Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Talj of '08

Tuwani had its first snow accumulation in ten years - and the largest snow ball in recorded history. I'll put up more when I have a better internet connection, but for now, enjoy!

Heroes of the South Hebron Hills

No one will call the shepherds from Tuba and Magher Al Abeed heroes. You wont see these Palestinian men in red kafiyas and mud-stained boots on the evening news. But while Israeli politicians turn a blind eye to the activities of extremist Israeli settlers, these farmers from the South Hebron Hills are successfully nonviolently resisting settlement expansion.

“I haven’t been to this valley in three years,” Issa* told me as we stood over looking Havot Ma’on settlement outpost. Over the past month, Issa and other shepherds have brought their sheep to pieces of Palestinian land they have not been able to graze since the establishment of the illegal Israeli settlement outpost. By doing so, they are showing the Israeli army and Israeli settlers that they plan to continue grazing on their land. Using this strategy, Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills have successfully regained access to land previously stolen by Israeli settlement. Right now, the shepherds of Tuba and Magher Al Abeed are at the forefront this dynamic nonviolent movement.

“The people of Tuba and Magher Al Abeed are strong. The army has to bring three jeeps for you!” my teammates and I joke. “Yes, yes, we’re strong,” the shepherds laugh. Since they began this campaign the shepherds have proven their strength over and over. The Israeli army has brought out jeeps and ask the shepherds for their IDs. Soldiers have kicked the sheep and threatened to arrest the shepherds. Soldiers have pulled off their pants and “mooned” us. Settlers have approached the shepherds carrying clubs. They have fired on the shepherds and their flocks and thrown stones at them. Just to graze their sheep on land they have farmed for generations, Issa and the other shepherds risk arrest and violent attack.

But day after day the shepherds keep coming back to their land and showing their determination. When angry soldiers ordered two young shepherds to leave, the boys responded by sitting down. When a group of settlers came out of the settlement and threw stones at the shepherds and the volunteers accompanying them, the shepherds simply stood their ground. Soon, their lack of fear drove the settlers away.

Everyday the shepherds of Tuba and Magher Al Abeed prove that their nonviolent resistance is stronger the might of the Israeli army or the hatred of extremist Israeli settlers. They are the heroes of the South Hebron Hills.

*Not his real name.
Why Can't You Bring Us Our Donkey?

When I saw Heba* talking to the Ma'on settlement guard, I went running towards her with my video camera poised. In At-Tuwani, Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinian children walking to school, as well as Palestinian adults working on their own land. But as I hurried towards Heba, I realized this seven-year-old was about to teach me a lesson in nonviolent resistance.

Her hands clasped behind her back, Heba looked up into the face of the settlement guard. With her usual composure, she spoke to him. This particular settler is notorious for harassing Palestinians; I’ve seen adult Palestinians take off running when he approached. But he was looking down at Heba and listening. Before I could reach where she stood, Heba turned and calmly walked away.

“What did you say to him, Heba?” I asked. A small, shy girl, Heba didn’t reply at first. But soon my teammates coaxed an answer from her.

"I asked him why he couldn't bring back our donkey.”

Recently, Israeli settlers beat a Palestinian man from the village of Tuba and stole his donkey. (See 4 December 2007 CPTnet release, " AT-TUWANI: Demonstrators walk from At-Tuwani to Tuba, protesting settler harassment.") Palestinians living in the South Hebron hills have had their livestock stolen before. From experience, they know the Israeli police are unlikely to do anything to help them recover their property or prosecute settlers who attack them. Perhaps the entreaties of a little girl could succeed where the Israeli police fail.

About a half an hour before I watched Heba make her case to an armed settler, Israeli soldiers drove up to where Palestinians were plowing. Palestinians asked CPT to film as they worked their land. Neighbors came to see what was happening. Soon a crowd of children joined them. Heba’s mother passed out tiny cups of Arabic coffee. As soon as the settlement guard arrived, Heba’s grandmother, the oldest woman in At-Tuwani, walked up to him. She greeted him without a trace of fear and asked him where the donkey was.

Armed with nothing but their human rights, the people of at-Tuwani remained on their land. The farmers convinced the soldiers to allow them to work, and the settlement guard assured Heba and her grandmother that he would do his best to bring back the donkey. I don’t have much hope that the donkey will be returned, but I’m sure that Heba will grow up knowing how to resist injustice. And that gives me hope for the villages of the South Hebron Hills.

*Not her real name.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Israeli News Outlet Y-Net Covers Soldiers Mooning Palestinians

"Abu Ghraib prison (in Iraq), IDF-style… the soldiers of any occupation are immoral by definition, but the IDF soldiers who exposed themselves have long been stripped of their humane values."
--- Member of the Knesset Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) describing CPT footage of Israeli soldiers exposing their bottoms to Palestinian shepherds

According to Y-net, the incident that we caught on tape is being investigated by IDF Central Command. It saddens and sickens me that all of the more terrible incidents we've filmed, like our friend and At-Tuwani nonviolent resistance leader being beaten by Israeli soldiers simply for demonstrating, haven't been worth investigating. It's not just the Israeli army who have exposed themselves - Israeli society is demonstrating that they are more interested in butts than human rights violations.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I almost forgot one of the most important pieces of news that I wanted to share: my teammate and friend Jessica was attacked in Hebron by Israeli settlers, along with a wonderful CPT reservist named Paulette. The settlers took their camera, beat them, tore Jess's pants and broke her glasses, all while an Israeli soldier talked on the telephone a few feet a way. Eventually, he did intervene. Jess is alright and she's gotten new glasses, thank God.
Beit Ummar

Beit Ummar, a village north of Hebron, is living through a nightmare. Today was another day of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and soldiers everywhere. I don't have the details yet, but I can share what happened a few days ago. In short, a close friend of the team went sent to the hospital, with shrapnel wounds to the face. More details here
AT-TUWANI: Christian Peacemaker Teams Releases Video of Settlers Firing on Palestinian Shepherds in South Hebron Hills

Late Saturday morning, 12 January 2008, settlers from the Hill 833 outpost (called Havat Ma'on by Israeli settlers) fired six shots at shepherds grazing their sheep in a nearby valley. Shepherds and international volunteers with them quickly moved to lower ground and sustained no injuries.

The incident was part of ongoing problems in the area as shepherds from the nearby villages of Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed have attempted to graze their sheep in valleys to the south of the outpost. The recent problems began on Friday, 11 January when settlers called soldiers to force the shepherds off land to the south of the outpost of which they hope to take control. The outpost is undergoing consistent expansion.

Soldiers arrived and told international volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove that the shepherds must stay off the land.

Saturday morning, 12 January, the shepherds returned to the land to graze, despite the previous day’s intimidation. Five settlers were seen walking through the nearby village of Mufaqara on their way to Khoruba valley, south of the Hill 833 outpost. Another settler from the outpost the joined the five, at which time they pointed towards the shepherds in the valley, accompanied by international volunteers, as well as to internationals nearby monitoring. At that point, they fired six shots at the shepherds in the valley and ran back into the outpost.

Volunteers accompanying the shepherds called the police. They briefly came to the outpost, and immediately left. After internationals called them again, they replied that they “have better things to do.”

For a video of the incident, see,
AT-TUWANI: Christian Peacemaker Teams releases video of soldiers exposing buttocks to Palestinian shepherd and international volunteers.

Friday, 11 January 2008, soldiers from the Israeli Army displayed their buttocks in a gesture known colloquially as “mooning” to a Palestinian shepherd and two international volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams.

The incident occurred immediately after settlers from the Hill 833 settlement outpost, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, pushed the shepherd and his flock off the land. The shepherd from the Palestinian village of Tuba in the South Hebron Hills was grazing his flock in fields several hundred meters south of the outpost when settlers from the outpost approached in a white car. (Settlers from the outpost are well known in the area for their attacks on local Palestinian shepherds, farmers, and schoolchildren.) More settlers arrived, along with Israeli soldiers, causing the shepherd to move back to a safer location. The soldiers informed the international volunteers accompanying the shepherd that the shepherd was not permitted to graze on the land, despite the fact Israeli courts have recognized Palestinian ownership of the land, and the Israeli Army itself had previously issued a demolition order, never carried out, for the Hill 833 outpost.

Even after the shepherd moved farther down the valley, the soldiers and a settler security guard followed him. Not content at having pushed the shepherd back, before leaving, two soldiers dropped their pants and displayed their buttocks to the shepherd and the international volunteers in a lewd, insulting manner.