Thursday, December 27, 2007

Remembering Beit Sahour

A lovely article from I hope they will forgive me for reprinting it in its entirety. Their website is well worth a visit.

We, the people of Bayt Sahur, being an integral part of the Palestinian people and its Intifada, refuse to pay taxes to the occupiers of our land, considering such payment to be a symbol of slavery and oppression. We consider the occupation of one people by another to be a clear violation of all international laws and religions, and it is in violation of the most basic human rights and democratic principles. We strongly believe that every citizen has to pay taxes to his national government in order to enable it to perform its duties and obligations. No taxation without representation!

With this leaflet from November 5, 1989, the people of Bayt Sahur (Beit Sahour) announced the beginning of a campaign of civil disobedience centered around the nonpayment of taxes to the Israeli government. Israel, afraid that such resistance would become a model to other villages and towns throughout the Palestinian territories during the first Intifada, responded to their resistance with force.

Bayt Sahur is a largely Christian village in the West Bank with a population of approximately 12,000. Its Christian population hundreds of years, and local legend asserts that it was Bayt Sahurian shepherds to whom the bright star above Bethlehem signaling the birth of Jesus Christ appeared. The reason for this, the legend goes, is that Bayt Sahurians have a legendary reputation for gossip, and God therefore figured the news of Christ's coming would travel quickest if Bayt Sahurians found out first.

Bayt Sahur was the site of perhaps the most organized and effective Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonialism during the first Intifada. Residents of Bayt Sahur quickly concluded that the Intifada was no passing phenomenon and began organizing their own resistance beginning in January, 1988. Initial attempts at a coordinated, regional network failed, but more localized efforts flourished and soon, much of the town was involved in active resistance to Israeli colonialism.

This resistance took the form of popular committees organized by the citizens of Bayt Sahur at the grassroots. These popular committees, lijan sha'biya in Arabic, were the driving force of the Intifada, and established a security force to fight Israeli settlers and the Israeli army. They also organized commerce, medical care, and even judicial affairs. The people of Bayt Sahur did all this at great personal risk, since many of these activities were illegal, and could even result in their death.

Perhaps the most memorable campaign of resistance that occurred in Bayt Sahur during the Intifada was city resident's refusal to pay taxes to the Israeli government. This followed a call by the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) from February 5, 1988, to conduct "complete civil disobedience" ('isyan muduni shamil) including the nonpayment of taxes. The Israeli response began in July of that year. On July 7th, a curfew was enacted and numerous people were arrested. A sit-down strike was soon organized to demand the release of all those arrested. This, too, was brutally repressed by Israeli authorities, who arrested hundreds of people who took part in this action, sending many to prison. On July 17th, Archbishop Michel Sabbah threatened to begin a hunger strike unless the curfew was lifted. The Israeli authorities so feared the leader of Palestinian Christians and his ability through his actions to motivate others to resistance, that they called off the curfew that day. These and similar skirmishes continued for over a year, until in September of 1989, Israel decided to put an end to Bayt Sahur's civil disobedience campaign once and for all.

On September 20th, 1989, Israeli troops surrounded Bayt Sahur, setting up military checkpoints, cutting telephone lines, and barring nonresidents entry. Tax officials entered Bayt Sahur with armed security personnel and began raiding businesses and private residences, taking cash when available, but settling for other valuables, such as couches, TV sets, chairs and tables when they had to. On October 4th, Israeli authorities eased their siege and allowed Palestinians to pay taxes. No one did. This enraged Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who declared that Israel was going to "teach a lesson" to Bayt Sahur, knowing that the resistance in Bayt Sahur had to be crushed so that it would not be seen as an effective model of resistance elsewhere in Palestine. Following this declaration, Israeli aggression intensified, finally ending on October 31st, 1989 with the withdrawal of Israeli troops, although not before collecting almost $1.5 million in goods from Palestinian businesses and homes.

Although costly, the withdrawal of Israeli troops was hailed as a victory by the people of Bayt Sahur, who quickly thereafter hosted a Day of Prayer celebration. This celebration was attended by the mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Sa'd al-Din al-'Alami, who was greeted enthusiastically when he visited the churches of Bayt Sahur. In solidarity with the struggle of the people of Bayt Sahur, 'Alami issued a fatwa against the purchase of any goods confiscated by israeli authorities during the month of siege, calling it "stolen property," and declaring that, "It is forbidden or a Muslim, Arab, or any man with a conscience to buy any of these unjustly plundered goods. Purchasing any such item is like participating in the theft of the plundered goods, and whoever does so deserves punishment for stealing his brothers' property." At auction, much of this confiscated property did not sell.

This Christmas, let people of all faiths and denominations remember and honor our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, past, present, and future, in their struggle against Israeli apartheid.

(This account owes much to factual information and analysis found in chapter 4 of Glenn Robinson's Building a Palestinian State, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

From Sami Awad:
Christmas in Bethlehem; A Time for Joy and Resilience

I received the most wonderful article in my in-box today. Here's a taste:
The colored strings of lights are now decorating its streets. As you drive past homes you now see Christmas trees proudly placed in front of windows so that all may see. Manger Street is full of traffic at night but no one is complaining for everyone is waiting their turn to receive candy from one of the many Santa Clauses dancing with joy in the street. Everywhere you go you hear Christmas songs played from small radios placed in front of stores or on balconies. In Manger Square, the main Christmas tree shines with bright colors and decorations. The joy is doubled in this holy city this year as both the Palestinian Christians and the Muslim communities celebrate. Christmas and Eid Al-Adha (the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice) have come together this year.
Check out the rest of the article on Sami Awad's wonderful blog (with a fresh new, lovely look): Never Give Up

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hannah, a wonderful woman I had the privilege of working with in International Women's Peace Service, is an American Jew, co-founder of Birthright Unplugged and ceaseless supporter of the Palestinian struggle. She has some wonderful things to say:

I am feeling optimistic about Palestine.

I know it sounds crazy. How can I use “optimistic” and “Palestine” in the same sentence when conditions on the ground only seem to get worse? Israeli settlements continue to expand on a daily basis, the checkpoints and segregated road system are becoming more and more institutionalized, Israel is holding 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners illegally in Israeli jails, Gaza is under heavy attack and the borders are entirely controlled by Israel, preventing people from getting their basic human needs met.

We can never forget these things, we can never forget the daily suffering of the people, and yet I do dare to say I am optimistic. Why? Ehud Olmert. Let me clarify. Better yet, let’s let him clarify:

"The day will come when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights. As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

That’s right, the Prime Minister of Israel is currently trying to negotiate a “two-state solution” specifically because he realizes that if he doesn’t, Palestinians might begin to demand, en masse, equal rights to Israelis. Furthermore, he worries, the world might begin to see Israel as an apartheid state. In actuality, most of the world already sees Israel this way, but Olmert is worried that even Israel’s most ardent supporters will begin to catch up with the rest of the world.

"The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us," he told Ha’aretz, "because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents."

Perhaps Olmert is giving American Jews too much credit here, but he does expose a basic contradiction in the minds of most American people, Jewish and not: Most of us, at least in theory, support equal rights for all residents of a country. Most of us do NOT support rights given on the basis of ethnicity and religion, especially when the ethnicity/religion being prioritized is one that excludes the vast majority of the country’s indigenous population. We cannot, of course, forget our own history of ethnic cleansing on this continent. But we must not use the existence of past atrocities to justify present ones.

I am optimistic not because I think the process of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in Israel/Palestine is going to end tomorrow, but because I can feel the ideology behind these policies beginning to collapse. For years the true meaning of political Zionism has been as ignored as its effects on Palestinian daily life. And suddenly it is beginning to break open. Olmert’s comments last week are reminiscent of those of early Zionist leaders who talked openly of transfer and ethnic cleansing in order to create an artificial Jewish majority in historic Palestine.

“We must expel the Arabs and take their places and if we have to use force to guarantee our own right to settle in those places – then we have force at our disposal.” – David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, 1937

So this idea of a “two-state solution” a la Olmert, which I would argue provides neither a “state” nor a “solution” for the Palestinian people, is the new transfer. It is no longer popular in the world to openly discuss expulsion (though there are political parties in Israel that advocate this), but Olmert hopes that by creating a Palestinian “state” on a tiny portion of historic Palestine, he can accomplish the same goal: maintaining an ethno-religious state exclusively for the Jewish people in most of historic Palestine. His plan, as all other plans Israeli leaders have tried to “negotiate,” ignores the basic rights of the two thirds of the Palestinian population who are refugees. They, like all other refugees in the world, have the internationally recognized right to return to their lands and receive compensation for loss and damages. This should not be up for negotiation.

So why am I optimistic?

Why do I think Olmert will fail, if not in the short term, at least in the long term? There are many signs.

The first and most important is that Palestinian people are holding on. Sometimes by a thread, but holding on nonetheless. Despite the hope of many in Israel, Palestinians will not disappear. They engage in daily acts of nonviolent resistance, from demonstrations against the Wall and land confiscation, to simply remaining in their homes against all odds. Young people are joining organizations designed to preserve their culture and identity. Older Palestinians have said to me, “We lived through the Ottoman Empire, we lived through the British Mandate, we lived through Jordanian rule, and we will live through Israeli occupation.” This too shall pass.

In Israel, it seems that within the traditional “Zionist left,” Jewish Israelis are beginning to have open conversations about the exclusivity of Zionism as a political ideology, and are questioning it more and more.

In the United States, I have been traveling around speaking to groups about Palestine, and they get it. Even those whose prior information has come only from US mainstream media, when they hear what is actually happening, they get it. When we explain the difference between being Jewish (a religion or ethnicity), Israeli (a citizenship), and Zionist (an ideology), people understand.

Does Israel have a right to exist? people ask. What does that mean? Do countries really have
rights, or do people have rights? The Jewish people have a right to exist, the Israeli people have a right to exist, but what does “Israel” mean? Israel defines itself as the state of the Jewish people. It is not a state of its citizens. It is a state of many people who are not its citizens, like myself, and is not the state of many people who are its citizens, like the twenty percent of its population that is Palestinian. So if we ask a Palestinian person, “Do you recognize the right for there to be a country on your historic homeland that explicitly excludes you?” what kind of response should we expect?

So when Olmert warns that we will “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights” and that “the state of Israel [will be] finished,” I get a little flutter of excitement. I think of the 171 Palestinian organizations who have called on the international community to begin campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until Israel complies with international law. This is already a South African-style struggle, and we outside of Palestine need to do our part. Especially those of us who live in the US, the country that gives Israel more than $10 million every single day, must take responsibility for the atrocities committed in our name and with our money.

Ultimately, this is our role as Americans. It is to begin campaigns in our churches, synagogues, mosques, universities, cities, unions, etc. It is not to broker false negotiations between occupier and occupied, and it is not to muse over solutions the way I have above. But one can dream. And as a Jewish American, I know that while it might be scary to some, while it will require a lot of imagination, the end of Israel as a Jewish state could mean the beginning of democracy, human rights, and some semblance of justice in a land that has almost forgotten what that means.

Friday, December 07, 2007

At-Tuwani: Demonstrators Walk in Solidarity to Tuba Village
3 December 2007

On Saturday, 1 December, more than 200 Israelis, Palestinians and internationals walked from At-Tuwani to the nearby village of Tuba. The walk highlighted the violent harassment and other severe difficulties faced by villagers in the Southern Hebron Hills of the West Bank. These difficulties continue to worsen with the growth of unauthorized* Israeli settlement outposts.

Located a few kilometers outside the larger Palestinian city of Yatta, At-Tuwani serves as a gateway to trade, education and healthcare for a handful of more remote villages. Tuba is just a 20 minute walk southeast of At-Tuwani by the most direct route, which the people of Tuba traveled regularly before the construction of the Ma'on settlement (1984) and adjacent unauthorized outpost of Havot Ma'on (2000). Since then, settler attacks have forced Palestinians to take a longer route, which is about one hour on foot or by donkey.

Settler violence has also blocked Tuba villagers from reaching their fields for routine plowing, sowing and grazing. The Israeli peace organization, Ta'ayush, which cosponsored Saturday's march, hoped that a large Israeli activist presence would enable Tuba farmers to plow without harassment.

Initially the Israeli army tried to block the demonstrators from leaving At-Tuwani, but the large crowd peacefully pushed through the army cordon and continued over the hills to Tuba. The Palestinians successfully plowed and sowed their fields with only minor disruptions. Two Israeli settlers ran down into a field and tried to disrupt the work, but soldiers prevented them from doing so. An Israeli soldier also tried to disrupt plowing by confiscating the key of the tractor, but the farmer restarted it and continued working.

After a peaceful gathering with Tuba villagers outside their caves, the demonstrators returned to At-Tuwani in the afternoon on a path next to the outpost. Clapping and singing, they walked past dozens of Havot Ma'on settlers who came out to watch, dressed in white Shabbat robes. Some younger settlers tried to disrupt the procession, but Israeli soldiers and police restrained them.

Later in the evening, Israeli settlers attacked a boy from Tuba and stole his donkey. Two CPTers and two members of Michigan Peace Teams spent the night in Tuba, in case of further retaliation by settlers, but there was none.

*Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law; however, the settlement outposts are illegal under Israeli law.

Note: Tuba and its fields are situated within a vast tract of land that the Israeli government threatens to confiscate and use as a military firing range. This case is still under jurisdiction. If the Israeli Supreme Court finds in favor of the state and the army, they will expel all the villagers from their homes.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tuwani's Mosque

RELEASE: Demolition Order Issued for Mosque in at-Tuwani

November 26, 2007

On November 26th, at 2:30pm, an Israeli army jeep and a white pickup truck, belonging to the Israeli District Coordination Office* (DCO), drove into the village of at-Tuwani and left an order for the demolition of the village mosque.

Israeli officials did not speak with anyone from the village. They placed the written order under a stone near the mosque and then drove out of the village. The demolition order gives the villagers five days to either demolish the building themselves or obtain an Israeli court ruling to suspend the order.

The villagers built a mosque in 1987, but the Israeli military demolished it that same year. Although they were unable to obtain building permission from the Israeli authorities, the villagers decided to rebuild their mosque at the end of 2006. In May 2007 the Israeli authorities issued a 'stop building order' for the mosque. This order generally precedes a demolition order.

At the time of this writing the villagers have not decided on their response to the demolition order.

Demolitions orders have also recently been issued for two homes in the village of Imneizil, close to the Green Line and the route of the southern section of the separation barrier.

* The DCO is part of the Civil Administration, the section of the Israeli army that deals with Palestinian civilian affairs in areas of the occupied Palestinian territories under Israeli control.
"No Way to the Inn - Bethlehem Behind the Wall" Campaign

Advent 2007

If the Christmas story were to happen today, Mary and Joseph would have a hard time getting to Bethlehem....

Shepherds and Magi walled out of Bethlehem - my mother's wonderful creation.

Join in this effort to uplift the crisis facing Bethlehem and remember the Palestinians cut-off from traditional lands.

Since 2002, Israeli authorities have been building a separation barrier that snakes through the occupied Palestinian territories, in effect annexing valuable Palestinian land and water resources. To clear the way, Palestinians living near the security barrier often face the threat of home demolitions. According to Israeli human rights monitoring organization B'tselem, the separation barrier affects nearly half a million Palestinian residents, and currently the barrier separates almost twelve percent of the land on the Palestinian side of the 1967 Green Line from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. When completed, the barrier will be 780 km long.

Action Ideas

During the seasons of Advent and Christmas, consider these ideas:

Build a Wall around your nativity or crèche: Be creative! Build a wall encircling the crèche set, with no one or nothing else in view. Perhaps leave Mary and Joseph outside the wall (they certainly would have difficulty entering Bethlehem from Nazareth today!)

The three kings outside Bethlehem on a UN OCHA road closure map.
The solid red line indicates the completed separation barrier,
and the red-and-white line shows the separation barrier
currently under construction. The solid green line represents
the 1949 Armistice/Green Line.

Contact the local media regarding your family, small group, or church decision to erect a wall surrounding your Nativity set. Use this opportunity to explain to the media (and the broader public) about the separation barrier the Israeli government is building throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. Note: If you decide to extend the campaign through to Epiphany, call the media on 1 January, which is often a slow news day.

Take pictures of your wall. If you make your own Christmas cards, consider using a photo of your nativity/crèche set surrounded by the wall. In the card, explain why you are doing so

E-mail pictures of your wall to The CPT Palestine teams will compile and use the pictures for broader distribution.

More ideas available at

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Demands of a Thief
By Gideon Levy, Published in Haaretz

The public discourse in Israel has momentarily awoken from its slumber. "To give or not to give," that is the Shakespearean question - "to make concessions" or "not to make concessions." It is good that initial signs of life in the Israeli public have emerged. It was worth going to Annapolis if only for this reason - but this discourse is baseless and distorted. Israel is not being asked "to give" anything to the Palestinians; it is only being asked to return - to return their stolen land and restore their trampled self-respect, along with their fundamental human rights and humanity. This is the primary core issue, the only one worthy of the title, and no one talks about it anymore.

No one is talking about morality anymore. Justice is also an archaic concept, a taboo that has deliberately been erased from all negotiations. Two and a half million people - farmers, merchants, lawyers, drivers, daydreaming teenage girls, love-smitten men, old people, women, children and combatants using violent means for a just cause - have all been living under a brutal boot for 40 years. Meanwhile, in our cafes and living rooms the conversation is over giving or not giving.

Lawyers, philosophers, writers, lecturers, intellectuals and rabbis, who are looked upon for basic knowledge about moral precepts, participate in this distorted discourse. What will they tell their children - after the occupation finally becomes a nightmare of the past - about the period in which they wielded influence? What will they say about their role in this? Israeli students stand at checkpoints as part of their army reserve duty, brutally deciding the fate of people, and then some rush off to lectures on ethics at university, forgetting what they did the previous day and what is being done in their names every single day. Intellectuals publish petitions, "to make concessions" or "not to make concessions," diverting attention from the core issue. There are stormy debates about corruption - whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is corrupt and how the Supreme Court is being undermined. But there is no discussion of the ultimate question: Isn't the occupation the greatest and most terrible corruption to have taken root here, overshadowing everything else?

Security officials are terrified about what would happen if we removed a checkpoint or released prisoners, like the whites in South Africa who whipped up a frenzy of fear about the "great slaughter" that would ensue if blacks were granted their rights. But these are not legitimate questions: The incarceration must be ended and the myriad of political prisoners should be released unconditionally. Just as a thief cannot present demands - neither preconditions nor any other terms - to the owner of the property he has robbed, Israel cannot present demands to the other side as long as the situation remains as it is.

Security? We must defend ourselves by defensive means. Those who do not believe that the only security we will enjoy will come from ending the occupation and from peace can entrench themselves in the army, and behind walls and fences. But we have no right to do what we are doing: Just as no one would conceive of killing the residents of an entire neighborhood, to harass and incarcerate it because of a few criminals living there, there is no justification for abusing an entire people in the name of our security. The question of whether ending the occupation would threaten or strengthen Israel's security is irrelevant. There are not, and cannot be, any preconditions for restoring justice.

No one will discuss this at Annapolis. Even if the real core issues were raised, they would focus on secondary questions - borders, Jerusalem and even refugees. But that would be escaping the main issue. After 40 years, one might have expected that the real core issue would finally be raised for honest and bold discussion: Does Israel have the moral right to continue the occupation? The world should have asked this long ago. The Palestinians should have focused only on this. And above all, we, who bear the guilt, should have been terribly troubled by the answer to this question.
Free Tuba! Subversive Knitting

I'm nearing the end of my current trip to Palestine and I don't have much of political import left to say. But my teammate Laura, who is thrilled by her recent fame (fame, at least, on this blog), reminded me that I do have at least one more thing to offer: picture of my "Free Tuba" hotpad.

Tuba is the name of one of the small villages that are neighbors to at-Tuwani, where CPT lives. Tuba has no road - or at least no road that Palestinians can use. Israeli settlers have built their settlement and outpost around the road to Tuba and attack Palestinians who try to use it.

Tuba, therefore, is in desperate need of freedom (or at least a usable road). So in my last few nights in Tuwani, I decided that the hot pad I was making for our house ought to express that:

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's the smallest moments that distill for me what occupation means. Today, I was walking through old city of Hebron, on the way to do some shopping. I walked through the Mosque gate, through the turnstiles and towards two soldiers sitting at a checkpoint. One of them asked me where I was from and I answered the United States. "Welcome," he said. I found myself speechless. How can a soldier welcome me to a city that is not his? What do I say to this?

I went walking towards the shop and was, of course, met by a young Palestinian man who was extremely eager talk and press postcards and bracelets into my hands. We chatted and as I was buying from him a soldier walked up and grabbed a key out of the young man's pocket. It was a huge, iron key, clearly to a very old building. It was the type of key that is iconic in Palestine, often used as a symbol of 1948 refugees who carefully locked their doors as they ran away from their villages, expecting to return soon. The soldier grabbed the key and laughed. He held it up for his colleague to see. Their looks said, how old! See, the Arabs are so backward. The young man just laughed. He deals with these soldiers, stationed ten feet from his shop, every day. I did the only thing that I could do - spend money, chat, smile. Then I walked back through the checkpoint and to our apartment, feeling totally helpless.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Say What?

"We talk about compromise and they speak of justice."

- A Israeli senior negotiations offical speaking of the Palestinian negotiating team. As quoted in Haarezt article
Israel fearful PA negotiating staff could impede progress in talks

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beautiful At-Tuwani:
A Photo Essay

Humra Valley

An Olive tree from within an old house


Watering the Goats

New clothes for Eid

Up the tree, picking olives

Kids from Tuba

Beit Anankubut Spider Web

All photos taken by members of CPT at-Tuwani Team October-November 2007
The Virgin Mary and the Plowmen

Palestinians plowing their land (December 5th 2004)

Last week, I found myself in the midst of a situation that put me in mind of a Palestinian story about a figure revered by both Christian and Muslim Palestinians, the Virgin Mary:

When the Virgin Mary was on the flight to Egypt with her son in her arms, she passed by some plowmen making furrows in their filed. She said to them, “Though today you are only sowing, before the sun rises tomorrow morning, your field will be ready to harvest. But remember, if anyone comes this way and asks about me, say, she was here just as we were getting ready to plant these chickpeas.”

Indeed when the soldiers who were after the Virgin came to the place on the very next day, these same plowmen were busy harvesting chickpeas. The soldiers asked, “Has a women carrying a child passed your way recently?” The plowmen replied, “By God, such a one did go by, but that was when we were digging the furrows to sow this crop.” “O,” said her pursuers, “that must have been some time ago. How will we catch up to her now?” Excerpt from Sahtain: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating
Very soon, once the rains begin to fall over the South Hebron Hills, Palestinians will begin tilling in preparation for later planting wheat and barley. But on Friday a Palestinian landowner decided to start early, in a valley south of the Havot Ma’on Israeli settlement. This valley and valleys and hills that regularly surround it have been the sites of Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian farmers and shepherds. Therefore, when a landowner announced he was ready to begin working on his land, Palestinian community leaders began to prepare to deter and document a settler attack.

In order to ensure that one brave Palestine was able to work on his own land, Palestinian leaders had to coordinate the efforts of ten Israeli and international activists. Following the instructions Palestinian activists, six internationals spend the better part of a day observing from hillsides, prepared to gather evidence and intervene. It would be unwise and dangerous to describe exactly what Palestinians organized, but it was a James Bond-style operation. The Israeli army District Coordinating Office (DCO) was on-hand to prevent an attack and members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were prepared to collect video evidence if they did not do so (as too often happens.) In the end, settlers did not attack the plowman. Like the Virgin Mary, Palestinians outwitted their oppressors. It was another victory of Palestinian nonviolent resistance.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Olive Harvest 2007

“This is insane,” I said to my teammate Laura. We were sitting on a tarp under an olive tree not more than 20 feet away from an Israeli settlement. The Palestinian olive harvest had just begun and Laura and I were working in Susiya, a village that is surrounded by ideological Israeli settlers. Tension hung in the air and I was anxious to begin harvesting as soon as possible. Our hosts, however, had different plans. The Palestinian family that owned the land on which we sat was spreading out lunch - hummus, tomatoes and cucumbers, olive oil, tea and large round slabs of soft homemade bread. They were happily eating and chatting away, seeming to pay no mind to the dangerous area where they had decided to picnic. “Koli!” said the grandmother. Eat! I looked at Laura, dipped some bread into oil and did what I was told.

Over the last two days, Palestinians living in at-Tuwani and the nearby village of Susiya decided to harvest their olives in areas close to Israeli settlements and an Israeli army base, where Israeli settlers might attack or Israeli soldiers were likely to tell Palestinian landowners to leave. As the harvest began, we knew that harassment from settlers or soldiers was not only possible, but likely.

But the difficulties we expected never materialized. Instead, we peacefully harvested thousands of tiny olives. Over the two days of harvesting, about 200 Israeli peace activists, and five CPTers, helped Palestinian families harvest on their land. In the village of at-Tuwani, settlers came out of their settlement to watch the harvesters. The settlement “security” guard, a man who regularly harasses Palestinians and CPTers, drove his pick-up on the road for everyone to see. But the shear number of people, especially Israelis who were willing to stand up for the rights of Palestinians to use their own land, deterred an attack. For two days, ploughshares won out over swords.

In Susiya village, neither Israeli settlers nor soldiers arrived to disrupt our lunch. Instead, the grandfather with whom we sat told us about his family history as his wife thrust more and more food in our direction. We ate quietly, in the shadow of the settlement, and then began harvesting. It was utterly insane and completely miraculous.

Recently, one of CPT’s friends told us that he's planning a demonstration. He wants to have Israelis, Palestinians, and CPTers gather in an area that is normally too dangerous for Palestinians to use. On one hand, this idea is ridiculous. But I’m learning that this sort of insanity isn’t so crazy after all.

Up the tree, picking olives

Sorting Olives

Picking while the Israeli Police watch

At-Tuwani women showing everyone how the harvest is done properly

CPTers document when Israeli settlers come out of the settlement to watch the harvest.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Good Shepherds

You, God, are my Shepherd
I will never be in need.
You let me rest in fields of green grass
You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
And you refresh my life.

Abu Basil walks slowly, constantly mumbling to himself and to his sheep. At 70, he is the oldest man living in at-Tuwani. Within his life time, he has seen the end the British mandate over Palestine, the beginnings of Jewish immigration to his homeland, the 1964 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the arrival Israeli settlers in the South Hebron Hills. Throughout all of these changes, the rhythms of Abu Basil’s life have remained steady. This morning I found him grazing his sheep in a valley near the Ma’on settlement. Like every morning when I accompany him in his fields, Abu Basil shook my hand and then motioned for me to sit down on a rock. For a while we talked - not much since Abu Basil’s Arabic is nearly incomprehensible to the best Arabic speakers on our team - about Ramadan and his baby goats. While we spoke, his month-old kids baaed and trotted over towards greener thistles on the opposite hillside. Abu Basil arose from his rock and walked over to them, shouting, waving his arms, and tossing rocks in their path. Eventually the goats followed his commands and left the ungrazed hillside for the all but barren valley. Abu Basil sat in silence while he waited for his herd to finish. Then, abruptly as always, Abu Basil dismissed me with a nod, indicating that he was heading home. I stood up and gathered my bag and camera, but then Abu Basil took my hand. “I can’t go to the hill,” he told me, “because of the Israelis.”

You are true to your name
And you lead me along the right paths.

I may walk through valleys as dark as death,

But I won’t be afraid.

You are with me,

And your shepherd’s rod

Makes me feel safe

The people of at-Tuwani village have been shepherds for generations. Raising sheep and goats provides meat for the family and wool and dairy products for sale in the nearby city of Yatta. But in the 1980s, extremist Israeli settlers moved onto land belonging residents of At-Tuwani and other neighboring Palestinian communities. Now shepherding is a tricky business. Because of settlement expansion and Israeli army restrictions, shepherds like Abu Basil cannot access enough land to graze their flocks. Settlers attack Palestinian shepherds in their fields. CPTers now accompany shepherds in these dangerous areas. Most mornings I pack up my video camera and cell phone and walk out to Khourba hill. I pick a comfortable rock to sit on and chat with shepherds, as old as 70 and as young as 14, who quietly herd their folks, occasionally looking over their shoulders at Havot Ma’on settlement. Knowing full well the dangers they face, these farmers calmly call to their sheep and goats and stand their ground.

You treat me to a feast,
While my enemies watch.

You honor me as your guest,

And you fill my cup Until it overflows

In the face of violence and injustice, the shepherds of at-Tuwani still find land sufficient for their flocks. The settlements may have electricity 24 hours day and water to spare, but at-Tuwani is rooted firmly to the land it has always known. As the villages of the South Hebron Hills organize themselves to nonviolently resist the expansion of Israeli settlements, slowly they are reclaiming more and more of their land. In 2004, when Christian Peacemaker Teams was invited to accompany shepherds in at-Tuwani, the valleys and hills to the south of Havot Ma’on settlement were inaccessible. Now, thanks to their courage and determination, shepherds are able to graze in more of their land than at any time since the arrival of Israeli settlers. The quiet persistence of these shepherds gives me the hope I need to continue working here in the South Hebron Hills. Come what may, I believe the people of at-Tuwani will still be here.

Your kindness and love
Will always be with me
Each day of my life,
And I will live forever
In your house, God.

Text: Psalm 23 from the Hebrew Scriptures

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

At-Tuwani Dance Party!

I challenge anyone to find cuter children, or better dancers.


A few days ago, I sat on a hillside surrounded by sheep and kept an eye out for armed Israeli settlers through binoculars. I watched goats munching on thistles and Palestinian shepherds calling to them, occasionally glancing over their shoulders at the Havot Ma’on Israeli settlement, and I wondered at the situation where I find myself. I never expected my life to include angry armed men or sheep.

I live in a small Palestinian village that is filled with a beautiful quietness, but plenty of activity. No one who lives in at-Tuwani is still. The South Hebron Hills that this village called home may be gorgeous as the morning sunlight fills the valleys, but it isn’t an easy place to live. Our Palestinian neighbors know how to farm and graze in rocky soil and scant vegetation, and under the threat of drought. They work hard, but their work follows the rhythms of the seasons. As I wave to children riding donkeys and sit under olive trees, I am taken by how right this way of living feels.

“Things are very quiet right now.” My teammates and I regularly comment, always slightly surprised, on the recent peacefulness of our lives. Tuwani may be beautiful, quiet, and calm, but it is still under Israeli military occupation. The Havot Ma’on Israeli settlement, sits on a hilltop next to the village, always in view. Havot Ma’on is home to far-right Israeli settlers who believe in the importance of claiming the South Hebron Hills for themselves exclusively and are willing to use violence against Palestinians to do so. As we walk over the hills, we always carry cameras and cell phones with us, as settlers may appear with guns at any time. At-Tuwani may be peaceful, but for Palestinians, the presence of Havot Ma’on makes it dangerous.

“But lately we haven’t had much to do. There haven’t been any problems.” It’s true. My first 2 and a half weeks in Tuwani were extremely quiet, mind-numbingly so. It’s the job of us in Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPTers) to accompany Palestinians who are threatened by violence and respond when the Israeli army harasses Palestinians or settlers attack. And when I arrived in Tuwani, we had very little to respond to.

But within this quiet, soldiers and settlers are constantly present. Shortly after I arrived, I waited for the Israeli army for an hour with a group of schoolchildren from the village of Tuba. These children must walk near Havot Ma’on on their way to school in Tuwani. Settlers have attacked these children as they walked with their books and backpacks. The Knesset has ordered the Israeli army to escort the children past the settlement, after settlers attacked and injured CPTers accompanying them. Everyday we walk out in two groups, one to where the soldiers meet the children and another to a hillside where we can see the point where they leave them. Often, we have to call the army to ask them to come to escort the children. That day, I called the army and the kids waited for the soldiers for another forty minutes before they were able to walk home with the jeep following behind. Even when the soldiers arrive on time and escort the children the entire assigned distance, the situation remains dangerous. Settlers have attacked the children while the army was present. As I wait for the kids to come walking down the hills, I think about of the other Palestinian children who have to take dangerous routes to school but have no one to escort them.

Yes, it has been quiet, but the Palestinians who live here are still struggling to survive under this occupation. The settlers have claimed much of the land owned by the people of Tuwani, and Palestinian shepherds are having more and more difficulty finding enough food for their flocks. Settlers may not attack every day, but their presence is constantly felt.

Then 10 days ago, the calm was shattered. Ten settlers entered the village of Tuba. They threw stones at the villagers, hitting and elderly woman and her grandson. Then, a few days a later, fifteen settlers came to the hill where CPTers were accompanying two Palestinian shepherds. They chased the sheep and their shepherds, yelling curses and insults. “You come back here and we kill you,” they shouted. One settler grabbed my teammates video camera. When she demanded it back he responded, “You go now and you go with your life.”

Our lives have continued here. This morning three settlers came down from Havot Ma’on, walked over the hills for a while, then yelled at a Palestinian family, and went home. It was a quiet day, I suppose. I pray tomorrow will be as well.

As summer lingers, we have been sleeping on the roof under the stars. As we fall asleep beside our neighbors, I can imagine what peace will feel like when it comes to Tuwani. Shepherds will have enough land to graze their sheep and goats. Children will walk to school without fear of armed strangers. Everyone will walk freely over the hills. Under the stars, peace seems close by, like something I could reach out and touch. For now we wait and enjoy the quiet, until the calm is shattered again.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A teammate of mine was attacked by Israeli settlers living in the Havat Ma'on outpost. She is unhurt (thank God), but her video camera was stolen and I'm sure that she was shaken. She's giving testimony at the police station as I type.

Prayers for her, the settlers who did this, and the rest of our team would be appreciated.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Settlers enter village in the South Hebron Hills, assault Palestinians

As I've said, lately our life in the South Hebron Hills has been quiet. I've been sitting peacefully on the hillside surrounded by goats and sheep and the settlers living in Havat Ma'on have not tried to prevent Palestinian shepherds from completing their grazing. But a few days ago, settlers attacked Palestinians living in the village of Tuba, the home of the children that we accompany on their way to school in at-Tuwani. Here are the details of the attack.

September, 24, 2007

On September 23rd, shortly before sundown, ten Israeli settlers entered the village of Tuba in the South Hebron Hills. The settlers threw stones, hitting a woman and her adult son. Settlers remained in the village for about an hour. Israeli partners called police at 5:30pm to report the incident. Police did not arrive in Tuba until 7:30pm after the settlers had already left.

Tuba, a village of about 75 people, has experienced on-going harassment by settlers from the nearby Israeli settlement of Ma’on, and illegal outpost Havat Ma’on. School aged children from Tuba are accompanied to school in nearby At-Tuwani by an Israeli military escort because of repeated attacks on the children by settlers. In April of this year, three girls were injured when settlers attacked the children on their way home from school and stole two of the children’s book bags. Two weeks ago, the Israeli military demolished an outpost tent the settlers had built illegally on Tuba land. Local Palestinians report that settlers began rebuilding the structure almost immediately. (see At-Tuwani Release: Demolition in South Hebron Hills, September 09, 2007)

Amira Hass: Disrupting the Separation Policy

Here are some excerpts from Amira Hass' wonderful article in Ha'aretz. For more, visit their website. It's well worth reading.

A woman chatting idly in Ramallah on Sunday said dismissively: "The High Court of Justice's decision to move the separation fence in Bil'in proves nothing about the effectiveness of the popular Palestinian-Israeli struggle. Israel needs it to portray itself as a democracy."

Her frustration is understandable. The lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians are disrupted by a fence whose route elsewhere is no less "disproportionate" than it was in Bil'in. After two and a half years of weekly demonstrations by Palestinians, left-wing Israelis and foreign activists - demonstrations that were brutally dispersed, with numerous protesters being injured or arrested - the fence was moved a mere 1.7 kilometers. And the same High Court that moved the fence also legitimized the Jewish neighborhood that had already been built on Bil'in's private land....

...But those frustrated by the limited impact of Israeli anti-occupation activity are ignoring two of its salient characteristics. First, by helping to return one dunam of land to one individual, enabling farmers to complete an olive harvest without harassment and attacks by settlers, shortening the waiting time at a checkpoint or releasing a patient or a minor from detention without trial, life is made a bit less difficult for particular individuals at a given moment...

...Moreover, this immediate personal relief is interwoven into a more fundamental, longer-term Israeli-Palestinian struggle against the occupation. Since the 1990s, Israel has endeavored to separate the two peoples. It has restricted opportunities to meet and get to know one another outside the master-serf framework, VIP meetings or luxurious overseas peace showcases from which the term "occupation" is completely absent.

Because of this separation, the Palestinians know only settlers and soldiers - in other words, only those whose conduct and roles in the system justify the Palestinians' conclusion that it is impossible to reach a just agreement and peace with Israel. This separation also reinforces Israelis' racist - or at best, patronizing - attitudes toward the Palestinians.

Meet the South Hebron Hills!

This is my dear friend Mary the donkey and two of the children who come from Tuba to school in Tuwani. Aren't they gorgeous?

by Eileen

(Well, I suddenly have internet access, so I have a flurry of posts to get out. This is a reflection written by one of my wonderful teammates.)

The last two Friday nights, the Israeli army set up a ‘flying’ (temporary, mobile) checkpoint just outside Tuwani. Checkpoints on the highway beside Tuwani are a regular occurrence. One jeep, four soldiers and a string of spikes across the road constitute a checkpoint. Each time the soldiers show up, we go down to the road to monitor what is happening. We document the checkpoint, as well as any searches that take place and are present to respond in case of abuses.

Typically these temporary checkpoints last a few hours. Soldiers stop cars, check ID’s and search a few trunks. Much of the traffic in the area is actually foot traffic, people walking from villages around Tuwani to and from the nearby city of Yatta. Men, women and children, including infants in their mothers’ arms, are checked. Aside from settler traffic on the highway, which does not have to stop, soldiers mostly see a lot of tractors and sheep trailers. I wondered this Friday if they were going to search the sheep!

After seeing this countless times and failing to see the point, last night I asked one young soldier on duty what they were doing. He said they were “looking for stolen cars or weapons.” Still curious I followed up, “Do you find a lot of weapons this way?” “No. The people with the weapons see the checkpoint and make a U-turn. There’s nothing we can do.” Since I felt he understood me, and also because I was tired of standing around on a cold windy night, I pressed a bit and said, “So that makes this kind of pointless, huh?” Now were both smiling, and he said, “Yes. If it were up to me, I’d be home in bed.”

They can’t possibly find anything using this method. Not that I'm convinced there's anything to find. The soldiers and jeeps are visible from a half mile away. Anyone who might be trying to move contraband could simply wait until the soldiers leave. Everyone knows this, including the soldiers.

But there must be some point to it. Otherwise why are these soldiers ordered time and time again to set up these checkpoints?

On Saturday, soldiers again set up a flying checkpoint just outside Tuwani. This group of soldiers seemed particularly dangerous. They were wrestling with one another and pointing the laser guides of their automatic weapons at objects in the darkness. They were rude and rowdy, particularly as the evening wore on. When they turned up the American rock and roll music, I wondered if this is what the US occupation in Iraq looks like.

After waving a pick-up truck along, one soldier pointed the laser guide of his automatic weapon at the abdomen of the young boy riding in the back of the truck. The boy said something, and then the laser point moved, appearing next on the child’s face.

It was then I thought I could see the point, tragic and awful as it is. It isn’t about finding weapons or stolen cars. It’s not about finding the bad guy. It’s a display of power. Checkpoints are a way of reminding everyone, even the kids, who’s in charge. If that’s the point, then these flying checkpoints certainly do that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Well, both a lot and very little has happened since I last wrote. I've flown around the world, from the United States to Palestine, and I'm now back in the West Bank. I'm living in Tuwani, a tiny village located in the South Hebron hills, next to the Ma'on settlement and it's outpost. Palestinian children coming to school in Tuwani and Palestinian shepherds graving their sheep have been attacked by settlers living the outpost.

Tuwani is a very beautiful place and thankfully since I've been in the village, very little has happened. Mostly, children have gotten to school on time and safely and, by and large, Palestinians have been able to graze their sheep quietly. I've spent most of my time recovering from a vicious attack waged by the Tuwani bacteria. But I'm back to good health again.

I've been able to visit Bethlehem and Hebron as well. Hebron, in particular, is looking up. The city government is paying shop owners 200 NIS a month to keep their shops in the old city open during Ramadan. The old city is normally a ghost town, as Israeli settlers often throw trash down at Palestinian shops and harass them in other ways. But today I could hardly recognize it. So many shops are open. It's beautiful to see.

I must get on with life here, so I'll wrap this up. God willing, things will continue to be quiet and I'll continue to have very little to say.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm safely back in Jerusalem and it's time for bed. 

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Additional Information of the Dismantled Wall Outside Tuwani

20 August 2007
AT-TUWANI: "Security" wall along Route 317 dismantled

On 7 August 2007, members of CPT observed the dismantling of the "security wall" along Route 317. Upon investigating, they saw a crew of workers under Israeli supervision taking the wall down just past the road connecting At-Tuwani to Yatta. By the end of the day, no wall remained in the area.

The short wall--as it came to be known for its 80-cm height--along route 317 was constructed the previous summer, reaching the village of At-Tuwani on 14 June 2006. It consisted of six-meter-long slabs of preformed concrete that fit together in a tongue and groove pattern. The Israeli military had originally planned the Separation/Apartheid to run along route 317 but the Israeli Supreme Court had rejected the plan. The military built the short wall instead, under the auspices of security, despite the fact that, given its height, a person in reasonably good physical condition could climb over it. Its actual effect was to greatly reduce access to the economic and social hub of Yatta for the people of the South Hebron Hills, and to cut off shepherds from their land on the other side of the wall. The Israeli army could also more easily stop all vehicle traffic from Tuwani and the surrounding villages to Yatta and the villages to the north, because the wall had only two small openings that were frequently the sites of "flying checkpoints." In July of 2006, the Israeli military temporarily closed even these openings with cement blocks.

Last summer, the people of At-Tuwani and nearby villages, with the support of Israeli and international peace activists, organized demonstrations against the building of the wall. Eventually, they won a court decision that declared the wall illegal. The Israeli army delayed in implementing that court decision for some time.

Asked about the way events unfolded, a village leader for nonviolent activity said, "The IDF routinely disregards Israeli court decisions. We believe what happened is a success for the people's nonviolent resistance. This is a very important step."

The village plans to hold an action to celebrate the dismantling of the wall in the near future.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I've decided to change the quote at the top of my blog to better express...the tone I'm striving for. It's a challenge to write a blog about Palestine as a white Christian (Quaker) American. And even more so as a pacifist. Lately, I've felt like I've needed to change my tone and content to both make my position more clear (and less watered-down) and to take my various privileges into account. For some reason, changing the header seemed like a place to start.

This quote comes from a letter written by several community leaders in Bethlehem. Sami Awad read it out loud to a crowd of Israeli soldiers at an Easter demonstration at the Bethlehem checkpoint. I wanted to post the letter in its entirety here:

Asalaam 'alaykum (Peace be upon you),

We in the Bethlehem community have come to you today with a message on behalf of our people. We represent the family members and friends who are imprisoned by these concrete walls and wire fences that now create the Bethlehem open-air prison. You, like prison guards, control our freedom and ability to live as human beings with dignity in this holy land.

Our strong delegation of civilians comes to you without weapons but with great strength and commitment to deliver the message of just peace. In the name of security, you do not permit us to travel, to school and to worship in our holy sites in the city of Jerusalem. Your government deprives us each day of basic human rights to self-determination. Each day you keep us from being with our families at weddings, funerals, graduations, birthdays, and religious holidays. Although Jerusalem is only twenty minutes from Bethlehem, we have not been allowed to pray and worship at our holy sites.

Each day as you come to our city, you serve the system of violence that keeps our people imprisoned and without the ability to live a life of a normal human being. With your guns, tanks, and insults, you teach our children to hate.

However, we believe each of you has the power and choice to choose a different ending to this story. We appeal to your conscience and humanity as individuals and as soldiers who may feel there is no way out of this system. Put your guns away—I repeat, put your guns away—and join us in the fight for peace and freedom.

The People of Bethlehem

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's the settlements, stupid. And they aren't going any where.

(This blog has been entirely, disgustingly, self-focused as of late. Enough of that. And now for something completely different.)

The powerful seem to have decided what sort of peace they will impose on Palestine. Everyone whose declared themselves a say in Palestine's future, from President Bush and the liberal elite, are all talking about the same "final-status solution."

I bow to the predictions of anyone with a better crystal ball than mine, but I suspect that this trend has been obvious to a great many outside observers and crystal-clear to many Palestinians: It's the settlements, stupid. The major Israeli settlement blocks will not be returned to Palestine and the consequences of absorbing their land into Israel could be disastrous.

The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, an organization consisting of mainstream Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders, has been pressuring the Bush administration to more actively broker a two-state peace agreement. Their plan is based on preexisting Bush/Clinton policies and includes the following proposals:
  • Israel must withdraw to it's 1967 boarders
  • Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine
  • Palestinian refugees will receive compensation for their lost property and aid in settling into new homes (mostly outside of Israel. Israel would re-admit only as many Palestinian as would allow it to maintain a Jewish majority).
  • Land-swaps would allow Israel to retain some of the West Bank land where its settlers now live.
In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (a book that didn't especially impress me), former President Jimmy Carter outlines a very similar proposal for peace:
Withdrawal to the 1967 border as specified in U.N. Resolution 242 and as promised in the Camp David accords and the Oslo Agreement and prescribed in the Roadmap of the International Quartet...Good faith negotiations can lead to mutually agreeable exchanges of land perhaps permitting a significant number of settlers to remain in their present homes near Jerusalem. (pg. 216)
It's the last point in both of these plans that has me worried. If Israel is allowed to retain land in the West Bank, it's obvious which parts they will choose. The map to the right shows Israeli settlements in the West Bank represented in the darker blue. There are three principle settlement blocks, which I've done my best to circle in read. Ariel, Ma'aledumim and Gilo are home to thousands Israeli citizens. Like all settlements in the West Bank, they are illegal under international law.

Ariel is located in the Sulfit region, an area known as the food basket of the West Bank. Ma'aleadumim surrounds Jerusalem and separates the Northern half of the West Bank from the Southern. Gilo surrounds Bethlehem. If Israel keeps Ariel, it keeps some of the best land in the West Bank. If it keeps Ma'aleadumim and Gilo, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Ramallah will be cut off from each other. These three city represent 90-95% of the West Bank's potential for economic growth.

Over the last 40 years of occupation, Palestine has become increasingly dependent on Israeli goods, and in better days Israeli jobs. Even if Palestine retained all of the West Bank, its economy would have difficulty recovering. But if these settlement blocks and the land surrounding them become a part of Israel, recovering will be doubly difficult.

But Israel would only acquire these lands under a "mutually agreeable" land swap. So Palestine will get some great land from Israel, right? Bluntly, I can't believe that will happen. Israel is not going to give Palestine its most productive land. Palestine wont get the land between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Palestine will probably get some land in the Negev desert. The Negev is beautiful, but it is not economically viable. It's certainly not comparable to the land that Palestine will lose. (Especially if we remember that Palestine has already lost all of the land it enjoyed before 1948.) If you'll pardon me, this is a sand-for-peace proposal.

Once a "final-status agreement" is reached and something approaching peace follows, the international community will, in all likelihood, proceed to ignore Palestine all together. International aid money will dry out. Palestine's economy will remain dependent on Israel's, ripe for easy exploitation. The occupation might end, but I don't see how Israeli colonialism wont.

In this blog, I try to write about the hopeful signs I see in Palestine. It's a tricky business, as I feel no right to declare what looks good and what looks bad for a people I am not a part of, but there are enough people writing about all the terrible things that are happening. However, as I start to really understand the consequences of Israel's "facts on the ground" that the Israeli government has worked hard to create, it's hard to be hopeful.

How can settlement expansion be resisted?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Joy Over the Fall of a 2 and a half foot High Wall

(click for larger photos)

Friday, August 17, 2007

What does Joy do in Palestine any way? A video from Christian Peacemaker Teams.

This is a rather incredible video - not because of the quality, but because it shows CPT work in all of it's messy complexity. This is a scene that plays out regularly in Hebron. The Israeli army tells students they can't go to school. They and their teachers respond with an impromptu nonviolent demonstration. The Israeli army responds with violence. And CPT responds by getting the way of that violence.

I wish that I could narrate this film scene by scene, but I don't have the time right now. I hope this is a helpful look into our work and the lives of Palestinian children.

PS: I'm back! I just spent a couple of months up in the mountains without internet access. It's nice to be home.
Pieces of Palestine Zine - It's Available for Order!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tuwani Online!

Little Tuwani, the village where I hope to be working, may not have running water or more than a couple of hours of electricity every day, but they do have a website. Check it out at at And spread it around - Bil'in may be getting all of the of the international attention, but Tuwani has been quietly and determinedly been resisting the occupation, successfully. Yep, Tuwani is amazing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A day in the life of a CPTer living in At-Tuwani

Five A.M.

For a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a day in Tuwani starts at about 5 am. It's time to crawl out of the sleeping bag, dress, grab a cell phone and video camera and don a red baseball cap emblazoned with "CPT." (Yes, the hats are embarrassing, but they immediately identify us an international human rights workers and that's important.) Then it's time for school patrol.

School Patrol?

Tuwani is a tiny village located in the south Hebron hills and it has a big problem. On Tuwani's land, Israeli citizens have erected a small illegal settlement and an outpost.

Every morning CPTers wake up at the crack of dawn to accompany Palestinian children who must walk near the settlement.

Numerous times, Israeli settlers have attacked these children without provocation. CPTers, along with members of Italian nonviolent intervention organization Operation Dove, are committed to intervening when settlers attack these children and reducing the incidence of attack by providing an international presence.

Joy, what on earth are you doing? Is this safe?
In separate incidences, four CPTers have been attacked by Israeli settlers. Members of Operation Dove and a human rights worker with Amnesty International have also been beaten.

After these incidences, the Israeli Knesset, in an unprecedented decision, ordered the Israeli army to accompany the children of the South Hebron hills to school. No where else in occupied Palestine are Israeli soldiers charged with protecting Palestinian children.

Now, instead of walking the children to school themselves, CPTers now wake up at the crack of dawn to ensure that the Israeli army shows up on time, or at all. Here's what happened one day in 2006:

After School Patrol: Additional Accompaniment Work

After getting the kids to school, CPT responds to requests for accompaniment from villagers in at-Tuwani and the surrounding area. A soldier informs a Palestinian farmer that he can't tend to his olives, a CPTer might accompany him, documenting the situation, talking with the soldiers, and maybe calling Israeli supporters. Or a CPTer might join a shepherd who has been threatened by settlers. CPT accompanies Palestinian upon request because we've found that the presence of international reduces the likelihood of violence and helps Palestinian to be able to go about the business of their normal lives.


Harassment and attacks at the hands of Israeli settlers are a pressing concern for the villagers of At-Tuwani, but violence is not their only problem. Like all Palestinians, they must also contend with systemic injustice, like movement restrictions, land confiscation, and the Israeli built annexation Wall. To resist these human rights violations, Palestinians have used nonviolent resistance methods. CPT is honored to participate in demonstrations, press conferences, and other forms non-cooperation organized by the villagers of at-Tuwani.

Villagers have resisted land confisciation, the destruction of their olive groves, and home demolitons, but most frequently they have worked to slow or stop the construction of the Annexation Wall.

In many parts of the West Bank, the Wall takes the form of a huge cement barrier.

But in Tuwani, it's just 2.5 feet high, just tall enough to prevent a donkey with a cart from crossing.

Villagers have held international press conferences, built bridges of rocks over the wall, and used their physical presence to slow down construction. Demonstrations like these are dangerous for Palestinian - they risk being tear-gassed or beaten by the Israeli army, or even arrested and imprisoned. When internationals, like CPT, and Israeli peace activists attend demonstrations, the Israeli army is often less inclined to respond violently because their actions are carefully documented.

7 P.M.
When night begins to fall, CPTers enjoy a couple of hours of electricity. (No, there's no internet access. Nor is there running water. Yes, that means no flush toilet.) Reports are written and cameras charged. In a 10 ft by 10 ft house, four teammates snuggle into sleeping bags, dreaming of justice and peace.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Remembering the Children of 40 years of Occupation

A few nights ago, I read out loud 7 or 8 pages of names, names like Khaled Adli Bassem al-Bazyan and Sara Abdul-Azim Abdul-Haq Hasan, and names like Shalhevet Tehiya Pass and Naftali Lanzkorn. These children were among the 943 Palestinian and 118 Israeli children who have been killed since 2000.

Khaled was 14 and lived in Nablus. He was killed when an Israeli soldier shot him in the abdomen during a demonstration on the Nablus-Ramallah road. He died in September of 2000. Sara was 18 months old. She lived near Salfit, in the same area where I used to live. She was killed by an Israeli settler who shot her in head while she was riding in the car with her father.

Shalevet Tehiya Pass, was 10 months old and lived in the Avraham Avinu settlement. Shalevet was shot by a Palestinian sniper while playing on the playground. Naftali was killed by a Palestinian sucide bomber near Kfar Saba. She was 13 years old. Both Naftali and Shalevet died in March 2001.

On Wednesday, we read all 1,063 names of Israeli and Palestinian children killed since 2000 outside of the Northwest Convergence, a conference featuring members of the Likkud party who strongly advocate the continuance of the Israeli occupation. While former Prime Minister Netenyahu spoke about Israel's glorious fight against terrorism, we read names. It took us an hour and a half to finish.

It's was easy to lose myself in the complex task of sounding out names like Shalevet and Khaled. It took all of my concentration to stumble my way through unfamiliar sounds and multisyllabic surnames. But then I would come across a name I knew well - Fadi, Jamil, Bassem, Huda, Mohamed, Rachel. I can't help but picture other children I know with those names and wonder if they're still okay.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. Our congress has chosen to mark this week by congratulating Israel on its military might. I wish that they had instead read out the names of 40 children killed in this conflict or listened to the testimonies of 40 families whose homes have been demolished or looked at pictures of 40 olive trees uprooted or 40 lines at checkpoints.

How many more years? How many more children?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's a zine!

(Actually, this zine isn't available quite yet. But it will be in the next two weeks or so. So hang tight for the moment, but be prepared to be excited!)