Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Protest in Tel Aviv

Yesterday, July 30th, there was a funeral for Ahmed Mousa, the eleven year old who was killed by Israeli Border Police the night before. In the morning, there was a procession from Ramallah to Nl'in, which was put under curfew by the Israeli military which means that no one is allowed to leave their homes. At 6:30pm, I attended a protest in response to this killing in Tel Aviv.

The Tel Aviv protest was made up of over a hundred Israelis. As far as I could tell, it was mostly made up of Ashkenazi Israelis in their 20s and 30s- anarchists, queers and students who were refusing to serve. We met at a train station and marched to the highrise apartment building of Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister and current Minister of Defense, deputy prime minister and leader of Israel's Labor Party. There were strong drummers that could be heard along the whole street and chants, which were translated to me as "end the occupation" "The wall is built on children's lives" "The wall must fall" and others. A police officer weaved throughout the crowd filming the faces of everyone there.

The protest then marched down Namir, a major street in Tel Aviv. As we marched, one of the Queer it Up members I had met in Nl'in was holding a poster with a photo of Ahmed up to the windows of cars stopped at lights. At a major intersection a large group of Israelis sat down in the street and stopped the traffic. The police charged the group and began shoving and beating on them, physically removing them from the street, and arresting a few people. At the curb the police continued to shove and hit the protesters.

Before this non-violent civil disobedience, I recognized the protest as similar to some protests I have been to in New York. I was familiarly cynical- the lack of coalition reflected in the small range in demographics represented (this doesn't necessarily mean the coalitions don't exist, it could have been for a large range of reasons that this protest was attended by a limited group); the small relative size of the protest; how removed and different the context of Tel Aviv looked to the West Bank where the killing occurred; and the lightness of the energy compared to the situation it aimed to protest. After the Israelis sat down in the street interrupting the otherwise apathetic environment in Tel Aviv and the police began beating on them, the energy of course shifted to be appropriately serious given what is happening in Nl'in and Ahmed's murder. I stood watching, clapping and repeating the chants the best I could, impressed by the Israelis' fearlessness.

As the protest marched on, the policeman with the video camera lead other police officers to specific people, apparently to point them out for arrest. I approached the Queer it Up member I had met and saw that she was crying. I asked her how she was, and she answered, "very depressed." Then I saw one of the high school senior refusniks I met in Nl'in. She was approaching Israelis who were waiting at a nearby bus stop asking them how they could just sit there when a ten year old boy was killed. They shrugged at her. She asked me, "will you be in Nl'in tomorrow?" I said "no." She said it would be very violent. I asked her if she would go and she answered, "of course."

Just two hours earlier I had arrived in the Tel Aviv bus station greeted by high level security searching my bags, and the many soldiers who shoved through the lines with an intense sense of entitlement. It reminded me of football players in US suburbs and the abuses that accrues. Then I thought about the fact that this 18 year old Israeli would for sure be shot at the next day and would be imprisoned in September for refusing to serve. It made the fearlessness in the face of the shoving police officers make a lot more sense. As much as I cannot begin to understand life in the West Bank where life is controlled and attacked on a daily basis; I cannot understand the lives of these Israelis who believe in justice- so close to the West Bank and amongst soldiers who are the face of this occupation being held up as heroes every moment of every day. And yet, there are so many similarities to my life in New York too, and I consider why I didn't sit down in the street to stop traffic when Sean Bell was murdered.

At around the time of yesterday's Tel Aviv protest, a 17 year old Palestinian boy was shot in the head by Israeli forces in Nil'in. For more information read the press release, here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A stone and a bullet are not the same

At around 6pm tonight, Israeli Border Police shot an eleven year young boy named Ahmed dead. Ahmed was a boy full of all the details that boys are. And now he is dead.

The Ha'aretz says: "A 9-year-old Palestinian boy died on Tuesday evening during clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces." The International Solidarity Movement which has had volunteers in Ni'lin for over a month, says that an eye witness reported that a group of youths were attempting to remove coils of razor wire from the separation barrier. When, without warning, they were fired upon. Ahmed was shot in the forehead and was killed.

This separation barrier is being built illegally on their family's land. A barrier that would have highly restricted their movement. So they went to take it apart. They may have thrown rocks. They were shot at. One of them was killed.

The Ha'aretz says: "A number of violent protests have erupted in Na'alin against the West Bank separation fence, frequently developing into confrontations between stone-throwing youths and Israeli troops firing tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. " I was at one of these protests last week. People dressed in plain clothes with no weapons walked chanting towards the soldiers. The protests are usually symbolic- people get as close to the bulldozers as possible and chant against the wall; at most- they aim to stop one of the bulldozers from working by sitting around it, knowing that there are others that will take its place. Young boys do sometimes throw rocks. At the protest I was at, because it was a women's demonstration, the boys were strongly urged to stay away. Some did come, and at the very end of the protest, they did throw rocks. These are rocks. These are boys throwing rocks. At soldiers with tear gas machines that can fire up to thirty cannisters at a time, making us all cry, making it difficult to breath, making our skin sting. These soldiers have bullets coated in rubber. These soldiers have metal bullets. These soldiers wear army vests and helmets. These soldiers are breaking international law with a powerful government on their side.

At the Ni'lin demonstration I was at, we walked chanting up to the area where the separation wall is being built. When we got to the soldiers, they begin by pushing people. Then if people tried to push by them to get closer to bulldozer, that's when the soldiers fired tear gas in metal containers at us. There were only a few rubber bullets that day. But they did beat one man with a baton until he was bloody. I didn't see this, because I had retreated to the back of the demonstration coughing from tear gas.

I keep thinking that this is too much like a role play game- one team got all the resources and keeps making it harder and harder for the other team to do anything at all. It's too difficult to believe. But then it's true, and it's people's lives.

A day in Sheikh Jarrah

Yesterday, I sat on a patio in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem home for 6 1/2 hours. The home has belonged to the Al Kurd family since 1956 and they are currently being threatened with eviction. The father, Mohammad Al Kurd is partially paralyzed and suffers from diabetes and heart problems. In 2001, the Al Kurd family was away to get Mohommad treatment when a group of settlers broke into and took over a part of their house. Presently, settlers continue to occupy half the house that has a separate entrance and through the courts are trying to get the Al Kurd family evicted completely.

Context: Since 1948, East Jerusalem has been the Palestinian side of the city and West Jerusalem the Israeli side. Since 1967, though mostly Palestinians still live in East Jerusalem, the whole city is controlled by the Israeli State. The Al Kurd's story is just one example of the ways in which the Israeli State is trying to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem.

It isn't one settler family who occupies the Al Kurd house, it is a settler movement that occupies the apartment by shifting a different family in every month or two. In this way, if the Al Kurd family tries to bring a case against an individual who is occupying their house, they can't because by the time the case is filed, that person is gone. A neighbor asks, "What does a homeland mean to them? I don't know. But to this mother, Fawzieh Al Kurd, this is home. She got married here and had all her children here, and her grand children. Since 1956."

The settler movements want the Al Kurds and twenty-seven other Palestinian families to leave the neighborhood altogether, so they can build a 200 units to house new Jewish immigrants and a commercial center. One Palestinian neighbor said yesterday, "We residents of this neighborhood are standing by and supporting this family, because we know our turn is coming."

All day, I sat drinking tea and talking to neighbors, Palestinian supporters, other internationals, and watching group after group come by to learn about the situation-- a Palestinian boys summer camp, a French delegation from CCIPPP, and others. Many Palestinian groups came in support and to strategize- a man from the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights, a woman from the Palestinian Counseling Center, and a large group from the Coalition for Jerusalem. We looked at photographs and heard stories about visits from the Anti-Zionist Orthodox group Naturi Karta, representatives from the different countries' embassies and many other powerful individuals and groups.

The Palestinian families are fighting in the Israeli Courts, and soon maybe international courts. A neighbor expressed, "International law declared the Separation Wall illegal and Israel ignored that, because Bush/the U.S. condones and supports the Wall. Still, these international rulings will be a document for future generations. This [the Al Kurd house] is one small example of these super powers' declarations that it is okay to occupy, to colonize." Another Palestinian woman there in support said, "Isreali people believe there should be a solution to the problem. We figured this out a long time ago. But it is not in their hands. It is Zionists abroad who dictate what the Israeli government does. That's politics.... They want to ethnically cleanse us... but we won't let them. We want to live as Palestinians."

Internationals from IWPS, ISM, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, and others have been staying with the Al Kurd family 24 hours/day in case the military shows up to forcibly remove them. One Palestinian there in support said, "It is important for people [internationals] to come. Israel gets worried about this. They are counting on people getting tired." Another said, "Even if you stay here for a week and you're overwhelmed by the tragedy, you haven't seen anything. This is our lives."

Throughout the day I felt humbled and insignificant, with the strange knowledge that if by some chance the military showed up, my role would be to hand cuff myself to the doors of the apartment and refuse to leave. This was unlikely, and so really my role was to learn, on this patio that has become one of the most vibrant movement spaces I have ever seen.

Fawzieh Al Kurd, the mother, is originally from West Jerusalem which she was forced to flee in 1948. Standing on her patio amongst banners that read "We will NEVER leave" and "This is Apartheid," a neighbor relayed that Fawzieh often says if they give her back her family's home in West Jerusalem, then she will leave her house in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. And I can't help but wonder- if my family was faced with such attack, would our home turn into a space of such steadfast and dynamic activism?


The back story [My information comes from a lecture given by one of the neighbors, other Palestinians there in support, and the press release about this situation. It definitely may have inconsistencies or incorrect information based on me learning a lot quickly, which I apologize for.]

The Al Kurd home along with twenty-seven other apartments were built in 1956 by the Jordanian government for refugee families from 1948. Jordan promised that in 1959, if they had lived here harmoniously, these Palestinian families would be given official ownership of the homes. If they went back to their homes from 1948, the apartments would be taken away. I believe that though they had lived there harmoniously, no ownership documents were granted.

In 1967, when the Israeli State occupied all of Palestine, two groups of settlers were successful in falsely claiming property of the land based on the presence of ancient tombs nearby. In 1972, two settler associations (including I think a religious sect that takes care of the tombs) filed suits against the Palestinian families' property rights. The settlers submitted forged ownership documents supposedly from the Turks during the Ottoman Empire (though, at that time no Jew was allowed to own land). In 1982, the Israeli government did grant the settlers ownership documents for the land; and the Palestinians were granted tenant/lease rights. This agreement was agreed to by a lawyer that was working for the Palestinians, though the Palestinians in fact did not want to agree to it. In 1989, the twenty eight Palestinian families got a new lawyer and there was a new ruling- "live in peace" - not sure what that meant. In 2006, the land registration department agreed to revoke the settlers' ownership, but refused to declare rightful ownership to the Palestinians. Still, around this same time, two settler associations sold their property claims to an investment company that plans to demolish the Al Kurd homes along with 27 other Palestinian homes to build 200 units for Jewish immigrants and commercial center. In 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court issued an order to evict the Settlers who had broken in and occupied the apartment in 2001. The eviction order has not been implemented. Now, in 2008, there is a security force constantly in the neighborhood to escort the settlers to where they are living. And for a reason I am not clear on, the Al Kurd family, not the settlers, are now at risk of forcible eviction.


Some personal writing:

"This isn't a Muslim way to behave" said a Palestinian man of the Settlers. He is being threatened with arrest if he doesn't leave his home.

I wanted to say, "This isn't a Jewish way to behave either." But I didn't. For it wasn't about me, or about bridge-building, right then. It was about his home that people were attacking.

He said, "the police are always saying the Jews are the good people and the Arabs are the bad people... Any person who supports me and my family are good."

* * *
I spoke slowly to Nasser, a Palestinian man who owns a nearby tailor shop and also works with the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights. I asked if the settlers here physically attack the Palestinians like in Khalil. Andjelka turned to me and said, "say Jews."
"Say Jews. He won't understand the word 'settlers'."
So, I repeated my question, "Do the Jews attack you here?"

* * *
She fingers her prayer beads
black and smooth
in her hands
she strains them
and her face
full with fight
small boys listen
to their lives, their futures,
their legacies



Wedding celebrations
girls in threes
with party favors
many women gathered
and loud festive music

by a fire set by Settlers

The fire is burning
I can see it

On July 27, 2008 Settlers set fire to olive trees in the village of Burin (see Human Rights Report, here). The next day, the settlers burned down a house in the same village.

A gift from Ala

On July 27, I was having tea at the home of a neighbor here in the village of Haris named Isa. Isa was shot by a soldier and is now paralyzed from the waste down. You can read a Ha'aretz article about him here.

He and another IWPS volunteer, Andjelka, discussed a friend of his who needs medical support and Andjelika's research about Physicians for Human Rights and other similar organizations. We heard from Isa about the boy's camp he recently directed. We saw photos of over 100 boys who took part in the camp- the winner of a big race they had and all the boys swimming in a pool in the nearby city, Tulkarem. Most of the time we chatted and played with Isa's children.

Isa has three children, including 3 year old twins. Heba (which means gift from Ala - named that because she was born after Isa's injury) is one of the twins. She is constantly smiling. Constantly.

Heba wants to be a hair dresser- she likes combing anyone's hair, but not her own, Isa told us as he stroked her dirty blond waves. Heba has a pink purse full of goodies. Hiding behind the door to the house, she went through and reached her hand out exposing each item in its turn - red nail polish, gold nail polish, a bag of hena, and some flowery and sparkly bows. She carried all these items out to where we were sitting and began painting her nails (and face, and hair...)

Isa told us that Heba often takes every piece of her clothing out and puts it on the floor looking for the piece she wants to wear. Today, she eventually went to retrieve a gold skirt with beads hanging off it that was a bit too big for her, and a gold shirt. She put the outfit on in order to perform less than a minute of Debka, traditional Palestinian dance. Isa said Heba likes doing the men's part of the dance.

Heba and her twin brother Mohommed took turns climbing up on to their father's lap and taking his hands around them. At one point, Heba and Mohommed got into a bit of a fist fight- which Heba engaged in with a continuous smile from ear to ear - and definitely won. Mohommed is super sweet and shy and smiled and hid in his mother's lap.

With Heba on his lap, Isa told a story about one of his friends who is fat who came over to visit and Heba punched him in the stomach and said he was pregnant. Then, Isa asked if we'd heard about the man who birthed a baby- a story about a trans guy, which got a lot of media attention lately. Several people I've met here have brought this story up, why I'm not sure, but that's a discussion for another time...

Israeli Black Panthers

On Friday, July 25th, I attended a tour of the Musrara neighborhood in West Jerusalem (the Israeli side of Jerusalem) where the Israeli Black Panther Party was born. We were lead by Ayala Sabag, born and raised in Musrara, and one of the leading figures in the Mizrahi (Jews of Middle Eastern/Arab descent) struggle today.

The neighborhood of Musrara was originally developed by Palestinians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. During the war of 1948, the Palestinians residents fled or were expelled. One million Jewish immigrants from Middle East countries (Mizrahi Jews) were settled in the new Israeli State in the 1950s; many were settled in neighborhoods like Musrara. These Mizrahi communities lived in poverty. They were put into special schools to learn trades needed to build the State. There were fights to integrate Mizrahi children into Ashkenazi (Jews of European Descent) schools which had better and more resources.

Israel settled Mizrahi Jews in neighborhoods like Musrara that were positioned close to the border dividing Jerusalem before 1967- and so suffered much violence between Jordan and the new Israeli State. When Ayala was young, when there were shots into her neighborhood, her mother would gather up all the children from the courtyard. Ayala told us that at one point her mother was running with Ayala's baby brother away from bullets and she dropped him making him permanently brain damaged.

The Israeli State never fully recognized these neighborhoods, so the Mizrahi familiers were always considered squatters. In 1967, when the Israeli State knew the violence would subside they convinced Ayala's family and their neighbors to purchase an apartments in new apartment projects. When they accepted, the homes that had been built by Palestinians and that these Mizrahi Jews had then lived in for almost 20 years were sold for a lot of money to Ashkenazi Jews. Today, the Musrara neighborhood is mostly inhabited by Ashkenazi people, though many are still poor and live in bad conditions.

In late 1960s and early 1970s, conditions in the Musrara projects were very bad. Conditions were worse because people had so many children in such small apartments. Families were actively encouraged to have any babies by the State to increase the Jewish population. Ayala recalls when Ben Gurian himself came through the neighborhood with a megaphone telling people to have more children to help build Israel.

From out of this reality emerged the Israeli Black Panthers, one of the most influential Israeli social movements dedicated to social and economic justice. Ayala's brother was one of its founding leaders. Ayala recalled one of the most famous actions when the Israeli Black Panthers stole bottles of milk from the doorsteps of a middle-class Jerusalem suburb and delivered it to poor Mizrahi families. Ayala told us they used a military truck which belonged to one of the Black Panthers who was also in the Israeli military. Ayala recalled that to the rich people, they left a note that said "sorry you won't get your milk today..." and then I found a record that the notes said: "The children in the poverty stricken neighbourhoods do not find the milk they need on their doorstep every morning. In contrast, there are cats and dogs in rich neighborhoods that get plenty of milk, day in, day out." And to the poor people, with the milk, Ayala said they included a note that said "We hope you enjoy the milk, but don't get used to it, this is a part of a one-time action..."

After 1967, when Israel claimed all of Jerusalem, Ayala's family began having more connection to Palestinians, though not all Mizrahi Jews supported this. She recalls being teased in school for having Palestinian friends. Today, many Arab Jews, Ayala said, are not in relationship with Palestinians and are in fact Right Wing. However, the Israeli Black Panthers have always been connected to Palestinian struggle. They were aware that even in their impoverished conditions, they had taken the homes of Palestinians; and they could see that the Palestinians in East Jerusalem were in even worse distress than their own communities. The Israeli Black Panthers helped to re-plant olive trees that were destroyed from the first Settlement (not certain I wrote this down correctly?), where in fact many poor Jews were being transferred to live. This was one of the first actions with Jewish Israelis protesting for Palestinian rights.

The Israeli Black Panthers ended after a short time- some say it was related to the 1973 Yom Kippur war, others because the Israeli Authorities infiltrated and created conflict amongst its members. Today, the Israeli Black Panthers is re-surging. The differences now, Ayala says, are that they have a greater focus on economic justice, not just with Mizrahi Jews, and it will be headed by women and focus on women. Also, the Israeli Black Panthers are working against harsh effects of the Wisconsin plan (the Welfare to Work program that has been imported to Israel from the U.S.) which effects 48 Palestinians (Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) most of all. They are currently registering as a party and running for municipal elections.

In West Jerusalem

In West Jerusalem
"We are the World"
plays in the almost empty Cinematec
the green grass grows
the 'Israel at 60' flags blow
Jewish boys play under a tree
a Shofar vaguely sounds
in the distance

Tears weld up
People get checked with guns
to maintain this order

And I like water can flow over
the border with ease

* * *

A boy wears army camouflage pants
He will grow up

It isn't the fault of these Israeli boys,
I remind myself

But why aren't they rising up
alongside Palestinians who are in cages and are shot at
for three steps
on to their own land?

No words are enough.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


On July 23rd, I attended a women's demonstration in the village of Nl'in. For a great description of what this protest was about, please read another IWPS volunteer's blog entry about it, here.

This young woman was one of the
organizers of the women's demonstration.
The banner read, "Women Against the Apartheid Wall".

These are 2 of 8 seniors from one Israeli high school who are refusing to serve in the military and will instead go to prison in September. They came to the demonstration along with several other Israelis from Anarchists Against the Wall and a new group called Queer it Up.

This is one of the bulldozers working on Nl'in's land to build the separation wall between the village and the close settlement, Modi'in Illit.

This is the settlement Modi'in Illit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Roadblocks in Hares

An "international"(how foreign solidarity activists are referred to here) can learn a lot by taking a walk from the village of Hares where I am staying to the next village, Kafl Hares. As I and two other internationals walked along many children greeted us by saying "Shalom" (Hello or Peace in Hebrew) and we in turn would answer "Marhaba" or "Salam Aleikum" (Hello or Peace be with you in Arabic). In this small interaction they recognized us as connected to their occupiers and we distinguished ourselves as friends. The extension of peace in both greetings is obviously sadly unreflective of the situation at hand. My appreciation of why Linguists are so political increases by the minute here.

As we walked further, in a mix of Arabic, English and non-verbal communication, a group of men told us they were planning a demonstration at the upcoming roadblocks on Friday after Prayer. We said if they wanted us to join them, we could. We shared contact information.

The road that connects the two villages roams through fields of olive trees. Our surroundings slowly turned from being cement homes and children playing to trees, at first mixed with a garbage dump of sorts, but in the distance more and more trees in dry rocky landscape.

Then, in the middle of the road we hit a big heap of rubble- cement, rocks and garbage blocking the road. If I didn't know it was true, I wouldn't believe that this was an "official" military roadblock (this is not a checkpoint for those who don't know what those look like, I will hopefully write about that soon).

As we approached the road block, we saw a group of men sitting beside the road. One got up to show us that the military had recently come to broaden this roadblock so that cars could not get
around the original mound. In doing so, the
military vehicles had damaged nearby trees and we could see the branches on the ground and the fresh wood exposed on the trunks.

None of us spoke Arabic, so we couldn't understand exactly what he was telling us, but what I understood was that he wished we could help move the roadblock. And indeed it felt like we should grab some shovels right then and start digging. But then we knew soldiers would see us from a watch tower nearby.

As we walked we hit two more similar roadblocks.

Why these roadblocks? I am not 100% sure. But here’s the information I have— Settlers use this road to reach a site that is religiously holy- both for Jews and Muslims. The story another volunteer at IWPS heard is that there may have been a settler car on fire, but we’re not sure how or who set it on fire; and there may have been a bottle thrown. Whatever happened, less than a month ago, it precipitated a reaction by the military to “protect” settlers by stopping free movement of all Palestinians who live here to travel between their villages. Something that surprises me to no end here is the State of Israel’s vast disregard for legal due process and giving punishments that are in no way reflective of a crime.

On the way back from our walk, we met another man who pointed to the second roadblock and explained with only a few English words how the roadblocks had affected his life. His son was hurt in the leg and they needed to get him to the doctor. They could not drive because of the roadblocks and had to carry him the very long way.

Almost back to the IWPS house, we met a man named Asif. He asked for our help on a different road-problem. There is a lot of building going on around here- lots of new settler-only roads amongst other things. Asif said there is a section of road that divides the village from his agricultural lands. There was word that a bridge was to be built for safe crossing of people and animals, but that was two years ago, and now there is no bridge. He said there have been many accidents and he wants our help to get a safer crossing of some kind. Like always here, we gave him our information and we took his. We said we’d look into it and do what we can. I am not sure that’s much.

It was getting dark and we got back to where the village looked familiar to me when a military vehicle appeared driving through the narrow streets of the village. I got alarmed- why was it there? The longer term IWPS volunteers answered that the soldiers are probably just looking at people and checking that the roadblocks are untouched. The military vehicles of occupying forces do this (but then again so does the NYPD- but those comparisons will wait until another time). And again, there really isn’t much we can do, so we turned forward and walked on.

Human Rights Reports

Last night, the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) (where I am currently volunteering) got a call that Palestinian farmers had been attacked by Settlers on their lands close to Far’ata, Qalqiliya district. We went there to see if internationals could help in some way to stop the attack. By the time we arrived the attack had ended so we visited the Mayor of a neighboring village, the home of a journalist who had witnessed the attack and we also met with the victims. During this time we were served three cups of tea in three different locations and were practically begged to stay the night. Amidst this extreme, but ubiquitous Palestinian hospitality, we took down the following Human Rights Report which the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) will send out to hundreds of individuals and organizations. To see many other reports, please visit:

Human Rights Report No. 369

Human Rights Summary: Three Palestinians injured on their lands close to Far'ata, Qalqiliya district by a group of settlers from the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Gilad and soldiers
Date of incident: July 21, 2008
Time of incident: Approximately 6pm
Place: Far'ata, Qalqiliya
Witness/es: Victims, villagers

Description of Incident:

At approximately 5.30pm on July 21, 2008, two Palestinians farmers from Immatin in the Qalqiliya district were working on their land, in a valley close to Far’ata when they saw five settlers from the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Gilad approaching, two on horses, three on foot. As the settlers started surrounding the two Palestinian farmers, they phoned their family for help. In the meantime, an additional fifteen Palestinians from Far’ata who had been working in their land nearby rushed over towards the farmers from Immatin to help them. Seeing this, the settlers went up the hill, yelling at the Palestinians that they would beat them, throwing stones on them and starting smaller fires. Approximately 15 more masked settlers gradually joined them.

At approximately 6pm some 15 Israeli soldiers arrived. The Palestinian farmers reported that they did not do anything to push the settlers away. When a 54 year old Palestinian farmer approached the soldiers to ask why they were letting the settlers attack the farmers on their lands, a settler came between the soldier and the Palestinian and sprayed the Palestinian with an unknown chemical substance on his arms, hands and in his eyes, which caused them to burn and inflame so that he could not see. Other settlers joined in hitting this Palestinian with a stick on the back of his neck and on the top of his hand. When his 22 year old son tried to stop the settlers from attacking his father, the settler sprayed his arms and hands with the same unknown substance.

According to the victims, the soldiers did nothing to stop the settlers from hitting them. However, they began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the Palestinians. A 34 year old Palestinian was shot with a rubber bullet at the top of his thigh from approximately thirty meters away. After this, a soldier threw a tear gas bomb directly in front of him.

The farmers reported that the fires, some started by the settlers and others started by the heat of the teargas canisters, destroyed 50 olive trees at one location and 10 more at another location, before Palestinian firemen could put them out.

After the confrontation had ended, the injured Palestinians went to the local clinic where they received medical treatment. Both Palestinian men who had been sprayed with the unknown chemical substance reported that the burning sensations caused by the spray had not subsided the following day, more than 20 hours after the initial attack.

Report written by: Danielle and Andjelka
Edited by:
Isabel and Kim
Date report written on:
July 22nd 200

The International Women's Peace Service, Haris, Salfit, Palestine.

Monday, July 21, 2008

another kind of human interaction

In 1948, Hana's family fled to Nablus and then moved to Kuwait where they lived until 1993. When the first Gulf War began they moved to Amman, Jordan where many of them remain today. Hana moved to back to Palestine to study Physics. She now lives in the village of Kufrein in the Salfit region of Palestine in the West Bank. Hana lives with her husband and three daughters- Leila (they call her Lulush) is 5 and a half, Sara (they call her Susu) is 4 years old, and Yara (they call her Yuyu) is 11 months. Hana teaches physics to 11th and 12th graders.

Today, Hana took a driving test in Ramallah and was picking her children up at the home of her neighbor, Eman, who runs a daycare. This is where we met- I was there with the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) to take down a report from Eman about the troubles she's been having in getting permits to visit her husband and brother in Israeli prisons. The man who was scheduled to translate for us was in Ramallah, so luckily Hana speaks English and agreed to translate. Throughout the meeting- Sara smiled shyly as she took new hair ribbons and a headband out of a shopping bag and put them in and out of her pony-tail. And Yuyu grabbed Hana's light pink hijab playfully. Hana said she can't believe Eman takes care of her 5 children plus those in the daycare all by herself. Angelica from IWPS asked if Hana plans to have more children. Hana said no, and with a smile, told us that Yuyu was in fact a "mistake".

After we finished taking the report, we thanked Hana for translating and she in turn thanked us. We told her there isn't that much we can do about Eman's situation, but Hana said it is enough that we came and showed that we care, "it's about the human interaction." When she sees soldiers who are hot and tired in the sun and rain- she said she feels for them too. She knows it is not the people, it is the politicians who bring the occupation.

Then: "So many people think Palestinians are terrorists- but we just want to raise our children in peace. " Reflecting on this, she added: "even we start thinking there really is something wrong with us, just for being who we are" as she said this, she lightly touched her hijab. Hana then told us she heard a report by Diane Sawyer on the BBC and in it Sawyer asked a Muslim woman if she felt humiliated wearing the hijab. Sawyer asserted that hair is so beautiful and questioned why women wouldn't want to show it. Hana explained to us that what Sawyer didn't understand is that for her and many women who wear the hijab, it is because hair is beautiful that they cover it- and in this way recognize its beauty.

* the are not direct quotes but paraphrased from my memory

Friday, July 18, 2008

Khalil: Tel Rumeida neighborhood

After leaving the market, I then followed our guide to a street with a check point on it. Yes, there is a neighborhood which is closed off by a check point on the street. Palestinians who do not live in that neighborhood can generally not go through the check point- meaning that those Palestinians who live in Tel Rumeida cannot have visitors from outside. The Palestinians I was with knew they could sneak through if they stood in between our semi-large group of internationals (we could get through as we are US citizens). We walked forward and passed our bags through the check point not looking the young boys with big guns in the eye. We made it to the other side of the street and walked up the street and then behind a few houses through alleyways and up small wooded paths- we couldn't take the main streets- which are closed to Palestinians. We finally made it to the family's house we were visiting.

The Settlers live right above this house, and like the market place, they throw anything they can think of down the hill at this family's home. We saw an old washer machine which was launched down the hill, garbage of every kind, rocks. A small boy and girl- the children of them man who is speaking with us and lives in this home- stands nearby, as his father tells us that this boy, his son, was recently struck by a rock and needed to get stitches on his head. The woman who lives there recently gave birth- in labor she walked the treacherous paths we had just taken- where no car or ambulance can maneuver. The family tells us that settlers sometimes come right down to the house, inside even and tell them that they will come kill them if they don't watch out.

The Settler children in this area are raised throwing stones at Palestinians on their way to school; on Jewish holidays and on Israeli independence day hoards of Settlers are bus-ed in to attack Palestinian homes- crashing windows, tearing down gates, breaking everything inside. This is an extremist group of settlers that come from the Kach movement which is outlawed and considered a terrorist group by the Israeli and United States governments. A small minority of Settlers come from this group and behave this way, but that of course does not matter- this is the most inhumane behavior I have ever known, it is criminal and insane. And worse, it has the support of one of the most powerful militaries in the world. The soldiers stand by and watch all this happen. In many cases the soldiers who serve there come from the the Settler groups that live there.

Here are some awful but clarifying videos about this situation:
A Settler assaults a Palestinian woman and her children
Settlers assaulting Palestinian children on their way home from school


This is an unbelievable situation which I cannot even wrap my head around. To explain it I will just tell you about my day there. We entered the city- which is extremely old and beautiful. We got to an arbitrary place in the street and our amazing tour guide told us this was the line between area A and B. In past years, Area A was controlled by Palestinians and Area B was controlled by the Israeli Military. This line cuts through people's homes. People cynically joke, that there was a day when they could invade your bathroom but not your living room. Now, however, the Israeli military has stations all over the city- both sides of this line.

As we walked we got to a market, at one point in the market there is a tall fence- with barbed wire if you look behind it there is another fence- this fence was the first that the Military built to section off the city, the one closer to us is the second attempt to take more of the city away. Behind this fence you can see Palestinian stores closed- a dentist office, a pharmacy... And further you see a blue and white Israeli flag waving out a window. This is a settlement which has inched its way into the city of Khalil. A Settlement of less than 600 people most of whom are yeshiva students from abroad, have moved into Khalil which is home to over a hundred thousand Palestinians. Not only does the Military do whatever it wants to within the whole city, Khalil has now been fenced off- forcing Palestinians to leave their homes and businesses to closed.

We walked more, and above the market there is a metal grate with garbage and large rocks on it-- Why? Because Settlers live above the market, and they throw garbage and rocks and metal pieces down trying to hit Palestinian people. Shop owners placed the metal grate over the entire market area for protection. If you can imagine an outside market with buildings on either side, and people who live in the buildings above throwing heavy objects down as you shop to try as best they can to hurt you. You can see spots where large objects have made the metal grate curve down into the market. Once a Settler threw a metal piece that pierced someone in the head- he now has severe brain damage. Nothing happened to the Settler who did this- s/he hasn't even been questioned.

As we walk more, we see circular Military spaces set up above roofs with blackened windows and several security cameras. Inside are soldiers watching our every move. Soon I notice them everywhere. I look down another fenced in area- there are Israeli flags and other flags with Hebrew words that say something along the lines of - "Hebron will be ours". There is a Yeshiva (Orthodox Jewish School) on one side of a square- we are told students throw large rocks down on the market from the Yeshiva.

I stood looking at this life- And I could not believe my eyes. I could not believe that people do these things. People who are studying what they say is my religion from a building with a menorah carved into it. While 18 year old soldiers watch from cement rooms, there to "protect" the Settlers/these criminals with guns and tanks that I have paid for. This is not believable. It shouldn't be true. But it is.

Islamic Charitable Society

I visited an orphanage and a school and a bakery all run by the Islamic Charitable Society(ICS). In the Spring of this year, the Israeli Military invaded their facilities and took all of their equipment- refrigerators, school books, everything- and welded the doors to a new school scheduled to open this Spring. The ICS is fighting the invasions in the Israeli courts fighting accusations of their connections to Hamas to which there is not one bit of evidence and even the accusation would not in any way warrant the invasions and raiding. But regardless - the invasion already happened- And I think of so many people I know who work in social services- and can't imagine how you go one. But they do.


I want to be clear- I don't think I really understood what present-day Settlements were before I got here. People told me, but I don't think I really got it. So I will take a go at saying some of what I've learned. In 1967, the Israeli Military occupied the West Bank, an area of Palestine which between 1948 and 1967 was largely controlled by Palestinians. Since 1967, the Military controls much of life in the West Bank and though the entire occupation is against International Law, the Israeli Military basically does whatever they want to whenever they want to to Palestinians here.

Settlements are a project of the Israeli State to take over more and more land away from Palestinians in the Occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza)- effectively making it near to impossible for Palestinians to live and work here, and seeing it with my own eyes- there is a clear goal of getting Palestinians to leave here and never come back. But still they remain!

The vast majority of Settlers are here for economic reasons- a ton of tax subsidies, etc. Their presence is violent - they live on land where until recently, Palestinians lived, harvested almonds, olives, etc. Settlement sewage and garbage is often dumped in what remains of neighboring village, etc. I've seen this with my own eyes. Settler/Israeli-only roads have been built and designated- which are closed to Palestinians, sometimes even when it's the only road that connects their villages to the rest of the West Bank.

And then, some Settlers are in the West Bank for ideological reasons, and these Settlers make life for Palestinians intensely dangerous on a day to day bases (which I will write about in future posts).

1948 Refugees

I met with leaders from Ibdaa Cultural Center and stayed in a homestay with two youth from the Shiira (sp?) cultural center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine near Bethlehem. This is some of what I learned about people's lives there-- The grandparents of my generation, fled their homes and agricultural lands in 1948, they lost friends and family. Near Bethlehem, they then spent 2 years being told they would soon return to their homes, living in a tent set up by the Red Cross. After 2 years, temporary cement structures were built and still being told they would soon be able to return to their homes, entire families lived in these small rooms for 10 years. People lived their lives, had children, in this small area which is still controlled by the United Nations (there is now one doctor who sees so many patients per week that if you break it down, he can give each patient approx 6 minutes each).

Then, in 1967, these small dirty streets were taken over by the Israeli military (still with UN presence- one dr, a school, etc). And then, not even the refugee camp slightly belonged to them. Still mourning a new slew of losses from the military invasion, two decades after families moved there expecting they would leave soon to return to their villages- with external control of most resources- the community has still developed infrastructure through a committee structure- paved streets, a sewage system, etc. People have built larger homes on top of and next to the cement structures that were meant to last a few years.

Then some years later: the camp was totally surrounded by the military, and curfew began to be instituted for days, weeks and months on end- this means lockdown in people's homes all day and night. People get hungry, and are be unable to access food or medical treatment. Recently, the Grandfather of one young woman who I met insisted he would leave his house to get food for his family. He said the military wouldn't shoot him, because he's an old man, not like his grandson or his nephew- not the 17 year old boys "they really want". So he left their house, and the young woman I met, heard a round of shots. And 35 later, hitting his 62 year old skin, blasting into blood, she know her grandfather was dead.

The father of the family I stayed with has been trying to take a vacation for ten years, but no one will grant him a Visa; For those who have seen SlingShot HipHop- This is the same camp where two young boys who were writing a hip hop song about their friend who was killed several years ago, were arrested for throwing stones 2 years prior and then spent several years in prison; And now, there is a 29 foot cement wall preventing everyone in Dheisheh from most hopes of getting work.

The night I stayed in Dheisheh, the military invaded a home and broke everything in it and hit members of the family- including women and children. One of the children attends Karate camp with the 13 year old girl in my homestay, but she would not be coming to camp the next day. Still- children in the camp make a circus, learn Debka- Palestinian traditional dance, and paint murals with flowers and words like these: "Walls and armies do not bring security, Justice will bring security and peace."


I have learned a lot in the last week or so here in Palestine. I must thank so many Palestinians who have taken the time to tell their stories and welcome me into their cities, villages, refugee camps, homes and organizations, as well as Birthright Unplugged for helping me learn through the relationships they have built here. Of course my experiences are just on the surface of things. I will try to communicate my experiences the best I can and as I have promised I would and will continue to do when I leave here.

So far, I have been in half-shock about circumstances that are beyond anything I really thought was possible. It is easy for me to cry here. I have also been in awe- for there is resistance in every moment here- and I will try to communicate this along with the violent oppression- both of which I am experiencing only superficially.

Some of you know a lot about what I am writing about- I will likely get information off- please post comments to clarify. If you have not heard some of this before or if you for any reason are not 100% open to hearing what I write as truth- I urge you to please read for my experience- because no matter the facts of the larger situation- my experience is mine, and as you are my friends and family, it might be worth reading about. Also- I might ask you to read what I've written imagining it was you- your family- that was living the reality I am writing about. I ask you to do this- not because any of us can ever really know what this is like- but because for me- what I am seeing here- is impossible to accept and impossible not to reject.

This experience is pushing me to continue to try and figure out how I can best be a part of creating a more just world. And if you aren't already, I want you to join me. I am hoping future posts will be more about resistance here and how that can connect to resistance at home.