Floating Activists

The last couple of weeks have been fairly eventful. I’ve had loads of email back from you all, so thanks for those. It’s good to hear from home and from friends all over the world. Sorry if I have not got round to replying to you individually – I’m working through my inbox when I have time.

I recenly spoke via an online voice call to my friends Harmeet and Donna in New Zealand. For those of you in the UK, you may not have heard of Harmeet because the British press tended to concentrate on Norman Kember, but he was one of the four peace activist hotages from the CPT kidnapped in Iraq back in December. Although sadly one of the four, Tom was killed. Harmeet, Norman and Jim were released only recently. It was really good to speak to both my friends from my first trip to Palestine who I had met at the ISM training.

I was moving around the West Bank quite a lot in the first couple of weeks here, so I’ve been able to see the most recent situation in each place. My plan at the moment is to commit to the Ramallah media office as my long term region and work here during the week while also doing some training sessions for new recruits to ISM too.

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The Party Line: ‘Palestinians attack, Israelis respond’

In an attempt to disguise the current Israeli military operations in Nablus as a response to the suicide bombing in Tel-Aviv, the Israeli media are either directly lying that the military entered Nablus “in response to the terror attack” (Jerusalem Post) or strongly implying the same by saying the army is there “in [the] wake of [the] Tel Aviv blast” (Ha’aretz).

In actual fact, house occupations and shootings of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers in Nablus were underway well before the bombing. Furthermore, the military have been in and out of Nablus almost constantly over the last week. The Ha’aretz news timeline today directly contradicts the claim by the Jerusalem Post and even the strong implication that it was a “response” in the headline of their own story. At 12:34, the timeline refers to an AP wire report covering the military operations in Nablus: “Palestinian youth shot by Israeli troops during W. Bank protest” (note that there is no mention of the Tel-Aviv bombing in this story). The bombing does not appear in the Ha’aretz site’s timeline until over an hour after the Nablus story was filed: 13:43.

Click for larger image

It is possible that the military operation intensified in Nablus after the Tel-Aviv bombing. But the Israeli media were ignoring the story about Israeli jeeps rolling into Nablus before it became possible for them to re-cast the incursion as a ‘response to terrorism’. A response to what is often characterised as ‘irrational, unprovoked, fanatical terrorism’. All this despite the fact that the Israeli army has been shelling civilian areas in Gaza for the past 12 days killing at least eighteen people, including at least two children with many more injured. We in the general public might be niave enough to think that terrorism is the deliberate targeting of civilians, regardless of their natonality, but it would seem that the major media defines Israeli bombing of Palestinians as “counter-terrorism” almost by definition.

Before the bombing in Tel-Aviv, the story about Nablus was all but ignored by the Israeli media. This currently remains the the policy of the western media, despite the fact that the army continues to occupy as many as five houses in Nablus using them as sniper posts, and have injured at least four Palestinian young people with live rounds and rubber-coated bullets.

We have been covering this story here in the ISM Media office since 10am this morning, and have watched the hypocrisy and subservience to establishment interests of the Israeli media explicitly illustrated before our own eyes. Apparently, Palestinian lives are only of use to the propaganda system. It could be argued, however, that this position is morally superior to the position of western media agencies such as the BBC on whose radar the attacks in Nablus do not even register.

Gaza is free now? Dream on.

Both of the following articles are from Haaretz, 15th April 2006. See this ISM digest for action you can take to stop the bombing of Gaza, along with more background information and video.

IDF enters Gaza for first time since pullout

by Amos Harel

The Israel Defense Forces yesterday entered Palestinian Authority territory in the Gaza Strip openly for the first time since last summer’s disengagement. IDF soldiers crossed the Green Line fence and penetrated about 100 meters into the PA in order to examine the place in which two armed Palestinians were killed on Wednesday and to ensure that no bombs had been planted there.

Continue reading “Gaza is free now? Dream on.”

Amira Hass: “Convergence to a border of convenience”

Amira Hass regularly writes brilliant and insightful reports and analysis in the Israeli press. This article is particularly good. A depressing picture, but acurate, I fear.


Convergence to a border of convenience

Ha’aretz, 5th April 2005

By Amira Hass

For the “convergence” plan to be presented to the Western world as a giant concession worthy of praise, the dimensions of Jewish support for the “vision of the Greater Land of Israel” must be inflated. But if the Greater Land of Israel really were the top priority for the Jewish citizenry of Israel, then there wouldn’t be fewer than 10,000 settlers in the Jordan Valley. Tens of thousands would be rushing to expand Ma’aleh Ephraim and the farming settlements, so the lights of the eastern sector of the Greater Land would shine and twinkle like the lights of the western sector of the Jordanian kingdom.

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Trauma Once Removed

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.

Ah! Fresh Air!

Wednesday was a quiet day in which I caught up with sleep lost to jetlag and fixed my email setup. On thursday there was a demo in Beit Sira that we went to. It was Land Day, which commemorates a 1976 uprising of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The idea was to plant trees in the land of the village. This was unsuccessfull because of the fully tooled up riot squad of Israeli soldiers that blocked our path. The most mild of pushing on their huge plexi-glass shields led to a full-on battering session which in turn led to immediate stone-throwing from the village shebab. The demo did have a lot a of spirit, but it could have been organised better. One problem was that it would have been beter if the shebab kept their stone-throwing antics separate from the demonstration. This is just a practical matter of us not wanting to have to worry about being battered with a stone before we can get out of the crossfire. Still, in an evaluation meeting afterwards, the concern was expressed that the organisers of the demonstration should bring this up with the youth of the village. So hopefully something will be done about this for future demos. It takes time to learn these lessons and build on successes and failures.

That afternoon we went to a sort of conference near Biddu commemorating Land Day in which various PLO representatives waxed lyrical about the importance of Land Day, commemorating the martyrs, the importance of recognising that the PLO is still the “sole legitimate reprisentitive” of the Palestinian people since “some parties” (Hamas was rarely named) do not seem to recognise this, rebuilding the PLO after the recent elections, etc. etc. There were some interesting points, but the speakers seemed to be mostly repeating the same things. I guess this was because of the internal politics of the PLO – each party’s representative (Fatah, PFLP, DFLP, PPP and a representative of the Christian community) had to have their own speech, even if they said mostly the same thing. Three hours of speeches is a bit much.

Friday, of course, was the regular Bil’in demonstration. It was great to be back! Spirits were high and there was a good attendance. The Israeli anarchists were there in force as always. Also there were a lot of folk from Gush Shalom this week. The village committee’s plan was to use a large metal frame as a ramp to be able to get over the gate in the fence. A good attempt was made at this, but the soldiers were particularly nasty this week and lashed out almost immedately to stop this dangerous bridge building attempt. Can’t let the Palestinians into their own land now can we? The usual beatings and usage of “less lethal” weaponry on unarmed demonstrators ensued.

That night, myself along with two others from ISM stayed overnight in the Bil’in outpost, which was fun. It was a nice camping trip – it’s good to be outdoors in the fresh air! We sat around the fire with guys from the village, learned some Arabic and drank loads of sweet tea. About 7 in the morning we were woken up by the sound of an off-road vehicle pulling away. M. had seen them and said that it was soldiers who peeked in the door of the outpost to watch us sleeping. Furthermore they had apparently done the same thing three times that night! Weirdos!

Today was the joy that is the ISM core group meeting where the big decisions are made. Only seven hours this month – fun fun fun! Still at least we made some deicisons. Haha.

Raining outside, though weather was warm yesterday. Training for new ISM folk tomorrow. Must sleep. Bed soon.

Back in Palestine

Well I’m back again!

Got here safely this morning about 4:45 am. No problems at airport, but they took their time searching my bags. Two hours later I was finally on my way to the hostel in Jerusalem. Such warm greetings from Hisham! Got the latest updates about the situation here and within ISM from him. Travelled into Ramallah with an aussie, J., who’d just returned from a conference in Egypt (and who, like me conincidentally, wants to visit Nazareth at some point). Brilliant to see all my friends in the media office in Ramallah, and they all seemed genuinely glad to see me – even though I’ve been crap about keeping in touch with them. I must do better with emails in future.

I have jetlag (first time ever for a Palestine trip). This was due to getting almost no sleep on the plane. Had a nap when I got here to Ramallah, but woke myself up so as not to get into a bad sleeping pattern.

Went to Bil’in with my good friend R. to visit some folk there. Met some other ISMers there and in Ramallah too. Spent some time enjoying the hospitality of one of the village’s families. Mmmm… nice Palestinian food. Walked over to the new outpost the Bil’in people have built on their land near the illegal Israeli settlements, to challenge their construction and that of the apartheid barrier. To get there we had to pass the fence, two sections of which had been cut down, presumably by kids from the village. Due to this and the fact that this was election day in Israel, there were several Israeli soldiers up by a large antenae (my guess is that it was a mobile phone mast). Upon seeing us pass nearby, they shouted to call us over. R. is a Palestinian and did not want to ignore them in case they started shooting. They detained him for about 30 minutes, checking his ID card over the radio. R. has nothing on his record so was not worried. Instead he chatted to the soldiers in his fluent Hebrew. They let us go after a while when a few other people came up from the village to join us. After that we headed over to the outpost, which is a cosy little place. Learned a little Arabic from A. A couple of other ISMers stayed there the night.

I’m really glad to be back – I think it’s going to be a good trip. I’m off to bed now to catch up with sleep.

p.s. I’ll send my phone number via email soon, but if you still have it from last time I was here: it’s the same as then.

Comments now working

Had a problem with my software that was stopping the comments system working, but it’s fixed now, so comment away

The Friday Intifada

Until recently the weekly demonstrations in the West Bank village of Bil’in seemed to be the only regular event that was keeping the non-violent intifada against the apartheid wall going (at least from the perspective of international activists in Palestine). This had a cumulative “Friday Intifada” effect – you sometimes felt like the demonstration was an isolated event making little difference.

In the village of Bil’in the barrier, if completed, will cut off or destroy a full 60% of the villager’s land. This is agricultural land used to grow olives and other produce. A similar situation can be seen in many places where the wall is built within Palestinian territory – not only cutting deep into the West Bank, but cutting Palestinians off from each other in many cases. In this area, the barrier (only put up in the last month, though the construction work has been going on for much longer) is in the physical form of a fence with a parallel military patrol road that the soldier’s jeeps cruise up and down on. Week in and week out since February the villagers assemble outside the village Mosque after midday prayers and the demonstrations sets off. They are joined every week by supporters from across the West Bank, from Israel and from many different countries. Amongst the Israelis present are the brilliant and dedicated activists from Anarchists Against the Wall and the principled and consistent Gush Shalom (“Peace Bloc”). Internationals come from many different places around the world and from different organisations. We in the ISM have benn joining in every week.

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Web site woes

There’s been a lot of problems with my website so far while I’ve been here, so appologies if you’ve followed a link from one of my emails or checked this site and it has not worked. I’ve restarted this site using a completely fresh database and so far, the problems seem to be fixed, so fingers crossed it will all be OK now. A new report about the anti-wall demonstrations in Bil’in and other places is half done and will be here in the next few days. Plus more pictures soon…

Christian Peacemakers and the Failure of the Left

Electrontic Iraq has an article by Mark LeVine that is mostly correct.

As calls for the release of the four CPT activists in Iraq (including Harmeet, my friend from ISM in January) continue to come from all quarters, it’s worth taking a moment to ask why there are not more people involved in groups like the CPT and ISM in Iraq and Palestine. His criticisms of how much of the US peace movement limits itself to “periodic protests in New York or Washington DC” can be equally well applied to the UK Stop the War Coalition.

Second Aboud Demonstration Attacked by Israeli Military

The demonstration is held up by the Israeli military. People suffer the affects of tear gas

On Friday the 25th of November the village of Aboud held its second demonstration in two weeks against the construction of the wall there. Joined by Israeli and international supporters, the village came out in force to show opposition to the construction of the wall on their agricultural land and the destruction and theft that will result from it. Over 5330 dunams of their land, as well as the whole of the water sources of the village will be confiscated by the Israeli apartheid barrier.

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