The undeniable Palestinian right to resist occupation

Posted: December 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off
Slingshot found on Palestinian protester Mustafa Tamimi (photo: IDF Spokesperson)

Following the killing of Mustafa Tamimi in his village Nabi Saleh, Spokesperson for the IDF presented pictures of a slingshot Tamimi had on him when he was brought to the hospital. This was to be the indicting evidence that the protester was taking part in hostile action against the army – i.e. throwing stones – and therefore responsible for his own death.

Only in the context of the occupation can throwing stones at a bullet-proof army jeep be seen as an offense deserving the death penalty, carried out on the spot (clearly, the soldiers weren’t acting in self-defense). Furthermore, as recent attacks by settlers on soldiers – including a brick thrown from close range on the IDF regional commander – demonstrated, the army’s treatment of Jews is very different (to be clear, I don’t call for shooting Jewish stone-throwers either). But there is a larger issue here, concerning the whole notion of “legitimate” resistance to the occupation.

Facts and context are important: Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza more than 44 years ago. Since then, the Palestinians have been under military occupation, which denies their basic human and civil rights. The Palestinians can’t vote. They are tried in military court, where the conviction rate is astonishing. They don’t enjoy due process. Their property rights are limited, and their lands – including private lands – are regularly seized by Israel. All this is well-known and well-documented.

As far as Israel is concerned, this situation can go on forever. Israel is not attempting to leave the West Bank – it actually strengthens its hold on the territory – and it doesn’t plan to give the Palestinians equal rights within the state of Israel.

The Palestinians therefore have a moral right to resist the occupation. It’s as simple as that.

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Asked how what form of protest against the occupation Israel can allow, Peter Lerner of the IDF spokesperson unit wrote this tweet:

To start, this is simply a lie. Israel doesn’t allow any form of protest in the West Bank (well, except for settler protest). Military law demands IDF permission for any demonstration of more than 10 people. The IDF regularly declares the villages of Nabi Saleh, Bil’in and Ni’lin, where protests take place, as Closed Military Zones, and it charges Israelis who attempt to join those demonstrations with violating of this order. Palestinian protest organizers are tried for long prison terms in military courts.

But more important, the kinds of protest Major Lerner is suggesting are effective under civilian authority, not under military control. Major Lerner is part of Israel’s media war for the hearts and minds of Westerners, and the answer he gives is something that people in democracies can identify with. But this is not the situation in the occupied territories: For all Israel cares the Palestinians can have sit-ins and rallies until second coming; it wouldn’t affect Israeli policy one bit. It is worth remembering that in the two decades following 1967, strikes, rallies and general assemblies were the main protest methods in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel used these years of relative calm to introduce its massive settlement project. The only thing that made Israelis notice the Palestinians and start seriously discussing their rights is the the first Intifada.

In recent years, it seems that the West’s favorite sport is to tell the Palestinians what constitutes a “legitimate” way to fight for their rights, and what doesn’t – as if the Palestinians were full members of society and not subject to a form of control that Amira Hass rightly calls “Israeli dictatorship.” Nobody would denounce Egyptian or Tibetan protesters for such acts, but reports of unarmed Palestinian resistance are usually met with Israel claiming evidence of Palestinian “violence” – mostly stones thrown at soldiers, with the occasional Molotov cocktail. As if those could justify the occupation, while in reality they are the reaction to it.

The same goes for those organizations and Israeli propaganda units specializing in the hunt for “Palestinian incitement.” Any suggestions of the Palestinians not  viewing IDF soldiers in a positive light is presented as proof of the fact that “they are not ready” to enjoy their rights to justice, freedom and dignity – as if those are someone’s to give. What is the meaning of the word “rights,” if they can be denied collectively for half a century? Is freedom a trophy you need to win from your oppressor? What do people expect of a prisoner to think of his or her guards? Good relations and understanding can be built after the resolution of the occupation – not in the midst of it. Yet Palestinians are expected by the world not only to live under Israeli military control, but also to like Israelis.

Strange as it may seem, even critics of Israel repeat such demands, or ask, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?,” as though a failure to present one means that Palestinian demands are not to be taken seriously.

By the way, the Palestinians have their share of Gandhis - you can find them in Israeli prisons.

I oppose violence, in whatever form. More than anything, I oppose violence against civilians. I think that the Palestinian choice of unarmed resistance and of civil society campaigns against the occupation is both wise and heroic. But the real violence is the occupation, and all its victims are civilians.

It is not for Israel to tell Palestinians how to resist our occupation.


Haaretz’s publisher: US president can’t act against Israeli Apartheid

Posted: November 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Haaretz’s publisher Amos Schocken had a very strong op-ed this weekend titled “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy.” Schocken is referring to the settlers’ ideology as “promoting Apartheid” and accuses all Israeli governments, except Rabin’s during Oslo and Sharon’s during the disengagement, of playing along.

Schocken has also something to say about the United States’ role in the process (my bold):

… The fact that the government is effectively a tool of Gush Emunim and its successors is apparent to everyone who has dealings with the settlers, creating a situation of force multiplication.

This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir (who said lying was permissible to realize the Gush Emunim ideology. Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech a lie of this kind? ). Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs – the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West’s relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology – the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.


Read the rest here.




Haaretz’s publisher: US president can’t act against Israeli Apartheid

Posted: November 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Haaretz’s publisher Amos Schocken had a very strong op-ed this weekend titled “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy.” Schocken is referring to the settlers’ ideology as “promoting Apartheid” and accuses all Israeli governments, except Rabin’s during Oslo and Sharon’s during the disengagement, of playing along.

Schocken has also something to say about the United States’ role in the process (my bold):

… The fact that the government is effectively a tool of Gush Emunim and its successors is apparent to everyone who has dealings with the settlers, creating a situation of force multiplication.

This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir (who said lying was permissible to realize the Gush Emunim ideology. Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech a lie of this kind? ). Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs – the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West’s relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology – the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.


Read the rest here.


Organized chaos and bare life (*): The non-story of the night raids

Posted: November 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

There exists a general, intentional, cleverly constructed misunderstanding surrounding the true nature of the Israeli occupation. Some say it’s a simple dispute over land, like many others in the world; other think the conflict is about national independence for the Palestinians, prompting statements like, “The Basques and the Kurds aren’t independent either, so why do people pick on Israel?”

But the occupation is something else. It is the ongoing military control over the lives of millions, and everything that comes with it: The lack of civil rights, the absence of legal protection, and perhaps more than anything else, a sense of organized chaos, in which the lives of an entire civilian population is run at the mercy of soldiers 18 to 20 years old. Most of the time, it’s almost hard to explain how bad it is for those who haven’t seen it with their own eyes.

Night raid in Nabi Saleh 24 November 2011.
Night raid in Nabi Saleh, 24 November 2011.

Joseph Dana posted this picture today, of a military raid on the home of an imprisoned Palestinian activist in Nabi Saleh. This is a non-story in the West Bank: The army enters Palestinian homes as it pleases, day or night. No warrant is needed, just like you don’t need a warrant to arrest a Palestinian (even a minor). Once the soldiers are in the house, the nature of the interaction between them and the family living there depends on their good or ill will – and in the 44 years of the occupation, we have had everything: from “polite” visits, to beatings and cursing, all the way up to the murder of civilians in their beds. A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming, the way most of us can even during unpleasant encounters with the authorities. The important point is that both the Palestinian and the soldier know that.

To illustrate this issue, here is a video from a couple of weeks ago. It was taken in Nabi Saleh, the same village where the picture above was taken. The soldiers enter a man’s house at night, and demand he wakes up his children, so they can take their pictures in order to keep them for identification in case of stone-throwing. I think that it is the calmness of the entire scene, the fact that the soldiers are polite and that nothing “horrifying” happens, which makes this video truly shocking.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jnb6z5HZ34&[/youtube]

You can say that everything is okay, as many Israelis would. But you can also ask yourself – why do the soldiers come at night? Or why do they come at all? After all, you don’t normally take people’s photos in the event they might be involved in illegal activities. And from there, you can also start questioning the whole logic of a permanent situation in which the army runs civilians’ lives.

I wonder what is the real effect of this scene, on all parties involved: The kids who are being awakened in the middle of the night; the humiliated father; the soldiers, who know that they can do whatever they want to this man and his family. And what is the effect of this scene taking place again and again and again, for 44 years?

Most important is to truly ask ourselves whether we can imagine the same thing happening to us, the same army visit taking place in our home. Would we respond so calmly? Probably not, because we have a different understanding of our existence than the Palestinians and soldiers in this clip. In many ways, we live in a different world.

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* Bare life: A term associated with the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, describing a state of existence outside the political and legal order, in which a person is stripped of all forms of protection.


Watch: IDF terrorizes a Palestinian village

Posted: July 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

nabivideo_pic

I try not to use loaded words like “terrorizes” in my writing, but there is simply no other way to describe this video, showing four army vehicles enter the small village of Nabi Saleh (West Bank) in the middle of the night, throw stun grenades and shoot tear gas at the homes of the sleeping Palestinians.

Nabi Saleh has been the site of weekly unarmed protests by Palestinians, international activists and Israelis against the confiscation of the village’s land by a nearby settlement. You can read about it here.

There are no demonstrations at nights.

The clip is one and a half minutes long. You can hear the anxiety in the people’s voices as the army convoy approaches. After the cars stop, you can hear the weapons loaded. Then there are the blasts, and the silhouettes of the soldiers throwing more and more grenades at the local houses. The occasional shots you see are the gas launchers, fired in all directions. Around one minute into the video, you can hear the tear gas spreading near the


“Air Flotilla” successful in exposing Israeli blockade of West Bank

Posted: July 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Israeli authorities deployed hundreds of policeman in order to stop and deport pro-Palestinian visitors. Minister of tourism announced that “good tourists” will be greeted with flowers

Panic. There is no other way to describe the Israeli reaction to a plan by a few activists—no more than a thousands, according to the most generous estimates—to try and travel to the West Bank via Ben Gurion International Airport. A handful of those visitors got here (five of them already deported), and it seems that the whole country has gone mad.

Haaretz has reported a special deployment by hundreds of policemen and special unites both inside and outside the terminals, “in case one of the arrivals will try to set himself on fire.” The Petach Tikwa court, in charge of the airport area, is to have more arrest judges on alert, and the minister for Hasbara (propaganda) Yuli Edelstein demanded the government to take no chances, “because we should remember what happened on 9/11.”

All this, lets not forget, in order to welcome between a few dozens to a few hundreds Westerners (most of the quite old, according to reports), who would arrive on separate flights and on different hours, who went through extensive security checks before boarding their planes, and who openly declares their intentions to visit the Palestinian territories. This is the national threat that caught all the headlines for some days now in a country armed with one of the strongest militaries in the world as well as an extensive arsenal of Nuclear Bombs.

While events at the airport are more absurd than tragic (there is a torrent of jokes on twitter about this, like: “attention all units, attention all units, a Swedish woman is now getting off flight 465″, or “security personal have been ordered to report all those not singing ‘Heve’nu Shalom’ at landing”), one cannot watch the government’s handling of this situation and not question the judgment of Israeli decision makers, or wonder on the things they are capable of doing if and when they sense a more substantial threat. One of the sole voices of reason was Yedioth’s Eithan Haber, the former secretary of Prime Minister Rabin, whose commentary today had the title: “We simply lost it” (“ירדנו מהפסים”).

—————

The lunacy started at the top. Earlier this week, Netanyahu’s office has released a statement saying that “welcome to Palestine” campaign “is part of a continuing effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” This call for action was supposed to expire long ago from over use (I wonder what doesn’t make, in Netanyahu’s eyes “an effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist?”), but it did spark the desired result in the government. Internal Security Minister Itzhak Aharonowitz (Israel Beitenu) has put his forces on high alert, promising “not to let the hooligans enter Israel,” and senior police officers promised “harsh treatment” for those who will manage to board their flights to Tel Aviv.

The real nugget was revealed today, after Tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov has sent his people to the airport to hand flowers to those arrivals that are not planning to travel to the West Bank. “Handcuffs to the activists, flowers to the tourists,” one of the headlines read. The tourism office, it was reported, fears that arrivals to Israel will “meet unpleasant sights of riots and arrests.”

“My office will welcome ["normal"] tourists in a respectful way that will convey the message that Israel is safe, advance and attractive place to visit,” minister Mazesnikow told the press, in a statement that would have reminder the practices of the Soviet regime, if I wasn’t sure that Mazesnikow, a Russian immigrant, would know better.

There is a deeper point to make here: By dividing the tourists to “evil” ones and to “good” and “honest” ones, according to their political motivation and their views on the Palestinian issue, Israel is confirming the logic of the BDS movement – that any business or contact with Israel is political, and would probably serve Israeli policy. Much in the way the Israeli Foreign Office promotes on his Facebook wall articles on artist who plans to visit Israel next to pieces denouncing the Palestinians, the tourism office now views every visit to the county, be that for business, religious or personal reasons, as a sign of support in the face of “an effort to undermine our existence.”

—————

In recent days, government officials have made a single talking point regarding the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign: that every country has the right do defend its sovereignty. If the United States, France and Japan can reject people from entering their territory without bothering to cite their reasons, why can’t Israel? Yet these are the same people who on any other week of the year deny even the term “occupation”, claiming that since the Oslo agreement, “Palestinians control their own lives.” PR people and supporters of the Israeli government repeat this idea all the time, and while everyone familiar with the reality in the West Bank knows that the Palestinian Authority has more or less the authority of a local US municipality, it is always surprising how widespread is the notion that Israel has effectively removed its control from the territories.

Here, for example, is a quote the glossary section in the internet site of the Propaganda organization “Stand with US

Israel never formally annexed the West Bank or Gaza, and the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and wish to have their own state. Today, Palestinians have their own government, the Palestinian Authority.

This is Morton Klein, head of Zionist of America, in often-cited 2002 article titled “There is no Occupation“:

Following the signing of the Oslo accords, the Israelis withdrew from nearly half of the territories, including the cities where 98.5% of Palestinian Arabs reside. The notion that the Palestinian Arabs are living under “Israeli occupation” is simply false. The areas from which Israel has not withdrawn are virtually uninhabited, except for the 2% where Israelis reside.

And this is another mouthpiece for the occupation, Washington Post’s blogger Jennifer Rubin:

Now ninety-five percent of Palestinians are under the jurisdiction of the PA, which is responsible for everything from local police to schools. Israel’s official interaction with West Bank Palestinians is limited to intelligence gathering and extraction of terrorists.

The Welcome to Palestine campaign was meant to prove that not only did Israel never remove its control from the Palestinians, the West Bank is effectively under an Israeli blockade, with every person or good entering the Palestinian Authority must be cleared first by Israel. Some might argue that this is a legitimate security precaution, but the history of this policy proves that it weren’t security concerns the determined whether people got permission to enter or leave the West Bank, but the political needs of maintaining the occupation. A couple of familiar cases were that of Prof. Noam Chomsky and a Spanish Clown that were denied entry for their support of Palestinian independence, but these kind of things happen on a daily basis.

Considering all this, it’s clear that even before a dozen activists landed here, the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign won the day. Israel has played it part in it perfectly, spreading threats and promising to immediately deport anyone who would state his intention to visit the West Bank or would cite a political motivation for his travel. Israel has even prevented a couple of Dutch pro-Israeli journalists from boarding an El-Al flight, perhaps fearing that they might report something Jerusalem won’t like.

When the first news items on the “air flotilla” appeared in the Hebrew media, some of the comments by Israelis wondered why the activists won’t enter the West Bank through the crossing point at the Jordanian border, believing it to be controlled by the Palestinians themselves. The myth of the Oslo withdrawal was so successful, that even some Israelis took it as a fact.

After a week of headlines on the activists’ invasion, everybody knows that even more than Gaza—which can be entered through Rafah, where there is no Israeli presence—the West Bank is under an Israeli blockade.


Among tear gas and injuries, Bil’in celebrates victory

Posted: June 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Hundreds gathered in the West bank village to witness the removal of the Separation Wall after more than six years of protest, but the IDF was in vindictive mood

Protesters march from Bil'in to the wall, June 24 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills)

Protesters march from Bil'in to the wall, June 24 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills)

Bil’in, West Bank – It was a hot Friday in Bil’in – one of those early summer days here that remind you what to expect come August. The crowd at the village’s center was unusually large: The weekly march to the fence—a protest which made this village an international symbol of unarmed resistance—was to take the form of a celebration, after the Israeli army has began moving the infamous barrier that separated Bil’in’s people from their land.

Some context: Instead of having its separation wall on the Green Line—the internationally-recognized border until 1967—Israel decided to have it run deep into the Palestinian territory, cutting through villages and neighborhoods, separating farmers from their lands and families from their loved ones, and most important, annexing to Israel lands which had excellent market value, for their proximity to the Israeli cities along the Mediterranean coastline. Under the pretext of “security concerns,” communities like Bil’in, Nil’in and Budrus saw their fields being taken away, olive trees uprooted, and valuable land annexed to nearby settlements.

Palestinian residents of these villages made two important choices: To fight for their lands—the source of most of their livelihood–and in doing so, to use popular, unarmed resistance. It wasn’t something new for Palestinians–general strikes and mass protests were common in the years leading to the first Intifada–only that this time, the Palestinian farmers weren’t alone: Almost from the beginning of the protest against the security barrier they were joined by international and Israeli activists.

You can read about the role these activists played in the struggle, and the effect it had on the Israeli society in this piece Joseph Dana and I wrote for The Nation a few months ago.

Every week, and sometimes every day, Palestinians and activists would march to site of the planned wall, confront the army and try to reach the lost lands. Some tied themselves to the bulldozers, while others sat on the road in front of it for hours. In places where the work was completed, the protesters tried to make it to the wall or the fence, occasionally crossing or cutting it. They were met with beating, tear gas, arrests and even live bullets.

A young Palestinian is seen injured during a protest against the wall in Bilin, April 2004 (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

A young Palestinian is seen injured during a protest against the wall in Bilin, April 2004 (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

Around the time the protest began, the people of Bil’in filed a petition to the Israeli high court, demanding the barrier be removed and their land returned to them. It was not an easy decision on their part: Petitioning to court is seen as recognition of the Israeli occupation and the authority of its institutions over the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, who have no civil rights or representation in those institutions. But the need to get even some of the land back overcame this argument.

The Israeli Supreme Court is a relatively liberal institution, but at the same time, it is extremely hostile to Palestinians – contrary to its public image, the court rarely rules against settlements or the army, and in most cases it wouldn’t even hear Palestinian petitioners. This time, however, even the Israeli court couldn’t ignore the obvious attempt to rob Bil’in’s people of their property. In a landmark verdict against the army and the defense ministry, the court ruled that the land was taken from Bil’in not to increase security, but to make way for the nearby mega-settlement Modi’in Ilit. It ordered a new barrier to be constructed in a route that would have some of the land returned to the people of Bil’in.

The court didn’t order the removal of Modi’in Ilit settlement, or the return of the land already built upon. It never does.

What happened next was even more shameful: the army didn’t carry out the verdict. Months and years passed, and the barrier–part fence, part wall—wasn’t moved. Only after an escalation of the demonstrations and a threat of contempt of court on behalf of the defense establishment, did the work on the new barrier begin.

A few days ago, after more than six years of struggle, the removal of the old security barrier near Bil’in began. the new barrier, already seen in the hills surrounding the village, will be a concrete wall.

All these years, the protest in Bil’in continued. Every Friday, dozens of Bil’in residents marched in the direction of their lost lands. Occasionally, some kids hurled stones at the soldiers, but most of the time the protest was peaceful and creative. Yet it was met with brutal oppression: Hundreds of people were injured. Two – a brother and a sister – killed. Warning – graphic images]. Dozens of Palestinians, many of them minors, were arrested and held without trial for months in military prison. At nights, the army raided the village’s homes (as seen in the video above, one of many), searching for suspects in “incitement” offenses, i.e. organizing protest.

One of these organizers, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, was tried for one year in military prison. When he finished his term, rather than releasing him, the army simply kept Abu Rahmah in prison, and meanwhile appealed the sentence. While serving his time, Abdallah met in prison his cousin, Adeeb, who was also arrested, tried and imprisoned. 99.8 percent of Palestinians’ trials end in conviction. Watch this emotional outburst by Adeeb in front of the soldiers in one of the protests:

Both Adeeb and Abdallah remained men of peace. Like the rest of the people of Bil’in, they didn’t let their persecution change them. During the worse days of the struggle, they kept declaring that they are fighting the army and the occupation, not Israelis or Jews. When Jawaher Abu Rahma died from IDF tear gas, her family and friends invited the Israeli activists to her funeral.

Here are some things Abdallah Abu Rahmah wrote in a public letter from Ofer military prison. The entire text can be found here. It’s more than worth reading.

I have been accused of inciting violence: this charge is also puzzling. If the check points, closures, ongoing land theft, wall and settlements, night raids into our homes and violent oppression of our protests does not incite violence, what does?

Despite the occupations constant and intense incitement to violence in Bil’in, we have chosen another way. We have chosen to protest nonviolently together with Israeli and International supporters. We have chosen to carry a message of hope and real partnership between Palestinians and Israelis in the face of oppression and injustice.

.

Tear gas, shot by the army, inside a bulldozer driven by a Palestinian protester, during the weekly protest against the Israeli wall in the West Bank village of Bilin, June 24, 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Tear gas, shot by the army, inside a bulldozer driven by a Palestinian protester, during the weekly protest against the Israeli wall in the West Bank village of Bilin, June 24, 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Politicians love to co-op success, so Bil’in saw visits from Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad and Israeli Palestinian MK Muhamad Barakeh prior to yesterday’s festive protest. There were around 40 Israelis present, and many international activists. A few hundred Palestinians led the march. A pickup truck with large speakers played music. At the village’s edge, a bulldozer joined the convoy—the people of Bil’in wanted to take part in dismantling the fence that had become the symbol of their misfortunes, and their lack of freedom.

The army had other plans. When the bulldozer approached the old fence, dozens of tear gas canisters were shot simultaneously at the crowd. Live fire was used to stop the bulldozer. A teargas grenade penetrated the driver’s cockpit. He barely made it out alive out. The rest of the crowd—unarmed and not threatening anyone—was sprayed with “skunk,” a stinking liquid, one of the most humiliating and dehumanizing crowd control weapons there is (and naturally, an Israeli invention). A few brave Palestinians in storm suits were trying to collect samples of the awful liquid (to be analyzed later, I was told), before collapsing from the effect of the smell and the gas. It all happened so fast that many members of the media didn’t have time to put on their gas masks and started chocking themselves.

Standing a couple of hundred meters back, I couldn’t open my eyes and could feel my throat burn. I figure the army shot around 60 or 70 canisters at the protesters.

A protester, injured from tear gas, lies on the ground during the weekly protest against the Israeli wall in the West Bank village of Bilin, June 24, 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

A protester, injured from tear gas, lies on the ground during the weekly protest against the Israeli wall in the West Bank village of Bilin, June 24, 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

As we walked back to the village, everyone around me was coughing and choking. Yet the spirit was high. The unbelievable violence – aimed against unarmed people, for the defense of a fence that is already been taken down (the new barrier is up and ready for a long time now), showed how scared and confused the army is, how lost it is because of the immoral and self-destructive mission it carries out.

In the next few days, the army will continue to dismantle the fence it so vigorously protected yesterday.

The people of Bil’in might continue the weekly demonstration. Even with the removal of the old barrier and the construction of a new one, much of their land won’t be returned to them. The simple fact is that as long as the occupation goes on, the Palestinians have every right to resist it.

Israeli army begins to remove parts of the separation barrier, Bil'in, June 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills.org)

Israeli army begins to remove parts of the separation barrier, Bil'in, June 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills.org)

Whether they chose to do so, or prefer to heal their community from the long struggle – it’s up to them. But the victory of Bil’in’s people—however partial or limited it was—has taught us a valuable lesson: Israel will have to either give up the occupation or to considerably escalate its methods for maintaining it, at a growing cost. Either way, the occupation’s days are numbered.

A protester in Bil'in, October 2009 (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

A protester in Bil'in, October 2009 (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)


Solving the Itamar case does not justify the means the army used on Palestinians

Posted: April 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

Now that Israel has in custody two people who admitted to committing the murder in Itamar a month ago, I received several comments demanding I “update” my post on Awarta, meaning retract on the allegations in its last few paragraphs. I really don’t see a reason why. Hundreds of Palestinians were arrested and interrogated without due process. Such “investigation” would have never taken place were the suspects Jews. The legal system in the West Bank is purely Apartheid: One law for Jews and another for Arabs. The fact that alleged killers of Palestinians from Itamar were never located is further proof to that matter – Itamar was never terrorized the way Awarta was. When Awara tactics will be used everywhere—or preferably, when Palestinians enjoy due process—will there be a need to retract.


Settlers’ murder investigation turns into collective punishment

Posted: April 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments »

The army has taken control over the village of Awarta, which lies near the settlement of Itamar, where 5 members of the Fogel family were murdered. According to reports, hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested, some beaten; all young men were forced to give DNA samples; settlers have built an outpost on the village’s land, which is now guarded by the Israeli army

Army roadblock inside Awarta

Army roadblock inside Awarta

Ever since the terrible murder of five members of the Fogel family in the settlement of Itamar, the nearby village of Awarta is going through what is officially a murder investigation, but looks more like a form of collective punishment—some would say organized revenge — led by the IDF and Israel’s Internal Security Service (Shin Beit).

The events have been going on since March 12, when thousands of soldiers entered the village and began house-to-house searches, accompanied by dogs and Shin Bet interrogators.

Hundreds of Awarta’s 6,000 residents were arrested and questioned. According to locals, the soldiers have taken over four houses in the village and turned them into an improvised interrogation facility. Several of the Palestinians said they were beaten by the soldiers and by their interrogators.

According to reports, all the village’s men between the ages of 15 and 40 were forced to give fingerprints and DNA samples.

A door which was forced by soldiers, in Awarta

A door which was forced by soldiers, in Awarta

15 families have reported of damage to their homes. In several cases, Palestinians claimed that large sums of money – between 500 and 5,000 shekels – disappeared from their houses after the soldiers left. In other cases, doors were broken and furniture damaged during the searches.

Settlers have passed through the village, thrown stones on homes and broken car windows and mirrors. Settlers from nearby Itamar have also taken over private agricultural land owned by the village’s farmers and established on it a new outpost, consisting of four mobile homes and guarded by the army.

A view from Awarta. to the right: the hill now occupied by settlers

A view from Awarta. to the right: the hill now occupied by settlers

On Thursday, Palestinian news agency Maan reported that another 100 of the village’s women had been arrested and interrogated.

Awarta has been under curfew from the previous Saturday until Wednesday, and human right activists have not been allowed entrance into the village. Once the curfew was lifted, activists from the Israeli NGO “Checkpoint-Watch” managed to get to Awarta and report some of the events in the village.

The Israeli media hardly reported the events in Awarta, and the only articles that discussed the curfew and the mass arrests were a translated report of a New York Times story by Isabel Kershner, and a few comments by Akiva Eldar, both published by Haaretz a while ago.

At the time of writing, dozens of the village’s people are still under arrest. Their exact number is unknown.

Broken window in a house in Awarta

Broken window in a house in Awarta

I have contacted the IDF spokesperson unit this morning (Sunday) with a series of questions regarding the mass arrests, forced DNA sampling, searches and other activities against the people of Awarta. Late afternoon, I received the following reply:

Since the Itamar murder investigation is still under way, theses issues are still being checked [which "issues"?]. IDF soldiers are present at the outpost due to the high tension in the region.

UPDATE: Maan has reported that the army has raided Awarta again yesterday. Nine Palestinians were detained, including three members of the same family, a father, a mother and their daughter.

UPDATE II: Haaretz is quoting [Hebrew] security officials who claim that a breakthrough with the Itamar murder investigation is expected “soon”, following the Army’s activities in Awarta.

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Advocacy groups for Israel and government spokesmen often claim that even under the military occupation, the West Bank is governed by the rule of law. Some people say that Palestinians are not confronted by Israeli soldiers and that they are free to “run their own business” under the governing of the Palestinian Authority.

As events in Awarta prove, this is no more than propaganda. When it matters to Israel, IDF soldiers do whatever they want, wherever they want. Palestinians have no basic legal rights. No Miranda, no Habeas Corpus. When the army decides, it can detain thousands of people and invade hundreds of homes, like it is doing in Awarta right now. No warrant is needed, no specific suspicion against someone is necessary (so far, there hasn’t been one public charge against a resident of Awarta). If Palestinians are beaten, or if their property is destroyed or looted, there is nobody they can turn to.

There have been at least four murder cases of Palestinians from the region by settlers from Itamar in recent years. In the last case, the perpetrator was released on bail and didn’t show up for trial. In the one before, the settler who shot a 24 year-old Palestinian farmer in front of witnesses was never tracked down. Itamar wasn’t placed under curfew, nor were dozen of men rounded up by the police (in criminal cases the settlers are under jurisdiction of civilian authorities, not the army).

This is the occupation’s rule of law. One law for Jews, another for Palestinians.


Brecht in the West Bank: Israel’s major theaters going to the settlements

Posted: August 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: culture, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The first major theater hall in a West Bank settlement will open on November 8th. The Ariel Culture Hall, located in the settlement of Ariel (south of Nablus) will host major productions of leading Israeli theaters, including Habima, Israel’s national theater, and Tel Aviv’s city theater, The Cameri.

According to Haaretz, The Ariel Culture Hall will have 540 seats, and 40 million NIS (11 million USD) were spent on its construction. The Hall will open with the Israeli adaptation of Piaf, a play by British Pem Gems on the life of the famous singer, performed by the Beersheba theatre. Later this year, Ariel will host Tel Aviv’s Cameri theatre’s Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht

Some Israelis noticed a cruel irony in hosting a play dealing with concept of justice and fair trial in a place where the majority of the population have no rights, and is tried in military courts, without due process. Arab-Israeli actor Yousef Sweid, who plays in “A railroad to Damascus”, also scheduled to show in Ariel, told Haaretz that “I’m opposed to it, but this is the first I heard about it and I’d like to investigate the matter further.”

Israeli journalist and blogger Ofri Ilani wrote in the leftwing group blog Eretz Haemori that this marks a new record in the whitewashing of the occupation’s crimes:

To what level of ridicule will the heads of the culture scene degrade (…) we had murders who talk about spiritualism, Arms dealers who play the piano and Military radio stations that play protest songs (…) but to recruit Brecht to legitimize the colonial project of [Ariel's mayor] Ron Nachman?

But those voices are an exception. Most Israelis are blind to the occupation, and Ariel – which sits literally in the heart of the West bank – is by now an ordinary Israeli town, with a secular population, not that different from the Israelis living in Tel Aviv’s suburbs. The entire idea that one can separate “good” Israel west of the Green Line from “bad” Israel lying to its east is ridiculous. Every aspect of Israeli civilian life, from the economy through real estate to culture, has something to do with the occupation.

It seems that the heads of the major theaters in Israel were even surprised somebody made a deal out of their recent bookings. A Habima spokeswoman told Haaretz: “Habima is a national theater, and its repertoire is supposed to suit the entire population.” Chairman of Jerusalem’s Chan theater said that “Everybody is invited to watch the shows. We don’t take side in the political question.”

Bertolt Brecht, I think, would have loved this last one.