Posts Tagged ‘IDF’

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The “ULTIMATE Mission” Tour of Israel:

September 18, 2010

Convincing the World One Tourist at a Time that Israel is the ULTIMATE Victim

After the destruction and violence of the Second Intifada (caused by Israel’s constant provocation of the Palestinian people—culminating in Ariel Sharon’s illegal entrance into one of Islam’s most holy sites, the Al-Aqsa Mosque), the Lebanon War, and the most recent massacre—Operation Cast Lead—in the blockaded Gaza Strip, Israel’s tourism industry has faced many obstacles in attracting new tourists to the country.

In order to combat this trend, Israel has moved from organizing normal trips such as “Birthright”—where young Jewish people from other countries are taken on a free, 10-day trip of Israel to more ‘exciting’ and ‘extreme’ tours such as the “ULTIMATE Counter-Terrorism Mission”.

The ULTIMATE Counter-Terrorism tour was a week-long tour where the participants traveled around the country learning about Israel’s ‘struggle’ with counter-terrorism.  This tour was aimed at US policy makers, security officials, and lawyers.

Basically, instead of fighting the fact that tourists avoid the country because of the ‘terrorist threat’, Israel now uses it to attract a new, more extreme kind of tourist.

This effort has culminated with a new tour called “The ULTIMATE Mission to Israel.”  This tour will begin on June 8, 2009 and last for one week.  The point of these new tours is to sell the Israeli model for counterterrorism—and is a sick effort to glorify the killing of Palestinians, and the ongoing occupation, in the name of ‘pre-emptive self-defense’.

The tour is organized by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli Law Center dedicated to suing terrorists, terrorist organizations, and countries that support terrorism against Israel.  If Israel thinks it’s their right to sue terrorists, wouldn’t it be logical that the thousands of innocent Palestinian people who have been killed, injured, and had their lives ruined by Israel’s counter-terrorism policies should be allowed the same right?  Of course not—this is Israel, and there can only be one victim here.

The ULTIMATE Mission is described as a tour where you will experience a “military, humanitarian, historical, judicial, religious, and political reality check.”

In other words, over a week period, the organizers will try to convince the tourists that Israel’s policies, such as collective punishment, “targeted killings” (assassinations), apartheid wall, and more, are reasonable.  In the advertisement of the mission, it says that tourists will experience a “humanitarian reality check”, which sounds like they will try to convince the tourists that humanitarian efforts on behalf of the Palestinians are unfounded because they are ‘all terrorists.’

Racist?  Yes.  Glorifying the death and suffering of the Palestinians?  Yes.  Sick?  Yes.

While on the ULTIMATE mission, tourists will experience:

-A “real-life” briefing by officers in the IDF intelligence and operations branches

-Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings

-Live exhibition of penetration raids to “Arab” territory

-Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court

-First hand tours of Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border checkpoints

-Inside tour of the controversial “security fence” (the separation wall) and secret intelligence bases

-Meeting Israel’s Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real time intelligence

-Briefing by Israel’s war heroes who saved the country

In other words, participants on the ULTIMATE mission will be able to see how the IAF kills ‘those Palestinian terrorists’, go on a raid into the West Bank and terrorize any Palestinians they come across—and maybe if they’re lucky they will get to see a real, live beating or arrest—which are arbitrarily carried out in the West Bank every day and night.

They will also see ‘one of those Hamas terrorists’ found guilty of some horrific offense in Israel’s “justice” system, meet Arab collaborators and informants, and basically become convinced that Palestinians are the terrorists and Israel is the victim.

They will be persuaded that although Israel has one of the most advanced militaries and intelligence organizations in the world and is backed by the richest and most powerful country in the world, it is actually threatened by Palestinians armed with stones, molotovs, and the extremely inaccurate qassam rockets.

Throughout the ULTIMATE mission where the participants get to see ‘terrorists’ being found guilty, beaten, arrested, and killed—they will also be staying in 5-star hotels, traveling in luxury buses, and eating in the “finest restaurants” along the way.  Getting excited yet?

More highlights of the tour include:

-Meeting with a former IDF chief of staff who will talk about the “strategic and tactical analysis of the threat to Israel from the Palestinians and Middle Eastern States”

—to convince the tourists of Israel’s right to pre-emptive self-defense so that they can return home and convince their friends, family, and hopefully governments to support Israel’s racist policies disguised as self-defense.

-Visiting the “Arab town”, Qalqilia

–to explain to the tourists why it is ‘necessary’ for this peaceful village to be completely surrounded by the separation wall, leaving only one entrance for the residents to enter and exit at the arbitrary will of the alternately bored and aggressive 18-year old soldiers guarding the checkpoint at the entrance.

-Meet bereaved parents of Israeli soldiers who died in the Lebanon War

–an experience that has to be organized in Israel, whereas if you walk down the street anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and talk to the first person you meet, you can find the same stories, and perhaps worse.  However, participants will not meet these people, reinforcing their perception of asymmetric Israeli suffering.

-Visit Sderot, one of the Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip and learn about the ‘qassam threat’ from Hamas

–Tourists will most likely visit the “living museum” Israel has set up there in which interested tourists can see the buildings that have been hit by qassams and see children who are hired to cry and act terrified there.

After this experience tourists will be convinced that Israel’s policies of targeted killings, arbitrary arrests and beatings, raids in Palestinian territory, extra-judiciary assassinations, checkpoints, and the separation wall are all necessary anti-terrorism policies—which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The ULTIMATE mission ends with coffee and cake at a 5-star hotel in Jerusalem.

Some testimonials of people who have gone on these missions before said that they returned home with “such a high” and told how they were able to “stare down Hezbollah terrorists across the Lebanese border”.

At the end of the trip most became convinced that Israel’s absurdly violent and unjust policies towards the Palestinians were well-founded and their “support for Israel and its people is more committed than ever.”  Israel is seen as the victim, and anything they do to the Palestinians—no matter how violent, inhumane, and illegal—are all acceptable in the name of self-defense.

 

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Israel Attacks Gaza Flotilla, Kills up to 16 so far…

May 31, 2010

Israeli forces attacked the Gaza Flotilla late last night in international waters, killing up to 16 activists and injuring more than 50.

The ships, carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid for the besieged Gaza Strip, left Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach the Gazan coast by Monday. There were around 600 pro-Palestinian activists on board—including a Nobel laureate, European legislators, and even a Holocaust survivor.

In the middle of the night, the lead ship of the flotilla—the Mavi Marmara, which was flying Turkish flags, was flanked by Israeli naval ships. The ships slowed down about 65 km off the coast of Gaza in order to avoid confrontation, and passengers were asked by organizers to put on life jackets and go below decks.

Afterwards, the Israeli troops descended on the ship from helicopters flying above.

From here, of course, there are two different versions of the story—the Israeli military spokesperson report, and the eye-witness testimonies of pro-Palestinian activists aboard. The Israeli spokesperson says that as soon as the soldiers stormed the ship, activists on board “attacked the soldiers with axes, clubs, and knives.”

In my year and a half living in the West Bank, there have been countless times where the Israeli military has killed innocent Palestinians and afterwards came out with the statement “They attacked the soldiers with axes!” or “They attacked the soldiers with pitchforks!” It’s almost a joke when we hear that excuse here now—so when I heard that that was the Israelis’ excuse for attacking peace activists, I almost had to laugh.

Ok, anyone who knows anything about Israeli soldiers knows enough not to attack them with something like that when the soldiers are carrying Uzis and M-16’s. And most of the time, when these Palestinians (usually teenagers and children who were working on their farmland or shepherding in the fields…) get killed, there are eye-witnesses who have a completely different story—which goes something like this: “The soldiers killed them in cold blood.”

Similarly, the passengers on board the Gaza Flotilla have said that the soldiers opened fire with live ammunition from the minute they descended on the ship—in addition to brutalizing and beating anyone who stood in their way.

Audrey Bomse, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement which organized the convoy, said this: “We were not going to pose any violent resistance. The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room, or blocking the engine room downstairs, so that they couldn’t get taken over. But that was just symbolic resistance.”

Anyone who follows the news in the region knows how the Israeli military responds to nonviolent, symbolic resistance. By killing around a dozen nonviolent demonstrators in protests against the Wall in the West Bank (since they began 5 years ago), and injuring countless dozens of others (including me and many of my friends!).

Israel has heightened its security across the country, in an attempt to quell any protests against the attack.

President Abbas has declared a three-day national strike and mourning for those killed on board.

Sweden and Turkey have already summoned their Israeli ambassadors.

The Israeli attack on the Gaza Flotilla could have big implications. The lead ship that was attacked was a Turkish ship flying Turkish flags, and was attacked in international waters. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, and this should constitute an attack on a NATO member state, there might be some kind of response from the rest of the member countries against Israel.

Don’t hold your breath though, this isn’t the first time Israel has broken international laws, killed innocent people, or lied about how it happened—and it probably won’t be the last either.

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From Jail to Jail: Life of a Palestinian Mother

May 29, 2010

From Jail to Jail: Life of a Palestinian Mother:

photo by lazar simeonov

Omm Ahmad Khadeash is a mother and grandmother who has spent most of her life living in Balata Refugee Camp, near Nablus in the West Bank.  She is around 70 years old and has seen everything from the Nakba in 1948 to the brutality of the second Intifada. 

Omm Ahmad was born in a village called Ejzem, near Haifa.  Her village was expelled and destroyed by the Israeli military in 1948.  Her family fled to Huwarra, near Nablus, and then moved to the Balata Refugee Camp when it was created in the 1950’s.

Balata Refugee Camp is known for being very political, the heart of the resistance.  Many Fatah resistance leaders in the Intifada came from the camp.  For this reason, the Israeli military has been especially hard on the people of Balata.  Imposing curfews, conducting nightly raids of the camp in which they break down doors to the houses and destroy things inside, beat people—men and women, arrest, and sometimes kill people for being active in the resistance.    

Omm Ahmad married at 15 and has seven sons and five daughters.  Every one of her sons has been imprisoned.  She has never experienced a time where all of her sons were at home together. 

At the moment, she has six sons out of prison.  One was released two months ago and another, Khaled, is still in prison—with a sentence of over 1000 years for being one of the Fatah leaders in Balata.  He has four children, the youngest, Aboud, was born on the day his father was imprisoned.

Now Omm Ahmad takes care of Khaled’s wife and family—just as she has taken care of all of her sons’ families while they were imprisoned. 

Omm Ahmad is well-known in Balata for intervening when the Israeli soldiers raid the camp and try to arrest anyone.  She will run out and get in the middle of the fight; screaming, and saying “this is my son! This is my son!”—no matter who it is that they are trying to arrest.

She will “give the signal” to the other mothers around the camp and they will all run down and scream at the soldiers, and others will join in; screaming or throwing stones. 

One time, Omm Ahmad saw Israeli soldiers running after a young girl.  They caught her and started beating her. 

“I began screaming and brought all of my daughters with me to where the soldiers were.  Some other women heard us and joined us, screaming.  We created a big chaos and the soldiers left the girl.”

Another time, Omm Ahmad saw soldiers running after a teenage boy who was carrying a flag.  When he ran past her house she grabbed him and took him inside.  When the soldiers came to the door she blocked them from getting in, and started screaming.  Soon, other women started screaming and people began throwing stones. 

She had a real fight with the soldiers and even took a gun from one of them.  But because there was so much chaos around them from the screaming women and kids throwing stones, the soldiers decided it wasn’t worth it and left.

During the second Intifada, when the Israeli soldiers would impose a curfew on the camp for being active in the resistance, Omm Ahmad would ignore the curfew and take food and other supplies around to all her sons and daughters and their families. 

“It was dangerous, but I did not care”, said Omm Ahmad.

Omm Ahmad has spent most of her life traveling from one prison to another visiting her sons. 

“I have never had all of my sons at home at the same time.”

Her only son in prison now, Khaled, has a sentence of over 1000 years.  His only chance to be released from prison is if the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel is successful.  Hamas, who is holding the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, is trying to reach an agreement with Israel.  In exchange for releasing Shalit, Hamas is asking Israel to release 450 Palestinian political prisoners—the prisoners who have consecutive life sentences—and Khaled is on that list. 

Omm Ahmad was only recently given permission to visit Khaled; once a month—before that she was not allowed to visit because she is known as a “trouble-maker” by the soldiers.  Khaled’s wife is only allowed to see her husband once or twice a year.

Visiting her sons in prison is like a “trip to hell”.  Khaled’s prison is in southern Israel, on the border with Egypt.  So when Omm Ahmad makes the trip to visit her son, she must get up before 3am and go to the special bus station in Nablus that has buses specifically for taking family members to different prisons.

The visitors must go through many checkpoints, getting rigorously searched at each one.  Another humiliating process they must go through before they can visit their family members is being stripped naked. 

The trip is exhausting, humiliating and takes an entire day.  After all of this, Omm Ahmad is allowed to see her son for less than an hour.

Recently, Omm Ahmad and all of the families of the prisoners on the exchange list received more bad news.  The talks between Hamas and the Israeli government failed, once again.   

Hamas requires that all of the prisoners are released to the West Bank or to Gaza.  But Israel has rejected some of the prisoners on the list and has also said that the only way they will release the remaining prisoners is by deporting them to other Arab countries.  Omm Ahmad is worried that Khaled may not be released while she is alive.

“They took our sons.  They took our land.  They stole it from us…they have this belief that this is their land and we should not be here.” 

These days, Omm Ahmad does not intervene when the soldiers come to the camp.  She says that the soldiers do not care whether they beat a child or an old woman anymore. There is nothing she can do to help, and she said she is losing faith that things will change.

“We have tried everything.  We tried the non violence in the 1st Intifada—just throwing stones.  In the 2nd Intifada we tried violence, with the guns.  It was very brutal.  Now we have tried the negotiations—the peace process.  Israel does not respond to anything.  Why must the Palestinians respect the agreements, but not Israel?  We have tried everything and each time we make a little progress but in the end we are always back at zero.”

And every time the Palestinians actively form a resistance, peaceful or violent, they always end up losing something in the end.  More Palestinians are expelled, more settlements, and the wall are built. 

“It’s too much”, says Omm Ahmad.  “The Palestinians are arguing with each other over power! For what? For a chair?  For a state that actually does not exist?  We are in a very difficult situation.”

“Release the prisoners, let our sons come home! Take Palestine, we don’t want it anymore.  We just want to live our lives—this is not life”, says Omm Ahmad.  “At the end it’s really not worth it.  I’m tired; I’ve spent most of my life going from jail to jail.  There was never a time when all of my sons were at home together.  It’s too much!”

As Omm Ahmad tells her story, she also makes sure to explain that this is not just her story.  This is the story of many other mothers in Palestine.  Boys are imprisoned for consecutive life sentences.  Their parents die, waiting for their children to be released from jail.

In the end, it sounds like Omm Ahmad has lost hope for a solution to her problem, or for Palestine.  But she says, “The hope remains, it is always there, like our faith in God.  But I am a human being, a woman, a mother.  I have a right to feel this way.  I have to take care of my grandchildren and the wives of my sons while they are in prison.  It’s too much.”

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Weekly Post:

May 15, 2010

Teenage Boy Shot Dead by Israeli Settler:

My friends and I went out on Thursday night to a bar called La Vie in Ramallah. We listened to some live music, had some drinks, and were having a very nice night. When we decided to go home, the road we walk on leads through the Ramallah Hospital. As we walked through at around 1:30 am, we noticed that there were about a hundred men outside the hospital—which is very unusual for that time of night so we knew something was wrong.

I assumed there had been a fight or something, but my Palestinian friend stopped to talk to some of the people there and ask what was going on as we continued walking. He caught up with us and told us that a teenage boy had been shot by settlers after throwing stones with some friends at the settler cars as they passed. They were near the village of Mazra’a Al Sharqiyya.

My friend looked upset and I asked him if he knew who it was. He told me it was a friend of his…

The boy, Aysar Zaben, had been shot in the back after throwing stones at his shooter’s car. His friends ran away when the settler stopped his car, and apparently Aysar had been running away as well since he was shot in the back. No one found his body until hours later—and Aysar by then had bled to death.

We didn’t know that it was settlers at the time; we assumed the boys had been throwing stones at Israeli jeeps that were raiding in the area. I got a call from one of my friends in the PA and he told me the type of ammunition they found in the boy wasn’t from an M-16—they type of weapon most IDF soldiers carry. Later, we found out it was a settler who killed him. For throwing stones at his car—since when does that warrant killing someone??

Two Settlers Injured by Palestinian Fire

On Friday, two young female settlers were injured as their car was fired on when they were driving in the same area that the Palestinian boy was killed. Again, I got a call from my friend in the PA who asked me if I knew what was happening near Ramallah. I hadn’t heard because I was at the weekly protest in Bil’in at the time.

He told me about what happened and I was very surprised. It’s not common for Palestinians to shoot at settlers or soldiers because most Palestinians do not have guns…just stones. Even the PA soldiers who stand on the streets with Kalashnikovs are not allowed to fire any bullets unless they have already coordinated with and got permission from the Israelis (strange? Ha). So shooting bullets is a very big deal.

Today in the news, I saw that the Imad Mughniyeh Group of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had claimed responsibility for the attack on the settlers. They said that the attack was in response to the killing of Aysar the day before by settlers.

They also said that the attack symbolized their rejection of the indirect peace talks that have begun between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. I don’t blame them because so far, every time there are peace talks, the Palestinians end up making all the compromises and fulfilling the demand s of the Israelis, while the Israeli government gives nothing, and usually takes more land and more concessions from the Palestinians.

IDF Forces Gather Around Ramallah

As my PA friend was telling me about the attack on the settlers, he mentioned that hundreds of IDF soldiers were massing near Ramallah in an attempt to capture the people who shot at the settlers.

That night, there were flares in the sky near Ramallah. Flares are a pretty good sign around here that kind of Israeli military raid or attack is about to begin. So that was kind of scary. Killing of Israelis is not taken lightly by the Israeli government and military—since the two settlers were only injured by the glass that broke when the shots were fired at their car; it was only a raid and not an attack.

There were 3 young Palestinian men detained last night from the village of Sinjel near Ramallah. It’s not clear yet whether they were detained because of the attack on the settlers or whether it was “just another” Israeli raid.

Bil’in Weekly Protest Against the Wall

I went to the Friday protest in Bil’in yesterday, it was a pretty small group of demonstrators, but there was a big percentage of Israeli activists which is always a good thing (despite the fact that a few of them were most likely spies…).

We marched to the wall together and after about 5 minutes of standing at the wall (without throwing one stone…) the IDF started shooting gas grenades at us. Most of the first-time protestors and internationals retreated to the back of the protest, but all of the Palestinians from the village and a small group of internationals and Israelis stayed.

They kept shooting the teargas grenades—the gas they used this week was extremely strong and focused mostly on the eyes. My eyes stung for about 10 minutes after I got out of the gas and were half shut. My face also stung a lot.

Then over a dozen Israeli soldiers came through the fence and chased us down the hill towards the village while shooting teargas at us. They also set off a huge gas bomb that caused a bigger cloud of teargas than the teargas cannon (which shoots out over 30 teargas canisters simultaneously into the air). In that cloud, they caught one Palestinian journalist from Al Arabiyya. Luckily, the rest of us ran fast enough to not be caught in the teargas and we were able to get away from the soldiers.

The soldiers made one more run at us and we went back even further. Then the Palestinian boys from the village started moving towards the soldiers as we all ran away. They started picking up stones and throwing them at the advancing soldiers. The soldiers shot teargas grenades directly at the boys but luckily didn’t hit any of them. The rocks were still flying at the soldiers (in full riot gear and armed to the teeth…) and the soldiers got scared and started to retreat.

The boys followed them back to the fence, still throwing stones at them and being fired at with teargas. Then the soldiers turned around and made a run for the wall and they all went back to the other side. Victory! Haha.

Fire in the Olive Fields

After the soldiers went back to their side of the wall, the boys started throwing stones at the side fence where there were soldiers. The soldiers responded with teargas grenades shot at head level. The gas grenades caught the dry brush in the olive fields around where we protest on fire. Within minutes there were several small fires. And soon after that they turned into a big wildfire that was threatening to burn down olive trees. The people at the front started shouting for everyone to come up and help put out the fire because the weather had been so hot and dry that the fire kept getting bigger and bigger.

We ran up to the fields by the side fence and grabbed olive tree branches to beat the land that was on fire to put it out. Then the soldiers started shooting teargas at us! As we were trying to put out a fire they started! The men ran straight to the fence and started yelling and arguing with the soldiers, who eventually gave us about 15 minutes of ceasefire to try to stop the fire.

We were all beating the fire with the olive tree branches, inhaling regular smoke and teargas at the same time. Eventually, we saved the olive trees and got the fire under control when another fire near the front fence started. Luckily, a fire truck finally arrived at the scene and started to put the front fire out as we took care of the small fires that kept popping up in the first area.

After that the ceasefire was over and the soldiers began shooting teargas at us again and we had to go back. The boys stayed and kept throwing stones at the soldiers for a while longer. The protest organizers declared that the protest was officially over and the demonstrators should leave. Only the boys stayed, the rest of us headed back to the village.

In the end there were a couple of people who were injured by being shot with the teargas grenades, but no serious injuries.

World’s Largest Keffiyeh

And to end on a positive note, Palestinians recently reveiled the world’s largest keffiyeh at Al Muqata (the main military and political headquarters in the West Bank).

The Friend’s Society (a Quaker Society here in Ramallah) organized this event and volunteers began weaving the keffiyeh months ago. The keffiyeh is 500×500 meters and will be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records.

They plan to put the keffiyeh up on another “world’s largest”—the Separation Wall between Israel and the West Bank and then bring the keffiyeh to Palestinian refugee camps outside of Palestine.

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Summary of Israeli Actions in Bil’in in 2010:

May 10, 2010

Detained:

 (While most international and Israelis who are detained are released after a few hours of questioning, the Palestinian detainees, especially from the village, usually are held without being charged for 5 or more months before being released on 10,000 shekel bail.)

1.Ranu Ayub

2.Mohammed Ali Yasin

3.Mohammed Khateeb (Popular Committee member)

4. American activist, “Stormy”

5.Hamdi Abu Rahmeh (Israeli Arab, B’tselem volunteer)

6. Ashraf Abu Rahmeh

7.Haitham Al Khateeb (cameraman, B’tselem volunteer)

8.Muheeb Al Barghouthi

 (Al Haya Al Jadida photojournalist)

9-14. 6 other unidentified protestors detained during same protest

15. Unidentified Israeli woman

16.UnidentifiedPalestinian male

(3) Al Jazeera Crew members:

17.Majdi Banura

18.Nader Abu Ze

19. Unidentified Irish crew member

20.Unidentified female Israeli  activist

21. Ashraf Abu Rahmeh (2nd time)

22. Abed Al Fattah Burnat

23. Haitham Al Khateeb (2nd time)

24. Roy Vackner (Israeli)

25. Uri Baytman (Israeli)

26. “Stormy”, US activist (2nd time)

Home Raids:

 There are Israeli raids in Bil’in almost nightly, here are the reported home invasions since January 2010:

 –Home of Ranu Ayub (twice)

–Home of Muhammed Ali Yasin (1, multiple raids in last half of 2009)

 –Home of Muhammed Khateeb (twice)

  –Home of Abed Al Fattah Burnat

 Masked Soldiers enter the village at night and post signs declaring  Bil’in a “closed military area”—meaning it is illegal for any International or Israeli activist to be at the location of the protest on Fridays…effectively making protests illegal and arrest likely.

Injured Palestinians:

 (other than teargas inhalation…which is dozens of “injuries” per week)

At least a dozen unidentified protestors were struck by teargas canisters and rubber coated bullets without being reported.

 1.Abbas Al Maimuny (journalist, struck by teargas canister)

2.Dr. Rateb Abu Rahmeh

(Popular Committee member, struck by teargas canister)

3.Fadi Aljause (cameraman)

4.Haron Amira (reporter)

5.Bassem Ahmad Yassin

6.Ibrahim Burnat

7.Nayif Ghazi

8.Harun Amaieyarah (Palestine TV correspondent)

9.Fadi Al Jayusi (Popular Committee member)

10.Samir Burney (Popular Committee member)

11. 70 year old Palestinian man struck with teargas canister

12.Haitham ___ struck in chest with teargas canister

Injured Israelis: 

Half a dozen unidentified Israeli activists were struck by teargas canisters or rubber coated steel bullets without being reported.

 1.Eydo Medix

2.54 year-old Israeli solidarity activist

3.Emad Rezqa (from Jaffa—shot in the forehead with a teargas canister)

Killed: 

Since Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed after being shot in the chest with a high velocity teargas canister over a year ago, there have been no fatalities in Bil’in.

 ————————————————————————-

 In the last half of 2009, 5 members of the Bil’in popular committee against the wall (including Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, Adeed Abu Rahmehwere arrested on charges of “incitement”, stone throwing, and collecting exploded teargas canisters shot at them by the IDF

In addition, over 30 other residents of Bil’in were arrested, 94 residents of Ni’lin were arrested in 2009. Seen as part of an arrest wave that targets activists and organizers throughout the West Bank

Jamal Juma, Wael Al Faqee and Mohammed Othman of the Stop the Wall NGO have also been arrested—both are being held without being charged and on “secret evidence”

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Weekly Post:

April 27, 2010

Sinai Visa Trip:

I just got back to Ramallah from my travels. I spent 2 weeks in Sinai, the original plan was to spend a few days in Nuweiba at the Bedouin camp I always stay at, Sababa, and then go to mainland Egypt to see Luxor and Aswan. That didn’t work out as planned because of the visa bureaucracy involved with entering Sinai from Israel through the Taba border. Egypt gives out 2 types of visas, one just for Sinai and one for mainland Egypt. If you come into Sinai from Taba, they automatically give you the Sinai-only visa—I think because they are trying to keep the Israeli tourists in a small area so they can better keep track of them (for their safety….).

So even though I’m not Israeli, I still came from Israel so they gave me the Sinai only visa. My friends Chris and Julian and I tried to get the Egypt visa from the Egyptian consulate in Eilat but since it was Friday the consulate was closed for the next 2 days. We didn’t want to wait in Eilat for 2 days so we decided that there must be another way to get the Egyptian visa from Sinai and we crossed the border. At the Egyptian side, we asked about the Egyptian visa and a man told us we could get it only if we paid 50 dollars to get a letter from a travel agency taking “responsibility” for us. We didn’t want to pay that bribe so we decided to try and find it in Sharm El Sheikh at the ferry to Hurghada (mainland Egypt).

Sababa and the Egyptian Visa Fiasco:

We went to Sababa camp in Nuweiba for a few days and relaxed on the Red Sea beaches, snorkeling and laying out in the sun. After a few days we took the first of 2 trips down to Sharm to try to get the visa to Egypt. Long story short—it’s impossible to get the visa on the ferry. You have to have the visa even to buy the ticket for the ferry. In order to get the visa, you have to do three things: First, pay 15 dollars to buy the Egyptian visa sticker, then pay 50 dollars bribe to get the letter from the travel agency, then go to the Sharm airport, go out of immigration like you are taking a flight, and then turn around and come back in and get the official stamp on the visa sticker.

On the first trip, we didn’t know about that whole process, so we just went straight to the ferry and tried to get on without the visa—hoping we could get the visa when we arrived in Egypt (like any normal visa process…) but they wouldn’t let us. So we drove all the way back to Nuweiba (2 ½ hour drive north) and decided to try again the next day—following the instructions we got from the officials at the ferry.

We drove back down to Sharm the next day—went to Thomas Cook travel agency to get the 15 dollar visa sticker. We asked them if they would write the letter for us so we could get the visa stamped at the airport. They told us we didn’t need it, the sticker was all we needed and that we should go to the airport to get the stamp.

So we drove to the airport (all the while the taxi meter is running….ughh) and went to Terminal 1. We went out immigration and tried to get the stamp. The guy told us we needed the letter, after arguing for a bit about what Thomas Cook told us, we asked where we could get the letter in the airport. He said there was a travel agency in the same terminal. So we went to information, and after being passed from person to person (taking about 45 minutes…) they said we had to go to Terminal 2.

We ran over to Terminal 2 and asked around about travel agencies. After the same, “Go ask this guy” process of being passed from person to person so they wouldn’t have to help us, someone finally told us there was no travel agency in Terminal 2 but there was one in Terminal 3. AHHHHH!

So off we went to Terminal 3 (meter is still running in the taxi…) and saw what looked like a Russian refugee camp. The entire terminal was packed solid with Russian tourists camped out sitting on the ground surrounded by luggage. We had to fight our way through them to find the information desk. When we finally made it to the desk, the man said there was no travel agency in Terminal 3 that could write the letter, but he knew a guy in Terminal 1 that could write it for us.

Back to Terminal 1, and we waited by the information desk for this guy to find us for about 20 minutes. Finally, a guy in a shiny suit, gelled hair, with a used-car salesmen vibe found us. He told us he could write the letter for us for 100 dollars each—all the while with a smirk on his face letting us know he knew exactly what he was doing and that he was our only chance for getting this visa so he could bribe us for as much as he wanted.

I decided to screw the Egyptian visa and the whole Luxor-Aswan trip because I was not about to pay 100 dollars to THIS guy—especially since I had spent most of my budget for the trip on the two trips down to Sharm trying to figure out how to get the stupid visa. So we returned to the taxi and asked him to drive us up to Dahab.

Dahab:

Dahab is a city on the Red Sea about mid-way between Sharm and Nuweiba. It’s more developed than Nuweiba but not as touristy as Sharm (which is mostly just huge glitzy resorts and nothing else…) so it’s a nice place to spend a week or so.

After my friend and I got to Dahab, another friend of ours from Ramallah, Lazar, arrived and we spent the next week in Dahab snorkeling and hanging out with the locals Lazar and I had met in previous trips to Sinai. Dahab was really busy because of the ash-cloud from the Iceland volcano—most of the tourists were British and the rest were European so their flights were all cancelled for a week. So we met a lot of people, relaxed on the beaches, and saw some really cool coral and fish.

Israeli Border:

Lazar was planning to stay in Sinai for a few weeks, but I had to get back up to Palestine for my work so Chris and I went back up to Nuweiba for one night before crossing the border back into Israel. The next day we went through the border. Chris got a three month visa after a thorough security check where the border guards opened all of his luggage and x-rayed everything individually. I didn’t even get that security check but at the passport control I was unlucky and got a soldier who wasn’t very accommodating.

She saw my previous Israeli visas (almost a year’s worth already) and asked what I was doing “in Israel” all this time. I played the tourist card and when she asked more questions about why I wanted to be in Israel so long without being Jewish I told her I had a Jewish boyfriend. This kind of convinced her but she ended up only giving me a one-month visa (usually signaling the end of the ability to get more visas in the future) and telling me if I needed a little longer to wait for my “flight home” I could go to the Ministry of Interior in Tel Aviv and apply for an extension. The Ministry of Interior is probably one of the scariest places in Israel, but I will have to go there in a couple of weeks and hope they take pity on me—my family is finally coming to visit me and see the region in June, so I need to be here for at least a month after my visa runs out.

Anyways, I took my passport and one month visa and took the bus ride from hell back up from Eilat. We met an American guy at the exit of the border—he asked us if we wanted to share a cab to the bus station. We got to talking and it turns out he had just come out of 3 hours of Israeli interrogation in the border (thank God—if it wasn’t him it might have been one of us….). He made the terrible mistake of mentioning “Ramallah” to the border guard. For the record, you cannot mention anything related to Palestine, Islam, or Arabic anything when you are talking to the border guards if you want to get in the country without problems. Since he mentioned Ramallah—which I’m not even sure he knew was in Palestine, he got 3 hours of interrogation before they realized he wasn’t a threat to Israel and gave him a visa.

When we got to the bus station we realized that we had missed the last bus to Jerusalem because of the surprise one hour difference between Taba and Eilat, so we had to get the bus to Tel Aviv instead. That means adding an extra 2 hours at the least onto an already excruciating journey. So we got that bus, after 5 hours arrived in Tel Aviv and looked for a sherut (minibus) to Jerusalem outside. To our surprise, the sherut driver was Arab Israeli and agreed to take us all the way to the Qalandia checkpoint instead of just central Jerusalem.

West Bank:

At Qalandia, the driver didn’t know exactly where to park so before we could stop him he drove all the way into the car lane for entering the West Bank before he stopped. He was very worried with all the soldiers carrying M-16s around. We got out quickly to grab our bags and let him get out of the wrong part of the checkpoint. As we were opening the back, the soldiers started yelling at us in Hebrew to get out of there. We told them just wait one minute and he will leave. Then the soldiers in the watch towers started screaming at the driver to go, so he started driving off in a panic with the back door open and half of our bags in his trunk. Ha.

We managed to get him to stop for 10 more seconds before he sped away from the madness and we got all of our bags. Jason, the American guy we met at the border, had agreed to come straight to Ramallah with us instead of spending a night or two in Jerusalem first. So he got a pretty crazy first impression of the occupation. We dragged and pulled at our bags to get them through the THREE turnstiles we have to walk through in Qalandia checkpoint to get into the West Bank, and caught a cab home on the “other side.”

We agreed to meet the next morning in the center to go to the protest against the wall in Bil’in—Jason would have a very interesting time in the West Bank. Haha.

Bil’in Conference and Protest:

The next morning we got to Al Manara (the central square in Ramallah) and took a service (minibus) to Bil’in. This week was the annual Bil’in conference—they had three days of workshops and tours for internationals and Israelis coming to visit Bil’in to learn about their nonviolent struggle. So there were a lot more people than usual, including important politicians and the representative from the EU for Palestine.

We marched to the wall, and for a little bit the soldiers didn’t shoot at us. Then, they pulled up the skunk water truck and most of the crowd disappeared in a few seconds. They never shot it though, so some of the braver protestors began making their way back up to the front.

After that, the soldiers started shooting a new kind of teargas canister—it is high velocity and SILENT. You can’t hear when its shot—which is what most people use to determine whether they need to run or duck or whatever. So by the time you see it its either passing right by you or hitting you. It was the craziest thing—and the soldiers were shooting them straight at head level instead of up into the air in the legal way to disperse nonviolent crowds.

I was going nowhere near the front because those crazy silent teargas canisters were appearing out of nowhere in all directions. A friend of mine that I work with, Rafke, was in the front though. A few seconds later I heard a lot of yelling for an ambulance, and the ambulance sped up to the front. I couldn’t see what was going on through the crowd surrounding whoever had been hit. Then I started seeing the blood….on people’s hands, clothes, and all over the ambulance door as it sped away towards the hospital (which is 30 minutes away, and not the hospital you want to be taken to in critical condition).

I heard what happened—a man from Jaffa (near Tel Aviv) had been hit in the forehead with one of the silent, high velocity teargas canisters. It broke open his skull—which explained the blood everywhere and the speed with which the ambulance drove away. Then I saw Rafke, looking pretty shocked, with some other of our friends walking quickly down the hill away from the front.

Turns out she was standing right next to the guy who was shot—shoulder to shoulder almost. She said she didn’t hear or see the canister; the guy was standing next to her one second then the next he had a metal teargas canister sticking out of his forehead, with blood spilling everywhere.

She said the guy was conscious when he was put in the ambulance, and actually he stood up and kind of walked into the ambulance. When a person is injured that traumatically, they don’t feel the pain at first—because they are in shock I guess. Not as traumatic for sure, but when I was shot in the leg with a high velocity teargas canister I didn’t feel any pain for an hour. But after that I couldn’t even stand up—and I still have a bruise in the shape of the canister on my leg almost a year later.

During this whole time, the sadistic Israeli soldiers were still shooting these canisters at the crowd—while the guy was being taken into the ambulance, and while the rest of us were trying to get out of range after we saw this guy who everyone thought was going to die before he reached the hospital. I was really scared because I was standing next to a short stone wall and these silent teargas canisters would just appear next to me out of nowhere. I couldn’t avoid them because I couldn’t see or hear them, and they were being shot from 2 directions—the fence at the front of the protest, and the fence that runs alongside the protest. So I grabbed my friend Barbara who was standing upright and we crouched down in these thorn bushes behind the wall to avoid being the next one shot in the head.

Then gas canisters were flying everywhere, and everyone panicked and tried to run away back to the village. But the road that leads back to the village is parallel to the side-fence (with soldiers shooting at us from behind it) so the whole time we were running back the teargas canisters were being shot at us from all directions—at head level.  As we ran along the road in panicked groups, teargas canisters were flying through the olive trees in the field beside the fence.

I took cover behind the trunk of an olive tree with a couple other people—piled on top of each other so that we were all covered by the small tree, and canisters were appearing from nowhere and flying past us. So we took off again down the road, through clouds of teargas, choking and running. I finally made it to the safe spot where a lot of the protestors were gathering to watch what was happening. Then the soldiers shot the long range teargas canisters at us and we had to move further back.

We were all really shaken up, still being teargassed every now and then, and waiting for news of the man who was shot in the head. Most people were saying that he was going to be dead before he got to the hospital. Finally we heard that he made it to the hospital and was in critical condition, but stable, and he was going to live—even if that meant a yearlong coma and brain damage like the American protestor Tristan Anderson who was shot in the head with the same kind of teargas canister in Ni’lin (another village that does weekly protests against the wall).

As we were recovering, the soldiers climbed over the fence and started charging at us and shooting teargas. Usually when they do this, they run at us for like 50 meters just to scare us further back, and then they turn around. This time, they didn’t stop so we all had to sprint away up the hill—lungs full of teargas and choking. In the end they arrested 4 people that they caught.

I decided enough is enough, and we went back to my friend Jaber’s house in the village to decompress on his roof in the sun—away from soldiers and teargas. His mom had made an amazing lunch for us—musakhan (bread covered in oil, onions, and spices) and chicken. We ate until we couldn’t eat another bite and then laid out in the sun for a while before going back to Ramallah.

Settlers in Hebron:

The next day, we found out, there was going to be a new spot for weekly protests—Hebron. They would be protesting against the illegal Israeli settlement right in the middle of their old city. One of the most violent places for interaction between Israeli settlers and Palestinians is in the middle of Hebron. The settlers have taken over the central marketplace by getting all of the upper apartments over the Arab stores below. From their apartments, the settlers throw stones, glass, sewage water, boiling water, etc…down on to the Arab market below. For this reason, the Palestinians have had to put chain link fencing over the alleyways to catch projectiles thrown at them and tourists by the settlers.

The Israeli military protects the settlers by putting checkpoints all over the old city marketplace and putting bases and lookouts on the roofs—so there is a very heavy military presence in the center of this Palestinian city. I heard from one soldier that being assigned to Hebron to protect the settlers is almost a punishment in the Israeli army—because they know how crazy and uncontrollable the settlers are. If a settler gets the urge, they can beat up any Palestinian they come across, or grab the veil off of an old Palestinian woman, and have a soldier grudgingly protect them from any repercussion.

The settlers in Hebron walk around with M-16’s slung casually over their shoulders, and when the settlers need to go anywhere, the military closes the roads they will walk on to Palestinians, and escorts them with soldiers and M-16’s—causing lots of chaos for no reason.

The Palestinians in the old city decided that it was time to start weekly, nonviolent protests there as well since the other villages like Bil’in and Ni’lin were getting so much press and the Palestinian Authority had started recommending mass nonviolent protests around the West Bank.

So we all decided to go support them in their first protest—knowing that it would probably be crazy because of the reputation of Hebron’s settlers. We got to the marketplace and couldn’t see any groups gathering, and no one seemed to know about any protests. So we walked further down the market place and found the protest. It was mostly Palestinians and Israeli activists (which is how it should be…) along with press.

Hebron Protest:

The protest was right in front of the gate that blocks Shuhada Street—a street the military closed to Palestinians because the settlers wanted it. The closures and checkpoints in the marketplace have had a devastating effect on the economy in Hebron—by forcing Arab shop owners to close their shops and scaring tourists away with violence and guns. If a settler wants an Arab shop to close, they will threaten them by marking their store up with racist graffiti and warning them not to open again (does that sound familiar? World War II and the Holocaust….?). It’s sick.

We stood there in front of the gate—which had a watch tower to the side of it, 3 soldiers standing outside the tower with guns, and one inside taking pictures and video of the protestors to make it easier to arrest them later…on the left side of the gate is a huge Yeshiva (Jewish religious school) and the settlers were standing on the roof watching us with smirks on their faces. There were military posts on all the roofs surrounding us—full of heavily armed soldiers and other soldiers taking pictures of our faces.

We chanted slogans for about an hour, attracting more Palestinian protestors from the old city, before marching down through the old city to a closed street. In a narrow alleyway, the protestors came face to face with a group of settlers and soldiers. They stood facing each other and chanting for the end of settlement in the old city for a while before about a dozen heavily armed Israeli soldiers ran at them from behind.

Everybody scattered to avoid being arrested. Then the situation calmed down a little bit and we walked back to the gate where the protest started, side by side with the soldiers who had just charged at us to disperse us. There were more of us than them, although they had M-16s and other weapons, we were surrounding them as we walked back to through the alleyways, and they kept looking over their shoulders and seemed very uncomfortable—as if we would do anything!

We got back to the gate and heard that one Israeli activist had been arrested, and he was being interrogated and “processed” behind the gate. Then we heard that a group of settlers was moving through the old city with a military escort and would be going in through the gate. So we tried to do a sit-in style protest to block the gate, but the soldiers started pushing all the protestors back before they could even sit down. Then some protestors (mostly Israeli) started pushing and shoving the soldiers.

I was watching from a distance because if an Israeli activist gets arrested, they get a slap on the wrist and are released within an hour, whereas if an international gets arrested, they get deported and banned from Israel (and therefore Palestine) forever. (Of course, the worst is still if you are Palestinian and arrested, in which case you get a severe beating and are thrown in jail for months without even being charged with anything—at the end of which they have to pay a huge fine to be released).

I saw an Israeli activist and an Israeli soldier fighting each other—then the soldier got behind him and wrapped his arm around the activist’s neck and was choking him down to the ground violently. After that, the other protestors went to stop the soldier and started a huge brawl where dozens of protestors were pushing and shoving with the soldiers. After that, the Israeli soldiers dragged off a few more people (2 Israeli and 1 Palestinian from the Hebron Popular Committee—who organized the protest) behind the gate to be arrested.

After this, the soldiers locked arms to make a wall to block the protestors from getting too close to the group of settlers that were coming through the old city to go through the gate. A few dozen teenage settlers walked casually behind the wall of soldiers with their military escort, smirking at us arrogantly. Then they went through the gate and disappeared into the Yeshiva. The soldiers went in behind them and closed the gate. We saw that the soldiers on the rooftops were preparing to shoot teargas to finish off the protest so the organizers decided that we should leave so the Palestinians who lived in the area would not get teargassed because of us.

Road Trip–Golan Heights:

After the weekend of protests, some friends of mine invited me on a trip to the north in Israel to see the Golan Heights, Galilee and the North West coastline (Haifa, Akko, and Caesarea). I decided to join them on the first night only which was camping in the Golan.

The Golan Heights was Syrian until it was occupied by the Israeli military in the 1967 war. Since then it has been an extremely contentious issue between the Syrian and Israeli governments and is used as a bargaining chip by Israel to blackmail Syria into establishing better relations with Israel. The territory is scattered with mine fields leftover from the beginning of the occupation—most of the mine fields are marked by barbed wire fences and skull and bones signs, but every now and then lost tourists and locals stumble into them accidently.

We were going to stay in official campsites only for this reason, ha. The north of Israel has a lot of national parks but according to the guidebook we had only a couple had sites for overnight camping. We chose one called Hurshat National Park, which is almost to the Lebanese border (called the “Good Fence” by Israel, hahaha). It was supposed to have the Dan River running through it so we thought it would be nice.

Armageddon (Megiddo) City:

On the way there, we drove through Megiddo (also called Armageddon…) which is an ancient city, and national park now, which is mentioned in many End Times prophesies in the Abrahamic religions. It is supposed to be the place where the final battle of Armageddon starts. So since we were driving through it, we decided to stop and see the ancient ruins of the city. After we passed the MacDonald’s (ahahahaha) we found the signs pointing to the museum and ruins.

The ancient city of Megiddo had been destroyed 25 times in its history because of its strategic location on the main travelling road between Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was established (as far as we know) in 7,000 BC and destroyed for the last time in 586 BC. It has as many archaeological layers that have been uncovered that tell its history. We parked outside the museum and ate some hummus and bread while looking out over the wide plains that stretch for miles where the End Times battle is supposed to take place. It looked very peaceful to us…

We paid the 25 shekel admission and watched a short film about the history of the site, browsed the museum, and walked around the ruins. Because the city was destroyed so many times, there were huge walls surrounding it to keep the people safe. But their water source was outside of the walls. To reach the water source without leaving the safety of the walls, they dug a long tunnel that began in the city and led to the underground spring outside the city.

They have excavated the tunnel and we walked through it. It’s really amazing, you walk down these stone steps deep underground, and then there is a very well made, uniform in height and width, tunnel that leads to a spring that still has water in it.

Nazareth:

After Megiddo, we headed on north to Nazareth. Nazareth (like the rest of the “Arab Triangle”—the area to the north of the West Bank in Israel that has a high Arab population) is a very Arab town, but mostly Christian Arabs, not Muslim. Over the hill from the center and Old City is the Jewish Israeli part of town.

Because it was Sunday, the Christian holiday, the Old City was completely closed along with most of the restaurants and shops in town. Luckily, the Church of the Annunciation (where Mary received the message that she would be the mother of Jesus) was open for tourists and we were at least able to take a look around inside before we headed north.

The church is very big and the architecture is modern—and very gray except for the bright stained glass windows. There are three levels to the church, the bottom is the ancient church that archaeologists have uncovered, the 2nd is a silent chapel, and the 3rd story is a Catholic church. Outside the church is the most interesting part for me—there is artwork sent from many different countries portraying Mary holding the baby Jesus. It’s interesting because each is done in the cultural style of the country that donated it…and they are all either mosaics or made with ceramic tiles.

Sea of Galilee:

About half an hour from Nazareth is the Sea of Galilee/Lake Tiberius and the Israeli city Tiberius. The sea is where Jesus is said to have walked on water—and archaeologists have recently discovered a boat dating from Jesus’ time almost fully preserved in the sea that you can see in a museum there. We stopped there and sat by the sea for a while, ate some gelato, and then continued on to the Golan Heights.

Hurshat National Park:

We got to the park around sunset, and the camping ground turned out to be a very unnatural park looking place with part of the Dan River diverted through the middle of it. It was nice, but definitely not an authentic camping experience.

We set up our site and made a fire and cooked hotdogs and roasted marshmallows. Most of the people in the park were Arab Israelis and Druze—Arabic music was blasting from every site and the smell of kebab was everywhere.

We walked around the campsite and came to a group of young men smoking arghile, listening to Arabic music, and dancing dabke. We joined them for a little bit and started talking to them in our broken Arabic about how we came from Ramallah—where we worked. They didn’t believe us, and started laughing. Then they said something about Israeli soldiers in the campground. We looked around, and then they were like “No. WE are Israeli soldiers.”

We looked at them confused, and asked if they were joking as Amr Diab sang “Habibi, Habibi…” in the background. Then they said they were Druze, not Arab. There are some small Druze communities in northern Israel, especially in the Golan Heights since Syria has a pretty large Druze community. The Druze, unlike the Arab Israelis, are allowed by the Israeli government to serve in the Israeli army—since they don’t identify with the Palestinian cause and are not Muslims.

We talked for a little bit about our work in Palestine, and joked about them being the soldiers who shot at us in the protests in Bil’in and Hebron. Then the guys realized we weren’t joking about being from Palestine and they started getting uncomfortable. Soon after, they shook our hands as we sat there and said “BYE! BYE!” with the intimidating look of Israeli soldiers we all knew so well.

We took the hint and left their site and returned to our own corner.

Golan Heights:

The next morning we left camp early and drove around the Golan Heights. We stopped by a beautiful lake called Lake Ram, which was next to a Druze village. It was so beautiful that we sat there for about an hour and ate lunch at a little covered seating area we came across. Soon after, some Druze men came over in traditional clothing (black billowy pants and white square shaped hats) and said welcome and told us about the fish that they catch in the lake, and the cherry and apple trees they grow on the terraces on the hills that surround the lake. It was very idyllic and the people were so friendly and welcoming.

We continued on to Nimrod’s Castle—which is a large stone fort on top of a mountain that is said to have been built by Nimrod (a character from the book of Genesis) but was actually built by the Crusaders in the 12th century.

As we drove on, we passed more mine fields that were marked by barbed wire fences.

We were trying to find the Quneitra viewpoint where you can see Syria and the disengagement zone (a few kilometers wide) that separates the occupied Golan Heights from Syria. We found a nice spot to see it and there were some Druze men selling Za’atar, honey, olives, and other things. There are some spots in the Golan Heights where Druze can call across the disengagement zone to their families on the Syrian side who have been separated since the occupation—and not allowed to physically meet each other unless they decide to give up the right to ever come back to Golan.

Druze Villages:

There are two famous Druze villages in the Golan Heights which have held onto their Syrian identity and are fiercely anti-Israel. They are called Mas’ada and Majd As-Shams. We drove through Mas’ada and continued on to Majd As-Shams which is the larger and more authentic of the two. You could see women in the traditional white, semi-transparent veil and long black dress and the men with their square shaped white hats.

We stopped to get coffee at a restaurant and when we went up to pay the man wouldn’t take any money from us. He was so friendly and welcoming, along with all the other people we came across in the town. I definitely recommend visiting these Druze villages—they are very different than the confused Druze who serve in the Israeli army. ha

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Israeli Soldiers Push Man Off 3rd Floor Balcony

March 18, 2010

Yesterday, there were big clashes at Qalandia checkpoint and the refugee camp. There were hundreds of kids out there protesting the recent Israeli actions regarding Al Aqsa mosque. 

There is a widespread fear that the escalating Israeli invasions of the Al Aqsa compound and the opening of a new synagogue (Hurva) which represents the national-political Jewish movement’s goal of reclaiming Jerusalem (and Al Aqsa) for their eternal capital. There was also supposed to be an ultra-orthodox Israeli march around Al Aqsa where they put the cornerstone down for the third temple–symbolizing the end of Al Aqsa and the beginning of the end times.

The Israeli soldiers respond to the stones with rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition, and teargas canisters shot at head level.

The soldiers take positions on top of some apartment buildings in the refugee camp to shoot at the kids below. Yesterday, the soldiers invaded a home on the third floor of the building and started beating 25 year old Abdullah Lafee.

After they beat him to the point where his face was cut and bleeding, they pushed him off of the balcony–on the third floor. But they weren’t finished yet.

The soldiers went down to where he fell and continued beating him there. He is still alive and in the hospital recovering.

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At Atara checkpoint, between Birzeit and Ramallah, there was a demonstration where a soldier was injured by a stone. The soldiers ended up shooting more than 20 Palestinians rubber coated steel bullets–including one in the head–a serious injury.