Back to the (ab)normal and unpredictable situation here in Palestine. I give talks to visiting international delegations, we deal with problems, we organize activities, we attend events including various forms of non-violent resistance, I teach students, I do clinical service, I write on my upcoming books, eat great food, have wonderful conversations etc. I keep up with the news of my friends who were on the boats to Gaza. The Canadian abductees arrived home. Some Irish abductees were re-imprisoned. Israeli armed guards prevented them boarding planes at the last minute (more at http://witnessgaza.com/). But the world is outraged and politicians while still attached to their failing positions, are feeling besieged by their own people. Delegations from Sweden, Ireland, the US, and many others pass through Palestine and then stay in touch via the internet learning and becoming even more active against the idiotic policies of mainstream Western politicians. Thousands of people are finally saying: we will not take it anymore. The Empire and its servants are pushing for a war on Iran now (after they pushed for an illegal war on Iran) but judging from average people reaction and the jitters in the stock market, there is no constituency for war. I do not think it will happen. Racism will lose anyway, with or without their racist wars.
Palestine Monitor, 27 November 2010
This month, the Israeli High Court of Justice heard arguments against the army’s proposed route of the Separation Wall around al Walaja, a small village between Jerusalem, Bethlehem and several expanding Israeli settlements. Despite the absence of security reasons for constructing the Wall in al Walaja, the Israeli army is pushing forward with 2006 plans that would encircle the residential center, severing it from surrounding agricultural land belonging to the village. The wall will sit directly next to villagers’ homes and cut families off from 1,800 dunums of land that have been a part of al Walaja for generations.
Written and photographed by Charlotte Silver.
Shereen, a resident and activist of al Walaja explained, “It will seal the village completely, and disconnect it from its surroundings, and there will be no way to grow.” Upon the completion of the wall, there will a single exit from the village through Beit Jala that would be opened and closed by a gate.
Continuing, Shereen stated, “It’s organised, structural violence that will end up with the displacement of people. If you have an 8 o’clock job you can’t be held with a gate that you have no control over. You might be late once or twice, but you can’t be late everyday. When you are at risk of losing your job or losing whatever, you eventually move. That’s what happened in other places, that’s what will happen here.”
While al Walaja is not the first village to suffer from the wall’s theft of land and isolating effects, it has attracted disapproval from an unusual mix of groups representing disparate interests, including the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel and an Israeli private development company, Givat Yael.
On November 8, 2010 the Israeli High Court of Justice suspended construction of the wall for 45 days after hearing arguments from the lawyer representing the al Walajah, Ghiat Nasser, and the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel (SPNI), and the Israeli Army. Givat Yael has also opposed the construction of the wall, claiming that it will impede its plans to build a new Israeli housing project with 13,000 homes. However, the company withdrew from bringing their case to court.
Making an unusual partner, SPNI joined the village in challenging the necessity of the proposed route of the wall. Shereen spoke skeptically of the value of such an alliance, “The Palestinian interest is not of anybody else’s interest, in Israel. So whatever society it is, be it protecting nature, or peace and security, they’re not there to protect the Palestinians. Everybody is there to protect Israel, they want to the less harming again for Israel.”
SPNI argued against the route of the wall purely on the grounds of its interruption of the natural landscape. According to the Israeli human rights organization, Ir Amim, SPNI opposed the construction of the wall because it would harm the traditional cultural landscape of the Judean Mountains that have existed for nearly 2,000 years.
In contrast, Nasser argued against the Wall as it would cause grave violations of Palestinian rights, asserting that the wall was annexing half of the little land the village still had and would make life very difficult for the villagers.
He went on to claim that the 2006 order to build the wall according to the prescribed route was invalid, as it should have expired after three years.
During the final court hearing, SPNI accepted the army’s revised plan that would still encircle the village but require a smaller buffer zone. Now, what originated as a potential asset has turned into a liability for the village: by conceding that this route with a smaller buffer zone is environmentally acceptable, SPNI has essentially endorsed the strangulation of al Walaja.
While the village did not initially oppose SPNI from arguing against the wall on behalf of environmental concerns, Nasser explained that they have ultimately hindered the village’s case, “I regret that they entered the case, because they have caused big damage to our case in the end. Now I have another party against me.”
The Israeli courts have offered Palestinians a less than equitable arena for pursuing their rights. Yet for many Palestinians the courtroom is nevertheless a means to document history. In Shereen’s words, “We would be very stupid if we think we will ever be able to do something with the Supreme Court. Because it’s a racist society, including the judges of the Supreme Court. But this is our only option. And for me this is only about documenting until a day of justice.”
The hearings will resume in December, at which point the court will decide if the army can continue laying the foundation for construction of the Wall.
Olive harvest opportunities
Sunday Staring at 9:30 from the orthodox club in Beit Jala
(Sunday also at my back -yard in Beit Sahour J)
Viva Palestina convoy enters Gaza
The story of Adeeb Abu Rahma
Video of Adeeb at one of the demonstrations challenging Israeli soldiers
(all societies include some bigots and racists but only in Israel do they get state funding and official support and laws to advance racism)
Safed Rabbis urge Jews to refrain from renting apartments to Arabs
‘Jews Brought About the Existence of the ENTIRE Creation’ says Rebbe Meachem Schneerson!
Sephardi chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Non-Jews exist to serve Jews (Rabbi Yousef is also a spiritual head of a major official political party in Israel)
Settlers attack and vandalize Palestinian girls’ school
Over 3500 olive trees victims of apartheid settlers
Bill in Knesset to ban non-Jews (Christian and Muslim Palestinians) from being tour guides in Jerusalem
Proposal sponsored by Gideon Ezra and seven other MKs, says tourists should get Israeli viewpoint.
(Israel has long reduced the number of permits for operating as tour guides to native Palestinians to miniscule numbers compared to those give to Israeli Jews (most new immigrants), something like 1 to 50 or 100 when the two parent populations are now each 5.5 million even without the ethnically cleansed refugees)
Israeli settler sewage water dumped on Beit Ummar land
To understand some of the background, I recommend these books: Jesus in the Talmud by Peter Schafer, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years by Israel Shahak, The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand. Ofcourse one could have criticim of other religions (e.g. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism) especiallty when they are used to justify wars and conquests instead of being about personal relationship between humans and their God (crusades foe example). That is why I am convinced that any society that aspires to be modern and avoid conflict should start by insisting on separating state from religion.
Our Man in Palestine:
“This cooperation (between Israeli and Palestinian security forces) has reached unprecedented levels under the quiet direction of a three-star US Army General, Keith Dayton, who has been commanding a little-publicized American mission to build up Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.”
Al Nakba, documentary (200 min) -produced by Al Jazeera- was first broadcasted in Arabic on the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian catastrophe. It was translated into English in 2009 and then into four different languages: French, German, Spanish and Italian. Al Nakba won the prize for the best long documentary about Palestine in Al Jazeera Fifth International Film Festival (Doha/Qatar) and the audience award in Amal Ninth Euro-Arab Film Festival (Santiago/Spain). It participated in other film festivals in Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=30A8F80C4E383847
Karma Nabulsi- Diary (of the Palestinian situation)
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
International Solidarity Movement, 1 July 2010
The people of Al-Ma’asara’s again demonstrated peacefully last Friday, protesting against land seizures and settler harassment. Twenty villagers were joined by a handful of Israelis and internationals, marching from the village out towards the confiscated fields.
For the second week running, the group was allowed to reach the fields; Israeli army jeeps appeared as always, but this week the soldiers escorted the protest group to the fields, rather than attempting to stop them. Protestors were pushed and shouted at if they tried to move away from the main group, but otherwise there was no incident.
Perhaps the Israeli Army has finally recognised that the Al-Ma’asara protest is 100% peaceful, and the soldiers have no reason to break it up. Or this may turn out to be a temporary respite from roadblocks and harsher treatment. In any case the people of Al-Ma’asara are still not able to cultivate their land in peace, as the farmer’s have no protection from settler violence.
An Nabi Saleh
Residents of An Nabi Saleh gathered on Friday to honour the men of their village who remain as political prisoners inside Israeli jails. As one man enters his 33rd year in captivity, the village congregated for speeches, songs, and presentations to the families of those imprisoned.
After this event, villagers, joined by Israeli and international supporters, marched towards village land which has been illegally taken from them by the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish. Soldiers blocked their route, allowing them to stand and chant for only a short period before starting to shoot tear gas. Many of the tear gas canisters shot were fired at body height, seemingly deliberately aimed at demonstrators. Several participants were injured, by canisters or by rubber-coated steel bullets, which were also fired in large numbers.
Military jeeps then came into the village, and soldiers occupied the main square. After approximately an hour, they retreated again, pursued by a large group of young children, one of whom had successfully planted a Palestinian flag on the back of a jeep. Soldiers halted the jeeps, and got out to throw sound grenades and fire tear gas at the children. Fortunately, none were hurt.
The demonstration went on until after sunset, when soldiers finally moved out of the village.
At the weekly demonstration against the illegal Israeli occupation in Iraq Burin, stone throwing protesters and international observers were teargassed by the Israeli army while trying to access their own land.
Leaving the village after the protest, two villagers and six internationals were stopped by an army jeep, had their passports confiscated and were then detained, with the soldiers claiming that it was “illegal” to be in the village. The internationals and Palestinians were taken to separate Israeli checkpoints, before being brought together again at Huwarra checkpoint 40 minutes later, where the Palestinians had been kneeling in the hot sun with their hands behind their heads.
All prisoners were then taken to a police station, where one of the Palestinians was severely beaten, first in the jeep, then in a closed room in the police station. All prisoners were later released without charge, 4 1/2 hours after their detention. The beaten Palestinian was taken to hospital in Nablus, where the doctor noted heavy bruising on his chest, back and stomach.
Dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation in Bil’ins weekly demonstration this Friday.
This week’s protest focused particularly on the boycott of Israeli blood diamonds. Every year, consumers the world over unwittingly spend billions of dollars on diamonds extracted by violent militias in West Africa and later processed and sold on from Tel Aviv. Protestors also carried a message of solidarity with the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, who are currently subject to a particularly violent wave of evictions, demolitions and harassment.
About 100 Palestinians, Israelis and internationals marched together this week to the gate of the Annexation Wall, facing large amounts of tear gas before the soldiers charged through the gate and chased the protesters towards the village. The solders continued firing teargas on the fleeing crowd, leaving dozens of protestors affected by gas inhalation. Hot teargas cannitsters set fire to fields on either side of the road, with Palestinian youths struggling to put out the flames while avoiding the Isralie assault. The demonstration ended after about 45 minutes.
Around 20 international activists and journalists joined a group of 80-90 local villagers for the weekly protest against the Annexation Wall, continuing a tradition that has been going for over 4 years now. Starting from the olive fields, the protesters marched down the hill towards the wall, chanting slogans and waving flags. Having arrived at the wall, which annexes farmland and property from the locals and gives it to illegal settlers, there was an interlude of around 5 minutes, after which time the Israeli Army, from the other side of the wall, launched volleys of tear gas canisters at the peaceful protesters, continuing another integral part of the demonstration since its inception- unprovoked violence against peaceful demonstrators.
Following the volleys, most of the activists positioned themselves out of the direction of the wind, in order to minimize the poisonous effects of the gas. Some of the canisters were conventional rubber canisters, and others were higher velocity metal canisters, and thus the protesters had to be careful to avoid the projectiles, which have in the past caused serious and even fatal injuries to several activists. Some of the Palestinians then started throwing rocks over the wall at their aggressors, as well as using slingshots to hurl the empty gas canisters back at the soldiers.
After around 45 minutes events petered out. The protesters moved to the edge of the wall, and some of the journalists conducted interviews, while some Palestinians continued using slingshots to hurl the empty rubber gas canisters back over the wall. Suddenly, the Army burst through the gate in the wall in their jeeps, and started pursuing the peace protestors, who fled on foot over the hills, out of the reach of the jeeps. After a roughly 10 minute chase, the activists had managed to distance themselves safely from the army, who had given up the pursuit; they returned to the village in peace.
Demonstrators gathered in Hebron on Saturday to demand an end to the illegal theft of water from the region for use in Israel and in Israeli settlements.
Protesters carried a large banner which read ‘Stop Stealing Our Water’, a reference to the theft of Palestinian water supplies by Israel. According to the Middle East Monitor, ‘The rate of water consumption of Israel citizens is 344 million cubic metres per year, while the consumption of Palestinians stands at 93 million cubic metres per year’. Israel’s disproportionately high usage and wastage of water is in large part fed by water stolen from the occupied West Bank. The Middle East Monitor goes on to write of ‘3 reserves within the West Bank area producing about 679 million cubic metres of water. According to international law, this water belongs to the Palestinians but they only get 118 million cubic metres. In other words, Palestinians get just 15% of their own water while the rest is consumed by Israelis’ . Much of this stolen water comes from the Hebron region.
Local residents were joined for the protest by a large group of Israeli and international activists. After chanting and making speeches in front of one of Hebron’s many military watch-towers, the protest then moved up a nearby street, which was blocked by Israeli soldiers who violently pushed demonstrators back down the road. Protesters refused to give up, and went instead into the Old City’s covered market. Above this market is one of the illegal settlements that exist within Hebron itself, and settlers from here threw glass bottles, eggs and water down onto the protesters below.
The settlements in Hebron are, like all settlements within the West Bank and East Jerusalem, illegal under international law. Palestinian residents of the Old City and the district of Tel Rumeida suffer severe restriction of movement, frequent harassment and occasional violence at the hands of both soldiers and settlers.
Midday Sunday, a group of Palestinians and internationals gathered in the village of Beit Jala outside Bethlehem to protest against the construction of the wall cutting off the village from its land. The protesters divided into two groups, one facing a roadblock set up by the soldiers and while another smaller group went down trough the olive groves to reach the construction site.
Israeli soldiers responded violently towards the larger group, using sound bombs and tear gas. When the smaller group reached the road leading to the construction site, soldiers quickly formed a line to stop them. After some time border police arrived and arrested three of the protesters: one Palestinian, one Israeli and one international. As a result of the ferocious violence from the soldiers, the demonstration dissipated.
Early Saturday morning, 10 volunteers from Tayoush and ISM travelled to Bir el-Eid in the South Hebron Hills, where we met with the local farmers, and were joined also by renouned activist Ezra Nawi. Activists gathered here to help the locals dredge out their well. The people Bir el-Eid only just have enough water to drink, but nothing for crops or animals. Water must be expensively brought in tanks from outside, negotiating whatever the current military conditions may be.
The more permanent and sustainable water supply here comes from two wells that capture a good part of the yearly rain, which soaks down through the chalk rocks. The people of Bir el-Eid were evicted from their land for a number of years, and when they recently returned, they found their wells in disrepair. Without anyone here to maintain the wells they filled with silt, and the problem may have been compounded by settler vandalism.
Restoring the well to usefulness is a crucial part of re-establishing a sustainable community here. Activists spent about five hours working with the farmers; one Palestinian and three Israelis went down into the cistern at the bottom of the well, and five of us at the top hauled up the bucket-loads of muck with a pulley. This was filthy, heavy work, but seeing Palestinians and Israelis working together against the Apartheid provided powerful inspiration.
Palestine Monitor, Aaron Dearborn, 1 July 2010
Hidden between the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, lies the village of Al-Walaja. Home to around 2,000 people, mainly agricultural workers, the land is rich in olive trees, summer crops and other natural resources. But the village is at a crossroads.
This year has witnessed a surge in Israeli military crackdowns, as Al-Walaja joins Bili’n, Ni’lin and Beit Jala, as the scene of heated weekly anti-wall demonstrations and popular resistance.
Since the first construction workers and soldiers arrived to begin clearing land for the Wall almost four years ago, locals say they have received an increasing number of eviction orders, arrests, threats and intimidation from IDF soldiers.
The current plan for Al-Walaja will see the town surrounded on all sides by the wall. Only one entry and exit point, under complete military control, will remain. The position of nearby settlements mean the Wall will encroach further onto village land, shrinking Al-Walaja before surrounding it.
However the bulldozers have not been allowed to move in unchallenged. Every Friday villagers gather at the construction sites in the fields of Al-Walaja to demonstrate against the seizure of their land.
Local organiser Mahmoud Al-Araj says these areas are considered ’closed military zones’ by the Israeli government, and army patrols move in quickly to stop the demonstrations.
“When Israel started building the wall, we started demonstrating against the confiscation of our land. We started on Fridays and one or two days during the week to bring people to stop the bulldozers,” he says. “So we had many peaceful demonstrations, and we get much beating and arrests from the Israeli soldiers who use weapons against us.”
Earlier this year, human rights groups were outraged by footage of villager Nabeel Hajajala, 14, being pepper sprayed, kicked and beaten by several soldiers during a demonstration.
“I saw the soldier videoing, I went down and took the mobile from him. The soldiers attacked me and pepper sprayed me. They tied my hands and put me in the jeep and started to hit me and spray me again. They took me to the checkpoint and after that to the police station”, Hajajala told me.
“In the jeep they punched me, and from the top of my head I was bleeding. Still they sprayed in my mouth and eyes and hit me with the back of a gun and kicked me until we reached the checkpoint.”
Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Palestinian peace activist and former Yale professor who has twice been arrested at Al-Walaja rallies. He says the risk of arrest and injury is something protesters are prepared to face. “In any kind of popular resistance there is a price to be paid and we are willing to pay that price. That price can range from mild harassment, intimidation, tear gas-which we smell of every week at demonstrations, all the way to being shot and killed. That’s what happened to my friend Bassam Abu Rahmah in Bili’n who was not doing any more than I do regularly. That’s just the risk you take in popular resistance.”
Since 2007, the people of Al-Walaja have received four different maps outlining the proposed route of the wall. The first official proposal threatened to divide the town in two parts, completely cutting off one part of the village from the other. The village formally complained to the Israeli high court and the plan was eventually overturned. However the three most recent plans have shown the wall being built in a way that completely surrounds the village on all sides with only one exit and entry point manned by IDF soldiers.
Village Council President Saleh Hilmi Khalifa rejects Israel’s claim that the separation wall is necessary to protect its citizens.
“If you take a photo of the region, you discover that these sayings are lies. The distance between the citizens and any Israeli units is too far, we are too far from the Israeli regions. If there is any problem with the Israelis’ security, why are they building the wall in our lands? Why don’t they build it on their lands?” he says.
Dr Qumsiyeh agrees, believing Israel is only interested in expanding the current expanse of Jerusalem to what is referred to as ‘Greater Jerusalem’.
“Al-Walaja has never had any conflict with the Israelis and if Israel is worried about the people of Al-Walaja coming into Israeli areas they could build the wall on the green line. But they choose instead to encircle the village with the wall and this tells me that it is not about security for the Israeli communities”.
“Israel has actually divided Al-Walaja into two areas. One of them is actually apart from the expanded boundaries of Jerusalem. Nobody recognises (these boundaries) except Israel, which says East Jerusalem is part of its capital. They expanded its borders so that nearly half the land of Al-Walaja is part of Jerusalem municipality. But not the people of Al-Walaja. They want the land but they don’t want the people that come with it.”
One villager, Ahmed Barwoud, has already had to stand back and watch as his farmland. was torn up to make way for the wall. Barwoud has lived here for over sixty years, since before Israel was created.
“This is something to remind me of the lands that were taken from us in 1948. This is another Nakba. The Israelis came and marked the lands and they brought the bulldozers and started to work,” he says.
Barwoud’s home is also the final resting place of his parents and grandparents. Israel’s current plans will place the graves of his ancestors on the other side of the wall in a Jerusalem municipality far exceeding the green line.
His farm has become a meeting point for demonstrators in Al-Walaja, where both Palestinians and internationals gather before a protest.
“They are standing with me because this is our issue, maybe today its my disaster and tomorrow it will be their disaster. The disaster includes all of us.”
But while Barwoud appreciates the support from internationals, he says his lands will not be saved unless foreign governments make a determined effort to confront Israel’s expansion.
“There are some people who stand significantly with us and that’s good, they demonstrate with us, its a really good stance. But what I say is they have to stand against their governments which support Israel, that is better than them coming here. They have to stand against Europe because it supports Israel and America is the biggest supporter of Israel.”
If they don’t, Barwoud says the struggle will be carried forward by his children.
“In the future, when they take my land, I will only hate the occupation more and more, and I will hate the supporters of Israel more and more. I will teach my children to be strong and how to take their lands back.”
Mazin Qumsiyeh, 20 June 2010
Israeli occupation forces today in Beit Jala engaged in beatings, burning of
fields, and attacking peaceful demonstrators, bystanders, and reporters. Two
young Palestinians: Mohammed Masalma and Thaer Mahmoud were injured after
severe beatings with hands and clubs (they were both near their homes and
not participating in the demonstration). Several demonstrators were also
roughed-up. Occupation enforcers also attacked six reporters and prevented
them from doing their job of covering the event: Yousef Shahin (Palmedia),
AbdelHafith Hashlamon (European News Aghency), Nasser AlShayukhi (associated
Press), Mamon Wazwaz (APA), Musa AlShaer (France Press), and Najeh Hashlamon
(ABA). The Israeli occupation forces (thugs) also aimed their gas canisters
at dry fields managing to set a fire that engulfed an olive grove
(fortunately, the Palestinian fire department quick response saved most of
the field and the nearby homes). The apartheid forces also aimed tear gas
at far away homes in Beit Jala to senda message of fear to the local
population. And Israeli Occupation ‘intelligence’ Officer Fadi came and
then tagged us and as we were trying to leave in my car mocked us and call
out my name with his loud speaker.
Where is the Palestinian Gandhi by Mazin Qumsiyeh, The Link – Volume 43,
Issue 3, July – August 2010
Proof of doctored videos and audio now surfaces after the Israeli attack and
Why, really, was the USS Liberty attacked by Israel?
Alan Hart’s keynote address to the annual re-union dinner of the Liberty
Veterans’ Association – Long Island, 12 June 2010.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,