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, July 28, 2010

Ethnic Cleansing in the Negev Desert

An absolutely harrowing, evil video from the Negev Desert in Israel (I can't embed that video, so seriously, click on that link, you need to watch it before you keep reading). I reported yesterday on a entire Bedouin village that was razed to the ground by Israel. Again, I REPEAT, these are ISRAELI CITIZENS whose homes are being demolished. Why? Well Neve Gordon, an Israeli academic suggests that it is in order to Judaise the Negev Desert, and replace the Arab Bedouins with a Jewish majority.
A menacing convoy of bulldozers was heading back to Be'er Sheva as I drove towards al-Arakib, a Bedouin village located not more than 10 minutes from the city. Once I entered the dirt road leading to the village I saw scores of vans with heavily armed policemen getting ready to leave. Their mission, it seems, had been accomplished.

The signs of destruction were immediately evident. I first noticed the chickens and geese running loose near a bulldozed house, and then saw another house and then another one, all of them in rubble. A few children were trying to find a shaded spot to hide from the scorching desert sun, while behind them a stream of black smoke rose from the burning hay. The sheep, goats and the cattle were nowhere to be seen – perhaps because the police had confiscated them.

Scores of Bedouin men were standing on a yellow hill, sharing their experiences from the early morning hours, while all around them uprooted olive trees lay on the ground. A whole village comprising between 40 and 45 houses had been completely razed in less than three hours.

I suddenly experienced deja vu: an image of myself walking in the rubbles of a destroyed village somewhere on the outskirts of the Lebanese city of Sidon emerged. It was over 25 years ago, during my service in the Israeli paratroopers. But in Lebanon the residents had all fled long before my platoon came, and we simply walked in the debris. There was something surreal about the experience, which prevented me from fully understanding its significance for several years. At the time, it felt like I was walking on the moon.

This time the impact of the destruction sank in immediately. Perhaps because the 300 people who resided in al-Arakib, including their children, were sitting in the rubble when I arrived, and their anguish was evident; or perhaps because the village is located only 10 minutes from my home in Be'er Sheva and I drive past it every time I go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; or perhaps because the Bedouins are Israeli citizens, and I suddenly understood how far the state is ready to go to accomplish its objective of Judaising the Negev region; what I witnessed was, after all, an act of ethnic cleansing.

They say the next intifada will be the Bedouin intifada. There are 155,000 Bedouins in the Negev, and more than half of them live in unrecognised villages without electricity or running water. I do not know what they might do, but by making 300 people homeless, 200 of them children, Israel is surely sowing dragon's teeth for the future.

A piece from Richard Silverstein's blog is equally compelling. Here is an account from an activist who was on hand during the demolitions:
By: Daniel Dukarevich
Translation: Dena Shunra

I don’t have a fully congruent recollection of this night and this morning at Al Araqeeb. It’s probably better this way. All that is left is the images of the village being razed. An evil tale. Like watching a kaleidoscope where every image depicts horror.

Night. We arrive at Al Araqeeb, a village somewhat north of Beer Sheva. People and animals are running around among the tents and the houses. The air his heavy with tension, and the unspoken question in the face of every one of our hosts is: Are they coming? Or maybe not?

Another image

Residents of Al Araqeeb erect burning barricade to impede those seeking to destroy village. Resistance was futile
We are deep into the night. Eight or nine village youngsters are dancing and singing by a bonfire. Other bonfires are aflame on all the surrounding hills, casting the black smoke of burning tires into the already-black sky. They warn us, cast up a warning of some danger. Are they coming? Or maybe not?

And more

Convoys of lights draw nearer, from every direction. A convoy, and a convoy, and a convoy. The first rays of the rising sun shed their light on black-clad soldiers, faces covered, among the hundreds of vehicles. Marching. Weapons at the ready. Surrounding the village. They came.

And more

The valleys all around are strewn with military vehicles. Helicopters and unmanned planes are up in the air. The sun has risen. We count soldiers, then cars, then buses. There are thousands. Despair begins to run through us.

And more

Soldiers – facers covered – run into the village. Several residents and activists who were standing in their way are beaten, pushed back, thrown to the ground. A young woman pushes her way in, trips, falls onto the rocks, and cries out in pain. A soldiers stands over her, covered in black, face veiled, and laughs a laugh that I will never forget.

And more

Bulldozers are razing the village now. They crush the tin shanties, uproot everything that stands in their path. The villagers watch, too tired even to shout. One of them cries out in pain when the bulldozer pulls the olive trees out of the ground. “Leave the trees, at least, what have they done wrong? We’ve been growing them for ten years now.” “You shouldn’t even have shade,” murmurs one of the policemen.

And more

A little Bedouin boy ambles around the ruins of what had been his home. I don’t know how he got through the cordon of policemen. A colorful shred of cloth from among the piles of dirt gets his attention.

All of a sudden, a policeman appears. He sees the child. He makes the kind of gesture you’d make to swat away a fly, to make the kid go away.

The kid goes, but after taking a few steps he can’t help himself: he stops, looks over his shoulder.

The policeman gestures again. The kid goes away.

And more

The village has been destroyed. Crushed water tanks drip onto parched earth. A chicken hides under the branches of a felled olive tree. The Special Patrol Unit squadron stops for a souvenir photo near a large pile that had been, until an hour ago, a family’s home.

The warriors laugh. They stand there, arms over each other’s shoulders. They seem to be happy.

And more

One of our activists is weeping. He stands there, leans on the car, and cries quietly. I want to give him a hug, to tell him it will be all right, but I cannot. I cannot find inside myself even a drop of ability to help. There is nothing inside me.

And one that is yet to happen

I hated you today, villains, as I have never hated before. But this won’t work for you.

In the last image, you will see people who’ll rebuild their home, out of the sand and out of the desert. Aided by those citizens here who still have a drop of humanity inside them.

In the last image, you will see olive trees planted and growing, tended and houses being rebuilt.

In the last image, you will see Al Araqeeb coming to life again.

You will not erase it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Israel Eradicates Bedouin Village in Negev

I have been following this story over the last day, reading Al Jazeera, CNN, Haaretz, and other Israel and Palestine news outlets. When I read the following piece, I knew it was the one I needed to bring to you. I encourage you to listen to the audio interview which is below, the link is amidst the story.

Tearful homeless children of Al Arabikh (

How desolate sits the city that was full of people,
How she has become as a widow that was great among the nations

–Jeremiah 1:1

This is the month of Av, the saddest of the Jewish year because the 9th of the month commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple. On this fast day, we read Jeremiah who provides a powerful keening narrative of the destruction.

So it seems only fitting in a perverse sort of way that today, the Israelis government crossed a new threshold of horror and despoilation. The Bedouin village of Al Arakibh, consisting of 40 families and 300 people, and which has existed in this place for hundreds of years, was erased by Israeli bulldozers. 1,500 soldiers armed with tear gas and water cannon, along with helicopters mounted their assault on the defenseless place. How desolate sits the village that was full of people.

A dove sits amid the broken remnants of Al Arabikh

They rounded up these indigenous Israeli citizens, among the poorest of all in Israel, and placed them in collection points much like Jews were herded from their own shtetls into ghettos during the Holocaust. The only difference is that Israel isn’t going to send them to the gas. Instead, it will merely leave them to their own devices in the midst of the barren desert. This won’t be a death sentence for them though since these are the people of the desert.

They will merely wait for the bulldozers and soldiers to leave and then rebuild what has been wrenched from their grasp. Much like the Hilltop Youth who rebuild illegal outposts after they are demolished, with the major difference that the Bedouin have inhabited this place for centuries and predating the State’s founding. And with the further difference that so far the Bedouin have not stoned anyone or burned anything or beat up anyone or killed anyone. But if this dreadful policy isn’t stopped that all could change in a heartbeat.

Inexplicably and even more horrifically, CNN is reporting that eyewitnesses say the police brought busloads of Israeli Jews who cheered the destruction. Is this really possible? Or is this a sick joke? Is this what Israel is coming to when the State buses in cheerleaders for its policies of Bedouin ethnic cleansing.

The village had appealed the government eviction order and won a stay from the Israeli Supreme Court. So I’m not sure how this happened, except to say that court rulings in Israel are different than here. They’re more advisory than compulsory. And it appears that yet again the State was able to evade the rule of law.

What gives Israel the right to do this? What gives Israel the right to determine that these native people who’ve lived in this precise spot since before the existence of the State, must leave simply because the State determines that this area much be Arab-rein? Yes, the government has decreed that only Jews can live in this part of the Negev. In fact, the JNF plans to aid and abet this ethnic cleansing by planting one of its famous forests where the village stood. It must hope that it can eradicate all traces of the place, just as it has done with hundreds of similar Arab villages which were emptied and destroyed during the Nakba.

But such an attempt at erasure of history will not work this time. The world has seen and taken notice. The story has been on CNN already. Jewish Voice for Peace’s blog features a heartbreaking interview with an eyewitness activist which you can hear here. I’m also working on translating from Hebrew another powerful eyewitness account featured on Facebook.

I am sorry to say that this is not a one-off event as Israel eradicated a West Bank village a few days ago in a similar fashion. In this case, it simply declared the village a military zone and–poof–it was gone. 30 other Bedouin villages have the same status as Al Arabikh and face the same potential fate unless the numbskull bureacrats who devised this policy are shown the error of their blockhead ways.

No Justice in Killing of Jerusalem Man

I covered this story here and here. Here's an AJE video with interviews with Julani's widow.

Where is the American media? Julani's widow is American, the daughters' father was killed by Israeli police who shot him in the back and then shot him in the face at point blank range.

Outrage. Heartbreak.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Palestinian shepherd films settler stealing his sheep

Operation Dove was present at the incident.

26 July 2010

On July 21, three settlers stole a sheep from a young Palestinian shepherd while he was watering his flock at a well situated in Umm Zeitouna valley, located between the Israeli settlements of Ma’on and Karmel.

According to the shepherd, a resident of Tuba village, two Israeli settler vehicles stopped on the nearby settler bypass road. A settler exited from one of the vehicles, walked toward the shepherd’s flock, grabbed a sheep by the ear, and dragged the animal a few yards. He then loaded the sheep onto his sholders and walked back to the road, where two other settlers, one of them armed, were waiting. The settlers loaded the animal into a vehicle. During this time the shepherd remained at a distance filming the theft with a camera from the Israeli human rights association B’Tselem, given to Palestinians in the area to document attacks by settlers.

The young Palestinian pointed out that during the theft, on the road not far from the settlers cars, there was an Israeli military jeep. Although the soldiers were present during the incident they left the scene without intervening.

The shepherd then reported the theft of the sheep to Israeli police, who arrived on the scene with Ma’on settlement’s security guard and two other settlers identified as Havat Ma’on residents. The police refused to talk to the shepherd who wanted to make a complaint, saying they did not know Arabic or English and insisting on speaking with the boy’s father, although he was not present at the time of the robbery. A few minutes later the police went to the village of Tuba to pick up the father and bring him to the police station in Kiryat Arba. The father was fingerprinted, photographed, and threatened with a fine, but was not permitted to give testimony. Then the young shepherd, accompanied by international volunteers, followed his father to the Israeli police station to make a complaint and submit the video from the incident.

Episodes like this are frequent in the South Hebron Hills, where settlers from the settlements and the outposts attack Palestinian shepherds and farmers to intimidate and force them to leave their lands. These kinds of illegal actions are usually left unpunished and many of them occur with Israeli military and police complicity. The Palestinian communities of this area have chosen to nonviolently resist the continuous abuses of the Israeli settlers and military.

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma'on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]
Why did the settlers steal the sheep, you might ask? Well, I don't think there is a reason other than pure harassment. Later that day, I accompanied the shepherd to the police station where he was treated more like a criminal than a victim. The shepherd was able to eventually file a complaint but we were told the settlers filed a counter complaint, claiming that the shepherd and his family also stole something (this is entirely false). This ensures that a judge will throw out the complaint because of the counteracting claims.

Also, the family got their sheep back, amazingly. The police watched the video and said, "Oh yeah, we know this settler, he lives in Suseya settlement and causes problems all the time." The police drove to his house and told him to hand over the sheep. Of course there were no charges filed or fines levied against the thief, despite the clear video evidence of his crime. So, he is a continual law breaker and criminal but the Israeli police refuse to do anything. Instead, the shepherd's father is fingerprinted, photographed, and told to never shepherd in that area again. An ounce of justice was served in getting back their sheep, but just an ounce, I say, an ounce.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Marching and Chanting Met with Beating and Arrests

There is a weekly demonstration in Hebron calling for the opening of Shohada Street, a street the center of Hebron that Palestinians are prohibited from walking or driving on. I participated in this demo for the last several weeks (but not this week as I am now back in At-Tuwani), but the level of violence was not as extreme as you see this week. You can see several CPTers (with red hats) in the thick of things. Certainly the most disturbing thing is the soldier who is dropping 'bows on crowds of people. You see him clubbing people with his elbow in the beginning and also later when things get a bit more chaotic.

Here is Joseph Dana's description of the protest:
After some chanting and speeches against the occupation and settlements and for freedom of movement in Hebron, the protesters headed towards one of the old city allies, blocked by Israeli soldiers. The soldiers violently attacked the demonstration and in the commotion that erupted have managed to grab into arrest 4 internationals and one Israeli protester. Due to the Israeli army’s determination to end the demo, the protesters sat on the ground in front of the soldiers, continuing the demo while sitting. After a while the demo was declared over and participants started going away from the soldiers, who kept going after the retrieting crowd. At a certain point one of the soldiers threw out a sound bomb.

And tell me, how are Palestinians supposed to respond? Nonviolent resistance, marching, and chanting are met with beatings, arrests and tear gas. Israeli is boxing itself into a corner. This apartheid state will fall.

At-Tuwani Summer Camp

Do Unto Others is a bit of a downer blog. It is a blog that tells the truth. But often the truth of what is happening in Palestine, under the Israeli boot of occupation, is not easy to hear. Despite my emphasis on this blog, there actually are lots of smiles, moments of joy, and moments when I, and the Palestinians I live with, are happy to be alive. Usually I cherish being in those moments but don't necessarily bring them to this blog. I am unsure why I tend to blog about the evil grime of this place, the systematic dehumanization of an indigenous people, and neglect to write about the vibrant light and life that still shine here in the South Hebron Hills. Maybe it says something about my personality that I need to dissect a bit.

So on that note, I bring you something that will bring a smile to your face (if you have a soul). At-Tuwani is hosting it's ninth annual summer camp (il-mukhaiyem is-samoud is-iseifi it-tasa'a). Samoud is one of those words that I can never figure out to translate, I guess it means something like
perserverant resistance. Samoud is the nonviolent resistance to the occupation that means walking to school despite settler attacks, taking three hours to travel one kilometer to get to work, and samoud means re-planting trees that have been uprooted. So I suppose the summer camp could be translated, "The Ninth Annual At-Tuwani Resistance Summer Camp." Why is this summer camp resistance? Well, because anything that sustains life here is resistance. It's resistance to ethnic cleansing.

Here are some photos and video from today's summer camp.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Jewish Holy Day becomes a Racist Parade

Today is Tisha B'Av.

From wikipedia:
Tisha B'Av is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date. Accordingly, the day has been called the "saddest day in Jewish history...orthodox Jews have always believed that until the arrival of the Messianic Era, Tisha B'Av will continue to be observed as a fast day.
So what happened in Hebron today as a result of this Jewish holiday? Well to give a little background, the 400 Israeli settlers who are living in the heart of Hebron are protected by nearly 2,000 Israeli soldiers. Certain neighborhoods and areas have been closed to the nearly 200,000 Palestinians who live in Hebron. There are places in this densely populated Palestinian city where Palestinians are not allowed to walk, talk, drive, or be present in any manner.

Coming back to the holiday, there is apparently a grave of a biblical figure (I was not able to ascertain whom) located in the Palestinian-inhabited part of the city (well all of the city is actually inhabited by Palestinians, so more appropriately, the part of the city without settlers). The area where the grave is located, per the Oslo accords, is to be off limits for all Israelis - because remember, all Israelis are living in the West Bank are in abrogation of international law, and many of the settlers in Hebron are living in places where they are additionally in violation of Israeli law. But I digress. So, the Jewish settlers want to visit the grave, but it's smack in the middle of a busy and densely populated Palestinian area. A seeming conflict of interest, right? Nope, not really.

The answer for the settlers and the IDF is to seal the street and not let any Palestinians move in the area. The Israeli military even went as far as removing every car which was parked on the street. This even involved towing cars whose drivers could not be found. Sadly, the U.S. funded Palestinian Authority (collaborator) police participated in this apartheid-esque cleansing of the street. The street was sealed from 4pm in the afternoon until 9pm at night. No Palestinians were allowed to cross the street, enter their homes located on the street, operate their shops on the street, nor drive their cars on the street. Settlers on the other hand, roamed with the protection of 60-80 Israeli soldiers and Border Police.

Here is the sterilized street around 4pm, it would normally be bustling at this time of day.

Vehicles were towed.

Here are the soldiers coming out from a 'sealed' area where Palestinians are not allowed to walk, entering the area that is called H1 (an area under Palestinian Authority control per the Oslo Accords).

The Israeli Military cruised through the Palestinian controlled streets of Hebron by jeep, armored troop carrier, and on foot. The level of security would have made you believe a head of state was arriving.

A dog was used to sniff for bombs amongst the boxes of trash on the streets.

Then the settlers came out in force. They walked on the streets like they owned it, paying no mind to the Palestinian residents who were either forced to stay in or out of their homes for five hours. I witnessed several elderly men and women who were sitting on their porches and were forced inside by soldiers. The Palestinians were unable to reason with the soldiers as the soldiers kept repeating the only Arabic words they knew, "Rukh la beit, yala, rukh la beit!" (Go home, come on, go to your house). There were also two deaf men, signing back and forth, who were forced into a small staircase in an effort to get them as far away from the street as possible. The two men desperately tried to reason with the soldiers (using body language), but the soldiers just kept motioning away from the street with their M-16s until the men conceded.

Here is the collusion of the army and settlers. If it weren't for the uniforms you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. The disturbing thing is that the settlers carry more power than a uniformed soldier does. Being a soldier in uniform, in reality, is a lower rank than being a settler. Settlers rule the roost.

I wish that "holy days" weren't celebrated in such a manner. Holy days lose their holiness when one ethnic/religious group of people is favored above another. Holy days aren't so special when racism is rampant, when apartheid policies are made manifest, and when Jewish settlers with Brooklyn accents call me a Nazi and tell me to go back to my home.

A day of mourning in the Jewish calendar became a day of mourning for Palestinians in the streets of Hebron, as they lamented the takeover of their city, their rooftops, and their lives. Tisha B'Av 2010 was a visible metaphor of what the last 43 years of occupation have been like for the Palestinian people.

Demolitions depriving people of water, the foundation of life

Demolitions continue(d) in Al Baqa'a Valley, near Hebron. Yesterday we arrived just after sound grenades had been thrown at the men, women, and children who were angry and confused over the demolitions of their water cistern and vegetable fields. When I arrived there were lots of children crying. The moment I arrived an elderly woman asked a young mother if the young girl in the mother's arms was scared. She replied with words and tears, "She is scared to death, 100 times over."

There was some media there who were snapping and filming away as another mother comforted her teenage daughter who had a river of tears streaming down her face. I didn't have the nerve to take out my camera and 'document' their sorrow and fear. I looked at their tears and the sadness on their faces, and I had to just walk away, I couldn't bear participating in the voyeurism of their sorrow.

Often times I don't know what my role is. People don't want to be comforted, I don't want to videotape their sorrow and loss (but sometimes that's the only thing I think I can do - so I do it), and it's not helpful or effective to go fight the 20 Border Policeman who wield tear gas, sound grenades, and semi-automatic rifles. Sometimes I just yell obscenities at the top of my lungs, but actually inaudibuly inside my own head, at the people who perpetrate this evil. Sometimes I just cry to myself as old men and woman, who will soon die under an apartheid occupation in their homeland, yell, "May God destroy you for what you are doing, God is great, God is great."

I came back home after the incident and immediately started uploading video, photos, and working on a short release. Once I finsihed what I could, and was waiting for the video to finish uploading, I just sat still in the plastic chair in front of my desk. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to read a book, read an article, watch the TV, play with a soccer ball, I didn't have the capability of desire to do anything other than sit still.

I can't imagine what it's like to be the Palestinian landowners, and see the Israeli authorities tear out your irrigation systems and destroy your cisterns, without giving an ounce of regard for the fact that this is your means of income. If I felt numb, after being present for 2 of the last 3 demolitions, as an international observer and solidarity activist (or whatever the hell I am), what did these families feel like? What did it feel like to have an Israeli policeman and water company employee tell you, "I want to see this whole place become a desert, I hope you don't get another drop of water." The way that I would hear that, if I put myself in their shoes, is, "Fuck you, you dirty Arab, I hope you can't make a living, and I hope you die, and if you don't die, I hope you leave this land, cause it's mine."

Here's the video from the most recent demolitions, on July 19.

Here's the video from the demolition of the cistern on July 16.

p.s. the young teenage girl who was crying, later brought me out a glass of hot, sweet tea. What a sweatheart.

Here's the press release from yesterday:
See photos of the incident
See video of the incident

For the third time in 12 days, Israeli Border Police carried out demolitions in Al Baqa'a valley, a fertile farming area northeast of Hebron, along route 60. On July 19, the Israeli Border Police, with the assistance of hired laborers using heavy machinery, destroyed a cistern and removed irrigation pipes from 1.5 acres (6 dunams) of vegetable fields.

Israeli Border Police and hired laborers first demolished a rainwater cistern. Border Police and the workers then moved to vegetable fields and removed all of the irrigation pipes. Israeli Border Police used sound grenades to disperse the Palestinian land owners and residents who were gathered around the site of the demolitions. Medical personnel came to give examinations to two women who were suffering adverse affects from the sound grenades, one woman was taken away by ambulance.
See the following for information on recent demolitions in Al Baqa'a valley:

July 16, 2010

July 7, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Founding Fathers say YES to mosques

Juan Cole has a great post pointing out the ignorance of this movement. He specifically addresses Sarah Palin, and others, who have recently come out against mosques in the U.S, specifically the proposed mosque at Ground Zero.
A tiny fringe cult destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, not Islam in general (a religion of 1.5 billion human beings which could well be the religion of 3 billion human beings by mid-century). A monument to Usama Bin Laden or al-Qaeda would be in poor taste. A mosque, built anywhere in the United States, is not.

The classical Islamic law of war forbids sneak attacks. It forbids the killing of non-combatants. It forbids the killing of women and children. War is a collective duty declared by the duly constituted authorities, not an individual duty, and so not just any Ahmed or Moustafa can wake up in the morning and declare war on, say, Europe. See Khaled Abou El Fadl.

Al-Qaeda cultists reject these principles of Islamic law and they have been roundly condemned for doing so by all the major Muslim authorities– the rector of Al-Azhar Seminary in Egypt, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq, television preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar, Tahir al-Qadri in Pakistan, etc., etc., etc.

Finally, forbidding the building of a mosque in New York is inconsistent with the ideals of the Founding Generation of the United States of America, who explicitly mentioned Islam among the cases when they spoke of religious freedom.
I recommend reading his entire post, as he cites the founding fathers who speak about freedom of religion, specifically regarding Muslims. Cole closes on a powerful note:
The September 11 attacks were not the work of a foreign head of state supported by his state religion. No Muslim government supports al-Qaeda. But even if the attacks had been of that sort, the Founding Generation had already made a key distinction between religious practice and political loyalty.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pictures of the Day

Looking down towards the old city of Hebron. A Muslim Cemetery lies to the right.

A cute kid who demanded that he be photographed.

Hebron: Hell on Earth (if you're an Arab)

I have been working in the city of Hebron for the last month. Hebron is a unique manifestation of the occupation because there are 400 Israeli settlers living right in the heart of Hebron, a city of 200,000 Palestinians. In every other place in the West Bank, settlers are more spacially removed from Palestinians.

The settlers are protected by nearly 2,000 Israeli soldiers. Shohada St, formerly a main artery that provided access through the heart of the city, is now a "sterile street." "Sterile," in this instance, is a euphemism for "an apartheid street." The Israeli military actually permits one group of people (Israelis) to use the street and denies another group of people (Palestinians) access to the street, this distinction is made on the basis of ethnicity and nationality. That's apartheid, that's racism. Palestinians are not allowed to walk or drive on Shohada St, while Israelis can come and go as they please, in the middle of the West Bank city of Hebron.

Settlers just up the hill from Shohada St, have taken over a neighborhood called Tel Rumeida. Some of our closest partners live in Tel Rumeida. This video focuses on one of the Palestinian families that has remained in Tel Rumeida, and faces daily physical harassment and verbal abuse from the settlers. Two things strike me about this video: one, the manner and tone in which the settler women calls the Palestinian woman a whore (sharmouta), it is pure evil; two, the soldiers stand as watch as the settler woman pushes the Palestinians inside their 'cage' (which the settler calls it) and also later when young elementary-age settler kids throw stones at the Palestinians which are trapped inside the cage surrounding their house.

This is Hebron, the craziest, most twisted and evil, yet inexplicably hopeful place I have been.

Muslims Don't Belong Here in America

Thanks, Jon.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Wish You Weren't Here
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Preferential treatment for anyone who is Jewish

A concise, but enlightening reminder of the racist overtones in Israel, especially regarding the right of return for Jews (and lack thereof for Palestinians). From Jewish American blogger Phil Weiss:

Palestinians can't move back to their homes in Israel.

Palestinians can't drive on Israeli (Jewish) roads in the Occupied Territories.

Palestinians without the right cards can't go into East Jerusalem.

Gazans are not being allowed to live in the West Bank.

Non-Jewish Israelis can't move to certain parts of the West Bank.

I can move to Israel or East Jerusalem or the West Bank tomorrow, no problemo.

Wake up, liberal Americans.

More home demolitions in Jerusalem

This isn't rare or unexpected, but it sure as hell is morally bankrupt. And it's also a clear attempt to Judaize (read ethnically cleanse) all of Jerusalem.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just Another Palestinian Gandhi in Prison

Israeli-American activist, Joseph Dana, has a good article up at Huffington Post. Dana follows the case of Adeeb Abu Rahma, a Palestinian nonviolence organizer in the West Bank village of Bil'in. Abeed Abu Rahma has already served one year in prison for allegedly telling other protesters to throw stones. There was no evidence provided to justify this claim. Abu Rahma has already served his year in prison but remains in jail as a prosecutor argued, after the fact, that his sentence was too lenient. Abu Rahma remains in prison. I encourage you to read Dana's full post, as it highlights the racist and kafkaesque policies that Israeli implements against Palestinians living in the occupied territories.
Commentators of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often complain that there has not yet been a legitimate Palestinian Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. to emerge from within Palestinian civil society. The reality is that there are many Palestinians engaged in popular unarmed resistance to the Israeli occupation, preferring organized demonstrations in the West Bank to suicide bombs in Tel Aviv. Common people like Adeeb Abu Rahma could become the non-violent leader everyone claims to be waiting for. However, the Israeli government seems to recognize how much damage such a figure could do to their international image and to the occupation they will defend at any cost. And so hundreds of Palestinian Gandhis are brought before draconian Israeli military tribunals each year, only to face long sentences that nearly ensure that the world will never learn their names.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Israeli Border Police destroys vegetable fields

We got called out to the Baqa'a Valley, a fertile valley on the east side of Hebron. The Baqa'a lies close to the Israeli settlements, Kiryat Arba and Givat Harsina, and thus the Baqa'a faces numerous problems from the Israeli occupation forces. I won't give a full blow-by-blow-blogosphere-style rundown because I spent lots of time working on a press release, photos and videos, and I think that suffices.

But I will say that it was utter chaos, which the video demonstrates. We arrived and the hillside was on fire from a stray tear gas canister, fired by the Israeli Border Police. Young men were running around like crazy trying to save crops and trees, but the nearest well was quite a distance away. Below us there was a huge group of soldiers who were in a circle talking with 3-4 Israeli settlers. There were 20-30 workers in the fields pulling out piping out of the ground. There were Palestinians picking up rocks and yelling at us, thinking that we were settlers who had come back to the scene of the fire. Then we had young Palestinian kids offering us tea. Then once we thought we had sorted out the first incident, in which workers and border police destroyed a few fields and then left, we heard tear gas canisters and sound bombs exploding a half of kilometer from us. So we ran through the vineyards (do you call them that if the grapes aren't used for wine?) to see what was happening. We stepped out of the orchard and immediately got hit with a semi-dispersed cloud of tear gas.

So, I think you get the idea. It was chaos and we were trying to sort of what was happening, while still remaining appalled that these people's fields had been destroyed, while trying to ask the police why they were doing this, while we tried to document. This is the occupation. It's just absolutely crazy, in the sick, twisted, evil kind of way.

Here's the video, followed by the release:

For Immediate Release
Al Khalil/Hebron: Israeli Border Police Destroy Vegetable Fields in Al Baqa'a Valley
July 7, 2010

Photos from the incident are available here:

Israeli border police destroyed several Palestinian fields in Al Baqa'a Valley just east of Hebron on July 6, 2010, directly impacting the livelihood of more than one hundred Palestinians.

Landowners said that Israeli border police and the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO),
responsible for the coordination of Palestinian civilian affairs in Area C, began implementing the destruction at around 8:30am. Israeli authorities, with the assistance of hired labor, damaged fields of vegetables and destroyed the irrigation systems of those fields.

When international peace activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams arrived in the area at 11:30am, about 20 workers hired by the Israeli border police and DCO had cut and disposed of

the irrigation pipes laid in two fields. The fields each measured 10 dunams (approximately 40 acres) and included tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, and beans. In addition to dismantling the irrigation pipes, the workers also cut the twines that were holding up each tomato plant. A matriarch of the family, Aratiki Karim, said, "These tomatoes are for the kids, for the babies, to feed the kids and to sell them to buy other food for the kids." The Palestinian farmers had planted the tomato plants nearly three months ago and the tomatoes were only 20 days from being ready for market.

The border police, DCO, and hired laborers then moved to another field further along Route 60 in the Al Baqa'a Valley to perform the same procedure. The border police blocked the junction between the residential zone and the nearby fields, shooting tear gas and sound bombs to prevent Palestinians from going to the area where the hired workers were removing more irrigation pipes. Several women and children suffered from tear gas inhalation and required hospitalization.

Badran Mohammed Jabber, looking out onto his destroyed fields uttered in exasperation, "I have spent 43 years under the Israeli reign of terror. I have lived my life in fear, I never know what the Israelis will do tomorrow. They have destroyed my land, they have destroyed my life, these fields are my life."


This is not the first time Israeli authorities have destroyed crops and irrigation equipment in the Al Baqa'a Valley. See the following links for further reading on demolitions in the Baqa'a Valley: