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"Where is the Law?" Demonstration at Al-Ma'asara

On Friday, June 27, 2008, MPT joined the demonstration against the apartheid wall in Al-Ma’asara in the Bethlehem District. Twenty Israeli activists and internationals accompanied about forty Palestinians. Together they processed to a barbed wire barrier across a main road for the weekly nonviolent protest. A small group of young boys carrying the Palestine flag led the procession.

Once the demonstrators reached the barrier, chants rang through the crowd saying “no to the wall” and calling for justice. Armed Israeli soldiers and two police officers stood on the other side of the barrier. This week, a gap between the edge of the barbed wire fence and the nearest permanent structure was blocked with pallets of stone tiles. The Palestinians decided to attempt to go over the stone tiles and onto the other side.

The organizer of the protest stood on top of the stone tiles and in English began calling out, “You are a police officer, where is the law? Show me the law.” He voiced his hopes for peace and his commitment to nonviolence, offering an invitation for the soldiers to join him in nonviolently seeking peace. His words were sincere and moving, hopefully touching the hearts of the soldiers at least a little bit. He certainly touched the hearts of the MPTers.

At one point, the soldiers pulled an Israeli activist out of the frontline group, grabbed him by the throat, and threw him to the ground. Internationals grabbed onto him so that the soldiers could not take him. The soldiers began punching, hitting, and kicking in order to separate them. The soldiers were able to handcuff the Israeli and pull him away. They dragged him by his neck and hit him in the back with their rifles. He screamed out in agony.

The protesters went back to the other side of the barrier and sat down, showing their commitment to nonviolence and their desire for the Israeli’s release. The soldiers argued that they were going to charge the Israeli protester with assaulting a soldier. They also had to call a medic because the Israeli was badly injured. Video footage of the protest taken by internationals proved that the young activist had not assaulted a soldier or been violent in any way. Soon after the soldiers learned this, they released the Israeli. He was taken to a hospital, where it was confirmed that he had a badly bruised rib.

A Visit to Beit Ummar

On June 26, 2008 MPT went to the village of Beit Ummar to assist PSP (Palestine Solidarity Project) with some of its activities. PSP and MPT went first to the office of a school superintendant to ask permission to use school classrooms for a children’s summer program PSP has initiated.

The response to PSP’s summer program has been overwhelming, with so many children participating they cannot all be accommodated in the PSP house. The school official asked for a written report he could review with the school board, but assured PSP of a prompt and positive response to their request.

Then PSP and MPT went to the mayor of Beit Ummar’s office to ask about using a public wall for a mural to be created by Beit Ummar children as part of the summer program. The mayor approved the use of two walls in the building where the city council meets, saying that many people pass by these walls and would thus see the mural. PSP explained to MPTers that their presence as volunteers at these two meetings was useful because it showed international support for the summer program.

Administrative Detention

Next MPT traveled with PSP to the village of Taffuah west of Hebron to interview the families of two men who have been imprisoned in administrative detention for ten months. These families wanted to tell their stories and have their stories publicized to the world.

Administrative detention refers to the Israeli practice of holding Palestinians in prison without charges and without trial. The Israeli army uses administrative detention as a tool to dispel political dissent and break up Palestinian resistance to its illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories. They also use it as a way to disrupt the fabric of Palestinian communities.

While administrative detention is ostensibly used to imprison Palestinians who pose an immediate threat to the security of Israel, its use has risen significantly without relationship to the security of Israel. According to B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, the average number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons under administrative detention between 1999 and 2001 was less than twenty. By 2003, during the second intifada, the number was over 500. In 2008, when the second intifada has ended and a peace process is underway, over 900 Palestinians are being held in Israeli military prisons without charges or trial.

Ktziot Prison in the Negev Desert

(Image found online)

The first family PSP and MPT visited in Taffuah was that of 35-year-old Shaher Sadiq Irziqat. Shaher is a farmer and father of three. One night ten months ago Israeli soldiers broke the window in the door of his house and entered his home. He and his family live with his mother, who has a degenerative bone disease and cannot walk on her own, and his father who is in his mid-sixties.

Although he had never been arrested before, Shaher was declared a security threat and taken away. Since initially being “sentenced” to six months in prison, his prison term has been extended twice by three months each time. A majority of Palestinians in administrative detention remain in prison for more than a year.

Visitation of administrative detainees is severely restricted. Most administrative detainees are held in Ktziot Prison inside Israel and are only permitted visits by their immediate family members. Family members wishing to visit their imprisoned loved ones must first get travel permits into Israel, which are not often granted.

When his wife and three small children went to visit Shaher recently, the prison guards, who often humiliate and abuse not only the prisoners but also those who visit them, assaulted his three year old son, slamming a door into the back of his head and creating a large cut. To make matters worse, Shaher was not even allowed to see his son, let alone hold him, as visits are conducted through telephones with a window painted black in between.

The head wound from the soldiers slamming the door.

Sharer’s cousin, Ramadan Mohammed Irziqat, age 23, was arrested the same night as Shaher, and has also had his detention renewed twice for a total of ten months so far. His family has been particularly hard hit by his absence because his wife, who was pregnant at the time of his imprisonment, has since given birth to their child Ramadan has never seen or held.

Ramadan’s family is also suffering great economical hardship due to the loss of their one wage earner. Another daughter, age two, has a heart condition which will soon require surgery, an expense the family has no way of affording. The family also suffers because a brother of Sharer was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier a number of years ago at age fifteen.

Perhaps the most devastating element of having a family head of household or other loved one held in administrative detention is the perpetual state of not knowing the future. No one knows when his or her father, husband, son, or brother is coming home. MPT notes that that this uncertainty applies to friend and co-founder of PSP Mousa Abu Maria, his 17-year-old nephew Omar Abu Maria, and several other men and boys from Beit Ummar.

PSP Summer Program

PSP and MPT returned to Beit Ummar just in time for the afternoon classes of PSP’s summer program. Four days a week, two days for girls and two for boys, children come for lessons in English and in art. It was easy to see why more space is needed for these classes as well over fifty girls were present on this day for their lessons.

MPT was impressed with the eagerness of the girls to participate and the dedication of PSP and other international volunteers in conducting the classes. In addition, it was clearly the happening place to be in Beit Ummar. Boys showed up and had to be shooed away because it was not their day. Kudos to PSP for starting something good!

Are you Hamas or Fatah?

I am Palestinian.


Overnight at the Hebron Orphanage

On Tuesday night, June 25, 2008 MPT joined Christian Peacemakers in Hebron. They stayed overnight at the girls orphanage that had been raided by the Israeli military on April 30, 2008. Since the attack, there is an ongoing effort to make sure people are staying overnight in the buildings in case the army comes back. Fortunately, there were no problems on this particular night. It was a lovely evening with the local Palestinian organizers and provided some much needed rest after climbing the hills of Tuba.

The Israeli military has threatened, ordered closures, and/or raided multiple buildings in Hebron, including the girls’ and boys’ orphanages, high schools, bakeries, stores, and apartments simply because they are run by the Islamic Charitable Society. For more information visit http://www.hebronorphans.blogspot.com/.

When MPT arrived, they were given a tour of these buildings throughout Hebron which have been attacked and ransacked by the Israeli army.


This bakery was attacked by the Israeli army on April 16, 2008. The military stole everything inside, destroyed the oven, and trashed the place, breaking down walls as they went. This bakery had produced 3,000 loaves of bread a day. It had been a source of food for the orphanages and the surrounding neighborhood, and a source of income for the orphanages.

The Israeli military has issued a closure order for the entire building which also includes a barbershop, a store, and apartments for thirty families.


This building was given its closure notice on March 6, 2008 by the Israeli military. Almost all the shops have moved out. On the upper floors of the building there were physical therapists, lawyers, and a dentist who have all left.

On the fourth floor, there was a Children’s Assistance Office which was raided. The Israeli army took everything.

This building is right next to the UN building in Hebron.

Boys High School

This high school is under threat of being closed. The principal has been in prison under administrative detention (which is to say, he has not been charged with anything) for almost one year. The Israeli motive for imprisoning this person seems to be a desire to undermine Palestinian education.

Bakery #2

A second bakery was also raided by the Israeli military. Everything was ripped out including the stoves and even the ventilation system.


This warehouse was attacked by the Israeli military on March 2, 2008 from 10:00 pm until 9:00 am. The military stole two school buses and three industrial size refrigerators. They couldn’t fit the refrigerators through the doors, so they destroyed the walls.

They trashed the employee kitchen.

They removed almost everything from a warehouse packed with clothes for the poor and food for the girls’ orphanage. The girls felt very vulnerable after having had their food taken.

There were also empty offices where the army broke the doors for no reason.

Girls High School

This beautiful high school was just completed and was scheduled to open this fall. Now the gates to the schoolyard have all been welded shut by Israeli soldiers.

Boys Orphanage

On April 3, 2008 the army showed up and arrested a worker who is now being held in administrative detention. The army has not yet closed any operating schools, but they face the threat of closure at any time.

MPT visits with families in Tuba

On Monday morning, June 23, 2008 MPT headed south to the cave community of Tuba in the south Hebron hills. When MPTers arrived in At Tuwani, Christian Peace Team (CPT) was glad for their presence because there had been a growing number of settler attacks. Many families and shepherds had been calling for CPT to accompany them in case of attacks; however at the time they were unable to meet the growing need.
A member of CPT was going to walk MPT through the hills to Tuba. Along the way, they stopped to meet with a shepherd who had asked for some accompaniment. The night before, he had been grazing his sheep on land that he had the paperwork to be on. Settlers had come down with slingshots and begun shooting rocks at his sheep. He had to run away quickly with his sheep. However, he was afraid that while running away, he may have lost some sheep and that they might have been killed. He wanted CPT/MPT to go back with him and if his sheep were there to take pictures. Thankfully, when they went to check, they did not find any dead sheep, though he said it was still possible they had taken some sheep.

MPT waited a while with the shepherd as the sheep grazed. Almost as soon as MPT arrived, two settlers appeared from behind the trees of an illegal outpost. The outpost is near several settlements. The two settler men appeared with a dog and it also seemed that they were masked. Phone calls were made and the cameras began rolling. The settlers did not come any closer. Soon the Israeli army arrived and watched from the top of the hill. The shepherd began backing away with his sheep and goats, even though he had the right to be grazing there.

Two settlers come from the illegal outpost
Army vehicle watches the shepherds from atop the hill
As MPT walked through the hills, they could hear loud fighter planes, gifts from the U.S. to Israel, flying overhead. It was a weird sound to hear in the middle of the wilderness. There is a military base near by. After a long walk through the hills, MPT arrived at Tuba hidden within the hills. MPT has had an ongoing relationship with these families. Recently, this community has been experiencing settler violence and has been calling for international presence. The night before MPT arrived, two of the children were giving water to the sheep and goats when two grown men approached and began shooting stones at them with slingshots. Luckily, they were able to get it on film. B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, has given one of the children a video recorder in order to capture and make public the settler violence.
The sheep graze next to the settlement
MPT was able to go out with the sheep twice, allowing the sheep and goats to have several hours of grazing that had been too dangerous lately. Thankfully, there were no settler incidents while MPT was there.

MPT enjoyed the generous hospitality of the families at Tuba and got to participate in the beautiful simplicity of their lifestyle. They spent a lovely night sleeping under the stars next to the caves. One MPTer was even given rides on a donkey up the steep hill!

As MPT travelled back to At Tuwani, they learned a conflict had occurred between a shepherd and some settlers that morning, though no one was injured. That night, MPT learned that there had been another attack in the area after they had left.


Palestinian Artwork on the Wall

While traveling to Jerusalem recently an MPTer asked her taxi driver to stop along the way so she could take a picture of a piece of artwork on the side of a building. The driver complied and stopped not only for that picture but also for pictures of other creative artwork he wanted her to see.

“This land is not for sale.”

Two cows illustrate life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation. The white cow represents Palestine. The houses on its back are small, simple and poor. The expression on this cow’s face is one of struggle as it tugs against the black cow. The black cow represents Israel. The houses on its back are bigger and more elaborate than those of the white cow, and the black cow is laughing.

MPT stands in solidarity with the white cow.

Aida Refugee Camp was established in 1950 between the towns of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. It houses refugees displaced from thirty-five Palestinian villages following the Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967.

As with other camps in the West Bank, Aida faces severe overcrowding. Originally consisting of tents intended as temporary shelter, the camp has evolved into permanent structures of concrete to house the long-term refugee population.

A woman sits with her children outside the locked door to their home. Ugly rolls of razor wire separate them from their home.

Article 31 of the United Nations General Assembly Convention on the Rights of the Child, effective September 2, 1990, addresses the rights of children to leisure, recreation and culture.

“I want my ball back.”

Palestinian people ascend the apartheid wall, seeking freedom. A determined insect knocks down sections of the apartheid wall like falling dominoes.

Palestinian people die needlessly and brutally under Israeli occupation.

A beast pulls a baby carriage filled to overflowing with revoked work permits. Even while drowning in massive unemployment, a Palestinian hand is thrust forward in a gesture of peace. The beast is wearing combat boots and is followed by an armed soldier.

A child sets aside a soldier’s gun and puts him against the wall, searching him to see if he has a bomb. How many times has the child been subjected to such searches on her way to school?

The American dollar supports the soldier.

Israel, have you become the evil you deplored?”

Palestinian sheep graze on the back of the camel Israel, while their herders struggle up the camel’s legs to reach their sheep.

A checkpoint tower with its wall, wire and rifles is shattered by nonviolence.

Let us hope this applies to the suffering of the Palestinians living under occupation and in exile from their homeland.