Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Wild Boar and settlement sewage (10th December ’06)

Many aspects of life under Occupation remain largely hidden from the world. All these "smaller" tactics make up the larger picture, a picture of removing Palestinians from the map. A few days ago I met a friend for coffee, we chatted about many things and naturally the conversation came to the olive harvest.
His uncle is in bed, unable to move, with a broken back. On their first day harvesting he was viciously attacked by a wild boar. The releasing of wild boar into Palestinian land by the Israeli army, Israeli "nature guards" and Israeli settlers causes serious injury as well as vast destruction to crops and trees. Naturally Palestinians are scared of these animals and it is another deterrent and obstacle to them safely accessing their land. It does not stop with wild boar, snakes have also been released.

My friends family had some ancient olive trees (around 1000 years old) which were burnt by the Israeli army. Apparently the trees were "too close" to the settlement. These ancient trees are not only part of the history and fabric of Palestinian society, but yield vast amounts of olives.

A farmer from the nearby village Azzun Atma called early one morning, distraught. The bulldozers had arrived on his land. Azzun Atma is a few kilometers inside the Green Line. It is one of the Palestinian villages which has ended up on the "wrong side" of the Wall, existing in limbo. There were 2 ways into the village, one is impassable because of a long term road block (a huge mound of earth and rubble), the other is controlled by a permanent checkpoint, which closes at 10pm every night. These "seam zone" villages have severely limited access to services. Someone needing emergency medical treatment at night faces a perilous situation of trying to get the checkpoint opened "out of hours".

The Apartheid Wall to the East of the village is complete, effectively cutting off easy access to the rest of Palestine and leaving Azzun Atma on the "Israeli side" of the Wall. The construction work that is now underway is a Wall which will completely encircle the village, further isolating it. The existence of the illegal Israeli settlements are responsible for the route of the Wall and the imprisoning of Azzun Atma.

The farmer had a small "victory". He managed to negotiate the path of the Wall back nearer to the planned route, instead of the extra 15 meters inside his land which the bulldozers had already begun to churn up and destroy. Internationals sat in solidarity on the farmers land as he negotiated.

IWPS also went to a neighbouring village, Kifl Haris, where land and trees are being destroyed because of raw sewage that is coming from Ariel settlement. Ariel is a massive settlement, with a population of approximately 18,000 people. Clearly they have the technical knowledge and financial ability to resolve this. What the Settlers lack is the will.

Raw sewage, dumping rubbish next to Palestinian villages, releasing wild boar, not giving building permits... all these are tactics to bring about a "voluntary" expulsion of Palestinians from their land.


Struggling Under Occupation (3rd December ’06)

In the early evening last night, whilst the streets were still filled with people, the Israeli army drove through the village of Hares, central West Bank and shot a man with a rubber bullet. He was a shop-keeper going about his business.

Many things enrage and sadden me about this incredibly common occurrence. I will never get used to a child handing me a rubber bullet, picked off the street in the wake of the army's departure. I am getting used to a shift that has occurred in me, where I experience relief that it is only a rubber bullet.

A car screeched to a stop. We jumped in and were driven high speed through the back roads to the next village. The army was operating a flying checkpoint, preventing the injured man from reaching hospital. My fear was far outweighed by my outrage. After negotiation, a lot of phone calls and precious time the army left.

Army incursions, flying checkpoints, harassment, intimidation, threats....none of these things are new, but they certainly seem more prevalent at the moment.

The rest of the past week has been consumed with work around threatened house demolitions. It is a depressing story. In the villages in Salfeet district alone we have heard of at least 100 houses who have demolition papers. According to the Israeli army the houses are 'illegal', built without the permission of Israel, even though they have the agreement of their village municipality. The pattern of demolition seems to be following the planned route of the Apartheid Wall.

Yesterday we were in the village of Burquin, where there are more than 50 houses under threat. The journey to the village is broken by a road block; huge boulders and rubble make the road impassable except on foot. Besides the damn inconvenience of it, Palestinians, already trying to exist in a struggling economy, have the added expense of broken journeys. An elderly woman squeezing through the gap in the rock, struggling to negotiate her bags is another image of Occupation. Barkan, an Israeli industrial settlement, along with a settler only road, dominate the landscape around the village of Bruqin.

A couple of days ago we returned to the village of Hajja, where we witnessed several house demolitions last week. I do not speak Arabic but it was clear the family we visited were still devastated by what had happened. A woman stared blankly into the distance and spoke with a quiet, flat voice. As we sat outside their house drinking strong Arabic coffee a depressing uncertainty hung in the air. Their home will be demolished, what they do not know is when. Their extended family lost one house last week and will certainly face the same again. The enormity of such situations is hard to internalise. It is the little things, like seeing a blue plastic baby bath hung up in the bathroom, or a rose bush in flower, which brings it closer. On the hill behind me was the remains of the agricultural demolition, huge pieces of mangled corrugated iron strewn across the landscape. And in the distance the illegal Israeli settlement Qedumin, whose existence determines the route of the Wall in this area. The Occupation of Palestinian land by the army and Israeli settlements is stark. To see photos and video of the demolition go to For more information about demolitions go to (buildings) or



Bethlehem (17th November’06)
Modern day Bethlehem is a far cry from the scenes of Christmas cards. Life is controlled by the Apartheid Wall and checkpoints. Martyr pictures cover the walls of the narrow streets and alleys of Dheisheh refugee camp, many killed by the Israeli army simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I witnessed not only huge suffering and struggles, but also the energy and vitality of young kindergarten children in the refugee camp. My heart simultaneously breaks and bursts with happiness as I think of those bright, beautiful, radiant children. Some of them will not make it. Some will not survive the bullets of the Israeli army. All of them will be humiliated by the army, and many will be arrested.

We visited a school in Al Khadr, near Bethlehem. It is one of many schools whose life and safety has been completely disrupted since the construction of the Apartheid Wall begun. The Israeli army bulldozed one wall of the playground, and now position themselves close to the classrooms, harassing, threatening and intimidating the children. The army frequently enters the school, breaks windows and disturbs the education of these boys. Last year the Occupying army killed two students in the school itself.
Five or six schools in that district alone face similar problems. In Anata there have been several occasions of students and teachers being attacked with tear gassed and rubber bullets whilst they are in the school. The Wall has been built through their playground. In the village of Sarra, near Nablus, the army has been throwing sound bombs as the children leave school. International presence has, for the time being, deterred the army from returning.

We picked our way through the rubble of a bombed out Palestinian house in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. From the remains of the second floor you see a snap shot of the Occupation. On top of the hill opposite, Gilo, an illegal Israeli settlement; to the right the Apartheid Wall under construction; below us a Settler only road; and under that a tunnel for Palestinians to use.

As an international solidarity worker the thing that makes it all bearable is the incredible spirit of the Palestinian people. To be with people who retain even a shred of hope and resilience in this situation is incredible.


Olive Harvest

Olive Harvest, Palestine (November ’06)
I have been back in Palestine for a week. Although the violence and tension is less than in the early years of the Intifada, the oppressive control of Palestinian life is worse than ever. People are losing hope.

Despite this, I feel so fortunate to be here during the olive harvest and have been welcomed with incredible generosity and open heartedness. I have climbed olive trees and experienced the beauty of harvesting; feeling ripe olives running through my fingers, and hearing them fall like huge drops of rain on the tarpaulin below. Resting in the shade of the olive groves I have shared much laughter and amazing picnics with Palestinian families, who despite hardship, danger and suffering retain their humanity and infectious sparkle.

The olive harvest is a crucial time of year and is part of the very fabric of Palestinian society. Many farmers have suffered huge land loss and with this, mounting poverty. Land has been confiscated to build the Apartheid Wall, to expand Israeli settlements (whose very existence is illegal under International Law) and to construct “settler only” roads. Many farmers have land which is virtually inaccessible, falling behind the Wall, and have to negotiate a punitive system of permits and locked agricultural gates. Internationals offer accompaniment to farmers who are in danger, from both the Israeli Army and armed Israeli settlers. We stand in solidarity in the struggle to preserve land and livelihood.

I have been working in the village of Aw Zawiya, in Salfit district, central West Bank. The Apartheid Wall is already complete on one side of the village, resulting in massive land loss. Over the coming months Az Zawiya will be imprisoned on a further two sides. Many Palestinian villages are being strangled by “Ariel finger” which cuts deep into the West Bank, forming a “land corridor” between Ariel settlement and Tel Aviv.

The village of Aw Zawiya will become isolated into an enclave, along with the villages of Rafat and Deir Ballut, inaccessible to currently neighbouring villages. The army can easily control the one road in to the village - a tunnel running under a "settler only" road. Anyone who has any doubts about whether Apartheid is really happening need only take a look at the segregated road system.

The main problems the farmers from Aw Zawiya face are from Israeli settlers. Although the settlements in that area are not particularly radical, the gun is commonplace. Whilst accompanying one family we were forced to walk for 100 meters through a dark, claustrophobic drain which ran under the ”settler only” road. Shortly after emerging from the drain we met the army, controlling a small break in the Wall. An elderly man, alone and trying to reach a hospital appointment, was turned away. He did not have the "right" ID. In fact he was trying to save time and money, taking a short cut along a route that would have been possible before the Wall was built. Internationals negotiated for 2 hours with the army to be able to join the Palestinian family we were accompanying, whose land was dangerously close to a settlement.

Another family we accompanied have land which now lies within an Israeli settlement. They had to pass through the agricultural gate at Mas'ha village in order to harvest their olives. Permits to reach this land are only given during limited periods during the year, and only to older people. The gate is opened and closed once a day, and does not allow for a full days work. Palestinians have no choice or control over when they go to their land.

We also harvested with a family from the village of Haris. Their land was overgrown and the trees had not been pruned, a result of the farmer being unable to safely access his fields. Revava settlement was built on their land, and their remaining trees (from the 500 which were cut down) are very close to the settlement. Revava is becoming increasingly radicalised, and there are growing numbers of attacks, intimidation and threats made towards Palestinian farmers. The first morning we were met by armed settlement "security", who made veiled threats to shoot if we did not leave. They were joined by the Israeli army. Throughout the 2 days we had many more visits from both the army and "security", but the harvesting continued. More than in other places we could feel our international presence making a difference. This, of course, is only possible because of deep seated racism.

In a village near Nablus, another group of Internationals accompanied a family to their land which now has an Israeli watchtower built on it. They had not stepped foot in these groves for 6 years, for fear of being shot. International accompaniment not only increases the feeling of safety for the farmers, but can make a concrete difference in negotiations with the army.

Recently I accompanied a family to their land in the village of Orif, near Nablus. The day before they had been stoned by settlers; one man needed medical treatment. In Occupied Palestine the parameters change. I feel relief that it was rocks and not bullets. There have been many times when Palestinians have been threatened by armed settlers, and occasions when this has resulted in serious injury or death.

The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in June this year that Palestinians have a right to property, and a right to enter and work their land. The army and police are legally obligated to take action to protect Palestinian farmers and their property from attack. This ruling is a victory for the recognition of Palestinian rights. What remains to be seen is its effects on the ground. There have been several occasions this year when it has made a difference, when adequate army protection was given to farmers to protect them from settler attacks. There is still a long, long way to go before farmers have free and safe access to their land. In the mean time Internationals continue to offer accompaniment, armed with our international privilege, our cameras, our phones and a copy of the High Court decision.

Buying Palestinian olive oil is a concrete act of solidarity
To join the olive harvest next autumn go to,,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Olive Harvest Photos

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Hajja house demolition, 22nd nov '06

Hajja House Demolition


Hajja house demolition, 22nd nov '06

Hajja House Demolition


Agricultural demolition, 22nd Nov '06

Agricultural Demolition, Al Funduq, 22nd nov '06

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


House Demolition Photos, Al Funduq, 22.11.06

Caterpillar & Volvo bulldozers demolishing house in Al Funduq, West Bank

Monday, November 27, 2006


House Demolitions, Al Funduq & Hajja, 22nd Nov, 2006

As we arrived in the village of Al Funduq the aftermath of the first house demolition was evident. A family stood on a pile of rubble- all that remained of their house- silenced and shocked. The second house demolition was just beginning, with the Caterpillar and Volvo bulldozers ripping into the top floor of the nearly completed house. As we approached four Palestinian men ran forward from behind the line of soldiers and entered their house. I was deeply moved by their courage. There were about 30 soldiers and it was impossible for us to pass them. The soldiers grabbed the men out of the house, holding one in a tight neck lock, and handcuffed two of them throughout the demolition. Within an hour the future home was nothing but a pile of rubble. The family was powerless in this situation, and could only watch as years of labour and money was obliterated by the Israeli army. Caterpillar and Volvo are profiting from this familiy's grief.

The bulldozers turned around and headed off in the direction of the village. By this time we were joined by five more internationals. We walked ahead so as to be able to get to the site of the third demolition before the bulldozers arrived. Not surprisingly the army was already there surrounding the building. It was a big agricultural structure, where livestock lived. Money had clearly been invested and no doubt many mouths were dependent on the income. One end of the building was already under demolition whilst I was able to help the family salvage a few things from inside the far end.

Without pause the bulldozers and army headed off to the site of the fourth demolition, in the nearby village of Hajja. This family had fire. They wanted to resist. They were stood at the top of the hill, angry and shouting at the army. They were frantically waving and hollering for neighbours to join them in their resistance. We ran over the field and up the rocky, thorny hill to join them in their struggle to preserve their livelihood. As people were approaching predictably the Israeli army started throwing sound bombs. This did not deter us, and we joined the family up against the wall and gate of their huge agricultural structure. The family had papers with their lawyer, which they hoped would prevent the demolition. No wonder they had fire. They had a slither of a chance of preventing this crime. It was only ever a slither. They needed time. And time is exactly what is not available living under military Occupation. The family was frantically calling their lawyer. We were frantically calling everyone and anyone who may be able to buy some time. There was a sense of inevitability about the demolition, soldiers had already entered the compound, and the family members inside the walls and gate were "allowed" to move some of the animals. Let it not be said the Israeli army is inhumane. Though much like the hierarchy of human beings in this part of the world, some are "worth" saving, some are not.
The predictable happened. The army would not wait for the papers and the demolition started. It took two hours to rip this multi storied building apart. During the demolition a group of around 10 soldiers took off across the field in which I was stood. They threw a sound bomb and fired at least one rubber bullet into a small group of boys aged around 12 who were passing by. The boys were in no way threatening. I am sure more bullets would have been fired if this white skin had not been watching. Throughout the day I lost count of the number of times I shouted "Stop. Do not shoot".

The final house demolition was by far the worst. It was extremely traumatic for the family involved. The soldiers tried to prevent internationals passing, pointing their guns at us. It was unclear which of the two houses the bulldozers were aiming for. Outside the first house there were several women, gathering up their young children, petrified. I thought of my sister. And my beautiful niece. We had our brief moment of opportunity and dived in the house with the women and children, locking ourselves in. It was then that we became aware of what was happening in the next house. A family up on the roof, hysterical in their grief. Four internationals stayed with the women, three of us dodged the soldiers and joined the family on the roof of their semi constructed house.
I will never forgot the agony of that family. As I emerged onto the roof I was met by a scene of utter chaos. I had no idea what was happening. One young man was lying motionless, with family members desperately trying to rouse him. Periodically he would writhe around screaming in agony. A second man dropped to the floor, writhing uncontrollably. We had to keep pulling him back from the edge of the open roof. I was pretty sure what I was witnessing was an extreme emotional reaction, but at the back of my mind were the stories I have personally heard of the Israeli army using unknown gases that have debilitated people for a week. I heard a bang and then a third man screaming and holding his leg. I thought he'd been shot. That was the first time I consciously felt my fear. Possibly a rubber bullet skimmed him, but fortunately he was not shot. An elderly woman collapsed. Everyone was wailing and screaming and crying out to Allah. The Divine arrived in the form of the medics. Palestinian medics are some of the saints of this world. Fortunately the army did not try to prevent them entering the building.

Things became marginally quieter and calmer for a brief moment. Then the 30 soldiers who were stood around the house massed together. It was clear they were going to act. What was not clear was what that action would be. En masse they entered the house. They scrabbled up the concrete framework where the steps would have been built, in this yet unfinished house. They pushed past me and started grabbing and pushing the Palestinians down the rough steep concrete slope. Four people were still being treated by the medics. They picked these people off the ground and dragged them outside.
Once we were all outside the Israeli army started throwing sound bombs and firing rubber bullets. Sound bombs were exploding all around the ambulance and one man was shot with a rubber bullet a couple of meters from the ambulance. A few people were beaten by the soldiers. They pushed people to the ground. They screamed with hatred into our faces, the saliva of their anger meeting my skin.
As the demolition was happening, the soldiers began firing rubber bullets into a group of predominantly women and children, stood outside their house, watching what was happening. There were so many outrageous things that day. But this indiscriminate shooting is where I felt my anger boiling. One soldier had his gun aimed at the women. I shouted with as much power as I had left, but with complete clarity, to stop. He looked at me. We held each others eyes for what felt like an eternity. He did not shoot. I am utterly aware the only reason I can do this and for it to work is because of inherent and deep deep racism. Fortunately there are still situations where this international privilege is working.

Three people went to Qalqilya hospital, seven to local clinics to be treated for rubber bullet injuries and shock.
A young man sobbed, tears racking his body as he sat on a pile of rubble that was his family's future.

The reason for any of this? A brutal, racist illegal Occupation.

If you want the reason according to the Israeli army, Palestinians dared to build on their own land, in their own village without the permission of Israel.
The virtual impossibility of getting building permits is another story all together. If you want to learn more about demolitions, permits etc go to,

Monday, May 22, 2006


An Oozing Tar

Whilst images of the Israeli army invading Jericho prison were flashed around the world, another invasion was happening in the villages of Deir Ballut and Rafat (in the Salfit District of the West Bank). It did not herald the arrival of the international press or cause storms in governments worldwide. The land of Deir Ballut and Rafat, like so many other Palestinian villages, is being slowly but surely devoured by Israel. There is a quiet, creeping invasion of this land. An oozing tar seeping over Palestine.

Deir Ballut and Rafat, with a population of 4000 and 1500 respectively, are situated about 25 kilometers from Ariel, with Tel Aviv clearly visible in the distance.

Ariel, the biggest Israeli settlement, inhabited by 18,000 illegal settlers, with a further 20,000 living in surrounding settlements, was recently visited by Ehud Olmert, Israel's acting prime minister. He gave assurances that not only would the Wall be complete by the end of 2006, but also that “… Ariel block will be an inseparable part of the state of Israel under any situation” (Haaretz 14 March 2006). This planned land corridor between Tel Aviv and Ariel threatens 35,000 to 40,000 dunums
[1] of Deir Ballut's land. The planned route would bring the Wall extremely close to the village on the south side, and less than a kilometer away on the east side.

This is in addition to the 10,000 dunums of land Deir Ballut has already lost to the west of the village. Construction began two years ago for the electric fence, which is situated six kilometers inside the Green Line. This western section of the Wall was completed a few months ago. A successful court case resulted in the re-routing of the Wall, but nevertheless a huge amount of land has still been lost.

Deir Ballut and Rafat have 3000 dunums of land around the ancient, uninhibited village of Kasfa, which is now inaccessible because of the Wall.

The Rafat gate was opened for farmers for the first time since this section of the Wall was completed in January this year. IWPS was requested to accompany some people of Rafat to their land in Kasfa, west of the Wall. We had differing accounts regarding the number of days they may apply for permits to visit this land, ranging from a few days, to this whole month of ploughing. This illustrates the confusion and uncertainty that arises from such an arbitrary system.

Having been questioned by security guards and awaiting re-confirmation of permission from the Israeli military to enter, we walked with some Rafat men to their land.

In Kasfa, apart from the 3000 dunums of land, Deir Ballut and Rafat have lost ten working wells along with two or three in need of repair (but that they were prevented from doing). The area of Kasfa, west of the Wall, contains a number of archeological sites, currently being excavated by Israel. The owners of the land are concerned Kasfa will become an Israeli tourist destination. We saw the excavated remains of the ancient houses, including a mosaic, a press, water storage facilities, wells and bones from graves.

This land west of the Wall has long been threatened. Since 1982 the Israeli army has been periodically coming, telling the Palestinians to leave their land. And already the tranquillity and array of wild flowers is shattered by the Israeli stone quarry, which is destroying the hill and the former grazing pastures on Palestinian lands.

Now, the land east of the Wall, on the “Palestinian side”, is under threat. For Sami, a shepherd in the Rafat valley, the future is uncertain. He has already lost his 100 dunums of land on the west side of the Wall. Now the area east of the Wall, without olive trees, has been declared a closed military zone and on Sunday 12th March, Sami was issued a demolition order for his shack and animal pens, which are situated at least 0.5 kilometer east of the Wall. 48 hours later the army returned, but due to bad weather did not bring the bulldozers.

Translation was not necessary to understand the anger of this man. It is the second time he is facing the loss of land and livelihood, from both the west and the east side of the Wall.

Until January 2006 Sami was living in Kasfa, grazing his 350 sheep. In the end the army was coming daily to tell him to leave. The fence was closed in January and since then he has been unable to access his land. He has divided his flock and keeps 100 sheep with him in the Rafat valley. Thirty people are dependent on the income generated from the sheep (milk, meat, wool), including his wife and eight children, the youngest being seven years old.

Sami continues to graze his sheep here, but lives with the uncertainty of when the army will return. The question is not ‘if’, but ‘when’. IWPS stayed several days in Rafat, in solidarity with Sami.

Uncertainty and inaccessibility to information pervade. About 100 meters east of the Wall, a Caterpillar bulldozer was working, methodically transforming the landscape from a green, rocky hillside to levelled brown earth. The owners of the land were not informed and were unable to get any information about what Israel intends to use this land for.

In Deir Ballut, as documented in IWPS Human Rights Report no. 241, six structures (tents, shacks, animal pens) belonging to 3 families, were demolished by the army on the 15th of March, following a demolition order issued on the 13th March. As in the Rafat valley, the land without olive trees east of the Wall had been declared a closed military zone. The bulldozer left behind a bleak scene of chaos and inhumanity; broken planks of wood, rubble, tarpaulins, broken containers. Attempts to salvage their possessions were visible through the pile of mattresses stacked up. The last two months saw the area immediately neighbouring their living space turned into a rubbish dump for Israelis.

If the Wall follows the planned route, by the end of the year Deir Ballut, Rafat and the neighbouring village of Az-Zawwiyah will become isolated in an enclave between the main route of the wall and the so-called "Ariel fingers".
The only connection will be northwards to the village of Mas'ha, through a narrow tunnel passing under the settler highway connecting Ariel with Tel Aviv. The ‘Ariel fingers’ land corridor will cut thousands of Palestinian off from their land, their livelihood and their communities and further restrict freedom of movement in the Salfit district.

5th april '06
[1] One dunum equals 1/4 acre

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Palestinian Prisoners Day

Palestinian Prisoners Day

Palestinian Prisoners day was marked on April 17th. It is an opportune moment to draw attention not only to the open air prisons created by the Occupation, through closures, the Wall and locked gates (restricting freedom of movement and land access), but also to the plight of Palestinian prisoners, held in Israeli interrogation and detention facilities.

Since the beginning of the Occupation in 1967 over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israeli Authorities [1] which includes approximately 40% of the Palestinian male population [2], many of whom have been humiliated and subjected to ill treatment and torture. In January '06 there were 8,238 Palestinian prisoners, of which 794 were held in administrative detention without charge or trial [3].

Palestinian women are not immune from arrest. Currently, there are approximately 115 women imprisoned in Israel's prisons [4]. I recently interviewed Zahra, a well-known former prisoner, who spent 11 years in captivity. She is the mother of three children, and lives in Deir Ballut, a village here in the Salfeet district of the West Bank. In 1986 the army came to her house at midnight and blindfolded, handcuffed and arrested her in front of her children, aged 9, 5 and 2. Two months later her house was demolished by the Israeli army, an act of collective punishment violating international law (4 th Geneva Convention and Hague Regulation), which left her children homeless.

Zahra spoke of the atrocious interrogation procedure and the conditions in which she was kept. She made it clear that there was nothing unique in her experiences. Israeli authorities are committing grave human rights abuses on a daily basis, and are clearly violating international law, which prohibits the use of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment (4th Geneva Conventions, International Convention for Political and Civil Rights, Convention against Torture and Cruel and Inhuman Treatment). The practices Zahra described are well documented by a number of human rights organizations and reveal that torture is systematically practiced by the Israeli authorities [5]. Indeed more than 85% of Palestinian detainees are subjected to ill treatment and torture during interrogation. [6]

Zahra spent the first 31 days in isolation, without access to a lawyer, held in a small dark cell, with neither room to lie down or stand up. Rats and insects inhabited the cell. She was denied sanitary protection during her monthly period, and used a bucket in her cell as a toilet. Sometimes she was drenched with buckets of cold water thrown into the cell at her. At other times she was blasted with loud, distorted music. Detainees were subjected to very cold conditions inside a "refrigeration room".

Zahra was tortured physically and mentally, taken from her cell at random times of the day or night for interrogation, during which there was very rarely another woman present.
As well as being suspended from the ceiling, with handcuffs that cut into her skin, she was made to sit in uncomfortable positions for long periods with her hands and legs tied. At other times a foul smelling bag was placed over her head.

At least once she was taken to the interrogation room and made to wait the entire day, only to be taken back to her cell, clearly intended to create mental stress. On another occasion she was held in the interrogation room continuously for two days.

Threats of, as well as actual sexual violence, occurred. Zahra knew a 17 year old girl who was raped during interrogation. In the context of sexual violence being a real danger in interrogation, to be threatened with rape as a method of interrogation is mental torture. Threats were made to strip her, which holds even more significance and distress in Islamic/Muslim culture.

Zahra is clearly a strong, articulate woman. A darkness and subdued quietness descended when she spoke of the sexual violence, actual or threatened. A long silence followed. She had clearly touched on some dark, painful places and I felt deep compassion for her

Zahra spoke about women who were pregnant when they were arrested. Some miscarried. The remaining women were shackled during labour and had the humiliation of lack of privacy. Zahra shared a cell with a woman who named her daughter "Watan", meaning nation or home land.

She was transferred from the interrogation centre to Ramleh prison in Israel, where she was held with "criminal" not political prisoners, which resulted in added difficulties. From there, after a hunger strike, she was transferred to Hasharon prison, where she shared a 6 meter wide cell with five other Palestinian women. They were frequently denied hot water and received very inadequate food. On one occasion there were small pieces of glass in the food. She spoke of at least one occasion when tear gas was fired into the cell.

There were times when she went a whole year without seeing her children. At other times she saw them for half an hour every two weeks. On occasions Zahra's mother brought the children to prison, but they were then denied access.

She was released on 11th February '97 after eleven years in prison. Nine years later she has on going physical problems- back and neck pain, stomach problems and impaired distance vision.

My time with Zahra passed quickly, as we left her house the light was already fading and the moon visible. We looked west to the Wall carving up the landscape, with the lights of Tel Aviv clearly visible in the distance. I remembered her words from earlier. "Palestinian blood is cheap. We are not asking for the moon, only our rights".

The suffering of prisoners does not end on release. My interviews with a number of psychologists, including from the Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (TRC) revealed the on going mental health problems of ex-detainees. TRC offers treatment and rehabilitation services to victims of torture and organised violence, as well as supporting their families.

Wail and Hadeel, from the recently opened Nablus branch, explained how they liaise with the PA ministry of detainees, so they can offer timely assistance to the prisoners on their release, helping them in the difficult process of re-adjusting to family and community life.

There are a range of mental health problems tortured ex detainees suffer from, the vast majority being Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D), grief reaction and acute stress disorder. The heroic status given to ex-prisoners can make it very difficult for these (predominantly) men to confront and admit to the psychological and physical problems resulting from torture and the humiliating treatment suffered in prison. Likewise the heroic status of martyrs can make it difficult for families to admit to their suffering.

TRC seeks to treat and support the victims of torture, as well as advocating within the wider community. They have an advocacy and training programme which aims to create a culture which is active against retaliatory feelings, working to ensure that the victims of violence do not go on to become the perpetrators. They seek to encourage changes in attitude towards mental health issues through their work with other health, education and social service professionals, as well as training programmes with the PA.

My interviews with staff from the Ramallah branch indicated that there is still a reluctance within society to address health problems associated with torture. Arrest is an ever present danger for Palestinians in the OPT and with it the strong possibility of humiliation, ill treatment and torture. For the significant number of Palestinians who have been subject to the mass arrest campaigns [7], tortured or ill treated in detention, held without charge or trial in administrative detention [8] or tried as adults in military courts despite being children [9] their experiences remain largely invisible from the international eye

[5] PCATI ( ) documents many forms of torture and ill treatment including beating, slapping, kicking, stepping on shackles, bending the interrogee and placing them in other painful positions, intentionally tightening shackles, violent shaking, sleep deprivation and prolonged shackling behind the back. Psychological abuse includes threats to the detainee and family members, long solitary confinement and pressure to collaborate
[7] The mass arrest campaigns, during the period of March 2002 to October 2002 resulted in approximately 15,000 men being detained, sometimes entire villages being emptied of males over 15 years. In October 2002 there were over 1,050 Palestinians in administrative detention. ( )
[8] Administrative detention is indefinitely renewable under military regulations. Secret evidence is presented during military tribunals, to which neither the detainee nor the lawyer has access. Addameer reports that people are being held in administrative detention, without charge or trial, from anywhere between six months to six years. The issuing of administrative detention orders bears a direct relation to the political situation, with an increase in its use when there is an increase in protest against the Occupation.
[9] Approximately 344 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli prison/detention facilities. Under military regulations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a child over the age of 16 is considered an adult. This blatantly contradicts the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory, which defines a child up to the age of 18. Between the ages of twelve and fourteen Palestinian children can be sentenced in military courts for up to six months, and at fourteen they can be tried as adults, in violation of international law. , ,

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