Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hunger Strike for Gaza

Here's a piece by John Dear, a Jesuit priest, as he waits in Cairo to get into Gaza, along with 1,400 other activists as a part of the Gaza Freedom March. I'll put the article below to encourage you to read it.

Another good piece I read from an activist in Cairo can be found
here. And one more too by Kathy Kelly, who's also in Cairo.

by John Dear

The Gaza Freedom March is truly an unprecedented, historic event for the global grassroots peace movement. This is one of the largest, if not the largest, mass international solidarity action ever undertaken. 1,362 people from 42 nations have traveled here to Cairo in order to journey through the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza to join 50,000 in a march commemorating the first anniversary of the Israeli attack and seige which left 1,400 Gazans dead and 5,000 wounded. Such a massive outpouring never happened during the Vietnam, Central America or Iraq wars. It is a sign of the world's outrage of the U.S.-backed Israeli attack on Gaza, and the continuing strength of the peace movement.

But when we arrived here in Gaza, we learned that the Egyptian government had categorically banned our entry into Gaza, banned any attempt to get to Gaza, banned any public gatherings, and banned our initial orientation evening at the prestigious Jesuit College of the Holy Family.

What to do? Many nonviolent demonstrations and actions have been undertaken over the last few days. 300 French people surrounded the French embassy and remained camped out there. Sit-ins have taken place in various other embassies. Some five hundred of us camped out in front of the U.N. offices along the Nile. Others took public transportation through the Sinai in attempts to get closer to Gaza, and have been arrested or detained.

On Monday, 85 year old Hedy Epstein began a hunger strike as a modest gesture to call upon the Egyptian government to let us go to Gaza and for the end of the seige of Gaza. Hedy is a Holocaust survivor and her decision immediately inspired at least twenty two others of us to join her.

And so, for several days now, we have been fasting, praying and vigiling, not just to be allowed into Gaza, but for an end to the seige of Gaza itself. In our statement, at a press conference today in front of Journalist Headquarters, we spoke of sharing "the hunger of all Gazans for justice and peace," and we called upon "everyone in the world to join us in prayer, fasting and other nonviolent actions to speak up for the imprisoned people of Gaza and for an end to the seige."

None of us expected to spend this Christmas-New Year's Week in Cairo. We all want to offer our solidarity and be with our suffering sisters and brothers in Gaza. It is clear that our presence has exposed Egypt's complete participation, with Israel and the U.S., in the ongoing imprisonment of Gaza. But our small witness has stirred widespread interest here, and we hope our prayers are answered.

Even so, the efforts and attempts of the Gaza Freedom March already mark a massive victory. The whole project unveils new possibilities of organized, international nonviolence.

As the fast continues here in Cairo, we urge everyone to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and to explore their own nonviolent actions, as together, we speak out for an end to the seige and occupation, and the coming of a new world of nonviolence.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gaza Freedom March, I'll be there.

I am participating in the Gaza Freedom March. In brief summary, people are marching to Erez border crossing into Gaza to call for the borders to be opened, for the siege on Gaza to end. Internationals are entering Gaza, through Egypt, to join thousands of Gazans in a march to the Erez border crossing. Internationals, Palestinians, and Israelis are also marching from the Israeli side to meeting the marchers from the Gaza side.

I will be joining the march from the Israeli side.

The ultimate source for information is Gaza Freedom March which includes all the info and recent articles/releases relating to the March. I don't have the time to post all those links, so please just go to their site. There are ongoing issues with internationals trying to get to Gaza but being refused entry. I will try to post an original piece and some video after the march.

Here is the official call for the march:

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., the European Union, and the rest of the international community are complicit.

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On Dec. 31, we will end the year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade.

Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza’s Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad.

As an international coalition we are not in a position to advocate a specific political solution to this conflict. Yet our faith in our common humanity leads us to call on all parties to respect and uphold international law and fundamental human rights to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and pursue a just and lasting peace.

The march can only succeed if it arouses the conscience of humanity.

Please join us.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza
For more information, please see the Statement of Context

For a list of endorsers, please click here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Most Moral Army in the World Executes Unarmed People?

Yesterday I wrote about an Israeli settler, Meir Hair, who was murdered. Today I am writing about three Palestinians who were murdered. The Palestinians killed were connected with the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, and were allegedly connected to the killing of Meir Hai.

The premier Israeli human rights group, B'tselem, has been investigating the IDF's killing of these three Palestinians in Nablus. B'tselem has been suggested that these were executions carried out by the IDF. An IDF spokesperson rejected that the Palestinians had been executed (as B'tselem suggested):
"the soldiers called on the terrorist to surrender and turn himself in. He refused and hid in his room and sent his wife out toward us. In cases where there is a threat to our troops and a wanted militant refuses to surrender, IDF forces are permitted to open fire in order to neutralize the threat. I am pleased that none of our fighters were hurt, but the risk factor was very high in this operation."
Not terribly conclusive, but the spokesperson clearly doesn't claim that the Palestinian man opened fire or was carrying a gun, only that he didn't come outside at the demand of the occupying military force, and was thus shot and killed.

Another military spokesperson speaks a bit more directly:
"a senior IDF official told Israel Radio that the three militants had not fired at Israeli troops and that two of them were unarmed, but that the Israeli soldiers knew that the terror squad that carried out Thursday's attack, to which the three belonged, were highly skilled and had access to firearms and therefore posed a threat. He stressed that the operation was carried out in accordance with IDF regulations, and that the soldiers first fired protest dispersal ammunition, then fired at the walls, and only later fired at the militants."
I appreciate the explanation, I do. But I have a few issues with the statement.

First, an army that continually claims that it is the most moral in the world, as the IDF continually does, cannot kill unarmed people. That's immoral under pretty much anyone's moral code.

Second, they fired protest dispersal ammunition, fired at walls, then killed the militants? So they fired tear gas first? Then they fired live ammo at the walls? Then they fired live ammo at live people? I am not sure that I see the natural progression and the increasing danger in that instance. I am sure it's hard to know if someone is wielding a gun or not. But it seems like the process this spokesperson is suggesting is, "Shoot tear gas, shoot wildly around the room, shoot people -- ask questions later." And seriously, if you were in your room, scared to death because soldiers are screaming at you, tear gas starts choking away your oxygen, you hear live ammo being fired against the wall....what are you supposed to do? Explain that you don't intend to kill anyone?

Thirdly, I live near a settlement that has a shooting range. There are often settlers out at the shooting range training to hit targets with accuracy. I have witnessed instructors teaching inexperienced people. I have also witnessed experienced shooters taking target practice. Settlers in this area (no, I am not speaking about soldiers or police) routinely carry M-16s as they walk around. So I would argue that "shooting first" and "asking questions later" when it involves people who are "highly skilled and [have] access to firearms and [pose] a threat," is a policy that ONLY applies to Palestinians and NOT to Israelis. I have witnessed many cases of Israeli settlers displaying how experienced they are with M-16s and how easily that can access these weapons. Yet, I have not seen the IDF respond with these execution-style tactics when responding to settler violence.

The fact that an Israeli human rights group is calling these "executions" should raise some red flags for ya' all.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The 'Disappearance' of Palestinian Peaceful Protest

Read from Neve Gordon, Israeli academic, who writes in the Guardian UK newspaper about the Israeli military's targeted campaign to 'disappear' Palestinian nonviolent resistance.
Clearly, the strategy is to arrest all of the leaders and charge them with incitement, thus setting an extremely high "price tag" for organising protests against the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The objective is to put an end to the pro-peace popular resistance in the villages and to crush, once and for all, the Palestinian peace movement.

Why Terrorist Attacks Happen (and why one happened yesterday)

Last night a settler was killed near Tulkarm, a city in the northern West Bank. Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack. The settler was driving when he was shot in the head by his attackers. It's a terrible incident, this man was a father and a husband. The attackers' actions are cowardly.

The Yesha Council, a large body of settlers, spoke to the incident, saying that:
The murderous shooting attack in Samaria is a direct result of the policy of lifting restrictions on the Palestinians, removing necessary roadblocks in Judea and Samaria[West Bank] and transferring the responsibility for security to those whose ranks have produced many terrorists who murdered Jews. As in similar incidents in the past, once again the gestures aimed at Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] carry a price tag of Jewish blood.
MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union) said that:
The path of capitulation, the road openings, the [settlement construction] freeze and the release of [Palestinian] prisoners that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has imposed on us convey to terrorists that Jewish blood is cheap. The terrorist probably thinks that he will be released in the next exchange.

The Arabs interpret the Israeli government's decisions as a green light to harm settlers.
The gist of these two quotes is this: 'give the Arabs an inch, and they'll kill you.' That may sound bold but that is what is being said here: "the murderous shooting attack in Samaria is a direct result of the policy of lifting restrictions on the Palestinians."
If you could somehow not raise international ire, but still keep Palestinians under lock and key, that would be ideal, that would be the only way to prevent this 'murderous shooting attack.' Taking away roadblocks and giving permits is a guarantee that Palestinians will kill Israelis.

MK Ben Ari's that the settlement construction freeze conveys that Jewish blood is cheap is appalling. Putting a restriction on illegal settlement buildings simply respects the limitations of international law, it has absolutely nothing to say about Jewish blood or Jewish life. To say that, temporarily not allowing an Israeli to build a house on privately-owned Palestinian land is conveying to Arab terrorists that Jewish blood is cheap, is a gross misstep of logic.

So why did this attack happen? Well there are potentially a million reasons. But I don't think it's helpful starting place is to say, "dammit, this attack happened because we took our hands off their necks for a second, and look at what the did, they grabbed a knife and slit our throats." No, I think a helpful place to start (helpful in the sense that it is the only perspective that may bring us peace), was suggested just a few days ago by an Israeli writer.
Yes, there will be more and more terrorists in the future if the occupation and abuse of the Palestinian people continues. This is the real infrastructure of terror.

One generation of Palestinians after another will fight in its own way for its liberty and breed more and more terrorists. The only really effective way to reduce terror, if not to prevent it altogether, is to stop its operating engine - the occupation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Video: School Escort and Solidarity March

I can't remember if I posted this video or not, I don't think I did. This video provides a general overview of the military escort of the children from Tuba and Maghayir Al-Abeed with an emphasis on a march to support the rights of the children.

Some info before watching: Children from Tuba and Maghayir Al-Abeed, villages located in the Palestinian territories' South Hebron Hills, attend primary school in the village of At-Tuwani. The children walk on a road passing between the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the illegal settlement outpost of Havot Ma'on/Hill 833. Armed settlers have harassed and attacked the children on their journeys to and from school.

In 2004 the Israeli Knesset Committee for Childrens Rights affirmed the need for an Israeli military escort for the school children along the road from Tuba to At-Tuwani. Despite the escort the children have continued to be harassed and attacked by settlers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The only sensible piece about Gilad Shalit

An excerpt from Gideon Levy's column
Yes, there will be more and more terrorists in the future, with or without the hundreds of released prisoners, if the occupation and abuse of the Palestinian people continues. This is the real infrastructure of terror, and it does not depend on those who will be released in the deal.

One generation of Palestinians after another will fight in its own way for its liberty and breed more and more terrorists. The only really effective way to reduce terror, if not to prevent it altogether, is to stop its operating engine - the occupation.

Right to Education.....Denied

Masafer Yatta/South Hebron Hills- On Sunday, December 20, the Israeli army disrupted transportation of children and teachers from Al-Fakheit school to their homes. The Palestinian driver, accompanied by one CPTer, was on his way to pick up children and teachers after school when, at about 1 pm, soldiers in a Humvee followed and stopped the pickup truck used as a
school bus. The soldiers confiscated the driver's ID, searched the truck and personal belongings in it, and ordered that the driver follow them to a field south of Jinba.

Because the soldiers refused to allow the truck to take the children to Jinba, teachers and students had to walk an hour through the hills to get there. The headmaster reported later that two children became ill from the heat and required medical attention.

The Palestinian driver and CPTer spent over an hour in the field with the soldiers, who demanded the truck's registration and ignition key, examined the engine for serial numbers, took photos of the truck and made various phone calls. According to the soldiers, the truck's registration was invalid and they were calling the police to confiscate the truck. “In Israel we have rules,” one soldier told the CPTer.

More soldiers arrived, along with gear and a small water tank, but no police. At 2:45 the soldiers finally returned the driver's ID, allowing him and the CPTer to leave by foot.

Al-Fakheit school opened this year to accommodate students living in Maghayir Al-Abeed, Markaz, Halawe, Fakheit, Majaaz, and Jinba. Previously, children from these villages attended school in Yatta, which required them to live in the city Sunday through Thursday. Now the teachers at Al-Fakheit school travel from Yatta each day and pick up schoolchildren along the route.
Children and teachers face ongoing obstacles when traveling to school. The Israeli military heavily patrols the road and surrounding area, randomly preventing Palestinians from accessing their education and work. Teachers and school children traveling to Al-Fakheit are sometimes stopped and searched by the Israeli military. In August 2009 the Israeli military attempted to dismantle the road with heavy machinery, worsening the road's already poor condition after years of Israeli authorities prohibiting Palestinians from making repairs or improvements.

As a result of these tactics, it takes Palestinians extended amounts of time to reach their destination, and they are often late for school or work. In addition, the Israeli military is threatening to permanently close the road, which would completely deny Palestinians’ access to education, work and their lands. The army's presence and interference with residents' movements in this area undermines the basic human rights of Palestinians by hindering their ability to live in their villages and cultivate their lands.

For pictures of the Al-Fakheit school:
For picures of the army dismantling the road:
For background information about the communities of Masafer Yatta see and
download the B'Tselem report

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gaza Must Be Rebuilt

A good new article by Jimmy Carter, calling for the world to act.

Here's an excerpt, see the full article here.

In summary: UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, previous agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab peace initiative, and official policies of the US and other nations are all being ignored. In the meantime, the demolition of Arab houses, expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian recalcitrance threaten any real prospect for peace.

Of more immediate concern, those under siege in Gaza face another winter of intense personal suffering. I visited Gaza after the devastating January war and observed homeless people huddling in makeshift tents, under plastic sheets, or in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and international agencies to guarantee no use of imported materials for even defensive military purposes, cement, lumber, and panes of glass are not being permitted to pass entry points into Gaza. The US and other nations have accepted this abhorrent situation without forceful corrective action.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Video: Israeli occupation forces throw me on hood of truck; nearly arrest me

Another post about this electricity incident. Here is the raw(er) video from the incident. Some of my swearing diatribes didn't make the cut. Apologies to you realists; You're welcome to you moralists.

This video is a special cut that is NOT intended to objectively cover this incident for a general audience. That edit is here: --This edit merely shows me and my coworker trying to stop the Israeli occupation forces from illegally stealing Palestinian property, and then nearly being arrested for allegedly trespassing in a closed military zone. In other words, it does not place our village friends and their nonviolent resistance at center-stage, as they should be under normal circumstances. Footage is from several international accompaniers working for Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove.

Updated Video: Left in the Dark

The first version of this video had a couple glitches. So I re-converted this beast and uploaded it again to YouTube, to a different address.

So please use this 2nd version (glitch-free) instead of the previous one. And go ahead and watch it again, it won't hurt, and if it does, it's only 7 minutes of pain.

The Wolf and the Lamb will Graze Together

The sheep were walking and eating, because that’s what sheep do. Yet oddly, there was an exception. As the sheep ate, one ewe lay on the ground, seemingly content to be lying on the ground and not eating.

I turned to Omar, the shepherd who I was accompanying, and asked him, “Is that ewe pregnant?” Omar confirmed my suspicions, she was indeed pregnant.

“Will she give birth today?”

Inshallah (God willing).”

Over the next 30 minutes the ewe got up and down, up and down, up and down. Omar seemed to pay no attention to the ewe as she obviously was going through some labor pains, believing she was ready each instance that she went horizontal. By the third or fourth time that she went to the ground, she stuck one of her rear legs up in the air (something she hadn’t done previously). Omar apparently possesses a sixth sense for sheep giving birth, because as the ewe’s rear leg went up, Omar turned towards the sheep – their movements were nearly synchronized. Omar came to the ewe and examined where she was at in the birth process. Apparently concluding it was time, he found two legs (the rear pair) and gently pulled out the lamb. The lamb came out flatter than I thought possible. Its rear legs pointed backwards in line with its body and its front legs pointed forward. Omar rested the lamb against her mother’s head. He cleaned his hands by rubbing them on the ewe’s wool. Omar told me it’s important for the mother to immediately accept her lamb. Forcing the mother to smell and lick her lamb is a way to assist that acceptance, as is wiping the smell of the offspring on her wool.

The ewe spent the next 30 minutes licking her lamb. The lamb spent the next 30 minutes trying to stand up. Clumsily standing and slipping, standing and locking it’s legs and falling over sideways.

Omar said that after two hours the lamb would be able to walk back home with her mother. Omar facetiously asked me if I walked home from the hospital after I was born. He told me that if the sheep were like me then momma lamb would have to sit out in the hills for one year protecting her lamb before they could walk home.

The ewe again laid down, seeming to abandon the project of tending to her lamb. Omar answered my question before I could form it. “Looks like she’s having another one,” he told me.

After unsuccessfully trying to convince me to deliver the next lamb, Omar again used his sixth sense as he approached the ewe at the perfect moment. The second lamb looked just as healthy as the first, and the ewe gave as much attention to second as she had the first.

I surprisingly wasn’t grossed out by all the fluids that were involved in this birthing process (there were various colors and consistencies in case you are unfamiliar and/or interested). It wasn’t gross because, frankly, it was a beautiful thing. Birth makes life new. Birth is life anew. Birth is a process that allows our world and our species to march forward in history. It’s a necessary and an amazing thing.

I also began to think about the layers of life that this birth brought. The birth of two new lambs is in part necessary for sheep to continue to live and thrive in this part of the world. Without the births of lambs like these, sheep would cease to exist. But even more significant (from my human-centric perspective), the birth of these two lambs provides a greater possibility for Omar and his family to stay on this land. With two lambs, the flock grows. The enlargement of this flock of sheep means more sheep products to feed Omar’s family. Laban (dried cheese), samen (butter-like dairy product), fertilizer, and wool all provide for this family. Laban and samen are staples in their diet, important sources of fat for a family that doesn’t have the means to eat meat.

Omar’s family lives within an Israeli military firing zone in the South Hebron Hills of the occupied West Bank. The military’s policy since 2000 has been one of expulsion and land confiscation. Measures have been taken, such as: closed military zones, home demolitions, home invasions, and the destruction of roads -- all in an effort to make it impossible for Palestinians to continue to live on this land.

The layers of life that came, and the layers of life that were made possible from the birth of these two lambs is profoundly significant. These lambs, as exaggerated as it may sound, were a glimmer of hope. The destruction of life that I see everyday as a result of this occupation is often staggering. These lambs were simply a sign of life, a sign of a world that was built for life and birth, not death and destruction.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Quote of the Week: Vol 14

From Haaretz:
The High Court criticized the government on Wednesday for not having set up a formal mechanism to compensate settlers for damages incurred by a freeze on new construction in their West Bank communities.

"I don't know how much he who gave the order [also] gave his opinion on all the variations of possible injuries that could be a result of it," said Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch during a hearing on four petitions filled against the moratorium.

That is insulting and offensive. So I am expecting that Palestinians who are routinely denied permits to build will be compensated as well, because I mean, that's been happening for 40 years. What about Palestinians whose homes and bathrooms have been demolished? Will they be compensated for the 'injuries' they have incurred. This makes me sick. Compensation will be paid to settlers who are building homes illegal according to international law, yet my friends in the South Hebron hills haven't seen a red cent for their bathrooms which were destroyed. Simply disgusting.

The Message of the Manger (from Sabeel)

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!'
-Luke 2:12-14

In the Christmas story, the sign for finding the Christ-child was this: He would be wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. There are three important messages that emanate from the manger:

1.God in Christ has become accessible. Jesus Christ was born in a manger making God approachable, reachable, and available to all people. This is the great sign of God's love.

2.The manger stands for a different kind of a Messiah. The seemingly contradictory sign that the Christ is lying in a manger does not bode well for the birth of a great leader who was supposed to come from the line and lineage of his great ancestor David. The manger is the way of meekness and humility, the way of sacrificial love, the way of nonviolence.

3.The Christ of the manger brings peace through justice and not through violence. Luke takes the titles that people attributed to Caesar - liberator, savior, lord, and god - and gives them to Jesus Christ. The contrast between the two figures, in the eyes of the world, was huge. For the early Christian community, and for us, Jesus Christ is the authentic Savior and Lord. Caesar brought peace through military means that were tremendously costly in terms of human life and property, and such peace is always shaky. Christ can bring peace through justice and love that, when applied and practiced, is more stable and permanent. This is what Christ teaches and that is why, from Christ to this day, we dare to defy the Caesars.

Reading the Christmas story through Palestinian eyes, and in light of our daily experience, is revealing. We live in the shadow of empire, of which the modern state of Israel is part. It is easy for Palestinians to contrast their oppressive situation under the Israeli occupation with people of Jesus' day who lived under the brutal occupation of the Romans with its daily oppression and humiliation.

Empire always talks about peace but its peace is false and temporary. Its peace is imposed and, therefore, an extension of its oppressive military power. It can never last because it is built on injustice. Israel's peace rhetoric is a mirage that quickly disappears and people are hit with the glaring reality of injustice, violence, and humiliation. Such peace cannot be trusted.

Christ's peace is built on justice and is acquired through nonviolence and love. It can be trusted. Therefore, the unjust and illegal Israeli occupation must come to an end. Doing justice to the Palestinians ensures the achievement of peace through justice. At this Christmas season we need to re-commit ourselves to the liberation that Christ brings; and to continue to walk the way of peace through justice and nonviolence.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Settlements, attacks drive out Palestinians

An op-ed from my CPT colleague which ran in the Cedar Rapids Gazette

By Sarah McDonald

On Nov. 17, my colleague and I were physically attacked by five Israeli settlers in the West Bank while escorting home a Palestinian family with three young children. The five settlers circled us, then shoved the Palestinian father as he clutched his baby in his arms. They terrified the 3-year-old stumbling after his parents.

My Italian colleague and I, volunteers with Christian Peacemaker Teams, intervened and videotaped the settlers’ aggression until the five men knocked us to the ground, dragging and kicking us, before stealing our cameras.

The day of the attack, Barbara Walters’ interview with Sarah Palin aired. The former vice-presidential candidate told Walters: “I disagree with the Obama administration on that (a settlements freeze). I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow …. And I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand.”

Palin wrongly conflates the occupied West Bank with Israel. International law specifies that it is illegal for an occupying power to settle its population in occupied territory. Yet since 1967, hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers have moved into the West Bank, building Jewish-only housing developments on land previously used by Palestinian communities. While Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not the only impediment to a just peace and a viable two-state solution, they are a stark violation of Palestinian human rights.

Israeli settlements have stolen Palestinian land and water resources. Settlement highways and “security” barriers slice through the West Bank, impeding Palestinian access to hospitals, schools, markets and family. A small but noisy minority of Israeli settlers misuse biblical texts and ideological zeal to defend their acts of violence against Palestinian lives and property.

I and others working with CPT maintain an international presence in the Hebron district because Israeli settlers in this region are among the most violent in the West Bank. We accompany Palestinian civilians trying to walk between villages or get to school. We have witnessed extremist settlers harassing and attacking unarmed Palestinians, including children and pregnant women.

The attacks on Palestinian property are no less vicious, dealing economic blows to rural communities already living in poverty. Israeli settlers have killed or stolen livestock, destroyed crops and olive groves and poisoned grazing fields.

These attacks are a systemic effort to push Palestinians off the land. According to a November report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “In a number of cases in recent years, systematic attacks carried out by Israeli settlers have directly contributed to the massive displacement, either temporarily or permanently, of entire Palestinian communities.”

Palestinian-filed complaints against Israeli settlers seldom result in indictment of the criminals or compensation for the victims.

When Palin insists that the Obama administration has no right to “tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand,” she also ignores a direct relationship between U.S. and Israeli policies. Israel is the largest annual recipient of U.S. economic and military assistance, receiving at least $7 million per day in military aid. This gives the U.S. administration — and every U.S. taxpayer—the right and the responsibility to investigate and to speak out about what Israel does with that money.

I keep thinking of the Palestinian family whose route home was so frighteningly disrupted by extremist Israeli settlers Nov. 17. The safe road to their village, and the road to a viable just peace, will not be opened until the United States is willing to stand up to Israel’s illegal settlement policy and to insist on Palestinians’ right to live in freedom.

Sarah MacDonald is a resident of Iowa City and serves full-time with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine and Colombia. She holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Iowa and is a graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. She is a member of First Mennonite Church of Iowa City.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The U.S. is building another (illegal) wall

U.S.-Mexico wall, Israel-Palestine wall, Egypt-Gaza wall......thanks United States government and United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The collusion between Egypt and the U.S. to build a wall separating Egypt from Gaza not only threatens Gazans' health and quality of life, already severely deteriorated by the de facto Israeli blockade, it is a serious violation of international law.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Egypt is installing an underground metal wall 70-100 feet deep along the border strip where Palestinians have dug a maze-like set of tunnels to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The construction of the wall, carried out with the collaboration of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, has been denied by the Egyptian government.

Although Israel claims that the tunnels are used to supply militants of Hamas with explosives and arms, the main function of the tunnels is for the transfer of food and medicines to the severely deprived Palestinian population in Gaza. The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip has gone as far as barring the import of flour and other basic food into the coastal enclave.

Invisibility or Non-Existence: Those are your options

I have spoke before on this blog about the village of Tuba. Tuba is a small village in the South Hebron hills. It's one of the villages from which kids walk to school in At-Tuwani. My colleagues and I monitor the escort of these schoolkids.

I recently received a phone call from O*, a father of some of the schoolchildren in Tuba. O* was quiet upset which was evident from the emotion which radiated from his quick speech. I immediately assumed the worst, but waited for O* to explain. O* told me about all the problems recently: the kids being late to school because of the tardiness of the military escort, settlers stealing a donkey from their neighbors, his kids and nieces/nephews being chased home by settlers, those kids still being chased by settlers when taking a different and more lengthy path, the settlers plowing O*'s land and him having no recourse to get it back, etc, etc. O* went on for several minutes and I quietly listened with my head in my hands, feeling helpless and feeling his helplessness. Occassionally O* would ask me if what he was saying was correct and if the situation was just. I would respond, "you're right O*, and no, it's not just."

O* spoke extensively about their path from Tuba to the city -- where they purchase goods unavailable to them in the countryside. There is a direct road, which the kids walk on when escorted by the military, that should be available to them (as it is an old Palestinian road which existed before the settlements did) but is not passable because of continued settler violence against Palestinians who use the road. So the villagers in Tuba are forced to take a longer path, in an attempt to maintain a safe distance between themselves and the violent settlers. Nonetheless they are attacked.

The frustration in O*'s voice was palpable as he told me of their inability to safely travel to and from their house. "They attack us if we take the road, they attack if we take the 90 minute-western path, they attack is if we take the 100 minute-eastern path,
what do they want us to do -- take an airplane!? What can we do, Sam? Have the internationals forgotten about us? Has the world forgotten about us?"

The conversation with O* rattled me. I laid awake most of that night, thinking about O* and the people in Tuba. The settlers wish they didn't exist, the soldiers wish they were invisible. Several times in the phone call O* said, "Biddna na'iish, biddna na'iish (we just want to live, we just want to live). As I laid in bed, I couldn't get that line out of my head. They just want to live. That's all they want. And for some reason God-forsaken reason, that's too much to ask.


Below is a map of the paths I am describing. A little orientation: Tuba and Tuwani are labeled in white. Pink path = Road that settlers control with violence (20 mins); dark blue = long/almost safe path (2 hours); light blue = risky path/reasonable length (45 minutes); greenish = longer/more safe(90 minutes).

Villagers from Tuba also use a path to the northeast (not labeled) and are also attacked there.

The other info on this map refers to a settler attack against two CPTers that happened in November.

**Click on the image to make it bigger and more clear

Quote of the Week: Vol 13

From Gideon Levy (peace be upon him) in Haaretz:
Because that is the truth. We don't want peace. It's as simple as that. It's good for us to wallow in the current situation. There are no terrorist attacks so there are no Arabs. Life is a bowl of cherries, so why change? Society is comatose. It doesn't object and doesn't even ask, led like a flock of sheep, not asking why we need a freeze if at the same time more and more of its funds will be allocated to the settlements in huge quantities.

They don't ask why it's okay for the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba and not for Kiryat Shmona. They don't care at all what is happening in their backyard and don't wonder why the whole world disapproves of us. They just want to enjoy life, and who cares about two states or the end of the occupation?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Top Ten Brands to Boycott this Christmas

While there are many Israeli and multinational companies that benefit from apartheid, we put together this list to highlight ten specific companies to target. Many of these produce goods in such a way that directly harms Palestinians — exploiting labor, developing technology for military operations, or supplying equipment for illegal settlements. Many are also the targets of boycotts for other reasons, like harming the environment and labor violations.


This brand’s cosmetics are produced using salt, minerals, and mud from the Dead Sea — natural resources that are excavated from the occupied West Bank. The products themselves are manufactured in the illegal Israeli settlement Mitzpe Shalem. AHAVA is the target of CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” campaign.

2. Delta Galil Industries

Israel’s largest textiles manufacturer provides clothing and underwear for such popular brands as Gap, J-Crew, J.C. Penny, Calvin Klein, Playtex, Victoria’s Secret (see #10) and many others. Its founder and chairman Dov Lautman is a close associate of former Israeli President Ehud Barak. It has also been condemned by Sweatshop Watch for its exploitation of labor in other countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey.

motobomb3. Motorola

While many of us know this brand for its stylish cellphones, did you know that it also develops and manufactures bomb fuses and missile guidance systems? Motorola components are also used in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) and in communications and surveillance systems used in settlements, checkpoints, and along the 490 mile apartheid wall. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has launched the “Hang Up on Motorola” campaign.

4. L’Oreal / The Body Shop

This cosmetics and perfume company is known for its investments and manufacturing activities in Israel, including production in Migdal Haemek, the “Silicon Valley” of Israel built on the land of Palestinian village Al-Mujaydil, which was ethnically cleansed in 1948. In 1998, a representative of L’Oreal was given the Jubilee Award by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for strengthening the Israeli economy.

Dorot5. Dorot Garlic and Herbs

These frozen herbs that are sold at Trader Joe’s are shipped halfway around the world when they could easily be purchased locally. Trader Joe’s also sells Israeli Cous Cous and Pastures of Eden feta cheese that are made in Israel. QUIT, South Bay Mobilization, and other groups have targeted Trader Joe’s with a “Don’t Buy into Apartheid” campaign.

6. Estee Lauder

This company’s chairman Ronald Lauder is also the chairman of the Jewish National Fund, a quasi-governmental organization that was established in 1901 to acquire Palestinian land and is connected to the continued building of illegal settlements. Estee Lauder’s popular brands include Clinique, MAC, Origins, Bumble & Bumble, Aveda, fragrance lines for top designers, and many others. They have been the target of QUIT’s “Estee Slaughter Killer Products” campaign.

7. Intel

This technology company that manufactures computer processors and other hardware components employs thousands of Israelis and has exports from Israel totaling over $1 billion per year. They are one of Israel’s oldest foreign supporters, having established their first development center outside of the US in 1974 in Haifa. Al-Awda (the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition) has urged action against Intel for building a facility on the land of former village Iraq Al Manshiya, which was cleansed in 1949.

sabra8. Sabra

This brand of hummus, baba ghanoush and other foods is co-owned by Israel’s second-largest food company The Strauss Group and Pepsico. On the “Corporate Responsibility” section of its website, The Strauss Group boasts of its relationship to the Israeli Army, offering food products and political support.

9. Sara Lee

Sara Lee holds a 30% stake in Delta Galil (see #2) and is the world’s largest clothing manufacturer, which owns or is affiliated with such brands as Hanes, Playtex, Champion, Leggs, Sara Lee Bakery, Ball Park hotdogs, Wonderbra, and many others. Similar to L’Oreal (see #4), a representative of Sara Lee received the Jubilee Award from Netanyahu for its commitment to business with Israel.

10. Victoria’s Secret

Most of Victoria’s Secret’s bras are produced by Delta Galil (see #2), and much of the cotton is also grown in Israel on confiscated Palestinian land. Victoria’s Secret has also been the target of labor rights’ groups for sourcing products from companies with labor violations, and by environmental groups for their unsustainable use of paper in producing their catalogues. That’s not sexy!

Quote of the Week: Vol 12

From Haaretz:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that efforts by right-wing activists to prevent the implementation of a freeze on new construction in West Bank settlements were "legitimate" and "natural."
Sure. Settlers resisting the Israeli administration's half-ass attempt to enforce THE LAW (both International law and Israeli law) is legitimate. I get it.

Left in the Dark: Israeli Military Denies Electricity to At-Tuwani

Finally got this video edited. Lots of hours, lots of footage. I hope it was worth it. We are working on a report which documents the past 8 year struggle to bring electricity to At-Tuwani. But in the meantime, this video will suffice.

Here is a little summary of the events, which provides some context before you see the film.

At-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills, Occupied Palestine

This video documents the struggle of the people of At-Tuwani to bring electricity to their village. The Israeli occupying forces have systematically denied At-Tuwani the proper permits to legally connect to the Palestinian electrical grid. At-Tuwani is located in Area C (under the Oslo Accords) and must apply for construction permits through the Israeli administration. After 8 years of submitting applications and documents and receiving no answer from the Israeli administration, the At-Tuwani Village Council decided to begin work on the pylons needed to connect to the electrical grid. The Israeli military immediately stopped the work and issued demolition orders. Later the Israeli military and police carried out the demolition orders, removing and confiscating two electrical pylons.

A brief summary of the recent events:

At-Tuwani, South Hebron hills On Wednesday, 25 November, the Israeli military and police removed and confiscated two standing electricity pylons from the village of At-Tuwani. The electricity pylons had been installed by the villagers of At-Tuwani in an effort to connect to the electrical grid in Yatta, a Palestinian city to the north. The Israeli military declared the area around the pylons a closed military zone in an attempt to prevent Palestinians and international activists from obstructing or documenting the confiscation. Nonetheless, dozens of villagers came out in protest, and barricaded a police jeep from entering the village.

Despite a recent visit by Tony Blair, the Quartet's special Middle East envoy, in which Blair assured villagers of At-Tuwani that the Israeli authorities gave oral permission to carry out the electrical construction work, the community has faced repeated interruptions as it struggles to bring electricity to the area. (see CPTnet release:At-Tuwani hosts former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to address Israeli occupation and violence in the southern West Bank)

On Friday. 30 October, the Israeli military forcibly stopped the village's electrical work. Officers from the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), detained Mohammed Awayesa, a Palestinian worker from Ad-Dhahiriya and confiscated items including a truck, a mechanized lift and a large spool of electrical cable. No written orders were produced for the detention, confiscations or work stoppage. (see CPTnet release: Israeli military stops work to bring electricity to At-Tuwani; confiscates building materials)

On 28 July, 2009, the DCO issued a demolition order for six newly constructed electricity pylons in At-Tuwani.

On 25 May, 2009, the DCO entered the village and ordered residents to halt construction work on the electricity pylons. No written orders were delivered. (See URGENT ACTION: Demand that Israeli occupying forces allow At-Tuwani to bring electricity into their village)

See photos from 25 November 2009 at

Monday, December 07, 2009

Palestinian Farmers Plow Fields Despite Settler and Military Harassment

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

On the morning of Saturday, November 28, Palestinians from At-Tuwani and Yatta successfully plowed their fields in al-Khoruba Valley and al-Mashakha Valley, as well as fields on the property of Hajj Hussein Daoud. These fields lie southeast of Havot Ma'on, an illegal Israeli settlement outpost that in 2006 was designated for evacuation. Some of the fields had been plowed by settlers on November 5 when, according to Palestinian shepherds, the Israeli military was present and permitted the plowing to happen. Palestinians of nearby communities expressed concern, seeing this as another attempt by settlers to steal their land.

On November 28, accompanied by CPTers and other internationals, 20 Palestinians with 5 tractors began working their land. After a few minutes, 16 settlers emerged from Havot Ma'on. Some approached, yelling for Palestinians to get off "their land of Israel." As heated conversations between settlers and Palestinians ensued, a young man from Yatta attempted to hit a settler, and a youth from Yatta struck the settler with a piece of irrigation hose. Immediately, four of the settlers rushed toward the Palestinians and internationals, some with rocks in hand.

Shortly after, Israeli military and police arrived and insisted that the Palestinians could not plow in the area. Internationals showed the Israeli authorities documentation on "The Right to Access Agricultural Lands,"* an Israeli high court ruling which stipulates that the Israeli army must uphold property rights and protect Palestinian farmers who are entering and working their land. Instead
of complying with the ruling, soldiers and police gave conflicting orders about where the Palestinians and internationals could be and why. As these conversations unfolded, however, the Palestinians continued to work and managed to plow all the fields they had hoped to plow that day.

*Find "The Right to Access Agricultural Lands" at the website of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): <>

Palestinians plow fields near Israeli outpost, despite challenges from military and settlers

Last Saturday, 5 December, Palestinians from the village of Shi'b al-Batin, accompanied by internationals, attempted to plow land in a valley north of the Israeli settler outpost* of Magen David / Mizpe Ya'ir, about one kilometer inside the Israeli border fence that traces the southern tip of the occupied West Bank. See photo: <>

Shepherd families of the South Hebron Hills need to plow and seed their fields each autumn so they can harvest and build their stocks of barley each spring, to sustain their flocks through the long dry summers.

As the work commenced, Israeli settlers spotted the action and walked down into the valley. One of them, a security guard, was armed and speaking with someone through a radio. Internationals tried to talk with the settlers, but were ignored. See photo: <>

Soon four Israeli soldiers came and blocked the tractors and forced the Palestinians to stop plowing. Then four armed officers from the District Coordinating Office (DCO) arrived. Also known as the Civil Administration, this special branch of the Israeli army holds all governmental powers throughout the rural West Bank (Area C). The Palestinian landowner showed them papers confirming the Palestinians’ right to work their own land.

The DCO allowed them to continue, but went to an adjacent valley and stopped one of the workers because he was plowing up on a slope that was above the edge of the field. The man put his son on the tractor, and his son resumed plowing.

A DCO officer forcibly stopped the tractor, detained the boy for several minutes, took the tractor key, and chided the boy that he was behaving badly by not obeying the authorities, and that he would arrest him and confiscate his father’s tractor if he persisted. The father and son gave up trying to plow.

Palestinians report that last year they were able to plow more fields in the same area, indicating that land rights are becoming more restricted. When asked if they hope to accomplish more plowing this year, they answered unequivocally "yes." See a picture of the partially plowed field: <>
On each Saturday in recent weeks, Palestinians have organized community plowing and seeding actions in communal and privately owned fields around the South Hebron Hills. They have attained varying measures of success, in each case peaceably disobeying Israeli occupation authorities and settlers. See the 30 November 2009 release, "Palestinian Farmers Plow Fields Despite Settler and Military Harassment": <>

See all pictures of this event: <>

Read "The Right to Access Agricultural Lands" by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): <>

*According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Seattle WTO Protests - A Decade Later

At a DVD shop in Bethlehem I randomly picked up a film that caught my eye, Battle in Seattle. Battle in Seattle is a film about the 1999 mass protest against the World Trade Organization's (WTO) meeting in Seattle. I enjoyed the film, but the crazy thing is that I watched it on the tenth anniversary of the protests, without even knowing it.

In 1999 people came out in strong numbers to protest the WTO. The WTO is a so-called democratic organization because it includes representatives from all over the world. The fact is that powerful countries and powerful economic interests control the WTO, while the voices of the people and the 2/3 world are not heard. The overarching ideology for the WTO (similiarly with the IMF and the World Bank) is that profit is more important than people. Breaking down borders and opening up trade sounds fine and dandy, but the reality of free-trade agreements (such as NAFTA) is that poor people and indigienous people get the short-end-of-the-stick, while executives in multinational corportations get personal jets. Corporate and economic interests trump human rights.

Check out a great Democracy Now piece, 10 Years After the Seattle Protests

Check out this column from the Seattle Times looking back at everything that hasn't changed since 1999.

CNN on South Hebron Hills

CNN's Paula Hancocks visits the Palestinians of the Hebron caves and sees first hand their harsh life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eid il Adha 2009

Friday, 27 Nov 2009

Today was my second Eid il Adha in Palestine. Eid il Adha commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Muslims celebrate this holiday by sacrificing an animal. In At-Tuwani, the men of the village gathered to sacrifice a camel. It went as you might expect: lots of blood and lots of meat. Traditionally, the meat from the sacrifice is distributed in 3 equal parts. 1/3 of the meat is eaten by the family, 1/3 is given to relatives, and 1/3 is given to the poor. The camel was a sacrifice amongst all the families in the village, so that meat was divided amongst the village (including the foreigners, thankfully), with a portion being given to the poor.

The sacrifice was made early in the morning and people were barbecuing the camel meat almost immediately because many had been fasting the previous day. Barbecued camel meat and camel liver is pretty good, but a little chewy.

Sitting with my Muslim brother and sisters during Eid il Adha (the biggest of the Muslim holidays) was a treat. It was a relief from the chaos/injustice/absurdity of the occupation in the last two weeks. The last two weeks have been the hardest two weeks of my time working in Palestine, so the Eid (holiday) was a welcome break.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Israeli military confiscates electricity pylons; Palestinians prohibited from improving quality of life

This just happened. Breaking News. I was slammed onto the hood of a police jeep while videotaping this incident. I was momentarily detained but not arrested. More importantly, the Palestinians in the village said they will start installing new pylons ASAP. Resistance, baby.

I will edit the video tomorrow and hopefully post it soon. Make sure to check out the photo link at the bottom.

25 November, 2009

At-Tuwani, South Hebron hills – On Wednesday, 25 November, the Israeli military and police removed and confiscated two standing electricity pylons from the village of At-Tuwani. The electricity pylons had been installed by the villagers of At-Tuwani in an effort to connect to the electrical grid in Yatta, a Palestinian city to the north. The Israeli military declared the area around the pylons a closed military zone in an attempt to prevent Palestinians and international activists from obstructing or documenting the confiscation. Nonetheless, dozens of villagers came out in protest, and barricaded a police jeep from entering the village.

Despite a recent visit by Tony Blair, the Quartet's special Middle East envoy, in which Blair assured villagers of At-Tuwani that the Israeli authorities gave oral permission to carry out the electrical construction work, the community has faced repeated interruptions as it struggles to bring electricity to the area. (see CPTnet release:At-Tuwani hosts former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to address Israeli occupation and violence in the southern West Bank)

On Friday. 30 October, the Israeli military forcibly stopped the village's electrical work. Officers from the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), detained Mohammed Awayesa, a Palestinian worker from Ad-Dhahiriya and confiscated items including a truck, a mechanized lift and a large spool of electrical cable. No written orders were produced for the detention, confiscations or work stoppage. (see CPTnet release: Israeli military stops work to bring electricity to At-Tuwani; confiscates building materials)

On 28 July, 2009, the DCO issued a demolition order for six newly constructed electricity pylons in At-Tuwani.

On 25 May, 2009, the DCO entered the village and ordered residents to halt construction work on the electricity pylons. No written orders were delivered. (See URGENT ACTION: Demand that Israeli occupying forces allow At-Tuwani to bring electricity into their village).

See photos from 25 November 2009 at

Monday, November 23, 2009

A GREAT piece of media coverage!!

Please check out this link from Sky News in Britain. There is a great video and also a great written piece.

This reporter came to the village and interviewed us international peace activists and also walked with the children along the escort route. They stayed in Tuba (where the kids walk from) and interviewed the families.

This is the type of reporting that we need more of. It explains what's really happening. That's all I ask for at this point.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Media coverage on recent settler attack

See this Ynet article (the online version of the leading Israeli newspaper) for coverage of the settler attack from yesterday's beating.

The comments on the article are disturbing. Here is a sampling:

  • Peace Activists" will destroy Israel. These so-called "Peace Activists" will harm and slowly destroy Israel. They are funded by the anti-Israel European Union. No one should trust these filthy people. They do not worship the G-d of Israel, Hashem. If they did they would have known that the Land of Israel belongs only to the Jewish people. Read the Torah. Our deed to ALL of the Land of Israel is in the Torah.
  • If details of this incident is true ... even though I don't share some of the goals of the christian peace group- as a Christian.. I see as inexcusable the actions of the settlers .. it causes unescessary excuses for hamas and fatah to continue thier violence....hamas and fatah don't need to have real events they can point to....don't give hamas and fatah unnecessary politcal amunition
  • Two foreign PEACE ACTIVISTS claim they were injured by settlers. Kindly reprimand these pioneers for leaving these activists healthy and able to complain These activists must be thrashed and broken by all means possible.Where are the authourities to deport this rubbish at thier cost.?? Who permitted this filth to enter the holy land??Where are the passport control officers??
  • How convenient for these people to have had their cameras stolen .... so we are supposed to take their word for anything? What's their claim -- uh, we were beaten up really badly and we had the incident on film, but our cameras were stolen so we have no proof of anything. Yeah. And the dog ate their homework, right? They come only to foment trouble and their claims should be weighted against that fact. They should be deported to whence they came and be declared persona non grata and banned forever.

Israeli settlers harass Palestinian family, beat and rob internationals

17 November, 2009

On Tuesday, 17 November, in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, five Israeli settlers harassed a Palestinian family walking home, then beat and robbed two internationals who accompanied them.

The two young parents and their three small children were returning from the nearby city of Yatta to their home village of Tuba. At 11 a.m. they encountered two members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) just south of the village of At-Tuwani. After the CPTers warned the Palestinians about the settlers seen earlier in the morning, the family chose a longer path toward Tuba, accompanied by the CPTers.

As the group crossed Mashakha Hill, they saw four settler men on a ridge 50 meters above them. The settlers ran toward the Palestinians and began to circle them. A fifth settler, masked and hooded, appeared from the valley below. When the Palestinian man told them he was only trying to walk home, a settler shoved him.

As the CPTers attempted to step between the Palestinians and settlers, the settlers pushed them to the ground, hit and kicked them, and stole their two video cameras. The settlers then walked to the illegal settlement outpost* of Havot Ma’on (Hill 833), where they disappeared among the trees 20 minutes later. The Palestinian family reached their home safely.

For decades, residents of Tuba Village had a direct road to the village of At-Tuwani, and onward to the regional economic hub of Yatta. The Israeli settlement of Ma’on and its neighboring illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on were built directly on that road, blocking all Palestinian traffic and forcing villagers onto long dirt paths through the hills, taking as much as two hours.

CPT has maintained a continuous full-time presence in At-Tuwani since 2005, supporting Palestinian freedom of movement under the threat of settler violence. CPT places trained volunteers in locations of violent conflict around the world at the invitation of local peacemakers.

[*Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quote of the Week: Vol 11

From Haaretz, the Israeli daily:
The Israel Defense Forces' chief rabbi told students in a pre-army yeshiva program last week that soldiers who "show mercy" toward the enemy in wartime will be "damned."

Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki also told the yeshiva students that religious individuals made better combat troops.

Speaking Thursday at the Hesder yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron , Rontzki referred to Maimonides' discourse on the laws of war. That text quotes a passage from the Book of Jeremiah stating: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord with a slack hand, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood."

In Rontzki's words, "In times of war, whoever doesn't fight with all his heart and soul is damned - if he keeps his sword from bloodshed, if he shows mercy toward his enemy when no mercy should be shown."
The article continues:
Rontzki also referred to the qualities of the ideal combat soldier.

"In Israel's wars, warriors are God-fearing people, righteous people, people who don't have sins on their hands," he said. "One needs to fight with an understanding of what one is fighting for.
This reminds me of one of my favorite lines/most harrowing lines: bad theology kills people.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Palestinian access to water in South Hebron

This exclusive report from Al Jazeera shows Israeli occupation forces dismantling a farmer's water pipes in the agricultural village of al-Baqa.

Badran Jaber, a Palestinian farmer, told Al Jazeera: "We were surprised by a large group of soldiers and settlers who surrounded the entire area. We asked them: 'why are you doing this and what do you want?' They refused to speak to us.

"Men who came with the soldiers stormed the field and pulled out all the irrigation pipes, destroying the crops."

Israeli soldiers claim they must protect settlers who beat Palestinian children

I shot this video near At-Tuwani. My colleague and I were returning to At-Tuwani after accompanying some shepherds. We were walking through the hills when we were intercepted by these soldiers. I think the video speaks for itself, but think about the implications of the IDF protecting Jews only, and not Palestinians. Think about the consequences of the logic that says that all settlers should be protected because they are Jewish, even if they beat up Palestinian children. It's a twisted logic that allows Israeli thugs to live on stolen land and continue attacking children, farmers, and shepherds.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Confessions of Israeli Leaders

A video from the Never Before Campaign

If one wants to know why and how the conflict started in Palestine more than 60 years ago, the "confessions" of Israeli and Zionist leaders should make it very clear.

700,000 Palestinians (more than half of the Palestinian population at the time) were expelled in 1948.

More than 600 towns and villages were ethnically cleansed.

Thousands were killed and maimed.

... the crimes continue to this date, and so does the unjustified condoning attitude of "civilized" governments.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My First Stakeout

I've been watching the HBO show The Wire. It's quite a good show, I would recommend it. The Wire follows a unit of Baltimore police that are put on special cases breaking up drug, crime, and prostitution rings. It provides a very interesting glimpse into the complicated web of interests and politics in these urban issues as well as glimpses into corruption, politics, and bureaucracy among the police force.

A few nights ago I watched an episode of The Wire. There were two detectives who were assigned to a stakeout at a warehouse. Through some nifty detective work, the BPD believed there were drugs and stolen goods going in and out of this warehouse. The stakeout involved the usual: long nights sitting in the car trying to stay awake, snapping endless photos of empty parking lots, and cheeseburger combo meals.

A brief interlude, and then I will get back to stakeouts...

Yesterday, the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO, a branch of the army responsible for administrating Palestinian civilian affairs in the occupied territories) delivered a 'stop work order' to my friend Yasser from At-Tuwani. Stop work orders are often delivered by the Israeli army in an attempt to stop illegal building by Palestinians living in Area C. One of the results of the Oslo Accords (a set of 'peace' talks) was the slicing-up of the West Bank. The Oslo Accords broke the West Bank up into Areas A,B,C. Palestinians living in areas A and B don't have problems getting building permits because they apply through the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians living in Area C (under full Israeli control, meaning there is no Palestinian Authority presence whatsoever) are forced to apply through the Israeli DCO for a building permit. The problem is that the Israeli government only issues building permits a small fraction of the time. Palestinians in Area C have to pay a large sum of money to apply, and the great majority are turned down without the possibility of a refund. Yasser told me that he has never, in his entire life, met a Palestinian living in Area C who has received a building permit. What this means is that nearly all Palestinian homes in Area C are illegal because they were built without permits.

The 'stop work order' was delivered because Yasser was adding an extension onto his home. He is adding the extension because his 6th child is on the way, and his home has many leaks and additional problems. The Israeli DCO came and took pictures of the house, pictures of Yasser, took his ID#, and told those working on the house that they would be arrested in any more work took place. Yasser was also threatened with arrest because of his 'illegal' building project.

Stopping the building is not really an option because if Palestinians in this area listened to the Israeli army and Israeli government regarding housing options then not a single Palestinian in At-Tuwani would be living under a roof, because all of their houses are illegal structures according to the Israeli government.

Back to the stakeout...

We spoke with Yasser about the situation at his house and he informed us that he would continue to build. He wasn't terribly concerned about repercussions against him (he knew the risks for himself), but was very cognizant of the position the workers would be in. These are hired contractors and would be doing 'illegal' work with the risk of arrest (building a house as civil disobedience....awesome). He would try to finish the house as quick as possible, within the week ideally. Then if the army came and delivered a demolition order (the next step is demolishing the structure, after a stop work order has been issued), he would battle it in the courts; more or less, he decided he would cross that bridge when he came to it. Yasser asked for our help in protecting the workers.

We spoke as a team and came up with a strategy to help the workers avoid arrest if the army came. Two of us sat near the entrance to the village and two people stayed at Yasser's house. If any suspicious vehicles entered the village (jeeps, hummers, police jeeps, unmarked white trucks – the DCO) the people at the entrance called the people stationed at Yasser's house. Those at Yasser's house would first tell the workers to scatter. The workers would probably scramble to the adjacent hill, grab a tea glass and a deck of cards and pretend like they were just passing the time. The two international peace activists at Yasser's house would then walk in the middle of the road toward the village entrance in an attempt to delay the army from accessing the building site.

So the moral of the story: Baltimore police hold stakeouts to catch criminals (drug dealers, thiefs, and pimps) and we hold stakeouts to assist criminals (low wage workers and Palestinian nonviolent resistance organizers).