The ISM training was yesterday and today. We had about eight new recruits, so it was a pretty good weekend session. At the end of today, we were planning how to spread ourselves around the regions that ISM covers and it was a really good vibe. We have some good activists here now and I am feeling more confident about the state of ISM. The majority of us here now are British, I think. Mansour jokes that it is a British occupation of ISM (like there used to be a Swedish occupation).
This morning we went to a legal training session organised by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israeli (PCATI). It was a very useful and interesting session, and folk from ISM (including the new trainees), IWPS, the Tel Rumeida Project and CPT were there amongst others. Two Israeli lawyers gave us briefings on how Israeli military law applies to Palestinians in the occupied territories (the first session) and the rights of us as internationals in the occupied territories (the second session). The two lawyers are brillant, committed people and they do loads of work for Palestinians and international activists like us supporting them. The main point that came across was that although Israel claims to uphold a fair, equal rule of law that governs the Palestinians in the occupied territories, in reality the military is the law and what they say goes. The Palestinians are subject to a whole slew of military orders, which are only written in Hebrew and are hard for the public to access. It’s a really nightmarish system. And it is an apartheid system too, because the Jewish settlers who live in the occupied territories are not subject to these military orders, rather they are governed by regular Israeli law which is far more lenient and accountable. Just one example of this – Israelis (and internationals) arrested in the occupied territories have to be brought before a judge for the initial hearing within 24 hours, but Palestinians will not see a judge for eight days. Furthermore, since this judge is a uniformed military officer, this hearing is simply a formality in which one part of the military asks another part of the military to extend the arrest. There are lots of examples of things like this, but the whole thing amounts to a system of apartheid, whose main aim is to ultimately to make the Palestinians leave their homes.
On the first day of the ISM training, I could not really participate much because I was busy trying to make sure the press were covering a death that happened near Bil’in. Two brothers went missing in a flash flood that happened near Bil’in (the night before there was a huge storm here in the Ramallah area – the loudest thunder I have ever heard and the rain did not stop for ages). One was rescued, but the other’s body was found caught on the razor wire of the apartheid barrier. Local Palestinians who were in the search party claimed that the pool of water that the man drowned in was caused because the patrol road built as part of the apartheid barrier acted as a dam. Following the story as it was breaking and trying to get all the facts straight in our press releases was a stressful experience as it usually is trying to follow events as they happen and trying to get the media to cover them. Another ISMer, H. went out to where it happened and took the photos used on both our website and by al-Jazeera. Seeing the body in the photos was a traumatising experience because I had been following events as they unfolded, so I can only imagine what H. (to say nothing of the friends and relatives of the man) must have been feeling since he had seen the body with his own eyes. Once we finished all the media work we needed to get done on the story, me and H. went out to smoke nargile and drink coffee to forget our troubles. We had some interesting political discussion about the politics of self determination and national liberation movements and annoying, opportunistic fake “socialist” parties who exploit such struggles for their own interests while being completely blind to realities on the ground. I thoroughly recommend his blog and more specifically (relating to our discussion) his write up of the recent Cairo Conference.
I might go to Hebron at some point this week to help the Tel Rumeida Project, as the folk there are very tired by the sound of it. We have several ISMers going to support them tomorrow, and more after that so we’ll see how it goes. More media work tomorrow I think.
Must do laundry now.