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Posts Tagged ‘Taayush’

Today Taayush members went out to Hebron.  We were accompanied by a new friend, whom I shall call Y.  Not long ago, Y finished his service in the IDF.  Although coming with Taayush for the first time, he had been out with a couple of other groups, learning more details about the situation in the Occupied Territories.

However, his first real learning experience took place while in the army.  He had been a soldier in Bil’in, the site of regular protests against the construction of the Separation Barrier which often end in violence.  Y said that his time there raised questions for him about the morality of what the army was doing.

To begin with, he wondered about the path of the wall, which went right through the middle of a grove of olive trees, instead of around it.  Then there was the attitude of some of his fellow soldiers who said “we have the power, no one can tell us what to do.” They were angered by the challenge to their authority, and often responded with brutality.

Y recounted one instance when a settler woman told the soldiers that someone had thrown a stone at her.  The army’s response was to go to the Palestinian village, and line everyone up.  Most of the Palestinians there were children, and Y said he started to feel like the  ‘bad guy’.

While off-duty as a soldier, Y began to join the Bil’in protesters and see the conflict from their side.  One day he was called up by an officer and told that he would no longer serve with them because of his activities.  The rest of his service was spent as a ‘jobnik’, doing secretarial work.

I admire Y’s standing up for his convictions, and refusing to ignore the reality of what he and his fellow soldiers had been doing.  He told me he considers himself an Israeli patriot, and I believe his values have proven it.

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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.

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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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Today members of Taayush went to help the Jabari family with agricultural work in Hebron.  The Jabari home is near the settlement of Kiryat Arba, and not far from the ‘House of Contention’ further inside the city.  This location has made the Jabari’s a frequent target for harassment by settlers.

Palestinians and Taayush members gathering plants

Palestinians and Taayush members gathering plants

After meeting with the family and drinking coffee, Taayush members, some local Palestinians and a few international volunteers went to a small field nearby owned by the Jabari’s.  We quietly collected plants to feed their goats until a group of soldiers, border police, and regular police showed up.

Palestinians working with Border Police in background

Palestinians working with Border Police in background

They said we had to leave and they were declaring a ‘Closed Military Zone’ on the area we were working on.  While we had been working there had been no problems, there were no settlers present, and we were on the Jabari’s land.  Still, the police showed up in force to make us leave.

Soldiers, Police and Border police.  Itamar Ben-Gvir on the left

Soldiers, Police and Border police. Itamar Ben-Gvir on the left

One settler by the name of Itamar Ben-Gvir came up with the police.  Ben-Gvir is a former Kach member and a radical right-wing settler.  He was standing with the police, telling them to arrest us, as they were preparing to remove us from the area.  After a short time, the border police came forward and started pushing us away from the field.  Meanwhile, Ben-Gvir was standing inside the Closed Military Zone, on the Palestinian’s land.

Today’s action by the Israeli soldiers and police seemed particularly unjust.  We have a man who needs outsiders to help him safely work on his own land, and when it is done peacefully and without any interaction with settlers, the army and police force them all to leave.  The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that Palestinians should be permitted to work their own lands, but the IDF and police choose to flout this ruling when it suits them.

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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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For years, Ezra Nawi has been an active and outspoken Israeli activist for the Palestinians of the South Mount Hebron region.  Recently he was found guilty of assaulting an officer, a crime that he denies, and no one who knows Ezra believes.

I have worked with Ezra on many occasions, and although passionate about his work with Palestinians, he is good-humored and has never been violent in any way.  I do not believe for a moment that he is guilty of assault.

Neve Gordon wrote an opinion piece in The Guardian that tells the story well.

There is also a website that has been put up to help support Ezra through political petitions and assistance with legal fees.

The website is at:http://www.supportezra.net/


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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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