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Weekly Update: 2/14/10

February 14, 2010

PA Corruption Scandal

Well, there is a lot of things going on this week…the biggest news is this mass corruption scandal in the PA. Apparently the head of the anti-corruption office in the PA was fired over some petty fight and in reaction he gave a lot of information, tapes and video tapes to an Israeli group who should publicize one piece of corruption a day until Abbas and the PA get their act together and get rid of corruption.

They don’t think there’s anything in it about Abbas specifically but theres stories like someone in the PA in charge of buying land for a project …when he asked for money he put it in dollars instead of shekels (over one million) and kept the difference for himself. And of course there is supposedly a sex tape as well.

Sometimes I can’t decide who is better, Hamas or Fateh? Even though Hamas has its issues, it doesnt coordinate with Israel and it doesnt have the same level of corruption as far as I know. Maybe they would if they could…haha.

PA as Israel’s Enforcer in the West Bank

Anyways I was reading a book a friend of mine’s, Ahmed, brother wrote (half of their family is in Gaza, and he is the one who wrote the story “A story that needs to be told” thats in the ‘notes’ section on my facebook–its about their whole family being split between West Bank, Gaza, and England–without the chance to see eachother) The book–called Remember Gaza– was about the Gaza war. He wrote it from the perspective of someone who has family down there, and can only watch and wait.

Its a really powerful book and it reminded me of some weird things that went on at that time too. There were lots of demonstrations in Ramallah during the war and the PA security would always be there. At first I thought they were participating. But then I realized they were doing ‘crowd control’ to make sure it didnt get to the point where demonstrators went to any checkpoints to throw stones.

Ahmed was telling me the other day that he went with a big group of friends walking one night in the general direction of Beit El (a settlement on the outskirts of Ramallah). He said they were just going somewhere they could drink a beer without getting in trouble (theres lots of fields and land between the settlement and the city).

On the way, some PA army guys came over to them and asked them if they were going to throw stones at the settlement. They said no…but the soldiers kept interrogating them and saying “shame on you for going to throw stones!”. Then they arrested the kids and beat them up a little bit in the police station! This is the PA. And thats why everyone thinks they are collaborators with Israel, Israel’s puppet.

Even my friend who is a captain in the PA is getting fed up with the PA—because after that last incident where the IDF came and assassinated 3 men in Nablus who were at some point associated with the Al Aqsa brigades (but had nothing to do with the settler stabbing)–the PA basically arrested Wajdi and anyone else who was ever associated with the Al Aqsa brigades. They wouldnt let him leave Al Muqata or talk to anyone on the outside. So he just wants to finish the PA now…

“Terrorist Attacks”

There were a couple of “terrorist” attacks on soldiers this week. One for sure was real–a man stabbed a soldier while he was sitting in his jeep. He was arrested afterwards. Then the checkpoints went up all over the West Bank…ha.

A day or two later, there was another supposed attack. But in this case theres no injured or dead soldier, just a dead Palestinian. So I think maybe it was a random revenge attack….because there is usually at least one person killed at a checkpoint ever few weeks. And usually the eyewitness accounts dont match the Israeli official report. Hmmm….?

Bil’in

In Bil’in this week all of the villagers wore Avatar masks to the wall–because in the movie the aliens planet was being colonized by the humans. They are so funny and creative in Bil’in. And next week is their 5 year anniversary of the protests. So I will be going back to Bil’in next Friday for sure…

Nabe Saleh

I went again to Nabe Saleh even though its getting crazier and crazier. But we had a car this week from a friend and everyone wanted to go there instead of Bil’in so I caved to peer pressure, hahaha. Anyways, it was so strange this week.

Since Nabe Saleh started protesting, the Israelis have been setting up new temporary checkpoints around the West Bank and blocking the main roads that go to villages that protest. So we always have to drive for an extra 20 or 30 minutes to get to Nabe Saleh, which is like 15 minutes from Ramallah. Its funny, on the way back from the protest we drive for about 20 minutes and then come around the bend right in front of Nabe Saleh, again. Hahaha….its ridiculous.

So anyways, we drove into the village and there were no soldiers anywhere. We all have teargas masks now–thanks to Israels policy of giving out gasmasks to everyone outside the Green Line–which includes some friends of mine (Palestinian) who loaned them to us. Hahaha…..so ironic!

We waited for the protestors to come down from the center of the village and I watched from my spot at the gas station as they marched down the road way past where the soldiers usually stop them. Now we were confused! hahaha, what do we do if there are no soldiers? We win???

So they all marched off the road down a valley to get to their land–which is the purpose of the protest–to get to their spring that the settlers took over a month ago.

My roommate and I climbed on the mountain overlooking the valley where they were marching in the direction of the settlement across the highway. On the opposite mountain, there were about 30 settlers sitting and watching the protest. At first they were marching down the hill and we thought they were going to clash with the Palestinians, but instead they ended up making a BBQ. ha.

So the army jeeps pull up on the highway…cars are still driving by through all of this. The villagers make it to the highway but the soldiers stop them from crossing it by shooting LOTS of teargas, the teargas cannon, rubber coated steel bullets and soundbombs.

After a while, the border police drive up in vans for arresting protestors and taking them away. Luckily, no one got arrested!

Eventually, half of the jeeps drove back to the bottom of the road leading out of the village where there is a small checkpoint and watch tower–a little further down than where the protest usually happens on that road.

Then most of the protestors in the valley by the highway moved back up to the road and split the protest in half. After that, we walked back and did a few interviews with some villagers in their house. This family owns some of the land that was confiscated by the settlers. They said one day they went to their land and the settlers were on it making a BBQ and swimming in the spring. The Palestinians asked them what they were doing there and they said, “Oh we just want to swim in the spring sometimes”.

The next time they went to their land the settlers were there again, with shovels–pretending to work on the land. The Palestinian who owned the land asked them to leave. And the settlers came at him with the shovels and threatened to hit him. After that, the settlers were a constant presence at the spring and the villagers can’t use it anymore.

The ‘father’ of their family, because they are the ones who own the land and have the most to be angry about, is not allowed to be in the village at all on Friday afternoons. Hes 60 years old. And the IDF comes to take him somewhere else every Friday.

Its such a messed up situation.

I had some really good videos from the protest but unfortunately I got robbed Friday night in Jerusalem. Someone took my wallet, camera, mp3 and maybe some other things I havent realized yet…

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