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Posts Tagged ‘Kiryat Arba’

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 had some excellent video footage today, but unfortunately some settler youths stole my camera.

This morning members of Taayush went to Safa, the village right next to the settlement of Bat Ayin.  The settlers of Bat Ayin have a reputation for being particularly violent and extremist.  Today they did not disappoint.

I was with two other Taayush activists, along with two older Palestinian women and a young girl who were collecting grape leaves.  I noticed up above us on a ridge there were three IDF soldiers surveying the area and watching us.  Suddenly, across on another hill we saw 15 to 20 settler youth (aged 14 to 20s) running toward us screaming.

The Palestinian women started to run away as the settlers approached.  When the settlers reached us, I was immediately struck in the face, and they tried to pull my camera from my hands.  Other settlers were throwing rocks at the women as they fled.  Settlers continued to hit me and another Taayush activist and they managed to take my camera, with which they then used to hit the other activist.

They then continued running in the direction of the Palestinians, and came across the car of Ezra, a veteran activist.  The settlers then flipped the car onto its side, cracking the windshield.  They kept on running away from us after this.  By this time, the three soldiers I had seen earlier arrived.  They yelled at the settlers, and half-heartedly chased after them.  I followed them and said the settlers had stolen my camera.  One of the soldiers then started yelling at me, threatening to arrest me unless I backed away.

The soldiers then went off as well, and soon a group of Palestinians gathered by Ezra’s overturned car.  A few minutes later, about 10 IDF soldiers arrived, who stood around, some of them joking with each other.  After initially telling Ezra they would help right his car, they then changed their mind and said the Palestinians with us (most of whom were children) should do it.  The Palestinians brought a tractor to turn the car over.

Palestinians righting Ezra's car

Palestinians righting Ezra's car

While they were working on his car, another 10 to 15 border police arrived, all of them carrying fashioned wooden sticks.  They said it was a Closed Military Zone, and that we had to leave the area.  After Ezra’s car was turned right-side-up, we all started to leave.  After we walked for a few minutes, the border police began yelling at us to go faster, and ran at us with their sticks raised.  They started shoving us and pushing us with the sticks, and the Palestinians started running away.

By this time additional Taayush activists had joined us and a few them became distressed by the aggressive behavior of the border police.  As we were leaving amidst the ensuing clamor, one of the border police suddenly grabbed a Taayush member in a chokehold and wrestled him to the ground.  Other police held him down, one of whom kicked him in the head.  He was arrested as was his girlfriend who was trying to shield him.  Two Palestinian boys, no more than 12 to 14 years of age were arrested as well for supposedly throwing stones.  However, I had not observed them doing anything except moving along with everyone else during this melee.

Palestinian boy held for arrest

Palestinian boy held for arrest

I was disturbed by the interaction of the border police and army with us and the Palestinians.  They were not taking action against law-breakers, but against the victims.  There seemed to be no order or law at that time.

The rest of the day consisted of trying to lodge a complaint with the police regarding the settler’s assault on us and the Palestinians.  That in itself proved surprisingly difficult.

We first went to the nearest police station which happened to be in the settlement of Kiryat Arba.  We were told to wait outside the gate.  As we stood there in the heat for 45 minutes, a group of settler children aged 8 to 12 gathered around throwing rocks and glass bottles at us.  The guard on the other side of the gate told them to be careful because they ‘could hurt someone’. This mild rebuke was followed by a volley of eggs thrown at us.  One 12 year old threatened to drop a cement block on us – “if only it wasn’t Shabbat.”  All this time we had been doing nothing aside from waiting outside the gate of the Kiryat Arba police station.

Soon afterward a few officers arrived and let us inside.  We told them we wanted to lodge a complaint, and we were led to a room to wait in.  A few police came in and out of the room, but told us that we could not lodge the complaint with them.  Finally we left, skeptical that any help would be forthcoming after almost two hours of stalling and inaction on their part.  We were then  escorted out in a police car because we feared the settler children and adults with them might attack us.

We then drove on to the police station of Gush Etzion.  We managed to get one guard’s attention through the locked, barred doors of the station, only to recognize him as one of the border police who was present back at Safa a few hours earlier.  He coldly stared at us and then walked away.  We were clearly not going to get any help there either.

These two police stations were indifferent to the crime committed against us, and would not help file a report or help me find my stolen camera.  The tolerance the police and army has for illegal outposts seems to extend to tolerating other illegal and even violent behavior from the settlers.

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Yesterday morning members of Taayush split up into two groups.  One group went to Khirbet Safa, and the other group – which I was in – went to Umm Zeitouneh.

Havat Ma'on

Havat Ma'on

Umm Zeitouneh is a valley between the outpost of Ma’on, and the barn that is shared by Ma’on and the settlement of Susya.  The settlers from Ma’on have a history of violence against Palestinians, and our goal was to try to prevent any attacks on them.  We were accompanying Palestinian shepherds from the village of Tubah who had brought their sheep out to graze.  Some of the young shepherds, boys of 14 and up, had in the past been attacked by settlers on their way to school.

Two young Palestinian shepherds

Two young Palestinian shepherds

Luckily however, the sheep’s grazing passed without incident.

Sheep grazing

Sheep grazing

Later on, the group that went to Khirbet Safa met up with us and we all went to see if there had been any additional building on Hill 26.  Upon arrival, we could see that the whole area was a mess.  Building materials and garbage were strewn around, and there was a spot with used toilet paper.

DSCN1562

There had been some small changes made, but no new structures had been built.  There were a few teenage boys from Kiryat Arba hanging out in their ‘hut’, and upon our arrival one of them pulled out a video camera to record us.  Minutes later, a group of soldiers arrived.  They did not speak to us, but rather with the teenage settlers.

We waited for the arrival of an order for a Closed Military Zone, which would compel us to leave the area or face arrest.  In the end, 7 cars from the army, border police, and police arrived.  There were more police and soldiers than Taayush members and settlers combined.

Soldiers and police around the settler's structure

Soldiers and police around the settler's structure

A Closed Miltary Zone was declared and we were told to leave.  The police officers said that the settlers would also have to leave.  They had said this on previous occasions and the settlers were permitted to remain.  This time, however, the soldiers did actually make them leave.

Young settlers being escorted away

Young settlers being escorted away

To be sure, while we were made to leave by threat of force and arrest, the settlers left through urging and polite escort.  Also, it seemed likely the settlers would return after an hour or so.  Nevertheless, they did actually have to leave their illegal structure for the first time.  Hopefully this has helped to establish a precedent, so in the future whenever we have to leave, they will as well.

For an account of Taayush activities yesterday in Khirbet Safa, check out IbnEzra’s blog

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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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Today members of Taayush returned to Hill 26, which as I mentioned in the second half of a previous post, is the site where settlers from Kiryat Arba have illegally built a hut on Palestinian land.  We have been monitoring the development of the structure for the last month or so.

The plan was to build a structure of our own nearby, to see if our structure would be treated differently from that of the settlers.

Israelis and Palestinians standing in front of new structure

Israelis and Palestinians standing in front of new structure

Our contingent of Palestinians, Israeli peace activists and internationals quickly built a small structure.  Some settlers tried to interfere with the construction, but mostly they watched and heckled us.

Settler and soldiers. Behind them is the settler hut

Settler and soldiers. Behind them is the settler hut

After it was built, soldiers, border police, and more settlers arrived.  Some of the newly arrived settlers cursed and yelled at us and shoved members of our group.  They provocatively told us that after we were gone, they were going to use the hut we built for themselves.  One settler struck a female Taayush member in the head, knocking her to the ground, and threw a punch at another woman in the group.

(Above is Baruch Marzel)

Baruch Marzel, a well-known settler from Hebron, shoved a Taayush member, and tore down the Palestinian flag that had been placed atop the structure.

DSCN1442

A young settler threw a flaming stick on top of the structure in an attempt to burn it down.

The military then declared a ‘closed military zone’, and said that everyone – Palestinians, settlers, and Israeli activists – would have to leave.  However, despite this announcement the settlers were allowed to stay where they were while we were roughly driven away down the hill.  In the process, Taayush members were arrested, some for peacefully resisting, others because they just weren’t leaving quickly enough.

The experience was upsetting for a number of the Israeli activists.  Israel’s country and army was acting illegally to protect religious extremists who were breaking the law.  While our group was treated roughly and with hostility, the soldiers allowed the settlers to yell invectives at them, and be ordered around by them.  Unfortunately the army effectively promotes the politics of the settlers and tries to marginalize and silence those who want the rule of law.

The events were covered by the Israeli media, and Haaretz used a video I took in this article.http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1084184.html

Settler behind soldiers enforcing closed military zone only on us

Settler behind soldiers enforcing closed military zone only on us

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This last Saturday was an eventful day for Taayush in the South Hebron area. First we accompanied Palestinians to go farm their lands near the illegal outpost of Asahel.

Soldiers standing next to settlers

Soldiers standing next to settlers

Immediately after arriving near the outpost, a female settler came out and started throwing stones at our group.  A few soldiers were already there, and they just watched while she threw rocks which hit a couple of people.  Soon after this we started working, a young Palestinian man was arrested – apparently for not moving back a foot when the soldiers told him to.

Settlers sitting with a police officer

Settlers sitting with a police officer

The soldiers then demanded that the Palestinians and Taayush members leave the area stop working.  To hasten the process, the soldiers came with a paper they said was a military order identifying the area as a closed military zone, and an accompanying map to prove it.  However, when we challenged the authenticity of the order and the map, they backed down.

Soldiers overlooking Palestinians and others workingSoldiers overlooking Palestinians and Israelis

While this was happening, a few more settlers came down the hill, yelling obscene insults at us.  This included graphic comments about Taayush members engaging in sodomy.  There were more threatening gestures and comments, however.  The male settler pretended to shoot us with his fingers, and said we belonged ‘underground’.  One of the women said to a Taayush member that she would kill her, and threatened another with having his head smashed by a rock.

Eventually the soldiers brought a real military order for a ‘closed military zone’.  The soldiers wanted to make us leave in a way that required the least effort from them.  They proposed that if we left, they would release the Palestinian they had previously arrested,although he would have to report back to the police the next day.  After a bit of wrangling over details, we came to an agreement and set off for our cars with our Palestinian friend in tow.

As we neared the road, two of the settlers approached from the opposite direction.  They had gone around the back of the hill to meet us.  The same female settler as before started throwing rocks at our group, hitting several people.  One time, she was clearly aiming at the head of a young Palestinian, and the rock cut the hand of a Taayush member who tried to block it.

Settlers covering their faces

Settlers covering their faces

During this barrage, the two settlers covered their faces.  The man wrapped his tallit (prayer shawl) around his face, and the woman covered her face with part of her head covering.  It is not clear why they did so because we had already seen their faces.

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The next notable event of the day occurred near the settlement of Kiryat Arba, close to Hebron.  We had heard that some settlers from Kiryat Arba were starting to fence off an area on a Palestinian’s land.

Settler family on Palestinian land

Settler family on Palestinian land

The status of the land there is particularly clear-cut, as Kiryat Arba is fenced off around its perimeter, negating any possible claims that its land extends further.  We went to inspect the land in question and found a family of settlers sitting there surrounded by several poles they had recently erected.  From there, we went about 100 meters to view a structure, apparently some sort of clubhouse, that had been built by settlers.  On this day, there were several boys, none older than 14, standing around this crudely built structure containing supplies of water and gas.

dscn1241

Three soldiers sudenly arrived, apparently in response to having been alerted by the settler family.  The leader of the three was fairly aggressive, and tried to grab the video camera out of the hand of a Palestinian who was with us.  This soldier then approached him again as if to threaten or engage him physically, but turned away when the Palestinian yelled for us to film what was happening.

Shortly thereafter, the family of settlers came over, and then around 10 more soldiers arrived.  The mother settler immediately started screaming invectives at us, and yelling at the Palestinians with us to ‘go back to Iraq’.  After some Taayush members argued with her for a little while, the soldiers produced a document declaring the area a closed military zone.  However, there were two problems with this claim.

First, the military order wasn’t signed, making it invalid.  Second, and more significantly, the soldiers only wanted us to leave, and to let the settlers stay where they were.  This was a violation of the law, as the structure was on private Palestinian land.  Legally, all of us, including the settlers, should be required to leave, however the settlers were permitted to stay.

The unsigned military order

The unsigned military order

We pointed these facts out to the soldiers, but they told us that if we did not leave the area in the next 10 minutes, we would all be arrested.  During our argument, the settlers all went inside the clubhouse.  With no alternative, we left, but with the knowledge and proof that in this instance the soldiers had broken Israeli law.

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