bag with clothes and some snacks to give him.  Karin explained to the soldier in charge that the family wanted to see their son.  He immediately said, “There are no visits in this prison.”  I said, “But he’s only 14.”  He said, “Oh,” and went into his booth to call someone, and I thought maybe they wouldn’t give us trouble about it.  But when he hung up, he said the expected, “I’m sorry, but there are no visits allowed.”  I said, “But I had an Israeli lawyer call and he assured me we would be able to visit.”  “Yes,” he said, “they told me the Israeli lawyer called, but there are no visits here.”  Karin began to list the illegalities about the detention:  Ali had been denied bail, held without representation, held in an adult facility, and all we are asking is that at least his mother be allowed to visit her son.  “No,” he said, “but I can bring him his clothes.”

We asked to speak to whomever was in charge, and he said, “There’s no one in charge.”  He said that the commander of the prison was not working because of the Shabbat, and we asked to speak to whoever replaces him.  He kept insisting that there was no replacement.  “There are only simple soldiers here now,” he kept saying.  “Well, if there were an emergency, like a riot or a medical emergency, who would you call?”  “The doctor,” he said.  “Well, okay, but if there were a riot?”  “Well, if there were a riot, we would deal with it; we’re the guards.  We can deal with that, but not visits.”  This struck me as a little ridiculous, that “simple soldiers” would be entrusted to put down a riot but not to let a 14-year-old visit his mother.

We stood there arguing for quite a while, getting nowhere.  I kept thinking that he could just decide to ignore us, we weren’t in the way, but he didn’t.  He seemed to want to help.  “I’m sure if you come back on Sunday, it will be all right.  I’m sorry you came all this way,” he added when I started to complain.  “Look,” he confided, “I don’t care.  I don’t even want to be here.  I just want to go home.”  This is a refrain we hear a lot from soldiers.

Finally the surrogate commander came and told us that no exception could be made because “we have 30 or 40 prisoners here, and if we do it for you….” He didn’t bother to complete the sentence.  Karin and I both argued at once, “But no other children.”  “No,” he said, “because we don’t hold children here.”  “So you’re making an exception already,” I said, “so you can make another one.”

I called the Israeli lawyer who had told me that we would be able to visit, and he was incredulous.  “They won’t let them visit their own son?”  I got the major to talk to him, and when he gave me back the phone, Shamai said, “He’s rude and violent.  He’ll never let you in.”  He told me to tell him that he’d get in trouble, that he could be personally sued, and gave me the citation of a recent Supreme Court decision in which prison authorities had had to pay 5,000 shekels to the family of a Palestinian detained illegally.  I wrote all this down and went to talk to the guy in charge, whose name is Nir.  He was on the phone.  When he hung up his phone call, he said to me quietly, “I’ll take the mom to visit her boy.”  I was so shocked, I had to ask him to repeat it.

I went with Um Saad into the prison.  The guards searched the bag of clothes she had brought and said that the little bag of snack food was not allowed.  Nir set up two chairs in a small fenced corridor, and told Um Saad to sit in one and Ali was led in, not cuffed or shackled, and they sat facing each other. He is a handsome teenager, taller than his mother, with deep black wavy hair.  Instinctively, I reached for my camera, and one of the guards snapped, “No pictures,” but Nir said I could take one picture and then leave.  I stood outside the fence with all the soldiers, who kicked around a soccer ball and played with a little dog while Ali and his mother visited for about 20 minutes, constantly touching.  She kept adjusting the sleeves of his sweatshirt.  Much of the time, they were both crying.

After the visit, everyone’s spirits were high, though of course it was hard for Um Saad to see her son go in prison.  We went back to Deir Istya, and Karin was finally able to reach the lawyer, who said he was going to file a petition on Sunday to try to get Ali released, or at least moved to an appropriate facility for juveniles, where his family could visit.  But the following week, we talked to the family and they had never heard from the lawyer.  We tried to get in touch, and were never able to reach him.  We asked some other lawyers for advice, but no one could do anything else unless the family could pay them a lot, which they cannot.

Two weeks later, a few days after Ali turned 15, Nijmie and I went with his parents to try to visit him again.  I had tried repeatedly to reach the commander to see if he would allow it, but he was never available.  When we got there, we again talked to a young soldier, a Yemeni Jew who spoke some Arabic, and who also was very polite but told us no, no one could visit.  We argued and asked to talk to someone in charge, and eventually the commander of the military base came and then the commander of the prison, but they all said the same thing:  only a lawyer could visit, and only with three days’ notice.  This time, we were not able to persuade them.  The commander said the previous visit had been allowed without his authorization, and “It was a nice thing to do, but it will not happen again.  Not today, not ever.”

A few days after that attempted visit, Ali was moved to Huwara prison near Nablus.  We had been told that once he was moved to another facility, the family could visit, but Huwara does not allow visitors either, and we have not been able to get permission for the family to see their son.  He has now been held more than two months.  The Red Cross has visited him once, but he still has never seen or spoken to a lawyer.

Ali is one of over 2000 children under 17 who have been arrested by the since the beginning of the Second Intifada two and a half years ago.  Defense for Children International estimates that 300-350 are currently being detained. Several dozen are held in the infamous Ketziot prison in the Negev desert, where prisoners were recently beaten and tear gassed for protesting the inhuman conditions under which they are forced to live.  The Mandela Human Rights Institute reports that in this Intifada, there has been a dramatic increase in the detention of youngsters 13 and older.  On the night of January 15, the Army entered Hares and arrested an 11-year-old and his 13-year-old brother on their way home from the barber shop.  (They were released the next morning.)

Under Israeli law, children under 16 are supposed to be held at Telmond prison, inside Israel, and about 80 currently are.  Ali’s lawyer has talked about having him moved to this facility, but if that happens, his family will have no chance to see him, since West Bank Palestinians are not allowed into Israel to visit their relatives.  Moreover, a recent report by the Palestinian organization LAW concludes that children held at Telmond are subjected to “brute physical violence from Israeli guards, denial of family visits and communication with the outside world, a shortage of clothing, appropriate medical attention, hazardous living conditions, and extremely long prison sentences.…LAW’s lawyer said the children report they were suspected of having mobile phones. Israeli guards threatened to beat them with electric and wooden sticks. The children were strip-searched and police dogs were used. The guards threw Qur’ans on the floor, while dogs sniffed their prayer clothes and other religious items.”

All of this is part of a larger campaign of violence and repression against Palestinian young people.  In “A Generation Denied,” DCI reports Israel’s myriad violations of international conventions concerning the rights of children.  Chief among them is denial of the right to education (see IWPS Report #13).  Since the start of the Intifada, nearly 200 Palestinian schools have been invaded, shelled or damaged, including the school in Hares, which since last year has bars on the windows because the Israeli army threw tear gas and sound bombs into the school almost every school day in 2001.  In numerous villages and cities we have visited, including Qalqilya and Jayyous, the army calls curfew almost every day at 7:00 a.m. and leaves town at 8:30 or 9:00, staying just long enough to make sure that the schools do not open.  The final day of last term, the army invaded the school in A-Ras, which children are already being prevented from reaching because of the construction on the apartheid wall, and tore down the Palestinian flag which flies over every school in Palestine.  The principal was told that if the flag was replaced, the school would be demolished.  Students in D’aba, another village being devastated by the wall construction, have also been threatened with the demolition of their school if a single student is believed to have thrown one stone.

Despite the hardships of 55 years of occupation, Palestinians have one of the highest literacy rates in the world, as well as the highest number of Ph.D.’s per capita.  Israeli authorities realize that education is a valuable resource in any resistance movement.  The strategies to crush Palestinian youth are part of the effort to destroy the Palestinian spirit.  They will not succeed.

IWPS is urging all those who care about human rights to sign the Petition for Ali’s Release.  Please help us distribute this petition.  Ali’s trial is set for Tuesday, March 4.

Text and photo:  Kate


Stop the Apartheid Wall

IWPS Report #29, 4th April 2003

If you’ve ever sat in springtime in an olive grove, enjoying the shade of the trees and the scent of the fresh earth, perhaps you will understand what land can mean to people who depend on it. Go just once to Mas-ha, Bidia, Sanniria or one of the dozens of Palestinian villages that are losing most of their land to the Israeli Apartheid Wall and you will get an idea of what kind of pain Palestinians feel over the theft and destruction of their land.

Members of IWPS and ISM understood some of this pain while participating in a small demonstration in Mas-ha, organized by the Land Defense Committee of Salfit, against the new portion of the Apartheid Wall south of Qalqilya. The military has recommended that the Wall incorporate into Israel the settlements of Elkana, Revava, Immanuel, Qadumim and Ariel, encircling parts of the West Bank from the east. The farmers held a march that ended up in one of the olive groves recently destroyed by the army bulldozers.  Only some trunks of the trees were left, and the soil was broken up and covered with the olive branches. The ground had been prepared for the building of the Wall. To understand what is coming you only have to look over to the next hill were the Apartheid Wall is creeping closer.  At least 360 km long, the Wall will be composed of various sections, some of them made of concrete, others of barbed wire. There are large buffer zones on either side that will be inaccessible to Palestinians.

The Wall, however is not only about the destruction of land, it violates some of the most basic human rights.

First of all it infringes upon the Right to Freedom of Movement. This doesn’t only mean that people won’t be allowed to cross the Wall, but that their villages will be cut off from roads that are connecting them to the centers of trade, culture and education. Being cut off from the rest of Palestine means, in the case of Mas-ha, that the roads and trade that have passed through it since Ottoman times have been severed by a barbed wire fence. The villagers have told IWPS that Mas-ha has already suffered a serious economic breakdown when Israel closed its borders to the West Bank and the Israeli army started to build up check-points and road blocks. The village used to be famous for this market that was considered one of the biggest in Palestine. Today only abandoned shacks are left.

Secondly it infringes upon the Right to Work, and the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living. It leaves the farmers without jobs, and with virtually no way of finding other sources of income. The case of Ahmad Amer, whom IWPS met at the recent demonstration, is just one example. He will lose all his land to the Wall, and even though he doesn’t want to, he would be prepared to go and work in Israeli factories to earn a living. Unfortunately, the Israeli occupying authorities most probably won’t give him the permission to do so, as he is Palestinian.  Ahmad Amer shares this fate with more than 20,000 Palestinians. It is more than a list of individual tragedies; the entire economy of each of these villages will be ruined.

Apart from the breakdown of trade, many villages will lose most of their water wells. Others will be encircled from three sides by the Wall so that any growth of the village will be impossible and continuous military control will be easy to maintain. The younger generation will find no way of earning a living, and will have no land to build their houses on, and will thus be forced to leave the area in order to be able to create a decent future for themselves. It will be intolerably difficult for people to reach the cities. In these conditions there can be no development.

Finally, the construction of the Wall infringes upon the Right to be Heard, as any kind of legal action taken so far against the confiscation of land and the construction of the Wall has shown that presenting objections to the IDF is nothing more than a formality which, in most cases, has no effect on decisions that have already been made[1].

This is what real transfer is all about.

The Apartheid Wall does not only concern the people and the land in the directly affected areas. Its existence means the legitimization of Israeli occupation and the end of any possibility of creating a Palestinian state.

With the second phase of the so-called “Security Fence” it is even more obvious that its construction has little to do with safeguarding Israeli security; it doesn’t safeguard anything but the accomplishment of a longstanding expansionist strategy, and the annexation of more and more Palestinian land. The settlements that started in the 70s after the visit of Egypt’s President Sadat to Israel have been continuously under attack. They are considered illegal according to the Geneva Conventions and international standards of law. Nevertheless, Israel has never stopped building new settlements. The Apartheid Wall will now incorporate most of them into Israel in a de-facto annexed zone. In addition it will separate over 13,000 Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank.

What the Palestinians in the region of Salfit are facing now is not even the last phase of the construction of the Apartheid Wall. Two more phases have been proposed, annexing the Jordan valley to Israel and encircling the southern part of the West Bank.

It is not by chance that the recommendations for the second phase of the building of the wall were announced just a few days after the war against Iraq started. Israeli policy makers are counting on the fact that international attention is currently focused on the cruel slaughter of the Iraqi population, and that the rather unspectacular theft of more Palestinian land will not be noticed by the rest of the world.

The farmers on the field were understandably distressed, not so much because they are being ignored by the international community, but because it appears that no one is able to stop even the most obvious and deliberate crimes. Palestinians very clearly understand that their fate is closely linked to the rest of the Middle East and that the war against Iraq perfectly suits Israeli interests as it offers them the opportunity to achieve their own expansionist plans.

People in the western world often complain about the Palestinians considering the Iraqi people a brother people…well, it is hard to find two societies who have suffered more from the Israeli-American urge to control the Arab World.

The will to continue struggling for their rights, however, prevails over dismay and frustration. So, this demonstration was only the first of a series of protests against the Apartheid Wall and against Occupation.

IWPS Report 30, April 30th, 2003

Poisoning relations — the experience of one village surrounded by illegal settlements

Sawiya is a village of 2,000 people, located south of Zaatara Checkpoint, which lies on either side of the road from Jerusalem to Nablus (Highway 60) that was constructed two years ago. The houses are mainly on the west side while the land is on the east side. On the hilltop directly above the Palestinian agricultural land, lies the settlement of Eli that straddles several hills.  Scanning around you see settlements covering the tops of most of the hilltops – answering Sharon’s call in 1998 to militant settlers from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party

“Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”

The residents of Sawiya are currently experiencing problems with a key agricultural water source – an underground spring/well, which illegal settlers are attempting to annex. The newest addition to Eli, a collection of trailers set up in the year 2000, is just north of the water source. As one resident told IWPS: “The settlers are occupying our water”.

The water source is also serviced by an inadequate pipe system that dates back to the British Mandate. The key problems with the pipes are that they are too small for enough water to move through for agricultural purposes – specifically the planned planting and irrigation of orange trees.  The pipes are rusted in places, which has led to water leakage.  A far more serious problem is that the pipes are unprotected and on April 24th were shot by settlers leading to more water wastage.

The residents have also experienced settler-related problems with their olive trees, hundreds of which are located near the water source. These problems are:

  1. Settlers have systematically destroyed trees by drilling holes in them and inserting poison – at least 40 trees have been killed since October 2002.
  2. A natural small pool near the water source has been “annexed” by the settlers who are using it as a recreational swimming pool. Recently they fired shots into the air to force Palestinians to leave the area.
  3. Settlers have blocked up the entrance to the water source so that Palestinians cannot draw out water.
  4. Settler violence against the farmers is ongoing – a woman we interviewed described how, during last year’s olive harvest, she was attacked by two male settlers who kicked her viciously in the chest, pushing her over. They then cut her donkey free while it was loaded up with sacks of olives, and made off with both the donkey and the olives. The settlers stole the olives and the family only found the donkey two days later.
  5. It is unsafe for the farmers to plough or tend to the crops and they are currently waiting for some Israeli activists from Ta’ayush to come in large numbers to protect and help them to plough and do farming.

Water and Agricultural History of Sawiya

During the period of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate right up until the 1990s, the natural spring was used as the only water source.

Six years ago, the village was forced to buy the privatized Israeli Mekorot water from the Ariel settlement for domestic use, even though they have their own water sources they could be using. The water bill for the village for the past year is 150,000 shekels, a sum they find very difficult to pay with the high unemployment.  Some homes have their own wells, and use some of this water for their domestic use. The water source is one of these, since the pipes lead to a small water storage tank in the village. Farmers currently grow wheat, olives, grapes, figs, and beans and wish to start growing orange trees on the underutilized land.

The village is entirely dependent on the land – previously about 250 of the village residents worked in Israel but now only about 3 people do. The villagers also use the land for grazing their animals. Some residents make yoghurt from their cows and sell it. A Ta’ayush activist used to buy many bottles of olive oil from the village every month and sell them but now this has become much more difficult.

In the eighties when people in the village traveled to Israel to work, they earned more money than they could in the fields.  So they worked the land less, leaving it vulnerable to confiscation by settlers.

Now that the villagers need to utilize the land of the village more to grow enough food for their own needs, they wish to start using the water source again.  They intend to have new underground pipes installed – but will the settlers be deterred?

Text by Ayesha, Anna and Barbara.

Pictures will be available on our website: www.womenspeacepalestine.org

International Women’s Peace Service

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

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A NEW OCCUPATION

IWPS Report # 31, May 2nd, 2003

Kufr Sur is an isolated village of 1000 people situated between Qalqilya and Tulkarem in the West Bank. The bulldozing for the Apartheid Wall has begun, totally destroying 10 thousand dunums of land belonging to 53 families.  All this destruction was just to build the 10 kilometers of wall in this area!  The tragic irony here is that the name Kufr Sur means the Village of the Wall in Arabic.

In this area, the Wall is being built far inside the Green Line, cutting directly through Palestine.

The people of Kufr Sur had already lost much of their land when the settlement Sal’eet was built virtually on top of the village houses, separating the villagers from their lands. From the edge of Kufr Sur, the settlement is much less than a stone’s throw away.

The settlement exists inside an electric fence and does not use the land it has occupied, which remains on the other side of its fence. Nevertheless, the settlers persist in preventing the people of Kufr Sur from tending to this part of their land.

The Apartheid Wall is the latest in many catastrophes for this village. The land to the west of Kufr Sur is rocky, mountainous and not fertile. It’s a real disaster that the fertile land to the east has been bulldozed for the wall, and annexed into “Israel”.

The Apartheid Wall also totally divides Kufr Sur from Tulkarem, where many villagers work. “They are going to make a siege along the road,” says the High School English teacher, Abu Qusai.

“We want to complain to the whole world. Our problem is getting bigger and bigger. Where will we go just to live in peace? Today is better than tomorrow. The wall will isolate us from our lands, put us out of work and we will suffer in the future.”

“We hoped that the settlement will be removed in the future as it is an obstacle between the village and its lands. But, instead, the Wall! This problem is not for our generation but will go on into the future,” says Abu Qusai.

“We are going to be transferred in the future to another country. This is a border, not a security fence. We Palestinians insist on living in peace and security but instead we live like animals in this part of the world. Israeli soldiers forbid any one of the Palestinians to do anything without permission, although we are people. They have decided to dismiss us out of our land, says Abu Qusai.”

Khadija is one villager who lost all her land because of the Apartheid Wall. She is a widow with several handicapped children to support. Now Khadija has only the small piece of land next to her house to plant crops to feed her entire family. She wept openly throughout our

interview. Her 32 year old son says he has lost his future. “We are nine people in a small house, and we are hurting psychologically”. He was building a house. Now he cannot complete it.

Abu Qusai is angry and does not know what can be done. “You have a report now that we complain about this. Will you give us a case of wheat or flour or rice? Is this the end of the problem? My land is my soul. Can you return my soul to me? No, the land needs to be returned back to its owners! We have to struggle. But things are uncertain.”

Photos of the village are available on:

http://southafrica.indymedia.org/news/2003/05/3819.php

http://southafrica.indymedia.org/news/2003/05/3821.php

Written by Anna Weekes, May 2nd, 2003

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

One month of 24 hour non-violent resistance to Apartheid Wall!

IWPS Report # 32, 2nd May 2003

Almost one month ago, IWPS joined a small group of about 40 Palestinian farmers, members of the International Solidarity Movement, and a collection of Israeli activists in a small olive grove on a hilltop in the village of Mas’ha, West Bank. The land next to the hilltop had already been bulldozed to make way for the Apartheid Wall, which is confiscating 98% of Mas’ha’s agricultural land. (See previous IWPS report #29).

The groups had already met together several times to discuss what we could possibly do to stop the Apartheid Wall in our area. At a demonstration one week before, the idea of a permanent camp came up. The next week was spent in planning and by April 5th 2003, the camp was set up on the hilltop, after a protest march up the hill.

The camp quickly became a discussion venue for hundreds of activists who passed through the camp in different shifts. For 24 hours a day, there was a team of Palestinians, Internationals and Israelis staffing the camp. Some Israeli visitors had never before witnessed the concrete evidence of their government’s land grabs and were shocked by what they saw. Other international activists who came for one night to find out more about the Apartheid Wall, ended up staying for a few days. They decided on actions like translating PENGON’s first report on the apartheid wall into other languages and  promised to report on the situation to audiences back home.

Shocking stories emerged from the farmers who were rapidly being dispossessed. For example, Najeh Shalabi ‘s land is the site of the camp and after the wall is built, whatever remains of it after bulldozing will have been annexed into Israel. Najeh has 10 siblings and his wife has seven siblings, all of whom survive off the land. With children, the family numbers more than 100 people.

Najeh’s family once owned 140 dunums of land [1] where they grew olives, wheat, peas and beans. 80 dunums (almost 800 olive trees) were confiscated a while back and bulldozed to make the Elkana settlement. Now of the remaining 60 dunums, 50 dunums are being razed to make the Apartheid Wall! The family is left with only 12 trees off which they need to support themselves, 10 children in university and another 30 schoolgoing children.

“My family has lived here forever. Our only income is from the land. Now we have nothing to do and no possibility to work in Israel. We’re struggling now,” said Najeh.

Fellow farmer Ahmed Amer says that when the village first heard about the wall, “everybody went crazy because we depend on agriculture so when they take the land from you, what are you going to plant?” Ahmed has lost all his land to the wall.

When the camp was started, nobody really knew what would happen and we prepared for the worst scenarios – immediate eviction by soldiers, curfew that might get placed on the village, arrests of Palestinians and internationals. On the second day of the camp, one of the Israeli contractors threatened us and tried to get us to leave. “This is Israel now,” he said. Another contractor seemed confused about who we were. First he told us, “No! No! You can not settle here!” And then Israelis heard him saying in Hebrew, “there’s a bunch of crazy journalists up here.” This was at 8am on Day 2 of the camp. The contractors phoned the soldiers and asked them to arrest us. But the soldiers said they were still sleeping. And so we stayed and the camp went on and on.

Journalists from several different countries began to visit and report on the camp. Everyone was pleased that the camp was making a good start at creating the public awareness that we need around the issue of the Wall, and it was decided that the camp should continue.

The camp began to be a symbol of the resistance of the indigenous Palestinian people to the occupation of their land. Nazeeh Shalabi, Najeh’s brother and one of the camp co-ordinators said after ten days in the camp,  “I can’t think anymore. I’ve been in this camp for 10 days and nights without seeing my family. Every tree they cut down I remember sitting under with my parents and grandparents. Yet I prefer to stay at the camp till I die rather than go home to my children with no food to feed them and no hope for the future.”

The activities of the camp began to expand. Different international organizations, individual activists and other Israeli organizations decided to throw their weight behind the wall. Campers set up a night watch shift system in case of attacks by settlers.

200 people marched up to the camp on 12th April to attend an open-air exhibition showing the terrible effects of the wall in other Palestinian villages, and a rally. This protest march succeeded in securing a small victory for the farmers. The contractor decided to “allow” the farmers to remove their uprooted trees the next Tuesday, so that they could replant them somewhere else. This was a somewhat hollow victory for the farmers since they don’t have other land to replant on, and since the trees had already been out of the ground for two weeks – nobody was sure whether they would survive or not.

Palestinian, Israeli and International women began to meet regularly in the village and discuss plans for the future. The Palestinian women are anxious to try and do something that will help them survive.

Presently, the camp will be one month old in a few days time. Veteran peace activists like Uri Avnery have paid visits. On May 3rd there will be a big demonstration at the camp, with poets, famous writers speaking. At the May Day Rally in Salfit, a student from Mas’ha made a moving speech about the camp and Salfit residents vowed to support it. Next week, students in Jerusalem will show a powerpoint presentation about the wall and the Mas’ha camp. IWPS has translated a very good PENGON powerpoint presentation into Italian, and is currently putting together a documentary on the wall and the Mas’ha Camp. Palestinians from the Land Defence Committee have started making contact with other villages affected by the wall, like Kufr Sur (see our previous report). Speeches have been made about the camp in anti-war rallies as far away as Soweto, South Africa. All the activists are in daily contact with each other to keep the camp going.

This past week, the area surrounding the camp has been rapidly eaten away to make space for the wall. Everyone had to evacuate the camp for short periods on several days because the contractors had been exploding dynamite charges in the rocks directly next to the camp. In addition to the use of dynamite and police warnings, there have been other instances intended to intimidate the people staying at the camp.  After one dynamite explosion, as members of the press and Mas’ha Coalition were walking back up to the camp in full cooperation with the police and army, a contractor driving a bulldozer began recklessly chasing people in a very dangerous manner.  Several people, including Nadya, an IWPS team member, were forced to run in order to get out of the way.  Furthermore, a deep trench is being dug on either side of the road that has been cut into the hill, which makes it difficult for people to reach the camp. Despite this, all our hopes are that the camp will continue even if the Apartheid Wall is built.

On the future, Najeh says “Whatever we do they’ve got the power – they’re going to build the wall. We just want to appeal to everyone to stop them from stealing the land. It’s not for security reasons, it’s just a way to steal our land. They need to be stopped from killing the old trees, trees which are as old as the Roman Empire.”

Written by Anna Weekes, May 2nd, 2003

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

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[1] One dunum is one quarter of an acre or 1000m2

IWPS Report No. 33

June 6th, 2003

BEYOND THE WALL

Munira is 38 years old and lives with her husband and 6 children in a simple house on the edge of the village of Mas’ha in the West Bank.

Mas’ha has around 2,000 inhabitants, many of whom fled Kufr Qasem in the 1948 war.  Mas’ha was originally a place where the villagers grazed their sheep and where they could farm.  Much of the land belonged to the people of Kafr Qasem.

Munira’s house was built about 30 years ago and she moved in with her husband when she got married.

They live right next door to the illegal Israel settlement of El Kana, built about 20 years ago.  In spite of the fact that the land for El Kana is Palestinian land, Munira had good relations with her neighbours.  They would visit one another and celebrate the births of their children together.  She tells us that such friendship is now over since the beginning of the second intifada.

Since that time, life has become increasingly difficult for Munira and her family.  A strip of land to the east of her house has been confiscated by the Israeli military for construction of the wall.  All that is left of their original plot of land is two dunums, about half an acre, on which is the house itself and a yard behind, home to several goats and chickens.

Her house will be on the West side of the wall in land that is Palestinian but beyond the reach of Palestinians.  It will become a ghost limbo land.  Their status is unclear.  How can they be connected to other Palestinians when their access to their own village is blocked by a huge wall or maybe an electric fence and barbed wire? She is told that there will be a door to connect her to the village and she will be allowed through the door three times a day, morning, noon and evening.  It cuts off the possibility of a normal social life and introduces even more anxiety as they contemplate what will happen in medical emergencies.  What if it’s Friday evening, the start of the Jewish Sabbath, will there be someone to open the door?  What if friends come to visit and then the door is not opened to allow them to return, how long will they be compelled to stay?  What if the gatekeeper decides, out of caprice, not to open the door as promised?  What if they run out of food?  These are just some of the concerns that anyone in a similar situation would have to face.

Why, you might reasonably ask could she not go into Israel and do shopping, go to see a doctor, send her children to school.  The answer is quite simple.  She cannot move freely in Israel. As a Palestinian, if they had a car, they could not drive on Israeli roads.  Their green and white licence plate would stand out from the Israeli-registered yellow licence plates, and if they were caught by the police, the car would be confiscated.  She is afraid of being arrested if she walked along the settler roads.  For that reason she would never go inside a settlement.  Settlements from their inception have always been exclusively Jewish, a world where Jews could feel quite safe.  It is tragic that this idea of exclusivity creates a segregated society and a false sense of security.

The family has another option, to leave the house and move somewhere inside the Wall, the Wall that everyone suspects will be the new boundary.  However, the family has decided to stay and live with all the difficulties and anxieties that such an existence will entail.  “This is our form of resistance,” she says.

Perhaps they can survive working the 400 dunums near the illegal settlements of Oranit that still remain in the family.  It is located 2 km away and takes them an hour to reach.  The difficulty is that the army forbids them to go on the road next to the El Kana settlement because it is too close to the Green Line.  So they have to use dirt roads full of potholes that turn to mud in the winter.  Donkeys carry produce to Kafr Qasem and then vans take the produce to Palestinian villages and town.  Getting the goods to Nablus and Ramallah becomes very expensive because of the roadblocks and checkpoints.  Each time a van reaches the end of its range of movement, i.e. a roadblock, the goods have to be unloaded, carried through the roadblock(s) to a van waiting the other side.  This procedure may have to take place four or five times before the goods finally reach their markets.

With little choice, the family does what it has to do to survive.  Their resistance is to stay put and manage as best they can.  Their home is bare and it is clear that life is hard for them. 

One wonders if their settler neighbours give them a thought now and again.

June 6th, 2003

Barbara Bakewell

IWPS Report No. 34, 9th June 2003

“Latest land theft is killing us slowly” – report on Deir Ballut and Marda villages

The completion of the first phase of the Apartheid Wall led to the confiscation of 16 villages in the West Bank. During this period, the Yesha Council or settlers lobby group, demanded the wall be extended further inside the West Bank, to incorporate the settlements into Israel. This led to the projection of a map where it is not clear for a number of villages if they will be inside Palestine, or annexed into Israel, or trapped between two walls in a ‘ghost limbo land’.

Two of these villages are Deir Ballut and Marda, both in the Salfit Governorate. Deir Ballut is an extremely fertile area, with large tracts of waterlogged land being used as the main growth area for summer crops for the entire Salfit region. The village of 3750 people own 120 000 dunums of land, much more than any other village in the area. About 70% of the land is cultivated with olive trees. Another 20 000 dunums were lost by Deir Ballut in 1948, land that now belongs to Roshaim. About another 1700 Deir Ballut residents reside abroad (of which about 1000 still have a Palestinian ID).

After Oslo, only the village of Deir Ballut plus 150 dunums of land were left in area A. All the rest was put under Israeli control. One of Deir Ballut’s problems is that it is quite cut off from other Palestinian centers. The closest Hospital is in Ramallah, and there are two big check points between Deir Ballut and Ramallah. The checkpoint at Deir Ballut Junction has been there for 15 years, all through the Oslo years!

Despite the disruption to freedom of movement, Deir Ballut residents managed to survive through a system whereby the men worked in Israel and the women farmed the 150 dunums of land with alternate seasons of summer crops (onions, cucumbers, tomatoes) and winter crops (wheat), and worked producing olive oil. A busy market existed on the road to Ramallah where commuters from all the neighbouring villages would buy vegetables daily.

This kind of survival system has been totally smashed recently by the intensified occupation. On 29th May 2003, the Israeli Occupation Forces dumped concrete blocks in the junction between Deir Ballut and Ramallah, erecting a concrete watchtower. The only other way for Deir Ballut residents to get to Ramallah is to drive for 20 minutes on dirt roads through the fields and then enter the checkpoint from the east side of the junction. The Israeli Occupation Forces have installed a metal gate across the road on the east side of the junction, so even this is not a reliable way to get to Ramallah.

The concrete blocks and the gate mean that cars from Deir Ballut carrying fresh produce can rarely leave the village. The soldiers hold the only key to the gate. In other villages, like Karawa, gates have been installed only to be permanently shut just days later, opened only to let the Israeli Occupation Forces into the Palestinian villages.

There are no more commuters coming through and the market no longer exists. Before, three kilograms of cucumbers could be sold for 10 shekels and now they fetch only five shekels – and this price is dropping almost daily. Desperate Deir Ballut villagers tell of how they had to feed cucumbers to their donkeys after having no way to sell them.

Um Ammar is fast becoming one of those desperate villagers who struggles to put food on the table. Um Ammar’s husband died when the oldest of their four sons was only eleven years old. She had to raise the children alone, and support them off the proceeds of the winter wheat harvest and the 12 dunums* of olive trees. Things became easier when the boys became men and got jobs in Israel. With the closure, all four sons lost their jobs.

The 4000 – 5000 shekels every year that the winter crop brought in was ‘bonus money’ according to the family. For the first time this year Um Ammar had to plant summer crops on the only two dunums of crop land that the family owns. The produce of these two dunums are virtually all the family has to survive off, a yearly income of 4000 shekels being the monthly minimum wage for a construction worker – clearly an impossible task.

Their present poverty situation and the spectre of the wall are currently haunting the villagers of Deir Ballut. To tar the dirt road through the fields will cost the village 10 000 US dollars which they don’t have. The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee can only provide the tar, 30% of the total cost. There are also five houses trapped on the other side of the checkpoint, totally cut off from the village. They are within arms reach of the heavily armed checkpoint, which is bad enough but what is worse is that Israeli soldiers took all the identity numbers of the residents and told them that “after a certain period” they would not be able to get into Deir Ballut without special permission.

Most of the second phase of the wall has been communicated in this type of vague language to villagers. A rumour is circulating in Deir Ballut that ‘an Israeli guy’ told a worker at the Palestinian Ministry of Interior that he ‘should be ready to cancel 40 000 Palestinian identity cards because we want to issue those Palestinians with Israeli cards.’

“We live in a situation where you cannot know which is the rumour and which is the truth,” said Land Defence Committee activist Riziq Abu-Nasser.

What is not a rumour is that on March 25th, the Mayor of Deir Ballut received a visit from Robert Weller and Jeffrey Place, of the US State Department (American Consulate in Jerusalem). They told the Mayor that they had read an article about the Apartheid Wall and they asked if the village would be prepared to be annexed into Israel. The village flatly refused. But the new checkpoint, and the erection of the concrete watchtower at Deir Ballut junction, the same kind of watchtower as the ones erected along the length of the completed eight metre high wall in Qalqilya, makes the villagers think that their annexation may be a done deal.

News about the visit of the state department to Deir Ballut reached Marda village only two months later! On the night of 28th May, Marda villagers arrived at the home of local activist Abed Baset-Said in a panic, saying they had heard that Israeli soldiers had arrived in Deir Ballut to inform the Palestinians that they would all soon be getting Israeli identity cards.

Marda villagers immediately wondered if they would face the same fate. As the Palestinian village closest to Ariel, the second largest settlement in the West Bank, Marda lies in the shadow of Ariel which has been built along the top of the hill. The highway built for Ariel and Tapuach settlers to get to Tel Aviv, Highway 5, runs directly below Marda. The map of the Apartheid Wall produced by the Land Research Centre shows that the wall will include Ariel into Israel. At the same time, there is massive bulldozing going on across the road from Marda. This seems to indicate that Marda will be incorporated into Israel, along with Ariel and the settler highway.

This is the same settler highway which stole 3000 dunums of land from Azzawiya village when it was built. Azzawiya residents work in Ramallah and told IWPS that since the Deir Ballut junction checkpoint was set up, they have difficulties in getting to work.

Marda villagers have not been informed what will happen to them. “Some say the bulldozing is a new road directly to Jordan, while others say it is going to be a high speed railway line. Maybe it’s for the wall…we don’t know what Israel is planning,” said Abed.

“Our future is not clear. Ariel has expanded and is now a city. It won’t be dismantled. Already they have stolen one of our three springs, and they dump their garbage and sewage water into our village. As Marda residents, we can’t see ourselves becoming part of Ariel or existing well inside Israel. This part is confusing us because normally Israel doesn’t want any Palestinians inside it yet now they want to incorporate the whole village,” said Abed.

“Our lands and homes are here. The bulldozing (50 metres wide and three kilometers long so far, the right measurements for the wall) has already resulted in the loss of 300 dunums of our land. The owner of this land brought a court case but the ruling was that this was a military decision.”

Of course, we will refuse to be confiscated but we need international support to resist,” Abed adds. “Our experience with the Israeli soldiers is that they will kill us in cold blood. Four years ago, we had a demonstration of hundreds of Palestinians against the theft of land in Kufr Dik. The police and army shot us, beat us with guns and rocks, and arrested ten of us. We were only released in one piece because journalists from the mass media were at the police station demanding our release.”

In these villages where the future is unclear, there is a strange atmosphere of anger from the villagers that yet more of their land is being stolen mixed with disgust that the world expects them to quietly accept being killed off slowly, the desire to resist mixed with a sense of futility. “In 1948, many villages were divided and families torn apart so there is nothing new about Israel splitting villages up again with this Apartheid Wall,” said Abed.

Nawaf Souf, the District C Liasion Officer for Salfit says that “For those Palestinians living in the houses of Deir Ballut which are trapped by the checkpoint, its like living in a jail. We are forced to leave sick people lying on the road at the checkpoint next to the concrete blocks because our ambulances can’t pass through – they are not planes! We know that our blood will bleed. The situation is leading to more and more stress on the Palestinian citizen. We just can’t move around anywhere. And these concrete blocks and this bulldozing might be the wall. If so, it is really the end of us.”

Text by: Laura, Anna

“Another funeral”

IWPS Report 34+

“You will see, something very bad is going to happen to your village”

… that’s what the villagers of the Qarawat Bani Zeid have heard several times in the past months from young Israeli soldiers, while checking and harassing them at the roadblock near the illegal Israeli settlement Halmeish.

Why should “something very bad” happen to this peaceful little village of about 2,800 inhabitants, lying in the middle of area A[1], with no settler highway nearby, the next settlement, Halmeish, 5km far away? It is a village, famous for its liveliness and openness. It is not often seen in the small villages of Palestinian countryside like in Qarawat Bani Zeid; so many women not wearing headscarves, whole families walking along the roads visiting each other until late at night. Sometimes guests stay until early morning and the last meal is served at 3 a.m., because the people have so much fun together.

Qarawat Bani Zeid has a very good social infrastructure; 2 doctors, a dentist, a clinic in a Charitable Society which is open twice a week, the Women´s Club which meets Tuesday morning, a student counselor preparing a summer camp for the children with dance, theater and song in the village. A number of women study in the next town, mostly social work or high school teaching, as these are the studies where they can study at home, only going to the university to take their exams.  This is important as many of the women have small children at home.  A lot of the men used to work in Israel.  All that finished with the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.  Now unemployment is very high.

Since this Intifada, the army has started driving through Qarawat Bani Zeid, a practice the villagers do not accept.  Qarawat Bani Zeid is in Area A, an area under Palestinian control. They do not see any reason for the army to come, and the young boys show their resistance by throwing stones at the jeeps.  For the army this is reason enough to regularly arrest young men.   Four children are amongst a number of prisoners from the village. One 16-year old has been in “Naqab” prison for half a year, charged with stone-throwing. The other three are around 17 years old.  Now the army responds with live ammunition to children throwing stones.

The army would regularly enter the village, often choosing the times when the children are in the schoolyard, early morning, mid-morning in the break, lunchtimes and when the children leave school.

Like every other school in Palestine, the pupils write their final exams in April and May. One exam was on the 24th of April for the 17-year olds.  On that day the army came to the village and stopped near the school.  Faker, one of the exam candidates, saw the army jeep when he came out of school after writing the exam. He took some stones and threw them towards the jeep, turned around and was shot in his neck. He started to walk towards the school entrance, fell down and died.  Another young man, Osama, saw the soldiers, heard them shooting, and attempted to walk at the side of the school to avoid the soldiers.  It turned out to be a bad decision as he too was shot by the soliders.  Osama was 23 years old, and left behind a 2-year old child and a wife who is nine months pregnant.

A double funeral.

The village was under shock. The pupils do not want to go to school anymore. “Why should I study, if I get killed afterwards anyway?” is the reasonable question.

The village counselor, together with the parents, has a lot of work to do to address the psychological trauma suffered by the children. Everyone tries to support the children as much as possible so that they can finish the school year.

After around four weeks, life started becoming normal again, when suddenly on the 22nd of May shooting came from the other side of the valley.  The arrival of the Israeli army into the village is announced by the whistling of boys and men.  This time the soldiers entered the village in their jeeps, but they did not stay and drove away.  Shortly after leaving they must have stopped and from a distance of around 500 m, hidden from view, a sniper shot and killed 17-year old Ramez who was in a garden climbing up a low wall from one level to another.  After being shot, he stumbled towards a fig tree where he died. A woman of the village, Rasmiye, saw him stumbling towards the tree and ran to help him but she was also shot and killed by the soldiers.  Rasmiye was 35 years old and the mother of 7 girls aged 2 to 16 years.

This caused more shock in the village. Funeral after funeral. Everyone became traumatized. Children started giving their photograph to their parents, saying: “This is the  picture you can use, if I am to be the next martyr.”

Tamer was the next martyr. Directly after the traditional three days of funeral visits for Ramez and Rasmiye, 11-year old Tamer was killed.  Most people quickly went into their houses when the soldiers arrived in the village.  Tamer’s house is higher up in the village on a hill and so he likely did not hear the warning whistles.  Villagers say that the soldier stood behind a wall in the area of the mosque and aimed his rifle at the child in his garden, eating bread and cucumber.

Another funeral.

For the village it is enough.

Where can we go? Where can we be? Where are we safe? Who is next?

What have we done and with what right are they  killing us one after the other?

On every wall, in every shop, in every home pictures of the five martyrs remind the villagers of the people they loved and their innocent deaths.  Young and old stand in front of the pictures looking at them for a while.  Graffiti in the schoolyard praises Faker as the hero of the school.

This year the summer camp will be a therapy camp with special psychologists from Ramallah to work with the children on their trauma.

Some of Ramez’s and Faker’s closest friends are not able to do their exams to finish their year. Their nightmare is another funeral.

Text: Karin

13th June 2003


[1] Area A is according to the Oslo Agreement under Palestinian Authority.

IWPS Report 35:

July 4th, 2003

CHECKPOINTS IN THE WEST BANK: LAWLESSNESS AND ARBITRARY RULE

Checkpoints are a fundamental obstacle to Palestinians’ everyday life in the Occupied Territories. They are situated at major junctions and entries to large towns like Nablus and Ramallah.  Palestinians have to cross them if they need to reach a hospital, visit their relatives, attend to business or go to work. If they are lucky a five-kilometer trip may take between two and eight hours; if they are unlucky, they will never manage to go through, and have to go back and try another day.

What happens at checkpoints in Occupied Palestine is a perfect example of lawlessness. Lawlessness does not mean lack of rules, but rather an enormous number of arbitrary rules established in unpredictable ways by those who have the power against those who do not have it.

For instance, during a two-week period in February this year, IWPS Team Members monitored the Huwara checkpoint, at the entrance to Nablus.  Every day the situation was different, depending on the particular soldiers who were at the checkpoint, on their mood, and whether there were media and others like ourselves present.

One morning in February, there were two Israeli documentary makers shooting a film on checkpoints. That morning things went smoothly and the soldiers who were there behaved politely towards us and the Palestinians.  You could take some photographs and people were let through quite easily.   The people who had been held for further controls had their identity cards returned quite quickly (which means in about an hour or two).

On another occasion at about 7.45 in the morning there were about a hundred people waiting, some of them since 5.30 a.m. One young soldier, in his twenties, was behaving in a very sadistic way.  He wanted people to queue ten to fifteen meters from his post and was calling them one by one.  If, while he was calling one Palestinian to move towards him, another person started walking, he would send everybody back and stop checking their documents for fifteen or twenty minutes. A complaint to the soldier about his behavior elicited a laugh, and he shouted at us: “You see how they are, how they act? They don’t listen to me.”  The Palestinians were not obeying him in every detail and for this reason he felt absolutely free to force them to wait for hours, in a clear act of revenge and in a clear statement of his power. He was enjoying what he was doing – his face in a half-smirk, lording his power over everyone.  In about forty-five minutes no more than ten people had had their documents checked and more than half of them were sent back.

For this reason IWPS called an Israeli organization working on checkpoints (Machsom Watch) who advised us to call the DCO (District Coordination Office, the Israeli half of an office created after the Oslo agreements in charge of coordinating security operations between Palestinians and Israelis). Our call was quite effective. A soldier from the DCO turned up ten minutes later and speeded up the operations, also letting through people who had been rejected earlier by the previous soldier.

As the situation had improved, we left for Nablus for a couple of hours, but when we returned to the checkpoint, around 1:30 p.m., the situation was terrible again. There were more soldiers, and the two soldiers in charge were screaming at the Palestinians with continual orders – move here, go there, line up here, turn around, be quiet – ultimately herding them well away from the checkpoint. It was fairly chaotic. Should the people lined up far away from the checkpoint inch forward, the soldiers charged at them with their rifles, pushing them back.  Few if any people were being allowed through – despite the fact that many had doctors’ certificates for medical treatment. The soldiers were just as cruel and arbitrary as the soldier we encountered in the morning – screaming at and insulting everyone who came up to them. Some men were held behind the fence for further screening and were forced to turn their backs to the people lining up.

About an hour later a police van arrived. One of the two screaming soldiers pointed us out to the policeman who called us and told us to leave otherwise he would arrest us. Whereas the army cannot arrest, but the police can and because we were aware that being arrested meant being deported and leaving Palestinians without our support, we decided to go back home.  We slowly started moving away from the checkpoint. The abuse against the Palestinians escalated with three soldiers charging at the people with their rifles, running against them, pushing them fifty meters back and shouting to everyone to go home.  An attempt at capturing this on film resulted in the soldiers threatening arrest, confiscation of the memory card and camera.  But the police car had left and the soldiers later returned the camera.

At the same checkpoint a few days later, there were few people there, no more than fifteen, possibly because the previous day in Nablus two Palestinians had been killed and more than 20 injured. A man in his sixties, well-dressed, walking with a stick, asked us to help him to go through.  He had a paper with a medical appointment for few days earlier.   The soldier at the checkpoint, the usual young soldier in his twenties, said it was not possible for him to go through as the medical certificate was old and the appointment was not for that day.  After insisting a bit, he was let through. This was the only success of the day.

Standing beyond the fence, in front of the soldier who was checking the documents there were six men held there because their identity cards were being checked. We talked to them. One of them, who spoke very good English, told us he was working in the health sector and that he had a magnetic card which allowed him to go through the checkpoints without many problems.  He decided to show his magnetic card to the soldier.  In front of the IWPS member, the soldier first behaved in a polite way, showing interest for his case, but as soon as he had the card in his hands, he started laughing loud, returned him his ID, put the magnetic card in his pocket and told him “OK, now go home! I will keep this” laughing even more loudly.

The only thing that gives hope is that some of these soldiers have doubts, some are ashamed of what they do and others fear the gaze of the world.

Written by Laura, edited by Barbara

June, 2003

IWPS Report # 36

The village of Zawiya:

Zawiya is a village in the Salfit area of the West Bank in Palestine.  Its history goes back thousands of years to the Canaanites.  There is an ancient part called Deir Kassis (meaning Church of (Christian) priests).  The village still has a few Roman ruins around an area called Sericia, and villagers relate how several years ago, the Israelis, using helicopters in an operation that took more than a month, destroyed or removed most of the Roman ruins in the area with the help of two helicopters.  It may have been part of Operation Scroll, as it was called, which took place around 1994, before the Israelis handed back occupied territories that were to be put under Palestinian control in accordance with the Oslo accords.  Today, of course, it appears to have been an exercise in futility as the Israelis are back in control of the whole area.

The village of Zawiya, built on 770 dunums of land, currently has around 5,000 inhabitants.  It used to have a population of around 7,000 but in recent years there has been a kind of voluntary transfer arising from the restrictions on the freedom of movement.  If the inhabitants worked in Ramallah, it became increasingly difficult with the roadblocks, closures and checkpoints to make the journey every day.  A 40-minute trip would be extended into several hours as they waited in line at checkpoints with the very real possibility that they may be turned back even with a permit.  So families stayed in Ramallah and made their home there.  Some families moved to Jordan.

Many men in the village used to work in Israel, but that has now finished since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada.   Other than that, there is some employment for officials working for the PA.

Nowadays, most of them try to make a living from the land.  Previously, the income from farming, mainly the cultivation of olive trees, was seen as a welcome supplement to their incomes but now it is their sole income.

Zawiya has two girls’ schools in the village and 2 boys’ schools.  The nearest university is in Salfit.  The village has two clinics and a maternity hospital that also serves the nearby villages of Rafat and Deir Ballut.

In the past 55 years, Zawiya has seen its lands shrink.  The village lands used to go from north of Highway 5 built through their lands to 15 km away towards Kafr Qasem (a town lost in 1948 to Israel).  There were 25,000 dunums in all.  The village has lost land through various ways: road expropriations to make roads for settlers only (Highway 5), settlement building (the settlement of Elkana), expropriation by the military, and simply making access so difficult, the land can not be used by its rightful owners.

Since 1967, land close to the Green Line, around 3,000 dunums, has been used by the military for training practice.  With the many fires from explosives, the earth is polluted there and the farmers have no possibility of using the land.  Besides, they are forbidden access except on Saturdays.  When you farm the land, a one-day visit per week means you can no longer farm the land.

In June this year, a rocket landed and penetrated the roof of a house in the village causing extensive damage.  Luckily, no-one was killed, but that was only by chance that the family were not sleeping at the time the rocket landed on their house.

Also in June this year, a rocket landed on land outside the village causing a fire burning olive trees. The army did not allow the villagers to put out the fire saying it was a military zone.  The farmers worry that they will lose this land too.  They cannot farm the land and the Israelis may later maintain that the land is not used and, taking advantage of an ancient Turkish law from the Ottoman period, will confiscate the land.  This particular law states that farmers who do not work their lands for three years do not deserve it and so it will be confiscated.  The same Ottoman law states that land worked for 10 years entitles one to the land.  This law is conveniently ignored by the Israeli government.

Land was taken for the settlements of Elkana A and Elkana B.  The settlement used to be a Jordanian military base that was then taken over by the Israeli military and gradually transformed into a settlement 20 years ago.  Villagers from Zawiya still have land 300 m. away from the settlement, but the farmers cannot pick their olives – settler-colonists pick the olives.  One villager in Zawiya said how settler-colonists tried to steal his land and turn it into gardens.  He has taken them to court ten times.  Every two years, they take his land and he takes them to court.  Nevertheless, he has lost over 100 dunums over the years as land was taken for roads, pipes, water, electricity.  One “positive” outcome of his court cases is that he, and only he, is allowed to have a permit to give him access to land that lies beyond the settlement of Elkana B.  There is a fence around the land and gates, but it is forbidden for anyone but the grandson to enter.  Every year, half of the land is set on fire by the settler-colonists.  In spite of that, the grandson goes to tend the trees and tries to keep them alive.

Over 20 years ago, a settler-colonist from Elkana called Moshe, approached his grandfather and asked him for 20 to 30 square meters of land for storage space.  The grandfather declined.  Eventually, the settler-colonist hired 5 Palestinians, gave them weapons, and they went to the grandfather, tied him up and at gunpoint forced him to put his imprint on a blank piece of paper.  This was later transformed into a legal document whereby he lost 60 dunums of land.  He appealed to the court, there was a lot of publicity about the incident and all five Palestinians were arrested.  Moshe built anyway on the land – by force.  The grandfather, angry at this type of behaviour, damaged the building.  Moshe then murdered the grandfather.

The grandson asks “How come in Aqaba they talk about the main problem being terror.  It is the occupation that is the problem.”

To link all the settlements to Israel proper, Highway 5, the Trans-Samarian highway was built.  It is a main road from Tel Aviv and called in Hebrew “Middle of the West Bank”.   For this road Zawiya had 3,000 dunums of land confiscated and 150 olive trees  destroyed.  The building of the highway also made it difficult for the villagers to reach their lands to the north – even if the military were to allow them access.  There is a military installation on the top of the hill and the military will not allow Palestinians to come anywhere close.  So for the villagers this land can only be looked at.

The West Bank is Palestinian land, but the road is meant for Israeli settler-colonists, a route to allow them to avoid Palestinian areas.  The names of Palestinian villages are often left off the road signs along the highway so that settler-colonists can live their entire lives without knowing about, let alone entering, Palestinian villages.  Many signs have any Arabic lettering defaced partially or totally. It is as though there is an attempt to wipe the existence of Palestinians out of their conscious awareness.

All of these actions by the Israeli government are against international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The international community does nothing to enforce these bodies of law, and so the confiscations go on, slowly changing the landscape and dispossessing the Palestinians, confining their existence to smaller parcels of land while the colony-settlements expand.

Travel is made increasingly difficult for the villagers.  The Israelis put up roadblocks and the only way for them to get to Ramallah  is to use the tarmaced road through Deir Ballut.  People used to remove the roadblock but the army would put it back.  This happened three times and now the roadblock has huge boulders, concrete cube blocks that are difficult to remove.

This restriction on freedom of movement is a real hardship for the villagers who travel to the closest town for services like higher education, specialized medical care, administrative matters.

Now there is a new problem.  Just recently, the army enlarged the existing checkpoint at the Deir Ballut junction and the villagers are now obliged to obtain permits in order to pass and go to Ramallah.

Instead of taking the main road, a distance of only a few kilometers, they are forced to do a 70km detour, dealing with roadblocks by changing from car to car.  If they have goods to move, it means taking out the goods, transporting it to other side of roadblock(s) and then reloading them into another van or truck.  Sick people have to be carried.  It has become a common scene in Palestinian areas.

Ten Palestinian families live in the area of the checkpoint – apparently, they now need to request permits to live so close to a settlement area.  Soldiers have told Palestinians that they now live in a settlement area (Alei Zahav and Pdu’el) and they have to apply to the Israelis to give them permits to move around.

In the past couple of days, around the beginning of July, some villagers near the checkpoint have been prevented by the army from walking outside between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.  If they disobey, they will be shot, they have been told.  They worry about what would happen to them in a medical emergency.

On July 5th, 2003 an armed settler-colonist shot dead 2 sheep and stole 60 sheep from a Palestinian shepherd.  A new settlement, small but rapidly growing, was set up just one year ago near the village of Bruqin.  Like most settlements, it started off life as a military installation and was then transformed into a settlement populated by the more extremist settler-colonists who are willing to use violence to terrorize villagers into leaving their land.

To add to the villagers’ worries, no-one knows what will happen after the wall is built.  The village is in an area that is between the 48 Green Line and the wall, leaving them in limbo as to their status.  The Israelis have not indicated what will happen.  Will they receive Israeli citizenship, some form of ID or Palestinian citizenship – although they are on the other side of the wall?  If they cannot reach Palestine easily, how can they be proper citizens?  If Israel is building the wall for security reasons, they say, how can it be secure when so many Palestinians will be on the side of the wall that is on the side of Israel?

The villagers feel that the Israeli government, by taking more and more land, is trying to force the Palestinians to leave.  The Israelis think that Oslo gave them the opportunity to take more land.  Prior to Oslo, they were not so bold in taking Palestinian land.  Palestinians feel that the village will become a camp – with no room to expand or build.

In May this year, a house in the village was demolished, an act of collective punishment for a failed suicide bomber whose family lived in the village.  The demolishing took place before the trial against the son was held. Again, these are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention being a form of collective punishment, but the world does not react and it is one more way for the Israelis to pressure the Palestinians to move away.

Written by Barbara

July 6th, 2003

IWPS Report No. 37

“No Arabs, no Terror”  –

Taking the bus to Salfit requires that you stop at the roadblock on the road towards Yasouf, get out of the bus, walk over the roadblock and then take another bus to Salfit.  Just before this roadblock there is a turning that takes you to the Tapuach[1] settlement, whose inhabitants are part of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach movement, an extremist settler-colonist movement, outlawed in Israel since 1994 and classified as a terrorist organization in the US[2].

There is a sign on the road opposite the settlement entrance.  Behind the sign are a couple of stickers, the one in English reads “No Arabs, no terror”

On the back of a sign opposite entrance to Kfar Tapuach settlement, West Bank

A little further along is some graffiti “Kill all Arabs” next to a skull and crossbones sign.  Now the most immediate response is that the sticker and graffiti are racist, which is true, but there is more here.  The settlement is built on occupied territory and is, according to international law, illegal.  The settler-colonists arrive, initially park a few trailers on the site they intend to steal from the indigenous owners and patrol their ‘redeemed land’ armed with machine guns in order to defend their claim.  Ordinarily, no-one takes it kindly when someone from somewhere else comes along and steals their property.  People also ordinarily object when more and more land is taken to expand the colony-settlement.

Bad enough that their land is taken, but then the usurpers prevent the locals from farming their land threatening them with guns and dogs to get their point across.

Many of the newer settlements are built on hilltops.  There are many hilltops in the West Bank and settler-colonists heeded the call of Ariel Sharon in 1998 to militant settler-colonists from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”[3] “Them” are the Palestinians who have been farming their land here for centuries.

Last Fall when the farmers wanted to harvest their olives in the area below the colony-settlement, they were confronted with violence from the settler-colonists.  The defenceless Palestinians are shot at, beaten with rifle butts, have stones thrown at them and their olives stolen.  Occasionally, settlers from Tapuach settlement throw stones at passing Palestinian cars.

Milder kinds of violence involve settler-colonists uprooting olive trees, poisoning olive trees, burning just-harvested olives, stealing olives, shooting sheep, stealing sheep, burning wheat in the fields, polluting the water source, cutting water pipes and allowing raw sewage to flow down the hillside into the Palestinian areas.

The settler-colonists can operate with relative impunity.  The area has been under military occupation for almost 36 years so the army is in charge.  If the army arrives on the scene, it is not to protect the farmers but to help the settler-colonists.  They simply declare the area a “closed military zone” and the farmers can no longer pick their olives.

In most countries, such outright theft of land, threatened and actual violence, is not tolerated.  Such acts are considered criminal acts and the perpetrators of such acts are arrested, brought before the courts and if found guilty imprisoned. The police force is there to protect you and your property.  In the case of occupied Palestine though, if a Palestinian is able to appeal to the police and file a complaint, he will find that the complaint is rarely followed up.  IWPS has registered complaints at Ariel police station against identified settler-colonists including evidence, but they have not been acted upon.

Most Palestinians have despaired of any justice being done and have no faith at all in Israeli or international law.  Their reaction to mention of international law is to scoff and shake their heads in my simple-minded belief at such high-falutin ideals as human rights.

All the while, these violent, nationalist-messianic Israeli settler-colonists are convinced that they are fulfilling their obligations to settle the Land of Israel, as though God were some kind of celestial realtor.  For most Jews, the commandment “thou shalt not kill” would deter them from taking the actions of these extremists.

With no international censure, no serious criticism of their behaviour within Israel, no action on the part of the authorities, either the military or the police, and a government that is only too willing to turn a blind eye, the settler-colonists have every reason to believe they are free to operate with impunity.

The sticker found on the signboard “No Arabs, no terror” and the graffiti “Kill all Arabs” is frightening.  Firstly, because the same sticker can be found within Israel on billboards, and the sentiment is shared by many in mainstream society.  Secondly, because it suggests that the Arabs should be ethnically cleansed.

Written by Barbara,

Date July 5th, 2003


[1] See their website  www.shechem.org/itamar/eindex.html

[2] See http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/kach.cfm

[3] see http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_Sharon

ROADBLOCKS, CHECKPOINTS AND PARALLEL UNIVERSES

IWPS-report  No. 38

It is an art getting around the West Bank.  It is as though there are parallel universes, the settler roads and settlements that now form a seamless whole with Israel, and the Palestinian areas, truncated and potholed.  Great care has been taken that any crossing of universes is avoided as much as possible.  Whereas on the map it looks as though roads intersect, in actual fact on the ground there is no access.  Moving from one to the other is not impossible, but difficult.

While Palestinians travel on road 446, settler-colonists whiz by overhead on the new highway no. 5 that has divided Palestinian villages cutting villagers from their farm lands.  Going from a village near Qalqilya to Jayous, it looks on the map as though one would simply turn right onto Rte. 55 and then drive a little way east and then take a left going north to Jayous.  A metal barrier under lock and key shows you that it is not possible after all.  So a Palestinian would be obliged to drive back along difficult roads and do a long detour in order to get to road 446 that passes under fast route 55 meant for settlers only.  So a 15-minute trip becomes almost an hour.

Settler-colonists can spend their lives moving around with ease and speed on straight, tarmaced roads in their fairly new cars.  Palestinians drive around in ramshackle vans and cars, hung together with wire, strange noises coming from shrieking shock absorbers and showing evidence of highly creative ways to keep body and axle together.  Driving around for a while on the old agricultural roads, mainly dirt roads, filled with potholes, one can readily understand the state of their cars.  In fact, you marvel how they hold together and move along at all.

Palestinian cars have green and white licence plates and if a Palestinian is caught driving such a car on a settler road, he may have his car confiscated.  Some of them take the chance in order to cut their travel time.  Only taxi drivers with yellow plates and a special permit are allowed to travel along these roads.

The signs along the settler roads most often only include the names of settlements.  While they are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English, you will often see the Arab script defaced or removed.  Rarely do you see the names of the Palestinian villages that can be seen visibly along the highway.  It becomes difficult to see how a viable Palestinian state can be created in the West Bank.  It looks more like what one friend called a series of Palestans, Palestinian Bantustans.  While the Palestinians are forced to creep around the agricultural roads or risk being kept waiting for hours at checkpoints, their cars or keys taken away for hours, the settler-colonists have freedom of movement, smooth roads, no checkpoints and no fear of having their cars confiscated.

To make life even more difficult for the Palestinians, there are roadblocks set up at almost every village entrance.  They are obstacles made up of piles of dirt and huge concrete blocks.  You have to plan a journey around them.  If you have a car, you may be lucky to be able to drive a distance of maybe 10 km before a roadblock prevents further progress.  Once at a roadblock, you have to leave your car behind, walk over or around the roadblock and take a shared taxi or walk to your next roadblock.  Sometimes, especially early in the morning when those lucky enough to have work, usually in the industrial areas of settlements, leave for the day, the army is there to check people’s ID’s, a form of harassment and showing who is boss.  Palestinians may be held up for a mere typographical error in the Hebrew lettering or for no other particular reason except to delay them for work.

Roadblock to Bruqin, Settler road 5 in background

The village of Bruqin has about 9 roadblocks.  Taxi drivers do their best to take you as far as they can, driving over forbidding looking roadblocks with passengers fearing for their axles and shock absorbers, before stopping at the absolutely impossible ones.  You then have to walk to your next destination or call another taxi to come and pick you up. Walking along the road, you are parallel to the settler road and you can watch cars on the settler road speed by.  It is a spot where the apartheid elements in Occupied Palestine are most immediately obvious.

You learn to negotiate roadblocks going over or around them.  They are not manned by soldiers all the time.  Soldiers tend to be there early morning and in the evening.

However, checkpoints are manned by soldiers who check everyone who enters and leaves.

Travelling from the Salfit area to Jerusalem needs to be done in stages.   First you take a shared taxi to Tapuach (Zatara) junction.  The name you use depends on which universe you are in.  If you’re with Palestinians you call it Zatara, if you get a ride with a settler-colonist, you call it Tapuach.  Then, you walk a little way past a couple of soldiers who ordinarily do not check ID’s of the non-Palestinians, i.e. settler-colonists and internationals, and get another service to Qalandia checkpoint.  My first experience there gives just a small taste of the madness that is Qalandia, a village just to the West of Ramallah, and now a major checkpoint area.  A jeep drove head-on towards our service and forced the driver of the service to stop.  An angry soldier just screamed at the driver to get out and go away.  We got out in order to show him that internationals were there, but he just scowled at us and drove off.  A short while later, he came back and took the taxi driver’s license.  We found other drivers who had also had their licences taken and had been waiting for their ID’s to be returned, one from 9:30 a.m. that morning and it was then around 5:30 p.m., eight hours later.

One of us called an Israeli human rights organization to get their help in getting the drivers’ licences back.  While we waited for something to happen we walked to the checking area for people leaving Ramallah and observed how things are organized at the checkpoint.  There were long line-ups of people waiting to be checked.  One woman was stopped as she tried to go through.  A soldier ordered her to come back again.  Another soldier, trying to be friendly to me, told me she did not have a permit and had tried to go around the checkpoint.  Our taxi driver later told me that this woman lives right there.  No doubt she needs to go through the checkpoint many times and got fed up with the interminable waits that they make people go through.

The driver got his licence back and we took another service taxi for the portion from Qalandia to Jerusalem.  Along the way there was a random roadblock with a couple of jeeps and soldiers but we were allowed to pass and we finally arrived in Jerusalem around 8 p.m. after setting out around 4:30 p.m.

There are so many checkpoint stories.  There are tales of women giving birth at checkpoints, ambulances denied entry to take patients to hospital.  Babies have died at checkpoints.  Sick people have died at checkpoints.  There is also the (only relatively) happier story of a couple getting married at a checkpoint, the groom being determined to marry and not letting checkpoints get in his way.

Checkpoint experience can range from soldiers being friendly and, trying to calm frightened children by offering candy, or maybe because of the presence of an international, to soldiers screaming abuse, for no apparent reason, at those waiting in line.  Students allowed to go in for their university classes one day are denied the next.  Many families fear for their children’s lives when they go off to Nablus to university.  Often they are denied entry and so they are forced to walk through the mountains with the risk of being shot at, injured or killed by soldiers who maintain they are “terrorists”.

While the rest of the world is being told that travel restrictions have eased, actual experience on the ground shows the opposite to be true.

Palestinians need permits to move from area A (supposedly under Palestinian control)  to B (supposedly under joint control). The fact that the Oslo accords are dead in the water seems not to matter.  Even if a permit is obtained, not an easy, simple procedure, it does not guarantee passage.  They can still be turned away.

There is a group of Israeli women who regularly do checkpoint watch to try and ameliorate the harshness of this arbitrary treatment.

The judgment of Palestinians is that the roadblocks and checkpoints are there simply to make their lives difficult.  How, they ask, can you explain there being a checkpoint at Surda between Ramallah, a Palestinian town, and Bir Zeit, a Palestinian village – they are both Palestinian areas, completely within Area A and with no settlements in between?

Written by Barbara, July 11th 2003

In the name of “security”

- The plight of the Palestinian Political Prisoners

Report N° 39,  26/07/2003

Defense for Children International issued a report recording

  • 320 new arrests of Palestinian children under 18  during the first 4 months of 2003
  • a 14% increase in arrests of children over the same period of last year.
  • a total of 1970 Palestinian children arrested during this Intifada.[1]

Behind these figures are hidden numerous personal dramas and traumas suffered by these kids and their families. Israeli law makes a difference between children with Israeli citizenship, who can be imprisoned only over the age of 15, and Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza, who at the age of twelve can already end up in detention camps and prisons. Perhaps occupation steals the childhood of the Palestinians, perhaps children here have to grow up faster in order to cope with the innumerable plights of their people, but if you see Um Rashid from Deir Istia showing you the little red, velvety heart her son has made for her in prison then you know that the only viable explanation for such a law is: Apartheid.

Um Rashid was widowed a long time ago and has been raising her two children on her own. Rashid, her only son, was arrested by no less than 15 soldiers on the 3rd of April on charges of stone throwing.

Being able to visit or only see your children in an Israeli prison is a rare event. Abu Saad has been able to get permission for a visit to his son, 14 year old Ali only after 8 months. Ali’s mother saw her son only once before this. The parents and son were allowed to see each other for an hour, in public and behind a glass screen. Nobody knows when the next visit will be. “You know, if we had money we could free him, they want a thousand shekel for each of the 15 months that he has still to be in prison”, explains Abu Saad. “They not only want our land, they want our money as well.” Law is always easier for the rich and powerful.

The plight of child prisoners and their families, however, is only the tip of the iceberg of the almost 6000 Palestinian political prisoners that are lacking the most fundamental Human Rights or the possibility of a fair trial. Although Israel does not recognize them as political prisoners, they are totally outside Israeli law. Many are held by simple military order (administrative detention) and are tried by the same military courts that have issued the order.

Some facts and figures in regard:

  • Percentage of Palestinian prisoners who have actually been put on trial: 24.8%[2]
  • Percentage of Palestinian prisoners who are still subjected to torture, according to Israeli human rights groups: 85%[3] (Most common torture methods are violent shaking, beating, sleep deprivation and prolonged position abuse).
  • The food provided to the prisoners is of poor quality and quantity. Prisoners from Bet El, Hawara, ‘Atzion, Qedumim and Salem detention compounds reported being served moldy meals.[4]
  • Lack of cleanliness and hygiene in sanitary facilities and cells where prisoners have to cope with infestations of insects and rodents.[5]
  • Family Visits: Israel’s arbitrary restriction of family visits has contributed to the failure of the Red Cross to organize such visits since 28 September 2000. Israeli authorities restrict family visits alleging security reasons.[6]

No issue highlights Israel’s 36-year denial of freedom to the Palestinians better than that of political prisoners. “Security” is the weapon that seems to enable Israeli authorities to steal land, put cities and villages under indefinite curfew, you can build up road blocks and check-points and you can imprison people or shoot them. According to B’Tselem “security is interpreted in an extremely broad manner such that non-violent speech and political activity are considered dangerous. [This] is a blatant contradiction of the right to freedom of speech and freedom of opinion guaranteed under international law. If these same standards were applied inside Israel, half of the Likud party would be in administrative detention.” [7]

Many demonstrations are organized in the Occupied Territories protesting the detention of Palestinian political prisoners. A national students’ solidarity campaign supports the struggle of the Palestinian Political Prisoners, who have started a hunger strike in most Israeli prisons. The prisoners ask for the respect of the basic Human Rights inside the prisons and, at the same time, demand the immediate release of all political prisoners as a condition for the success of the negotiations. So far, the Israeli government has reacted with the substitution of the prison director of Megiddo, considered too “lenient” with the prisoners, and beaten the detainees of Hadarim prison. At an earlier stage, the Israeli authorities crushed the protest of the Palestinian female prisoners with such a violence that several of them ended up in hospital.

Nevertheless, people are hopeful. The prisoners and their families are waiting for the promised prisoner releases. Among the families of prisoners IWPS has visited lately, everybody is impatient for the lists to come out. The waiting and the delays are nerve wracking. “How many will it be?” “Will my son, my husband, my brother be among them?” These are often asked questions.  Unfortunately, the expectations raised are much higher than reality would indicate.

  • Out of the 62 detainees released on May 11th, 37% had less than 10 days left in the original order and 82% less than a month left.[8]
  • Out of the 121 detainees released on June 6th only one prisoner had been tried for any charges and most of them had detention orders that expired the same day or within the next 19 days.[9]

The Palestinians still have the highest rate of incarceration in the world – approximately  20 percent of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has, at one point, been arbitrarily detained or imprisoned by Israel[10] – and a quick look at the headlines of the last days shows that a serious reversal of the tendency has yet to come:

  • “Israeli forces arrested 20 Palestinian workers yesterday afternoon in west Jenin.” (24th of July 2003)
  • “Israeli Security: two Palestinians arrested overnight in Hebron, claim to be Hamas Activists” (24th of July 2003)
  • “Israeli police arrested some 200 West Bank Palestinians in Jerusalem for being in the city without valid permits.”(23rd of July 2003)
  • “Israeli army source said Wednesday that Azam Yusuf and Ibrahim Dar Sheikh were arrested overnight in the village of Rai southwest Jenin.” (23rd of July 2003)
  • “Israeli troops entered Al Bureij Refugee camp in Gaza and abducted three Palestinians.” (23rd of July 2003)
  • “Israeli troops arrests a Palestinian Wednesday morning in Jenin.” (23rd of July 2003)
  • “Four Palestinians arrested in Balata Refugee Camp and Nablus City.” (22nd of July 2003)[11]

How long must this list grow?

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

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For more information about International Women’s Peace Service in Hares, email iwps@palnet.com


[1] See: www.dci-pal.org.

[2] Palestinian Political Prisoners, Michael Tarazi, July 2003, see: www.womenspeacepalestine.org.

[3] Ibid.

[4] The Mandela Institute Testimony Regarding Israeli Violations of Human Rights of Arab and Palestinian Prisoners, 19 June 2003.

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] See: www.btselem.org/english/publications/summaries/prisoners_of_peace.asp.

[8] www.mandela-palestine.org, Position Paper #1, 12, May 2003.

[9] Palestinian Political Prisoners, Michael Tarazi, July 2003, see: www.womenspeacepalestine.org.

[10] Defense for Children International/Palestine Section, A Generation Denied, (2001).

[11] All headlines taken from: www.imemc.org.

IWPS Report No. 39+

August 7, 2003

Latest!  Nazeeh Shabali was released on bail today.  His next hearing is set for October 21. Also released were the Palestinian AP journalist Mohammed Darwish and all of the Israeli peace activists who were detained on August 6th.  We are still awaiting information on the situation of Lorenza Erlicher, the young Italian kindergarten teacher, who is being accused of assaulting  a police officer during the extremely rough detentions that took place on Aug. 5.

August 6, 2003

46 MASHA CAMP PEACE ACTIVISTS ARRESTED

5TH AUGUST 2003

On Saturday, Aug. 2, IWPS received an urgent appeal for help from the family of Abu Nidal and Manira A’amer.  The A’amer family lives on the edge of Masha village, four kilometers to the east of the Green Line. They had just been notified that a small animal shed attached to their house would be destroyed on Sunday as part of the construction of the Apartheid Wall which will be built immediately in front of their house.

If the wall is completed as planned, the A’amers will be completely trapped between the Apartheid Wall just meters in front of their house and the illegal settlement of Elkana which is directly behind it.  They have been told that will only be able to enter and leave their house twice a day through a gate controlled by Israeli security forces and that no visitors will be allowed inside.

Residents of the village decided together with the family to move the camp to the front of the A’amer’s house to try to stop the demolition.  That night, five international activists from ISM and IWPS and one young Israeli peace activist camped in the yard in front of the house while an urgent call went out to international and Israeli activists to join the camp.  Security guards came by several times during the night but did not enter the camp.

About 7:00 am Sunday morning bulldozers began advancing toward the house. Throughout the morning activists kept arriving.  By noon, over 50 internationals and 10 Israelis had arrived at the site, along with local Palestinians and a substantial media presence.   Army and border police were called to the scene, and the activists linked arms around the property and held a press conference with the owner of the house and a representative of the Apartheid Wall Campaign.  Finally the contractor told the protesters that there would be no construction on the A’amer property for two months.  Activists pledged to continue their vigil at the camp and twenty internationals stayed at the camp Sunday night.

On Monday morning, Aug. 4, two Israeli peace activists were detained and removed from the camp.  As he was taken away, one of the activists called out from the jeep that the army was going to destroy the camp soon.  Throughout the day, the activists made emergency plans to try to stop the impending demolition.

At 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Aug. 5, we received an emergency call from the two IWPS members at the Camp that a large number of army and border police and private security jeeps arrived with two buses.  Soldiers and police immediately began to arrest all of the people at the camp, including 39 internationals, 4 Israelis, and 2 Palestinians.

Five internationals went up to the roof of the house to take pictures and film what was happening.  Everyone else linked arms in front of the animal shed which was targeted for demolition.  Instantly the police closed off the area, denying reporters and other activists entrance into the area.  They proceeded to detain the people on the roof first, then began to drag away the demonstrators one by one and load them on to the buses.  By 7:30 a.m. everyone at the camp had been arrested and a bulldozer immediately began to destroy the animal shed.

44 people were arrested and taken to the Ariel police station:  Palestine (3), U.S. (11), U.K. (5), Northern Ireland (1), France (2), Germany (2), Italy (8), Canada (1), Sweden (4), Denmark (1), Japan (1), Israel (5).  At 3:00 a.m. the morning of August 6, all of the activists were released except for Nazeeh Shalabi, a Palestinian from the village of Masha, who is still being held at Ariel Prison, and Lorenza Erlicher (Italy) who has been transferred to Mikhala Women’s Prison and is being threatened with deportation.  The activists were released on the condition they do not enter the West Bank.  According to the activists, they only agreed to sign after they had been told that all of the prisoners would be released the same day, including Nazeeh and Lorenza.

PROTESTS CONTINUE AT MASHA PEACE CAMP

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, IWPS visited the A’amer family to assess the damage caused by the construction.  As they sat in the shade of the Peace Camp tent and drank tea with the family, they watched the relentless destruction in front of the house.  Two bulldozers and a large truck were digging a deep trench less than 2 meters from the front door.

In spite of the destruction of their front yard, the family is still refusing to leave their house. They have had no water in the house for seven days, since the water pipes to the house were broken by the destruction.

Around 2:30 pm 25 Israeli peace activists appeared at the construction site in front of Abu Nidal’s home in an unannounced action. The activists blocked the bulldozers with their bodies and work was immediately halted.   They climbed on the bulldozers and hung banners in Hebrew reading “Fence = Stealing Land,” “These aren’t fences, these are ghettoes.” “ Does this remind you of anything?” and “Masha Prison.”

Private security guards called the border police and army to the scene. Around 4:30 p.m. the army declared the area a Closed Military Zone and warned the activists that they had half an hour to leave or they would be arrested.  The Israeli activists refused to leave and when time was up the army began to arrest the protesters.  Police also arrested Mohammed Darwish,  Palestinian journalist from AP who had been filming the events from the roof of the A’amer’s home.  By 5:00 p.m. the army had arrested all of the protesters and work immediately resumed on the Apartheid Wall.

The Israeli activists were held overnight and were refusing to be released until charges against Naseeh Shabali were dropped. At midnight they were told their demands would be met providing they signed a paper agreeing not to enter the West Bank for 15 days. Nazeeh however was not released until Thursday 7th August, and then only on bail.  He is accused of being the ringleader of the peaceful demonstrations.  His hearing is set for Oct. 21.

CONCLUSION

The case of the A’amer family is a clear example of the Israeli policy of “transfer” or “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians living in the path of the wall.  Although Israel claims the purpose of the wall is “security”, the serpentine route of the wall clearly demonstrates its true purpose: the de facto annexation of large sections of the West Bank to Israel.

The A’amer family was offered large sums of money by the Israeli government to sell their land for the construction of the Apartheid Wall, in the cynical attempt to make it appear that Palestinians are voluntarily acquiescing to the construction of the wall that will make Palestine disappear off the map, piece by piece.  When they refused, Israel moved forward with the destruction of their land.

How long will the A’amer family be able to survive imprisoned in their house in their tiny island between the wall and the settlement fence with no water and no access to their land and olive trees?  Yet they know if they leave, they will lose their home forever.  Israel will declare the property abandoned and bulldoze their house.  For Israel the problem will be solved… another Palestinian family will have been “voluntarily transferred”, and another tiny piece of Palestine will be stolen.

In Palestine, the simple act of refusing to leave your home and your land is an act of courage and resistance.  Now it is up to the rest of the world to demand an end to the construction of the Apartheid Wall, the return of all land confiscated by the wall, the dismantling of all sections of the wall already built, reparation for all damages caused by the construction of the Wall and the military access roads, an end to the Occupation and immediate serious negations to establish a just and lasting peace for all parties.

Text by Cathy, photos by Claire

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

To receive IWPS reports email iwps-pal-reports-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.  To unsubscribe email iwps-pal-reports-unsubscribe@lists.riseup.net.  For more information about International Women’s Peace Service in Hares, email iwps@palnet.com.

IWPS Report No. 40

Yes, Yes Education! No, No Occupation!



In early September Palestinian children will join children across the world in starting their new school year …..or will they? Getting to school, and staying there safely once arrived, is more dangerous and difficult for Palestinian children than for those in many parts of the world. And this year the building of the Apartheid Wall will add to the problems they had already been facing under the increasingly harsh restrictions placed on them and their parents and communities by the Israeli occupation. This IWPS report includes the cases of three villages in the Salfit region whose children’s right to education is threatened by the Occupation.

Sawiya: soldiers and settlers

Sawiya is a village of 2,100 people that lies on either side of the ‘settlers only’ road from Jerusalem to Nablus (Highway 60). Sawiya residents’ access to the closest cities, Nablus and Ramallah, is prevented by military checkpoints and settlement expansion and they face continuous violence from the Israeli military and settlers who have been consolidating their presence on the hilltops on the east side of the highway for the past five years (see also Hares House Report ????).

Last month, the Israeli military presented the village with an order for a soon to be established permanent Closed Military Zone. Residents will need permits from the army to access 3,000 dunums of their land (1 dunum = ¼ acre), including all the fields and olive groves on the east side of the road, a strategic stretch of land on both sides of Highway 60 and the junction between Sawiya and neighboring village Luban. The stated reason for the Zone is “security”.

But it is not only agricultural land and strategic infrastructure that are affected by the Closed Military Zone. The only two schools of Sawiya, the boys’ school[1] and the girls’ school[2], are also included. Moreover, soldiers told to the head master of the boys’ school that they will occupy the school as soon as the zone is a fact, accusing the pupils of throwing stones.

Since the beginning of the Intifada, settlers from Eli have organized more than ten nightly raids on the schools, causing major damage and destruction, especially to the girls’ school. During the severest attack last summer, more than 45 settlers entered the school grounds and set fire to classrooms, books, computers, files and furniture. The settlers entered the school through a gate less than 100m away from a house occupied by Israeli soldiers, but the soldiers did nothing to intervene (thereby breaking their own rules of engagement; requiring soldiers to protect all people equally regardless of race or citizenship). In a collective voluntary effort, the village collected money to replace lost property and redecorated the school, only to find the settlers coming back on this July 30th to steal the new computers and do more damage to the buildings.

The repeated destruction and theft indicates that the settlers want the Palestinians to evacuate the schools. It is likely they are interested in their strategic position. If the settlers succeed in driving the Palestinians out of their schools, they will be able to extend their grip on Sawiya to the west side of Highway 60 and separate it from Luban, its neighboring village and vital link to the outside world

Given the cordial relationship between soldiers and settlers in the area, it is unlikely that the schools have been included in the Closed Military Zone by accident. This decision and the threat of the soldiers to occupy the boys’ school, makes the Israeli army an active participant in the settlers’ attempts to close Sawiya in from all sides.

The Sawiya village is not giving up its schools or its land. This autumn, it will harvest its olives on the east side of Highway 60 accompanied by IWPS and other international activists. The residents have also started to again repair and refurbish the girls’ school, and. plan to build an additional computer room and library. They are looking for individuals or organizations willing to help them purchase new computers and repair the school’s facilities, in particular the bathrooms. IWPS will facilitate in their application for support. People who are interested in participating in the olive harvest in Sawiya should get in contact with IWPS.

Ras ‘Atiya: “This is my school!”

Around Ras ‘Atiya and its school there is a huge fence. It is part of the Apartheid Wall being built in Palestine and surrounds the village on three sides. There is razor wire and electric sensors on top of it.

Sixty of the school’s pupils come from two other nearby villages Ras Tireh and Ad-Daba – villages that will be trapped on the ‘other’ side of the wall.  For the students this means that when school reopens this September they will have to pass through a gate controlled by armed Israeli soldiers to reach their school and will be completely dependent on the whim of the soldier on duty for their right to education.

To protest this assault on their human rights, pupils, teachers and other villagers organized a demonstration at the gate to the school on August 17. They invited IWPS, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), and the Israeli peace groups Gush Shalom and Yesh Gavul! to join.

Around 11:00 a.m., the pupils from Ad-Daba and Ras Tireh came down the hill to the military access road that now separates their villages from Ras ‘Atiya. The pupils and teachers from Ras ‘Atiya were waiting for them at the gate with the Israeli and international activists. The two groups met in one large demonstration in the middle of the road, chanting Arabic, Italian, Spanish and English slogans against the Wall, against the occupation and for the right to education. They held banners saying “We Want to Learn”, “Tear Down the Wall”, “No Negotiation with the Wall”, and “Separation Wall = Fear + Starvation”.

Farmers on carts, donkeys and tractors crossed the road from one village to the other. A boy on a horse trotted past the Wall waving a small Palestinian flag.

Between 11:45 and 12:00 two army jeeps arrived. The organizers urged the crowd to move inside the gate. The international and Israeli activists formed a security line around the demonstration and stayed outside to prevent the army from closing the gate. The school boys grabbed the fence and started shaking it, shouting “This is my school; freedom, freedom!” Meanwhile the border police arrived.

Representatives from Ras ‘Atiya and the international activists made speeches to highlight the inhumanity of the Apartheid Wall, while the army and border police argued about the proper steps to take. The army commander waved a paper in the face of the police, but the policemen quietly moved him back to his jeep. Together with the construction company’s private security guards, the police then tried to move the crowd back inside the gate.

The men of the village decided to hold their Friday prayer and brought out their prayer mats. At 12:45 the border police gave the international demonstrators five minutes to move inside the gate, but they decided to hold the line until the men had completed their prayers. The men and boys knelt down on the mats, facing Mecca. The internationals linked arms tightly, while the army approached. A commander took close-up snapshots of all the protesters and the border police moved their jeep almost touching the people’s feet. The men calmly continue their prayers, facing east; away from the Wall, soldiers, police and security guards. At 13:00 the soldiers closed the gate and the demonstrators went back to their homes on both sides of the fence.

On the school wall, just behind the fence, the children have written:  “Let me learn in peace,” “Stop killing children” and “Don’t make our village a prison”.

Deir Ballut: A, B, C?

When it comes to incursions and military actions, the Oslo Peace Process’ division of the West Bank into areas A (under Palestinian control), B (under administrative Palestinian and military Israeli control) and C (under Israeli control) has lost all meaning to the Israeli army. But when it suits them, this obsolete distinction is suddenly still in effect. A case in point is Deir Ballut. The Oslo Agreement placed only existing Deir Ballut residential areas and 150 dunums of farmland in area A. All the rest was put under Israeli military control.

Nine months ago the village started to build a new school on what they know as area B land. But when construction reached the second floor, the army told the village that according to their information they were building in area C (which is not ‘allowed’ for Palestinians) and that if they continued building the army would come and occupy or destroy the school.

For several months now, the school has stood empty. It was supposed to be opened this school year, but pupils will have to go to their old schools once more. According to the municipality, USAID – the sponsor of the project – has tried to proceed with the project through legal action, but so far without success. The school’s predicament is recognized in the Salfit region as a major problem and village representatives and other activists have asked IWPS to help them do something about it.

IWPS team members and volunteers are making regular visits to the village, and will work with the people of Deir Ballut to inform and mobilize Palestinian, Israeli and international activists around the problem of the school. We have also started a regular checkpoint watch in the village, in coordination with the women of the Israeli organization Checkpoint Watch.

Text by Marlous, photos by Cathy and Marlous

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.


[1] The boys’ school teaches 400 pupils from Sawiya and Lubban between the ages of 6 to 18 and offers final examinations in science and literature. Because the Israeli military does not allow the resident Palestinians to cross the Highway 60 junction between the two villages, the villages made a dirt road from Lubban directly to the school that pupils use instead. It is this road that the settlers use to enter the school during their raids. Also on this road Israeli soldiers have several times trapped students on their way to and from school by not allowing them to go either to the school or back Lubban. Since the beginning of the Intifada more than 100 pupils have been arrested, and many of them were injured by gun fire while coming or going to school.

[2] The girl’s school teaches 200 girls between 6 and 18 from Sawiya. There are 13 teachers, only five of whom live in the village, which causes many problems during curfews and road closures. Local volunteers are helping out, but the girls are still sometimes taught in groups of 35. Despite the high pressure on students and staff, four out of the ten girls that took their final examination (“tawjihi”) this year had marks above 90%. One of them was the 6th best student of the whole West Bank and Gaza.

To Water the Plants

IWPS House Report No. 41

Monday evening 18th August, IWPS received a call saying that the roadblock that prevents cars from moving between the Palestinian village of Kifl Hares and the main settler Highway 5 (the “Trans-Samaria Highway”) had now been closed even to people wanting to enter or exit the village, and that soldiers were harassing people

Listening…

On Tuesday morning three members of IWPS went to Kifl Hares. They were met by Sami, owner of a house and landlord of a plant nursery at the junction of the Kifl Hares exit road and Highway 5. Soldiers had occupied his house and set up a lookout post on the roof from which they were threatening Palestinians would be shot if they approached.

This total ‘no-go’ zone surrounded the plant store, Sami’s house and the car parking area at the roadblock.  A number of Palestinians cars and delivery trucks were also stranded in the zone.  When IWPS arrived, Sami and the owners of the vehicles were getting desperate. They had been told that they would not be allowed access until 6 o’clock that night.  They were hovering nervously about one hundred meters back from the roadblock area, in the choking dust of the ‘road widening’ construction that is being carried out along this stretch of the settler super-highway in front of Ariel settlement.

One man – from Qalqilya – had a van load of eggs that he had been delivering to a store nearby when the Army ordered him out of his car – now the Army were not allowing him to get back in his van and leave the area even though he had all the necessary permission papers that the occupying forces require Palestinians to obtain to use such ‘settlers only’ roads.  He knew that if he had to wait until 6 that evening, he would have lost all his sales for that day and that the eggs would have curdled anyway in the heat.  He estimated that the eggs were worth 12,000 shekels ($2727 US) in sales.

A second van belonged to a man whose son had been driving it yesterday when he was pulled over by the police and fined 1,200 shekels ($272) for using a settler road without the proper permission.  When the son had gone to the Ariel settlement police station to pay the fine he had been informed that he had also to pay the same fine for the passenger of the car. Overnight the family had scraped the money together – the van was their main income source – only to discover, on arriving at the roadblock this morning, that it was trapped in ‘the zone’.

Two other young men were detained mid-morning and had their keys to their van taken, because they didn’t have the correct permission for traveling on the Israeli road either.

(nb. While it has for some time been ‘illegal’ for Palestinians to use settler roads in the West Bank without the proper permission from the Israeli police, this law had only been randomly enforced until last week when the Army and Police, unannounced, started to systematically detain and fine Palestinians driving without it.)

Talking…

IWPS members approached the junction. The soldiers were immediately hostile and were yelling at us in Hebrew to go back. One of us speaks Hebrew and was able to understand their commands but we insisted that we couldn’t understand them and stood our ground. They had seen us taking photos from a distance and even posed to have their photo taken, but when we approached them they were threatening, in Hebrew, to take our cameras and smash them.

After several minutes of yelling threatening statements such as ‘if you come any closer I will take my gun and shoot you in the head’, one of them climbed down from the roof of the shop and spoke to us. Eventually he started to speak in English and said that the army had declared the that no-one was going to be let through until the evening because of the suicide bombing in Ariel a couple of days before.

When IWPS members persisted in trying to establish the problem they were told the area was a closed military zone (CMZ). A guard from a private security company approached us and explained in English that we would have to leave. There was also a white 4WD with a megaphone, flashing light and siren, whose driver – appearing to be a civilian, possibly a settler – continued to tell us to leave the area.  After a while of trying to talk to the soldiers and find out what was happening, the soldiers decided to call their commander who came and presented a paper (in Hebrew) that purportedly established the CMZ.  We tried to get more information but the commander got fed up, took our passports and called the border police who arrived and after several minutes also told us to leave or we would be arrested.

Waiting….

We moved back to where the Palestinian people were waiting, about 100 metres from the road-block. A woman and her two children approached the group. She had also been denied access to cross the road. They were on their way home to a small village. They decided to leave after waiting several hours. In all likelihood they had to walk some hours out of their way to get home.

After calling the DCO (Palestinian liaison with Occupying Forces) who said they could not do anything, we decided that one of us would stay at the roadblock whilst the other two returned to the office to ring various human rights organizations to try and get additional help. Not long after 6 army jeeps came, pushed open the roadblock and then drove into the village. Red Cross also arrived and recorded what was happening.

About an hour and a half later, four Israeli women of Machsoum (Checkpoint)Watch arrived at the other side of the roadblock and the man with the eggs managed to negotiate his release while they were watching. After that the soldiers told the Machsoum Watch to leave. In addition, Rabbis for Human Rights contacted B’Tselem who sent someone to talk to the soldiers but they were told to leave immediately and threatened with arrest.

At about 3pm the man whose son had paid the fines was allowed to get his van and go.

As the afternoon continued and the soldiers changed shift, several Palestinian buses and vans were stopped by the soldiers and men were detained, sometimes for short periods but about 10 men were kept in the sun on the side of the junction for about 2 hours. Finally after mocking people, telling them they could go then calling them back again, the soldiers let everyone go at about 4pm.

The remaining IWPS member then asked the soldiers if the shop owner could come and water his plants, which he was allowed to do but only for 10 minutes instead of the hour it actually takes. Sami, who owns the building that houses the shop, has already had to move elsewhere when settlers began to throw stones and harass him and his family some time ago. Now it is likely that he will lose his house and the shopkeeper will lose his plant nursery and all the plants and trees inside. Sami had lived in the house for 30 years.

The army has informed the Rabbis for Human Rights that the Closed Military Zone at Kifl Hares will now be a permanent fixture. This means that the people from Kifl Hares have no direct way to exit or enter their village. When asked how they should move about now, one of the soldiers told us they should use the roads from Hares or Jama’in, several kilometers away. Roadblocks also bar the exit roads of these villages.

Highway 5 replaced the main Palestinian road in the Salfit area. Now Palestinians cannot drive on it anymore without special permits, they will be even more confined to their villages than they already are. Today, Wednesday, we can see from our window that this road as well has become virtually exclusive Israeli area. In the middle of the West Bank.

Text:  Carolyn and Claire

Jubara Students Defend Their Right to Education

House Report No. 43

Every day the children of Jubara must wait for the soldiers to open the gate in the Apartheid Wall, then walk in a line past soldiers armed with machine guns, to go to school.

September 1 is the first day of the new school year in Palestine.  Like students all around the world, Palestinian children are excited about their first day back at school.  They  wake up early and put on their uniforms and backpacks with their new notebooks and pencils.  But in the tiny hamlet of Jubara, the teachers and children never know if they will be able to reach their  school or not.  It all depends if the soldiers will open the gate in the Apartheid Wall and let them go to their school in the neighboring village of Ar Ras.

Jubara is a hamlet of 300 people (about 50 families), too small to be considered a village.  It has no school and relies on neighboring villages and the city of Tulkarem for food, schools, and healthcare.  50 elementary school students from 1st – 7th grades attend the school in the nearest village of Ar-Ras.  38 students in grades 8-12 attend secondary school in Kafr Sur and Kafr Zibad.

Since the completion of the Apartheid Wall around Jubara, the entire village is trapped between the Wall and the Green Line (the 1967 border with Israel).  There is only one road which passes through Jubarra.  The southern entrance is blocked by a heavy steel gate in the Apartheid Wall, which has been permanently closed since the completion of the fence this summer.  The northern end of the road which links Jubara to Tulkarem is controlled by a military checkpoint.

Before the closing of the gate, students could walk to school in good weather, or pay ½ shekel to take a taxi.  If the gate is not opened, the students and teachers will have to walk or take a taxi for several kilometers, then wait in long lines to pass through the checkpoint, which could make them hours late for school.  After the checkpoint, they must take a taxi on the dirt road to school, which costs 4 shekels each way.  Since almost all of the families in the village are unemployed, they will have to choose between sending their children to school or having food to eat.

Before the school year began, village leadership contacted the Israeli District Command Office (DCO) to arrange for the gate to be opened, but were not given a conclusive answer.  The villagers decided to make a demonstration at the gate on the first day of school to demand that the soldiers open the gate for the students every morning and afternoon.  They asked for international observers and media to be present for the demonstration.

We arrived at the gate at  7:00 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2003.  About 50 students and teachers from Jubarra were already gathered at the top of the hill above the gate, ready to go to school.  Several army jeeps and a dozen green-uniformed Israeli soldiers with machine guns were stationed in front of the gate.  Soon, a small group of television and newspaper journalists arrived and joined the students and villagers at the gate.

About 7:30 the students, teachers, and headmaster marched forward to the gate.  The headmaster approached the soldiers and asked them to open the gate to allow the children to go to school, but the soldiers refused.

We approached the soldiers and asked when the children would be allowed through.  “We don’t know,” they told us.  “We have orders not to let anyone through.”

“But isn’t the gate supposed to be opened for the children to go to school?”

“Absolutely, the gate will be opened every day from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m . and from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.”

“Then why don’t you open the gate now?” we asked.

“Today is a special day. ”  We asked why again, but the soldier just walked away.

Finally, about 7:45 a.m., the soldiers opened the gate just wide enough for the children to walk through in a single line past the soldiers with their machine guns.  First the young boys with their blue uniforms, then the young girls with their blue-and-white striped blouses, finally the older students and teachers, followed by the TV crews and journalists.  The children gathered in a circle around the journalists, eager to tell their story on television|

A few minutes later, the soldiers shouted at the journalists to come back inside the gate.  We listened to the clanging sound of the metal gate being being slammed shut and watched the soldier lock the heavy chain around the gate. Then the soldier slowly stretched the coils of razor wire in front of the gate, once again imprisoning the people of Jubara in their village.  On the fence was a sign reading “Mortal Danger!  Anyone who comes near this fence or damages this fence endangers his life” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

As we stood  looking at the closed metal gate with its electric sensors and coils of razor wire, army jeeps drove along the new security road at frequent intervals.  We wondered, will the army keep its promise to open the gate again at 1:00 to allow the children to return home?  What will happen tomorrow and all the other days when no international observers and media are present?

Silent Transfer

Jubara is one of 16 communities, totalling 11,500 residents, which have been completely cut off from the West Bank by the construction of the Apartheid Wall.  They are trapped between the Wall and the Green Line, and can only enter and exit their villages at the whim of the soldiers who control the gates and checkpoints.  In late August, Jubarra was completely closed for eight days and no one was allowed in or out of the village.  People were not able to get milk, eggs, and other food, because there is only one shop in the village, and the shopkeeper could not go to Tulkarem to get food.

There is no hospital or medical clinic in the village.  To reach medical care, they must call an ambulance from Tulkarem to come to the checkpoint, and hope that the soldiers will allow the ambulance to enter their village.

The soldiers at Jubara checkpoint have a list of all of the 300 people who live in the village, and no Palestinians are allowed to enter Jubara except for the people living in the village.  Friends and relatives cannot come to visit and trucks carrying essential items for the village are not allowed in.  The soldiers told us that Palestinians from outside the village need  a special “permission” to enter the village, but when we asked the soldiers where they could get the permission, they said they didn’t know.

Jubara is entirely dependent on agriculture (orange, lemon, olive trees, greenhouse vegetables and chicken farms)  for its subsistence.  Inside the village we saw the empty fields where the orange trees had been uprooted and burned by the soldiers. We saw the empty greenhouse frames which farmers have not been able to plant, and the empty chicken farm which once housed 40,000 chickens, but now is empty because the owner cannot sell his chickens and cannot buy the food to feed them.  We looked at the scarred remains of the olive trees on the hillside which had been burned by the soldiers.

Even the sewage trucks, which empty the cesspools, and the garbage pickup trucks are not allowed regularly into the village.

How long will the people of Jubara be able to stay in their village? Or will their life become so impossible, that one by one, all of its families will leave, to become yet another generation of refugees, carrying out the silent invisible transfer of Palestinians from their land?

September 3, 2003

Text: Cathy

Photos: Carolyn and Kate

The Meaning of Closure

IWPS House Report No. 44

When missiles are flying in Gaza, killing dozens each day, a small word like “closure” can seem benign.  Particularly to those of us who are used to being able to go where we like, buy what we need, work when we are supposed to and come home when we are done, go to the doctor if we have to, and, and, and … as Palestinians say.  Maybe we even think that a day when we were forbidden to do any of those things would give us an excuse to stay home and rest, like a snow day.  And if it is one day or two, sometimes that is true.

On Tuesday night, October 7, our friend and neighbor, Abu Rabia, came to tell us that he had just been informed of a new order to take effect the next day.  He is the DCL, or District Coordinating Liaison, for the Salfit District, so he gets this information first, directly from the Israeli authorities.  The order was that no Palestinian would be allowed on Israeli roads, otherwise known as settler roads, by foot or in a car.  Any car found on the road would be confiscated, anyone walking on the road could be arrested, and most significantly for the people in our area, no one would be allowed to pick olives, inside or outside the villages.  There would be army at the entrance to every village in the morning to enforce the closure.

No reason was given for this crackdown.  No time frame was given either, it was simply “until further notice.”  There had been closures like this before.  Usually they last for two to four days, and are selectively enforced.

On Wednesday, we went to the roadblock at 6:30 a.m., and indeed, there was a jeep at the entrance to the village, and eight soldiers controlling a large crowd of people gathered there, waiting.  A handful of people were allowed through the checkpoint: teachers, doctors, government workers, some people who needed to go to the doctor, but not students, most workers or anyone wanting to pick olives.  Interestingly, that day buses and service taxis still ran on the settler roads, but hundreds of people were detained for many hours at various junctions around Hares.

The next day, the situation at the roadblock was the same, and there were no Palestinian cars on the road at all.

The closure went on for nearly three weeks.  Hundreds of cars were confiscated, usually for two weeks.  Thousands of school and work hours were lost.  Dozens of taxi drivers were arrested, despite having the proper permits for the roads they were driving.  They were told they were supposed to know that the area was closed.  Our neighbor was one of them.  He was given a scrap of paper as a receipt for his car, written in Hebrew with a pen and not signed, except with the name of the army unit who made the stop.  Israeli legal organizations said they could not do anything, that this was legal.

A group of visiting nurses, who had been giving physicals at a school in Zawiya all day, was stopped by the army while waiting for the van that was supposed to pick them up to go back to Salfit, where they all work and live.  The army commander said that the women could not go back to Salfit, but must return to Zawiya.  They refused.  Eventually, he said that since they had been allowed out in the morning, they would be allowed to go back, but if they left again the next day, they would not be allowed back.  The women then learned that the van had not been able to pass the checkpoints between Salfit and Qarawat, so they had to walk 45 minutes to Hares to get transportation on the inside roads.  One of the nurses said, as we neared Hares, “If someone told me right now, go see your mother, she lives right down there, I would not go even one more step to see her.”

Traveling to Jerusalem, which normally takes about an hour and a half by bus or service, and costs 13.5 shekels, became a torturous affair, taking 3-6 hours over harsh bumpy roads and costing 30-50 shekels.  On a trip from Tulkarem to Nablus, which normally takes no more than 30 minutes, IWPS women were driven for hours over the mountains on a trail rather than a road.  Often you would set out in one direction, then abruptly change course and go back where you came from, to try another way of getting around the new “roving” checkpoints the drivers heard about on the grapevine.  If you were less lucky, you could end up waiting many hours at those roving checkpoints, sometimes told you could not go through nor could you go home.  The price would be unpredictable; the answer to “Qaddesh?”, “How much?” was “Well, if we can go this way, it will be 20 shekels, but if we must go this way, then it will be 50.”  So people might not find out until they got where they were going whether they could afford to go there.

In Qarawat Bani Zeid, south of Salfit, two men were shot on their way home from work and olive picking on October 16.  One of the men, who is over 60, was shot three times in the backs of his legs.  The ambulances were not permitted to pass the checkpoint.  After waiting over an hour, both men gave up and went to the village doctor instead.

The hamlet of Jbarra, a town of only 300 people just outside of Tulkarem, was cut off from Tulkarem for 9 days during this closure.  There are no stores in the village.  The kids, who all go to school in other villages, were not allowed through the gates to go to school for 11 days.

The only checkpoint into the city of Qalqilya was closed for three weeks, with no one from the city allowed out.  This only ended when city officials called a demonstration which marched on the checkpoint, where they negotiated with the District Commanding Officer to open the city for the day.  No one knows how long it will remain open, and still, young men were not allowed through.  While we stood there, soldiers delayed an ambulance carrying a woman in labor.

Olive pickers in Deir Istya, Marda, Jemaiin, Kifl Hares, Mas’ha and Hares were sent home by the army day after day, shattering hopes of getting their harvest finished before Ramadan.  In Mas’ha, three farmers were arrested for trying to go to their land to pick.

In Jayyous the gates in the Apartheid Wall, through which farmers access their land on the other side (nearly all of the land belonging to Jayyous is on the other side of the Wall), were not opened for seven days.  One day, in an act of resistance, farmers broke the lock on the gate.  Nearly a week later, seven families were held all night on the western side of the Wall, without food or shelter, to force them to tell the army who had damaged the gate.

In the village of Kufr Eyin, in the Ramallah district, the army occupied two houses and set up a checkpoint in the middle of the town for four days.  No one was allowed to pass the checkpoint, which meant that 70% of the people could not pick their olives, and none of the teachers could get to the school so the school was closed.  Twenty families who live on the other side of the makeshift checkpoint were unable to buy any food or other needed supplies.  In order to get into the village, we had to scramble up a steep trail of rocky terraces and boulders.  A woman coming home from the doctor was making the same climb with a tiny baby in her arms.

One Saturday, two IWPS team members were invited to lunch in Yasouf.  They arrived at the roadblock at 1:00 p.m. and found many people being prevented from leaving the village.  They were also not allowed to cross into the village.  It was 4:00 before they were allowed to cross.

After one week of this treatment, the frustration and despair was palpable in the air.  In the village, people’s tempers were short.  But after two weeks, by the time the closure started to ease, people had adjusted.  More and more yellow-plated service taxis (sherut) from the nearby Israeli town of Kufr Qasem were hanging around villages to pick up the passengers left stranded, incidentally transferring more income from Palestine to Israel.

Abu Rabia said one night, “This is the longest, most severe closure since the beginning of the Intifada.  I think the purpose is to see what we will accept, to see if they can get away with turning our homes into prisons.”

Text:  Kate

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

To receive IWPS reports email iwps-pal-reports-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.  To unsubscribe email iwps-pal-reports-unsubscribe@lists.riseup.net.  For more information about International Women’s Peace Service in Hares, email iwps@palnet.com.

The Rise of the Wall

IWPS House Report No. 45

November 10, 2003

The date of November 8th and 9th were chosen to protest against the Security Fence or Apartheid Wall, depending on one’s perspective, in memory of the Kristallnacht 1938  and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Demonstrations were planned in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on the 8th and in Mas’ha (Salfit), Jbarra (Tulkarem) and Zububa (Jenin) on the 9th.

On Saturday, November 8th, all persons wanting to protest against the erection of the wall were invited by Gush Shalom to gather in Gan Ha Pa’amon in order to leave for an unrevealed spot for the demonstration. This precaution has to do with wanting to avoid interference by the police. The number of persons crowding at the gardens of the Liberty Bell were far beyond what the organizers had expected. Two or three more buses were ordered and the caravan of buses – of which two with non Hebrew speakers – and private cars started off. On the bus people were told to avoid provocation of the media and police and to remain strictly non-violent. They  were also encouraged to mix with the Palestinian group that were coming from the east side in order to avoid a police attack on the Palestinian group. The caravan passed by the Promenade in the South of Jerusalem, then followed a winding narrow road down, then up a wadi and through a village.

We arrived at Asawahra / Abu Dis, a string of 8 meter high concrete slabs, with spaces in between as they had not yet been fastened to one another, was standing in the middle of a slope along the intended path of the apartheid wall in this town. The Palestinian group, only men and boys, arrived with flags, banners and a stretcher with the moribund “peace process”. Persons of all ages, from both sides, covered both sides of the slabs with spray painted short sentences in Hebrew, Arabic, English and French against the wall, the occupation and the apartheid. At the horizon a few jeeps from army and police were observing what was going on. The procession started up the road toward where the speeches were to be given. Banners in Hebrew, Arabic, English (“The wall makes prisons for Palestinians and ghettoes for Israelis”) illustrated the protest of the people.  There were between 500 and 600 (two thirds form the Israeli side, amongst which the 40-50 Internationals). A few speeches in Arabic, Hebrew and English, explained the intention of the wall on this hilly south side of Jerusalem and the opposition to this policy. Two hours after arrival the Israelis and Internationals returned to Gan Ha Pa’amon satisfied by the demonstration without incident, but regretting that the number be still so very small within the Israeli society.

If this wall is completed as planned on the Eastern side of the west bank, it will create a completely closed enclave out of Palestine.  It will extend over 700 km, de facto annexing approximately 55% of the West Bank to Israel.  In Asawahra the wall is a completely artificial partition through a town of 30,000.  If implemented as planned, it will divide the population leaving 20,000 Palestinians on the east side of the wall and 10,000 on the west side.  It will separate families, expropriate trees and lands from their ancestral owners, annex the regional school, and make it impossible for families to bury and visit their dead in the local cemetery.

Some 80 kilometers north of Jerusalem women from the villages of Rafat, Bidya, Mas’ha, Qarawat Bani Hassan, Marda, Yasouf, Iskaka, Qira and Hares met in Mas’ha in order to protest on a smaller scale the wall that is disrupting their village and their life. 50 women and 15 men walked through the fields, climbing over rocks to reach the home of Munira, which is left in a chokehold between the new concrete wall and the fence of the neighbouring settlement of Elkana. The demonstration was both a solidarity visit to this citizen of Mas’ha, completely shut off from the other villagers (except the metal gate that lets them through) and a protest against the insane and arbitrary partition of portions of a country from others, not to mention that the wall is entirely built on Palestinian land carving out deep stretches of land around settlements to integrate them into the state of Israel. The signs appealed to the world to open its eyes and break its silence, and to the Israeli public to stop their authorities from doing such an enormous injustice.

As we walked along the fence, Munira’s house was not visible.  The 40 meters of concrete wall, ten meters high, has been placed in the middle of the fence simply to prevent the house from being visible to the village, and the occupants of the house from being able to see their village.  As the march, with women leading and men bringing up the rear, neared the house, Munira came to the door with her two-year-old son in her arms.  At first it seemed that the women would not be able to pass through the gate; soldiers were blocking their way.  The women waved to each other across the gate.  And then the army moved aside, and the women poured through the gate and Munira welcomed each woman with kisses.  Journalists snapped photos of her small son riding his bicycle along the massive grey barrier.

The group stood in a circle in front of the Wall, and one woman spoke the commitment of the women to rise up, and then everyone sang together.  Many of the women cried as they sang.  The women returned home with the feeling that they had done a first step toward holding their heads up.  They left the signs they had brought on Munira’s house, as a reminder that the family still has friends and neighbors, even though they cannot see them.

The demonstration was the first women-organized action against the Wall in Salfeet.  It comes at a crucial time for the district, which is the center of the next phase of Wall construction.  As Phase I devastated Qalqilya, Phase 2 will carve Salfeet up into dozens of tiny islands, cut off from one another and from the land which sustains them, unless women and men mobilize quickly to stop it.  Salfeet is the unfortunate home of Ariel, the largest settlement in the West Bank, which stretches from Marda in the east to Hares in the west.  Fifty trees in Kifl Hares, directly across from the entrance to Ariel, were cut down several months ago to make a “security zone” and the entrance to the village, which includes a popular plant shop, declared a closed military zone. The villages of Refat, Deir Balut and Azawiye are to be isolated from the rest of Palestine, in between the Wall and the Green Line.  The women of Refat realize that their only chance to avoid the fate of Jbarra and Beit Amin is to resist now.  Some of them had not seen the wall before today, and the concrete wall in Munira’s front yard vividly showed them how important it is to take action.

These demonstrations are a call to the world community to condemn the apartheid wall, to demand that further construction on it be suspended and to insist that the damage done by it to date be addressed.

Text:  Dorothée, Dunya, Kate

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

To receive IWPS reports email iwps-pal-reports-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.  To unsubscribe email iwps-pal-reports-unsubscribe@lists.riseup.net.  For more information about International Women’s Peace Service in Hares, email iwps@palnet.com.

House Report 46

Since the beginning of September, IWPS has been supporting Palestinian women in the district of Salfit to mobilize in opposition to the Apartheid Wall.  The wall’s second phase will sever access to land for most of the villages in this district.  The work began out of an idea hatched by our members and long time Palestinian activist Fatima Khaldi.  The idea was that IWPS would create an exhibit using some of the photos and other documentation we’ve collected about the wall, which could then be used during the meetings of various women’s committees as an educational and organizing tool.  The exhibit was created and then gave rise to informational meetings about the wall, solidarity visits by women from Salfit to families affected by the wall, and ultimately the formation of a women’s committee against the wall in Salfit.  Over 400 women from 11 villages in the Salfit district have participated in the activities of the women’s committee.  According to organizer Fatima Khaldi, this is the only district-wide activist project undertaken by the women of Salfit during the second Intifada.

The philosophy of the women’s committee is that nonviolent action is the most strategic way to make gains and oppose the Israeli Occupation and the wall.  Additionally, the committee believes that women have an active role to play in organizing against the wall in this district.  They are committed to utilizing the media to bring attention to their efforts and to the impact of the wall.  They are also committed to promoting the idea of collective action and resistance on a grand scale to the occupation and its new face, the wall.

The committee’s first public action was planned for the International Day of Action Against the Wall, November 9.  The newly formed Women’s Committee Against the Wall, Salfit District, chose this date to respond to the call to action against the wall all over Palestine and the rest of the world.  They chose Mas’ha as the site for the demonstration, since this small village in our district, only 6 km East of the Green Line, has seen some 70% of its land be devoured by the wall.  Mas’ha is currently the southernmost point of the snaking path of the wall.  Women from the villages of Rafat, Bidya, Mas’ha, Qarawat Bani Hassan, Marda, Yasouf, Iskaka, Qira and Hares met in Mas’ha order to express opposition to the wall that is disrupting their village and their lives.

Fifty women and 15 men gathered at the municipality building, and using consensus, went over the plan for the day, getting input from each woman and man.  The group then proceeded to walk in a silent procession, as previously agreed, along the fence of the wall.  We walked hand in hand, in two rows, toward our finally rallying point, a house that is isolated on the other side of the wall from the village, and is now completely fenced in between a settlement and the wall.  As we mounted the hill we saw the photographers and journalists waiting for us at the top.  We were met at the top of the hill by soldiers who told us we could not walk through the gate to get to the isolated house.  Palestinian and international negotiators demanded access and we stood our ground.  Finally, due to the pressure of the peaceful demonstrators and the eagerly watching media, the soldiers stood aside as we walked through to meet the house’s owners, Munira and Hani A’amer, who were overcome with emotions.

After we arrived, the joyous group stood in a circle outside the house of Munira and Hani in the shadow of the wall.  Fatima spoke the about the commitment of women and men in the district to rise up against the wall.  Everyone sang together, people crying as they sang.  The women returned home with the feeling that they had taken a first step toward holding their heads up.  Those that had been unsure about their participation in the morning left at the end of the day asking about the committee’s future plans.  They left the signs they had brought on Munira’s house, as a reminder that the family still has friends and neighbors, even though they cannot see them.

The demonstration comes at a crucial time for the Salfit district.  As Phase I devastated Qalqilya, Phase 2 will carve Salfit up into dozens of tiny islands, cut off from one another and from the land which sustains them.  Salfit is the unfortunate home of Ariel, the largest settlement in the West Bank, which stretches from the village of Marda in the east to the village of Hares in the west.  Fifty trees in Kifl Hares, directly across from the entrance to Ariel, were cut down several months ago to make a “security zone” and the entrance to the village, which includes a popular plant shop, was declared a closed military zone. The villages of Refat, Deir Balut and Azawiye are to be isolated from the rest of Palestine, in between the Wall and the Green Line.  Some of the participants in the demonstration from these villages had not seen the wall before Nov. 9, and the concrete wall in Munira’s front yard vividly showed them how important it is to take action.

These demonstrations are a call to the world community to condemn and take responsibility for the human rights crisis in Palestine and its latest manifestation in the form of the Apartheid Wall.  As they women continue to organize a grassroots movement against the wall in this area, they open a new chapter in the annals of the second Intifada.

IWPS Report No. 47

A Hazardous Harvest

Marda:  Visit from a Maniac

For the first several weeks of the olive harvest, the Salfit area was under tight closure (see IWPS Report No. 44), and farmers in the village of Marda were forbidden to pick near the settler road that runs along their village.  This meant that if they were in view of jeeps passing on the street, soldiers might stop them, send them home, even possibly arrest them or confiscate the olives they had picked.  Most families with land near the street began with the trees furthest away and worked toward the street, hoping that by the time they were done, the closure would be eased.  The most dangerous land in the village was near a house that the army has occupied for years.  Several families have land near the house, and they asked internationals to come pick with them there in the second and third weeks of November.

On November 18, three ISM volunteers were picking with Abu Rami and his friend Mohammed.  Several days earlier, Abu Rami’s olives had been seized by soldiers on that land, and he had been threatened that if he picked there again, he would be arrested.  Another farmer had also had olives taken from him by soldiers, but when internationals came with him, he had no problems.  This day also, the family and the internationals picked without trouble for more than five hours.  Suddenly, at 1:00 p.m., a jeep arrived at the scene.  Before the internationals could react, the commander had ordered Mohammed to get in the jeep and he obeyed.  The other two soldiers seemed less comfortable with what was going on, but intimidated by the main soldier. When one international tried to take pictures, the soldiers lunged for her camera.  One of the soldiers told Abu Rami that he was going to come to the village at night and demolish his house, and that Mohammed was going to be killed.  The jeep drove off with Mohammed.  A little while later the commander returned, went towards a nearby digger, and told Abu Rami that they were going to dig up his trees.  They did not, however.  When Abu Rami demanded to know why he was being persecuted, the commander said, “Because I’m a maniac.”

The ISM volunteers called IWPS, who called Rabbis for Human Rights, who came with field workers from another Israeli human rights group, Btselem.  The Israelis not only helped the family finish picking the olives in record time, but Btselem alerted a crew from the US television news network CNN, who happened to be in the area.  The television crew interviewed Abu Rami, the volunteers and the Israelis.

At about 7:00 p.m., Mohammed was released.  He reported that the soldiers had him lie down in the back of the jeep to avoid being seen as they drove. He said they took him to an abandoned warehouse, blindfolded him, tied rags around his limbs to stop the blood flow, and then beat him. Mohammed said he pleaded with the soldier, asking what he had done wrong. The soldier apparently replied, “I’m not doing this because you’ve done anything wrong. I’m doing this because you’re Palestinian and I want you dead. Say your prayers, you’re going to be killed.”

Mohammed knows Hebrew, and he heard the soldiers discussing whether they should kill him or not.  One told the other that he thought the internationals might have taken his picture.  He believes that is the only reason they did not kill him, but rather dropped him on a road far from the village to find his way home.

Jamaiin:  Familiar Faces, Familiar Guns

The fields of Jamaiin and Yasouf which border the settlement Tapuach and its outpost, Tapuach Chadash, are always among the most dangerous places for Palestinians to harvest.  Tapuach is one of the most notorious settlements in the West Bank, infamous for using violent intimidation tactics to drive Palestinians from their ancestral lands.  The outpost was established by followers of the late Meir Kahane, known for his extreme racist views.

Members of IWPS and Israeli volunteers picked with Jamaiin farmers in the areas neighboring the settlements for several days.  On the third day, late in the afternoon, a group of about 20 Palestinians from one family spotted three settlers armed with sticks and rocks on the ridge above top of their fields outside the colony outpost.  There were only three internationals present that day, and only Dunya, an IWPS team member, and Angie, a volunteer from the Israeli group Black Laundry, were in the vicinity of the encroaching settlers.

The villagers and internationals went toward the men to get a clearer view and the settlers retreated.  About fifteen minutes later, however, six settlers were seen gathering at the edge of the settlement.  Three settlers came very close.  One man armed with a pistol and another with an M16 descended on the group and demanded they stop picking their olives and leave immediately.  When Angie and Dunya tried to calm the situation, the settlers yelled at them to, “Shut up!”

Some of the farmers began to argue with their attackers in Hebrew.  One fired his semi-automatic weapon in the air, then put the gun to the chest of one of the Palestinians.  The settlers also repeatedly threatened and pushed people, all the while yelling at them to go home.

Throughout the attack the settlers yelled at the Palestinians in Hebrew, insisting that they leave and motioning with their guns.  Eventually, the settlers aggressively drove approximately fifty Palestinians from their land.  The villagers and internationals rapidly gathered their tools and left the fields, fearing for their lives.  Two donkeys and some equipment were left behind the in the groves.

Farmers from Yasouf reported that after the Jemaiin farmers left, the same group of settlers descended the other side of the hill to drive them from their land.

When Dunya returned home, she looked at pictures taken during last year’s settler attack in Yasouf, and realized that some of the same settlers were involved in this attack.

The police were called by Arik Asherman of Rabbis for Human rights and met with one of the attacked families.  The spokes person for the family reported that the police offered them no support to them in terms of an investigation or assistance with future access to their land.

Two days later, the families returned to finish the harvest with many Israeli and international supporters.  That day, settlers watched but did not come near, apparently deterred by a large organized international presence.  Dunya was able to get a BBC crew came to interview the farmers and supporters.  Rida, who speaks English well, had the chance to tell the world about the injustices that Palestinian farmers experience every day.

Kifl Hares:  Access Denied

“Sameh” from Kifl Hares owns 500 olive trees beside the settlement of Ariel. He has the right to plow his own land and harvest his own olives, for which he successfully went to an Israeli court in Jerusalem in 1996. Since 1998 he has had the key to the gate that gives access to his groves, which he must cross the settlement with donkey and cart to reach. An adjacent road closed with concrete blocks since 2000 is no alternative to reach his land. He has lost some 4 dunums of land, plus 85 olive trees, 35 fig trees, 15 almond trees and 5 prickly pear (cactus) plants because the army needed his land for a road. This situation is not rare, but unlike Sameh other peasants of his village have given up any hope and fight to access their own land (note: one dunum = 0.10 hectare or .25 acre).

On November 10th, Sameh called IWPS and asked us to accompany him to the entrance of the settlement because he had recently been turned away. For the previous two weeks he had been on his land unhindered, and this was the first time we had been hassled since the beginning of the harvesting season.

Two IWPS women, Dunya and Dorothée, accompanied Sameh with his cart, his donkey, three female relatives and a child to the entrance of Ariel on November 16th before 7 am. The cart and donkey were stuck within a traffic jam at the entrance of Ariel. The juxtaposition of the endless line of modern cars and the dancing cart with the donkey is one of the many ironies of the area. A mocking remark in Arabic from a settler out of his car window “Do you go to Jerusalem with this cart?” makes one aware of the gulf between the two groups of people. Sameh was halted by guards 30 meters from the entrance to the settlement and told it was “forbidden” to go any further. He turned around.

Three days later, Sameh tried again, accompanied by the two IWPS women. He was again turned away, this time after discussion and checking his identity.  Arik Asherman, the president of Rabbis for Human Rights, accompanied by other persons who were ready to help picking the olives, returned to the guards with Sameh in his car. The discussion there with the head of the civil administration, Eli, did not yield anything, although Eli knew about the paper Sameh had from the court that allows him to access his land. Sameh was advised to go to the civil administration headquarters in the settlement of Qdumim, where Palestinians stand and wait for hours to get or not get permits (permits to drive on settler roads, to pick olives on their land, etc.). In Qdumim, a DCO (district coordinating officer) named Rami would supposedly give Sameh a permit.

Sameh was dressed up waiting to go to Qdumim when Arik Asherman telephoned around midday to tell IWPS and Sameh that they need not go to Qdumim as Rami is absent for a few days. Two days later, on November 23rd , Sameh telephoned to say that he insists on going to Qdumim with women from IWPS because he cannot reach the DCO by telephone. He was worried that his olives would be ruined by the rain.  It would start raining in earnest any day, and he estimated the harvesting time to be seven to ten days.

IWPS once more appealed to an Israeli contact person to find out when the DCO would be available. The Israeli contact called back to say that there was no need for Sameh to go to Qdumim, because he would not be given any permit but rather told by telephone the hours when his olive groves would be accessible to him.

On November 25th Sameh telephoned once more.  He was frustrated that he had not heard from the DCO, could not reach anyone, and the time for harvesting was dwindling away. He asked us to call Arik Asherman again.  Arik, who was doing something in the Knesset on his last day in the country for some weeks, agreed to do something.

In a little over three weeks Sameh experienced the stubbornness and the inaccessibility of an administration that deprive the Palestinian population of the basics of life while making everything sound reasonable.  The endless and opaque maze of permits and delays and contradictions work hand in hand with the more obvious intimidation tools of soldiers and settlers with guns.  Needing a permit to go to one’s fields, in order to harvest the most important income for the peasants of the Salfit area, is indeed a violation of human rights, all the more so if one knows that part of the settlement of Ariel has been built on land confiscated from Kifl Hares and other villages in this area.

The long waiting of Sameh to go to his land to harvest his olives before the impending winter rains ended rather well: in order to catch up the lost time – three weeks – groups of Israeli people led by Rabbis for Human Rights, along with women from IWPS, helped Sameh and his family pick, and the last olives were brought home by the evening of December 3.

Text by IWPS.

December 5th, 2003

Copyright © 2003 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Report 48

“The ‘fence’ does not harm the Palestinian fabric of life”

“Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, commander in chief of the occupied territories, has never seen a Palestinian who has watched his home being cut off from his fields. The defense minister also has never heard any Palestinian children asking an Israeli soldier every morning for permission to pass to go to school. Last Friday, Mofaz looked straight into the cameras of Channel Two and said: “I am sure the fence does not harm the Palestinian fabric of life.” (Haaretz, 13.11.2003, English Edition: People and Politics / What suffering? The fabric of life is not torn, by Akiva Eldar)”. This raises some questions about the information Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz receives: either it is truncated and distorted so as to give him a false picture of the situation (if this is the case, then who is benefiting?), or he is unable to foresee the consequences of the current policy and the ubiquitous military arrogance in the Occupied Territories.

In order to see what is really happening to the fabric of life in the Palestinian villages and towns, I suggest that the Defense Minister go and see for himself the Occupied Territories. He could gather the most trustworthy impressions and data if he went there incognito. Better yet, he could go there disguised as a Palestinian peasant, or even as a teacher or a doctor. Nobody would fool him about the reality of the treatment of the Palestinians by the military; he would experience it first-hand. Then he could decide whether or not the soldiers and officers are indeed implementing the policy decided by the government, and whether or not the policy thus implemented has some sustainable sense for a livable future.

A few examples from North to South, from Jenin to Deir Ballut (between Qalqilya and Ramallah)

Let’s take a trip to Jenin city, situated 5 km South of the Green Line. From the rooftop of a tall building we can see the “security fence” (called “Apartheid wall” by the Palestinians) meandering through the hills between 4 and 5 kilometers from the center of town. One house has been locked in between the wall and a settlement. The electricity and water have been cut, and they are now threatened with “strangulation” (Danny Rubinstein, Ha’aretz). The permit with which the owner of the house–so he was told–can pass through the gate several hours a day states that he is authorized to live in this house. The outrageous thing is that he is allowed to live in his own house.

Three villages west of Jenin, are cut off from the rest of the West Bank by the wall. They are forbidden to shop in the nearest Palestinian town, Jenin, and will have to find a way to solve the problems of daily life between a walled-off, inaccessible Palestinian town and Israel that wants to lock them in… and out.

The latest information regarding Jenin as of December 8th, 2003: part of the wall is set to be demolished and rebuilt more inside Palestine (UN OCHA). Such information and the fear it nurtures are tearing apart the life and the hope for any future amongst affected Palestinians.

In the Northern West Bank, one of the most resource rich areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, dozens of Palestinians villages are affected by the wall.  This area is home to some 35,000 people.  In many places construction of the wall is already complete, six or more kilometers East of the Green Line.  Seventeen communities are projected to be trapped between the Wall and the Green Line.  Residents in these communities will have unclear status and will lose their livelihoods due to restrictions of movement caused by the Wall.  Now these villages are in the “seamzone” a new word used to include all the villages outside the wall and trapped between the wall and the border / Green Line with checkpoints and patrols to control.

One such community is Jubarra (2 km east of the Green Line) in northern Qalqilya. Jubarra is a tiny hamlet of 300 people. It has no school, so the children go to school in the neighboring villages of A-Ras or Kufr Sur or in Tulkarem. Since the beginning of the school year, the school gate has been closed at least 10 days.  For at least four days, the kids were not allowed to go to school at all.  Other days, the students were allowed through but the teachers were not, and since the headmistress of the school in Kufr Sur lives in Jubarra, if she does not get to the school, the school does not open.  The headmaster at Helm Hamouni school in Tulkarem also lives in Jubarra.  On a number of occasions, he has had to stay in Tulkarem because he was able to cross the checkpoint in the morning but not in the afternoon.  During Ramadan, he was unable to attend an ifthar that was held for the entire school and their families because the checkpoint from Jubarra was closed.

At some time in October, the army announced that everyone living in the “seam zone” must apply for permits to stay in their houses.  The village council of Jubarra voted not to apply for or accept the permits.  This is an important act of resistance, but makes the position of the people in Jubarra very precarious, as they could be denied access to their homes at any time.

The home of Azmi D., which belongs to the village of A-Ras, but is on the security road on the Jubarra side of the Wall, has been given a demolition order.  Jeeps regularly drove into Azmi’s yard to turn around, until he built a roadblock to keep them out.  Only Azmi is allowed to drive on the security road to his house; visitors have been threatened with arrest for walking on the road, so they must walk several kilometers through the olive groves to reach the house.  At times, soldiers have come to his house and told him he is not allowed to have visitors.  He has built a small house in his back yard, so that if they demolish his five-year-old house, his family will have somewhere else to stay.

For more information about the fate of the village of Jubarra, see IWPS Report Nr. 43.

Daba’a[1] (3km east of the Green Line, cease-fire line 1967): On the 24th of February 2003, 250 explosives were found in Daba’a by the municipality. The explosives had been placed approximately 3 meters deep, on the village land, in order to clear a path for the Wall along the village´s rocky landscape. On average, the explosives were found to be located 50 meters away from the residents’ homes. They have the capacity to completely destroy 7 homes and partially destroy others. 20% of the community of Daba’a will be homeless. Only one third of the land of Daba’a remains with the village (700 dunums).

Habla[2] (on the Green Line): Confiscation of over 200 dunums of greenhouses, 70 dunums of irrigated lands and the artesian well, Al Yasminiya, which irrigates 300 dunums of Habla’s best agricultural land. 116 farmers have lost their land completely. The land of another 250 farmers will reside on the “other” side of the wall. Habla had 15,000 dunums of land and 9 artesian wells. To date, the Israeli military has confiscated 4,000 dunums of the village land and 4 of the wells.

Azun Atme[3] (4 km east of the Green Line): The whole village, 2,000 men, women and children, is currently totally isolated from the rest of the Palestinian neighboring villages and towns. The wall in the North of the village has been completed. According to the projections the wall will completely encircle the village. One thousand dunums are being confiscated for the construction of the wall. A checkpoint day and night manned by soldiers makes life an impossible overcoming of an endless series of hurdles. The gate is “open” from 6 am to 7 pm, meaning that is possible to go in and out waiting to be let through by the soldiers. At night, going in or out for an emergency is dependent on the whim of the soldiers. Villagers have their names listed and identity controlled at the checkpoint. All other Palestinians can enter the village only with a permit: farmers, merchants, teachers, doctors, students, 120 pupils of the neighboring villages going to the secondary school, farmers from the neighboring villages entering the area to get to their land. Only the UN, IRC and other foreigners can enter without a permit.

Mas’ha[4] (6 km east of the Green Line): Mas’ha, a small Palestinian village in the Salfit region, has been severely impacted by the Wall.  Mas’ha has lost 4,000 of the 6,000 dunums of land owned by the village as a result of construction of the Wall. The village is adjacent to the Israeli settlement Elkana. The fence will incorporate the settlement to Israel. Most of the land of Mas’ha will be placed on the Israeli side of the fence – between the fence and the green line. In addition, the fence cuts Mas’ha off from the Jenin to Ramallah road, a segment of which will be on the Israeli side of the fence.

Most of the families will lose 50-100 dunums of land each, but the family of Ridha Amer will lose about 600 dunums of land. Villagers suspect that at least four houses may be demolished in the area.

The 6,000 dunums of land belonging to Mas’ha is mainly cultivated with olive trees. For the construction of the wall, 4,000 dunums of land are being confiscated, leaving the village with 2,000 dunums, most of which is the existing built-up residential area. An Israeli military order of November 8, 2002 appropriated a strip of land of area approximately 488,5 dunums (length 8,220 kilometers and width varying between 46m and 95m) of Sanniriya and Mas’ha. Bulldozers started work on April 23, 2003 to uproot olive trees to prepare the ground for the fence. All 32 extended families in the village will be affected by the wall.

For more information about the village of Mas’ha, see IWPS Reports 45 and 46 (IWPS website: www.iwps.info )

Work in the vicinity of Ariel, an Israeli settlement (22 km east of the Green Line): Bulldozers and trucks are seen busying themselves along the Trans-Samarian Road 505. The path of the planned wall, according to the maps of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (based on new information revealed by the Israeli Government, October 23rd, 2003), coincides with the place where the leveling of earth and uprooting of trees are going on. Villages around Ariel are Hares, Kifl Hares, Marda, Qira, Iskaka, and the town of Salfit.

In Kifl Hares (20 km east of the Green Line): the mayor was not informed that olive trees would be cut. “The Israelis destroy portion after portion without giving any explanation”. The uprooting, he thinks, has to do with security: widening the road will prevent snipers from shooting from behind trees. The fact is that the uprooted area coincides with the path of the planned wall.

The village of Marda (22 km east of the Green Line), immediately north of Ariel, is projected to be cut in two according to the maps of the projected wall. Part of Marda will be on the Israeli side of the wall, almost as a suburb of Ariel, which was built on land from Marda and conspicuously dumps its garbage on the village’s land and olive groves.

Deir Ballut (2 km east of the Green Line): Deir Ballut a village of 4,200 persons near the settlements of Peduel and Yo’ezer, will be at the end of an area totally encircled by the wall if it is built according to projections. Inhabitants of Deir Ballut will be forced to travel an extremely long and roundabout way to get anywhere out of the district. This is already happening now as the checkpoint on the shortest route to the other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories is blocking free passage. When the army decides that nobody can pass, nobody–no doctor, no nurse, no midwife, and no teacher–can enter the village.

Dozens of villages share the fate of those mentioned above. A total of “274,000 Palestinians living in 122 villages and towns will either live in closed areas or in enclaves totally surrounded by the wall” (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territories, November 2003). Mr. Defense Minister, how can you say that “the ‘fence’ does not harm the Palestinian fabric of life?” Who believes this tale?

More information and facts about the wall and its planning in Palestine can be found on the website of Pengon, Palestinian Environmental NGO Network,

www.stopthewall.org or www.pengon.org and on the website of the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs www.ochaopt.org

Text: Dorothee and Kate. Pictures: Anna, Kate

December 12th 2003


[1] Source: PENGON, 9th March, „An Open Letter To the International Agencies and Organizations in Palestine Due to the Recent Escalation for the Construction of the Wall, by Jamal Juma´

[2] Source: PENGON, 9th March, „An Open Letter To the International Agenencies and Organizations in Palestine Due to the Recent Escalation for the Construction of the Wall, by Jamal Juma´

[3] IWPS research, 9th April 2003

[4] IWPS research, 9th April 2003

IWPS Report 48+

One Step Forward and Two Steps Backward through the Wall

On Sunday, IWPS presence was requested to accompany Nazeeh and three farmers in Mas’ha across the wall to their land. There were six IWPS women and four Israeli activists present at the Mas’ha gate at 9am, and we waited with the farmers for the army to arrive and open the gate. The army passes by the security road next to the fence about once every hour, and the times that they stop they usually refuse to open the gate, despite permits to pass held by farmers. One farmer has a permit specifically for mid-November to mid-February, but it was ineffective in convincing the soldiers to open the gate when they finally did stop. The head soldier in the jeep announced that the wall would not be opened due to a security threat. Another vehicle arrived forty or so minutes later with the same message. We explained that we had been told by the DCO in Qualqilya that it would open, but the soldiers refused to call to check if this was true. After waiting for more than three hours we left the gate and a few of us agreed to return the next day early in the morning when there is supposedly a gate opening.

The next day, two IWPS women met Nazeeh and two farmers at the gate at 7am, but there were no soldiers in sight to open the gate. On the way to the gate we had noticed a superficial roadblock of some old refrigerator frames and other furniture from the trash heap along the road. It seemed unlikely to be the work of the army, more likely the work of locals (perhaps attempting to slow a possible attack from the army in response to the day before’s confrontation?). Nazeeh dismantled the roadblock and we all began a wait of several hours for the army to arrive. Several jeeps passed by but did not slow down. Nazeeh left after the first hour, leaving two internationals, two farmers, and one of the farmers’ mule. At one point a truck passed by to spray the entire area with pesticides through the gate. One farmer said that this is to prevent grass from growing near the wall.

We contacted the DCO in Qualqilya who was too busy to help us, but they said they would call the army to tell them to open the gate. One jeep stopped shortly thereafter but the head soldier insisted they had been given no such order to open the gate. They drove off and after another half hour another jeep stopped. This head soldier said likewise that they did not intend to open up for us, because they had heard no such order and besides, we might be terrorists. IWPS pointed out that it is unfair to treat all Palestinians as terrorists, and that collective punishment is wrong, but the soldier remained unaffected. Nonetheless, he went to make a phone call and eventually returned saying that they could open the gate. Meanwhile, the farmers had started a conversation with another soldier who seemed more receptive to conversation. One farmer said in Hebrew, “These women come all the way from France and America to help us, so why can’t you?” The soldier just looked down.

The soldiers asked what time we wanted to return through the gate and the farmers said noon, 2.5 hours later. The soldiers agreed. We began a long walk through the olive groves between the wall and the nearby illegal settlement of Ez Efrayim, with the Palestinian village of Sanniriya in the distance. The two farmers were in good spirits despite the morning’s setbacks. They explained that they could not work on the land that day because of rain the night before, but that they wanted to be on their land and see their trees as is their right. One farmer said he had not been able to access his land since October, when he finished his harvest. Soon after we arrived at a resting stop, one farmer decided to walk back to the gate to fetch some breakfast from the other farmer’s son who would be waiting there on the other side of the gate with food. As the son was passing food over the gate a jeep arrived to question the old man. He explained what he was doing and they let him go. He rode back happily on his mule singing a song.

We picnicked and returned to the gate. The soldiers arrived at noon and let us through, telling one of several Palestinian young man who waiting for us to close the interior gates. After the older farmer did his prayers on a cement block of the middle gate, we started towards Mas’ha and the young Palestinian closed the two gates behind us as he had been told. We were shocked and asked him why he had agreed to close gates into his own village. He said it did not matter, they were only small superficial gates (which is true; they are held shut by a mere twisted wire). He said he had initially refused but that the army had insisted.

The farmers hope to return to the gate as many mornings as possible in the future. We spoke of the possibility of IWPS women coming in support several times a week for a limited time. It seems likely that our presence made the difference today, which is temporarily rewarding but ultimately very frustrating; the farmers must be free to cross when they like, as is their right. And the compliance of the young man to close the gates for the soldiers just demonstrates the degree to which people have become habituated to the injustice. Perhaps his fear of insisting no outweighed his hope of what could come from resistance. A few small steps backward when there are still miles ahead.

Photos and text by Anna P, 12 Dec. 2003.

IWPS Report 49

Random shooting, or the “wild West” in the West Bank

Every day between one and ten Palestinian people – mostly men – are killed by the Israeli army.  That is at least thirty dead persons a month, all year round[1]. The number of wounded is not as systematically publicized but it touches an impressive number of people: those losing some kind of organ, a hand, a foot, their eyesight, etc., people getting a severe handicap for life, paraplegy, or other trauma. These individual fates are a costly toll to the continuing war between Israel and the Palestinians.

Just one story among many

Scene one

On Friday evening, December 12th 2003, IWPS received a call from the neighbouring village of Deir Istya. A young man had been shot at by the army. Following this a curfew had been imposed on the whole village. On the following day two IWPS women, Anna and Dorothée went to take the details of the incident. A large family was supporting one another to overcome the first shock: the young T.D., 19 years old, had been shot at by soldiers while on the “settler” road, walking back to his village. The shots had drawn several people from the village to the roadblock barring any car from entering the Palestinian village. The soldiers had not let them approach the scene; only one man had been allowed to pass. He said that he had seen T.D. lying on the ground. No eyewitnesses could testify what had happened. A little later the Palestinian District Liaison Officer had informed the family that an ambulance called by the army had taken T.D. to the Israeli hospital Beilinson in Petah Tiqva.

An Israeli friend, Susi, whom the IWPS women contacted arranged to visit Beilinson on the same day with a cousin of T.D. working in Israel. The first sorrow could be soothed knowing that someone would go and see T.D., a normal need that D.’s parents could not meet, as no Palestinian is allowed to leave the Palestinian Occupied Territories into Israel.

Scene two

The Israeli friend informed Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO who commit themselves to insuring correct treatment of persons in medical matters, about the hospitalization of T.D. in Beilinson.. An official paper certifying that T.D. was indeed hospitalized in Beilinson finally reached family D. on Monday December 15th. With this certificate they could apply for a permit to leave the Palestinian Occupied Territories and go to Israel. The permit is earned by a trip to the administrative center of Qdumim, 20 kilometers North of Deir Istya, and hours of waiting in the queues of people needing various permits, from driving on settler roads, to permission to get one’s confiscated car back, to going through a gate in the “security” wall between one’s house / village and one’s olive groves, and land, etc.

Four persons left for Qdumim: the father, the mother and an uncle (the only person who spoke Hebrew fluently) of T.D. and Dorothée from IWPS, because the idea was to go to Beilinson as soon as the precious authorization to visit the young man would be delivered. After 3 hours of waiting the mother received the permit. Another 4 and a half hours later the men were informed that no permit would be given to the men, notwithstanding interventions at Qdumim headquarters by PHR. The Shabak (security police) had to examine their cases first. A tired and disappointed group went back to Deir Istya.

Scene three

On Wednesday December 17th, 5 days after the incident, the mother and a woman from IWPS met at the roadblock of Hares, where a chaotic scene was taking place: a spontaneous checkpoint had been established by soldiers, stopping all Palestinian cars, forcing men to get off the cars and letting people through on foot. The usual scene of settler cars rushing by, and apparently not heeding anything that was going on, completes the picture.

As no public transport exists for Palestinians into Israel and no private Palestinian car is allowed into Israel, a car had been organized with Shlomo, the former boss of the members of the family who had worked in Israel before the Second Intifada. He was to take the mother of T.D. to Beilinson. A short discussion about the second person, Dorothée – because she had not been mentioned when the arrangement was made- soon ended and Shlomo drove both to Beilinson. Another friend, a Palestinian Israeli, was waiting to take the 2 women to T.D. in the surgery ward.

The mother and son were obviously happy to see one another after 5 days. The young man was still getting infusion and slowly recovering from an abdominal operation for protective colostomy due to a severe wound of the rectum by shrapnel, and two orthopaedic operations on both hand, a reduction of fracture on one, and debridement and amputation of finger on the other. He also has paralysis and insensivity in his left foot, the cause of which remained to be explained.

Physicians for Human Rights sent a doctor to Beilinson to find out what was the state of the young man. He was cavalierly thrown out by a doctor who claimed to be in charge. Because of this, PHR asked Dorothée to get some information about T.D.’s story and situation. T.D: gave a few details: a “settler” car had hit him from behind, after which he limped away; soldiers appeared from out of the olive groves where they had been standing, surrounded him and shot at him; he recovered consciousness in the Israeli hospital. The doctor and nurses informed Dorothée that T.D. would soon be transferred to Nablus / Shechem.

Postscript two days later

The young man is in Rafidieh hospital of Nablus. He will be taken care of for follow-up in Beilinson thanks to the intervention of Physicians for Human Rights. T.D’s story does not end here. Nablus is difficult , often impossible to access for any Palestinian. The town may be invaded and closed by the Israeli army. In that case nobody can go into town or leave it. At best the parents, on foot, will have to stay in line at the south entrance of Nablus, Huwara checkpoint, wait to have their identity checked, and then let through if military orders and / or the arbitrary of the soldiers allow it. The same happens for ambulances which will eventually take T.D. to the hospital from home and back as soon as his rehabilitation starts.

Copyright IWPS. Text: Dorothée. December 20th, 2003


[1] see B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Right in the Occupied Territories.

Website: www.btselem.org