Monday, April 17, 2006
Army occupies 5 houses in Nablus. Two seriously injured.
The Israeli Army occupied five houses in Nablus, at approximately 3.30am, 17th April.
Between 15 and 19 people have been injured. Internationals witnessed two critical injuries. This morning one male was shot in the neck.At approximately 3pm the second youth was shot in the back. The bullet exited from his abdomen. Both are in a serious condition in hospital.
At 3.30pm the army vacated one of the occupied houses, which it had used as a sniper position. For the parents and their four children, aged between 6 and 12 years, it was the second time this week their house had been occupied by the Israeli Army. They were forced to remain in the kitchen and the Army threatened to shoot them if they made any noise. Their mobile phones were taken.Once the army left, the mother, who is four months pregnant, was taken to hospital
The army vacated the remaining four houses at approximately 5pm.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Hebron. Rocks of hatred.
By the time I arrived at the barbed wire, blocking the small track to their house, 2 Palestinian children were already being pelted with rocks and stones hurled by the Settler children stood above them.
It was Shabbat. The most dangerous day for the Palestinian children to return home after school. Tel Rumeida is a radical settlement, located in the heart of what was a Palestinian neighbourhood, in Hebron, a city in the southern part of the West Bank.
I wasted precious moments trying to get the Israeli soldier stood passively watching this violence to act. It was clear he did not feel any urgency or responsibility. Another International and I climbed the barbed wire and stood infront of the Palestinian children, trying to prevent them being hurt. The older sister, a girl of about 12, but with a dignity way beyond her years, was already stood infront of her young brother shielding him. His face was crumpled with tears rolling down his cheeks.
We accompanied these children down the narrow, muddy track, climbing over sheets of metal, dodging the stones and rocks still raining down on us. Shielding them, covering their heads, desperate for them not to be hurt. At one point a huge rock missed us by centimeters. The track, the only remaining access to the childrens house, passes directly beneath the houses of the settlers. The settler children, also victims in this crazy violent situation, are in a very strong position to inflict maximum harm and terror, as they hurl their rocks of ignorance, rocks of hatred.
The adult settlers from this ideological, fanatical settlement will actively encourage their children to throw stones or stand by passively whilst it is happening. There are 2 systems of law operating here, civil and military. The settlers are virtually above the Israeli law, and very, very rarely will face any consequences for their acts of violence. The Palestinians are subject to military rule, and the men continuously face detention and arbitrary arrest as they try to go about their daily lives.
Two more images of children from Hebron stick in my mind. Children from opposite ends of the political spectrum, where it seems impossible for their lives to cross other than in hatred and fear. The sound of a young Palestinian child, a downstairs neighbour, screeching in fear, running up the stairs screaming and crying. She had just been threatened by a soldier on the street, telling her not to play outside her house. And the look of hatred, a fixed stare, on the face of a young settler, a girl of about 4 years old. The Settlers feel very angered by the presence of Internationals and I felt so sad for this young girl who is too young to exercise any choice about where she lives, and by the time she is old enough will be completely indoctrinated by the radical beliefs of her parents.
Yesterday I met by chance one of the people who first inspired me to come here. He has not been back here for about 2 years and observed how the Occupation has become much more mechanised. On my way to Hebron I passed through the central checkpoint at Bethlehem, now a big "terminal". Just as well Mary and Joseph didn't have to pass through it otherwise Mary could have joined the long list of women who have given birth at checkpoints. Freedom of movement is hugely restricted here and is yet another form of collective punishment that is operating in the West Bank on a daily basis.
A Quiet Haven
Up to eight women, along with children, can stay in the shelter. Active contact is maintained with the referrer and contact is continued with the women on their departure. The first woman, and her five children, were received in Feb. '06.
Suad, from WCLAC, spoke about the difficulties of opening the shelter, " it needed lots of work and lots of belief". As well as the daily obstacles of living under Occupation, they encountered problems with attitudes towards women, and family law coming under the auspices of sharia law.
WCLAC provide a range of services to women who are victims or potential victims of violence, such as counseling, legal aid and legal representation. The Intifada has affected the men and women of Palestine in different ways. For the men their status in this patriarchal society is continually undermined - economically, socially and politically- and they face daily humiliation, harassment and violence at the hands of the Israeli army. For women as well as the Occupation, they face an increase in violence in the home.
Whilst the increase in domestic violence is directly related to the external situation of the Intifada, Suad explained how women are more likely to seek help only once there is a calmer external situation. Not only because some movement restrictions are eased , but also to speak about "domestic problems" in the face of the Intifada is seen as unpatriotic or a betrayal.
Another important part of WCLACs' work is capacity building with grassroots womens organisations. "Women for Life", a group IWPS has worked closely with here in Salfeet district, have benefited in a variety of ways from the support and encouragement of WCLAC. Since '04 they have received weekly training for a social worker and lawyer, so that Women For Life will be able to respond more skillfully to women who are victims of violence.
Even in countries not under Occupation to actualise a vision for a womens refuge takes energy, dedication and determination. To bring about this under the conditions of Occupation and within the context of a conservative, patriarchal society is an incredible achievement.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Palestinian Land Day, 30th March '06
Much of Rafats land has already become inaccessible behind the Wall. We left the village with the aim of walking on the remaining land up to the "security barrier". Spirits were high and there was a jovial mode on this bright sunny day. An older Palestinian woman and long term activist took over the mega phone, injecting a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
We had not long left the village, when we saw the Israeli army blocking the road. We continued walking and whilst we were still at least 20 meters from the army got the first two sound bombs. It was not a good start to be met by this level of aggression. It shocks every cell of my body that there is no room for peaceful demonstration here in the West Bank, without meeting the weapons of the Israeli army.
We continued moving forward, arms up in the air, clearly showing our empty hands, calling out in different languages that we are a peaceful demonstration. There were more sound bombs and tear gas. But people re-grouped quickly and again came up to the army, to start negotiations to be able to pass. It was completely non violent on the part of the demonstrators. At one point it looked like we would be able to move a bit further down the road, so people from behind started calmly moving forward. Chaos errupted . Suddenly the army started throwing sound bombs right into us. The sound I'm getting used to, but seeing these bright orange things flying through the air and exploding next to me is just hideous. Three people were injured.
There are many layers to my feelings. But at least as big as my fear is my absolute belief in the right to demonstrate. At least as big as my fear is my conviction about the role internationals and Israelis can and should take in these demonstrations, showing solidarity with the Palestinians and being a visible presence. Using our international privilege for the benefit of people stripped of so many basic human rights.
Besides the shock and feelings of outrage I have about the army using its weapons of aggression against unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, I am left with other images of the day. A line of older men, arms linked, walking towards the army. A couple of older Palestinian women (normally women do not come on the demonstrations) who remained at the front, during the hour or so long negotations. By this point, one sound bomb too many, I had moved far back. A group of Palestinian men doing lunchtime prayers on their land to the side of the soldiers. To be this close to the soldiers was by this point impossible for me. But to have put myself in such a vulnerable position as to be kneeling with my back to them in prayer, takes the kind of faith I do not have. The relief I feel when the ambulances arrive. The sight of the medics reassures me and my sense of gratitude to them and admiration for their work ever deepens. Groups of young, smiling boys eager to practice their english and teach me Arabic.
However my over-riding feeling is one of deepest respect for every single person there. For remaining completely non-violent, in the face of army aggression. Not a single stone was thrown, not in response to the sound bombs and tear gas, or in response to the long unfruitful negotations. I think to understand the enormity of this level of self discipline you maybe have to be here. It is utterly huge. These are men who have suffered for years at the hands of the Occupying army, routinely humiliated, and many beaten and arrested. These are men who are steadily losing their land and livlihood, who have watched their olive trees be destroyed and the Wall carve up their land.
There are things we can and should do. Things that need to be spoken about. I really, really encourage you to find what ever you are able and comfortable to do, and most importantly to act on this. It may be just talking with friends about what is happening and commiting to trying to find out more. It may be writing to your MP, informing them that every week unarmed, peaceful protesters in the West Bank are being met by the weapons of the Israeli army, and that the arms relationships of our numerous countries with Israel should be severed. Boycott Israeli products and ask your MP to raise this in parliment. Actively support the Palestinian economy by buying Palestinian olive oil. Encourage your shops to stock Palestinian olive oil. Think about coming here. There is an ongoing need and request for international solidarity....
The resilience of the people I was with at Rafat deeply touches me. After the demonstration we enjoyed the wonderful Palestinian hospitality, sitting in a living room crowded with Palestinians, internationals and Israelis drinking sweet black tea, followed by strong Arabic coffee, chatting, laughing, being entertained by the smiles of a 6 month old baby.....This gives me hope