Posts Tagged ‘resistance’

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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:

March 14, 2010

 West Bank Closure Extended

 Well, for part of this past week, the Israeli government decided to seal off the West Bank checkpoints. Internationals and those seeking medical treatment, or who have jobs in Israel are technically allowed to pass. I went through Qalandia checkpoint on Friday and Saturday and they were turning away most of the Palestinians, even the ones who had the permit to go to Jerusalem or a blue ID (that means they were born in Jerusalem and are allowed to cross into Israel).

 The closure was supposed to end on Sunday but has been extended to at least Tuesday.

 Tension at Al Aqsa Mosque

 This extension is most likely due to the recent tensions at Al Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israeli settlers and police have invaded the compound at least once in the past week and have stated that they will enter again.

 Whenever they invade the compound, the Palestinian youth defend the mosque by protesting and trying to prevent the settlers from entering. Israel usual has a few undercover guys who mix in with the Palestinians and incite the crowd by throwing stones, glass or other objects in the direction of the police. After that, the Israeli police and military can respond in whatever way they want.

 Old City Restrictions

 Israel’s assault on the Old City’s Palestinian residents doesn’t stop there. The IDF stormed most of the Old City’s Palestinian stalls and shops, confiscating the IDs of anyone not living in the Old City. Those people are then supposed to go to the temporary checkpoints at the Damascus and Herods gate to collect their papers—and they will most likely not allowed to return to their shops.

 There are already strict restrictions on which Palestinians can enter the Old City because of the tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque. Only those Palestinian males over 50 or young children are allowed into the Old City. These restrictions have been in place for a few days now, and prevent people from reaching their jobs and their homes.

 Nablus Mosque Receives Demolition Order

 Claiming that the construction of the Salman Al Farisi Mosque is illegal because it does not have the correct building license, Israel has issued a demolition order on the mosque. The residents, who contributed their own money to build this mosque—which is already 3 floors tall, have the option to demolish it themselves or let the Israeli IDF demolish it (which residents will have to pay for!).

 Nonviolent Resistance

 Iraq Bourin

 In Iraq Bourin, a village near Nablus, 6 people were injured as they nonviolently protested against the theft of their land. On the march towards their stolen land, Israeli settlers entered the village to provoke the villagers. The IDF came “to intervene” and fired teargas; rubber coated steel bullets, and sound bombs on the demonstrators. One Danish national was injured.

 Testing New Weapons on Demonstrators

 Many protestors from the past weeks protests have claimed that the IDF is using new weapons—and perhaps even testing these new weapons on West Bank protestors. In Sheikh Jarrah, the IDF soldiers were wearing their ammunition strapped across their chests—instead of bullets it was the high-velocity teargas canisters that killed my friend Bassem in Bil’in, except now the tips of the bullet-shaped teargas canisters are blue. Don’t know what the difference is in practice between the two.

 I also heard that the IDF is testing new explosive devices, but no more details on that yet.

 Sheikh Jarrah

 In Sheikh Jarrah this Friday there were about 300 protestors—mostly Israeli activists. It was the most boring protest I’ve ever been to! We couldn’t even walk down the street to the houses that are supposed to be demolished, which is the point. The police blocked the street with some barriers and that was enough to stop the protest.

 So when the Israeli group arrived from West Jerusalem we all just stood on a little hill by the police barriers and shouted slogans. Then about 5 police/military vans showed up full of Israeli soldiers with the high-velocity blue-tipped teargas canisters strapped across their chests like Rambo. As if they could use those in such a close space, and on Israeli activists?

 I think just to mess with us; they had the police-soldiers push us across the street. This was the only time there was trouble. Some Israeli activists resisted and the police carried them off to be detained for 5 minutes—making a big show for the photographers as they were fighting and being carried away.

 After that, we stood on the other side of the street doing nothing, surrounded by the police who wouldn’t so much as let us step off the sidewalk. Some settlers showed up later and threw stones (the ONLY ones who threw stones at Sheikh Jarrah this week –and normally). They also attacked some people eating in restaurants in the area by stoning them. One was injured.

 Beit Ummar

4 protestors were detained in Beit Ummar protests, including at least one journalist. Several internationals that have been living in the village were assaulted by the Israeli military for no apparent reason.

 Ni’lin

 The protest in Ni’lin this week was in honor of Tristan Anderson, an American activist that was shot in the head by the same high velocity teargas canister that killed Bassem in Bil’in. He was in a coma for about a year and just recently woke up—it’s still not clear what kind of damage the injury and coma have done to his brain. His parents have brought a case against the Israeli military for his injuries.

Rachel Corrie’s parents recently brought a case to the Israeli Supreme Court suing for damages after her death a few years ago when an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer ran her over. So far, the Israeli government has not accepted any responsibility for their crime.

Bil’in

Bil’in villagers and international activists protested in solidarity with the residents of the Old City in Jerusalem. Dozens were teargassed and 2 children were shot with rubber coated steel bullets.

Nabe Saleh

It was a very violent protest in Nabe Saleh this week. There were reportedly 20 injuries from rubber coated steel bullets, including 3 in the head that required hospital treatment. All of those shot were under 25 years old.

Ehab Barghouthi, 14, who was shot in the head last week with a rubber coated steel bullet that entered his skull above his right eye is now breathing for himself and slowly recovering.

Netanyahu’s Slap in the Face to the US

On the exact day when US VP Biden visited the region to try to advance indirect peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Israeli government announced the approval of 1600 new housing units in illegal settlements around East Jerusalem.

The US has made its position on settlement expansion perfectly clear to the Israeli government–and has agreed with the Palestinian government that peace talks are impossible without a settlement freeze. The announcement and its timing were a slap in the face to the US–who is Israel’s closest (and only?) ally. Without the 7 million dollars a day in military aid the US gives to Israel, the country would be completely insecure.

The arrogance of the Israeli government knows no bounds! Hopefully the US will teach them a little respect. But I doubt it…

Side Note:

Since the West Bank is seriously lacking in nice parks to lay out in the sun in during the summer, my roommate discovered a park in West Jerusalem that has a stream running through it and some trees and everything. We went there yesterday to celebrate the beautiful day.

Today I found out its built on top of an old Palestinian cemetery?! In 1965, the Israeli government decided to relocate the graves of some of the most important leaders and Arab residents of Jerusalem back to 1000 years ago.

During the construction that involved relocating the graves and remains to another site, human remains were reported to be strewn across the site. The Jerusalem authorities were unresponsive to Palestinian outcries against this desecration.

So thats where I was laying in the sun yesterday. #*@&!&! Only in Israel…………

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Experience a Nonviolent Protest in Palestine

February 24, 2010

Experience a  Nonviolent Protest in Palestine:

We gather at the center of the village in time for the Friday noon prayer.  The men and women from the village gather at the mosque to pray while Palestinians, Internationals, Israelis, and press arrive from Israel and all over the West Bank.

We wait outside the mosque in a growing crowd as the khutbah finishes in the mosque and the people pray. There are  familiar faces for those that go to the protests regularly—most times people that you don’t see any other time that at various protests around the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Everyone chats and mills around until the prayer is finished.

There’s always some new people—usually Americans or Europeans—who have never been to a protest before in their lives. They make sure their camera batteries are charged and adjust their colored kuffiyehs around their necks. They seem excited and a little nervous.

Then the shabab from the village and other places around the West Bank show up…usually wearing kuffiyehs or some other kind of scarf or shirt over their faces. They do this to avoid being photographed by the Israeli army and subsequently arrested, and of course to protect themselves from teargas. A few hold slingshots and some are gathering stones from the side of the street. They are making jokes and relaxed, but ready for the soldiers.

The village popular struggle committee leader arrives with a loudspeaker that he tries, usually in vain, to control the protest. We start by marching all together towards the site of the Apartheid Wall.

As we march, the leaders chant slogans in Arabic, Hebrew, and sometimes English like “La, la al jidar”…phrases about the wall falling, Israel being fascist (chanted most emphatically by the Israeli activists), and an end to the occupation.

We get closer to the site of the wall, and the soldiers come into view ahead of us. (In some villages, there is a fence between the soldiers and the protestors, in most though, the soldiers meet the protestors in the street, fields, or even inside the village before we even have a chance to march to the wall).

In most cases, we go as far as we can, still shouting for an end to the occupation, and the leader with the loudspeaker has managed to keep the shabaab from throwing stones so far. The Israel military is usually the one who starts the violence first—either because we walk “too close” to them or make it across to the villagers’ stolen land (which is now used as a security buffer zone, or for a settlement to be built on, or for a “Jewish only road”).

Sometimes the Israeli military ‘warns’ us over their own loudspeakers that our demonstration is “illegal” and that we are in a “closed military zone” and that if we don’t leave we “will be hurt.” These phrases pretty much mean that we are demonstrating at our own risk and if anything happens to us, the Israeli army, as usual, has its ‘out’ because they ‘warned’ us.  

They have a range of ‘sound effects’ to use during the demonstration if they are bored or just in the mood. One is a piercing high pitched sound that is emitted over the loudspeaker and forces you to go as far away as possible or else your ears will be in a lot of pain. On the humorous side, they also have what sounds like the sound effects from a military training video game or something- from the Americans of course.  It has an alarm noise, then an American-accented military official says “Warning, small boat approaching a navy vessel!” It’s so strange.

IDF Response

The military usually opens up with some teargas grenades shot straight at the protestors, not at the internationally agreed upon 45 degree angle for civilian crowd dispersal. At the first shots, we usually lose about half of the protestors—the ones that have never been teargassed before and aren’t excited about trying it.

So even though the grenades and canisters land nowhere near them, those demonstrators are halfway back to the village in seconds and don’t come back to the front.

After that, the man with the loudspeaker can’t do anything to stop the shabaab from throwing stones at the Israeli military. They are the ones in the front, the ones who aren’t afraid of being face to face with a soldier who is aiming a gun in your direction—that situation is familiar to them even for preteens.

They fan out to different areas in the fields to get some kind of protection from their position behind a rock terrace or near an olive tree. They sling stone after stone at the soldiers behind the fence or behind their riot gear (including a full length plastic shield, padded uniforms, helmet and plastic mask for their faces.  The soldiers seem scared. SCARED behind their gear, not to mention ammunition. They are literally scared of a 10 year old boy holding a slingshot who is more likely to hit another boy than a soldier.

But every once in a while we hear cheering and “Allahu Akbars” when the shabaab hit a jeep or a soldier’s shield with one of the stones. Sometimes they throw balloons full of pink paint at the soldiers too…which is funny because I see Israeli jeeps every once in a while on the roads with pink paint splatters on the side.

Darban Truck

After the first volleys of stones and teargas, the Israeli army gets serious. In the summer time, they bring in the ‘Darban’ truck. This is one of the most ridiculously base and evil thing the Israelis have created—it is a white truck that drives up and starts shooting a huge spray of what looks like green water. For someone who hasn’t experienced the darban, they would think it was basic crowd control with a water hose.

Not in Palestine—imagine the worst smells you can think of, ones that would make you want to puke. Now mix all of those together and you still have no idea what this is like. We don’t know for sure how they make it, but the theories are that it is a mixture of sewage water (from settlers), sulfur and other chemicals, and animal parts (cow intestines is a popular rumor).

Regardless of what it is made of, it smells like shit and skunk mixed together and multiplied by a million in terms of foulness. If you get a drop on your skin you will smell for days. If you step on the ground where it has been sprayed your shoes will smell for days.

There are always a few people who either don’t know to run as fast as possible or think it is just water or who are just trapped and can’t get away. They get completely drenched in this shit water. I will never forget the scene from last week at Bil’in after the soldiers shot the shit water.

Bil’in 5 Year Anniversary

It was the beginning of the protest, the soldiers were not even at the wall yet. And it was the 5 year anniversary of Bil’ins protests against the wall, so there were about a 1000 protestors (usually a couple hundred) and lots of international press. The more press and internationals there are the safer the protest because the Israelis wouldn’t want to get caught doing anything too crazy by someone who can show it around the world.

So the shabaab took advantage of that fact and started literally tearing down the two fences that are the future site of the wall. These are strong metal, barbed wired, razor wired tall fences with surveillance cameras on them and everything. The boys just started pulling the fence, then jumping on it, and eventually pulled down both fences and made it to their stolen land on the other side!

When the soldiers saw this, they went crazy and drove up in jeeps and brought the darban truck. It was too fast for the press or the shabaab in the front to get away and about 50 people got completely showered in the shit water! It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before at a protest.  Mass retching and puking. People pulling off their clothes to try to get rid of the smell. I saw one very tall Palestinian man walking around dazed without his pants—he had the longest legs, and short boxers, and big hiking boots. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in my life.

The smell of the shit water dominated the entire area, and got worse as the people who were soaked in it mixed in with the rest of us. Just when we started to recover from the darban attack, the IDF shot “Al Thuletheen” the teargas cannon that shoots out over 40 teargas canisters simultaneously. They shoot in all directions, like rockets with teargas smoke behind them in trails.

When we hear the popping noise of 40 gas canisters being shot within seconds of eachother, everyone panics. The ones who have never seen that type of teargas attack run back to the village as fast as they can and don’t dare to come back. The more seasoned protestors have two options. You can try to outrun the canisters and the huge teargas cloud that occurs after it, or if you know you can’t outrun them through a cloud of teargas and falling canisters all around you—you find a spot by a wall or something out of the way, crouch down, put a scarf over your face and wait.

You will feel panicked, and you think that you can’t breathe. But the trick is to stay calm and remember that within minutes, the cloud will disperse.

Israeli Army Targeting Nonviolent Protestors

Other times the IDF will shoot individual teargas canisters or grenades or bullet shaped high velocity canisters like missiles at the shabaab and press. You can see them flying right past people’s heads. Sometimes they hit people though. And if they hit you in the head, it can cause at the very least a severe injury, if not coma or death.

Tristan Anderson, an American protestor who was demonstrating at Ni’lin last spring, was hit in the head by a high velocity teargas canister that was shot straight at him, instead of up in the air at an angle. Typical.

After he was hit, his head was bleeding profusely and he was knocked to the ground unconscious. People came to help, but they were in a field and the Israeli army had invaded the village and wasn’t letting any ambulance in to help. His friends were screaming for help, and the IDF was STILL shooting teargas at him and those trying to help him. When the ambulance arrived, the IDF shot teargas that hit the ambulance and created a cloud of teargas around those trying to get Tristan into the ambulance.

He’s just now coming out of his coma, after almost a year. They aren’t sure how much of “Tristan” is left though.

Ni’lin Deaths

Another time in Ni’lin, this past summer, during a particularly violent protest where the soldiers were shooting live ammunition instead of the rubber coated steel bullets (which can still kill you if they hit you in the head or neck, or break a bone in another place).  A young boy from the village was shot in the stomach with live ammunition. Yousef Aqel Srour ran out to where he lay to take him back to the ambulance. As he tried to pick up the boy, the IDF sniper shot Yousef directly in the heart with live ammunition—killing him instantly.

A total of 5 nonviolent protestors have been killed in Ni’lin so far, the youngest was just 10 years old and was shot in the head with a so-called rubber bullet.

Bassem Abu Rahmeh

I wasn’t there for either of those events, but I had one terrible experience at Bil’in about a year ago. It was a small protest, it was cold so a lot of people didn’t want to come out and protest. We had no ambulance because it wasn’t a special protest with lots of internationals or important people.

This was the last protest where most people felt safe in the front, standing face to face with the soldiers.

I was already a bit back behind a wall because I had been shot in the back of the legs with a teargas grenade a week or so before. And the soldiers were shooting the high velocity teargas canisters that are shaped like bullets. As I was waiting for the shooting to slow down, I heard a lot of shouting all of a sudden and thought maybe a stone had found its mark.

Then I was able to understand what the guys were shouting. “ASA’AF!” and “SAYARA!!”….over and over and over in upset and desperate voices. The guys in the front yelled it back to the people in the back, and then they would shout it to people further back towards the village until someone with a car got the message.

This went on for what seemed like hours, but was really about 6 minutes. Then a little beat up 2 door car came speeding down the road towards the wall and by this time I had gone further towards the wall (there were only about 20 people left at the protest at this point).  I saw what I thought was one of the boys from the village laying on the ground surrounded by people. The fucking Israeli army was still shooting teargas at them.

When the car got to the front, the teargas canisters were shot at the car too. The men from the village were completely freaked out. I thought maybe the boy had been shot in the leg or something. But then I saw them pick him up to bring him to the car. He was completely limp. He was wearing a neon yellow jersey and it was covered with bright red blood. Absolutely covered. That’s when I realized that this guy was probably going to die.

They finally got him in the car; men were crying and shouting trying to get him to the hospital. The car sped off in a shower of teargas canisters and the men from the village ran up to the fence and started yelling at the soldiers in Hebrew and the boys threw more stones than I’ve seen before. The soldiers just took it. They knew they had fucked up.

The older men from the village ended the protest as news started making its way to the village that someone was badly injured. On the way back, I was really shaken up. I didn’t recognize who it was but I had never seen someone injured that badly in front of me before, that much blood.

 A minute later, I found out it was a friend of mine from the village—Bassem Abu Rahmeh. He was the first person to say hi to me when I came to the protests and he came over to shake my hand every Friday and ask how I was. He was a big and strong guy, but with the heart of a child and a huge smile always on his face.  He used to yell at me to be careful in Arabic every Friday, yelling but winking and with a huge smile, carrying his cell phone blasting Arabic music.

As we got closer to the village, women from Bil’in were out of their houses, crying and trying to figure out who was shot. I saw my friend’s mom crying and walking towards us, asking about her sons. We told her they were fine, but Bassem was on his way to the hospital (the nearest is Ramallah hospital, half an hour away and not that great).

A minute later the sheikh started talking and reciting the Quran over the mosque loudspeaker and we realized Bassem had died. The whole village was weeping in the streets and wandering around looking shocked and confused.

My impression of the villagers of Bil’in is that they are some of the strongest, most resilient and brave people, but still with a sense of humor. That day I saw them falling apart and it was almost as disturbing to me as knowing a friend of mine had been murdered in cold blood in front of me.

Bassem had been standing in the very front of the protest, in front of the fence, with the soldiers on the other side. The soldiers were shooting at some Israeli activists in between the two fences and they injured one with a soundbomb that went off right under him. Bassem was yelling in Hebrew at the soldiers “Reka!” (Hebrew for ‘stop’). He had never thrown a stone in his life; he didn’t even have that capability in his personality.

As he was yelling for the soldiers to stop shooting, in a BRIGHT yellow jersey, less than 20 feet away, he was shot in the middle of his chest with a high velocity teargas canister that is shaped like a bullet. He fell on the ground with a huge hole in his chest and died less than 15 minutes later.

Targeting Protest Organizers and Village Leaders

After Bassem was killed, the IDF killed Yousef in Ni’lin. Bassem was one of the leaders of the Bil’in protests, always in the front. Yousef was also a protest organizer. A few months later the IDF started a massive arrest campaign in Bil’in focusing on the Bil’in Popular Struggle Committee leaders and teenagers in general—whether they had thrown a stone or not. They arrested at least 40 men and boys from Bil’in over the past summer, most were detained but never charged.

Just now, 6 months later, are some of the teenage boys being returned to the village and their families. Of course, the families had to pay tens of thousands of shekels for lawyers and the bail.

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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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Just one more example of how the “official IDF” reports almost never match the eyewitness accounts…

January 2, 2010

Orders were to capture militants alive – so why were they killed?

By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel

The orders prepared by the Judea and Samaria Division for the IDF operation in Nablus last week by a Duvdevan commando unit stated clearly that the unit “was to carry out a raid and capture the wanted men.” This wording of the order was passed on to the unit with the approval of GOC Central Command. It was received on Friday December 25, several hours before the raid on the homes of the three suspects in the murder of Rabbi Meir Hai the previous day near Shavei Shomron.

The orders did not include instructions to kill any of the three wanted men. The senior officers who spoke with Haaretz stressed that the soldiers were not given any verbal instructions that were different from those in writing.

An evaluation of the testimonies of family members and the IDF officers suggests that this was not an operation to assassinate. However, the three, Adnan Subuh, Raad Sarkaji and Ghassan Abu Shreikh, were killed by the soldiers, even though two of them were not armed, and it does not even appear that they were trying to escape – a fact that the IDF does not dispute.
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Family members of the dead are alleging that the three were executed, and say that the Israeli claims that the three were involved in the killing of Rabbi Hai, 32 hours prior to the incident, are lies. The weapon that the security establishment in Israel says were used to kill the rabbi was found in the home of the third wanted man, Subuh. A ballistic examination proved it was the weapon.

But it is difficult not to wonder how two unarmed men, nearly 40 years old, sleeping in bed near their children and not behaving as wanted men, were killed without even having attempted to escape. It appears that, like in many other operations of this sort, the reality on the ground, and especially early intelligence on the three suspects, predetermined the result of the operation.

The Duvdevan commandos were told that the suspects might be armed and that they murdered Rabbi Hai.

Sources in the IDF argue that the information on the role of the three in the murder was “certain.” In such case, any unnecessary movement by one of the “targets” may be life-threatening because it might mean they are going for a weapon. Indeed, an examination of the testimonies of the families and the IDF officers involved in the details of the operation suggests that the two wanted men hesitated in surrendering to the soldiers who came to arrest them, and did move suspiciously, which in turn led to the opening of lethal fire against them.

“We did not murder or assassinate,” one of the IDF officers said. “In such instances the security of our forces precedes the security of the enemy.”

The Abu Shreikh home

A huge poster of the elder brother, Nayef, was at the top of the stairs in the Abu Shreikh home. He was one of the leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades at the start of the second intifada and was killed by the IDF. Another brother, Nihad, has been in an Israeli prison for the past three years.

The mother of Ghassan, Umm Nayef, says that during the night she heard sounds in the street, and at 2 A.M. she heard a blast. “They blew up the entrance to the inner yard and there was a lot of shouting and smoke. I shouted at them that I was old and told my family ‘the Jews, the Jews.’ Jihad, my son, went down first, and then his wife and their children. The soldiers beat them and asked them where Ghassan was.”

“We all came down and Ghassan was last. But when he was coming downstairs, when he reached the last step, they shot and killed him. They did not say anything, they did not warn – they just shot him. They claimed that there is another person in the house, but we explained that there is no one. They searched the house, turned it over and found no weapons,” she continued.

“Ghassan was never a wanted man and had never been arrested,” his mother insisted. “He had no connection with the [Palestinian] factions. All his life he was a car electrician. Now his child has nightmares, wakes up shouting ‘father, father.’ What do you think he will do when he grows up?”

The IDF officers’ version is that “the brother came down first. He came slowly, as he had been told to do, and turned before the soldier in order to show that he had nothing under his shirt. The rest of the family did the same except for the wanted man. After a few minutes delay, two stun grenades were thrown in, and the wanted man came out running down the stairs. The soldiers called out in Arabic for him to stop but he continued running. When he came within 2.5 meters away from one of the soldiers, there was no choice but to shoot him.”

The run down the staircase may suggest that he was trying to escape through the yard, without realizing that the soldiers had surrounded it. “You must understand that once we surprised the wanted man, each minute that passes he could be surprising us,” one of the officers explained.

The Sarkaji home

Raad Sarkaji opened a business selling refrigerators recently. He had been released less than a year ago from an Israeli prison after a seven-year sentence. His wife, Thani, is pregnant in her fifth month. She still wears the blood-soaked nightgown she wore that night. “These are his brains,” she says, pointing to the bloodstained wall.

“A little before 3 A.M., I heard a huge blast. We were in bed and said that it must be the army. I heard them speaking Hebrew, and the shooting began before they said a thing. We got to the first door and Raad shouted in Hebrew ‘wait, wait.’ We went outside, he in front, and the minute he passed the door they shot and killed him. I was injured in the leg and fell backward, and he fell into my arms. I shouted ‘Raad, Raad,’ and then all his brain fell onto my hands,” she recounts.

“Seven soldiers jumped in, and one of them walked up to him and shot him a few times. I shouted that I am pregnant, and to leave me. They began searching the house and told me to call the children, who were in their grandmother’s house on the other side.”

Walid, a 10-year-old, says that the officer “asked me in Arabic where is my father’s weapon and I told him that he had none.”

In this case too, the IDF version is different. “The wanted man came out of the room and realized that it was the army, and rushed back inside,” an officer who was on the scene says. “The force commander called to his soldiers to make sure he did not have a weapon. Several minutes later he came out again, behind his wife. His hands were hidden. The soldiers called out to him repeatedly, in Arabic, to lift his hands, and he did not do so. There was little choice. The threat to the soldiers was just too great.”

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1139218.html

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Just your average night raid….

December 26, 2009

Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli troops entered the village of Ni’lin at 3am Wednesday morning, one of five villages that were raided overnight. They entered the home of the Kan’an family, beat their daughter and destroyed parts of the home.

Last week there were 16 similar raids across the West Bank.

Victims from the Ni’lin raid gave an account of what is now a regular experience.

Jamal Kin’an Amira said he was startled by the sound of stones hitting the windows of his neighbors home shortly after hearing Israeli troops enter the village early Wednesday morning.

Following the barrage, Amira said soldiers entered the, broke several pieces of furniture and screamed at people in the home next door. On the way out they damaged his car.

The house next door is that of Dawlat Kan’an, father of the young girl who filmed Israeli soldiers shooting, at point blank range, a blindfolded and bound Palestinian youth. The video showed the soldier shooting the youth in the presence of high-ranking officers. Dawlat was detained last summer following the release of the tape.

Witnesses said soldiers beat a young woman, Salam, the daughter of Kan’an, whose wife fainted as she watched her daughter being struck by masked soldiers. The troops remained in the Kan’an home for two hours, without informing the family why they were there.

Hearing the Israeli attack, villagers said they rushed to the Kan’an home to help defend them from the soldiers, but were kept back by what they described as an overwhelming number of troops stationed outside the home.

Salam Kan’an said the soldiers brought dogs into her house. She said she believed the soldiers were using the dogs to sniff out recording equipment and tapes. The dogs spent the majority of their time in her brother Arafat’s bedroom, she said.

The young woman said she believed soldiers were looking for the phone she recorded the shooting incident on. She noted that Israeli troops demanded the original recording for investigations, but that she had refused to hand it over. Salam said an investigator offered her “lots of money” for the tape, but that she refused him as well.

Before leaving the home troops delivered an order to all family members to present themselves at the local Israeli intelligence office for questioning.

Source:
http://maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=247482

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Dreams and Nightmares…

December 7, 2009

Palestine Monitor (palestinemonitor.org– exposing life under occupation)

Sami, 23, from Al-Essawaya village near Nablus, has always believed in peaceful coexistence with Israelis.

“I worked for six years inside Israel”, he tells me, “just in supermarkets, any work I could find. Me and my friends would jump over the wall at Qalandyia because we were not allowed to pass through.” He describes himself as free of political affiliation; “not Fatah, not Hamas, just peace”. Through time spent working in Tel Aviv he became acquainted with members of the Sulha peace project, a group dedicated to “rebuild trust, restore dignity and move beyond the political agenda”. Sami helped to distribute their literature and attended conferences, before being invited to a three day retreat at the Latrun monastery Jerusalem. Permits were obtained for him and ten friends, along with around 30 other Palestinians.

Daisy, a resident of Yaffo and long time Sulha member describes the gathering and meeting Sami.

“It was like a mini festival, people sleeping outside, playing music and all eating together. There were people from all religions and nations, even a Buddhist monk sent by the Dalai Lama. The organisers arranged the paperwork for them (Palestinians), so that they could attend. When I met Sami for the first time he was so pleased to be there, showing his permit certificate to everyone and speaking Hebrew.”

After three enjoyable days, encouraged by the positive atmosphere, Sami felt confident enough to make a bold step. He invited Daisy and Tal (also from Yaffo), to visit Essawaya and spend a few nights in his home. Despite some apprehension, neither having stayed in a Palestinian village before, both accepted.

“They came for Eid one year ago,” Sami recalls, “they stayed in my family home for three days. We killed a sheep together, went for walks and they talked with people from the village. I told everyone the Israelis were for peace and nobody had any problem.” Daisy agrees; “His family and the people I met were very welcoming and happy to see me, just on a human basis.”

After two days Sami’s brother received a call from a Palestinian policeman. “They asked him why an Israeli was in our house and he told them that I invited them. My brother passed me the phone and the policeman asked ‘why do you have them? Are you going to kill them? Are they hostages?’ I said no, it’s for peace and he put down the phone”. Sami believes a collaborator inside the village informed the police and gave them his brother’s number.

Daisy and Tal were shaken by the call and wanted to return home. “We thought to go somewhere so that Sami and his family would not get in trouble,” Daisy says, “we drove together back towards Israel, with me driving. We were thinking to explain to someone at the checkpoint what had happened, that we had not been kidnapped, but we were scared.” On the way Daisy was called by a Shabak officer, identifying himself as Dan. “He was very threatening. I told him nothing was wrong, we hadn’t been kidnapped and everything was ok. Sami asked to speak to him and tried to explain about the peace project but I could hear that he was being threatened.”

Their car was apprehended at a checkpoint trying to enter Israel. Looking back Daisy regrets what she calls a “big mistake”. For Sami it was the beginning of a nightmare. “The soldier said to me- ‘are you Sami?’ I said yes and he said to go with him. I asked what was the problem, he said; ’don’t talk, shut up’ and all of us were taken to a prison inside Ariel settlement.”

Daisy and Tal were held for a day, facing many consecutive hours of interrogation by Shabak officers.

“They told me they were opening a file on me and impounded my car. They kept asking me why I was with Sami and calling me a whore. It was very intimidating, I was shocked at how I was treated.” The next day, without her car, Daisy was released and warned not to return. She asked what would happen to Sami, but the officers said only that it wasn’t her business.

Without informing his family or anyone else, the army had transferred Sami to the infamous Hadarim detention centre which also houses Marwan Barghouti. Like many of the 11,000 Palestinians kept in Israeli jails Sami was not formally charged, but went through debilitating sessions of interrogation and torture.

“At first I was in isolation. I didn’t see anyone or talk with anyone. Then the guard begins to ask me questions, why I want to kill Israelis, if I am Hamas terrorist. I say I want only peace and he laughs and tells me I am lying.” A year on Sami’s scars from sustained beatings are highly visible, with cigarette burns dotted all over his skin. He believes the officers knew he posed no threat, but they were softening him up for a different reason. “After 12 days he comes to me and says that I can go if I can do some work for them. I say it’s not a problem, but what? He says ’just see what happens in your village and tell me’. He shows me hundreds of dollars and says every month he can give me more, and a new house and whatever I want. I say I don’t want it, I don’t need money. Kill me if you want but I wont be a spy for you. If I do the people from my village will know and they will kill me. He said ’if you don’t want, all your life will be in jail’.”

“I say I like jail, that’s no problem. But in my heart I was very afraid. If he forget me, what could I do? If he kill me what I can do? If my mother ask where Sami? She would never know.”

Meanwhile Daisy had returned to Yaffo, but despite “many phone calls, talking with Sami’s family and calling every police station, it was impossible to find him. I wanted to see what they did to him, but the army told me he was not in any prison in Israel. Eventually I found out he was in Hadarim, when another prisoner called and told me to contact Sami.”

After speaking with Sami, she visited him in Hadarim.

“I was able to pass him some basic things, like clothes and cigarettes. I couldn’t get any information, but I could see the marks on his face. He said he needed a lawyer, but couldn’t afford one.”

After 20 days, Sami was told he could pay a bail fee of 500 shekels, which confirmed his suspicion that they knew he was no threat.

“Daisy paid the money and after they let me go. I returned to my home and that day my brother was called by the guard, he said “if you talk I will kill both of you”. One month later, several IDF jeeps entered Al-Essawaya. Sami was woken at 3am when they broke his door down. “The soldier said if you don’t want to work with us we will beat your family and your father will not be allowed to work in Israel. I said if you hurt my family I will kill myself, but they took my brother. They keep him in prison for a month and every day they beat him, so bad that he cannot have children. While he is there they break into his office and do 16,000 shekels of damage to it. Nobody will give him that.” After his brother was released he visited a doctor, who told him a course of hormones to restores his fertility would cost 300 shekels a day. The course would last five months, with fees totalling around 45,000 shekels. “My brother is now 30”, Sami says sadly, “he says he doesn’t want money or anyone to repair his office. He just wants to marry and have children. I feel that I have broken his life.” Since then his cousin has also been arrested and imprisoned, while a close friend who also attended the Sulha retreat has been in Hadarim for 10 months. Sami shows me a letter his friend sent and reads me an extract; “don’t get in trouble, don’t try to make peace, because his eyes are everywhere.”

I ask Sami if the impact on his family makes him question his commitment to peace activism. Do they blame him for their suffering? Does he regret anything? “I feel that it is now more important”, he says, “After I got home from Hadarim my father asked me to stop. He said ‘you’re not big or important enough for it’. But I told him I need to do something, even if it’s not big. If everyone in Israel and Palestine do something small like me there can be peace. It’s not just me that want to do this, I know people on both sides that want it also. Now my father understands and supports me, even my brother who cannot have children says it’s good. I am more committed now, my whole life is for this”. As testament to his conviction Sami continues to invite foreign people to stay with him, with his family’s blessing. Last month he hosted a Dutch activist, at the risk of more trouble from the police.

Sami remains confident that peace is inevitable.

“I believe one day soon there will be peace, with all people living together in one state. Some days I talk with settlers, I ask why we cannot go in each other’s villages. I invite them to my home. They say it is a nice idea.” Sami intends to study political sciences and maintain links with more international peace groups and those inside Israel. I speculate that he is too well known now to the police, indeed he was picked up again two weeks ago, to get away with any rule breaking. “I’m happy with what I did and I will do it every time. People here are afraid to help because they will have a problem, we know the police try to stop us doing peace work. I know what I do makes problems for me but if you do something good it lasts forever. I want to die and sleep well.”