Monthly Archives: May 2013

Grave Disorder*, an incident in Assiwiya

Settler attacks in the West Bank are often violent, causing injury to Palestinians or the destruction of olive trees, particularly in Hebron, the South Hebron Hills, or by the Yizhar which is around Nablus.

The damage to property of the inhabitants of Assawiya was of a lesser degree by comparison. But it caused loss of livelihood, fear, and disempowerment. The village is divided by a highway (an Israeli road built without legitimate planning procedures) which in itself has caused dislocation and access problems to the farmland etc.

This incident happened last week to the part of the village nearest the settlement of Eli. I witnessed the aftermath of the events that had happened in the early hours of that morning, travelling there with Arafat Abu Ras. 

What we saw first was the wanton destruction of a small roadside garden ‘centre’; graffiti sprayed on the ornamental pots, and the cutting down and uprooting of plants. Moving up the hill there were many punctured tractor tyres made totally unusable, and one car with four damaged tyres. ‘Revenge’ in Hebrew was sprayed on one garage door. Most devastating of all was the desecration by graffiti of two graves of a father and his brother. If the Palestinians had damaged Jewish graves, this would be deemed as anti-Semitic and a threat to the state of Israel.

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 damaged tyre

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 damaged plants

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 more damaged plants

 

Gill's blog 26 May 2013 pot graffitied

gill's blog 26 May 2013 graffitied graves

There was a sizeable Israeli army and border police presence in the village which had been there all day. But no settlers had been interviewed, they were there merely to prevent confrontations between the villagers and the settlers breaking out. In all cases of vandalism by settlers the army takes the side of the settlers, an illustration of the daily intimidation happening to Palestinians.

* passing reference to punk band The Damned’s album

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Inflammatory Taunts and Intimidation (‘Dialoguing’ with the Israeli Army part 2)

Demonstrating to mark ‘Al Nakba’ and setting off as usual with chanting and singing, villagers and internationals made their way to the hillside overlooking al Qus spring.

Gill's blog may 25 photo 1

This spring is owned by Bashir Tamimi but, since 2009, only settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish are allowed use to use it. It is either ‘policed’ by settlers or the army and villagers are physically prevented from going there. Only two days previously Nariman and her husband Bassem had tried to visit the spring with a journalist but were almost immediately confronted by ten armed settlers from Halamish. Bassem said that a verbal confrontation ensued and, although they stayed calm, it escalated into them being pushed around and so they decided to leave before any physical harm was done.

Today, some villagers walked down to the spring already guarded by the Israeli Occupation Forces. I stayed with other internationals on the hilltop and soon the soldiers on the hill started shooting tear gas. The dry grass caught fire (this is when the battery in my camera ran out must remember to charge it before I leave!) and started spreading quite rapidly….

Gill's blog 25 May photo 3

Some villagers attempted to put out the fire whilst the soldiers stood by and shouted May your village burn!’ in Hebrew, which was translated for us by an Israeli activist.

More soldiers appeared and, as we seemed to be surrounded, we walked back to the village. And yes we were ‘captured’. We were videoed throughout the detention by a young woman soldier, but of course we did not film the soldiers or settlers so as to avoid provocation. Quite politely passports were demanded, I did not have mine (!) I did offer a credit card but this was met with a tut. I think they were mainly interested in the Israeli activists who come to Nabi Saleh every Friday. After about 20 minutes of being ‘corralled’ we were asked to leave the village…which is an impossibility anyway as it is under curfew. And so when the coast was clear we made our way back to Naji and Boshra’s

Again the skunk tank entered the village to spray the vile liquid on all houses it can reach.This is a sort of collective punishment as not all of the villagers join the protest. And certainly no questions are asked about whose house is whose. At least the petrol station was spared this week; I think the owner is getting really peed off, on the one hand his ice cream sales go up on Fridays but the stench must have an negative effect on petrol sales from passing trade!

Gill's blog 2 May photo 2

So we sit and chat, kick the football around, analyse the afternoon events and wait for the soldiers to leave for Shabbat.

I can stay at Nabi Saleh but I feel the need to return to the Ramallah bubble to process the afternoon’s experience. I have come more than accustomed to the demonstrations and, apart from not wanting be injured, am not fazed by close contact with the army. But there is a numbing effect, however hard these people struggle nothing changes. I know that they are feeling the same way and reviewing their tactics; but in a month or so I will be gone and they will still be struggling…..

Bilal has a jerkin with the slogan:

“We will not die silence” …..their voices really need to be heard more.

Gill's blog 25 May photo 4

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Dialogue and Peace Talking or Just Words, Words, Words?

(more photos to follow, be sure to check back)

Truth and reconciliation is an inspiring and healing ideal but can reconciliation happen without truth? They are surely inseparable – you just can’t have one without the other. As the majority of the Israel public is in denial of Al Nakba, its creation of the refugee situation and the existence of a country called Palestine (which it classifies as disputed territories) it would seem that true reconciliation via any Peace Process is impossible. Also there is a dichotomy between what the popular resistance on the ground want and the ‘negotiations’ that take place between the global actors with their blueprints of how to achieve the seemingly unachievable.

‘Dialoguing’ with the Israeli Army in Nabi Saleh May 10th

The Friday non-violent demonstration started in a light mood with many songs and kids playfully running around. When the skunk tank made its way up the road the march dispersed. Some went into the village; others made there way up to the hill overlooking the village spring, which has been seized by settlers and is now out of bounds to Nabi Saleh villagers.

The soldiers were already there preventing access to the hillside, probably on the pretext of it being a closed military zone though no paperwork was shown. The Palestinian woman who had lead the singing attempted a talk with them, which was met with stoic silence. She became quite animated, telling them they were standing on village land, while we looked on.

After about 10 minutes, a soldier said ‘you don’t want to leave’ and proceeded to let off sound grenades and shoot tear gas so we walked quickly into neighbours’ houses. On the other side of the village, Bilal, who has a press card and video camera donated to him by the Israeli human rights organisation B’tselem to record events in Nabi Saleh, had a more violent confrontation with the army. Believing he was being targeted by a soldier, he stood in front of his house, and was hit with a tear gas canister. Luckily only on his arm.

Gill's blog 24 May 2013

Photo credit: Tamimi Press

So this is the face of the occupation on the ground, what happens on the top level?

The Renewal of the Peace Talks

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has asked for a halt to settlement building before sitting down to the creaking negotiating table in June. While Israeli leader Benjamin Netahaynu has halted proposed settlement expansion in E1, 294 houses have been given the go ahead in Bet El. And yesterday, 16th May, he legalised 4 outposts which until now the Israeli Civil Administration considered illegal. Many believe the two state solution is dead in the water and the only hope for the Palestinians is the one state option. On that note here are two comments from Henry Siegman, an Israeli Jewish elder and statesman: ‘The Peace Process is probably the greatest scam in modern diplomatic history, and future historians are going to be absolutely in awe in how that was pulled off’ and ‘ Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world’. It’s Friday and I return to Nabi Saleh to witness another “dialogue” with the IOF.

* http://www.arabnews.com/news/45168 ** http://mondoweiss.net/2013/05/prophetic-siegman-statesman.html

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Passports and Pollution

Passports and Pollution – A visit to Sebastia
Sebastia is famous for its magnificent greenery and for being a very important archeological site, with historic Greek and Roman remains. According to Christian tradition, this is where the body of John the Baptist was buried and, during the Crusades, a cathedral was built over his tomb. Years later, Muslims returning to the area under the rule of Salah al-Din transformed the cathedral into a mosque.The town also contains Herodian, medieval and Byzantine relics and ruins situated among the olive groves, making it an ideal destination for Palestinian visitors and tourists alike. Or does it? Seefoot note below*
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My Visit
I spent a wonderful afternoon, including lunch of course, with Ahmed and family. Hot and sunny it was, but the view from his garden was clouded by a dust storm that must have brewed up from Jordan. Ahmed was full of stories and anecdotes but the one that struck me most was about his grandfather’s passport. Issued in 1939 by Britain, as his grandfather was the Muktar, village leader, his passport declared he could travel anywhere in the world except to those countries opposed to the UK! Now his grandson Ahmed cannot even visit England; his visa was turned down this year although he was asked to come on a cultural friendship exchange by Hanwell Friends of Sebastia. Interestingly the old passport contains English, Palestinian and Hebrew headings. I left together with a present of a Roman coin Ahmed had found in his garden amongst some remnants of Roman columns
 
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Settlements – ecological disaster zones
Of course every village is affected by the Occupation in some way and, idyllic as it is, Sebastia is no exception. Nearby Shavei Shomron settlers constantly uproot olive trees but in February the town became increasingly threatened when they started pumping their sewage waste onto the village fields their settlement overlooks.Sebastia’s residents said the raw sewage flowed onto their fields causing substantial damage to crops as well as their apricot and olive trees. In addition to threatening the town’s agriculture and environment, the wastewater (which flows from a pipe around the settlement and creates puddles leading down to the fields) would also eventually affect tourism to the archeological sites.

Activism Works! – A combined effort of resistance followed.

After repeated appeals to authorities, the villagers formed a committee to deal with the sewage dumping problem. They organised a series of demonstrations to garner support and news coverage for their plight.

Three peaceful demonstrations took place over two months, attended by Palestinians, Israelis and international observers who walked towards the settlement and its sewage pipe carrying placards. They were met en route by Israeli troops who attempted to disperse them using tear gas. Lobbying of MPs and letters to the UK Consul in Jerusalem added to the pressure. Ultimately, their voices were heard and the sewage was turned off on April 3rd just before the fourth demonstration was due to take place.

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Ahmed with hand made placard – the shit out of here!

*Unlike the town itself (in Area B, which the Oslo Accords place under the joint control of the Palestinian Authority and Israel), the major archaeological site on the hilltop is part of Area C, meaning it’s under Israeli jurisdiction. The obvious ramifications of this to locals is that Israeli citizens can visit the site, but not the village, which means interaction with Palestinians is limited and tourist dollars hardly ever trickle down to local businesses. It also means that the only history Israeli tourists are exposed to is that of ancient times — one that precludes the presence of Palestinians throughout Christian and Muslim periods.

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