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:

For photos of recent settlement expansion, visit:

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.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Construction on the Wall Slows to a Halt. Is this Victory?

According to the Jerusalem post, over the last 15 months very little work has been done on the apartheid wall. It remains just a little over half completed and that doesn't look set to change.

What I'm wondering is this: is this a victory of Palestinian nonviolent resistance? Are all of those demonstration and law suits paying off? Or is there a different reason for the slow down?

Thoughts, internet?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Everything I know about Nonviolence I learned in At-Tuwani

While I was cleaning out some files, I found a document I started a year ago. It's a list of the things I've learned about nonviolent resistance from the people of At-Tuwani and while it's very far from being comprehensive, I thought it might be interesting. I think that I had intended to the describe events and people that taught me these lessons and I could still do that if I get requests to do so. But I think this is pretty interesting as it is.

Drink your tea. The soldiers will probably still be there after you're finished. If they aren't, there was no need to go any way.

There’s always time to be polite.

When you thinks things are bad, ask a haji* and she’ll tell you that they could be worse.

Having a gun doesn't make you strong. It certainly doesn't make you brave.

If it's really important, have the women and children demonstrate. When all else fails, send in the hajis.

Nonviolence is risky.

Persistence is powerful.

The real victims of this occupation are people who give into paranoia and hate.

*Elderly woman (women)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Top Ten Reason Ma'on and Havot Ma'on Have Got to Go

Reason Number Six: Continued Settlement Expansion Threats the Ability of Palestinians to Stay in the South Hebron Hills

On June 25th 2009, two shepherds, ages 15 and 16, were arrested just outside of their homes. Their crime? Israeli police charged them with grazing inside the municipal boundaries of Ma'on settlement. What the police neglected to say is that their home, the village the Tuba, is within meters of the boundaries Ma'on has declared. For these boys and their families, Ma'on presence and continued expansion, represents a dire threat to their way of life.

(Map of Tuba and Tuwani, showing Ma'on's boundaries)

Palestinians like these shepherds are already struggling to make a living raising sheep and farming in the South Hebron Hills. The root of their poverty is simple – Palestinians can't access their land. Ma'on and Havot Ma'on already take up a huge swatch of land Palestinians used to plant, harvest, and graze. Because settlers regularly attack Palestinians, the amount of land that shepherds and farmers can safely access is even further limited. If the settlements continue to expand, a la Netenyahu's plan for their 'natural growth', it may become impossible for Palestinians to stay here.

The continued expansion of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on is a slow, silent form of ethnic cleansing.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Top Ten Reasons Ma'on and Havot Ma'on Have Got to Go: Reason Number Five: Ma'on and Havot Ma'on Are Illegal

As civilian settlements in occupied territory, both Ma'on and Havot Ma'on are illegal under international law. Here are the relevant international statutes and decisions:

Article 46 of the Hague Convention prohibits confiscation of private property in occupied territory.

Article 49, paragraph 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly stipulates that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

UN Security Council Resolution 465 states “Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants” in the Occupied Territories constitutes “a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”. The Security Council called upon Israel to “dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction or planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem”.

The 2004 ruling of International Court of Justice in The Hague stated that “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development."

But it doesn't stop there. Havot Ma'on is also illegal under Israeli law. It is an unauthorized, illegal outpost that is still under orders to be demolished, but that seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Bluff of "Natural Growth"

This piece from Israel Channel Two shows dramatically how "natural growth" is simply a nice way of saying "settlement expansion." They visit a settlement that growing "naturally" while many of its existing homes are empty. There's no easier way to show the lie of Israel's policies. I only want to add two things:

1. They could have gone anywhere in the West Bank for this piece. Every settlement I know of is half-empty but still growing.

2. It needs to be said that the essence of a settlement is that it is a Jewish-only community...on Palestinian land. Is anyone else wiling to call that simply racist, or am I the only one?