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
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
(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
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)
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.
(click to enlarge)
Two Palestinian boys talk to an Israeli soldier raising their hands to show they come in peace
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
On 1 May 2009 seven villagers were arrested for nonviolently demonstrating against the Separation Wall, it cost $22,000
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.
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
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.”
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.
On Tuesday three members of MPT visited Mas-ha, a village of 2,500 people thirty minutes southwest of
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
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,
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
Palestinians must apply for permission from
Palestinian pride still holds strong in Mas-ha
MPTers also met one young Palestinian man who is studying in the