Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'm back!

Made it into Hebron. I'm jet-lagged out of my skull, so I'm going to stop now. :)

By the way, I'm using bloggers "scheduled posts" now, so it may seem like I have internet access, but I don't be fooled. See you when I'm on break from At-Tuwani.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Video: Soldiers Attack Sheep in Tuwani

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Video: Closed Military Zone in the South Hebron Hills

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Nakba Coverage

The BBC, it seems, is actually covering the 60 anniversary of founding of the state of Israel from more than just the Israeli perspective. This article traces the stories of three generations of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and I recommend it, if only because I'm rather shocked that it's getting coverage at all.

The Economist is covering the issue as well. The title of their article is "The Wandering Palestinian" but I wont bother with a link since you will need to subscribe to read it. The article did include one statistic worth highlighting here. Of the world's 10 million Palestinians, 70% of them are refugees or their descendants.

Yeah, that's a lot of people with the right to return home.
Slideshow: Inside Shatila

Sixty years ago many Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their
homes in what is now Israel and some of those people found their way
to refugee camps such as Shatila in Lebanon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spring in the South Hebron Hills!

This blog has taken a rather depressing turn of late. At least I've been upset by what's going on in Tuwani. It's springtime in the the South Hebron Hills. That means that our Palestinian neighbors are working hard on their land all day. This upset upsets the Israeli settlers living in Ma'on and Havot Ma'on and all of the beauty of spring ends up overshadowed by petty ugliness and violence.

But the beauty is still there:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Israeli Army Carried Out only 3% of Settlement Demolition Order

According to the [Peace Now] report, from 1997-2007 the Civil Administration issued 3449 demolition orders for illegally built structures in the settlements and settlement outposts, but evacuated and demolished only 107 of them, the report stated...The Civil Administration no longer enforces construction laws inside the settlements' official municipal boundaries, due to a 1998 directive from the IDF Central Command. Peace Now said "the significance is that the number of construction violations inside the settlements is much higher then the number provided by [Civil Administration] statistics."
Perhaps this Haarezt article isn't the most interesting ever written, but it describes the heart of the problem - illegal settlement expansion with impunity- facing Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills. Well worth a read.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Attacks in Tuwani

On May 2nd (my birthday, ironically), CPT sent out this press release from Tuwani:

AT-TUWANI: Armed settlers invade village, attacking Palestinians and internationals while soldiers and police stand by

On Friday, 2 May 2008, shortly after 3:00 p.m., three settlers, including the Ma’on settlement security guard, entered At-Tuwani and accused Palestinians of stealing cherries. When internationals approached, filming and taking photographs, the settlers pushed, kicked, and head-butted them and Palestinians with them, and also broke a video camera. As more settlers and Palestinians arrived, several scuffles broke out while Israeli soldiers and police looked on.

Soldiers and police pushed and ordered the Palestinians farther into the village as settlers continued to encroach en masse toward a Palestinian home. As settlers pointed out and accused individual Palestinians, the police forced five into police vans and took them to the Kiryat Arba police station. Police refused to take testimony from Palestinians and internationals, even those injured by the settlers.

For at least one hour and half, settlers remained in the village and immediate surroundings. Friday evening, two Palestinians and two internationals received treatment for injuries at a hospital.

# # #

I can supply a few more details - first the injuries sustained by my teammates are healing. Second, two Palestinians were attacked by a soldier and a settler. The soldier hit one of them of in the back of the neck with the butt of his gun. Thankfully, neither villager was seriously hurt.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It Began in the Evening with Rocks

“All right, I think it’s finished.” My friend and teammate Jessica reads a press release into the phone. I grip my cell and pace back and forth as I listen.

On the morning of 29 March, twenty Israeli settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havat Ma’on entered the village of At-Tuwani. Throughout the day, groups of four to five settlers entered the village three additional times. While in the village, settlers harassed Palestinians, twice displaying their buttocks to Palestinians and internationals in the area. Israeli authorities did nothing to move settlers away from the village. Israeli military spoke and joked with settlers when they entered the village, allowing them to stay on land owned by Palestinian residents of At-Tuwani. Palestinians report a military commander threatened to tell the settlers to attack the village after the military left the area.

“That doesn’t really convey what happened, does it?” Jessica remarks.

“No,” I say. “It doesn’t.”

- - -

It began in the evening with rocks. Several of them. Settlers hurdled them at a group of children and a woman cradling a baby in her arm. Along with the rocks, insults. “They drove into Tuwani in their car. They said bad things to me, behind the mosque,” my friend Musab Abu Jamal* tells me. I know that he wont tell me whatever terrible things they said to him so I don’t even ask.

I see the rocks flying through the air from our front yard, down the hill from the mosque and Musab’s pink house that sits beside it. Then I watch Palestine men walking up the hill. I hear shouting and knew what was happening. I run into the house to grab a video camera just as the children at the well by our door started yelling, “Mustutiniin! Mustutiniin!” Settlers.

Soon the whole village is assembled beside the pink house, home to the Abu Jamal family who have the misfortune of living closest to Havot Ma’on outpost. They bare the brunt of the settler attacks that are part of every day life in Tuwani. At the edge of the trees, which mark the beginning of the settlement outpost, we can see two men in white, their heads wrapped so that only their eyes are visible. Soon the Israeli army arrives in the village and the settlers retreat into the trees. But the Abu Jamal family sit on the porch of the pink house watching and waiting.
At the request of the Abu Jamal family, we sleep in the pink house. Musab and his family fear settlers may attack during the night. I’m too tired to worry about what may happen. I fall asleep immediately and rest undisturbed. In the morning, we wake early. My teammate tells me that during their last attack, settlers smashed in the window under which we slept. My stomach twists. We out the front door. In the morning light, the men of the Abu Jamal family sit on their porch, still waiting.

Then abruptly, at 10 o'clock, the wait is over. Fifteen Israeli settlers walk out of the trees and into the village. Five more stay closer to treeline. The Abu Jamal men have left the porch and Musab is standing beside me. My video camera is rolling, but my hand trembles.

Almost instantly, the entire village of Tuwani joins us at the top of the hill. Other members of CPT follow behind them. Under pressure from a friendly Israeli lawyer called by the Abu Jamal family, the Israeli army and the police are there to meet the settlers and, presumably, tell them to go back to the settlement. The engines of their jeeps are growling. The settlers keep advancing, confident grins on their faces.

I watch a tiny Israeli boy with brown hair follow behind an adult settler. As he approaches the jeeps, the boy bursts into tears. I watch as he cries while he runs back to the settlement. I tears well in my eyes and I can’t contain myself. “What are you doing to your children?” I shout. Two other boys, maybe 6 years old, stand with a man who must be their father. They laugh and jeer and hold their fingers up in victory signs. Next to them teenage boys strut and spit hateful words towards the elderly Palestinian woman I am standing beside.

Israeli soldiers stand between the assembled Palestinians and the settlers. They are positioned with their backs to the trespassing settlers. They are standing with them, facing us. When I receive a phone call asking if we are all right, a soldier yells at me to be quiet. Behind them, settlers laugh. Slowly, my fear abates, but nausea swells in my stomach and throat. I’m left, once again waiting. Will the soldiers send the settlers? How long will these men and boys be content to merely laugh and taunt? I look up into Juma, the eldest brother of the Abu Jamal family. He looks ashen. Beside him stands Musab. His face is tense. It looks cold without the sparkle that usually dances in his dark eyes. Suddenly, he shouts, “You! I know you!” Musab waves a figure towards a settler with a green kippa. “ That is the man who attacked me. Take his picture! Him!”

“Yes, yes, I am,” I respond. I’m not sure which attack - there have been so many recently - Musab is referring to, but I’ll ask later. I point my camera at man Musab indicates and zoom in, trying to hold my hand as steady as possible. Through the viewfinder, I watch him turn his head away from me. “Faces.” Musab says sternly. I nod and once again I pan over the group of settlers, zooming in on each one. Then I look down at my video camera and wonder who else will see this film. Who will pay attention to our careful efforts to document the indignities and violence that Juma, Musab, and the rest of the Abu Jamal family endure? And will they understand the helpless dread I feel right now?

- - -

I pace back and forth more quickly. Jessica continues reading,

Israeli settlers also harassed, intimidated, and attacked Palestinian children on their way to and from school in the village of At-Tuwani. In the morning, settlers yelled and threw stones at the children coming to school from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed. The military escort in the area, which is to take the children to and from school to ensure their safety, did nothing during the attack. Fearing for their safety, the children were forced to take a different path to school, doubling the walk from 20 to 45 minutes. On their way home from school, one adult Israeli settler and four children followed the Palestinian children and military escort. They were soon joined by two adult settlers, and a large group of adults and teenagers. The settlers yelled insults and threats at the school children, but the Israeli army kept them at bay.

“Yes. That’s it. Send it out.” My stomach sinks as I hang up the phone.

*Last name changed

Friday, May 02, 2008

Update on the Orphans in Hebron

I know several of you will be pleased to know, if you don't already, the "Hebron Orphans" have their own website where you can hear all about what's going on in their own words. Check it out:

Here's some more information and a plea to support the orphans by contacting your elected officials. I trust that you know how to get in touch with them. You can also contact the Israeli army here

For Immediate Release: Wednesday 30, April, 2008 3:30 am
Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron

RAIDED - Hebron Girls Orphanage Sewing Workshop

HEBRON At 1:00 am this morning, April 30th, the Israeli Military raided the Hebron Girls' Orphanage near the intersection of Salaam and Al Adel (Peace and Justice) Streets. Acting on orders issued by Major General Shemni, soldiers looted the workshop of all its sewing and processing machines, office equipment, rolls of cloth, finished clothing and supplies. CPT members documented, with still photos and video, approximately 40 Israeli soldiers emptying the workshop contents into 2 - 40ft. trucks. The estimated value of the physical material taken is $45,000 US. The cost in terms of the fear and terror instilled in the hearts of the little girls living above the workshop is much higher.

Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams and other internationals from Belgium, Britain, Canada, Germany, Holland, and the US have been sleeping in the orphanage. Their concern is for the children who live in fear of the military forcing them out of the place they've come to call home. Their hope last night was that their presence would forestall the army's raid on the workshop. They hoped in vain. CPT's Art Arbour decried this latest effort by the Israeli military in its campaign to close the orphanages, "How can grown men do this to little children?" CPT members documented with still photos 40 Israeli soldiers clearing out the workshop

Statements of support for the orphans have come in from former President Jimmy Carter, from EU Vice President Luisa Morgentini and from representatives of many international organizations worried about the fate of the orphans in Hebron. Please join with them in supporting the orphans.