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Posts Tagged ‘Israeli’

Here is an article from Ha’aretz recounting some of yesterday’s activity.

What follows are sections of an account written by Professor David Shulman, who took part yesterday.

“No settlers anywhere nearby, no soldiers, nothing will happen today”— Ezra keeps reassuring our Palestinian friends on the cell phone as we drive down to south Hebron in the early morning.  By the time we reach our meeting point near Samu’a, a good group is in place: some twenty Palestinians and another eight or nine Ta’ayush activists. Most of the Palestinians belong to Samu’a, and the fields we were heading toward through the wadis belong to them, though they have no access to them any more. The “illegal outpost” of Asa’el, one of the uglier and more malignant in this area, has stolen them. …

We begin working with pick-axes and our bare hands, and as always there is the joy of doing it and especially of seeing the rightful owners of this land returning, at last, to care for it. I’m especially moved watching a middle-aged Palestinian woman working, face partly covered, hands heavy with thorns and stones, beside me. Of course we can’t remove all the rocks, but the plot is looking more inviting by the minute, and soon we drift to the next terrace up, and the next one, getting closer at every step to the outer perimeter of the settlement on top of the hill. Naturally, we haven’t gone unnoticed. A heavy-set settler in his Shabbat white is staring down at us, and beside him there are soldiers, first only a few, then more and more, and in less than an hour, with the horrid sense of inevitability that so often signals human folly, they are clumsily descending in our direction. They are proudly waving the piece of paper that can only be the order declaring this area a Closed Military Zone.

The senior officer, bearded, young, opaque, reads it out: “By the authority legally vested in me, etc. etc.” He gives us exactly ten minutes to desist from our subversive activity and to disappear. Well drilled in these rituals, we argue with him. If this is a CMZ and we are supposed to leave, we say, then why do those settlers on the hilltop get to stay? Ah yes, “by the authority vested in me, those whom I allow to stay can stay. You now have nine and a half minutes.” Amiel leaps to the occasion. He carries with him, always, the text of the Supreme Court’s ruling that local military commanders have no right to declare these closed military zones whenever the whim strikes them, and above all they are prohibited from using this mechanism to keep farmers away from their lands. Amiel reads out the text of the court’s decision. The officer is utterly unimpressed. “You have eight minutes left.”

We go back to work, and now each rock I pry from the recalcitrant soil seems to have some special meaning, as if defiance, however quixotic, were imprinted on it. The Palestinians also accelerate their pace. As always, the South Hebron hills are a good place for unexpected encounters. One of the soldiers, smiling, suddenly greets me by name. I don’t recognize him at first, in his fancy-dress costume—helmet, uniform, rifle—but he tells me his name:  Spartak, a former student. He studied Sanskrit with me, wrote a very good M.A. thesis. I haven’t seen him for some years, but I announce at once to whoever wants to hear:  “I don’t mind being arrested, but only if Spartak carries out the order.” It would be nice to hear his views on the task he is engaged in. “Seven and a half minutes.” By now a genial policeman whom we know well from many such occasions has also turned up and announced, in his mild-mannered way, that by refusing to leave the CMZ we are committing a crime, hindering a public servant in discharging his duty (shades of Judge Ziskind). I figure this merits a response, so I say to him: “And what about those settlers? Their very presence here is a crime by international law and by any ethical standard.” He smiles and nods. To my surprise, he agrees with me. “True,” he says, “but that’s not relevant now.” “How could it not be relevant?” “Six minutes left before we start making arrests.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Soon afterward, three Palestinians were detained and five Israelis were arrested.  The Ta’ayush members are held in the Kiryat Arba police station for about 8 hours before being released.

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I want to take this opportunity to introduce people to the group COMET-ME (Community, Energy, and Technology development in the Middle East). On their website, the group states its mission as  building

renewable energy systems for communities that are not connected to the electricity grid because of political reasons and build local capacity to install and maintain those systems. The provision of renewable energy to off-grid communities answers a social, economic and environmental need. This is by no means a luxury issue but rather a matter of life-support in a particularly harsh situation.

One of these communities is Palestinian Susya, a village Ta’ayush has been going to for years.  Because of the installation of a solar panel and a wind turbine, the village has been able to store goats milk in a refrigerator that would spoil otherwise.  This month, volunteers from Comet-ME and villagers from Susya flew kites in the village. A video can be seen here. I urge everyone to vote for the group in the BBC World Challenge. Your vote could help the group expand its work in providing power to Palestinians who are off the grid.

More information on the group can be found in this article by the New York Times and this one published in Ha’aretz.

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I have not written posts lately because I have moved to the US and am still transitioning.  However, this morning I received an e-mail from Ta’ayush activists that today settlers from the settlement of Susia have attacked Palestinan Susya.

My translation of the message follows:

This morning, Ta’ayush activists escorting Palestinian farmers in Safa received a message about settlers concentrated in the area of Susya because of the expected evacuation today of the illegal outpost Givat HaDegel nearby.  Due to the concern about acts of revenge by settlers toward local Palestinians, two Ta’ayush activists went to the area.  One the way, it became evident that our worry was justified.  A group of 12 settlers had come to the tents of the Harani and Nawajeh families.  The settlers threw rocks, hit men and women, and smashed a solar panel (one of their main sources of electricity).  Also, they broke the video camera of a Palestinian activist.  Four soldiers arrived shortly after the attack started, but didn’t succeed – or perhaps didn’t particularly try – to stop it.  Only the arrival of additional forces caused the settlers to leave the area.  Of course, not one of the settlers was detained or arrested.  When we arrived, the attack was over, and all we were able to do was calm the families, sign a report, lodge a complaint with the police, switch video cameras, and organize activists to stay at least through the night.  But it was this that the soldiers were in a rush to prevent.  The soldiers that were unable to interfere with the settler attack on Palestinians told us it was  a Closed Military Zone, and that we had to leave the area.  When we refused, one of the activists was arrested for ‘insulting a public servant’!  He was released after a short interrogation by the Hebron police, and then he returned to Susya.

At the moment, everything is quiet there, and for the time being some international activists and Israelis are staying in Susya.  The Palestinians lodged a complaint with the police, but unfortunately, the soldiers who were there reported to the police that there had been no attack.  Apparently, not only are all the Palestinians and international activists who were with them liars, but the soldiers were also able to ignore the damage, destruction of property, and broken video camera.

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On Saturday, May 2, the joint Israeli-Palestinian group ‘Combatants for Peace’ (Lochamim l’Shalom) organized an introductory event in the Palestinian village of Susya.  Around 100 Israelis, Palestinians and internationals showed up to learn about the group and the situation in Susya and other villages suffering hardship from settlers.

Gathering in Susya

Gathering in Susya

After talking for a couple hours, it was decided to go see one of the village’s wells, which is close to the developing outpost ‘Givat haDegel’.  (This well may be their primary well, but I am not certain).

Because of the proximity of the outpost, the well has effectively been made off-limits by the IDF and settlers.

Our group walking toward the well

Our group walking toward the well

Our group walked over to see it, and within minutes a contingent of Border Police and soldiers arrived, along with a young settler recording us on his cellphone.  Soon after, the soldiers declared a ‘Closed Military Zone’, threatening anyone who stayed in the area with arrest.  We had not come for a confrontation, so we left.  It should be noted however, that the soldiers were perfectly happy to have the settler stay and mingle among them, although he did leave when we drew attention to this.  It was another example of selective enforcement of the law by the army and police.  It was also a clear case where the IDF and police are actively assisting the development of illegal outposts.

Soldier telling us we have a few minutes to leave

Soldier telling us we have a few minutes to leave

Soldiers standing with the illegal outpost in the background

Soldiers standing with the illegal outpost in the background

After the ‘Combatants for Peace’ get-together was over, Taayush members went on to check Hill 26, an illegal outpost near Kiryat Arba that I wrote about in my last post.  Since the week before, there had been some expansion of the settler’s ‘hut’.

Settler youth in their 'clubhouse' on Hill 26

Settler youth in their 'clubhouse' on Hill 26

There were a number of teens there, none of whom were pleased with our arrival.  The time there was uneventful, but some of the teens gathered rocks in their pockets, and circled around a few of us in a threatening manner.  Suddenly, we received a call that some people had been hurt by settlers in Khirbet Safa.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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I have returned from my vacation, and hopefully will be back to writing on a regular basis. Yesterday I went out with some members of Taayush to an activity organized by the Palestinian Christian group, Sabeel. This was my first meeting with Sabeel, and I think it was also their first cooperation with Taayush.

Sabeel was well organized, and had about 30 people with them.  We went to an area northwest of Jerusalem, close to the settlements of Giv’at Ze’ev and Giv’on Hahadasha.

As a group we went to an area of land owned by the Sabri family, who live on the other side of the separation barrier, so they are unable to access their land or to work it.  It is important for Palestinians to have their land worked, because there is a law that allows Israel to seize lands that lie fallow for three years.

Here is a picture of a map that Sabeel provided.  The black and white line is there because the map was made before the barrier in that area was finished, but it is now complete there.

The Map

The Map

We all worked together – Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals – planting olive and almond trees.  It was tiring work, and in the end we planted about 100 trees.

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Part of the group working.  The settlement of Giv’at Ze’ev in the distance.

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As documented in the Villages Group blog, at the end of October 2008, there were home demolitions carried out in Umm-Al-Kheir the home of some Bedouin families that live incredibly close to the settlement of Karmel.  I have been there myself, and have taken some pictures.

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This is a view of the Karmel settlement from the edge of Umm-Al-Kheir.

I remember one of the first times I was there, I met an elder of the village.  He was upset because of the difficult economic situation there.  Apparently, the settlers used to hire them for work, but now they only bring in foreign workers, and don’t employ the Palestinians at all.

I think the ultimate reason the settlers do this is to drive the Palestinians away.  The Palestinians become isolated, and the settlers act as if the Palestinians do not exist, and have no normal interaction with them, such as in the context of work.  In such a situation, eventually the Palestinians will be driven to move to an area where they can get work, and are not living next to hostile neighbors.

Here is a picture of some housing units the settlers built close to Umm-Al-Kheir.

Karmel Housing Units

Karmel Housing Units

You may notice that on the left side of all of these houses, there are no windows.  There are no windows towards the Palestinians, only windows facing each other.  It gave me a strange feeling looking at these houses.  The view that they do not see is a beautiful one of desert and hills.

A final point I want to mention refers back to the home demolitions.  These photos are from before the demolitions took place.  I did not include some pictures because the buildings in them may no longer be standing.

There is a Palestinian named Eid who is from this village.  I have talked to him on a few occasions, and he had always impressed me with his atittude.  He said repeatedly that he wants peace, and that this desire for peace has been instilled in him from his family.  He has always been optimistic about the future, at the same time acknowledging that there are Israelis and Palestinians who don’t want peace.

Well, the last time I saw him was in November, and this was about a week after his family’s home was demolished.  I had heard what happened before I saw him, and was unsure in what state he would be.  When he came over to me to say hello, his demeanor and attitude were completely unchanged.  He talked the same way as he had every other time I saw him.  It was one of the most amazing demonstrations of a commitment to values.

For days after, I was impressed with his mental strength, and it encouraged me to not lose hope, because here was a man who actually faced real personal hardship, and his outlook was unchanged.

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