Monday, February 22, 2010

Reading and Writing, Dignity and Resistance

“They said there are twenty-one kids,” said my teammate Jessica. Jessica and I were sitting on the top of Khourbah hill, waiting to finish what we call school patrol. She had finished speaking with our fellow CPTers in the village of At-Tuwani. They were waiting for the Palestinian school children to be dismissed from school and gather to to walk to their homes in the villages of Tuba and Maghaer al Abeed. Our teammates had called to let us know that the Israeli military had arrived to escort the school children past the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and Havat Ma'on settlement outpost and we could expect to see the children soon – all twenty-one of them.

“Twenty-one kids?” I asked, dumbfounded. “Where on earth did they come from?”

“They say that Mohammed* brought them,” Jessica replied. I shook my head disbelievingly, still a bit stunned. “Wow,” I said. Then we looked at each other and grinned.

That morning, my teammates and I had observed only five children arrive at school. A larger group of children had gathered at the appointed location and waited for the Israeli military to arrive to escort them to At-Tuwani. Every school day, these children walk between Ma'on settlement and Havat Ma'on settlement outpost and are regularly attacked by adult Israeli settlers. “Settlers sometimes catch us, hit us with rocks, and knock us down,” described one child. Because these attacks on the children have come to the attention of Israeli and international media, the Israeli military escorts the children and is supposed to ensure their safety. My teammates and I monitor the escort. Usually that means calling the military and asking, entreating, and cajoling them to escort the children in a timely fashion. All too often, the army refuses to respond and the children are left to face the setters on their own. It's a maddening situation.

This morning after my teammates made several calls to the military, the children were still waiting. It was 8:10. School had began and the children would be late. My teammates watched them walk from the appointed meeting place to the village of Tuba. Most of the children returned home, and a very small group started to walk through the hills unescorted. The path they took was very dangerous. Settlers frequently attack and harass the children when they walk this way, when the military fails to escort them. Thankfully, no settlers approached the children, but my teammates and I felt deflated. Only five kids, it seemed, would make it to school on this day.

But while we trudged back to the village of At-Tuwani, Mohammed, the father of some of the children, gathered the fourteen remaining kids together. Abandoning his own plans for the morning, Mohammed walked with them along through the hills along a safer path, out of sight of the settlement. It must have taken them over an hour to reach the At-Tuwani, but they did. Thanks to Mohammed, fourteen more children had the opportunity to learn that day.

The bravery and determination of the school children of Tuba and Magher Al Abeed and their parents always impresses me. But as I watched all twenty-one the kids make their way home that day, I realized just how highly these families value education. When these children go to school, they're learning more than reading, writing, and math. They are learning what they will have to do to live with dignity. They are learning the meaning of resistance.

*Name changed

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Interview with Tamer of DAM on Democracy Now

I'll admit it, I'm being a lazy blogger. The truth is, the last couple of days have been overwhelming and I don't know what to say about them. But Tamer has some good comments, as per usual.

Saturday, February 06, 2010's that video without typos!

Yeah, thought it would be best just to be direct about that. Cheers!
When I told my mother what that our friend Musab was attacked by soldiers and then tortured for four hours, she started to cry. When she stopped, she asked me, “Is there someone where that he can go? To have a break and rest?”

“Mom,” I said, “He's Palestinian. Where could he go?”

Today, Musab was attacked again. Settler came out of the Havot Ma'on settlement outpost and threw rocks at him. They threatened him and tried to provoke him, to no avail. Attacks like these are terrifying. They're dangerous. And they happen so frequently that I can't summon up the energy to write a press release about it and even if I did, no journalist would care. The Israeli police certainly don't care. In the end it's a simple story. Musab is Palestinian. He has no where to go.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Video of the Attack on the Raba'i family

By this point, I feel like I've said everything that I can say about this attack. I edited this video as well and it was one of the more difficult things I've done here. So I'm going to stop writing. Just watch the video. :-)
Mona's Party

“This morning,” my neighbor Mona* explained to me, “I told my husband that since the kids are out of school and he didn’t need to go into town, I would cook something special and we would have a party.” Mona has a wry sense of humor and I started to wonder what the punch line would be. “We were going to invite you, but instead we had a little party with the soldiers and the settlers.” Mona cocked her head to one side and shrugged, smiling ironically.

The “party” we had in At-Tuwani wasn’t nearly as fun as the party that Mona had planned. At about 9 am on the 26th of January, a settler from the Havot Ma’on settlement outpost entered the village of At-Tuwani, accompanied by the Israeli army and the Ma’on settlement security guard. The settler then entered the homes of my neighbors and searched in their animal pens. “What is he looking for?” my neighbors asked the soldiers. “If he thinks we’ve stolen something, bring the police and conduct a normal search. Where’s the rule of law?”

Between 15 and 20 settlers then joined the first, along with more soldiers. Mona’s husband tried to convince the soldiers to make the settlers leave the village. “We’ll go back instead our houses if they leave,” he said. But then the settlers started throwing stones at a group of Palestinian women and children. The next thing I knew, the soldiers were pointing their guns at my neighbors. One of them drew back his fist and punched someone in the face. It was Mfadi, the quietest, least imposing man in the village. His nose bleeding. Another soldier raised his gun and fired. For a moment I was stunned and dumbly wondered why no one seemed to be shot. Then I realized that it was a sound bomb and that the soldiers were likely to start using tear gas next. I saw the same soldier pull out another canister. “Don’t do it,” I started screaming. “There are women and children here. Don’t shoot that!”

Later, when the soldiers and settlers had left the village, Mona told me that Mfadi’s nose was broken and he would need an operation. She also said that the soldiers told her and the women that if they did not leave the area, they would arrest all of the men of the village and kill at least one. “We didn’t leave,” said Mona. “One of the girls told them they could take her whole family to jail if they wanted to. She said that there was no food in her house. At least there’s food in prison!” Mona laughed.

Then Mona told me about the party she had wanted to have, until the settlers and soldiers had prevented it. I started to wonder how many other parties were canceled because of the occupation that day. But then Mona smiled. “Maybe we’ll have our party tomorrow,” she said. Sure enough, the next afternoon I sat on Mona’s front porch laughing and sipping tea. As we ate the special food that Mona had promised, I imagined the celebration she will throw when the occupation finally over. Soldiers and settlers can’t cancel that party – only postpone it.

*Name changed.
Settlers invade Tuwani and Soldier break the Nose of a Palestinian Farmer (video).

I just finished 13 days in Tuwani as half of a two-person CPT team. In case you were wondering what that's like, I can tell you it's fairly exhausting. But I have a day off now and am catching up on the blog...and my laundry.

Here's a video of the most significant thing to happen in Tuwani over the last two weeks: 15-20 settlers came into At-Tuwani, accompanied by soldiers. The settlers threw stones at Palestinians while a soldier punch a Palestinian farmer in the face. His nose is now broken and he needs an operation - the sort of expense that no one in this area can afford. But at least for once the news media has picked up the story. Take a look: