Pastoral Calm Faces Military Might

IOF soldiers stop the demonstrators reaching the checkpoint (click for larger image)

At 11am on Tuesday the 22nd of November residents of the Tubas area held a dignified demonstration against the Israeli checkpoint near Tayasir village. Around 100 Palestinians were joined by about 25 Israeli and international supporters. The shebab (youth) of the region were mostly in school at the time, so the demonstration was mostly made up of mature, respected men of the community as well as several local women.

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Successful First Anti-wall Demo in Aboud Village

The length of the Aboud demonstration

On the morning of Friday 18th November villagers from Aboud, a village in the West Bank, held their first non-violent demonstration against the construction of the illegal Israeli annexation wall. The wall is threatening to steal agricultural land and water resources from the small Muslim/Christian village of 2500 citizens.

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ISM Olive Harvest Campaign, Nablus Region

An IOF soldier prevents Palestinian women harvesting their land(click for larger image)

On Saturday the 22nd of October, an ISM affinity group went into the fields near Salim village to join locals in the olive harvest. A family had contacted us to help them to pick olives in a plot of 100 dunums of land that they had been unable to harvest for the past five years. A small settler outpost had been built very close to their land, which was already close to the larger Elon More settlement. As we drew near to the relevant plot we met the Palestinian family – they were being denied entrance by the Israeli military. At first the soldiers told us to leave or we would be arrested by the Border Police who were about to turn up, and that the family would not be allowed to pick today because they had supposedly not organised it with the DCO (district co-ordination office – the joint Israel-Palestinian Authority civil administration). Their story changed, however, because they also told some of us that it was a closed military zone – of course they could not produce a map of the alleged zone as they are required to do. The Commander referred to a Jewish ISM activist as “the lost Jew”, and told her he was ashamed of her. When challenged on his poor treatment of these people he responded that “Arabs aren’t people”. After about half an hour of waiting and some negotiations, a DCO representive and some Border Police arrived and we were allowed onto the land to pick after everyone was searched. They also watched us while we picked. Due to their enforced neglect over the last five years, the olive trees were not as fruitful as many trees in other plots that we had picked from in Salim the previous day.

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Israel redraws the roadmap, building quietly and quickly

Important article from Chris McGreal, a Guardian journalist in Jerusalem:,16518,1594808,00.html

Unfortunately, it very much reflects what I’m seeing when I travel between Jerusalem and Ramallah. A brand new “terminal” is being built to replace the Qalandia checkpoint, which I’m told is going to be run by civilians.It looks very much like an international border crossing. It even has disabled parking spots. Israel is very clearly consolidating their hold on East Jerusalem.

Pictures and a fuller report will hopefully follow soon.

I really need a job…

The web is a fantastic way to waste time. Today’s main diversion is one of them there blogger trends called The Fifth Sentence. It’s very simple:

    1. Grab the nearest book.


    1. Open the book to page 123.


    1. Find the fifth sentence.


  1. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

  2. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do whatÂ’s actually next to you.

Mine is from “Fateful Triangle” by Noam Chomsky (honestly it was the nearest book to me – I’m not trying to make myself cooler!):

Cases of attacks on Arabs are sometimes reported in the press – e.g., the beating of an Arab hospital worker in Gedera by two armed men who threatened “to do much worse if he does not leave Gedera.”

Completely unrelated, but equally time-wasting is this unintentionally hilarious parent’s guide to l33t sp33k by Microsoft of all people!

Oppression and Resistance in Idhna

The elders were at the head of the demo (click for larger image)

After my first stint in Hebron over election day, I went back to Jerusalem to gather my thoughts, do some laundry and decide on my next move. After a few days, I decided that I would go back to Hebron for the last week of my trip as the limits of spending a day here and a day there had become clear to me. As luck would have it, the Hebron ISM group came to Jerusalem to spend the night because they had been to a nearby meeting in the afternoon, so we had a mini reunion. Far too early the next morning (the 14th of January) we headed back down to Hebron. We met one of the ISM coordinator’s downtown and headed off to Idhna – yet another area soon to be devastated by the Wall. A demonstration had been planned there and our coordinator had arranged for us to meet with some local families too.

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Elections under occupation

The Qalandia checkpoint near Ramallah (click for larger image) The territories occupied by Israel that should constitute a future Palestinian state (the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem) are just that – under military occupation. It is currently the longest military occupation in the world, dating back to 1967. In the run up to this past 9th of January, the Palestinians here did everything they could to run an election as professionally as possible under harsh constraints from the Israeli state. Contrary to the racist picture painted every day in the western media, the Palestinian people understand what democracy is and how to get it. And they understand that the primary thing preventing democracy is the Israeli military occupation. Democracy under occupation is an oxymoron. Since the first intifada in the late 80’s it has been crystal clear that the vast majority of Palestinians recognise the fact that Israel exists and is not going to go away. Even before this, the “rejectionist Arabs” of Palestine had in reality been trying to find ways to live alongside Israel. At every turn, these moves are blocked by the US government, which – beyond the rhetoric – has been rejectionist in practice for a long time, supporting Israeli state terrorism no matter which political party is in government in either country.

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Resistance to the Wall in Biddu

An olive grove is turned into a building site (click for larger image)The resistance to the Wall I saw in Jayyous was very encouraging and brave, but what I witnessed in Biddu was nothing less than inspiring. On the 7th of January an olive tree planting action was planned. Several ISM activists came to join in the event which was organised by Palestinians from the area and was also attended by other internationals and Israelis, including a group called Rabbis for Human Rights. Popular committees are very actively resisting the Wall in this area, and have had some successes. Mohammed Mansour (a local Palestinian activist whose court hearing I covered in my first report) told me that the reason for this was that they, the Israelis and the internationals had acted together “as one”. He reminded me that “we don’t hate the Israeli people, only the Israeli government”.

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A Beautiful Occupation

The fence between Jayyus and Jayyus' land (click for larger image) On Tuesday the 4th of January about 30 ISM activists went up to Jayyus to join a local informational meeting and olive tree planting action against the devastating effects that the Apartheid Wall is having on the people there. Jayyus is a poor rural village of about 3200 Palestinians in the West of the Qalqilya region of the occupied West Bank. What is happening there is terrible. The State of Israel is building a so-called “security barrier” throughout the West Bank, supposedly to keep out suicide bombers. If you wanted to put up a fence between your garden and your neighbor’s you would have to put it on your side, right? Apparently the state of Israel thinks differently. Here, as in most of the West Bank, the so called “security barrier” (actually a fence in this section) was built well within the 1967 Green Line, so that yet more Palestinian land is confiscated and effectively annexed to Israel.

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Arrival, first impressions and a sub-machine gun

After stupidly missing my morning flight to Tel Aviv on Thursday, I had to get the evening one instead. Arriving Friday morning after a comfortable flight (on which I had been upgraded to business class) I was lucky enough to happen upon another ISMer in the shared taxi to Jerusalem, although this only dawned on the both of us when we both ended up going to the same place where we were meant to make contact with the ISM. Where Tel Aviv meets the sea from the air (click here for a larger version)

The trip from the airport to Jerusalem and then the taxi to the training in Ramallah was an enlightening experience in itself. We had no trouble at the Qalandiya checkpoint outside of Ramallah this time. The contrast between the sights on the road trip to Jerusalem and the road trip to Ramallah is striking. The poverty in the West bank compared to (for example) the conservative religious Jewish communities in West Jerusalem is self-evident. There are buildings that are modern and wealthy looking, though these seemed to be mostly government buildings. By and large though, even the relatively prosperous (in West Bank terms) city of Ramallah is very run down – the lack of investment and the presence of poverty was clear even on first impressions.

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