One day of the Bil’in conference was spent on a bus tour of the northwestern part of the West Bank. MPTers also visited northern villages with the International Women’s Peace Service after the conference. An inescapable conclusion is that illegal Israeli settlements are everywhere. Every Palestinian village, no matter how large or small, is overlooked by at least one settlement.
Many villages are encircled by illegal walls and fences that separate them from each other. Several villages have only one entrance/exit that is controlled by the Israeli army and opened only during certain hours. Farmers have to go long distances to access their lands to which they can be denied entry. Farmers are also separated from their fields by walls or high electric fences with voltage strong enough to kill a person.
Forty-five underpasses are being built in the area to create a road system for Palestinian use. Israelis will use new roads or the historic, but restructured Palestinian roads and Palestinians will have to use the less convenient underpass roads, which will force them to travel long distances around settlements.
This Palestinian home in Mas’ha is now completely enclosed by an illegal Israeli settlement that has been built around it. The home is surrounded by the apartheid wall and razor-wire fencing. The owners, who have lost land, a greenhouse, chicken coops and a restaurant- in other words their livelihood - are under constant settler harassment. When MPTers and the other Bil’in Conference internationals stopped for a visit two army jeeps with eight soldiers arrived to observe them and escort them back to their bus.
This small village of 1,000 people is almost surrounded by settlements and completely enclosed by high electric fences with one checkpoint entrance. The bus driver tried to pass through this checkpoint to visit the village, but the female soldier staffing the checkpoint told him all our kinds of people are rubbish and would not let the bus through.
This city of 45,000 people is the westernmost West Bank city and is totally surrounded by the illegal apartheid wall. Six hundred shops have closed and four thousand people have left the city, returning to their villages, due to the negative economic impact of the enclosure. There is work in
There are twelve Israeli chemical factories in Tulkarm whose wastewater contaminates Palestinian wells. Poisonous chemical fumes permeate the air, causing serious health problems for workers and residents of the town. Many people have moved away to protect their health. Winds carry the fumes toward
One day in early June three or four Palestinian farmers were harvesting crops on their land. A few Israeli settlers came and cursed at the farmers; then more settlers came and threw stones. More Palestinians came to support the farmers and some threw stones in retaliation. Finally the Israeli army arrived, but did little at first. Eventually the army opened fire with live bullets. Bullets seemed to be flying everywhere. To the people present it felt like hundreds of bullets were fired.
The stomach of one young man was grazed by bullets; another man had a disabling hand injury. This man had arrived only at the end of the incident and really played no part in it. Without proper medical care he could lose the use of his hand. He has to pay the equivalent of about $12 for trips to the Qalqiliya hospital every other day. This is a lot of money for a person who is poor with five children to support. His Israeli work permit has been revoked because he was at the incident, so in addition to being shot he has lost his job. In addition, his entire family has been blacklisted from Israeli employment.
In another incident settlers evicted a Palestinian woman and her family from their house near the edge of the village and occupied it. The Israeli army later took over the house and it is now occupied by eight soldiers.
MPTers and a woman from the International Women’s Peace Service stayed overnight with a marvelous family in Immatin, some of whom had been at the settler harassment incident when people sustained injuries. Everyone stayed up past midnight talking and laughing with this family. One MPTer mistook fried eggplant for fried bananas so that became a big joke!
An older man who had been tortured for two years in an Israeli prison told his story. He said he came out a little crazy due to electric shocks and other forms of torture. Someone asked him if he got better and he laughingly said, “Not a lot!” Indeed! He was a very wise and good man who could laugh and make us laugh at this horrible situation. The IWPS women said that perhaps part of peace activists’ role here is to laugh with the Palestinians even when life is so unjust and difficult.