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7.30.2009

East Jerusalem: the threat of violence and eviction

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009
This past week MPTers spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights providing international presence at a home that is currently under an eviction order in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem has been one of the most controversial issues in the Israel/Palestine conflict since both Palestinians and Israelis want the city for their capital. According to an article in Haaretz, the United States government includes Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem when calling for a freeze on settlements.

This particular home, which houses three families, has had an eviction order for 37 years and is continuously involved in court proceedings. Shortly after the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, an Israeli settler organization presented the owners of this home with what the Israeli Court has now proven to be falsified documents from the Ottoman Empire claiming the land. This house is one of the homes that the U.N. built along with the Jordanian government for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. Although the owner is not a political activist, he told MPT that this issue has affected him his whole life and he is determined to keep the home that he and his three children were born in. The family has decorated the front of the home with banners proclaiming, “We will never leave our home”.



In the past months, the eviction order deadline has become imminent and so internationals have been keeping a continuous presence since March, at the request of the family. Internationals provide support and a peaceful presence to de-escalate the continuous settler attacks and harassment. Israeli police, including undercover officers, habitually drive by the home, intensifying the fear of eviction. Since the home could be demolished at any time, the family must always be present and on alert. This house is just one of the 28 homes under the threat of eviction and demolition by Israel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. One of the homes has already been demolished.

While MPTers were present at the home, an intoxicated settler came to the house and attempted a forced entry. The owners of the house told him to stay away while internationals positioned themselves around the rest of the house to ensure that he could not enter. The settler kept asking about the signs on the home while trying to look inside. In the past, settlers have forced Palestinians from their homes in order to occupy the property. The settler eventually left.


This tent is inhabited by a family that was evicted from their home and is now harassed by settlers

A half an hour later, MPTers and other internationals were notified that the same settler had gone to a nearby tent that is now the home of a Palestinian woman who has been evicted from her house. The settler attacked the woman with a rock, hitting her over the head. An ambulance was called after she went unconscious for sometime. MPT was informed the next night that all the local hospitals and doctors refused to treat her unless she would change her story, and not speak of any settler attacking her. This woman is now suffering from internal swelling in her head, along with constant head pressure.

The first night MPTers stayed the night, a car of 3-4 young settler boys, aged 14-16, drove by at 4am, stopping in front of the house and throwing objects at the family, yelling and making obscene hand gestures. Approximately two hours later, local municipality officials stopped in front of the home to harass and intimidate the family.
The second night MPTers stayed at the house, unidentified police officers pulled up to the house, stopped, got out, and talked amongst themselves, intimidating the family.

No arrests or evictions occurred while MPT was in Sheikh Jarrah.

Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

July 27th 2009


Three MPTers joined several Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists at a demonstration held outside the Darwish Hijazi home in Sheikh Jarrah, in occupied East Jerusalem, to protest the destruction as well as the current settler occupation of the home. Settlers had broken into the home the preceding day and started to destroy the house from the inside out. The Palestinian homeowner had died about a month earlier, leaving the home empty and without protection. Israeli forces had arrested several individuals, including the former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Hatim Abdul Qader, when they tried to block the settlers from entering the home.

MPT was informed that the Israeli High Court had issued a stop order to the settlers that were building on the land. However, the settlers did not stop building. According to the International Solidarity Movement, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem was built by the United Nations and the Jordanian government in 1956 to house Palestinian Refugees from the 1948 war.




















(An armed settler standing in front of the house)





















(A Palestinian boy who lives in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood holding a sign to protest the occupation of his neighborhood)
















(The settlers remained inside the house during the protest. In this picture you can see the settlers have continued to build on the property despite the Court's injunction to stop.)

















(Israeli forces and settler security pushing back the crowd of protesters)


When MPT arrived at the entrance to the home, it was heavily guarded by settler security personnel. Shortly after the demonstration began, an abundance of Israeli police arrived and began to push the demonstrators away from the home. Different slogans were chanted throughout the protest including, “ 1-2-3-4, occupation no more, 5-6-7-8 Palestine a free State”. More Israeli police, including border police, continued to arrive until there were more than 25 police on site. Two hours into the protest, one Israeli protester was arrested, while the settlers remained in the home. MPT remained at the demonstration for another hour and a half. By the time MPT left, the demonstration had largely quieted down.



Just as they were leaving the neighborhood, MPT was called to come quickly to another home in Sheikh Jarrah. Upon arrival at the second home, MPT was informed that around 50 settlers had climbed a wall and tried to jump into the home of a Palestinian family. MPT alongside other internationals stayed to prevent the settlers from climbing the wall again.















(Group of settlers argue after trying to enter the Palestinian's home)

7.27.2009

Kafr al Labad: a photo essay of nonviolent resistance


July, 25, 2009—Three MPTers joined Palestinian, Israeli and international activists on Saturday for a demonstration in the village of Kafr al Labad, which is 11 kilometers east of the West Bank city of Tulkarm. The village is located in between the Israeli settlements of Avne Hefez and Enav, each of which includes an illegal outpost.


The protesters gathered in the village and then took buses out into the Palestinian farming fields. Once in the fields, they marched with Palestinian flags to the site of a recently erected illegal outpost on Palestinian land. The outpost consists of three tents which were set up 3 weeks prior to the demonstration. MPT was told by a Tulkarm resident that it is mostly children that reside in the tents because the Israeli military cannot arrest them. This was evident to MPT because for the majority of the protest four settler children along with one adult male harassed demonstrators with the children advancing on the protesters and the man remaining back toward the tents. Also, during the protest the adult settler motioned for more settlers to join him and eventually 20 to 25 settlers, the majority of which were children, joined him on the hill.


The settlers came out of the tents to yell at demonstrators, some of them holding bats


2 of the 3 tents set up by settlers on Palestinians land


Soldier with bat


More settlers join


Demonstrators were also met by the Israeli military once they arrived near the outpost. Speeches were given by activists, including one by a man who had served in the Israeli army but had subsequently joined the organization Combatants for Peace. As a symbolic act of resistance, Palestinians constructed a tent on their own land. However, Israeli soldiers aggressively tore down the tent and attempted to confiscate the tent poles. Israeli activists took the poles away from the soldiers and interpositioned themselves between the soldiers and Palestinians.


Israeli activist talks with soldier


Palestinians attempt to construct tent, while Israeli soldiers dismantle it

(click to enlarge)


Two Palestinian boys talk to an Israeli soldier raising their hands to show they come in peace


Prior to the demonstration MPT had been told that the army was planning to prevent a group of Israeli peace activists from joining the action. An hour into the protest, MPT noticed that a caravan of Israeli activists had been stopped by the Israeli military en route to the protest. Half an hour later those activists who had been stopped by the military but were able to find an alternative route to the demonstration, emerged from the hill near the outpost. Israeli activists are often prevented from entering the West Bank or stopped at Israeli military checkpoints within the West Bank in order to limit their involvement in the resistance against the Israeli occupation.



Israeli activists emerge from the hill and join demonstration


In all, there were about 300 demonstrators present. The Israeli activists tried twice more to erect the tent which was draped in Palestinian colored cloth, however the military threw sound bombs in the middle of the tent and protesters each time. After throwing the sound bombs, soldiers stormed the tent and ripped apart the pieces. Protesters remained peaceful in spite of the military violence and settler harassment.


video



As the demonstration wound down, many settler children approached and threw stones at them. No stones were thrown in response from the demonstrators, however the protesters remained for a time in order to show that they were undeterred by the settler violence.


One settler man who had been told by the army to back away from demonstrators, snuck around in back of the soldiers and made his way closer to the protesters. MPT noticed that the man continued to harass the demonstrators by making inappropriate gestures. He then moved much closer to protesters, with one hand holding something behind his back. When the soldiers noticed him, they ran towards him at which point the man pulled a hand gun from behind his back holding it to two soldiers’ heads. The demonstrators, who were already on their way back, continued to leave as the soldiers confronted the man.


This was the first time the army told this Settler man to move back


No arrests or serious injuries occurred during the protest.

7.24.2009

MPT in Israeli YNet news

MPT summer team mentioned in a YNet news article:

Palestinian: Border Guard officers beat me up

Abd al-Khaled Shalatef says he was on his way to friend's house in Nablus when force attacked him. 'They told me to spread my legs,' he tells Ynet. 'When I fell, they punched my head for 10 minutes, then left me for an hour and a half in sun.' Board Guard says unfamiliar with incident
Ali Waked

Abd al-Khaled Shalatef was on his way back from work in Ramallah and on his way to visit a friend living in Nablus. Instead, he had a violent encounter with Border Guard officers. He recounted the incident in a conversation with Ynet.

"I had another friend with
me, and we started to walk by foot on the road to Awarta because we didn't manage to hitch a ride or catch a cab," said Shalatef. The two reportedly came across a jeep of Border Guard officers.

The Border Guard and the Palestinians on Thursday. (Photo: mpt group)

"The officers in the jeep got out and asked for our identity cards. They asked me what I was doing there. I told him I
was going to visit a friend on my way home.

"The officer took my ID, checked it in the
computer, and said to me, 'You are a security official in the Palestinian Authority.' I responded, 'You're right. I've been a police officer for 13 years in the national security services, and today I work with family members in Ramallah. I already finished my service,'" recounted Shalatef.

90 minutes in the sun


At this point, according to Shalatef, the Border Guard officers responded violently. "Two officers took me behind the
jeep, leaving my friend and another person on the other side. They told me to spread my legs. I spread them just like when someone is looking to do a body search, but apparently they were just looking for a laugh and started to spread my legs until I fell on the ground.

"After I fell, two officers, one of them an Ethiopian, started to hit me over the head and on my back with their fists and feet. I started to yell, so they put me in the jeep and continued beating me. This continued for close to 10 minutes.

"After that, they took me out of the jeep and left me behind the jeep for nearly an hour and a half in the sun," said Shalatef.


Shalatef's saving grace, according to him, came in the form of three international peace activists walking along the road: "They started to take pictures. That's when the Border Guard treatment changed drastically. They started to ask me if I need help or water. I answered, 'Nothing. Just release me.' Then they took me out of the sun into the shade for another half an hour until they ultimately released me."

Shalatef said that he intends to submit a complaint against the officers with the Coordination and Liaison Authority at Hawarra. The Border Guard said in response that it was unfamiliar with the incident, but that the report had been transferred to the Police Investigation Unit.

link to article

More Settler Violence in South Asira

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Soldiers facing the Palestinian villagers with the settlers watching from the illegal outpost at the top of the hill
(click to enlarge)


On Thursday, 23 July MPT was called back to Asira al Qibliya because settlers from the nearby illegal outpost of Shalhevet Yitzhar had come down the hill to attack local villagers. The Israeli army was called and one small Palestinian child sustained injuries to his arm and leg from a military sound bomb (see picture below).




Villagers told MPTers that approximately 150 armed settlers came down from the illegal outpost and began throwing stones at villagers and their homes. MPT was also shown video footage of this attack taken on a camera given to local villagers by the Israeli group B’Tselem in order for Palestinians to document human rights abuses. After 15 minutes the army arrived and although they tried to separate Palestinians and settlers the settlers continued throwing stones. The army shot sound bombs and teargas at the villagers who had gathered due to the settler attacks, including discharging teargas canisters directly into two nearby homes.



Marks left by teargas canister outside a Palestinian home


When MPT arrived the villagers were still suffering from the effects of the teargas, and MPT was immediately taken to one elderly woman (pictured below) whose house was hit by teargas. The woman was shaking uncontrollably and breathing heavily to the extent that the Red Crescent (Palestinian paramedics) was called to treat her and other villagers for gas inhalation.



Next MPTers were ushered to the front of the crowd where 9 soldiers were standing on a small hill facing the Palestinians. Behind these soldiers were at least 6 army vehicles with a number of other soldiers positioned in the hills between the Palestinians and the settlers who had re-gathered at their illegal outpost. When MPT got to the front of the group one soldier tried to photograph MPTers, a tactic sometimes used to discourage internationals from their work. After another 20 minutes, several of the soldiers came down to talk to village leaders in order to disperse the crowd of Palestinians. At the same time the 4 soldiers who remained on the hill were given sound bombs and teargas canisters. The soldiers had their fingers on the pin ready to use these weapons although they did not end up using them again.




The Palestinians did back up but did not leave as they were standing in their own village. The military stayed in position and the settlers remained gathered at the top of the hill in plain view of the soldiers and villagers. The settlers eventually dispersed and shortly after the army got into their jeeps. Ten minutes later the army drove out through the village. MPT stayed in the village for another 30 minutes before returning home.



7.23.2009

Border Police Beat Huwwara Citizens


At around 5:30 pm on Wednesday, July 22, MPT received a call from their Palestinian contact, Zakiraya, alerting them to a situation between the villages of Huwwara and Awarta where border police were harassing and beating Palestinian youth. When MPT arrived 15 minutes later, an army jeep with 4 members of the border police was on one side of the road with one Palestinian male while two other Palestinian men were standing on the opposite side of the road. MPTers stood at a distance with cameras, letting the border police know they were there and were documenting what was happening in hopes of preventing any further harassment. Shortly after MPT arrived, the border police called over the two other Palestinians, to their side of the road, speaking briefly with them before having them sit down separated from each other. Around 6:10 pm, twenty minutes after MPT arrived, the border police gave the Palestinians back their identification cards and allowed them to leave. MPT later learned that they had been detained for two hours before MPT arrived and that the Israeli DCO had been called but did not come to the scene.


Young man being questioned by border police


Man asked to cross the street to be closer to border police

After it was clear that the Palestinian youth were being released, MPT made their way towards the road where the Palestinians were in order to find out more about what had happened. The army jeep was leaving but stopped and called the three MPTers over to question the purpose of their presence. They asked to see their passports and when one MPTer questioned their right to look at their passports, the border policeman assured them that he had the right to do so, though MPT’s training had informed them otherwise. The border policeman continued to ask a number of questions including what MPT was doing there and why they were taking pictures. When an MPTer told him that they knew they were allowed to take pictures, he then informed them that while taking pictures is permitted, taking them of Israeli military personnel while they are working is not allowed as it interferes with their work. In actuality, the only time taking pictures is not permitted is in a closed military zone. The scene MPT was called to was not in a closed military zone. This experience is an example of how border police will often attempt to claim authority outside their jurisdiction.

Later that night, MPT was called once again and informed that there was a flying checkpoint set up in Huwwara, which created a standing line of traffic on the main road. A flying, or random, checkpoint is a military jeep or number of jeeps that sets up a roadblock without warning where there is usually no checkpoint. Flying checkpoints are used to take Palestinians off guard. They are utilized often and result in the slowing down or stopping of Palestinian movement within the West Bank. When MPT arrived at the flying checkpoint, there was one truck being held up by a border police jeep. MPT made their presence known and the vehicle was allowed to pass soon after their arrival. The border police left about 10 minutes later.


7.21.2009

Nancy and Loretta Arrive Safely

Just a short note to say that the last two summer team members, Nancy and Loretta, have arrived safely in the field. They will be joining the team shortly-- watch for blog posts from them soon!

7.19.2009

Stories from Bil'in and Ni'lin

Friday 17, July 2009
Two MPTers returned to the village of Bil’in to once again join Palestinian villagers and other internationals engaging in night duty. MPT was asked to come back to Bil’in because the night before there had been an army incursion and a young 21 year-old man, named Muhammed Abde al Fatah Burnat was arrested. The Bil’in popular committee asks that there be a significant number of Internationals present during these night watches because internationals have been able to successfully de-arrest Palestinians when they are able to make it to the scene in time. MPTers watched as army jeeps made their way up and down the military road which leads into the village, however no army units entered the Bil’in that night.

While watching for soldiers and army jeeps that may be entering the village to carry out arrests, team members were able to speak with a local man named Ashraf, who was shot in the leg by an Israeli soldier on July 7th of this year. Ashraf’s story has become well-known because he had been taking food and medical supplies to the people of the neighboring village of Ni’lin when he was shot. Ni’lin, like Bil’in engages in weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the Wall and the Israeli occupation. In early July, as a response to these nonviolent protests, the Israeli army put the village under curfew so residents were not able to leave their homes. Upon arrival in Ni’lin, soldiers recognized Ashraf from the weekly demonstrations and detained him for three hours. During that time he was denied food and water and made to sit out in the hot sun. While he was handcuffed and blind folded, one of the soldiers shot a rubber-coated steel bullet into Ashraf’s foot, causing him to collapse. Luckily, there was no permanent damage to Ashraf's foot.

This incident was caught on video by a 14 year-old girl from her home in Ni’lin. To see this video please go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2RiEXrJ69o

This was not this family’s first violent encounter with the Israeli occupation. Ashraf’s brother, Bassem, was killed by a tear gas canister during a nonviolent protest in Bil’in earlier this year.

7.18.2009

“Hope—stronger than the Israeli weapon,” –Mahmoud, Mayor of the Al Mas’sara Committee Against the Wall


On Friday 17 July the MPT summer team joined local villagers, Israeli activists and other internationals in Al Mas’sara, south of Bethlehem, to protest the Separation Wall, settlements and Israeli-only roads that surround this area of the West Bank. Approximately 50 protestors, including a group of Canadians on a peace and justice pilgrimage, attended the demonstration, where local villagers gave speeches directed at the demonstrators as well as the 35 Israeli soldiers present at the event.



Marching to the closed military zone that houses the nuclear weapon

Soldiers lined up behind barbed wire fence


The demonstration lasted about and hour and no one was injured. Although the army threatened to arrest everyone present if ‘they did not leave in five minutes’ no one was arrested and protestors left on their own terms fifteen minutes later. One brave woman crossed the barbed-wire fence to visit her father’s home, which lay on the other side of the closed military zone that housed the nuclear weapons the soldiers were ‘protecting’, demonstrating her resistance to the occupation of her village’s land. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict has had a devastating impact on this woman on numerous occasions. Her husband was murdered by Israeli soldiers, her son is in prison serving a 27-year sentence, and her home was also demolished by the military (pictured below).


This woman bravely crossed the barbed wire


Al Mas’sara is a village of one thousand people dependent on Bethlehem for trade. This small village is surrounded by Israeli occupied land—in the form of restricted nature reserves, settlements, closed military zones, Israeli-only roads and the Separation Wall—and Al Mas’sara farmers have been separated from 1/3 of their land. Ninety percent of the homes in Al Mas’sara are under demolition orders from Israel, with seven houses already demolished and three soon to be destroyed.



After the demonstration, MPT met with leaders from Al Mas’sara’s Committee Against the Wall where they learned that villagers have been protesting every Friday since November 2006, when the Wall was first being constructed in the Bethlehem area. MPT also learned that Al Mas’sara has a sister city in Trieve, France and every year French volunteers come to the village to help teach the children in Al Mas’sara and 9 surrounding villages because the Occupation has prevented them from reaching larger cities, such as Bethlehem, for basic education. To learn more about this solidarity project between France and Palestine please visit http://www.alshmoh-center.org/



Demonstrators get face-to-face with soldiers in Al Mas'sara


Mahmoud, Mayor of the Al Mas’sara Committee Against the Wall explained that nonviolent demonstration and resistance was the only acceptable way for his village to fight against the Israeli Occupation, and that the hope of the Palestinian people was stronger than any Israeli weapon. Mahmoud also explained that the goal of the Committee is to unify Palestinians through nonviolent popular resistance as well as unify the Palestinian people with Israelis and internationals and show the international community the effects of Occupation and the situation on the ground.


Mahmoud explained that Israel plans to annex Bethlehem, which is rich in resources such as water, olives and grapes and is often considered the twin city of Jerusalem because of its religious and cultural history. A combination of settlements, Israeli-only roads and the Separation Barrier would cut Bethlehem into 5 cantons, taking 87% of the land for Israelis and leaving Palestinians only 13% of their own land. Included in these plans is the construction of an Israeli-only road that would connect Nokdim (UN Map Noqedim) the settlement that Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, lives in with Settlements to the west of Al Mas’sara.

(Above: Israeli activists stand with Palestinians when the army threatens to arrest protestors.)

On 1 May 2009 seven villagers were arrested for nonviolently demonstrating against the Separation Wall, it cost $22,000 United States dollars (85,800 Israeli Shekels) to get them out of jail, one villager still remains in jail to this day.



Speech given in Arabic and English

video


The speech was translated into Hebrew by an Israeli activist so that the soldiers, to whom part of the speech was specifically directed, could understand.

video

7.13.2009

Bil’in Part II: The village that never sleeps

Saturday, July 11th, 2009


Three MPTers stayed the night in Bil’in after the protest on Friday in order to conduct night watch in the village. Israeli soldiers who come to arrest residents without explaining why they are being arrested or where they are being detained have raided the village almost every night for the last month. In the last month 10 people have been arrested including one American activist who was nonviolently trying to stop the detainment of one young Palestinian man. Most of these arrests are young men under the age of 18. Usually a large number of soldiers (between 50-100) come into the village in the middle of the night attempting to surprise residents while they are sleeping. We were told by members of the International Solidarity Movement, who have had a presence in Bil’in for the past 3 weeks, that often the soldiers wear black or white masks to hide their identity. To see a video of these night raids from the International Solidarity Movement’s website please go here: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/07/7532. Currently there is a list of 150 Bil’in residents to with arrest orders.


MPTers stayed awake with local Palestinians watching for Israeli soldiers who may be coming into Bil’in to arrest villagers. As a result of these night raids, Palestinian residents are awake all night every night and then go directly to work in the morning. When asked when they sleep, a local man told MPT that “sometimes we sleep a couple hours after work, but sometimes not at all”.


During night patrol, MPTers met two men who told them this story: The two men present along with another Bil’in resident had all been very good friends. One of them was shot point-blank in the head with a tear gas canister by the Israeli military during one of the Friday protests in April 2009. These canisters are made to be shot a distance of 500 meters, making close-range shots lethal. This young man suffered a severe head injury, which has left him with limited use of one arm. He also showed us pictures of his head after surgery, which had an incision from the front of his scalp to the back. One picture included Bassem Abu Rahme visiting him at the hospital a few days before he himself was shot by the same type of tear gas canister, which hit him in the chest killing him instantly. This also occurred during one of the Friday nonviolent demonstrations. The third friend told MPT that he lost one friend and almost lost the other. He was expecting to be targeted by the Israeli military next.


Soldiers did not enter Bil’in on the night of July 11th.

Bil'in Part I: Israeli military fires tear gas and skunk water on peaceful demonstrators


Friday, July 10, 2009

This Friday, MPT’s summer team joined other internationals and Israeli peace activists alongside the villagers of Bil’in to protest the settlements and the Wall, both of which have taken the villagers’ land. The village of Bil’in is located 7 miles west of the West Bank city of Ramallah and has a population of 1,500 people. Bil’in has been peacefully demonstrating every Friday for the last four years due largely to the fact that the occupation has cut them off from 65 percent of their own land. In 2007 the people of Bil’in won a court case in the Israeli High Court, where it was ruled that part of their land be returned to them. However, no action has been made to carry out this decision and the land remains controlled by the Israeli army.


On the day MPTers were present the protestors were reminded by the demonstration leaders of this day five years ago when the International Court of Justice decided to declare the Israeli wall illegal. At around 1:30 pm demonstrators began the march down to the wall, where the Israeli military was already waiting. Palestinians chanted things like, “1, 2, 3, 4, occupation no more” and approached the military with hands raised to show soldiers that they came in peace and had no weapons.


The portion of the Wall which the demonstrators approached is composed of two gates, with a space of about 10 feet in between. On this particular Friday, Palestinians were able to open the first gate, which was wrapped in barbed wire allowing the protestors to approach the front of the barrier. Members of the Bil’in Popular Committee encouraged internationals to make their presence known to the soldiers by moving to the front. This was followed by a military vehicle projecting a liquid mixture composed of water and chemicals onto the demonstrators, which is called “the Skunk”. Immediately protesters retreated from the wall.


This is only the second time the Skunk has been used at Bil’in. It was used a little less than a year ago on demonstrators. According to an article in Haaretz, “Bil'in and Na'alin have turned into a place for experimentation for the Israeli security forces. The demonstrators have become guinea pigs for various weapons.”

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1018282.html


The spraying continued for at least five minutes after which time demonstrators started to return to the gates. However, before they could make it back to the front, the army fired tear gas canisters into the crowd of participants. MPT is unsure of the exact number of canisters that were fired, however one Israeli army jeep is able to fire 32 canisters at a time. There were at least two jeeps firing. Immediately people tried to retreat, though this is difficult because the tear gas makes it hard to breath, disrupts your ability to see and causes disorientation. These effects were all intensified because of the Skunk water. Water in general heightens the effects of tear gas, causing the skin to burn. Normally after the first round of tear gas protestors will return to the front of the barrier to continue their resistance. However, because of the intense effects of the Skunk water along with tear gas most demonstrators retreated from the Wall after the first round of tear gas. Participants did promise to return the following week.


Although no one was critically injured, many individuals were treated for gas inhalation and severe vomiting. Also, two protestors were arrested during the demonstration, one Israeli and one Palestinian. Fox news was present at the demonstration and broadcasted this coverage of the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BsoDJBPq6Q.


While the footage gives viewers an idea of the intensity of the atmosphere in which the protest took place, team members would like to clarify some of the comments made by the newscasters. At the very beginning it is said that “there are violent protests underway”, not clarifying where the violence was coming from. Members of the Popular Committee announced over a megaphone that this demonstration would be carried out peacefully. The violence came from the Israeli military who sprayed skunk water and fired tear gas. The news report also stated that the Palestinians were trying to break through the gate to get to “the other territory”. In reality, the territory on the other side of the wall is Palestinian land.


7.11.2009

Mas-ha: Thriving Town Taken by the Wall

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

On Tuesday three members of MPT visited Mas-ha, a village of 2,500 people thirty minutes southwest of Nablus. MPT was invited to visit the village by a friend who currently lives in the United States and is originally from Mas-ha.


A view of Mas-ha from the top of the mosque's minaret


Mas-ha is a village surrounded on three sides by Israeli settlements/the Separation Wall and on one side by an Israeli-only road. Before the second intifada, Mas-ha was a thriving market town with a direct road into Tel Aviv, where Israelis and Palestinians coexisted and conducted daily business with one another. Every week Palestinian merchants traveled to Mas-ha where Israeli customers could buy Palestinian-made products at a lower price than in Israel proper. But as a result of the second Intifada Israel closed down the main road thereby ending trade with local Israelis, building an Israeli-only road that runs next to Mas-ha. Today Mas-ha has an extremely high rate of unemployment as a result of the Separation Wall.



The Israeli-only road just beyond the Wall


Three settlements border Mas-ha (El Kana, Ezz Efraim and Sha'ari Tekva) erected on land confiscated from local Mas-ha residents and neighboring villagers. The road Israel has built to connect these two settlements is not a direct route but rather snakes around two large hills composed of Mas-ha olive groves. Furthermore, Israel usually grants only the oldest men in a family the permission to pick olives in those groves in controversial areas – groves near the Wall or settlements. While MPT was there, construction workers were mining in one of the large hills, presumably for future settlement expansion in the area. This annexed area is divided from Mas-ha by the Separation Wall. Concrete in some areas and an electrified fence in others, this wall is under 24 hour surveillance by the Israeli military. Our tour guides explained that if anyone approaches the fence/Separation Barrier, sensors alert the military who immediately come to the scene. During MPT’s tour we observed a large tractor that sweeps the dirt near the Separation Barrier daily so that the military can see any new footprints.


Beyond the wall, Israeli construction is going on, presumably the construction of a settlement.

Military vehicle driving by as we stand near the Separation Barrier.


The final leg of our tour involved visiting on Palestinian family’s home that is completely surrounded by the Separation Wall. To the left of the house is the Elqana settlement and to the right is a series of four gates that separate Mas-ha from the house. This house, once a part of Mas-ha, became isolated in 2003 with the construction of the Separation Wall. The children are not able to play in their own front yard because of the daily footprint sweeps conducted by the military, and because of the electric fence/Separation Barrier around their home. Initially the family was not allowed to have any visitors or leave the house as they were under constant curfew. Today there is a locked gate under 24 hour surveillance, which the family and the military have a key too, although members of the family are often harassed or questioned if they have visitors or arrive home late at night. The family has been offered large amounts of money for their land from the Israeli government, but nonviolently resist the occupation by remaining in their home.


The house is completely surrounded by the Wall, which at some parts is concrete, and at other parts is electric fence. You can see Elqana settlement just behind the house. The family that lives here can only enter/exit through this locked door.



Elqana settlement just on the other side of the Wall from Mas-ha.


While visiting in Mas-ha MPT learned about the struggle that Palestinians go through in order to visit their family outside Palestine, in this case to visit the United States. (According to Badil Resource Center for Residency and Refugee Rights 67% of Palestinians live outside of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel proper.)

Palestinians must apply for permission from Israel to enter occupied East Jerusalem where they must then schedule an interview and apply for a visa from the United States embassy in Israel. Most Palestinians are denied at some point during this multi-stage process, or Israel may grant permission only to elderly members of the family who cannot travel alone. One of the men has applied four times to visit his brother in the U.S., and while his elderly mother was granted permission (she cannot travel alone) he was denied three times. The last time they suggested he stop wasting his money on applications. One of his cousins was also denied a visa to visit his family in the United States.


Palestinian pride still holds strong in Mas-ha


MPTers also met one young Palestinian man who is studying in the U.S. but has returned to Mas-ha establish and run a summer camp for fifteen Palestinians between the ages of 16 and 19. One part of the camp includes visiting Jerusalem, a trip most Palestinians in the West Bank are not able to make because Israel denies them the permission to enter. While in Jerusalem he hopes to take them Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, because according to him Arabs most of all need to see this site.

7.09.2009

Nablus: Palestinians Protest Israeli Piracy


Monday, 6 July 2009

MPT attended a small protest of about 50 people, in nearby Nablus on Monday on behalf of Palestinian and humanitarian prisoners. The protest was calm with no disruptions.

The protest was partly inspired by an incident on June 30 in which the Israeli Navy pirated the ship Spirit of Humanity, which was carrying three tons of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. They also detained the human rights workers on board. This is the fourth ship that has been sent by the Free Gaza movement. Among those detained were former Congresswoman and 2008 presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, and documentarian Adam Shapiro.

The aid came in response to Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has lasted over 24 months. Israel lets very little aid into the Gaza Strip to put economic pressure on Gaza’s government, strangling the civilian population of food, medicine, and communication to the outside world.

The protest was also inspired on behalf of Palestinian prisoners. According to Addameer, an organization promoting human rights for Palestinian prisoners, approximately 20% of Palestinians (about 40% of the male population) have been detained by Israel since 1967. As of March 2005, there are 7500 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel. Among these is Marwan Barghouti, one of the most powerful Palestinian politicians.



In addition to the Kafkaesque manner in which Palestinians are arrested and tried, they are held in poor conditions. The prisoners are held in overcrowded tents inadequate for extreme weather, are provided with low-quality food in small rations, and are not provided with medical attention, including those injured during their arrest and/or detention. In violation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, Palestinian children aged 14+ are tried as adults. During the protest, people held up a banner created by the Palestinian Prisoners Society which said, “There will be no peace, until the liberation of prisoners.”




The man pictured above, the founder and director of the Center for Global Consciousness, read the following translation of a press release from main political parties in the Nablus Governorate in regard to the attack on The Spirit of Humanity ship and the piracy that the Israeli government has practiced against international solidarity with the Gaza Strip and with the Palestinian people:

“The first point is the siege that is imposed on the Gaza Strip, from the air, and the sea, and the land is one of the worst, racist practices in modern history, and it’s a very clear violation of international law and the legitimacy of the United Nations resolutions.

The prevention of the ship of Spirit of Humanity from reaching the shores of Gaza that was carrying humanitarian aid is a very clear challenge from the Israeli government to the whole international community and its legitimacy again.

The ones who have killed the international solidarity activist, American young woman Rachel Corrie, the martyr of humanity is the same occupation that is now categorically besieging the Gaza Strip and preventing food and medicine from our people. This is the same occupation that should be boycotted on all levels – economic boycott, and social and political boycott – against this Israeli-led occupation.

Four: The claims by Israel that the waters adjacent to the Gaza Strip are Israeli territorial waters is completely against international legality, and against all UN resolutions, that present Palestinian land as occupied land and that Israel should withdraw from it in accordance to all international and UN resolutions.

Number five: The call by the international community to support the [???] of solidarity [???] solidarity with the Gaza Strip that is already besieged, especially the American ship that has been sent by the American people and that encompasses a hundred (persons) from around the world, among them the parliamentary George Galloway.

Number six: The attack on journalists and the imprisonment of journalists that accompanied the ship of Spirit of Humanity is a very clear attack on freedom of the press and is an attempt by Israel to divert attention from what’s happening on the ground. It’s an attempt by Israel to camouflage the reality of its crimes against the Gaza Strip and the people of Palestine.”