Friday Post:

August 8, 2009
teargas canisters shot from the cannon

teargas canisters shot from the cannon

Bilin protest

Bilin protest

Bilin Demo this week, after the teargas cannon that shoots 50 at a time

Bilin Demo this week, after the teargas cannon that shoots 50 at a time

Now for the drama in Palestine this week, haha.  Fatah is having its 6th congress –the first elections they’ve had for 20 years.  They tried to have it outside the country so that Israel couldn’t come in and arrest anyone, but no other countries would agree to host it so it’s happening in Bethlehem right now.  It’s been extended; I think it was supposed to end yesterday.

 But the main thing about the elections is that they are also reviewing their manifesto.  And the most contentious point in that is the right to resistance, armed if necessary.  Israel was hoping they would take that out, but now even Abbas is saying it’s their right. 

So Israel is taking that as a threat of a new Intifada when it’s actually just in the worst case scenario, they won’t give up the right of resistance—if Israel doesn’t keep up its end of the peace process, then Palestinians aren’t just going to sit back and wait for Israel to give them their rights.  I think it’s perfectly acceptable.  Knowing what we already know about Israel keeping its promises with respect to Palestine and the peace process.  They would be insane to trust Israel and take out the resistance part.

So now some people are thinking Israel might set up checkpoints on the way out of Bethlehem and arrest some members or leaders of Fatah.  There is one guy named Zacharia Zubeidi, he is from the Jenin Refugee Camp.  During the 2nd Intifada that camp was a center of resistance—and got basically flattened by the Israeli military.  Zubeidi was one of the leaders there and planned many “operations”  against Israel. 

After it was finished, he signed an agreement with Israel giving up the resistance life in exchange for Israel promising not to kill him or arrest him (by the way, this doesn’t always work—one of my friend’s best friend was assassinated by the IDF in the middle of a restaurant in Ramallah after signing one of these….Zubeidi is probably only still alive because he has a really good security system)

 But I just read on Ma’an news that Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the petition to arrest 5 or so members of Fatah as they left.  So maybe they won’t actually do it—but if they decided to anyway it wouldn’t be the first time the government ignored its own supreme court (the wall’s path is illegal according to the Israeli Supreme Court too).

 Anyways, a lot of people are talking about the possibility of a third Intifada in the next 6 months.  They don’t want it to be an armed Intifada, just a non-violent one.  But that’s how the 2nd Intifada started, it was nonviolent for a while, but we know how Israel responds to nonviolent resistance—by injuring and killing the protestors.  So how can you control the people and keep the Intifada nonviolent when Israel responds with violence??

 Personally, I don’t think the West Bank is ready for another Intifada.  They’re just starting to get their lives back in order from the second Intifada.  The economy is getting better and life is starting to normalize again.  But I think I might have a skewed perspective living in Ramallah—it’s the richest and most westernized city in the West Bank.  The refugee camps and the villages is where the resistance starts anyways—and their lives haven’t gotten that much better since the end of the Intifada, besides the fact that now most of them have food and water.

 Most people who talk about a new Intifada say they want it to focus on the settlers in the West Bank and E. Jerusalem—not in a violent way…just in terms of protesting.  Nobody thinks that operations inside of Israel are worthwhile anymore–they know how much it affects the image of Palestine and that it won’t solve their problems.  They are not trying to get all of the original Palestine back, just the 1967 borders. 

 The settlers have been crazy as usual.  In Hebron they just stole some Palestinian land, with the support of the Israeli military and police, and now they are keeping the owner away from his own land so they can build an outpost on it.  Hmmm…Obama, where are you??

 In Salfit, a village north of Ramallah, some settlers wanted to visit an ancient tomb there, which happens to be located near the village cemetery.  So they got the police and the military to escort them and shut down the village.  All of the Palestinian residents had to close their shops and stay inside- a curfew for the whole area, while the settlers came in.  In the past the settlers have defaced tombs in the village cemetery with anti-Arab slogans and just generally racist stuff…so its not a completely innocent Settler field trip of course…

 A friend of mine recently went to Jordan to test out his passport before he went through the long and painful process of applying for a visa to leave the West Bank and Israel.  He wants to study in the U.S. or Europe, but since he’s from Bil’in he was worried about his file with the Israelis and wanted to see if they had anything on him.  On his way out of the West Bank he didn’t have any problems with the military, but on the way in the Israelis detained him for hours and did a full back ground check. 

Finally, they couldnt find anything on his record–he’s one of the only guys from Bil’in that has a clean record.  He doesnt throw stones anymore at protests and didn’t even go to the protests for a long time.  So they gave him an “invitation” to come and see them at Ofer prison–an Israeli prison in Betunia, right outside Ramallah.  It just so happens to be where all the 20 or so boys they’ve arrested from Bil’in are inprisoned.

We were all pretty worried that they might arrest him, but he had to go or else he would have problems for sure.

So he “accepted his invitation” at Ofer prison on Wednesday.  He went in and they checked him thoroughly from head to toe, then he sat down with a captain that he hasn’t seen before.  They asked him questions about who his friends are, what he does for work, where he hangs out, if he goes to the protests…and so on.  The only names he mentioned were names of boys they had already had in jail so that he wouldn’t get anyone arrested.  Haha.  The Israeli guy caught on and was playing the good cop-bad cop act, saying “Oh you are so smart…”  And then asking him to work with them “against the Muslims” as a spy/collaborator. 

 They had already asked him once or twice, which is why he wasn’t too worried about going to the prison.  Like before, he answered their question with a polite, “fuck no”.  Ha.  Then they told him, “we’re not holding a gun to your head, you’re free to choose your own decision.”

 Then they asked him what he wanted to do with his life.  He said his only dream was to get out of Palestine and study in the U.S. or somewhere abroad.  Then they told him that he could chose any university in the world and they would get him in, pay for his apartment and all of his expenses—if he works with them.  He said no again, of course.  And they said, “well, its you’re choice, we’re not holding a gun to your head (again…) but keep it in mind and think about it.”

 The Israelis have LOTS of ways of getting Palestinians to work as collaborators.  Money is the most effective—especially with desperate and poor people who have families to feed.  And I can understand how they get thousands of Palestinians to work as collaborators with money and promises of visas to the US and Europe.  People are trapped here in the West Bank, many with no hope for the future.  Theres not enough jobs and they can’t leave the West Bank–even just for vacation without permission from the Israelis–which they hardly ever get.  Its like a big prison.

They also have more devious ways, especially when they know that person has a lot of information or knows people they are investigating.  In those cases, they will set up a scenario with a female Israeli soldier and alcohol/drugs.  Then, they video tape what happens next.  When the guy wakes up in the morning they tell him about the video tape and say they will send it to his family if he doesn’t agree to work with them.  This is very effective because the guy is embarrassed about what happened and knows his family will be upset and ashamed.

 The thing is that the Israelis would never send the tapes to the families—because then it would become evidence of their methods.  So some of my friends who work in the PA have tried to educate people on these subjects—telling them not to give into that kind of pressure because first of all the Israelis won’t ever send the tapes, and second of all—everyone makes mistakes and one small mistake is better than working with the Israelis.

 Disgusting methods.  And there are much worse but I wouldn’t even talk about it.  Ughh…

 Anyways, last night a friend of mine from college called me and he’s in Israel now.  He’s a Jewish American, but like you he’s very liberal and pro-peace process.  He’s interested in what’s going on here and learning more about the Palestinian side of the situation—which is always good.

 I was at a BBQ with some friends when he called, and he asked me about studying Arabic at Bir Zeit University, outside of Ramallah.  Since he was also into journalism he was thinking to come here, take an Arabic course, and work at Palestine Monitor. 

 Then we started talking politics, of course, and comparing views and views of the media in Israel versus here.  Then he started asking a lot of questions about life over here and the government.  And then his Israeli friends he was hanging out with all wanted to ask questions too.  It was really interesting, they were very curious about things over here and it really surprised me how little they know about the situation here and how bad it is. 

 Hopefully he will end up coming over here—we can both learn from each other and he can serve as a go-between and talk to his Israeli friends about what he experiences here.  Inshallah it will be good.

 Anyways, Bil’in yesterday was interesting.  There was a huge French group there; I don’t know which organization they were from.  We marched to the wall and the first thing the Israelis did was shoot al-thuletheen.  The French people had never been to a demonstration before and had no idea what to expect.  So the teargas cannon was overwhelming to them, I have never seen such panic at a protest there before!

 They were like a stampede!  Most of them ran off into the fields to the side of the road—one of the worst ideas.  Because you can’t see and you’re running on uneven, rocky terrain—right in front of the fence with the soldiers aiming at them.  So the organizers from Bil’in were yelling “Don’t go downstairs!” haha…

 They were all still in shock about 15 minutes later and still trying to get their breathing under control.  I luckily was just walking up to the fence when they shot the cannon so I was just barely out of range of the flying canisters, and just stood there watching the canisters fall around the panicked crowd.  Got some good pictures, haha.

 After that, they shot 4 or 5 canisters at a time at the crowd and they always panicked because they thought it was going to be the cannon again.  So we had to do crowd control and tell them not to run and that it was ok. 

 Then they brought the “water” vehicle around—thank god it is a really obvious white truck and we can always see it coming.  They started shooting the darban (sewage-chemical-cow intestines water) on the crowd, luckily everyone got a good warning and most people got out of the way in time. 

 It was really funny because one guy from Bil’in had a loudspeaker and was just making fun of the IDF the whole time.  When they were shooting the water he said “This is the smell of the occupation!”  hahaha…

 Then when they were finished he yelled at the internationals “Welcome internationals! Come on internationals!  The shit is finished!” Hahaha…it was funny.

 The IDF didn’t shoot any ammunition other than teargas canisters and shit water this week.  I heard that the captain or whoever is in charge of the IDF at Bil’in got changed a month or so ago.  So maybe that’s why the demonstrations haven’t been as violent as they used to be.  Or maybe they’re just waiting for all the media attention to die down about Bassem and Aqel getting killed before they do anything crazy again.

 They’re still raiding Bil’in regularly, and arresting teenage boys.  Jaber said they threw big stones on top of their house the other night.  And that the raids are so loud that they can’t sleep—and they last for hours during the middle of the night.  They shoot sound bombs and teargas.  And enter houses and destroy things for no reason.  If they come across anyone in the street they will get a beating.

 I still haven’t spent the night there during a raid but I plan on doing it next week…I will video tape if I can from the roof and just see what its like.  Should be a crazy experience.


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