Wednesday, November 03, 2004
It's been a long time since I blogged, and I have left the West Bank for now. I have posted some photos and comments on the photo page (palblog.fotopages.com) and will probably update this page from time to time. Since there are comments with the photos I won't repeat them here.
Apparently I don't have a comment facility enabled on this blog, I will try to remedy that now so that we can keep things busy even if I have left Palestine.
Thanks for the support from those of you who have been in touch.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Two days ago I visited the Salfit region, and went to the Wall at Mas’ha. There are various roadblocks in the region, and, on this occasion I witnessed the indignity of an old man, in pyjamas, being wheeled through the roadblock on a stretcher and then lifted into some form of transport, because the Red Crescent ambulance carrying him couldn’t pass the roadblock. Obviously, these roadblocks and the suffering they inflict, the daily struggle to get to and from university, work, home etc, are just another example of the collective punishment that is part of the Israeli occupation. The Wall, however, is another story. I never believed it was ‘temporary’, as suggested by the Israeli government, but seeing it at Mas’ha was a very good place to confirm the Land Grab nature of the Wall, and its intended permanence. What is frightening is how well the fence (as oppose to the 8m concrete sections) ‘blends in’ with the countryside. It doesn’t look too invasive from a distance, and I am sure that in a few years, when people outside Palestine stop reading about the destruction of olive groves, and agricultural land, and denial of access to water, work, school etc that have been caused by the Wall, it will become an accepted part of any future ‘solution’. And thus will the annexation of land, and the destruction of any viable Palestinian state, succeed.
It is a classic case of creating de facto realities on the ground, and biding time until people stop discussing the rights and wrongs (including the ICJ). I am afraid the Israeli policy of ignoring all complaints, and accelerating construction will prove successful.
Photos at palblog.fotopages.com.
What else can I say, other than to urge you to take what action you can to stop it being built, and bring down what has gone up. Visit stopthewall.org and other sites mentioned in previous blogs below. Please.
Monday, July 19, 2004
PB visited Nablus recently and saw where Dr Khaled, his son Mohammad, and Yamon Faraj were killed.
I visited the building that houses at least 7 families and which was attacked on 6 July by soldiers, 4 Apaches and at least 4 tanks. The attack was allegedly part of a gun battle between the Israeli forces and Yamon Faraj – though I saw no evidence of any gunfire from inside any of the apartments towards the outside, and huge amounts of fire (bullet, missile, rocket) going into the homes.
Indeed, I was told that when he was killed, in cold blood, already injured by Israeli soldiers, Faraj was in a garden, not a house.
PB now understands that Dr Khaled, a professor at An Najah university, was not killed by helicopter gunfire on his building, but rather was shot as he stood in a window, holding his hands in the air and calling out to the soldiers that he could not open his front door, and that he was an American citizen. They shot him anyway.
His 16 year old son Mohammad bled to death in another room, having been hit by Lord knows what ammunition which rained on the house. His death and that of his father have been ‘apologised’ for by Israeli officials.
After the firing stopped, the Israeli forces used Palestinian civilians, including a 17 year old boy, to ‘search’ buildings and surroundings, forcing them in front as human shields. They also forced them to carry the bodies of the dead out – in one case the brains of a dead man transferred onto the man carrying him.
I took many photos of bullet and shrapnel and other ammunition damage in people’s houses and I was amazed that more people were not killed. Walls were riddled with holes, rockets had landed inside houses, a gas canister was hit…
One empty apartment was destroyed by the Israeli forces who blew it up despite the fact that it had an adjoining wall with another building – causing structural damage to a bedroom which will need to be demolished and rebuilt. The Israeli forces claimed it was being used by the militants to stay in, but that is contradicted by evidence from those in the building.
Many families hid in their bathrooms, tiny places which provided some protection. Others had narrow escapes because they crawled to front doors, rather than walking to them. Gunshot damage is at head height.
At least one woman got her family out to safety by putting herself in front of them all and calling out in such a way that the Israeli forces would know a woman was coming out – in the hope they wouldn’t fire. Luckily, in her case, they didn’t.
The shooting and bombing went on for 3 hours as far as I can tell. The killing of Yamon Faraj took place after that, when everyone was out of the buildings and the Israelis had been told about, and were seemingly close enough to see, his injuries. Yamon Faraj was not a civilian, but he could have been taken alive. The others who were killed and injured were civilians.
Not killing civilians, and taking militants alive would require a different approach to Palestinians and a recognition on the part of the State of Israel that the right to life of Palestinians is equal to that of any other person on earth. That is a position which has been clearly rejected in action and word by the Israeli government and its allies.
Israel may think it is protecting its security, it may think that this action – and the construction of the illegal Wall, and the continued use of collective punishment, and the oppression of an entire people will benefit Israel.
But, creating citizens who kill and maim with impunity, acting as though war crimes are something only others commit and that Israel is immune from criticism or accountability, is no way to guarantee a peaceful future. Whether by internal implosion, or through external pressure, Israel will one day rue the methods used with such callous disregard for Palestinian life. Who will it ‘apologise’ to then?
For photos (only a few), visit palblog.fotopages.com.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
You may have noticed that the IDF have been in Nablus for the past few days.
PB wants to draw your attention to the fact that Dr. Khaled Saleh, an academic from An Najah University, and his 16 year old son Mohammed were killed in their house when it was hit by a missile fired from a helicopter. The IDF have apologised for their deaths which was apparently caused when a ‘gun battle’ was raging between the IDF and the apparent commander of the PFLP in Nablus, Yamon Faraj.
According to eye witnesses, Yamon Faraj was injured and brought out by a Palestinian that the IDF ordered to check if everyone had left the buildings after they had been ordered out. Yamon Faraj was brought out, alive, and then executed in front of everyone in the street – men, women and children.
Two men from the street were then told to bring Faraj’s body and the body of the 16 year old out onto the street and strip them. They did.
An IDF soldier was killed and three injured during the ‘battle’.
According to Haaretz:
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said in response to the Nablus operation and the officer that, "This is the price we pay in our war against the terror organizations."
And presumably the Palestinian civilians whose homes are destroyed, and who are killed are also paying that price.
Interestingly, Dr Saleh was an American citizen. Do we think the US will be deploring the death of one of its own? I doubt it.
It is easy for me to take a step back on occasion and preach understanding on both sides, but on days like this I wonder how Palestinians continue without being filled with hatred – and believe me they are not filled with hatred. A friend told me “I don’t hate because I have the conditions within which to keep hope alive”. That struck me as so true and I understood exactly what was meant. And in myself I worry that with the Wall, and the continued confinement of people within areas within the West Bank, and the extensive brutality of the occupation, how long will those conditions continue to exist?
Today’s deaths are possibly the same as all the others that occur. The only difference is that PB has been to that street, I know that house, and I wanted to let you know what happened. This page consists of vignettes of my life here.
That was my life today.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Well, it’s been an interesting few weeks, and now the Supreme Court of Israel has taken a decision on at least part of the Wall. Enough has been written about it for me not to summarise it again, but I suppose it is at least a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile Nablus has been badly hit by IDF raids, and Gaza continues to be raided and destroyed.
So, rather than give you my views on all of this, I thought it was about time to bring together a variety of weblinks for you to consider for yourselves. I will slowly build up a more accessible list for you all, but today I have made a start. I am not sanctioning these sites, but I think they provide interesting reading.
If you check out no other link, please visit http://student.cs.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/articles/shovrimEnglish.doc, where you can find testimonies from IDF soldiers who have served in Hebron. It puts pay to all those who try to portray the IDF as a humane army of occupation, or an army that only attacks terrorists (and only accidentally hits innocent bystanders). These testimonies also confirm what PB has suggested before, Israel is storing up a lot of trouble for itself, in the form of disturbed young people who will find it hard to come to turns with what they have seen and done (assuming they, or their society, have something resembling a conscience). Read these testimonies and think about it for yourself.
For those who don’t know about it, check out my photo page too: palblog.fotopages.com.
That’s it, the list of links is below.
Palestinian (including by proxy) Sites
Stopthewall.org Provides information and campaign material from the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
Electronic Intifada: electronicintifada.net Very useful and interesting information, research and articles. They also have great t-shirts, stickers etc. I encourage you all to buy them and display them (except possibly in the OPT!).
Al Haq www.alhaq.org
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: www.pchrgaza.org
Defence for Children International Palestine Section www.dci-pal.org
This Week in Palestine: www.thisweekinpalestine.com is a magazine which includes articles, useful information and contact details, events listings, and a list of cyberlinks
Shovrim Shtika, Breaking the Silence: www.shovrimshtika.org, is currently only in Hebrew, but it includes testimonies from soldiers who served in Hebron, which can be found in English at
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions: www.icahd.org
The High School Draft Resistance Parents Forum, site for the 5 Israeli Conscientious Objectors: www.refuz.org.il
Peace Now: www.peacenow.org
Gush Shalom (the Peace Bloc): www.gush-shalom.org
Haaretz Daily Newspaper (includes articles from Amira Haas, who actually lives in the West Bank, doesn’t just write about it!): www.haaretz.com
Other sites and blogs
Jews Sans Frontieres: jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com
Lawrence of Cyberia: lawrenceofcyberia.blogs.com
Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaign: www.corkpsc.org
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
This should have been posted on Monday 10 May, but I couldn't upload…
Today I took some photos at Qalandiya where the Wall has appeared. It really is a dreadful and frightening construction. Photos at palblog.fotopages.com, and if you want to work against it, you could start at www.stopthewall.org.
However, more interesting than the Wall was my 'encounter' with an Israeli soldier. Qalandiya was very busy when I returned from Jerusalem, and the open cattle shed constructions have been divided into even tighter channels for checking IDs, and fencing and other caging has been increased. Anyway, there were a lot of people waiting to go into Israel and I discreetly took a photo of the queue through the fence, the actual checkpoint was not visible but the fencing was. The picture was taken from hip height and showed heads and shoulders of those in the queue, the height and nature of the fence, and lots of sky. The soldier who saw me take it asked to see it, and instructed me to delete it. He also checked the other photos, including some initial ones of the Wall but he let me keep them. Seemingly it is okay to show the Wall but not Palestinians being herded behind fences and forced to wait in tight queues. I also managed to take photos of jeeps and soldiers round the Wall, I don't know if these would have been acceptable to the soldier but he didn't see me taking them after I left him.
An interesting insight into what bothers the Israeli soldier/army I thought.
I had been in Jerusalem for a press conference about the recently published Stolen Youth, The Politics of Israel's Detention of Palestinian Children, by Catherine Cook, Adam Hanieh and Adah Kay. It is published by Pluto Press, in association with Defence for Children International/Palestine Section. Definitely worth checking out.
Well that's it for today. Below is a posting I tried to publish on Saturday without success.
This should have been posted on Saturday 8 May…but I have had trouble with my connection.
Hello to all of you
So much has happened in such a short time, Mr Bush has supported Sharon's policy of unilateral withdrawal, agreed that settlements can stay in the West Bank and told Palestinians to give up any hope of return. Mr Bush has said that settlements can't stay in the West Bank, and that action cannot be unilateral but must involve the Palestinians, and now Condoleeza Rice is to meet Quereia. Or maybe I got that all wrong, 'cos surely foreign policy is not dictated by who is in the room with you…Enough said.
That is not why I am blogging, I am popping up to say hi because last night Daniel Barenboim played at Friend's Boys School in Ramallah and conducted the National Conservatory of Music Student Orchestra. The Orchestra is a fledgling, but they put on a good performance and the audience raised the roof in their appreciation. This orchestra means so much, and PB hopes that Barneboim and many Palestinians' determination that a Palestinian National Youth Orchestra will be created in the coming few years will be fulfilled. They are supported by the Barenboim Said foundation and Barenboim spoke about his friend Edward Said, and the need for social justice in the solution to this conflict (ie whatever one's political views, one needs to be seeking social justice). His playing and his conducting were a joy to watch, but the evening was made by the orchestra, and all that they represent. Photos on my photopage. I have also put up some photos of the recent lunar eclipse which I watched from my roof.
On a more depressing note, flying checkpoints on the road to Birzeit (near Star Mountain school) have started becoming more frequent, and whilst PB no longer travels that road often I can reliably inform you that on Thursday the road was closed mid afternoon, and tear gas was shot at those waiting to cross. Old people and children were amongst those present. The soldiers claimed to be checking IDs to find someone but were not checking IDs and ultimately left without doing so…plus ca change. Today the road was closed for a while as well.
The Israeli army has been in Ramallah and surrounds on several occasions recently, mostly at night, and who knows what to expect in the days to come.
But, life goes on, and luckily for us, people like Barenboim continue to come to the West Bank, to bring education through music and music education. And I thought you should know that.
I have a few photos of various things from the last weeks that I have posted, I'm having trouble uploading hence the delay.
That's it for now.
Saturday, May 01, 2004
And thus shall Israel protect itself:
Case ISR 290404.CC
Child Concern/Right to life/Torture, inhuman and degrading
The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT
intervention in the following situation in the Palestinian Occupied
Brief description of the situation
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by Defence
for Children International - Palestine section and Al-Haq of the
unlawful killing of seven children, the youngest of which was 4 years
old, and the beating and use of a 13 year old boy as a human shield.
According to the information received, similarly to the February
events (see OMCT/HIC-HLRN Case ISR-FE080304.ESCR), in the week 18-24
April 2004, Israeli forces entered the northern Gaza Strip so as to
repress demonstration against the building of the Annexation Wall.
During the course of the three-day violent Israeli incursion, seven
Palestinian children have been killed and a further 40 injured.
Israeli armoured vehicles and tanks, supported by helicopter gunships
raided the northern districts of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun. The
Israeli Occupation Forces deployed heavy artillery and snipers
against the Palestinian demonstrators who threw stones at the
bulldozers in an attempt to prevent the destruction of Palestinian
Seven children died during and shortly after these demonstrations.
Yousef Taleb al-Do'ar (14 years old), Mohammed Abed al-Motaleb al-
Ajouri (16 years old), Mohammed Rassim al-Malfouh (15 years old),
Khaldun Ziad Abu Jarad (16 years old), Radwan Mohammed Hamtou (15
years old) were killed in the attacks. Two girls - four-year old Asma
Ali Abu Qlaiq and nine-year old Mona Hamada Abu Tabaq were also
killed during the Israeli incursions. Asma suffered respiratory
failure after Israeli forces fired tear close canisters near the
family's house. Mona was also in a residential area when she was
killed by Israeli gunfire.
According to the same sources, on 22nd April 2004, a 13 year old boy
called Mohammed Said Essa Badwan/Badran was used as a human shield.
Mohammed was peacefully taking part in spontaneous demonstration in
Biddo against the building of the Annexation Wall. Around noon,
following the launch of sound bombs and teargas canisters by the
soldiers, some nearby youth started throwing stones. At this point,
two Israeli Border Guards arrested Mohammed, beat him and forced him
to sit on the hood of their jeep, tying his arm to the windshield
screen and then using him as a human shield. Attempts by Mohammed's
father and others to obtain the child's release only resulted in
further threats by the soldiers who dispersed them at gun point.
Moreover, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who heads the organisation Rabbis for
Human Rights, was present and tried to intervene for the release of
the child but was instead arrested and beaten.
Mohammed was reported to have been repeatedly hit by the soldiers
while he was tied to the vehicle. Although he begged them to release
him because he was scared and in pain, they would not. He also
reportedly suffered from exposure to the teargas used by the
soldiers, since he could not move nor was he given any protection.
After about four hours, Mohammed was untied, forced into the jeep and
taken first to Al-Sahl, an area in which the Annexation Wall is being
constructed. He was then questioned by a military officer. Finally
the child was released in the neighbouring village of Al-Kalaileh
where he had to wait, alone and in the dark, for a relative to come
and pick him up. Mohammed only returned to his home at around 9 pm.
His parents report that the boy could not stop shivering from fear
and that he had bruises on one hand and on his back.
OMCT expresses its grave concern over these events. OMCT would like
to recall Israel that under article 37 (a) of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, "no child shall be subjected to torture or other
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment […]"; and that,
according to article 38.1 of the same Convention, "States Parties
undertake to respect and to ensure respect for rules of international
humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts which are
relevant to the child". Moreover the second reported incident is a
clear violation of article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention
Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War which
states that "the presence of a protected person may not be used to
render certain points or areas immune from military operations" and
an infringement of article 32 of the same convention, according to
which "the High Contracting Parties specifically agree that each of
them is prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to
cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in
their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture,
[…] but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by
civilian or military agents".
Please write to the authorities in Israel urging them to:
i. order a thorough and impartial investigation into the
circumstances of these events, notably the unlawful killings as well
as the arrest and inhuman treatment of
Mohammed Said Essa Badwan/Badran, in order to identify those
responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or
administrative sanctions as provided by law;
ii. guarantee that adequate reparation is provided to the victims and
the families of the victims of these abuses;
iii. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental
freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and
international human rights standards;
Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 Kaplan
Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919, Israel, Fax:
+972 2 6512631/6705475, E-
mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Justice, Yosef Lapid, 29 Salah al-Din Street, Jerusalem
91010, Israel, Tel : +972-2-6708511, Fax : +972-2-675-3764 / 628
5438, E-mail: email@example.com
Minister of Internal Security, Tzachi Hanegbi, Fax: +972-2-581-1832
Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, Fax: +972-2-627-4481
Ambassador Yaakov Levy, Av. de la Paix 1-3, CH-1202, Genève, Suisse,
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +4122 716 05 55
Shaul Mofaz, Minister of Defence, Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel-Aviv
61909, Tel: +972 3 5692010, Fax: +972 3 6916940
Please also write to the embassies of Israel in your respective
Geneva, April 29th, 2004
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this
appeal in your reply.
Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT)
8 rue du Vieux-Billard
Case postale 21
CH-1211 Geneve 8
Tel. : 0041 22 809 49 39
Fax : 0041 22 809 49 29
E-mail : email@example.com