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.