Thursday, August 6, 2009

Farewell for Now

We are now leaving Palestine with heavy hearts, high hopes, and longing backward glances. We have learned more than we can possibly describe, and have fallen in love with this place in ways we never imagined. There is much work to be done, both here and abroad. We encourage each and every one of you to come to Palestine, to see what it is like and to realize what so many have given their lives for. Above all we encourage you to organize against the occupation in your own countries, and to support the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israeli ends its racist apartheid policies. To learn more about the BDS campaign go to http://www.bdsmovement.net/.

Other good websites to check out:
Palestine Solidarity Project - http://palestinesolidarityproject.org/
International Solidarity Movement - http://palsolidarity.org/
Electronic Intifada - http://electronicintifada.net/
Who Profits from the Occupation? - http://whoprofits.org/
Anarchists Agaisnt the Wall - http://www.awalls.org/
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - http://www.icahd.org/eng/
Ibn Ezra (Israeli activist blog) - http://josephdana.com/

Monday, August 3, 2009

Clashes Erupt in East Jerusalem in Response to Housing Evictions

Borrowed from Ynet News



Some 200 leftists, including Arabs and Jews, protested the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Clashes broke out between the demonstrators and security forces, and 13 people were arrested.

Israeli police evicted two Palestinian families, then allowed Jewish settlers to move into their homes, drawing criticism from Palestinians, the United Nations and the State Department.

Police arrived before dawn and cordoned off part of the Arab neighborhood before forcibly removing more than 50 people, said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees.

UN staff later saw vehicles bringing Jewish settlers to move into the homes, he said.

Israeli police cited a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court that the houses belonged to Jews and that the Arab families had been living there illegally.

Gunness said the families had lived in the homes for more than 50 years.

US State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said in response to the eviction that such actions in east Jerusalem constitute violations of Israel’s obligations under US-backed “Road Map” peace plan.

“Unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community,” she said in a statement.

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, called the evictions “totally unacceptable.”

“These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace,” he said in a statement.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also condemned the move.

“While Israeli authorities have promised the American administration that home demolitions, home evictions and other provocations against Palestinian Jerusalemites would be stopped, what we’ve seen on the ground is completely the opposite,” he said in a statement.

Khawla Hanoun, 35, who lived in one of the homes, said police ordered her and 16 family members to leave the house before dawn and forced them out at gunpoint when they refused.

“Now our future is in the streets,” she said. “We will remain steadfast until we return home. By any method, we must go back home.”

Israeli forces raid Bil’in, arrest eight!

At 3am, the occupation forces invaded the village of Bil’in. A total of some 200 soldiers with combat paint in their faces and masks entered the village on foot at several points of entry. 5 homes were raided and a total of 8 people were arrested, 7 Palestinians and one international activist from the United States.

The arrested Palestinians are: the three brothers Khaled Show gut Abd-Alrazic al-Khateeb (age 23), Mustafa Show gut Abd-Alrazic al-Khateeb (age18), and Mohammed Show gut Abd-Alrazic al-Khateeb (age 16); Abdullah Ahmad Yassen (age 18); Abdullah Mohammed Ali Yassen (age 16); Issa Mahmoud Issa Abu Rahma (age 40); Mohammed Abdulkarim Mustafa Khatib (age 35). One of the the popular committee leaders .

The occupation forces threw sound bombs to disperse the villagers who were coming into the streets at day-break throwing rocks at the arriving Jeeps and the soldiers that were still partly disguised from the night. The Jeeps then parked at various locations with their engines running until the end of the operation at 6:45am.


The Popular Committee of Bil’in has asked the Human Rights Committee to assist with both the release of the arrested people and the request that the Israeli Army stop the night raids.

Hanoun and al-Ghawe families evicted in Sheikh Jarrah



2 August 2009: Israeli forces have evicted the Hanoun and al-Ghawe families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah.

At 5:30 in the morning, Israeli police arrived at the Hannoun family home and broke into the house through the windows. They forcefully removed Maher Hanoun, his wife Nadia and their 3 children. The police violently separated the family from the international and Israeli solidarity activists that were staying in the home. Police then arrested the international and Israeli solidarity activists that were staying with the family. Similarly, Israeli police came into the al-Ghawe family home at 5:30am and removed the family and internationals staying in the home.

Settlers arrived with a truck and began to move the al-Gwahe and Hannoun family possessions out of their home. Everyone outside of the house was forced across the street, away from the house.

Israeli forces beat a Palestinian male who was trying to intervene when police were yelling at an elderly Palestinian woman. Additionally, media personnel were pushed around by police when they were trying to get close to the evicted Sheikh Jarrah homes. 11 international activists and 2 Israeli activist were arrested.

Maher Hannoun, Palestinian resident of Sheikh Jarrah:

Despite condemnation from the international community about the evictions of by neighborhood, Sheikh Jarrah, the Israeli government continues to pursue the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem. My family were refugees from 1948 and now we have become refugees again. We were forced out of homes to make way for settlers, contrary to international law. The legal case that residents presented in court included an Ottoman-era document which discounts the settler associations claim of ownership over Sheikh Jarrah land and homes. But the unjust policies of Israel to judaize East Jerusalem render our legal proof of ownership irrelevant.
Jody McIntyre, a British solidarity activist:

I woke up to the sound of a brick through the front window. By the time I could get up, I was being pushed out the door by Israeli forces. They wouldn’t allow me to take my wheelchair and were physically violent towards me and the others in the Hannoun house. The unjust policies of the Israeli government are not just written documents, they affect real families. The
government has made the Hannoun and al-Ghawe families homeless, and their only crime is being Palestinian in a system that is racist against them.

The case of Sheikh Jarrah

The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem was built by the UN and Jordanian government in 1956 to house Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. However, with the the start of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, following the 1967 war, settlers began claiming ownership of the land the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was built on.

Stating that they had purchased the land from a previous Ottoman owner in the 1800s, settlers claimed ownership of the land. In 1972, settlers successfully registered this claim with the Israeli Land Registrar.

The 28 families of Sheikh Jarrah face eviction from their homes. In November 2008, the al-Kurd family was violently evicted from their home in Sheikh Jarrah. Two weeks thereafter, Mohammad al-Kurd died from a stress induced heart attack.

In 2004 Nadav Shargai from Ha’aretz reported that: “A process of Judaization has already begun . The compound is currently, and gradually, being cleared of its Arab population by means of legal procedures.” (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=481362&contrassID=1&subContrassID=7&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y)

Maan News story: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=216236

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Settler Violence Continues in Sheik Jarrah

Settler violence continued in Sheik Jarrah this week when a settler attacked Samar Al Sabach, a Palestinian woman who was staying in the Sheik Jarrah tent just below the Sfaradim settlement. The settler first came to the Hanoun house, which is currently under threat of eviction and has been a leader in the campaign against evictions in Sheik Jarrah. After being scared off by a large crew of family members, neighbors and solidarity activists, the settler retreated to the Sheik Jarrah tent, a community center just below the Sfaradim settlement, former home of the Al Kurd family. The settler found Samar alone in the tent and attacked her, beating her over the head with a rock. Samar has been hospitalized, and is suffering serious head trauma. There were no witnesses to the attack, and no arrests have been made.

The attack was just one more incident in a new wave of settler violence that began this past Sunday, when settlers launched their new "pricetag" campaign. The campaign is a response to US special envoy George Mitchel's recent trip to Palestine, and the Obama administration's "hardline" rhetoric against settlements. 11 new outposts were erected Sunday as the "price" for condemning settlements, and settler attacks have been more frequent and violent then usual throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The settler occupation in Sheik Jarrah this Sunday coincided with the launching of this campaign.

For more information about settlements in Sheik Jarrah, visit http://www.standupforjerusalem.org/.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Confrontations with Settlers and Police in Sheikh Jarrah


Two days ago settlers occupied a vacant Palestinian home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, demolished one of the walls, and began reconstruction on it.

Yesterday, a group of Palestinian, international, and Israeli activists gathered at the house for a demonstration. We were confronted at first by armed settler security and within a minute by Jerusalem municipality police. Soon border police also arrived on the scene and began shoving activists. The demonstrators demanded to know why the police were protecting illegal settlers who were defying an Israeli court order to stop construction (the Israeli court didn't demand that they left, because its a legal system that defends the settlement movement).

Every few minutes the police would escort the settlers through the crowd to get more materials for the house and would beat protesters as they tried to prevent the settlers from re-entering the house. This was an obvious provocation not only to us but to the Palestinian neighbors whose houses were really close to the occupied house. When protesters began to become more vocal and noisy, the police responded by brutalizing us and arresting a Palestinian woman. In the process, several people were choked, beaten, and stomped on by police. One person was momentarily detained.

After the scuffles, there was a brief standoff as the demonstrators refused to leave until the settlers did. Eventually they were escorted out by police, though the settler security (some of whom were armed with automatic weapons) stayed behind the police line (you can see them in light grey shirts--though the dark grey shirts are border police).


Soon a Palestinian man came over to us and told us that the police had given him an order telling him that he had to vacate his house for two weeks in order to keep the settlers safe. This was quite ironic given the number of private armed settler security and the fact that the settlers themselves were carrying weapons. He also told us that one of the settlers threatened to shoot him.


His family was quite disconcerted and his wife told us that he had 5 children who might be at risk of settler violence once he left the house. he only had 4 hours to take everything he needed and say goodbye to his family. He decided not to resist the order, though we told him we would support any decision he made. We were invited in for tea in the house and had just sat down when one of our group received a call from a Palestinian that settlers were trying to force their way into a house and the Palestinian family was resisting.


We dropped our tea and went running down several streets before coming upon a mob of Heradim/Settlers (some of whom had automatic weapons strapped to their backs) who were pushing their way into the back wall of a house. The men of the family were shoving them back. As soon as we arrived, the settlers retreated back and we formed a ring around where the house was. There was an intense showdown and police and ambulances showed up ready for what could be a possible fight.
The Heradim/settlers backed down and we pulled back into the house. A full scale battle was everted and so far the two other houses up for eviction haven't been evicted. Sheikh Jarrah is really tense right now and anything can happen.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

11 Arrested in Sheikh Jarrah While Resisting a Housing Demolition!

Early in the morning, settlers came with police to an empty house in Sheikh Jarrah. The owners were not in the house while this happened, but neighbors contacted Sheikh Jarrah's committee and activists quickly deployed to the scene. Eight were originally arrested while blocking the house. Afterward, the municipality punched a huge hole in the main wall with some demolition equipment... where I think the door used to be. (the police had the area closed off and settler security was really tight near the house so it was hard to see for certain)

Several activists began taking pictures of the area and "got too close" and were also arrested, bringing the total to 11. They are all currently still in jail and will have court tomorrow.

I arrived afterward, when the police were leaving... but there are still plenty of settlers with Uzis standing around the place.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Injured at a demonstration

I had a tear gas canister ricochet off my head yesterday in Bil'in. I suffered some first degree burns but no concussion.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bil'in Responds to Army Commercial

The Israeli cellphone company Cellcom put out a ridiculous ad about Israeli soldiers skipping their patrol to play soccer by the apartheid wall. The commercial closes with a voiceover saying, "We all just want to have fun."




Bil'in: The Palestinians in Bil'in who actually live on the other side of a wall separating them from their farmland made a response video.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Buy a Tree to Replace Ones Destroyed in Settler Attacks

The brothers Abdullah, Hamad, and Mohammed Soleiby are a family of Palestinian farmers living in Beit Omar, a village in the Hebron area. The vast majority of their farmland lies in the Saffa valley, just below the illegal Bat ‘Ayn settlement. Bat ‘Ayn is home to some of the most vicious settlers in the West Bank, including the Bat ‘Ayn militia, infamous for their attempted bombing of a Palestinian girls’ elementary school in 2002. The Soleiby family is regularly attacked by these vicious settlers, who throw stonesand in April beat 81-year old Abdullah Soleiby over the head with a rock, breaking his skull.

Vast portions of the Soleiby’s land have been destroyed in settler attacks. A series of fires in April burnt many of their fruit trees and grapevines. On June 19 settlers set fire to the land again, and on June 22 they cut down another 125 trees. On July 13, 30 more acres of land were burnt. These fields are the family’s primary source of income, and the attacks have destroyed their livelihood, creating emotional strain and financial crisis. The military has exacerbated the situation by repeatedly declaring the area a “Closed Military Zone,” illegally denying the farmers access to their land.

The Soleiby family needs your help. They are trying to raise enough money to replace the destroyed trees and erect a fence around the land. For $7 you can buy the family a new fruit tree to replace the ones destroyed by settlers. By helping them put down new roots you can help this family rebuild their lives, and resist these brutal attempts to ethnically cleanse them from their land.

Don’t let the Soleiby’s down! Pass this message on to everyone you know, and encourage them to donate a tree to replace the ones destroyed by settlers. All donations go through the Palestine Solidarity Project. To donate go to http://palestinesolidarityproject.org/donate/.

10 Arrested in Defiance of Continued Closure in Saffa

Late Saturday morning, Beit Ommar village residents, along with activists from Israeli organizations’ Ta’ayush and Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW) and a large group of international activists, including several from Palestine Solidarity Project, entered farmland in the Saffa area in order to challenge the continued illegal use of temporary closed military zone orders in the area. These orders put a financial strain on the farmers whom are often unable to harvest their land, and provide no protection against settler attacks on the land (which the military claims is their reasoning for establishing a permanent presence in the area).

After over an hour of intense negotiation with the commanders of the military unit revolving around accompanying the farmers and their family while they pick to protect against further settler attack, several family members of farmers were allowed to enter the land but without Israeli or international accompaniment. Ten Israeli activists sat down in opposition to this decision, and were later arrested by border police and released two hours after being taken to Gush Etzion police station. Despite the arrests, the event was calm, with no injuries or violent repression by the soldiers to report.

Activists were also challenging the lack of protection against settler attacks on the land and on the farmers who harvest the land, which soldiers stationed in a temporary outpost below the Bat ’Ayn settlement have promised to provide. Earlier in the week, settlers had set fire to roughly 160 dunums of land (40 acres), including several valuable fruit trees. Combined with the cutting of over 125 trees in June, and an earlier fire, in the last month settlers have destroyed nearly all of the land that provides income for 125 extended family members. While dozens of Israeli and international activists have been arrested during that month accompanying the farmers, not a single settler has been arrested for their crimes. Saffa farmers have also been under threat of physical attack by settlers, as there have been incidences of injury on several occasions in the past three months, including a vicious attack in early April that left 81 year old Abdullah Soleiby with a cracked skull.

Updates!

Friday: I was in Bil'in on Friday for the normal demonstration against the wall. Once again the Israeli Army saw fit to spray us with a massive amount of chemical "skunk" from one of their trucks while delivering the normal amount of tear gas. Members of the Bil'in Popular Committee wore yellow ponchos with yellow hats and masks. It was both funny and functional!


Saturday: Maria and I went with around 30 Israeli and international activists to the village of Saffa (she wrote the above post about it so I wont go into that many details)

Sunday: Sunday at noon was the court deadline for two houses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to vacate to the settlers. A large number of international activists, community members, and Israeli activists converged on the houses in a show of defiance against the eviction. Lots of press showed up (including the BBC) and at least two diplomatic missions sent representatives (Sweden: who is now the rotating president of the European Union, and the Czech Republic). Over the course of the day, a number of police vans drove by and honked their horns at us as a way of intimidating the people out front. At night, a large number of people did home stays at the houses. These will continue indefinitely until the eviction order is rescinded or until the police try to force the families out. Maria has chosen to remain with the families for a while.

Monday: I took part in a large meeting in Bil'in with the Popular Committee, Israeli activists (including several folks from Anarchists Against the Wall), and a big group of international activists (including ISM). We addressed the large number of army raids and arrests that have occurred over the last three weeks in Bil'in and discussed strategies to resist and stop them.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Army Invades Bil'in Again-One arrested, One injured.


On July 17 at 2am, jeeps full of soldiers invaded the village of Bil'in. After arresting Muhammed abde al fatah burnat (age 21) the soldiers tried removing him by foot to the military outpost. International and Palestinian activists blocked the path of the army units, demanding his immediate release. The army responded by hitting activists with their rifles, throwing percussion grenades, and spraying chemicals in activists' faces. Additional army units arrived to dislodge the activists from the path of the arrested boy. These soldiers began chasing activists and trying to arrest them.

In the process of being chased, one of the Palestinian activists was injured. He suffered a deep gash on his leg that may require stitches and some minor lacerations on one of his arms.

The village of Bil'in has had 60 percent of its farmland confiscated by the apartheid wall and has had weekly demonstrations for the last 5 years. Recently, it has been under constant raids from the army and over 15 boys have been arrested in the last three weeks.

Building a Bedouin School from Tires and Mud



Sorry for not doing my posts in order, but I haven't had time to write about the Bedouin School we helped build last week out of tires and mud. The project was one of the most enjoyable thing I've done in Palestine. We spent the day standing barefoot in a pile of dirt, slinging mud at a wall of tires. It felt good to be doing something physical and proactive.

This video tells the full story.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Picnic in Susya Disrupted By Israeli Soldiers, 2 Arrested

On Saturday a group of 45 activists, myself included, held a creative protest against a newly-constructed outpost outside the illegal Israeli settlement of Susya, just above the Palestinian community of Susya. We held a picnic in the outpost, bringing blankets, watermelon, and other summer foods. The action brought to light the outrageous bias in Israeli policy - while the picnic was interrupted within 5 minutes and two Israeli activists were arrested, the outpost, which has been in the area for months and is certainly more illegal than a picnic, has not been removed.

The action followed a similar action last month, in which activists constructed a “Palestinian outpost” on the land. Activists set up a tent next to the illegal Israeli outpost, then filmed as the army demolished the Palestinian tent while leaving the settler outpost untouched.

I spent the next two nights in Susya in case the action provoked a settler retaliation. Luckily it did not. Susya was lovely as usual - I got to spend some quality time with the sheep, and planted tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers in the newly constructed greenhouse.

Settlers Set Saffa Valley Ablaze - Again

At roughly 1:30 PM on Monday, July 13, 2009, PSP received reports that farmland in Saffa area of Beit Ommar had been set on fire by settlers from neighboring Bat ‘Ayn. A large group of Beit Ommar residents along with media representatives were already at the scene, and there were no fire trucks and only two tools available to fight the fire, that was rapidly spreading across the valley threatening Beit Ommar due to unfavorable wind conditions.

The fire was contained by a Palestinian fire truck that arrived just as the fire had been brought under control. A local farmer with a tractor carting a water tank used hoses to control the fire before it breached onto adjacent farmland. It took Palestinians and small group of internationals roughly 30 minutes to control the fire as winds subsided briefly.

In Bat ‘Ayn, a small group of settlers were cheering, clapping and shouting in Hebrew as the fire spread to larger areas of the Palestinian land. Just below the top of the hill where settlement houses rest, two Israeli fire trucks sat idle to ensure the fire did not encroach on settlement land. This sight was a cruel reminder that Palestinian land in Saffa, and the larger Occupied Palestinian Territories, can be destroyed by settlers and/or Israeli military with little to no recourse, with the eventual goal being annexation of Palestinian land to expand on existing settlements like Bat ‘Ayn.

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13th, International day against housing demolitions/evictions in East Jerusalem

Actions occurred all over the world today to mark the week before the first spat of evictions began in Sheikh Jarrah. I went to Al Quds to participate in the demonstration in downtown West Jerusalem, the march to Sheikh Jarrah, and the press conference that followed.

After arriving at the corner of King George st and Ben Yahuda St with many international and Israeli activists we erected a tent, passed out signs and banners, and fliered the most shopped area in West Jerusalem. About thirty minutes later, a group of Israeli Anarchists from Tel Aviv arrived. They had a whole group of percussion instruments and they put out a badass beat which attracted Israelis from around many places in the downtown area.

Of course, many reactions were not positive. While there are many crazy things that I heard Zionists argue today, some are worth mentioning:

"In the first three weeks of his presidency, Barack Hussein Obama gave $1 billion to Hamas"

"Israel has never broken a single international law"

"I am glad their houses are getting demolished cause they are terrorists." have you ever been there?... "No I dont need to".... so every single person of every single family there is a terrorist"..."yes"

We distributed many fliers both in Hebrew and in English and talked to dozens of individuals. Press also showed up and I was interviewed by Reuters about the incident. At a certain point, police showed up and began taking statements from a crazy somewhat violent critic of our action. The Police forced us to leave and after a while, we vacated the area.

Afterward, we marched from West Jerusalem to the Demascus gate and to Sheikh Jarra. (this was done without any permit, but we weren't hassled. We arrived at the Um Kamel tent to the sight of a huge score of people and media. Al Jazeera was there as was several other Arab language television news camera people. Speakers included members of popular committees in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, Maher Hannoun, and Liam from the International Solidarity Movement.

Unfortunately two houses were demolished today in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and another neighborhood that I cant remember.

Silwan's demolition: http://www.imemc.org/article/61104
Chicago activists drop 88 banners in solidarity with Silwan: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/07/7629

Fox News Gets Tear Gased in Bilin



What Ian neglected to mention is that Fox News was there, and got tear gased and sprayed with the Skunk. Made the whole thing worth while.

I also got hit in the butt with a tear gas canister. Luckilly all the knafa here has made my butt quite cushy, so it wasn't that bad.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chemical Weapons

Maria and I were shot with an Israeli chemical stink cannon mounted on a truck today at the Friday Bi'lin demonstration.

showered, scrubbed with soap after, changed clothes.... still smell like awful. It smells like a chemical combination of shit, sewage, and death... but it sticks to your skin and all your clothes. We weren't so bothered with it at the demonstration (as the tear gas and the soldiers coming out to arrest people is more immediately bothersome), but afterward it is really really annoying.

A video of today's demonstration posted by Hiatham al Katib: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqaO8lFYuM0

The BBC did an article on what it called "skunk" http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7646894.stm

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Six of Us Arrested in Military Ambush in Saffa

On July 7, 2009 at approximately 5pm, an Israeli military official called the mayor of Beit Ommar and informed him that settlers had set fire to some trees in the Abu Jabber Soleiby land in Saffa, just under the illegal Bat ‘Ayn settlement. Three international activists, an Israeli activist and a Palestinian resident of Beit Ommar went down into the valley to investigate and document the destruction, and two international activists went to the top of the hill to watch for settlers. When we reached the land two army jeeps were already waiting for us. One soldier approached us and told us to leave. We did not find evidence of a new fire, and began leaving the area. The soldier belligerently harrassed us as he walked us out of the valley, and at one point threw a sound grenade at our feet.

Half-way up the hill soldiers ambushed us from behind, capturing two internationals and the Israeli. I managed to get away with the one Palestinian in the group, and the two of us sprinted up the hill. We reached the top where the farmers were gathered and met up with the two internationals who had gone to scout for settlers. We piled on the tractor and tried to reenter the village, but two army jeeps had blocked the entrance, preventing us from leaving the valley. We climbed off the tractor and tried to pass the soldiers on foot, but the soldiers ran up and tackeled us to the ground. I was wrestled into handcuffs and dragged into the army jeep. One international was hit in the head with a gun and the other kicked in the leg before being brought to join me. We were never shown a paper declaring the area a Closed Military Zone, and were arrested by soldiers rather than policemen, both of which are illegal under Israeli law. We were then told that if we spoke or lifted our heads they would "fucking kill us," and the jeeps drove out of the village while the children pelted them with rocks. We were taken to the police station in the illegal Etzion settlement.

The three activists arrested in the valley were held on the ground until a commander could run up and show them a paper, insisting it was a closed military zone order, though no one was allowed to look at it closely and the group was already detained and not allowed to leave, also in violation of military procedures. A soldier then said to the one Israeli activist, who is married to a Palestinian, “your father didn’t teach you what to do with your pussy so you went and fucked Arabs.” Police arrived and arrested the three of them, parading them through the Bat ‘Ayn settlement before taking them back to theEtzion police station. At one point soldiers stopped the jeep in the settlement and opened the back doors in front of a group of settler youth.

Five of us (all but the Israeli) were first offered release on the condition that we stay out of the area for 2 weeks, and then were eventually released without any conditions. A commander, who was not present until after the arrests, filed a complaint claiming that the Israeli activist had slapped one of his soldiers, though the soldier himself said he wasn’t sure if it was intentional or if he’d been hit while trying to grab her during her illegal arrest. She was taken to a court after 23.5 hours (Israeli citizens can only be held for 24 hours before being brought in front of a judge), and released without conditions. Not pleased with the results, police, in collusion with the prosecution, refused to process her release, causing her to be put back into the Jerusalem prison for more than three additional hours.

The attempt to prevent “left-wing activists” (as we were described in the police reports) from entering the area in the end was totally rejected by the court. But the next day when farmers attempted to enter the land, which has been legally open to them for the last 10 days, they were refused entry by the Israeli military without cause or paperwork.

Israeli forces raid Bil’in, arrest one resident and one solidarity activist






On July 7th at 3:30, soldiers disrupted the tranquility of Bi’lin by forcing their way into several houses. Israeli soldiers came with a list of 10 names for arrest . When Palestinian, international, and Israeli activists arrived at the scene they were subjected to violence and intimidation by the Israeli forces. The homes of Basem Yasin, Akhmed Yasin, Shauket Khatib and Abd AlMuamen Abu Rakhma were raided. Israeli forces arrested Majdi Abdel Muamer Abu Rakhma and an American solidarity activist. The American activist with the International Solidarity Movement had non-violently blocked the entrance to one of the doors when he was attacked by soldiers, forced to the ground, and subjected to pain compliance. It was at that time, that the American activist was arrested and carried by a group of soldiers into a military jeep. When activists and community members responded, they were beaten back with batons and forced to dodge a large number of percussion grenades.










Meanwhile, activists tried blocking the jeeps from leaving by erecting makeshift barricades in the street. The Israeli occupation forces responded with a number of percussion grenades and then rammed their jeeps through. They forced their way up the street and to several other houses. While there, they arrested a young man and issued nine summons to families of youths who were not present. This was done without explanation or warning. In the process of storming other houses, the soldiers were again confronted by activists and community members who refused to be dispersed even after repeated percussion and flash bang grenade attacks by soldiers. The jeeps had to make an escape through a second set of erected barricades and they exited into the night with their victims inside.








A video taken of the raid by Haitham: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko9uoacB3YE








20 Year Old Resident of Beit Ommar Arrested in Night Raid

Yunis Al Alami, a 20 year old resident of Beit Ommar, was arrested by the Israeli army at 2 AM this morning in a military house raid. 3 jeeps carrying approximately 12 soldiers arrived at his home in the middle of the night, arresting him without warrant, charges or explanation. No one knows where he was taken, or when he will be released.

Yunis is a student at Hebron University, and life-long resident of Beit Ommar. He was arrested in front of his parents and siblings, including three children. His 22 year old brother, Ahmed Al Alami, was arrested a year ago under similar circumstances, and is still being held without charges in Administrative Detention.

The arrest is just one more incident in a series of political arrests of Palestinian youth by the Israeli military in Beit Ommar, including several that lead to Administrative Detention, where individuals are held without charge or trial indefinitely. There are currently over 750 Palestinians being held in Administrative Detention. Most prisoners in Administrative Detention are males between the ages of 16 and 30, and are held anywhere from 6 months to several years. They are never told what they are accused of, and are only taken in front of rubber-stamp military courts where evidence is presented in a closed courtroom without the presence of defendant or their attorney. Many are tortured and held in solitary confinement for weeks or months on end.

The practice of Administrative Detention, as used by the Israeli government, is a blatant violation of human rights, and illegal under international law. The prospect of arrest from your home is just one more frightening reality of the occupation, and one more reason for Palestinian families to grieve.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bi'lin Invaded....Again!






At approximately 4:15 in the morning of July 5th, one hundred Israeli soldiers invaded the Village of Bi'lin. They stormed several houses, terrifying the inhabitants and dragging 2 youths out of their beds (Rebhe Abu Rahma, 20, and Mahmoud Issa Yassein, 17).

Upon request the soldiers would not tell their families where they were taking them or the name of an officer in command. Palestinian and international presence questioned the soldiers and dearrested several people who were documenting the kidnappings. One soldier saw fit to try choking me during the process, until I yelled "WHY ARE YOU CHOKING ME!?!" and then he wandered off.

This is the third week of night raids in Bilin village. Israeli soldier have conducted night raids almost every night and have arrested eleven village youth during this period.

a video that a Bi'lin community member (Haitham) took: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TszWgbXehY

Friday, July 3, 2009

South Side Story II: Susya

Yesterday took an unfortunate, though not unexpected, turn for the worse. We had barely been picking for 45 minutes in the Saffa valley when the army came and forced us to leave. They gave no explanation, and refused to acknowledge their promise to protect the farmers. We were not able to pick a
full harvest, and the Soleiby family was once again forced to suffer the loss of income (see previous post - “South Side Story: Beit Ommar). The army’s behavior is not in the least bit surprising. Violence, lies and broken promises are trademarks of the Israeli military.

I did not go into the fields this morning (there were already enough internationals), so I will use the extra time to tell another story – the story of Susya. Susya is a mountainous region just south of Hebron, near Yatta. For over 170 years a small population of farmers and shepherds has inhabited the region. The village is surrounded on all sides by settlements, most notably Maon, Yatir and Susya. The closest settlement, Susya, has intentionally claimed the name of the entire region, making its goal of total annexation unbearably clear. The settlement is a mere 20 years old, populated primarily by Americans (many from the New York/Brooklyn area). They are some of the most vicious extremists in the region, and have carried out a policy of terrorizing the Palestinian population in hopes of driving them from their homeland.

For the past 20 years the settlers, in conjunction with the Israeli government, have been systematically encroaching on Palestinian land, terrorizing and displacing the inhabitants. In 1996 the Israeli army blew up 10 homes, and in 1998 demolished 113 tents. In 1999 the Israeli government declared the village an archeological sight, claiming it was built on the ruins of an ancient synagogue. They annexed 150 dunams of land, destroying every home in the village. The population dropped from over 2,000 to under 400 inhabitants, who set up tents in between the settlement and the archeological park.

The tents, and the farmland surrounding them, are regularly attacked by the settlers. The few families remaining in Susya have had their trees cut and burned, their water supplies poisoned, and their tents lit on fire. Many have been directly assaulted be settlers. 2 weeks ago (the day before I went), settlers lit fire to one of the tents with two people sleeping inside. Both suffered smoke inhalation, but neither were seriously injured.

The army has declared the stretch of land between the tents and the settlement a Closed Military Zone, despite the fact that it is legally owned by a family of Palestinian shepherds living at the edge of Susya. The family relies on the land for grazing, and is hence forced to confront Israeli soldiers on a daily basis (much like in Beit Ommar).

International activists are currently staying in Susya about half the time. We would like to have people there full time, but we are spread thin in the Hebron area. I spent 3 days there, and every morning at 5:30 AM would go with the shepherds into the fields where the sheep graze. Soldiers would come to the top of the hill and tell us to leave, and we would argue with them. The arguing bought time, and by the time we were finished the sheep had eaten their fill.

The largest obstacle facing the people of Susya is water. Most of the cisterns used to catch rain water were destroyed by the Israeli military in 1999, during the major settlement expansion. The remaining cisterns are now filled with purchased water. Most of the water in the Susya area is used by the settlement, which is filled with artificially lush greenery. In general, Settlers in the West Bank use 5 times more water than Palestinians.

In May of this year, an activist organization helped install wind turbines in Susya. They are currently being used to power electric butter churners, which has increased the community’s butter production (and income) exponentially. They could not put the turbines on top of the hill because they would be in sight of a nearby military base, which the residents feared would provoke military retaliation. They are less efficient in the valley, but are still tremendously useful.

The people of Susya are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever encountered. From the moment I set foot there I felt like part of the family. I learned to milk sheep, to dance dabka, to churn butter, and am hoping to learn to make flat bread the next time I go (which will inshalla be quite soon). I am also starting to be able to communicate with people in Arabic, which is proving to be incredibly important. The ability to speak English seems invariably to correspond with class (and often with gender). Communicating in Arabic allows me to talk to the people least often heard – namely, poor Palestinian women.

Well, I think that’s more than enough for now. I will try to write again very soon though. There are many more stories to tell.

Bi'lin demo July 3rd, 2009


So today's Bi'lin demo was a little crazier than normal. Joe and I both attended after spending all night out on patrol for Israeli soldiers "Jaish." We marched down to the wall like normal and got the normal amount of tear gas. Then some ISMers and some members of the popular committee were able to squeeze in the front gate area and make their way to the main seperation fence. The soldiers of course came out in force in riot gear and with buckets of grenades to attack them.

The demonstrators then told the Israelis that they were occupiers and that they were attacking unarmed protesters. One ISMer even went so far as to sit down in front of the soldiers gate as a sign of defiance to the tear gas and other weapons being employed against us. They responded with brute force.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Hp18vRmnQ - a video I took of what they did to us in between the 2 barriers)

an even better video taken by Haitham http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS229YmbKwU


When the Red Crescent van went closer to deal with people who had been hurt, the soldiers pelted it with tear gas rounds till it was forced to move back. Three people were lightly injured including 2 internationals and a Palestinian man. Dozens were treated for teargas inhalation.

As for the intensity, it was a first for me for a lot of things today:

It was the first time I experienced such a large amount of tear gas that I lost track up direction (up and down) and fell on my chest choking. It was the first time I had schrapnel from a percussion grenade cut through my shirt and cut my skin. Lastly, it was also the first time I kicked a tear gas canister back at the soldiers. The soldiers had buckets of grenades so they just kept launching them in volleys at us in addition to the ones their comrades were firing from grenade launchers and the massive 15 + that were launched from the top of their jeeps.

At some point we pulled back and began forcing their main gate to the initial wall open. (I took this picture right before going in with another 5 people to help push) The soldiers responded by teargassing us. We still managed after much effort to force the gate and the barbed wire totally open and off the hill. This left the area open to the main wall as pictured below).

Monday, June 29, 2009

South Side Story - Beit Omar

A combination of busyness and poor internet access has prevented me from contributing to the blog for over a week. So many stories have built up in that time that it is impossible to tell them all here. For the sake of ease, I will start now with just the story of the place I am currently stationed: Beit Omar, a small town just north of Hebron. I am working with the Soleiby family, a family of Palestinian farmers living near the Saffa valley. They are regularly attacked by settlers from the Bat ‘Ayn settlement, who live on the hill overlooking the Soleiby’s fields.

The Bat ‘Ayn settlers are some of the most violent extremists in the West Bank
. In April, Abdullah Soleiby was beaten in the head with a rock by a settler, causing serious head trauma. Since then, Israeli and international activists have accompanied the family to their fields on a weekly basis. The settlers frequently harass and abuse the farmers and activists, throwing stones and vicious insults. Last Monday, settlers cut down and set fire to over 125 of the Soleiby’s grapevines and fruit trees.

Rather than arresting the settlers or interfering in the attacks, the army has responded by issuing a series of “Closed military zone” orders that forbid anyone, including the farmers, from entering the land. These orders have prevented the family from accessing their primary source of income. The supreme court has ruled the orders unconstitutional, but the army has continued to implement them.

Every Saturday morning, an entourage of between 30 and 50 activists accompany the farmers into their fields, where they usually pick for about an hour before being beaten, arrested and expelled from the land. In the last month, 37 Israeli activists and 5 international activists have been arrested in the Saffa valley. But the confrontation this past Saturday, which resulted in the arrest of 26 activists, seems to have had a different outcome. The soldiers have finally agreed to provide protection for the family, and have set up a tent on the road between the fields and the settlement. For the past two mornings, three of us have gone down with the farmers and safely picked their fields, hearing only the distant shouts of angry settlers. We don’t know how long this trend will last, but if it continues it could mean a profound change in the lives of the Soleiby family. Perhaps there is hope after all.

Bi'lin Invaded by Israeli Soldiers

June 29, 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_Tzj_bYvis

At around 2:30am two groups of around 35 soldiers (70 total) descended on the village of Bi'lin. They raided several houses, detained their inhabitants, and searched the inside of the houses. When members of the ISM (including yours truely) and the Popular Committee of Bi'lin confronted the soldiers, they called all of Bi'lin a closed military zone and threatened to arrest anyone out of their house or anyone on top of a house taking pictures. In the course of these house raids, they kidnapped two 16 year old boys (Mohsen Kateb and Hamoda Yaseen) from their houses and took them away into the night. Haitham al-Katib, a respected Palestinian activist in Bi'lin was video taping the raids when soldiers aggressively pushed him against a wall and threatened him with arrest. We intervened on his behalf and were able to wrest him out of the grasp of the soldiers(which was really fortunate and only happened cause the rest of the soldiers hadn't arrived yet).

They then raided the house of Iyad Burant, the head of the popular committee. He unlocked the door when he saw them walking towards around the house. (I figured out that he didn't want them to destroy his door). I stood in the entrance and when the soldiers showed up they said "where is the upstairs?" I said, "upstairs" and pointed up. Apparently my sarcastic answer wasn't the one they were looking for and the soldier body checked me with his rifle and pushed his way into the house. Other soldiers followed suit but we were being very defensive in our stances and impeded their path. First we demanded to see proof of their closed military zone, then we kept blocking their access to the rest of the house.

One of the soldiers saw Iyad's 9 year old son (Abdal kalik) taking pictures and threatened him with physical harm if he didn't produce a camera he was holding. After myself and another international intervened by blocking the soldiers path, they threatened us arrest and pushed us around. After repeated efforts, the soldiers gave up and left that particular house.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bilin Nightwatchmen

Over the last week and a half, Bi'lin has been raided almost every night and men and young boys have been arrested and dragged out of their beds. So we got a call from the head of the popular committee of Bi'lin to send some internationals. I arrived yesterday and went on night patrol all night with men from the popular committee. Over the course of the night we saw 6 lorries let out soldiers in the darkness. They stayed out of site using the hills as cover and we did similar in the village. Everyone in the village gets the alarm (there are only 1500 people living here so any person arrested is a big deal and everyone knows them and their family). We try to stay in the darkness and quiet. Its a bit creepy knowing that some trigger happy 18 year old israeli soldier might decide to blow your brains out at any second, but you just put that thought out of your head and its a lot easier. We stayed vigilant in the dark and no one in Bi'lin ended up getting raided last night.

However, we found out that the soldiers circumvented us and raided the nearby village of Kafr ni'ma. We are going out again every night till the raids stop (so I will be going out again in 30 mins). The others in my original group are still split off in Nablus and Hebron and hopefully one of them will get to a computer to blog about their experiences soon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Israeli forces arrest 24 solidarity activists and 2 hired Palestinian Israeli Drivers!!

For Immediate Release
27 June 2009: Israeli forces arrest 24 solidarity activists and 2 hired Palestinian Israeli drivers in the West Bank village of Saffa.

At 7.30am, 35 Israeli and 10 international solidarity activists joined 3 Palestinian families from Beit Ummar to harvest their land. As the group tried to go down to their lands, 50 soldiers and border policemen stopped them.

Before reaching the land, Israeli forces arrested 10 Israeli and international activists, under the premise that Saffa was under a Closed Military Zone*. The army was aggressive towards the group and used violence against them.

After pushing the group, border policemen arrested another 9 activists.
Yousef Abu Maria from the Palestine Solidarity Project, had his leg broken from the use of excessive force. Israeli soldiers tried to arrest him, but the solidarity activists negotiated for the soldiers to release him and allow him to be taken by an ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent. He is currently being treated at a Hebron hospital.

A female Israeli activist from Tayyoush was also injured and is currently at an Israeli hospital seeking treatment for a potentially broken hand.

As 2 cars with hired drivers were leaving the area with other activists, Israeli forces stopped them and arrested 5 more activists and the 2 Palestinian Israeli drivers.
The arrested were taken to the Israeli prison in the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion.

Please Contact:
Sahar Vardi (Hebrew & English) 054-568-3419

Bekah Wolf, International Coordinator for PSP (English) 054-203-7539
Sasha Solanas, ISM Media Office (Russian & English) 054-903-2981

The activists are members from Palestine Solidarity Project, Tayyoush, Anarchists Against the Wall, and the International Solidarity Movement. They have been accompanying Palestinian farmers to document and deter violence from Israeli forces as the farmers harvest their land.
Last Saturday, 8 Israeli activists were arrested as they accompanied Palestinian farmers.
*Israeli forces have declared the area in Saffa a Closed Military Zone (CMZ), in direct violation of an Israeli Supreme Court decision. The Israeli Supreme Court determined that Closed Military Zones cannot be issued on Palestinian agricultural land, cutting off Palestinian farmers, for prolonged periods of time. However, Israeli forces have been regularly declaring a Closed Military Zone on farm land in Saffa since 2 April 2009.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some confrontations with soldiers.

We received an urgent distress call from Silwan last night that they thought that the bulldozers were to come this morning. I wont get into the details about how they knew or in the preparations that went into Silwan's defense. But I will say that they were extensive and if the Israeli military wants to come demolish homes, there will be an incredible and forceful defense. After arriving at 5am, we waited for hours for the inevitable onslaught which never came. While waiting we heard that Israeli soldiers were spotted in force with bulldozers in Esewiyeh in Jerusalem.

We arrived at around noon to find the soldiers already taking up residence in front of several houses, and on a hill overlooking us.
We found from the beginning that the Border Guards were going to try to impede our movement. They called it a "closed military zone". When we asked why, they refused to tell us and they also refused to show us written proof.

We tried walking around, but the border guards became angry and started yelling at us. They called in several police cars as backup. The head officer demanded our passports, which we were not carrying. He photographed us, but we stayed firm that we wanted to know what was going on. This left some heated discussions with the police and border guards.

Sky news, Reuters, and AFP showed up and the border guards let them through. They did try to intimidate the Palestinian children with dogs that they had. We found out that what they didn't want us to. There was construction going on further up the hill. It seemed possible that they were constructing a temporary separating ramp in order to cleave the outlying houses in east jerusalem from a massive hill where a settlement could possible connect with Male Adumim. (the largest settlement bloc in the west bank) This would cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sheikh Jarrah Families Go To Court.





Another family in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem went to court today over a settler's claim. We went with them to show solidarity and to make a statement for everyone there. The more spectacle and attention we can bring to these cases, the less likely they will try to ethnically cleanse additional families and the more likely the pressure could affect the likelyhood that the police force the families out.



The security at the court thought that they were being snide by refusing to let us assemble on the same side of the street as the court. (because it was in the shade) So we just put on tons of sunscreen and walked directly opposite the court entrance so that everyone that went near had to pass us.













Updates on our other comrades:


Nablus: One of our group went to Nablus and took part in a demonstration on friday to prevent the closure of the main gate out of the city. The day afterwords they took part in treeplanting. (which is really really hard work with the soil here)


Sousia: Settlers burned down a bedoin tent. (thankfully, the family wasn't inside it at the time)


Beit Omar: Seven Israelis activists in Tayoush were arrested after they approached soldiers who were watching settlers throw rocks at Palestinians and demanded that they do something. One of the Israelis had a document proving that settler encroachment was illegal. None of the Internationals or Palestinians who were there were arrested.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Splitting up






Due to the amount of activity happening here, we decided to split up. One of us went to Hebron, another to Nablus. I cant speak for what they are doing and they promised to blog when they get internet access.


I spent the last 3 days deathly ill from something I ate. That didn't stop me from going to the protest in N'ilin (which in retrospect was a really stupid idea given my condition) and though I dodged most of the teargas (as pictured left) I still managed to throw up quite a lot. After not being able to eat for 72 hours, my friends brought me to a hospital. I feel really drained but immensely better.


As for what has been going on:


The N'ilin protest was rather tame by comparison to the usual ones. The israeli soldiers had some media with them so they didn't use any live ammunition (they usually fire 22 caliber bullets) and even the amount of tear gas wasn't the norm. This allowed the Palestinan youth ample time to cut through extensive amounts of barbed wire. As far as I could tell no one was injured at the protest, though one media report says 3 Israeli soldiers were hurt. This was an obvious fabrication given the distance of the soldiers and the fact that every rock thrown fell 100 meters short.
Silwan: Today members of the Silwan community in East Jerusalem cleared out the rubble of a house that was recently bulldozed. They hope to reconstruct the house there again and to act defiantly to the proposed demolition of an additional 88 houses that are planned in the next few weeks
Jenin: Today near the Jenin refugee camp, olive trees were planted to make up for the many groves that have been uprooted by settlers and the military.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Updates and Arrested Friends

Two internationals were arrested in Beit Omar on Saturday morning for escorting Palestinian farmers to their farm lands. The Israeli Army had declared it a "closed military zone" which they have done often as a way of destroying the farms that Palestinians work on and making life impossible for them. The two had gone saturday morning and at first had been targets of settler violence as rocks were hurled at them. Next a police jeep arrived and tried to arrest one of the Palestinian farmers. The internationals tried to protect the palestinian and had him guarded for 20 minutes before the police took out their batons and beat them away. They stayed somewhat firm and were themselves arrested, while the Palestinian was able to get free.


They were in jail for about 12 hours without any food or water and were brough to a judge who said that they were banned from Beit Omar for 2 weeks.



Last night we got back to Sheikh Jarrah from Ramallah and a concert had been organized at the tent where the evicted woman is staying. Bands from Italy and Norway were playing to support the cause of the families fighting eviction. Lots of people came from all around to watch it. Settlers also came out of their houses to gather up the road and to intimidate women that walked nearby.

One of the Norwegian Band members told us that they had also played in Hebron and the settler kids stole their water and tried smashing their equipment. After their show in Hebron, one of the kids even tried to knife them. Settlers are scary.



Today is the last day that the court gave the Hannoun family to give 50,000 dollars as collateral to the court that they will leave by July 19th. We are worried that the patriarch of the family may be arrested again in the near future.

Friday, June 12, 2009

B'ilin and Ni'lin Protest Reportbacks




Maria and I went to B'ilin while Joe went with the Brits to the Ni'lin protests which happened simultaneously (he will write about his encounter when he gets back).


B'ilin is situated in the West Bank somewhat near Jerusalem. Part of Israelis separation wall is being built through it at the expense of its 1800 inhabitants. It also separates the town from 60 percent of its farming land. Protests have occurred there every friday for the last 4 years with support from internationals and Israelis. A protester was recently killed there at a protest and today, protesters carried his picture on top of metal sheilds towards the wall.


video
The Code Pink Delegation went to the B'ilin protest too and joined the march with a group of folks from Anarchists Against the Wall and some Israeli independent journalists... some folks from the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions was also there. The main protest took off from the village square after noon prayers following the local Palestinian committee and tons of Palestinian flags.

As soon as the march got near a barbed wire pen in front of the wall, one of the Palestinians used a big pair of bolt cutters to start cutting. At that second, the Israeli soldiers begin firing tear gas at us from their defensive position behind the wall. videoSome of the Palestinian youth (called "shabab" in arabic) began slinging stones at the Israeli position. The israelis kept firing tear gas at a near constant rate for the duration of the protest. Occasionally they also fired rubber bullets. One of the Palestinians was hurt during the protest, but it wasn't serious and he went right back to it.


After getting beaten back by volleys of tear gas, the main protest went right back up the hill towards the wall to get another devestating amount of tear gas canasters shot at them. Some didn't explode and the Shabab picked them up and hurled them back at the Israeli soldiers. When it became clear that the main gate of the fence was getting too many rubber bullets, the youth turned to a fence adjecent to it. A constant barrage of tear gas on them eventually forced them out. And with that, the protest was over. These protests happen every week and every week are met with intense violent reactions from the Israeli soldiers.
Joe will update soon on his attendence of the Ni'lin demonstration










Thursday, June 11, 2009

Silwan facing demolition













When the afternoon's sweltering heat subsided, an ISM volunteer took us to Silwan. Silwan is a Palestinian neighborhood on the south east side of Jerusalem. It is more slummish than the neighborhood we are staying in, with houses toppling over each other and people crowded on to stoops and balconies. It is a tight knit and politically charged area - when the second Intifada came to Jerusalem, it began here.

The Israeli government has condemned the entire neighborhood to be demolished. They want to build an archeological park- a tourist trap that would come at the price of at least 88 Palestinian homes (design plan pictured right). Unlike at the Hunnoun house, the Israeli government is not even pretending that these houses do not belong to the Palestinians living there. They simply do not care. They are using the Israeli equivilant of imminent domain, a legal device that allows the government to confiscate land when they deem it "in the public interest" to do so. And of course it is in the public interest, so long as Palestinians are not part of "the public." Silwan is a political threat - what could be more in Israel's interest than demolishing it? (left is repeats of 8 demolition orders they recieved yesterday)

The residents of Silwan have set up a large tent in a pull out from the main road. The tent has become a center of their struggle against the demolition. Every week they flier, send out press releases, and bring tour groups to the tent in an attempt to expose the blatant ethnic cleansing taking place in Silwan. Like at the Hunnoun house they have exhasted all legal options, and are now relying entirely on media exposure and international pressure. Unlike the Hunnoun house, there are no set demolition dates. The bulldozers could come at any time to any house, and there will be no time to call the media or bring in internationals.

Many families have removed all the furniture from their homes. They have survived demolitions before, and don't want to go through the process of replacing everything they own again. Many sleep with their belongings packed in bags by their beds, so that they are ready to flee when the time comes. But not all of them plan on fleeing. For some it is better to be buried in alive than to surrender their homes.