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A Beautiful Occupation!

09.01.2005 15:57 | Anti-militarism | Palestine | Repression

Reports from Hebron and Jayyous in the West Bank by two British Peace activists. Four Palestinan children between 6 and 8 years old are arrested for playing in the street whilst the Israeli regieme conscripts its youth who are little more then children themselves to enforce an illegal apartheid system.

Read all reports by these activists: |1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||11||12|

Hebron 03/01/2005

Myself and three other internationals arrive in Hebron to liaise with local land action groups to fight the land seizures as more illegal settlements are built and the plans for the apartheid wall continue.

Hebron has been a divided city since the implementation of the Hebron accords which sliced it into areas H1 and H2, the population of over 120,000 people is all Palestinian Muslim apart from 500 or so Israeli settlers who are protected around the clock by 1200 Israeli soldiers.

We step from our taxi and walk down hill through a busy market to the old city where we will be based. We reach what appears to be a pedestrianised area but is in fact a ghost town in recession. This part of the old city has been closed to Palestinian traffic since 1994, when settler Baruch Goldstein, acting on a message from God, fired a machine gun into a congregation of men and boys praying

at Ibrihimi mosque, killing 29.

Jewish settlement Tel Rumeida towers squeaky clean above the deserted central street, which lies shrouded beneath an iron grid erected to prevent injury from the heavy objects and refuse dropped from the settlement.

As we pass under the mesh I notice it is dented from the impact of great lumps of concrete thrown down, along with fibre glass roof insulation, bricks and plastic bottles. The new ISM apartment sits one street up from this demonstration of brotherly love.

We near the apartment a contingent of Israeli soldiers on maneuver training appear with their guns pointing in front of them cris-cross the street ducking in and out of doorways. They point their guns straight into the faces of people on the street. They also push their guns into my face and those of the other internationals, then into the faces of four small boys playing outside the bakery.

Later on we go out for groceries, cutting through ancient twisting passageways to avoid the main army check point guarding the central settlement of the old city. We trek up hill towards the market and hear concerned shouts, a woman runs towards us in much distress indicating that we go with her to the check point. Four boys aged between 12 and 14 years old are lined up in front of a border police jeep about to be arrested. There are also four younger boys aged between 6- 8 years kept squatting on the ground under the guard of another soldier.

TIPH - Temporary International Presence in Hebron are present. I ask one of them what is going on as he starts to explain the other TIPH person rudely states that “TIPH cannot speak to tourists”

We then try to speak with the soldiers who respond by throwing the older boys into the back of the jeep and driving around in circles. A crowd of older men and women have gathered, we all try to prevent the jeeps exit. I ask the driver if I can travel with the boys to wherever they will be taken but the jeep skids away leaving the four younger boys alone with the soldier.

They had all been playing football in the street; one of the older boys threw a stone at another boy nowhere near the soldiers but this was enough for them all to be placed under arrest. Their distressed relatives took us to their nearby home, to discuss what to do out of ear shot of the soldiers. While we were away the detained younger boys were also taken.

It is common for children under the age of 14 to be arrested in Hebron and held over night without their parents or guardians being notified. I cannot imagine the outcry if Palestinian police arrested settler children for the serious offence of playing out in the street, held them over night without informing their parents.

Article 31 of the convention of the rights of the child states: 1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

Occupation is not just the violent deaths and bloody incursions into the west bank that often fill our news but is also about the routine humiliations and psychological tortures that occur. When children go missing it is traumatic for any parent but considering the amount of Palestinian children killed in this Intafada, to take young people away without informing their loved ones is utter cruelty. Things that are taken for granted in western civil society simply do not exist for Palestinians.

On the Shabbat the (Jewish Sabbath), it is usual for settlers to parade the old city taunting the Palestinian community and vandalizing homes. On this Saturday the internationals witnessed soldiers running into houses, and standing guard on roofs as a pro Zionist settler tour processed through the old city. They stopped outside our apartment, one activist, heard the tour guide say “This is the home of a European group that supports Arab terrorists!

A Beautiful Occupation

The fence between Jayyous and Jayyous' land On Tuesday the 4th of December about 30 ISM activists went up to Jayyous to join a local informational meeting and olive tree planting action against the devastating effects that the Apartheid Wall is having on the people there. Jayyous is a poor rural village of about 3200 Palestinians in the West of the Qalqilya region of the occupied West Bank. What is happening there is terrible. The State of Israel is building a so-called “security barrier” throughout the West Bank, supposedly to keep out suicide bombers.

If you wanted to put up a fence between your garden and your neighbor’s you would have to put it on your side, right? Apparently the state of Israel thinks differently. Here, as in most of the West Bank, the so called “security barrier” (actually a fence in this section) was built well within the 1967 Green Line, so that yet more Palestinian land is confiscated and effectively annexed to Israel.

At the meeting there were many ‘respectable’ types. The mayor of Jayyous spoke of 74% of their land being confiscated. He also said that 90% of the population in this province depends on agriculture for their living. The land was confiscated to allow expansion of the existing Zufin settlement (built on land confiscated in 1993) into a new settlement called “Nofei Zufim” ("North Zufin"). He described how the village used to be self-sufficient. Now, with the land they depend on being stolen by the Israeli government, they are not sure how they will support the students and newly unemployed in the village. He wanted the democracy of the first world nations brought to Palestine, so that they could live like the other sovereign nations. He said that no peace negotiations can take place while the Wall is being built, and asked why the Wall is not being built on the 1967 Green Line if the Israeli Government truly wants peace.

Israeli Border Police use US equipment to keep Palesinians from their land The Governor of the region said similar things, thanking all the international supporters present (there were many), and mentioned several individuals and groups (including the ISM) by name. He stated that Israel’s intention was to siege the Palestinians and push them into ghettos. The statistic he gave was that 58% out of the whole West Bank would be annexed to Israel after the wall was complete, which would increase poverty since Palestinians are so dependant on their land. Uprooting olive trees with bulldozers will not bring peace, which must be based on justice. He also brought up legal decisions, asking for the usual UN resolutions to be implemented and mentioning Israeli court decisions that have declared the wall around Jayyous illegal. He also made the point that they have proven the Western media wrong when they were going on about how the Palestinians would tear themselves apart in civil war after Arafat’s death - showing they were a people of democracy. He ended by saying that victory for the Palestinian people is a victory for world peace, and that this Wall will fall “as the Berlin wall fell".

Restriction of movement There were then some European speakers, including the Chair of Stop the Occupation in Holland and an Italian MEP. The most interesting, though was Chris from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. He gave a moving account of what happened on the 9th of December when he and some Israeli activist had passed through a gate in the fence to go olive picking in the confiscated olive tree groves. They saw something there that I had not heard of until that meeting - whole olive trees being uprooted and taken away to be sold in Tel Aviv and other places, including to settlers. A Danish member of the EAPPI called Hele had said the same thing to me and described how on some of the newest settlements, you can see extremely old trees. Before this meeting, I had assumed the Israeli government just destroyed them, but it seems they steal them too. On that day in December,two armed settlers accompanied the truck that took the trees away - they said they were from the Jordan valley. After the settlers and the truck left, Jameel Saleem and his brother Tariq came down to assess the damage (they could not do this on a whim, by the way - all Palestinians from the village need a permit to go through the gate to their own source of income). IDF soldiers and more settlers soon turned up and Tariq presented their documents of ownership to the soldiers who then ordered the uprooting and expansion to stop immediately. Counting, the Palestinians found that 117 trees had been uprooted on that day alone. Jameel planted these trees himself 35 years ago; “now what can I do?” was his _expression of frustration to the world.

Since that day in December, it seems that uprooting of their trees has continued regardless, with 700 trees destroyed or stolen up until the 17th of December alone.

After the meeting we went up to a gate to the groves, which was guarded by lots of soldiers. The more official international types (EU and the like) tried unsuccessfully to negotiate us passage through to the fields to plant new olive trees. The end result was that we ended up going to another section of the fence and planted them on the village side of the fence.

On the way back to Jerusalem I was talking to a Palestinian named Mohammed in the taxi. He said he would like to visit London, and asked whether I preferred there or Palestine. I was just commenting on the evident friendliness of the Palestinian people and was describing it as a beautiful place when something interesting happened.

We were pulled over by Israeli soldiers - a flying checkpoint. Checkpoints are not just fixed features of the West Bank and Gaza Strip - two soldiers, a Humvee and some concrete blocks can make a checkpoint. It was not too bad this time, with a delay of only 15 minutes or so (the Israeli authorities are relatively calm at the moment with all the internationals here because of the PA elections). Still, having an M16 lazily waved at your windshield to pull over the taxi you’re in is not exactly a beautiful experience.

“Palestine is not so beautiful", Mohammed sadly commented afterwards.

Read other reports on Palestine: |1||3||5|


Display the following 21 comments

  1. Jayyous — - -
  2. Cleansing the Kingdom — Ignored by the "I Love Palestinians" crowd
  3. More bollocks — Nazihunter
  4. One more thing — Nazihunter
  5. Without serious steps to end the occupation no "window of opportunity" — Gush Shalom / fwd
  6. about Nazihunter's comments — Jonathan 2
  7. One more thing — Hermes
  8. ... — Hermes
  9. To Hermes — Nazihunter
  10. Hermes — Observer
  11. Repression — Nazihunter
  12. Miss Diss and false information — Twin Torrifagiani
  13. ... — Hermes
  14. ... — Hermes
  15. Facts versus luncay — Nazihunter
  16. Land, Peace and Camp David — zion 1
  17. ... — Hermes
  18. To Hermes — Nazihunter
  19. above is the new below — jonathan 2
  20. ... — Hermes
  21. Thoughts on terror — Nazihunter