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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

TUBA RELEASE: Israeli soldiers ransack Palestinian homes and damage belongings in Tuba village

CAUSE AND......
EFFECT.




A CPT press release below, and some of my own personal notes from the incident follow the release:
On March 31, the Israeli Special Police Forces entered the Palestinian village of Tuba, immediately east of Ma'on settlement, and destroyed household belongings in two homes in the village. The police forced Tuba residents from their homes and told them that they were searching for two goats which settlers from the outpost of Havat Ma'on had reported missing.

The police also accused the villagers of possessing weapons, and while questioning nearly a dozen villagers, the police upended nearly every belonging in both homes. The police ransacked three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a storage unit. International activists and Tuba residents reported that the police left the scene without confiscating any weapons or sheep and without making any arrests. During the search police personnel refused to let international activists observe the search of the homes or the interrogations of the residents.


Additional relevant information: The village of Tuba lies near the Israeli outpost of Havat Ma'on, and shepherds from the village are frequently forced from their grazing land near the outpost. During March, shepherds, international activists, and members of the Israeli peace organization, Taayush, participated in a series of nonviolent actions in an attempt to prevent the Israeli military from forcing Tuba shepherds and sheep from their grazing land. On multiple occasions in March, Israeli soldiers declared an area of land including the village of Tuba to be a closed military zone forcing all Palestinian shepherds to leave the area. The soldiers also arrested Israeli activists who refused to leave the area.

Children from Tuba who attend school in At-Tuwani must walk with a military escort through through Havat Ma'on to reach their school. They are frequently subjected to threats and assaults from settlers.

[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.]
We saw the police vehicles arriving in Tuba as I was a couple of kilometers away. We immediately gave chase and arrived within 20 minutes. The police refused to allow us to come close to the houses, where the searches and interrogations were taking place, because this was an area of "police business." There were probably 15-20 Israeli police and these are the riot-type police who show up and demonstrations and other "special-forces-type operations." I called Abed*, one of the villagers to try to find out what was happening inside, he answered in a very soft voice and almost immediately said, "Kull shi kwayyes, mish mushkile" (Everything is fine, there's no problem), and hung up. I could hear a voice in the background as Abed was speaking, which I later found out, was a policeman telling him, "tell them everything is fine and then hang up...TELL THEM everythning is FINE!" Abed told me how the phone call transpired, his eyes emitting a sense of defeat, "Sam, I wanted to tell you what was going on, but they were turning over my house and asking about my sons, what was I supposed to do?"

The police asked the villagers about their income, why they have a vegetable garden, why their sons aren't home, if they have weapons in the house, and seemed to express knowledge about the living arrangements (as if they had some intelligence). They walked around to adjacent villages and passerbyers and questioned them about these two missing goats. As Abed was explaining the scene of them upending his house, he asked rhetorically, "so did they think they would find the goats between the matresses, or in the drawers, or in the kitchen? They are liars, Sam, liars. We lead an honest life, according to God's teachings, and we are treated like this all because of some lies about the settlers' goats? You see how the occupation treats the Palestinians? You see?"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Easter to you Palestinian Christians

So this is how the Israel military decides to celebrate Pesach (Passover)...sick.
For the week of Passover, Israel has enforced a closure on the entire West Bank. Until next Tuesday (April 6), very few Palestinians can enter Jerusalem, including Palestinian Christians hoping to participate in Holy Week and Easter activities. We pray for freedom of movement and freedom of worship for the many people who are still denied both.
Al Jazeera reports:
Israel has curbed travel from the occupied West Bank and restricted access to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem as Jews observe the week-long Passover holiday.
Also, if you are a man under 50, and Arab, you are probably a terrorist, especially if its Passover:

"In addition to the closure of the West Bank, which starts on Monday and ends on April 6, entrance to the Old City is denied to Palestinian men under the age of 50."

Police did not say when the restrictions would be lifted.

Authorities have also tightened restrictions on access to Israel from the occupied West Bank, closing checkpoints to general traffic, with exceptions for medical cases, humanitarian aid, and professionals and students with permits.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Stop Obama; Get it, Get it


Gideon Levy, thank you again, friend, for being a prophetic voice:


Obama is asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and through him every Israeli, to finally speak the truth. He's asking Netanyahu and the rest of us: What on earth do you actually want? Enough with the misleading answers; the moment of truth is here. Enough with the tricks - a neighborhood here, a settlement expansion there. Just tell us: Where are you heading? Do you want to go on receiving unprecedented aid from the United States, do you want to become part of the Middle East, do you want to achieve peace?

If you do, please start behaving accordingly, including halting all construction in all settlements, everywhere, for all time, and begin evacuating them instead. Any action by Israel would be reminiscent of the three no's of Khartoum: No to ending the occupation, no to peace, no to friendship with America.

........

After 43 years of a vicious occupation, these, too, are minimal demands. Obama didn't humiliate Israel. Israel humiliated itself for a generation, thinking it could do whatever it wanted - talk peace and build settlements, entrench an occupation and still be considered a democracy, while living on American support and rejecting its requests. Since all of Obama's demands should have come from Israel itself, Obama is merely acting the way a friend should act. And for that he deserves those three words, from the bottom of our hearts: Thank you, friend.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

AT-TUWANI RELEASE: Israeli army subjects Palestinian school children to verbal abuse and fails to safely escort them to and from school

[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.]

27 March 2010

For three consecutive days Palestinian school children from Maghayir al Abeed and Tuba were subjected to unprofessional conduct by Israeli soldiers. Army personnel did not show up at the appropriate time, forcing children to wait in unsafe areas were they have experienced past
attacks. When the army did finally arrive they proceeded to yell at the children. On one occasion the army failed to complete the escort, resulting in harassment of the children by settlers.

On Tuesday 23 March CPTers called the army three times before the afternoon escort finally arrived. . This resulted in the children arriving home 45 minutes late.

On Wednesday 24 March, CPTers called the army three times before the afternoon escort arrived. When the army finally arrived, the soldiers began to yell at the children to hurry up the road. The children rushed to gather their belongings and one young girl left her sweater behind. When CPTer Jessica Frederick urged the soldiers to be patient, a soldier replied, “We have missions to do.” Frederick stated that escorting the children was one of their missions, but the soldier answered, “No, we have missions to do, and this is a bonus.”

On Thursday 25 March, the soldiers failed to complete the morning escort. After escorting the children partway to At-Tuwani, the soldiers drove away, leaving the children to walk alone past two Israeli settlers. The children ran down the road to At-Tuwani when they saw the settlers pick up stones because they believed the settlers would throw the stones at them based on past experiences. During afternoon school patrol internationals called the army escort three times. The children waited 35 minutes for the escort to arrive.
---------------------------
The children require a military escort to and from school because of repeated attacks by Israeli settlers from Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost. When the Israeli military does not arrive on time to accompany the children, they must wait in an area of de facto settler control, a location where settlers have attacked the young Palestinian children on a number of occasions in the past. The most recent attack was a month ago, on 22 February 2010. (See release, *AT-TUWANI: Israeli
settlers intimidate Palestinian schoolchildren after Israeli military neglects escort.)
*_http://www.cpt.org/cptnet/2010/03/06/tuwani-israeli-settlers-intimidate-palestinian-school-children-after-israeli-milit_*

For a complete report on the school escort in 2007-2008, including maps, photographs and interviews with the children, please see “A Dangerous Journey” at _www.cpt.org/files/Dangerous-Journey-Summary-2008.pdf <http://www.cpt.org/files/Dangerous-Journey-Summary-2008.pdf>_

The Suffocation of Palestinian East Jerusalem

A great map from the NY Times showing the ongoing ethnic carving of Jerusalem (hat tip to Mondoweiss). Note the barrier of the wall, which seeks to include as many Jewish areas as possible and to exclude as many Palestinian areas as possible. Also note the Jewish perimeter of settlements which is being built in an attempt to surround Palestinian east Jerusalem. Note the extent to which Bethlehem has been separated from Jerusalem through use of settlements and the separation barrier. There have also been statements made and documents released which demonstrates the intent to connect the Jewish settlements to the east of Jerusalem (Maale Adummim and Mishor Adummim) to the settlements in Jericho (which lies due east of Jerusalem, on the border with Jordan). If this plan would ever completed, it would sever the north half of the West Bank from the south half. Bantustans people, bantustans.

So Much for the "worst-relations-between-Israel-and-the-US-in-decades" Controversy

So it's not a surprise that the United States vetoes all U.N. resolutions with target or seek to put pressure on Israel. The UN Human Rights council passed 3 resolutions involving Israel's policies and the United States voted against all of them. I will summarize the three resolutions, and I will save the best for last:

  1. Addressed 'grave human rights violations' committed by the Israeli army in the Palestinian territories. It also called for the halt to the systematic destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage. It passed 31 to 9,with 7 abstentions. Both the U.S. and the European Union (who together hold 7 seats), voted no.

  2. Addressed the systematic violation of human rights of those in the Golan Heights (Syrian land which was annexed by Israeli in the 1967 war). 31 to 1, with 16 abstentions. The U.S. was the only country with voted no, all of the E.U. votes were abstentions.

  3. Called on Israel to stop all settlement building, and to begin withdrawing from previous settlements. It passed 46 to 1, with 0 abstentions. The U.S. was the only country to vote no. Here's an excerpt from the resolution.

      ...reaffirms the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity and to establish their sovereign, independent, democratic and viable contiguous State; also reaffirms its support for the solution of two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security... (yeah this is terribly anti-Semitic excrement, isn't it!?)

I know this is standard fare for the United States which has undying support and infinity veto votes for Israel (I think they put in a cheat code for veto votes). But still, what the hell! You CANNOT be 'seeking' a 2-state solution and also tell Israeli they can keep building settlements, those two things are in fact, mutually exclusive. Building settlements = no viable Palestinian state.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Letter from a Refusenik

Shir Regev, a 19 year old Israeli, has just been released from his 1st prison term for refusing to serve in the Israeli army. His letter to the Israeli authorities follows. Shir is now awaiting the army's decision in his case.

This is his letter to the induction bureau and to government officials:

To: Induction Bureau, Haifa
Copies : Prime Minister Netanyahu , Minister of Defense Barak


My name is Shir Regev and I have been a deserter since 1/12/09. I believe it is my personal duty to refuse and defect from an army whose main purpose is to serve as an occupation police for maintaining "Israeli order" and imposing it on defenseless Palestinians who are denied citizenship.

And what is this "Israeli order" ? It is an ongoing process, in effect over 42 years, comprising a military regime over the Palestinians, denying them access to Palestinian community resources of land, water, agricultural crops and ores. It is also entails pollution of their land and their streams, along with support for disenfranchisement by settlers who live in the same areas, under a separate system of seemingly democratic laws. And I have not even mentioned the violation of more basic Palestinian human rights, like denying their freedom of movement, and causing bodily harm, including mass killing, without due investigation of alleged criminal offenses of the gravest type. These acts may constitute war crimes under international law.

Since I have the medical profile of a "combat soldier", had I joined the army, there is no doubt I would have been sent to serve this "Mafiosi" system, which has almost nothing to do with the IDF's designated role as "Defense Forces"... This is an army that serves interests in which I do not believe.

Therefore, in the dilemma between doing such service and obeying my conscience, I have no doubt about my decision. The day will come when my decision is appreciated by people who presently deny the horrible reality which we as a society are creating for another people and the damage we are inflicting on the souls of many young Israelis who may not be aware of the moral degradation in which they take part.

Sincerely,
Shir Regev

Jerusalem Mayor Looks Like a Clown

A Sky News reporter takes it to the Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, in a recent interview.
"We can negotiate a deal with the Palestinians and there is flexibility in other areas, but not on Jerusalem ... the concept of freezing (building) for Jews is one I don't accept. I will never accept it."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Excellent Article on the At-Tuwani School Escort

Appearing in Truthout, by Amanda Mueller

In the rolling, rocky hills of South Hebron, where electricity and water are scarce and Israeli settler violence is plenty, a group of children huddle together, waiting to be escorted to school by the Israeli military.

They come from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al-Abeed, facing intimidation and harassment, for an education. What should be a peaceful 20-minute walk to the area school in at-Tuwani has become a testament to the determination of this group of Palestinians to nonviolently protest the appearance of settlers attempting to steal deeded land, using physical violence against children and adults, Palestinians and international volunteers to gain control of a region.


Violence against the children and international volunteers assisting on the walk to school, on Palestinian land, but claimed by the Ma'on settlement since 1981, became so prevalent that in 2004 the Israel Parliament mandated an order to the Israeli military to provide an escort for these children seeking an education. To and from school, soldiers are supposed to insure safety, with promises of prosecution against settlers guilty of violence and threatening behavior.

Neither order has yet to be met with regularity, leaving an already vulnerable group of children unsafe, while allowing their attackers freedom to attack again. Fear for the children in the area has grown so strong, the school population has dropped one-third. Nightmares, anxiety and other associated post-traumatic stress symptoms are now a way of life, stealing away the children's innocence, targeting them in an attempt to steal away education and a chance at a different life.

"If the army doesn't go with my children, I am scared for them and the children are scared. The beginning was worse, but after today it seems harder than the beginning. The settlers are still beating the kids," said a mother of one of the children from the village of Tuba.

"The children face beatings from settlers. Sometimes they spend all day in fear. The settlers must leave. If the settlers are here there is no safety. There is no safety; there is only fear," stated a father in the neighboring area of Maghaer al-Abeed, confirming the fear and violence faced by the children of both villages.

International volunteers from the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) and Operation Dove attempt to accompany the children, but even they have been subject to violent attacks by settlers. When the military escort does not come, the children have a very difficult decision to make: risk having harm done onto them or taking a route around the settlement of Ma'on and the illegal outpost Hill 833, sometimes referred to as Havot Ma'on or Ma'on Farm, taking them 75 minutes and making them late for class. Volunteers make phone calls daily, multiple times a day, to the Israeli District Coordinating Office, the section of the Army that is responsible for coordinating civilian affairs. After long waits, some children simply return home, missing school for the day.

"Efforts have been made (when the military does not come). We make almost daily calls to the army asking them to fully complete the escort in addition to coming on time for the escort," stated a CPT member living in the area.

One of the most recent cases of negligence came on October 27, 2009, when the military did not arrive for the ordered escort. After 45 minutes of waiting, in which CPT and other international volunteers called the military office several times, the children began walking with the activists, taking the long route at 8:15, 15 minutes into their scheduled school day. On their way, the international activist and children were chased away by Israeli settlers. Four adults, one masked and armed with a sling shot, and an additional vehicle full of settlers awaited the children and activists, causing them to run back to the village of Tuba. Sixteen children missed school that day.

When the military escort did finally show up, they excused their absence by stating they were unaware of the details of the escort, because they were new.

When the soldiers do show up, the children are forced to run beside the military jeeps, running to school with settlers behind them, harassing them. Settlers sometimes follow, silently, stalking. Sometimes the settlers shout threats. It has created an environment of fear.

A girl from the village of Maghaer al-Abeed, identity protected, stated," The settlers try to crash into us with their cars. Settlers sometimes catch us, hit us with rocks, and knock us down. The settlers have covered faces and sticks. The soldiers drive ahead of us; the settlers run after us and throw eggs. The soldiers hurry. We ask them, 'Slowly, please drive slowly.' And they say no, 'go quickly!' We fall down."

Despite witnessing this behavior by the settlers, and an order to arrest those involved in violence and intimidation against the Palestinians, Israeli solders do not act against the settlers.

A CPT member stated, "The army is usually very negligent when settlers are nearby. Usually the soldiers drive away or seem to turn a blind eye to the settlers. None of us currently here in Tuwani have even seen the army prevent an attack. Also, the illegal outpost, Havat Ma'on has an eviction order. So the military has not carried out their right to evict those living in the outpost. The military does a poor job of the escort and does not arrest or evict anyone involved in these attacks."

While Israel Defense Forces (IDF) patrols are often considered irregular, unreliable and sometimes sources of hostility toward the children, soldiers have occasionally found themselves victim to settler tactics while escorting the children to school. In one incident, rocks were pelted at IDF soldiers while settlers followed behind the military escort of school children. In another, masked settlers followed IDF vehicles, shouting insults and attempting to intimidate soldiers from assisting the Palestinian children in this area. These actions further confuse a complicated political landscape where there have been documented reports of mistreatment and harassment by IDF soldiers toward villagers in this area, sometimes turning a blind eye to the destruction of property and harm of person done by settlers of Ma'on toward shepherds and farmers in this area.

"Why don't they do anything to keep us safe?" asked a young boy, aged seven.

As settler violence has increased in this area, the Palestinian community has committed to resisting the attacks on their person, their children and their land nonviolently, though they are often presumed guilty over the innocence of the settlers and Israeli military. An example of this presumed guilt can be witnessed in the case of Ezra Nawi, a Jewish activist arrested and charged for assaulting an officer during a home demolition, despite documented video evidence showing this to be untrue. A year earlier, however, three Israeli settlers beat a Palestinian man with a club and no charges were filed.

"We just want to go to school," one student said, "maybe our education is really what they fear most."

Israeli Settler Hits Sheep with his Assault Rifle


I shot this video (because when shooting, one should use a camera, not a gun) and edited it. Myself and a CPT colleague, were providing accompaniment to a family who routinely graze their flock near the settlement of Ma'on. The Ma'on settlement security guard often creates problems for them.


After the video ends, I began running towards the flock, young boys, and Gadalia. Gadalia was following the boys as they ran the flock in the direction of their village. When I eventually caught up with Gadalia, he was headed back to his car.

"Gadalia, why did you hit the sheep with your rifle?" --No Response.

"Gadalia, why did you hit the sheep with your rifle, are you afraid they will hurt you?" --Gadalia, who was walking in front of me and to my left, stopped abruptly and lurched towards me, bumping into me, suggesting I needed to stop following him.

"Do you see Palestinians chasing the settler's sheep off of the land and hitting and kicking their sheep?" --No response. "No, you don't," I suggest.

"You are supposed to be protecting the people in the settlement, that's your job, but I think you are actually doing the opposite. When you do this kind of thing to people, you increase the likelihood that they will respond. You know you can only push people so far, Gadalia."

Gadalia turns to me abruptly with his index finger pointing into the air, and says, "I will take that as a threat."

"As a threat? Why?"

"Yes I am calling the police and saying that you delivered a death threat."

"I have the whole thing on tape, I did not threaten you, I said that you can only push people so far. That's not a threat."

At that point I decided it wasn't worth debating with this guy. I mean, the only time he responded to me was when he said he was calling the police because I made a death threat against him.

Worth noting is that settlement security guards' salaries are paid by the Israeli military. So this is a settler, living in Ma'on, who is an employee of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Editor's Note: The next day, Gadalia tried to chase the same sheep with his car. He drove nearly 100 meters away from the settler bypass road to chase the sheep. He became frustrated with me as I jumped in front of his car, moving side to side as he tried to steer around me. He gave up trying to get around me; and instead made a few radio calls and took my mug shot. So hopefully the judges would score these two days: Gadalia - 1, Sam and the shepherds - 1. I am ready for the rubber match.

Israel is stoking the Intifada fire


You should
this post first. It's not too long and provides a short summary about 4 recent killings near Nablus. Below is an excellent piece by Real News which highlights the disparity in the evidence and in the Israel Defense Force's account of why the young men were shot dead.

Targeted Citizen - 2 sets of rights for 2 peoples

These are the kinds of facts, figures, and stories that make many scoff when they hear Israel heralded as a great democracy for all its citizens. Adalah, a organization working for the equal rights of Israel's Arab citizens, points out that the Israel's democracy operates marginally, at best, for it's Arab citizens. Well worth the watch.

Targeted Citizen - English from Adalah on Vimeo.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Two Youths Shot Dead; Army Lies

A bloody weekend involved the murder of two Palestinian youth at the hands of the Israeli military. The army claims they used rubber bullets; doctors, B'tselem, and the Independent's investigation says otherwise:
Doctors who treated two Palestinian youths shot dead by Israeli troops in the West Bank have refuted the army's claim that they had used rubber bullets and said the medical evidence showed that live ammunition had been fired.
The Israeli military said on Saturday that it had opened an investigation into the shootings but also insisted that soldiers had responded with tear gas and rubber bullets to a "violent and illegal riot" and added: "Live fire was not used."

But a hospital X-ray released by the Israeli human rights agency Btselem and also shown to The Independent by doctors at Nablus's private Speciality hospital show what appears to be a conventional metal bullet lodged in the brain of Osaid Qadus, who died there of his injuries at about 3am yesterday.

Dr Ahmad Hamad, the duty resident in the hospital's accident and emergency department when the boys were brought in, said Mohammed Qadus had suffered a single shot in the chest. He said there was a small entry wound and a larger exit wound in his back.

Another doctor, Abdul Karim Hashesh, was on duty when the bodies of the youths shot yesterday arrived at Nablus's Rafidia Hospital. He said that one, Mohammed Kuarik was hit by a total of seven bullets while the other, Saleh Kuaraik, was hit by at least three.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Pro-Peace Jewish Politican Runs for U.S. Senate

Jonathon Tasini is running for the U.S. Senate. Tasini is a Jew who spent time in Israel and is now calling for an halt to settlement construction and an end to the criminal siege of Gaza. He quotes MLK by saying that 'silence is betrayal' when it comes to the collective punishment that is the blockade on Gaza.


From Demolished Bathrooms to Spacious Settlements

From Israeli Amos Gvirtz' ongoing 'truth-telling blurb' called Don't say we did not know.
An outcome of the expansion of the settlement Carmel is the matter of privacy of the Bedouin women from nearby Umm El-Kher.

Umm El-Kher is surrounded from three sides by the settlement. On the fourth side there's a road.


Previously, the absence of toilets was never the problem that it is today. To solve this, it was decided to build 10 toilets. A few months ago an Italian organization purchased the building materials, but before the construction began the Civil Administration came and confiscated those materials.

Ta'ayush activists built four toilets. This week, Civil Administration workers issued demolition orders on the toilets...
As the piece suggests (and the map fails to show), Umm El-Kher is has virtually been built-over by Karmel settlement (which you see here on the map). As a bit of additional background, bathrooms were previously built in Umm Al-Kher and were demolished. This is at least second round of bathrooms that have received demolition orders. Hopefully they won't be the second round of bathrooms to actually be demolished. But sadly, I am not holding my breath.

The real tragedy is that you can stand on the concrete rubble and twisted rebar of these Bedouins' bathrooms and look beyond the chain link fence topped with razor wire at the spacious settlement homes, green trees, and happy children riding their bikes down paved roads illuminated by street lights.

The juxtaposition makes you bite your lip and take a deep, comforting breath, because you sort of feel sick you your stomach.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Quote of the Week: Vol 16

I was sitting out in the hills with a shepherd, an old man who looks even older because of the sun and the occupation, when I offered him some sunflower seeds.

He looked up at me, hesitated, and replied, "No thank you, I don't have any teeth."

Touche, Mr. Shepherd Man. Maybe one day after this occupation and world poverty sort themselves out, you could get some needed dental care.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Hollow Peace

An excerpt from a post over at Promised Land that I particularly liked:
...talking about peace hides the real nature of the problem, which is the occupation. When we set peace as our goal, it means that the absence of peace – meaning the violence – was the problem. This is true for the Israeli side, but it’s only partly true for the Palestinians. Their main concern is the lack of civil and human rights. For them, the violence that they suffer is only the result of the initial problem, which is the occupation. By talking about peace and peace only, we are accepting the Israeli definition of the problem as well as its solution.

Israeli Media Covers IDF Beating of Palestinian in At-Tuwani


The Israeli daily Haaretz, thanks to outstanding journalist Amira Hass, covers an incident that I have covered extensively on this blog. I was accompanying Masab Rabai
and his family on 7 January 2010 when they were assaulted and beaten, without explanation, at the hands of the Israeli military. Here is the press release that we wrote following the incident. But maybe more disconcerting and telling, were my own thoughts and words following the incident.
It was the ugliest thing I have ever seen...It was evil I tell you, evil. Pushing old women, throwing tear gas at kids, concussion grenades at pregnant women, throwing men to the ground, hitting them in the back with rifles, breaking cameras. It was like a mob of angry "professional"-soldier-thugs. The soldiers were holding each other back from doing worse things. Why did they do this? Because Palestinians were trying to feed their goddamn sheep. Unbelievable.
I then reported on what unfolded late in the evening. We received a call from Masab that he had been released from the police station:
As we got in the car we heard that Musab had just been thrown out of a police jeep, blindfolded, in the middle of the night. When the police threw him out of the jeep they told him that if they saw him again they would kill him. He was thus very concerned for his safety, as he waited in the dark by a settler bypass road. He told his brother that if the police or soldiers saw him, he was afraid he would get beaten. He decided to hide in a bush, looking for our flashlights which we were shining out the window, and wait for us to come.
Then almost two months later, we get an article in the mainstream Israeli media about the incident. Here is the article in full, followed by the footage that we have from the incident:
The response from the Israel Defense Forces spokesman came surprisingly quickly; a mere two or three hours after the query had been sent by Haaretz, the spokesman replied orally, and then in writing, that "following the reporter's question and after receiving most of the facts, the chief [military] prosecutor, Col. Jana Modzagbrishvili has instructed the military police to look into the matter."

The matter, according to most of the facts, was that soldiers had beaten a civilian, who was bound and blindfolded, for several hours on January 7.

Starting in the village of al-Tawani in the southern Hebron Hills, the affair continued at the military base in Sussia. The man who was beaten was Masab Rabai, aged 22.



Masab and one of his brothers had taken their sheep to graze on land in the wadi directly below their home on that Thursday. There are olive trees in the wadi and a few small plots for growing. Between the rocks on the slopes, there are weeds for the sheep to feed on.

They were accompanied by two volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams who, together with volunteers from Italy, are constantly in the village. The houses of the Havat Maon outpost are hidden by the trees of a thicket some 300 meters from the village and east of the wadi.

At 9 A.M. a beige Mitsubishi with two settlers appeared suddenly on the path below the thicket. One of them took photographs and the second spoke on his cell phone. That happens a lot - settlers appear and call soldiers. What is the crime? People working on their lands.

Masab saw all of this from the wadi and hastened to call some more of his brothers to come. He anticipated problems. Some soldiers arrived and began talking to the settlers.

Three of the soldiers went down to the wadi to where the shepherd brothers and those accompanying them were. When he was told that Masab spoke good English, one of the soldiers said to him, according to his testimony, that "if I see you here again, I'll kill you."

"Why?" Masab asked. "This is my land and I'm always here."

The soldier demanded to see his ID card. "I told him I didn't have one and the soldier responded, 'You are all under arrest.'"

The brothers said that he must bring the police because that is their job.

The brothers started to move away and the soldiers followed until they caught Masab's brother, Majdi, and reportedly kicked him in the leg. He tripped and fell and hurt himself. Other people from the village began streaming into the wadi, women and children.

Reinforcements from the army also arrived at the scene. There were some 15 soldiers altogether. Masad was among those who were carrying the injured Majdi and the soldiers again tried to catch another of his brothers as well as Masab.

The two of them escaped and the soldiers began throwing stun grenades and tear gas among the people. They also broke a camera belonging to the CPT volunteers. A police van that had been called by the volunteers arrived and stopped a short distance away.

They caught Masab and, according to his testimony, the soldiers tied his hands behind his back, threw him onto the floor of the jeep, someone grabbed his throat and some of the other soldiers beat him with their helmets and the butts of their guns and with a pipe, and others kicked him.

The jeep started driving away and after Masab tried to call the policemen in the patrol car, the soldiers bound his eyes and continued beating him. They reached the main road - Masab could hear the sound of passing vehicles - and continued to beat him.

Then they came to a dirt road - Masab could feel every pebble and bump through the continued beating.

At a certain point, they stopped and someone who spoke good Arabic appeared and reportedly said: "You are making problems for the soldiers so they have to hit you."

Finally they stopped at the Sussia base. The soldiers there gathered round him. A Bedouin soldier demanded that he identify the people in the video that the soldiers had taken from the wadi. They mainly wanted him to identify his brother Kamel. Masab refused.

He also refused to speak Hebrew (which he does not know). And then, so he says, four soldiers appeared and began hitting him with their guns.

"They beat me the whole time until they had enough," he said. "Perhaps for an hour, perhaps for two."

He wanted to pray but "they said it was forbidden. I asked for water. They said it was forbidden. I asked to go to the toilet. Forbidden. I started to pray and they hit me. At around 5:00 someone brought me water, he took off the blindfold and gave me the water. Someone by the name of Elishai, I think, who was a Bedouin, got angry with whoever brought me water."

At a certain stage, they took him to a small room, apparently a detention cell, and pushed him against the wall. His tooth broke from the push.

He said he was left alone for a while when their shift ended. They brought him food. He flatly refused to allow them to feed him so the soldiers took off his handcuffs and blindfold and let him eat while they kept their guns trained on him.

Late in the evening, he was taken to the police station in Kiryat Arba where they drove him away and dropped him off somewhere on the road. Bruised and hurting he started walking along the dark road until his family found him.

Last week we checked to find out what had happened with the investigation. The IDF Spokesman's Office said it was ongoing.

Masab informed us that on January 26, he and his brothers were called to give evidence at the IDF District Coordination Office outside Hebron. The military policewoman who investigated did not know Arabic. She refused to be assisted by the translation services of Juma, one of the brothers who had lived and worked for many years in Israel.

Instead they brought an officer who does not have a good command of Arabic and had to use a dictionary all the time. Sometimes the questions that he translated were not understandable.

They say the military policewoman asked them, "Which terror group do you belong to?" Juma answered: "I don't understand." She said: "To Hamas, to Fatah?"

And he replied: "No, I'm in a third group."

"Which?" she asked, her eyes lighting up.

"The group of the small farmers."

Here is the video that we shot and edited from this incident. It's incredibly nauseating. It still makes my heart race, and I still have the moral outrage that I had that day, yelling at the soldier, "What have these people done? These people are trying to feed their sheep!"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cornel West and the 'Friendly Empire'

Cornel West is interviewed on Al Jazeera's Fault Lines. Cornel West is simply, the man. He is a preacher, performer, and professor. He speaks here about US Foreign Policy, Obama, economic policy, Gaza, settlements, Rush Limbaugh, and Jim Crow.

Here are some stellar quotes, in an effort to convince you to watch the video. My friend, Ryan, was watching this with me and said it well, "Cornel is the man because he doesn't have to think before he says something that sounds 'cool' and 'brilliant.' Most people can do one of those, but not both." Well said.

*You still have an empire in place, it may be a friendly empire, instead of an unfriendly empire. (Speaking of Obama administration v. Bush administration)

*I hate the deed and love the doer, I am a Christian so I forgive people, even gangsters, you know what I mean. But I keep track of gangster activity. But when it comes to me I draw the line, cause I am a Jesus loving free black man, and I draw the line.

*Human being are precious, I don't care who they are.

*You see brother Rush Limbaugh, why do I call him a brother? Well he's still a brother, but you gotta keep that brother close cause he is Dangerous!

*MLK has been deoderized, sanitized, and sterilized by the right wing and neoliberals to such a degree that his militancy is downplayed. Martin never even used the word colorblind, he wanted us to be lovestruck. You see, I am part of the legacy of Martin King, I don't want to be colorblind, you can't love somebody if you don't know what color they are, you can't love 'em if you don't know what gender they are, you can't love somebody if you don't know what their bodies look like. To be lovestruck is to embrace who they are, to embrace the best of their culture, the best of the history, and their heritage.

*All human bodies come in cultures, in genders, in colors, in civilizations, and we have to be able to embrace.

*Justice is what love looks like in public.

*Now we are going to engage Israel in regard to settlements in ways that we didn't before...well you are still silent about Gaza, where 500 precious Palestinians were mercilessly massacred before Obama said a word. Now the whole word knows that if those were 500 precious Jewish brothers and sisters, would Obama have said anything about it?...the NEXT second he heard about it!

*Now I believe that precious Jewish brothers and sisters and precious Palestinian brothers and sisters have the EXACT same value. (He goes on to say that is the humanist position and the Christian position)

*In the end, those with cannons can speak last...for the moment. But for those of us who want a change but do not have the potency, power, and efficacy at the moment to change things, then all we have is words, all we can do is lift our voices. I come from a blues people, our anthem is, “lift EVERY voice.”

The whole thing is great. If you just want the middle east discussion, it picks up around 17:00.



A Disturbing Poll, err...Disturbing Results

The next generation, our hope for ending the occupation, and for ending years of strife? Hardly. A recent poll published by Haaretz contains harrowing and disheartening results:
Nearly half of Israel's high school students do not believe that Israeli-Arabs are entitled to the same rights as Jews in Israel, according to the results of a new survey released yesterday. The same poll revealed that more than half the students would deny Arabs the right to be elected to the Knesset.

The survey, which was administered to teenagers at various Israeli high schools, also found that close to half of all respondents - 48 percent - said that they would refuse orders to evacuate outposts and settlements in the Palestinian territories.
There was also an unfortunate, but not terribly surprising, divide between religious and secular high school students:
In response to the question of whether Arab citizens should be granted rights equal to that of Jews, 49.5 percent answered in the negative. The issue highlighted the deep fault lines separating religious and secular youths, with 82 percent of religious students saying they opposed equal rights for Arabs while just 39 percent of secular students echoed that sentiment.

The secular-religious gap was also present when students were faced with the question of whether Arabs should be eligible to run for office in the Knesset. While 82 percent of those with religious tendencies answered in the negative, 47 percent of secular teens agreed. In total, 56 percent said Arabs should be denied this right altogether.
And no depressing poll would be complete without a nice shot-in-the-arm for all the militaristic nationalists out there:
...an overwhelming majority (91 percent) expressed a desire to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More Palestine Spring


Flowers in At-Tuwani.


Fields of wheat. (Notice the lines that the flowers grow in because of the lines in the dirt from the plow.)


Goats sunbathing.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Pulled from his bed and beaten; 10 years old


A harrowing story from the Old City of Hebron. A 10 year old boy was pulled from his bed and beaten. I ate dinner with a women a week ago whose 14 year-old son will serve 3-6 months in prison for allegedly throwing a stone, even though witnesses testify that he did not throw anything. These incidents are not rare in a place like Hebron, in fact they are part and parcel to the occupation. Being interviewed after his beating, Amir sent a message to American children (see the full article):




"We are kids, just like you. We have the right to play, to move freely. I want to tell the world that there are so many kids inside the Israeli jails. We just want to have freedom of movement, the freedom to play." Amir said that he wants to be a heart surgeon when he grows up. His mother and father told me that they hope Amir's own heart -- and theirs -- heals from last week's repetitive and cumulative trauma at the hands of the interminable Israeli occupation.

Monday, March 08, 2010

BDS: A Democracy Now debate

Here is a debate from Democracy Now about the BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions) movement against Israel. The two featured guests are Omar Bargouthi (pro BDS) and Rabbi Arthur Waskow (opposed to BDS). Here are a couple excerpts:
This is not about demonizing Israel as in an abstract term. What BDS is delegitimizing is delegitimizing racism, apartheid and colonial rule, exactly what BDS in the South African case was delegitimizing. It was not delegitimizing white people or Christians; it was delegitimizing apartheid. So this is what we are against. We’ve never come out and said we’re against this or that group of people based on their identity. We’re against Israeli apartheid and colonialism. We couldn’t care less if Israel were a Jewish state, Catholic state or Muslim state. So long as it’s oppressing us, we will continue to resist it.

***

...it demands people of conscience around the world to act, and act very effectively. And the BDS movement offers them an empowering, nonviolent tool through which they can impact policy in the US, in the Western world, and certainly in Israel.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

AT-TUWANI: Three children detained while gathering herbs

On 6 March, 2010, Israeli soldiers detained three Palestinian boys in At-Tuwani Village in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. The boys, aged 13 and 14, were gathering herbs above al-Khelli Valley, 300 meters from the Israeli settlement of Ma'on, on land owned by the eldest child's family. At 10:30 am, members of Operation Dove* were accompanying the children and saw soldiers drive a jeep onto the hillside.


Three soldiers ran toward the children, grabbed the shears they were using on the plants, pushed them up to the jeep and forced them onto their knees for ten minutes. The security guard of Ma'on Settlement arrived, and the soldiers forced two of the children into the jeep. When the third boy attempted to run away, a soldier chased him across his family's land. The soldier cocked his M16 and aimed it at the boy, who stopped immediately. Soldiers then forced this boy into the jeep and took all three away from the scene.


Fifteen minutes later, members of Operation Dove saw the three children running down a hillside toward them. The boys said the soldiers took them across Israeli highway 317, which passes At-Tuwani and Ma'on, drove them into the hills and released them.


The privately owned Al-Khelli area of At-Tuwani borders Ma'on Settlement and the Havat Ma'on illegal settlement outpost**. Israeli settlers and occupation authorities frequently disturb agricultural work there, which residents say indicates an organized effort to close the land to its Palestinian owners.

Since the beginning of February, 2010, international accompaniers from Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have witnessed increasing incidents of Palestinian land closure in the South Hebron Hills. They have seen Palestinian shepherds detained and arrested by the Israeli military, and attacked by Israeli settlers.

*Operation Dove and CPT together maintain a continuous presence in the South Hebron Hills to accompany Palestinian victims of violence and intimidation. Operation Dove's web site is www.operationdove.org.


**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.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Good Things are Growing


I post about a lot of unfortunate things happening in Palestine, and well, that's because in a country under occupation where an apartheid regime treats people poorly based on their ethnicity, a lot of bad things happen. There is a lot of inhumanity on display here in the occupied Palestinian territories. I write about memorable moments, and more often than not, those memorable moments are tragic and painful.

But on the other hand, as the seasons turn here in the south hebron hills of Palestine, there is a lot of beauty. Some of that beauty is in the changing of the seasons and in knowing the rhythms of life here. It seems that in the West (or at least in the particular social class and culture in which I found myself in the West) we don't rely much of the changing of the seasons, the coming of the rains, and we don't know the seasons for particular fruits, vegetables, and crops.

In California supermarkets, seasons don't exist, except for maybe there being a bigger variety of apples in the fall than in the summer. But largely, all things are available in all seasons, thanks to genetically modified crops, artificially enhanced soils, and our gross expenditures of fossil fuels getting crops from the other side of the world. On the contrary, living in a rural agricultural village in Palestine, you eat what is in season.


Early spring is bringing from the soil green qameh (wheat), 'aadas (lentils), biika (a lentil-like plant for livestock feed), and sha'ir (a weed used for livestock feed). The beauty of this green covering the hillsides is truly only appreciated when compared with the consistent dry brownness that covers the hillsides for 9-10 months out of the year.

Almonds (loz) are also coming into season. There are plenty of almonds in California, they aren't one of the foods that I have come to know as a result of my time in Palestine. Although I have come to appreciate almonds in a different form than I knew them before. Let me try to explain this.

So you have your nut, the part you eat. You also have your shell, the part you shell and don't eat. Ok, but you also have your outer covering which surrounds the shell and the nut. In early spring, you have green buds growing on the tree. These green coverings have a small seed and shell growing inside, but when they are just beginning to grow in the early spring, the whole unit is relatively soft.

Palestinians (and certainly other peoples as well) eat the whole thing before it hardens into a nut. In has a bit of a sour, tangy taste. As spring progresses, the nut inside might harden enough to be unable bite through it, but people still eat the green outer shell. A pound of these is about 5 dollars in the market right now, but the price will drop significantly in a month, when almond trees are jammed full of green almonds. There are almond trees all over the area so I routinely sit with shepherds on the hills and eat loz to my heart's content. The trees are pretty much community trees, and I use them liberally.




Ka'oub is also in season right now. I don't have a translation for Ka'oub, sorry. It's a prickly plant that grows a bit of a stem in the middle. There are lots of kids around the hills at this time of year with shears and a bucket. The kids will clip off the outer prickly leaves of the plant (which are not used for anything). Then they will use the sturdy shears to dig into the soil to uproot the stem of the plant. The plant is some sort of herb or remedy that is used in soap, shampoo, and some food dishes. I haven't been able to get a description of what it tastes like or why it's good for soaps and shampoos. But basically, you know what I know, and I will update you if I get a clearer idea of it's taste or it's other uses.


Friday, March 05, 2010

In honor of Israeli Apartheid Week


March 1-7 marks the 6th annual Israel Apartheid Week. It's a week recognized across the globe to talk about the issues surrounding the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, specifically the one of apartheid. There is a special emphasis on the BDS movement (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions) which has spawned from a 2005 call from Palestinian civil society to begin a nonviolent BDS movement to call Israel to accountability for it's violation of human rights against the Palestinian people.

Here is a great video from Al Jazeera English on the topic of Israel apartheid. There three guests are an Israel against BDS, an Israel for BDS, and a Palestinian organizer of Israeli Apartheid Week. Enjoy.