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.
Sunday, November 29, 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
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 http://cpt.org/gallery/album299
Monday, November 23, 2009
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
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.
- NOT PEACE ACTIVISTS BUT ANTI ISRAEL ACTIVISTSIN A WAR THE FIRST THING THAT U DO IS TAKE LAND AND KEEP IT,EVERY COUNTRY DID THAT. IT IS ONE OF THE RULES OF WAR. BUT AS FOR HEBRON ,IT IS 100% JEWISH LAND.
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
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."The article continues:
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."
Rontzki also referred to the qualities of the ideal combat soldier.This reminds me of one of my favorite lines/most harrowing lines: bad theology kills people.
"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.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
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."
Friday, November 13, 2009
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
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).
Monday, November 09, 2009
9 November 2009
At-Tuwani – On the morning of Sunday 8 November 2009 four Israeli settler youth from Ma'on settlement plowed privately-owned Palestinian fields in Umm Zeituna valley. The settlers arrived at approximately 8:50 am and chased two Palestinian shepherds off the land throwing stones, before starting plowing. Local Palestinian shepherds and international peace activists from Operation Dove called the Israeli police, who failed to respond to the incident.
Local shepherds also reported that on Friday 5 November settlers from Ma'on, with the accompaniment of Israeli soldiers, plowed a field near the Palestinian village of Maghayir al Abeed belonging to Hajj Hussein Daoud from the Palestinian city of Yatta. The owner has filed several complaints regarding settlers violating his property rights. In recent years the Palestinian land owner requested the presence of Israeli police and the Israeli army during plowing and harvesting due to Israeli settler attacks.
Additionally, in recent days three privately-owned Palestinian fields in Mashakha valley, adjacent to a recent expansion by the Israeli outpost of Havat Ma'on, have also been plowed. Palestinian shepherds have told internationals from Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove that they suspect that settlers from Ma'on and Havat Ma'on plowed the land.
Due to settler violence and threats, Palestinians were forced to abandon their homes in Umm Zeituna in 1998. Settlers from Ma'on and Havat Ma'on continue to harass and attack Palestinians in the area of Umm Zeituna. Despite the ongoing threats the area is still used by local Palestinian community for farming activities, grazing their flocks, gathering herbs and wood, and as path for traveling to the nearby city of Yatta. (see
On Friday 10 April 2009 five masked Israeli settlers attacked three Palestinian women in Umm Zeituna, throwing rocks and beating one of the women.. The injured woman needed to be hospitalized to receive treatment for her injuries. (
settlers from the Israeli settlement of Ma'on have further expanded the settlement by erecting six new mobile homes and executing preparatory building work on land beyond the existing boundary fence of Ma'on. In addition, the illegal outpost of Havat Ma'on also continues to expand.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Dear Congressman McClintock,
You recently voted in favor of HRes 867. I strongly disagree with this vote, and as your constituent (a voter in Auburn, CA) I would like you to hear why.
The Goldstone Report is being discredited by Israel and other nations which support Israel, including the United States. Choosing to not give credence to this report, written by a committee headed by respected Judge Goldstone, himself a Jew and a Zionist whose daughter lives in Israel, is unacceptable. This is a balanced report which documents human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by both the Israeli military and Hamas militants during Operation Cast Lead in Dec/Jan.
I have read the report and find HRes 867 factually inaccurate and strongly biased in support of Israel. It seems the resolution attempts to absolve Israel of any guilt or responsibility, an attempt to place them above the rule of international law. The fact is that Israel bombed UN facilities, schools, mosques, and a UN compound. Israel also used white phosphorous. I am not dismissing the crimes committed by Hamas, such as launching rockets at unarmed civilians; but Israel did the very same thing, and killed many more civilians in the process. Both need to be held accountable, Israel cannot be exempt.
I am currently working in the West Bank, and am daily documenting human rights abuses prepetrated by the Israeli military and Israeli settlers, as a result of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The fact that the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress turn a blind eye to the crimes of Israel, is deeply disturbing to me as a citizen of the United States, but more significantly, as a human being.
I would like to hear your reasoning for voting in favor of HRes 867.
Thank you for reading this, and I would be more than willing to be in touch with you about issues in Israel and Palestine, as I am a constituent of yours who is deeply involved in the politics and issues of this region.
Please be in touch.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Before House Members vote on H.Res. 867, regarding the U.N. Goldstone report on the Gaza conflict, there are a few questions worth asking.
First, why are we bringing this resolution to the floor without ever giving former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone a hearing to explain his findings? Have those who will vote on H.Res. 867 actually read the resolution? Have they read the Goldstone report? Are they aware that Justice Goldstone has issued a paragraph-by-paragraph response, available on my Web site at baird.house.gov, to H.Res. 867 pointing out that many of its assertions are factually inaccurate or deeply misleading?
Since scarcely a dozen House Members have actually been to Gaza , what actual firsthand knowledge do the rest of the Members of Congress possess on which to base their judgment of the merits of H.Res. 867 or the Goldstone report?
What will it say about this Congress and our country if we so readily seek to block "any further consideration" of a human rights investigation produced by one of the most respected jurists in the world today, a man who led the investigations of abuses in South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Kosovo, and worked to identify and prosecute Nazi war criminals as a member of the Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina?
As one of the first two American officials, along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), to enter Gaza shortly after the conclusion of major bombing from "Operation Cast Lead," then again several months later, I have seen firsthand the devastating destruction of hospitals, schools, homes, industries and infrastructure. Much of that devastation was wrought using U.S. manufactured and paid for weaponry. I have also spoken with health workers, average Gazans, nongovernmental organization relief workers and many others.
In addition, I have been to the Israeli town of Sderot , which has been the target of repeated rocket attacks, and to a number of Palestinian towns and Israeli settlements in the West Bank . Colleagues who have not been to the region may wish to view some of the images and interviews from these visits on my Web site.
With the information from these personal visits and on-the-ground knowledge, I read with care and interest the Goldstone report in its entirety, and my firm conclusion is that, although the findings may be unpleasant and troubling, they are, unfortunately, consistent with the facts and evidence. In my judgment, far from meriting the obstruction called for in H.Res. 867, the Goldstone report is without question worthy of further investigation.a
I know this conclusion is not easily accepted, and I know it raises serious charges against entities and individuals on both sides of this conflict, Israel and Hamas. But if our own country is truly to stand for human rights and the rule of law, and if facts matter, how can we do other than insist that legitimate questions and evidence are followed by further investigation and, if necessary and warranted, appropriate consequences?
H.Res. 867 is very serious business. If, as Goldstone asserts and the evidence I have seen supports, there were in fact gross violations of international law and human rights on all sides, we cannot in good conscience support H.Res. 867.
This is about much more than just another imposed political litmus test that we are all too often asked to perform. This is about whether we as individuals and this Congress as an institution find it acceptable to drop white phosphorous on civilian targets, to rocket civilian communities, to destroy hospitals and schools, to use civilians as human shields, and to deliberately destroy nonmilitary factories, industries and basic water, electrical and sanitation infrastructure. This is about whether it is acceptable to restrict the movement, opportunities and hopes of more than a million people every single day.
At the end of the day, this is also about our own domestic security. If we are seen internationally as condoning violations of human rights and international law, if our money and our weaponry play a leading role in those violations, and if we reflexively obstruct the findings of someone with the credentials, history and integrity of Justice Goldstone, it can only diminish our international standing and our own security.
The resolution passed 344-36. A nearly unanimous decision by Congress to call on the U.S. administration to reject a report from an international body documenting war crimes in a recent offensive in which mosques, schools, and apartment building were destroyed.
Haaretz reported on the passing of the resolution:
With a 344-36 vote, the House passed a nonbinding resolution that urged President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to oppose unequivocally any endorsement of the report. Twenty-two representatives voted present.
The report, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, accuses both Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group of war crimes but presents Israel's actions as much more serious.
The Ros-Lehtinen/Berman resolution defines the report as "biased and unworthy of further consideration," U.S. Representative Howard Berman, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, said recently at the Jerusalem Conference.
Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, warned lawmakers that further consideration of the Goldstone report could seriously harm Middle East peace negotiations.
"Israel, like all sovereign nations, has the responsibility to respect human rights and adhere to international law," she said, "However, its defense of its citizens against attacks by Hamas militants simply cannot be conflated with terrorist actions.
"Facilitating a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is among our most important foreign policy priorities, and further consideration of the Goldstone report could hinder movement toward peace negotiations," said Lowey.
The Anti-Defamation League addressed Goldstone, also appearing in Haaretz:
Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman of ADL called on Goldstone to repudiate his report: "I have had great respect for you over the years. Your work at the head of the South Africa Reconciliation Commission and in helping to find a just solution to the Bosnian conflict deserves the highest commendation.Goldstone responded to the madness of U.S. Congress resolution 867. Goldstone looked at each main clause in the resolution and responded. The trend seen is his responses to each clause is this: "this assertion is factually inaccurate," or "this is taken out of context," or "this is misquoted." Basically the resolution is full of inaccuracies about the report. Goldstone at one point urges those voting on the resolution to read the report, he probably says this because it appears those who drafted the resolution hadn't even read the report. Read Goldstone's full response here, it's worth your time.
"Moreover, I know you to be a proud Jew who serves on the Board of Trustees of Hebrew University and who has a daughter living in Israel."
"With this background, I wondered in the first place how you could take on the chairmanship of the investigation of the war in Gaza mandated by the UN Human Rights Council," he said. "After all, the Human Rights Council has repeatedly demonstrated its bias against Israel and in its stated mission for the investigation began with assumptions presuming Israeli guilt."
But seriously, 344-36? This is a harrowing day for the prospect of peace in Palestine and Israel. It seems the United States is a million miles away from supporting international law and supporting human rights for all people. This resolution simply shows, yet again, that Israel can do no wrong; it can even bomb schools, mosques, and U.N. compounds; and still be called the victim.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
A Palestinian student has been handcuffed, blindfolded and forcibly expelled to the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops just two months before she was due to graduate from university.
Berlanty Azzam, 21, who was studying for a business degree at Bethlehem University, said she was coming home in a shared taxi from a job interview in Ramallah on Wednesday when soldiers at the "Container" checkpoint took her identity card and that of another passenger with a Gaza address.
Here's the press release. Oh, and the electricity construction equipment is still missing....errr, stolen.
30 October 2009
At-Tuwani – On Friday 30 October, the Israeli army forcibly stopped the electrical work of the village of At-Tuwani, located in the South Hebron hills. Officers from the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), the branch of the Israeli army responsible for the administration of Palestinian civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, detained Mohammed Awayesa, a Palestinian worker from Ad-Dhahiriya and confiscated materials and tools being used for the electrical work. The
items confiscated included a truck, a mechanized lift, and a large spool of electrical wire. No written orders were produced for the detention, confiscations, or work stoppage.
Even though the army has given verbal permission to the community leaders to carry on the work, the DCO told the Palestinian workers and villagers that continued work on the electrical lines was illegal without a written permission from the DCO. The DCO took Awayesa and the materials to an
Israeli DCO office near Al Fahs, south of Hebron. The DCO released the man but is still holding the confiscated material.
Despite a recent visit by Tony Blair, special middle east envoy of the Quartet, where the former Prime Minister assured villagers from At-Tuwani that the DCO gave oral permission to carry out the electricity construction work , the community struggle to bring electricity to the area has been met with ongoing interruptions by the DCO. (See At-Tuwani release:
On 28 July 2009, members of the DCO issued a demolition order for six newly constructed electricity pylons in the village of At-Tuwani (see At-Tuwani urgent action:
On 25 May 2009, the DCO entered the village of At-Tuwani and ordered villagers to halt construction work on new electricity pylons in the village. No written orders were delivered. (see At-Tuwani urgent action: