For more information about settlements in Sheik Jarrah, visit http://www.standupforjerusalem.org/.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
For more information about settlements in Sheik Jarrah, visit http://www.standupforjerusalem.org/.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
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
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
Thursday, July 23, 2009
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
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/.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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).