Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Return of "I Saw in in Palestine" and Representative Brian Baird Speaks out for Gaza!

I'm baaaaaack! Or something like that. I've returned to Palestine and will be back to blogging (and tweeting! Can't forget that). On the 31st, I'll be participating in the Gaza Freedom March from the Erezt crossing, so check back here for updates on that in a few days.

In the meantime, check out Represenative Brain Baird's statement on US militatary Aid to Israel.

Rep. Baird says, "There will be a cost in dollars, in aid, in support, if some fundamental changes don't happen."

When it comes to Baird's position on Palestine, I'm increasingly proud to be able to say, "that's my congressperson!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Give me one more week

Abandoned home in the Palestinian village of Sarura, near At-Tuwani. The village was abandoned in 1997 due to harassment from nearby Israeli settlers.

And then I promise to return to your regularly schedule blog! Have one last photo.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Video Post

"I Saw it in Palestine" is now in the Middle East studying Arabic and not updating this blog for two months. But the blogger will be back come December. Until then, have a video. In another week, another video or photo will be posted. And come back for more news about At-Tuwani and Palestinian nonviolent resistance this winter. Don't stop reading!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Photo Post:

Children's March to Tuba

"I Saw it in Palestine" is now in the Middle East studying Arabic and not updating this blog for two months. But the blogger will be back come December. Until then, have a photo. In another week, another will be posted. And come back for more news about At-Tuwani and Palestinian nonviolent resistance this winter. Don't stop reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Photo Post:

"I Saw it in Palestine" is now in the Middle East studying Arabic and not updating this blog for two months. But the blogger will be back come December. Until then, have a photo. In another week, another will be posted. And come back for more news about At-Tuwani and Palestinian nonviolent resistance this winter. Don't stop reading!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Photo post:

Israeli settlers undertaking construction work for new caravans in the illegal Ma'on settlement (Sept 3rd 2009)

"I Saw it in Palestine" is now in the Middle East studying Arabic and not updating this blog for two months. But the blogger will be back come December. Until then, have a photo. In another week, another will be posted. And come back for more news about At-Tuwani and Palestinian nonviolent resistance this winter. Don't stop reading!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Photo post:
"I Saw it in Palestine" is now in the Middle East studying Arabic and not updating this blog for two months. But the blogger will be back come December. Until then, have a photo. In another week, another will be posted. And come back for more news about At-Tuwani and Palestinian nonviolent resistance this winter. Don't stop reading!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Action Alert from Jewish Voice for Peace: Free Mohammad Othman

On September 22, Mohammad Othman was arrested and detained by Israeli soldiers on the Allenby Bridge Crossing, the border from Jordan to Palestine. He was returning from a trip to Norway, where he was advocating for Palestinian human rights.

I have written to US President Obama, asking that he press Israel for his release. I hope you will do the same: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/301/t/9047/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27938

If you want to learn more about Mohammad Othman, go here:
Women in Tuwani remove a road block....interactive art!

My dear friend James just made this for me
. Check it out!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Visiting Earlham College

Few days ago, I returned from spending some time speaking about Tuwani at my Alma Mater, Earlham College. It's always energizing to spend time with people who are thinking seriously about how social change comes about - and what we can do to be a part of it. So, a very big thank you to all of you. It was lovely to get to come back to a place that will always have a special place in my little activist heart.

So, in case you Earlham students are actually reading this now, I'm so proud of to be a part of the same struggle for social change. I know it can be a slow process, whether you in Richmond, in Ramallah or in Tuwani, so here's to keeping the faith. And if there's anything I can do for you (like, say, an alumni petition supporting an Earlham divestment campaign), or if you want to support Tuwani, let me know. Bet that wasn't what you thought they ment when they talked about an "alumni network."

PS: I know there's a podcast of me floating around. I'd love a link to it!

PPS: If you want to know what a guest speaker gets to eat (and it was really good), visit Crack the Plates! Just scroll back a few posts to numbers 8 and 9. And thanks so much, Adrienne!
Re-Post: Planting Patience

Check out my teammate Sam's new blog post about At-Tuwani's latest act of nonviolence. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Protesting Olmert at U of C, part two: Inside with Ehud

Have I mentioned my love for Electronic Intifada? They managed to get a camera into the auditorium with Olmert. Take a look:

Protesting Olmert on University of Chicago Campus

"Shame, Shame, U of C, Palestine will be free!" Yesterday afternoon (October 16th), I stood in the rain in a crowd of two hundred who had gathered to protest Ehud Olmert's speech on the University of Chicago campus. The message of the demonstration was simple and clear: Ehud Olmert should be giving a speech at the Hague, not an academic institution.

Olmert, of course, was Israel's prime minister during Israel's bombing of Gaza last December. The United Nations recently found that Israeli authorities committed war crimes during their attack and has condemned the ongoing siege of Gaza.

And we in Chicago do too!

As a part of the demonstration, fifty students (hear that, 50!) attended Olmert's speech and countered what he had to say. I'm told that Olmert was hardly able to finish a sentence - when he talked about peace, students talked about his occupation and when he talked about academic freedom, students asked him where was academic freedom when he bombed universities in Gaza. (You can check out some great live-blogging from inside the hall from Ali Abunumiah here.)

This young woman whose name I didn't catch (and I'm so sorry about that!) told those of us outside that she stood up during Olmert's speech and held up the names of all of the people killed his bombing of Gaza. She clutched the names in her hands again when she spoke to us - over a thousand killed and Olmert responsible for them all.

It's always energizing to be apart of a demonstration like this. American Muslims for Palestine and the rest of the coalition that organized this event, including several student groups, did a wonderful job and deserve your support in the future! But I found myself moved as I thought o how Israeli authorities respond to nonviolent demonstrations like this one when they take place in the west bank.

Gather with signs and megaphones somewhere like At-Tuwani and Palestinians are met by Israeli soldiers. Those soldiers will likely declare the area a closed military zone and threaten everyone with arrest. Palestinians are beaten, shot, and tear-gassed in demonstrations like the one we took part in.

And that's why it is so important that we raise our voices and tell the world that we don't support apartheid, whether it's in South Africa, in Palestine, or when it's representatives come for a visit to our college campuses. We stand for peace and justice!

Here's is the local news coverage from channel seven. It's pretty fantastic for mainstream news, I think. Take a look and then send them an email thanking them for doing such a great job.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Peace Prize? Huh?

Last Thursday, we blew a crater on the moon, Obama was awarded the peace prize, and I went to bed with a headache. Let's just say that it was a weird day.

Obama himself said that he didn't yet deserve the peace prize and honestly I agree with him. When I am in Palestine, I hear nothing but frustration for Obama's unwillingness to do anything more than say the right things while Israel continues to build more and more settlements. Between this and the way that the Goldstone report on Gaza has been buried, the middle east peace process is stalled - giving Israel plenty of time to change the "facts on the ground" by building more and more settlements. Clearly, the Nobel Committee gave Obama this award to encourage future work for peace. I'm pretty sure this strategy will only work is everyone who greeted the announcement with a resounded "huh?" pressures Obama to really stand up for peace.

So who do I think should have gotten the Nobel? Well, if the committee really wanted to honor nuclear disarmanent efforts, then past nomaniee Mordechai Vanunu would have been an excellent choice. But I'm sure that none of you will be suprised that I know a small village in the South Hebron Hills full of people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Take one man - we'll call him H. for his own safety. He was elected head of the South Hebron Hills nonviolent resistance organzing committee and has been beaten, arrested, and harassed for his work. If Obama gets a peace prize, H. certainly deserves it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Little Q. and A. on Palestine and At-Tuwani.

I was just asked a few research questions from a university student. I thought I might as well share my answers with you as well. Good luck on your paper, Alicia!

1. How do you come to discover the Palestinian situation?

Well, I was raised Quaker, which is to say that I was raised to believe strongly in social justice and peace. I knew a number of people who had spent time in Palestine and went to a college with a significant number of Palestinian students. I first visited in 2005 and fell immediately in love with Palestine, but my heart was broken by what I saw. It was clear, though, that Palestinians in the West Bank were articulating a few well-defined ways that internationals could support their struggle. I wanted to be a part of that.

2. Do you feel more or less hopeful now about a Palestinian state and peace in general since you first went to the holy land?

I feel just as hopeful as I did four years ago, but far less optimistic. I say that because I think hope is a decision more than an emotion. Hope is about faith and I still agree with Dr King, who
said "the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice." I don't think that the region will, in the long run, have any choice but to become a society based on justice and peace. I agree with Ali Abunimah's analysis in One Country. But I worry that the short term doesn't look good. The new Israeli government has been really hard on Tuwani. The most striking change is that the army seems to be colluding with the settlers even more and is willing to arrest Palestinians for anything they can come up with. I hadn't seen shepherds getting arrested just for being out with their sheep, but now it's happening regularly. Jail sentences are getting longer and fines higher. It's clear they're trying to shut down Palestine's nonviolent movement. Moreover, Obama is bowing to Israel's wishes regarding settlements and that's pretty scary.

3. What do you think political leaders/decision-makers are overlooking in trying to reach the two state solution?

Wow, a lot. First, they're over-looking the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement. This is the movement that most Palestinians are involved in, in some way or another. Violent resistance is actually abnormal by comparison. Secondly, they're overlooking international law, which is a clear guide for a just solution. Perhaps most importantly, they're overlooking the right of return. Until Palestinians are afforded their rights, I don't think that a just solution is possible. Lastly, it's the settlements, stupid, as they say. A disengagement of the West Bank is crucial. But I don't think my opinions on this really matter all that much. Everyday Palestinians need meaningful representation at the table. Their dreams and needs are being overlooked and that needs to stop.

4. In his recent speech to Cairo, Obama encouraged Israelis and Palestinians to see each other as victims (historically). Do you agree with his statement?

The more compassion we can all have for one another the better. But Obama mostly really missed the point in that speech. Here's our response to it:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some Electronic Housekeeping and Playing Well Together:

Hi readers! I want to point out of couple of changes to this blog and just do some general housekeeping here. First of all, thanks so much for reading. I'm a couple of entries away from my 365th post, which seems like some sort of blog-o-versary. Any way, I'm so glad that all of you are still reading. Please, leave comments! Let me know you're here. Ask questions and I'll answer them. Or not. Regardless, you are deeply appreciated.

Secondly, shiny new blog toys! I've made a couple of changes to the blog, all aimed at making it easier to read and to share. First on the side bar, to the right of this entry, under the videos you'll find a link to my twitter feed. Yes, I tweet! If you do too, take a moment to start following me. I'll tweet links to these posts, but also news from Tuwani and very occasionally things about myself. I'd love to follow you as well and see what all of the fine people reading this are up to. Next, notice that at the end of this post there's a little green button labeled "share this." Click on that and it's easy to send a link to that blog post pretty much any where. You can post it to facebook, your blog, twitter, or just email it to a friend. Take advantage of it! I certainly will.

Thirdly, a word on internet etiquette - pretty please identify yourself in some way when you comment! I don't mind if you don't have a blogger id or don't want to share your name or email - in fact, please remember not to share personal information you wouldn't want someone you don't know to find. But do identify yourself in some way - initials, an internet handle, whatever. I tend to assume that people do want to remain anonymous are doing so to mask their bad behavior. Palestinians and other people who write about this issue do receive threats and harassment. I have myself. If you don't want to be treated like an internet troll, please identify yourself.

That's all, readers. Take care and thanks again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Urgent Action: Contact Israeli military regarding failure of soldiers to protect Palestinian schoolchildren

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

The school year in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) for 2009-2010 began on Tuesday 1 September. The school children, who walk from the nearby villages of Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed to At-Tuwani's elementary school, continue to require a military escort in order to ensure their safety. On every day during the first three weeks of this new school year, the Israeli army has failed to complete the escort as agreed in 2004, leaving the children to walk alone in an area where they have been attacked by Israeli settlers. Instead, they complete only a little over half the distance of the escort.

Of the twenty-six journeys to and from school, soldiers have only walked with the children on six journeys, the other journeys they have remained in their vehicle. The soldiers have never completed the escort by escorting the children to and from the end of the Ma'on chicken barns. Remaining in their vehicle and not completing the escort leaves the children vulnerable to settler attacks and harassment. On one third of the journeys, the army escort has been late, resulting in the children being late for school or having to endure a long wait after school.

The shortest route to school for the Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed children is a public road that passes between the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the outpost of Havat Ma'on. For years, armed Israeli settlers have attacked, threatened, and harassed the children along this road. In 2004, the Israeli District Coordinating Office (the branch of the Israeli military that deals with civilian matters) agreed to provide the children with an armed escort. The Israeli Knesset (parliament) Committee for Children's Rights endorsed the agreement.


The team now requests that concerned people make calls to the Communications office of the Southern District Commander of the Israeli Military, phone number (+ 972) 2 996 7200. * Request that Commander Ben Moha instruct the soldiers who perform the escort of the Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed school children to accompany the children all the way to the end of the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Stress that this protection is particularly necessary because of the repeated presence of settlers in this area at the time of the children's walk home. Remind the commander that settlers used violence against the school children on ten occasions in the 2008-09 school year and that already during this school year a settler has threatened the children in the area of the Ma'on chicken barns.

If you have difficulty reaching Commander Ben Moha's office, try the following numbers:

IDF Public Appeals Fax: +972-3-569-9400*

IDF Public Appeals Phone: +972-3-569-1000*

In addition to phone calls, the team asks that people send the Israeli military's Public Appeals office a simple message by clicking on this link: http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/Contact+US/ Please include Commander Ben Moha's name in the subject line.

Sample message (no more than 75 words):

Subject: Request to Commander Ben Moha

Palestinian school children from Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed must walk past militant settlers from Ma'on and Havat Ma'on to attend school in At-Tuwani. The Knesset recommended in 2004 that the IDF escort these children. In order to ensure the children's safety, soldiers must accompany them all the way past the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Currently soldiers are not escorting the children far enough to ensure their safety.


• This school year, the children have been late for school on three mornings out of thirteen.

• This school year, on nine of the thirteen school days, the children have had to wait after school for twenty minutes or more for the escort. On three days, they had to wait a little over half an hour, on two days forty-five minutes, and on one day nearly an hour.

• On the morning of Thursday 10 September 2009, the children had to wait twenty minutes at the Ma'on chicken barns because the army escort vehicle left the children to chase Palestinian shepherds from a nearby valley. The children were late for school.

• On the morning of Monday 7 September 2009, at the end of the Ma'on chicken barns, an Israeli settler came towards the children yelling at them. The children ran part way to school.

• During the 2008-2009 school year, settlers used violence against the children ten times; two of these times the settlers threw rocks at the children.

• For a complete report on the school escort in 2007-2008, including maps, photographs and interviews with the children, please see "A Dangerous Journey" at www.cpt.org/files/Dangerous-Journey-Summary-2008.pdf

•A report for the school year 2008-2009 will shortly be available.

*Please check your own country's dialing prefix for international calls.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Little Rude: Settlers Stab a Palestinian Working with B'TSelem.

Every well-mannered activist knows that ethnic cleaning doesn't make for pleasant dinner conversation. There's something about military occupation that turns the stomach and if you want to keep your guests happy, best to keep the conversation light. Olives, tea, cute children - those are the polite things about which to speak.

It's rude, after all, to point the finger of blame. So, talk about the children of Tuba and Mayger Al Abeed, but don't mention who it is who beats them up on their way to school. If you talk about the Israeli army arresting Palestinians as they graze their sheep, or build houses, or go to the doctor, be sure to mention who scared Israelis are - that they have a right to defend themselves from Palestinians going about their everyday lives. Be sure not to biased when you describe how it feels to see the Israeli army abduct three children and hand them over to settler to beat. After all, you'll only make everyone feel uncomfortable. The truth isn't polite.

You know what? I'm not afraid to be a little rude. A while ago - and I'm sorry it's taken me so long report on it - a friend of mine was stabbed by an Israeli settler. Would you like to know how I feel? I'm angry. Even more than that, I am bone-tired from having my heart broken over and over again by the same petty, greedy evil acts. And I think it's time for a few more people to be rude enough to speak the truth.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

School Escort 2008-2009 Video

Just wanted to get this wonderful new video about the school kids out there as soon as possible for all of you. Expect more info about our school patrol report soon!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Checking In and Checking Out the US Campaign to End the Occupation

Well, I've been a little quiet lately. I'm back in the US enjoying a little break, so things will probably continue being slow here for a bit. However, this weekend I'll be at the US Campaign to End the Occupation's National Organizing Conference here in Chicago. I promise you updates from there!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nasser's Homecoming

It was the fireworks that undid me. All the woman held their ears and the children giggled. And Nasser sat across from me with his mouth wide open and eyes shining, laughing the laugh that I have missed for the last month. I dabbed at my eyes.

It was nearly midnight, but all of the children in Nasser's extended family ran races up and down the road outside of his house. First they ran, little Gomar falling down and crying. The kids picked her up and started their game again, this time jumping like rabbits. Then they leaped like frogs. Nasser's wife handed me tea and I as took it, I realized that the sparkle in her eyes was back. I had hardly known that it was gone because of the tremendous strength of this woman. But the change in all of Nasser's family was palpable. A hole the size of one man - father, husband, brother, and son - was filled. I noticed that Nasser's mother was wiping her eyes with the edge of her hijab and I all I could think was, "Praise God."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Nasser Says Hello"

"Nasser says hello," the woman said as she stood in my doorway and
smiled. I was barely able to choke out, "Say hello to him too."
Nasser, the woman's husband, is in prison. He was arrested on July
20th during a peaceful demonstration in At-Tuwani, the village where
he lives. He did nothing wrong, nothing but build a house on land he
owns. A Palestinian need do nothing more to be treated like a

For the last month Nasser's family has been waiting for him to come
home. Nearly every week, an Israeli judge considered Nasser's case
and Nasser waited to be told when when he would be released from jail.
"There will be another hearing next Thursday," the judge said each
time. "Maybe then he can come home," I say to myself. But Nasser's
family is still waiting.

Last week, Nasser's family was told that he could come home if Nasser
paid a fine of 15,000 shekels, an impossibly large sum for someone
from a village that has been impoverished by the confiscation of their
land. The court never spoke with any of the Palestinians who witnessed
Nasser's arrest. My colleagues with Christian Peacemaker Teams video
tapped the entire incident, but our tapes were never entered into
evidence. The court just levied the fine and, frantically, the
village of At-Tuwani gathered the money together. Last Monday, they
tired to deliver it to the court, only to be told that the court would
only accept the money on Sunday. Come Sunday the court asked for
another 5,000 NIS. And Nasser's family continues to wait for him.

There are more than 11,000 Palestinians just like Nasser. They wait
in Israeli jails not knowing when they will see their families. This
is how Israel treats Palestinians going about their everyday lives -
building houses for their families, grazing their sheep, or going to
work. Meanwhile, the Israeli police refuse to prosecute Israeli
settlers for violent crimes. Time and time again, my colleagues and I
document settler violence against Palestinians and show our video
tapes to the Israeli police. Still, the police refuse to prosecute
settlers even when presented with overwhelming evidence. Conversely,
it takes only the word of a settler to land a Palestinian in jail.

Ramadan has now begun and Nasser's eldest son told me that Nasser is
fasting in prison. "But there isn't good food for him when he breaks
the fast," he explained. "Nasser really wants to come home." I
didn't know what to say, but the look on my face must have said it
all. "You're just like Adam," Nasser's wife said, laughing. Adam is
Nasser's youngest child. He is four years old. "He wants his father

"It is possible" wrote renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, "for
prison walls to disappear."Yes, Adam and I both want Nasser to come home.
Even more than that, I want an end to the brutal occupation that
separates so many parents from their children.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Top Ten Reasons that Ma'on and Havot Ma'on Have Got to Go:
Reason Number 9: Israel has Already Said Havot Ma'on Should Go

In 2006 the Israeli government issues demolish orders to all of the structures of the Havot Ma'on settlement outpost. Three years later, those structures are still standing and the settlement is expanding further every day.

Why hasn't Israel enforced it own directives against Havot Ma'on? Why are restrictions on Palestinian building enforced while Israeli settlers build as they please?

Stay tuned for the last of the top ten reasons!

Monday, August 17, 2009

An update on At-Tuwani

Life here in At-Tuwani continues. It's hot enough that I can't help but eagerly await Ramadan's start when things will slow down again.

But despite the heat, At-Tuwani's nonviolent resistance carries on. Over the last month, shepherds have been grazing under ever increasing pressure from the Israeli army. For the first time since I began working in this area, it's become common for shepherds to be arrested for nothing more than grazing their sheep close to the settlement. I watch young shepherds, some still teenagers, weighing their need to find feed for their sheep and their desire to assert their claim to their land against the statements of Israeli police officers who threaten them with three months in jail. Meanwhile, we are still awaiting the release of our dear friend who was arrested for protesting Israel's unjust restrictions on Palestinian building.

Life under this Israeli government is harder for Palestinians than before, but the village of At-Tuwani isn't going any where.

The Prison Cell

By Mahmoud Darwish

I'm posting this poem because our dear friend and landlord is still in jail for his nonviolent resistance. It's been nearly a month now and the only thing that seems certain so far is that the court will be leaving huge fines - fine that will be tremendously difficult for his family to pay. This poem is for him.

It is possible...
It is possible at least sometimes...
It is possible especially now
To ride a horse
Inside a prison cell
And run away...

It is possible for prison walls
To disappear,
For the cell to become a distant land
Without frontiers:

What did you do with the walls?
I gave them back to the rocks.
And what did you do with the ceiling?
I turned it into a saddle.
And your chain?
I turned it into a pencil.

The prison guard got angry.
He put an end to the dialogue.
He said he didn't care for poetry,
And bolted the door of my cell.

He came back to see me
In the morning.
He shouted at me:

Where did all this water come from?
I brought it from the Nile.
And the trees?
From the orchards of Damascus.
And the music?
From my heartbeat.

The prison guard got mad.
He put an end to my dialogue.
He said he didn't like my poetry,
And bolted the door of my cell.

But he returned in the evening:

Where did this moon come from?
From the nights of Baghdad.
And the wine?
From the vineyards of Algiers.
And this freedom?
From the chain you tied me with last night.

The prison guard grew so sad...
He begged me to give him back
His freedom.

— Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

Translated by Ben Bennani

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Boys on Wheels!

At-Tuwani has a brand new paved road and it's the biggest toy to ever arrive in the village. My teammate Diane has great photos on her blog, Welcome to Tomorrow Morning!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Top Ten Reasons Ma'on and Havot Ma'on have Got to Go:
Reason Number 8: For the sake of the Rule of Law and Israeli Democracy

The continued presence of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on is creating an environment of lawlessness is physically dangerous for Palestinians and sets a dangerous precedent of Israeli society. It's in the interest of both Palestinians and the Israeli state that the rule of law is fairly enforced.

When Palestinians are attacked by Israeli settlers, it's nearly impossible for them to get justice. Even when the Israeli police are presented with overwhelming evidence - eye witness testimony, photos, and video - they refuse to arrest and prosecute settlers. Last spring, settlers from the nearby settlement of Susiya were caught on video beating Palestinians. Even though the video was all over the news, the case was closed without prosecution.

When Palestinians build on privately held Palestinians land, they are issued demolition orders. When they protest this injustice nonviolently, they are arrested. Meanwhile, settlers build illegally on survey land, where all building is forbidden. They face no consequences whatsoever. (Photo: Continued construction on new building outside Havot Ma'on, 27 May 2009)

Placing particular citizens above the rule of law is bad for a democracy. It begs the question, at what point this two completely different systems of law called racism. At what point is it called apartheid? Israeli society can't afford to allow its citizens to use violence completely unchecked. And Palestinians can't afford to wait for safety and justice.

PS: According to OCHA, 80-90% of the files opened against Israeli settlers following attacks on Palestinians and their property are regularly closed by the Israeli police without prosecution.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

International Blog Against Racism Week: Hate Speech in the South Hebron Hills

IBARW seems like an appropriate time to blog about a topic I've been meaning to address - hate speech in the context of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

I've heard and seen some pretty rough, racist stuff while I've been working in At-Tuwani. I remember clearly one afternoon when settlers came out of the settlement and into the village. They retreated quickly when the village came out to confront them nonviolently, but as soon as they were back in the settlement, they started making monkey noises, insinuated that Palestinians are subhuman. The incident turned my stomach.

But what frightens me more is the frequency of racist stereotypes combined with violent threats. We've caught settlers on camera telling Palestinians to "be careful" many occasions. when I began blogging about At-Tuwani, I received a series of threatening comments, not targeting me, but the people of At-Tuwani:

There's no such thing as "Palestine".

And as for the Christian part, all Christians know that God gave the land of Israel to the nation of israel- not to Ishmael.

It's written clearly in the Bible hundreds of times.

So is "thou shalt not steal".

The Ishmaelites need to stop being so greedy and violent and be happy with their own lands.

* * *
Tuwani will cease to exist if they continue to insist on violence and trying to ethnically cleanse the Jews from the land of Israel.
* * *

Peace for peace. War for war.

You chose war, and you will pay.

And you will pay much more than you try to make us pay

Here's the rub - the people of At-Tuwani have embraced nonviolent resistance, in the face of settler attempts to drive them out of their homes. I hope that it's obvious that these statements are little more that the repetition of stereotypes and hate - and the denial of one ethnic group's existence.

The people of At-Tuwani deserve safety, respect, and dare I say it, admiration for their brave nonviolence. They don't deserve stereotypes and threats.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Good News, Tony Blair is feeling some pressure. Bad News, so are the shepherds of the South Hebron Hills

I just wanted to let all of you know that it seems like the Quartet office is receiving a lot of phone calls and email regarding Tuwani's electricity situation. They've told us "we're on the same page!" so it's probably a good idea to empathize with them that Tony Blair never answer the Mayor of Tuwani's letter. If they're on the same page than they can use all of the phone calls they receive to bolster their case with the Israeli authorities. So, please keep calling and emailing!

But the bad news is that today another shepherd was arrest for doing nothing more than grazing on his land. This is will be the third time that he's been forced to go to Kiryat Araba in the last three weeks.
Feeling the Hate 2: A Look at Hate Speech in Tel Aviv (International Blog Against Racism Week)

Whoever makes them, statements like these are always wrong.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Your chance to do something for Tuwani: Demand Tony Blair Keep His Promise to Pressure Israeli Occupying Forces to revoke the demolition order on At-Tuwani's electricity pylons

On 19 March 2009, Tony Blair, special middle east envoy of the Quartet,
visited At-Tuwani. During his visit, Blair assured villagers had given oral permission had been given by the Israeli DCO to begin the work needed to bring electricity to their village. He said:
...without a new and different system applying in Area C [the area in the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control], then it is very hard for Palestinians to enjoy the standard of living that they should enjoy and be able to develop their land as they should be able to develop in freedom.

Then On Tuesday, 28 July, members of the Israeli DCO
issued a demolition order to a newly constructed electricity pylons in At-Tuwani.

BoldIt's 2009. At-Tuwani should be able to have electricity. Tony Blair promised to ensure they could. It's time to hold him to his word - and hold Israel to its responsibilities as an occupying power.

On 25 May 2009, the DCO entered the village of At-Tuwani and ordered
villagers to halt construction work on new electricity pylons in the village. No written orders were delivered. Saber Hreini, head of the At-Tuwani Village Council, wrote to Blair requesting his help in obtaining written permission for the electricity work to continue:

We hope that in your role as envoy for the Quartet, you can be of assistance to us in contacting the Israeli government with the hopes of procuring written permission for these projects. We fear without written permission our problems will continue.

Tony Blair never responded.

Action to Take

Contact the Quartet:

Stefan Szetesi, Private Sector Development Officer


Olivia Otecosky
Office of the Quartet Representative
Telephone: +972 2 633 3333

Additional Information:

The Quartet is the body consisting of representatives of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia responsible for facilitating peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Tony Blair is currently the special envoy for the Quartet to the Middle East. Currently At-Tuwani receives only four hours electricity a day, supplied by a diesel generator operated andpaid for by the villagers. The illegal Israeli settlement and outposts of Ma’on, Havat Ma’on, and Avigail, located within 2km of At-Tuwani, are supplied by electricity from the main Israeli power grid.

Israel, as the occupying power*, is responsible for the general welfare of
the occupied Palestinian civilian population. Whilst providing electricity and water to Israeli settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territories they fail to supply these basic services to Palestinian towns and villages. In this most recent move they are now threatening to demolish the villagers attempts to improve their living conditions.

* International Humanitarian law (1907 Hague Regulation and 1949 Fourth Geneva Conventions) obliges the occupying power to ensure the welfare of the occupied population.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Announcing International Blog Against Racism Week!

I Saw it in Palestine will be participating in International Blog Against Racism Week. So stay tuned, sports fans. In the meantime, you can check out the posts of other participants here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Demolition Orders in Tuwani

We just learned that the new electricity pilons (yes, Tuwani is *this* close to having electricity 24-hours a day) have recieved a demolition order from the Israeli government.

More about how you can help coming soon.
Jail and Laundry

Clothes hang on a line and blow in the breeze. There are fewer than usual: two dresses, a head scarf, and four pairs of sweat pants, each one smaller than the last. The slacks and button-down shirts that usually hang beside them are no where to be seen.

A fifteen year old boy comes down a dirt drive-way and greets me with a wide grin. I ask him how he is and he makes jokes as he collects the laundry. We both laugh.

What neither of us is saying is that there is less laundry than usual because his father has been in jail for the last eight days. He was arrested when soldiers came into the village of handed out demolition orders to seven new houses, a cave, and a cistern. The soldiers said that the houses had no permit, but didn’t mention that the Israeli government never gives permits in this area. All building is illegal and the father of teenage boy before me was arrested for protesting, for demanding the things he needs to raise his sons on his land. He was arrested as a part of an action designed to claim land where the people of his village used to live until the violence of Israeli settlers drove them out of their homes. Now we don’t know when he will return home or how much responsibility the boy will shoulder in the meantime.

The boy gathers the clothes from the line, still grinning. His bright eyes shine and I smile back. As he walks away, clothes in hand, I wonder how it is that a boy his age can cope with this situation. And what will happen when he grows up and tries to build a house for his own family?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Israeli cellphone company Celcom released a new commercial recent that depicts the occupation as no big deal. "We all just want to have fun" soldiers say as they play soccer with across the Wall, with another group of players we never see. (Who are they? Palestinians? More soldiers? Settlers? How ever they are, they're invisible in this commercial.) It's pretty sick, but don't take my word for it. Watch it yourself:

The village of Bil'in has released a response to this commercial. They have in protesting the Wall that runs on their land for the last for years. Here's what really happens when the Israeli army returns the ball:

By the way, that's tear gas you see, which explains the masks and hazard suits Palestinians are wearing. I can tell you from experience that it's nasty stuff.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Tale of 7 Houses (Part Two)

DCO officer posts stop-work order on new Palestinian house

On the 20th of July, DCO delivered stop work orders for nine Palestinian structures around the village of At-Tuwani. These orders were delivered to seven new houses (the ones I was talking about in the previous entry), one cave, and one cistern. But it wasn't easy for the DCO to deliver the order. They were met with nonviolent resistance:

Palestinian children surrounded each house and chanted loudly, attempting to make it difficult for the DCO to leave the orders at each house and making it difficult for the DCO and soldiers to use their radio and phones. Palestinians sat in protest in front of the military and DCO and prayed together on their land.

They argued their case with the DCO. One made an especially important point - the DCO and soldiers should be delivering demolition orders to the illegal buildings in the Israeli outpost of Havot Ma’on, which is expanding every day.

Over the course of the day, the Israeli soldiers committed several abuses (in addition to delivering the stop-work orders, of course):

- Soldiers hit child.

- Soldiers shoved a Palestinian man to the ground.

- Soldiers arrested a Palestinian man for "threatening a soldier." What was he actually doing? Laughing at him. He is still being held.

Landowner being arrested

Despite Israeli settler and soldier harassment to discourage the growth of the village of At-Tuwani, Palestinians remain committed to asserting their right to develop their land. I'll do my best to keep you updated on what's going on here. In the meantime, check out this video for another look at this protest. You can also see our press release here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Tale of 7 Houses (Part One)

The last few days in Tuwani have been both thrilling and depressing. Thrilling because Palestinian nonviolent resistance in Tuwani is intelligent, courageous and persistent. Depressing because the consequences for this resistance are still high. And because the Israeli government still just doesn't get it - the Palestinians of the South Hebron Hills aren't going any where, wherever the army and settlers do to them.

Starting on the 16th of July, Tuwani residents built 7 new houses in Humra Valley, just outside of At-Tuwani on land owned by the residents. No one had any illusions about the risk they were taking. They knew that the houses would likely be destroyed by settlers or demolished by the Israeli army, but they built any way because they wanted to say to the world that this was their right, that they owned the land and should be able to access it and build on it.

We spend the day accompanying the building, which mainly meant carrying blocks and standing around awkwardly since we were the only people in the area who didn't know anything about construction. But the atmosphere was jubilant. Residents hoped that this would help them secure their land and tell their story.

But the night of the 17th, just what everyone expected happened.

Settlers came and destoryed one of the half-finished houses (photo above.) They also cut an olive tree in half, which saddened the family much more. (Remind you of anything? Maybe one fo the reason that Havot Ma'on and Ma'on should be dismantled?)

The DCO also told everyone that they would need to stop construction. Read the next entry for the continuing story. It gets worse, sadly.

Just for background, here's the press release we put out:

On the morning of 17 July, a Palestinian family from the village of At-Tuwani discovered that their newly constructed house was destroyed during the previous night. In addition, the family discovered an olive tree located near the new house cut in half. The family believes that Israel settlers from the Ma’on settlement and Havot Ma’on outpost are responsible for the vandalism. Despite being threatened by both settlers and officers from the Israel military District Coordinator (DCO), the family plans to rebuild the house.

On 16 July Palestinian residents of At-Tuwani began construction on six new small houses on land owned by the village. During the construction, Israeli settlers from Havot Ma’on outpost shouted at Palestinians working on the houses. Officers from the DCO told Palestinian land owners that the construction was illegal and threatened to arrest the workers. In addition, an officer told one At-Tuwani resident that everything he owned would be destroyed if he did not stop building. Despite these risks, Palestinians say that they plan to continue construction to assert their right to build on their own land.

While the Israeli army restricts Palestinian building, Ma’on and Carmel settlements and Avigail and Havot Ma’on outposts in the area continue to expand. Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams have documented continuous settlement expansion since 2004.

For photos of the demolished house, visit: http://cpt.org/gallery/album289

For photos of recent settlement expansion, visit: http://cpt.org/gallery/album288

Back to Absurdistan:
Whatever You Do, Don't Laugh

I just wanted to this story out as quickly as possible. A good friend of ours was arrested yesterday for laughing at Israeli soldiers.


I'll fill you in on the context as soon as possible, but I wanted to get some of the story out there as quickly as possible.
The Top Ten Reasons Ma’on and Havot Ma’on Have Got to Go:
Reason Number 7: Settlers are Stealing and Damaging Palestinian Property

Donkeys, sheep, crops, even the backpacks of school children aren’t safe from the settlers of Havot Ma’on and Ma’on. Settlers regularly damage and steal property belonging to the Palestinians residents of the South Hebron Hills and, like all over Palestine, the Israeli police refuse to prosecute settlers even when Palestinians present with overwhelming evidence of settler crimes.

Settlers Harvest Palestinian wheat (June 25, 2007)

Settlers have slashed olive trees and burnt crops. They have harvested fields planted by Palestinians, even stolen wheat out of the hands of Palestinians harvesters. This spring, they destroyed a field belonging to a family from At-Tuwani, one of the few with a wheat crop during this drought.

Settlers also regularly target livestock. On 3 occasions in March and April in 2005, Palestinians from At-Tuwani and Mufakara discovered poison on the fields where they graze their sheep. Many sheep became ill and died and for an entire year, farmers in the area were unable to sell their animal products. On March 26 2008, settlers shot two sheep and a goat, narrowly missing their shepherd. On November 15, 2008, 15 Israeli settlers from Havot Maon attacked three Palestinian shepherds and two CPTers accompanying them. During the attack, they hit the internationals with rocks, killed a donkey, and cut the throat of a second donkey. These incidents are more than property damage - they are a calculated effort to force Palestinians off of their land. (Photo: Demonstration against sheep poisoning.)

(Donkey Killed by Settlers, November 15 2008)

Police refuse to prosecute settlers in the South Hebron Hills, the same way that they ignore Palestinian complaints across the West Bank. According to OCHA, 80-90% of the files opened against Israeli settlers following attacks on Palestinians and their property are regularly closed by the Israeli police without prosecution. In light of this lawless behavior, Ma’on and Havot Ma’on have got to go.