March 27, 2009

[ISM Updates] Digest March 22, 2009

Posted in ISM Updates tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:59 am by Alexia

Digest March 22, 2009
1) The Nation: Palestinian Revolution?
2) Speaking Truth to Power
3) IPS: Israelis Using ‘Excessive’ Force Against Protesters
4) Human rights workers to accompany farmers in Gaza
5) Six years without Rachel ­ We still demand justice
6) Boycott Israel Action
7) Streets remain closed as army continues demolition attempts in Beit Safafa
8 ) Israeli soldiers reoccupy ‘House of Contention’ in Hebron
9) Israeli army attack non-violent demonstration and steal cameras in Burin, Nablus region

 

1. The Nation: Palestinian Revolution?

Roane Carey | The Nation

On Friday [March 20, 2009] I went to the anti-separation wall demo in Ni’lin in the West Bank, the same village where International Solidarity Movement activist Tristan Anderson was critically wounded last week. Several hundred villagers were accompanied by Jewish Israeli activists (most with Anarchists Against the Wall) and ISMers, plus a few journalists like me. The IDF started firing tear gas at us even before we got close to the wall. The shebab (Palestinian youth) responded with stones, and the game was on: back and forth street battles, with the soldiers alternating between tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and occasional live ammunition, often fired by snipers, and the shebab hurling their stones by slingshot against the Israeli Goliath.

 The IDF often fires tear gas now with a high-velocity rifle that can be lethal, especially when they fire it straight at you rather than pointed up in the air. Pointed straight, it comes at you like a bullet. That’s what seriously wounded Anderson. I saw these projectiles coming very near us, and saw how dangerous they could be. Not to mention the live ammo they occasionally fired­but they fired live rounds only at the shebab, never at the Jews or internationals. After a few hours, the clashes died down. Six were injured, one critically. Me, I just coughed and teared up from the gas on occasion. (In simultaneous demos in the nearby village of Bi’lin, three were injured, including two Americans.)

 I mistakenly thought the army would be less aggressive on Friday, and not only because of the negative publicity surrounding the shooting of Anderson (the killing of Palestinians is of course routinely ignored in Western media; in Ni’lin alone, four villagers have been killed in the past eight months, with hundreds injured). The day before Friday’s march, revelations from Israeli veterans about war crimes they’d committed in the recent Gaza campaign made world headlines .

 As villagers prepared yesterday’s march, Jonathan Pollock, a veteran activist with AATW, showed me where Anderson was standing when he was shot and where the IDF soldier was standing who shot him, just up the hill. The soldier had fired a high-velocity tear-gas canister at close range­what looked to me like about fifty or sixty meters­directly at Anderson, hitting him in the head. It was hard to imagine the intention could have been anything other than to seriously maim or kill.

 The courage and steadfast resistance of the people of Ni’lin, and many other West Bank villages just like it that are fighting the wall’s illegal annexation of their land, is truly remarkable. Every week, for years now, West Bank Palestinians have stood up against the world’s fourth-most-powerful military machine, which shows no compunction about shooting unarmed demonstrators. This grassroots resistance­ organized by the villagers themselves, not Fatah or Hamas­has gotten little publicity from the world media , which seem to prefer stories about Hamas rockets and the image of Palestinians as terrorists.

 The village protests against the wall are inspiring, and not just because they’ve continued for so long, against such daunting odds. The villagers recognize the power and revolutionary potential of mass, unarmed resistance, and the shebab with their slingshots hearken back to the first intifada of the late 1980s and the “children of the stones,” when hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were directly involved in the struggle against the occupation. The Israeli government knows how difficult it is to suppress that kind of mass resistance, which is why it has used such brutality and provocation against the villagers. The army wants to shut this uprising down before it spreads, and would like nothing more than for the villagers to start using guns, as the IDF is certain to win a purely military confrontation. The other inspiration of this struggle is the courage and solidarity of the Israeli and ISM activists. They risk their lives day after day, and the villagers appreciate it. I saw signs in Ni’lin praising Tristan Anderson, who, just like Rachel Corrie six years ago, was willing to sacrifice his life for Palestinian justice.

 http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5512

 2. Speaking Truth to Power

 By Sharon Lock  (See blog: http:talestotell.wordpress.com)

 We were back at Faraheen this morning accompanying farmers again, eying the jeeps driving along the Israeli border while our farmers removed the irrigation pipes from one of the fields we have visited regularly. Since Mohammed was shot in the leg, the farmer here has decided to give up on this field, its convenient well, and its half- grown parsley crop – 200,000 shekels worth – in case of further injury or death of harvesters. It was a quiet morning, thank goodness.

 Tristan is conscious and was breathing on his own until he caught pneumonia. He has a long way to go and it’s not known what will be ahead – for sure, more surgery, including on his damaged right eye.

 A second time this week we spotted an Israeli gun boat traveling at 3 miles from the shoreline, all the way from near Deir al Balah to Gaza city (it kept pace with our shared taxi) as fishermen were out trying to get in a catch in, and inevitably the next day we heard that a fisherman had been shot; Deeb Al Ankaa who we understand to now be in Kamal Odwan hospital.

 I met a great Manchester guy this week, Dr Sohail of Medical International Surgical Team (MIST) who has come here to do good work with peoples’ bones, for example working with amputees who have had limbs removed at a high point, to enable the otherwise impossible attachment of prosthetic limbs (if Israel lets the prosthetics through the border, which apparently is another problem of the siege…).

 Thinking about bones, I immediately thought of Wafa. After wincing at the picture of her in hospital the day after soldiers shot out her kneecap, Dr Sohail said “I’m a kneecap man!” and told me a series of incomprehensible surgical things he might be able to do to give her back some movement. We rang her family today while standing in the Faraheen field (it’s a good time to get your phone-calling done) to say that Dr Sohail will see her in June if I go and take a photo of her medical records for him beforehand.

 Dr Sohail spoke of the several limitations medical people are under here – mostly no access to the latest equipment – if any gets in, no access to training on how to use it – and of course very little of the ongoing training amongst their international peers that people doing tricky surgical things need to have.

 In the last days there have been renewed calls for an International Criminal Court investigation into war crimes in Gaza, including for example “white flag killings” by Israeli soldiers. One of the big problems in the way is that during the attacks there were no forensic pathologists in Gaza trained to a level that would meet the requirements. (They are trying to send some people outside for training now, ready for the next time…) A second big problem is that when the International Criminal Court representatives tried to get in through Rafah to investigate the situation, Egypt refused to let them through, so they missed the February 8 deadline for submitting evidence.

 And it was never going to be easy. Here is an example. One of the Al Quds Red Crescent medics talked about getting through to some of the surviving Samouni kids trapped with dead adults, on the first Red Cross/Red Crescent evacuation permitted by Israel. He said the kids (who they found in circumstances that left some of the medics who reached them, traumatised themselves) said the adults had been shot, and they had covered over the bodies themselves.

 The medics knew it was important to try to take the adults’ bodies out, but the children were starving, dehydrated, and in a state of collapse. Since Israel had not permitted the medics to take ambulances, and several miles had to be covered, the medics found a donkey cart for the children. The Red Cross asked Israel to be allowed to take a donkey to pull the cart, but Israel said no.

 My medic friend says: “We put the children on the donkey cart and pulled it ourselves, hurrying to get out before 4pm which was the deadline for the evacuation. And there was no room for the bodies. So a lot of time passed before those bodies could be retrieved, and while we have the verbal testimony of the children, we don’t have an early medical assessment of the adults bodies.”

 I was called in to PressTV to give an interview today about what I witnessed myself, and it turned out this is because Israeli soldiers have themselves started to admit some of what went on, in the Israeli press today. This has been covered by the TimesOnline, and the International Middle East Media Centre. It includes an anonymous solider who ’says that he was told “we should kill everyone there (Gaza). Everyone there is a terrorist.”

 Photo: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5499

 3) IPS: Israelis Using ‘Excessive’ Force Against Protesters

 Posted on: March 20, 2009

 By Mel Frykberg | Inter-Press Service

 The critical wounding of a U.S. activist has highlighted the excessive use of force by Israeli forces.

 The activist, Tristan Anderson, 38, was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in the Palestinian West Bank last week. He remains in intensive care in Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv.

 Anderson was one of approximately 400 international, Palestinian and Israeli protestors taking part in a demonstration in the village of Ni’ilin, near the central West Bank city Ramallah, when he was hit by a teargas canister.

 Since Israel’s devastating three-week war on Gaza, human rights organisations and activists have accused the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) of using indiscriminate violence and testing new weapons on unarmed protestors.

 The teargas canister which hit Anderson is a new variety being used by the IDF, and is particularly lethal if fired directly at protestors.

 The gas canister can travel over 400 metres. It does not make a noise when fired, or emit a smoke tail, and has a propeller for mid-air acceleration. A combination of velocity and silence increases the danger it poses.

 Witnesses gave testimonies to the media and to human rights organisations that they saw Israeli soldiers aiming at Anderson before they shot the canister from a distance of about 60 metres. It hit him directly on the forehead. The impact of the canister caused severe damage to the right eye, and Anderson has had to undergo critical brain surgery. Israeli soldiers continued to fire teargas canisters towards the wounded man and the people surrounding him as he lay critically injured on the ground and Palestinian medics tried to give him first aid.

 Later, a Palestinian ambulance trying to rush Anderson to hospital was blocked at least five minutes by Israeli soldiers. Only after other foreigners engaged the soldiers in heated debate did they allow the ambulance to pass.

 Anderson was then delayed another 15 minutes while an Israel ambulance was called, because Palestinian ambulances are not allowed to cross into Israeli territory without special permit. Jonathan Pollack, an Israeli activist who witnessed the event said that the soldiers had fired unnecessarily. “There was no way that their lives were even remotely in danger or that they might have been injured,” Pollack told IPS.

 Even if the IDF (Israeli defence forces) argument was true that they had been the targets of stones before they shot him, no stone could travel uphill for 60 metres and threaten them, and Anderson had definitely not been involved in any violent activity.”

 Pollack said the demonstration had finished and most of the demonstrators had left when the teargas was fired. “At the time of the shooting there were no confrontations, and Anderson was standing amongst about 10 remaining protestors just milling about.”

 Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for the Israeli rights group B’Tselem says that the IDF has at times used crowd control measures indiscriminately. “The teargas canister is not meant to be used as a weapon or fired directly at protestors but in an arc or at an angle,” she told IPS.

 We have many credible witnesses, and I myself have seen soldiers fire at people who are nowhere near and have nothing to do with any stone- throwing. And even when the soldiers have the right to shoot on grounds of self-defence, they are obliged to use the minimum of force and in a strictly proportionate way.”

 B’Tselem is concerned about the even more severe crowd control methods being employed by the IDF.

 An Israeli journalist was recently shot in the chest with a rubber- coated steel bullet (marble-sized metal ball covered in 0.5mm of rubber) when the soldiers knew full well the target was a journalist. Towards the end of last year the IDF began once again to use Ruger rifles, which use .22 calibre ammunition, against unarmed protestors.

 We have written a letter to the judge advocate general (JAG) protesting and questioning the use of Ruger rifles,” said Michaeli.

 According to B’Tselem, back in 2001 then JAG Major-General Menachem Finkelstein had ordered that use of the Ruger rifle be stopped. The decision followed the killing of several children in the Gaza Strip by Ruger rifle fire, and an order by the Central Command to cease using the rifle. The order came after it was found that soldiers often used the rifle against demonstrators without justification.

 Furthermore, Israeli soldiers are using live ammunition against protestors, contrary to IDF laws of engagement.

 Although Anderson’s case made international headlines because of his status as a foreigner, four Palestinians were killed by the IDF in the village of Ni’ilin last year.

 Ahmed Mousa, 10, was shot dead with live ammunition in July last year. The following day Yousef Amira, 17, was left brain-dead, and died a week later after he too had been shot in the head with rubber-coated steel bullets.

 Arafat Rateb Khawaje, 22, was shot in the back with live ammunition in December. The same day Mohammed Khawaje, 20, was also shot in the head with live ammunition. He died three days later.

 The villagers of Ni’ilin and their supporters have been protesting weekly against the confiscation of their land by Israeli authorities for expansion of nearby Israeli settlements, and against the separation barrier.

 The separation barrier, which slices through the village, divides Palestinian farmers from their land. It was deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

 http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5486

 4) Human rights workers to accompany farmers in Gaza

 8am, Thursday 19th March 2009: Seven international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) will be accompanying Palestinian farmers in Al Basan Kabira, Al Faraheen, East of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.

 HRWs from Britain, Australia and Canada will be accompanying farmers on their lands 500m from the ‘Green Line’ as they attempt to retrieve irrigation pipes.

 Palestinian farmers have been repeatedly been shot at by Israeli forces while working on their agricultural lands within 1km from the Green Line’.

 On the 18th February 2009 international HRWs witnessed the shooting of 20 year old Mohammad Il Ibrahim by Israeli forces. Mohammad was shot in the leg as he was loading parsley onto a truck approximately 550m from the Green Line. The farmers and internationals had been working for two hours in full view of the Israeli forces and were leaving the area at the time of shooting.

 Mohammed al-Buraim is the fourth Palestinian farmer to be shot by Israeli forces in the ‘buffer zone’ in the last two months. Two of the four farmers shot died from their wounds. On the 18th January 2009, 24 year old Maher Abu Rajileh from the village of Khoza’a was killed by Israeli forces while working his agricultural lands 400m from the Green Line. On the 27th January, Anwar al Buraim was shot in the neck by Israeli forces.

 On 20 January, Israeli soldiers shot Waleed al-Astal (42) of Al Qarara (near Khan Younis) in his right foot.

 http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5482

 5) Six years without Rachel ­ We still demand justice

 16th March, 2009 | ISM Gaza Strip

 Every year we remember 16th March. We remember a kind, insightful, talented person committed to the plight of the Palestinian people, who genuinely had the courage of her convictions. Her name was Rachel Corrie. This year, the anniversary of her death comes in the wake of Israel’s massive assault on the Gaza Strip. We believe Rachel would want the world to remember the 1,400 Palestinians killed before she is remembered herself. Now, six long years after her death, the situation in Gaza is even more desperate than when Rachel bore witness to it. Six years on we still demand justice. We still demand that the international community hold the Israeli military and government responsible for the murder of Rachel and so many

 Palestinian civilians. We also demand that the US justice system holds responsible the Caterpillar company which continues to provide the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) with the military D-9 bulldozers, which killed not only Rachel but a number of Palestinians and have demolished thousands of Palestinian homes.

 It wasn’t possible for ISM volunteers to enter the Gaza Strip for several years due to the clampdown of the Erez crossing, so today was the first time ISM activists managed to commemorate the anniversary in Gaza itself. Some of the activists who volunteered with ISM Rafah in 2003 were able to compare the situation then and now. Different facets of occupation are manifest in 2009 – the oppressive wall along the Rafah border with Egypt has been cut down but has been replaced by siege and blockade; the brutality endured by the residents of Rafah’s border areas has now touched every single person throughout the Gaza Strip. From 2002 to 2005 over 3,000 Palestinian homes were bulldozed in Rafah. Now, in just 22 days, thousands more were destroyed throughout the entire Gaza Strip. 100,000 Palestinians have been left homeless by air missile strikes and shelling with many families now living in tents on the rubble of their homes.

 This is a highly poignant day for us, so to mark it in a positive and inspiring way, we joined five young Palestinian artists to create a mural on one of the few remaining sections of the Israeli wall on the Rafah-Egypt border strip. The same wall whose construction saw the creation of a buffer zone hundreds of metres deep, which gnawed away at vast swathes of residential neighbourhoods, including the one Rachel died trying to safeguard. The same wall from where fellow ISM activist, Tom Hurndall, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier from a watchtower less than a month after Rachel was killed. The same wall that for years was intended to imprison Palestinian people. The same wall that was finally destroyed by the Palestinian people.

 As the artists began painting the wall, enlivening it with colourful symbols of defiance, Israeli F-16 fighter jets were heard flying over Rafah. Despite Israel’s announcement of a “unilateral ceasefire” on 18th January, the Israeli Air Force continues to unilaterally bomb Rafah and other areas in the Gaza Strip almost daily.. Most of the international journalists have left and the international community considers the war as being over, but Palestinian civilians are still being killed and injured by Israeli attacks on a regular basis. Fortunately, today we weren’t bombed by Israeli aircraft. Maybe because we were protected by the “Palestinian Air Force”. Palestinian children from the Lifemakers Center along with kids from the nearby al- Barazil refugee camp responded to the Israeli military flying F-16s by flying kites! 14 kites were flown in memory of the 14 hundred Palestinians killed recently in Gaza. Another kite sent our love to Rachel.

 This was also a symbolic action against the crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade. Gaza has been under siege for nearly two years now and can aptly be described as the world’s largest open-air prison with over 1.5 million people locked in by land, sea and air. After the Free Gaza Movement voyages challenged the blockade by sea last year, followed by the Viva Palestina convoy challenging the siege by land last week, Palestinian children symbolically broke the control of Gazan airspace today.

 A delegation from Code Pink also succeeded to gain entry recently and celebrated International Women’s Day with the courageous women of Gaza on 8th March. Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie joined them, commenting on their visit, “Despite the pain, we have once again felt privileged to enter briefly into the lives of Rachel’s Palestinian friends in Gaza. We are moved by their resilience and heartened by their song, dance, and laughter amidst the tears.”

 Maybe the soaring kites were seen by some of the internationals protesting today on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, against the Egyptian authorities’ denial to allow them access to Gaza. They included Jordanian parliamentarians and Greek engineers aiming to assist reconstruction efforts in Gaza. However, all of this is not enough. We must call again on the international community to mobilise against the genocidal siege on Gaza.

 The Israeli Occupation Forces attempted to kill another American ISM activist, Tristan Anderson, three days ago in the stalwart West Bank village of Ni’lin. Tristan, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Just as today we stood at the destroyed wall of Rafah, commemorating the sacrifice of Rachel, one day we will stand together with Tristan at the destroyed wall of Ni’lin to commemorate the sacrifice of Ahmed Mousa (10), Yousef Amira (17), Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje (20), the four civilian martyrs of Ni’lin. Despite the murders of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, despite the attempted assassinations of Brian Avery and Tristan Anderson, despite the injuries, abductions, illegal deportations and denials of entry that we suffered, we are back. ISM is still here, and will continue to support Palestinian non-violent resistance.

 Today, six years after the martyrdom of Rachel; three days after the shooting of Tristan; two months after the Palestinians ousted the IOF from the Gaza Strip; 42 years after the occupation of West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip; 61 years after the Naqba; we still say free Palestine! End the occupation! Peace with justice and dignity! We should remember Rachel and all that she stood for. Similarly we must never let the world forget all the innocent Palestinian souls who perished without mercy. Their fate is already slipping from the collective memory of the international community, fading from the headlines of a fickle corporate media. It is time this manufactured catastrophe ends so that Rachel’s death and the deaths of countless Palestinians were not in vain.

 Photos: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5457

 6) Boycott Israel Action

 Posted on: March 18, 2009

 Palestine solidarity activists go boycott shopping in France and hold a teach-in on Israeli-made products. (Euro Palestine)

 Video: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5458

 7) Streets remain closed as army continues demolition attempts in Beit Safafa

 Ma’an News

 17 March 2009

 Israeli forces blocked off the Gilo road beside Bait Safafa Tuesday as soldiers prepared to destroy the sixth floor of a multi-family home in East Jerusalem.

 Demolition began in the late hours of the morning, with crews removing the tile roof of the building and knocking down walls on the Ar-Rakhma street building. The demolition stalled when demolition workers attempted to dismantle the elevator to the top floor. Eyewitnesses said several methods of destruction were attempted, but none have yet been successful.

 Earlier in the day armed soldiers blocked the entrances to both the Gilo and Beit Safafa streets, prohibiting press from entering the area and warning residents that if they leave with their cars they will not be permitted to re-enter the area. Others are able to enter the area but only on foot.

 Soldiers have prevented those who live in the building from coming within 200 meters of the site.

 Those who wish to remove personal items from their homes in advance of the demolition are being removed from the area.

 The six-story building belongs to Mahfoudh Abu Khalaf, who is reportedly refusing to leave the building, which houses 50 people, from several different families. Some were seen taking suitcases and furniture out of the building.

 The first three floors of the building were built with permits, but the fourth, fifth and sixth were denied permits and are considered illegal. The sixth floor is home to seven people.

 Israeli soldiers told locals that only the sixth floor will be destroyed Tuesday, though the other two have demolition orders pending. They have been assured that special equipment will be used to ensure that only the top floor of the building will be destroyed.

 Witnesses said it was likely the demolition would damage the other floors of the home.

 http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5446

 8 ) Israeli soldiers reoccupy ‘House of Contention’ in Hebron

 17th March 2009 | Ma’an News Agency

 Hebron ­ Ma’an ­ Three months after Israel’s army evacuated settlers from the Ar-Rajabi building that was confiscated two years earlier, soldiers have returned to reoccupy it.

 Dubbed the Hebron-area House of Contention, the building is owned by a Palestinian family before it was taken over by Jewish settlers. Enforcing a court order, the Israeli military evacuated the settlers by force in early December.

 But on Sunday, the home returned to the spotlight when Israel’s army announced it would turn the building into a military post rather than return it to its original Palestinian owners.

 Hebron Mayor Khaled Al-U’seili, said the Ar-Rajabi building “is owned by the family and should be returned to it.”

 Having a military post in the area would make the situation worse,” he said, “adding that Israel’s military presence in the area should be lessened.”

 Al-U’seili also noted that a recent agreement signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel stipulated that Ash-Shuhada Street should be reopened for Palestinians and their vehicles in both directions.

 We previously had a decision from the Israeli High Court to open the street, yet a military decision was taken to close the street for the Palestinians,” he said.

 Israeli army commanders should consider opening the street in two directions, rather than what they are planning,” he said, adding restoring normal life to the Old City will not happen but by lifting all kinds of closures on the area.”

 He noted that there are currently 101 military checkpoints in the Hebron area alone. Imad Hamdan the administrative and financial manager for the Hebron Rehabilitation Committe said his organization petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to prevent Israeli soldiers from using the Rajabi house.

 http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5444

 9) Israeli army attack non-violent demonstration and steal cameras in Burin, Nablus region

 On the 13th of March 2009, in Burin village (Nablus district), the Israeli army repressed a peaceful and non violent demonstration by shooting live ammunition and teargas canister aimed directly at protesters.

 The protesters decided to hold ground, before a group of twenty Israeli soldiers started to chase the demonstrators down to the village, beating up the Palestinians demonstrators, including a journalist, and international activists. They also set about illegally confiscating all the cameras and a video recorder that previously where being used to document the soldiers’ actions.

 Between seventy and a hundred people took part in the demonstration against the expansion of the illegal settlement in the village, who will result in the confiscation of much of the village’s lands.

 This is again a blatant example that Israel still refuse any kind of freedom of expression to the Palestinian people and try to prevent journalists or internationals to report and document about the illegal Israeli occupation.

 http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5442

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