April 8, 2009
1. Israeli forces impose collective punishment on Saffa village following attack on settler youth
2 April 2008
Israeli forces imposed collective punishment on the village of Saffa, following an axe attack in a nearby settlement that left a Settler child dead and another injured. At around 1:30pm, dozens of soldiers entered the village, declaring a 24-hour curfew and preventing residents from leaving their homes. Israeli authorities have said that the military operation was in response to the attack on the settler children, which occurred in the settlement of Bet Ayn, located adjacent to Saffa. However, the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits acts of collective punishment against civilian populations.
After the curfew was declared in Saffa, Israeli forces began conducting several house-to-house searches. Hundreds of men, and boys over the age of 15, were forced into the village mosque where they were questioned by Israeli intelligence officers and had their ID cards checked. At this time, at least three villagers were placed under formal arrest and taken away in army jeeps.
Several of the men detained in the mosque also had parts of their identification papers confiscated by soldiers, who never returned the documents. Israeli jeeps periodically drove through Saffa and the nearby village of Beit Omar, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Dozens of Palestinian youth resisted the army incursion, at times responding to the invasion by throwing stones at the jeeps.
The army also took up position in three village residences, in two cases forcing their inhabitants to leave the house altogether without their possessions. Israeli flags were planted on the roofs of these houses. Several interiors of houses were damaged during the house searches. Soldiers occupying the houses told residents that they were positioning themselves in the village to protect Saffa from settler reprisals. Yet the curfew, road closures, arrests, house occupations, and military presence were clearly meant to punish the entire village for what happened to the two settler boys.
The Israeli army also used military bulldozers to close the roads leading into Saffa in at least three places. The villages of Beit Omar and Surif also experienced closures on their main roads in the form of earth mounds. The military gate at the entrance to Beit Omar remained closed for more than 24 hours. The closing of roads in these three villages affected around 30,000 residents. Additionally, several hours after the attack on the settlement, a checkpoint was installed on the main road between Bethlehem and Hebron, just in front of the village of Halhul. Traffic quickly backed up as hundreds of cars had to undergo security checks.
On the following day of 3 April, a large military presence still remained in Saffa, and most roads in the area continue to be closed. At around 9am, villagers removed an army earth mound between Beit Omar and Saffa. The army returned to build the roadblock again, only to clear the road a few hours later and build a new roadblock on another street. All three houses continued to be occupied by soldiers, though the residents who have been forced to leave their homes have been allowed to retrieve some of their personal belongings. Two taxi drivers in Beit Omar also had the keys to their cars taken by the military and not returned.
2. Land Day Demonstration in Halhul, Hebron District
At mid day on the 4th of April, around forty Palestinians from Halhul and the surrounding villages set off to cultivate land near the illegal settlement of Karmi Zur. Halhul is a village in the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. Demonstrators were also joined by Israeli and international solidarity activists.
The protestors headed up the road to the fields around that village that have restricted access to Palestinian farmers. The Israeli military restricts these lands due to their proximity to the illegal Israeli settlement of Karme Zur. These fields are also dangerous for Palestinian farmers to cultivate because of attacks and harassment fom settlers.
Soldiers in two jeeps arrived and escorted the demonstators up the road as settlers came to the security fence around Karme Zur. The soldiers then stopped the protestors from continuing any further but one Palestinian farmer headed out to his fields and started cultivating his land. The crowd followed, helping the famer to clear rocks, dig the soil and plant crops. There was singing and a festive atmosphere to the crowd as a dozen soldiers lined up between the protestors and the settlement and made a failed attempt to detain a Palestinian man.
Thirty minutes later, around 30 more soldiers and border police arrived and issued an order declaring the area a closed military zone, demanding that everyone leave the land. Israeli forces then began to break up the demonstration. The army began to push people off the land, using sound grenades to disperse the crowd. The demonstrators attempted to hold their ground, and two Israeli activists were arrested.
In December 2007, owners of grape fields surrounding the settlement of Karme Zur presented a complaint to the Israeli official responsible for the lands surrounding the settlement. The complaint described the damage to the grape fields due to the military injunctions that limit the access of farmers to their land in order to provide “security for the settlers.”
Throughout Palestine for the past week, people have been commemorating Land Day. The protest in Halhul is amongst the last of around 50 such markings across Palestine. Land Day marks the date of the Palestinian demonstration that occurred in the Galilee in 1976 against the planned confiscation of around 21,000 dunams (21km) of land from Palestinian farmers in Israel and the subsequent assault by Israeli forces on the demonstrators that resulted in 6 Palestinian deaths, 96 people injured and 300 arrests.
3. Warmth and support
Eva Bartlett (see blog at http://ingaza.wordpress.com)
4 April 2009
I met Ramadan and Sabrine Shamali at a Sheyjayee market a couple of days ago. They were going to buy new blankets, mattresses, and other essentials, including clothing, to replace what was lost when their house was attacked by the invading Israeli army during Israel’s war on Gaza. They were using money sent from those outside of Gaza in solidarity with Palestinians.
Ramadan knew the best place for blankets, a small store in the district, with blankets mostly brought in through sporadically-opened borders or, more likely, the tunnels. I was told that immediately after the war, when people were scrambling to replace burned and destroyed blankets, there were nearly none to be had, with the borders closed since November 4 and the tunnels out of order.
We eyed the different weights and got a run-down of the prices: a 7 kg blanket goes for 270 shekels (~$65), a 5 kg for170 shekels (~$40), and a children’s for 75 shekels (~$18). The mattresses were 170 shekels, pillows 25 shekels, and a large, woven floor mat 170 shekels.
Just replacing these items ended up costing the couple 1500 shekels, or about $365. While the days have gotten warmer, nights still merit good blankets, particularly in a missile-hole-riddled house.
Needless to say, Sabrine and Ramadan were pleased to finally replace them, 2 months after their losses.
From there we headed to a clothing market in the same region, where items like underwear for the kids and sports pants, t-shirts, and other children’s needs were added to the bill.
They’ll still be living in a house most would consider not fit, not safe, for habitation. But such is the dilemma of so many here, where cement is on the banned list, held at bay by Israeli authorities from the Palestinians here who so desperately need it.
4. The Lentils did Ok Today
Sharon Lock (see blog at http://talestotell.wordpress.com)
31 March 2009
Today we accompanied farmers in the Latamat area on the outskirts of Khoza’a. The last time we were out farming in Khoza’a the shooting was the closest I’d experienced, and from the video footage it looked like the Israelis were aiming to shoot my college J in the leg. Since later that same day Wafa was shot in the kneecap, and not too long before that farmer Mohammed was shot in the foot while we were with him, the ISM group had been taking stock of our role. We decided that Gaza ISM had to hold meetings with any farmers that wanted our accompaniment and be absolutely sure they understood that our presence protects them only mildly if in fact it protects them at all.
My personal feeling was that as long as they are clear on that, then if they still want us we should still go, but then I have to leave Gaza soon. In the Khoza’a meeting (this included showing our video footage of the Faraheen shooting of Mohammed and telling them about Tristan’s shooting and the past killings of ISMers) the farmers replied “Ok, maybe they shoot at us when you are with us, well we’re used to that because they shoot at us when you are not with us. So it’s normal. But if you are with us when it happens – at least you can tell the world about it.”
So we met the mostly women farmers at 7am (often women work the most dangerous areas in the hope the soldiers will shoot less) and walked to the fields which were about 4-500 metres from the border. Today’s crop was lentils. I have never seen a lentil plant before, and I certainly hope no-one has to shell the lentils individually cos that would really be some job.
The farmers told us they had been shot at the day before in this same field. Several of us had had bad dreams the night before, and I’d written a quick will with various keepsakes for Gaza friends. In the van, E and I exchanged computer passwords and emergency contact numbers. (Actually, I’ve noticed her looking speculatively at me sometimes, since I told her she gets my laptop if something happens to me here.) She also informed me that for her martyr poster if she died, she wanted a picture of her with a donkey. So it was with somewhat of a sense of doom we walked down the track among golden wheatfields. And when explosions started shaking the ground, we wondered if we should even keep going. We rang our friend J in Faraheen, since they seemed to be coming from his direction.
But he told us that actually what we could hear was a fight between Palestinian resistance, and Israeli occupation forces, in Maghazi camp (where Dr Halid – who is a nurse not a doctor – and his family live) which was a lot further north. So the lentil picking got underway and we tried to feel reassured by the fact that the F16s and Apaches flying overhead, and the distant roaring, were not directed at us. But I couldn’t help imagining what it must be like to be a resistance fighter on the ground facing those Apaches and F16s.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before two jeeps turned up at the border, and Israeli soldiers got out. We waited for the inevitable, and it came – a short burst of shooting only broadly in our general direction. The women working on the ground tensed up and waited. But that turned out to be it. The soldiers got back in the jeeps, and the jeeps drove off again. Some hours later, lots of lentils were picked, the sun was high, everyone was relaxed, and the morning was a success.
You can see my colleage G’s Youtube footage of the brief shooting, which he has cheekily finished with a minute or two of me and E entertaining ourselves with some of the dubke dance steps we’ve learnt. You can also find a report of the day and archived articles and videos at the new blog Gaza ISMers have created to support the campaign to protect Gaza farmers, at http://farmingunderfire.blogspot.com/. Please tell your friends.
Later we heard that in Maghazi camp, two fighters were killed, 2 injured, and an Israeli soldier was injured and an Israeli jeep destroyed. I texted Dr Halid and asked how the little girls were. “My children are used to bombing now”, he replied resignedly. I can’t help but feel like the resistance fighters took the fire for us today. If Israel hadn’t been busy shooting at them, from past experience it seems a sure thing they would have stuck round to shoot at us, like they had at the same farmers in the same place the day before. I guess that’s why the resistance is called the resistance.
Later that afternoon, V and I were sitting smoking shisha, looking out at the sea, and gunfire got our attention again. Squinting, we spotted another Israeli gunship, tormenting another Palestinian fishing boat. The gunboat alternated tightly circling the fishing boat with drive-by shooting; we could see the spray as the bullets hit the water. It reminded me of nothing more than a cat playing with a mouse. This was still going on several hours later when we left.
Today, E heard that yesterday a woman she visited in Al Shifa hospital, Ghada, the 21 year old mum of two little girls, finally died in an Egyptian hospital of her horrendous white phosphorous burns. Before she was sent out to Egypt she gave her testimony to my friend M, one of the Al Quds Red Crescent workers, and it is posted here on the B’T Selem website. Please read it. It’s the least we can do.
Oh…and Israel dropped its internal investigation into possible war crimes by the Israeli army in the Dec/Jan attacks.
5. Thousands of dunums confiscated for Israeli settler road near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2 April 2009
Israeli authorities issued orders to confiscate more than one thousand dunums of Palestinian lands of the village of Qaryut south of Nablus, head of the villages and municipal affairs office in Nablus Ghassan Daghlas said on Thursday.
On the land a road will be constructed linking the three illegal settlements, He noted that “this decision aims at to construct a three kilometer road to link the Israeli illegal settlement of Shilo, and the illegal settlement outposts of Hayovel and a second known locally as the “Qaryut” outpost.
Daghlas noted that Israeli bulldozers had been surveying the area for days, and that there seemed to be a coordinated effort between soldiers and settlers, who constructed a road barrier near the village of Der Sharaf, while military crews expanded the Yitzhar road after confiscating Palestinian lands adjacent to it. The village representative also mentioned that several home demolition orders were served in the past weeks in the nearby villages of Tana and At-Tawila, both south of Nablus.
Head of the village council of Qaryot, Abed An-Naser Badawi, told Ma’an that “the settlers along with the soldiers blocked the southern entrance of the village and began to confiscate the land.” The day before he said settlers distributed written orders saying the land would be confiscated. Qaryot village has a population of more than 2700 people is surrounded with a number of Israeli settlements.
6. Israeli exports hit by European boycotts after attacks on Gaza
Rachel Shabi | The Guardian
3 April 2009
Israeli companies are feeling the impact of boycott moves in Europe, according to surveys, amid growing concern within the Israeli business sector over organised campaigns following the recent attack on Gaza.
Last week, the Israel Manufacturers Association reported that 21% of 90 local exporters who were questioned had felt a drop in demand due to boycotts, mostly from the UK and Scandinavian countries. Last month, a report from the Israel Export Institute reported that 10% of 400 polled exporters received order cancellation notices this year, because of Israel’s assault on Gaza.
There is no doubt that a red light has been switched on,” Dan Katrivas, head of the foreign trade department at the Israel Manufacturers Association, told Maariv newspaper this week.
We are closely following what’s happening with exporters who are running into problems with boycotts.” He added that in Britain there exists “a special problem regarding the export of agricultural produce from Israel”.
The problem, said Katrivas, is in part the discussion in the UK over how to label goods that come from Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Last week British government officials met with food industry representatives to discuss the issue.
In recent months, the Israeli financial press has reported the impact of mounting calls to boycott goods from the Jewish state. Writing in the daily finance paper, the Marker, economics journalist Nehemia Stressler berated then trade and industry minister Eli Yishai for telling the Israeli army to “destroy one hundred homes” in Gaza for every rocket fired into Israel.
The minister, wrote Stressler, did not understand “how much the operation in Gaza is hurting the economy”.
Stressler added: “The horrific images on TV and the statements of politicians in Europe and Turkey are changing the behaviour of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice.”
He quoted a pepper grower who spoke of “a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe”. In February, another article in the Marker, titled “Now heads are lowered as we wait for the storm to blow over”, reported that Israelis with major business interests in Turkey hoped to remain anonymous to avoid arousing the attention of pro-boycott groups.
The paper said that, while trade difficulties with Turkey during the Gaza assault received more media attention, Britain was in reality of greater concern.
Gil Erez, Israel’s commercial attache in London, told the paper: Organisations are bombarding [British] retailers with letters, asking that they remove Israeli merchandise from the shelves.” Finance journalists have reported that Israeli hi-tech, food and agribusiness companies suffered adverse consequences following Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza, and called for government intervention to protect businesses from a growing boycott.
However, analysts stressed that the impact of a boycott on local exporters was difficult to discern amidst a global economic crisis and that such effects could be exaggerated.
If there was something serious, I would have heard about it,” said Avi Tempkin, from Globes, the Israeli business daily.
Israeli companies are thought to be wary of giving credence to boycott efforts by talking openly about their effect, preferring to resolve problems through diplomatic channels.
Consumer boycotts in Europe have targeted food produce such as Israeli oranges, avocados and herbs, while in Turkey the focus has been on agribusiness products such as pesticides and fertilisers.
The bulk of Israeli export is in components, especially hi-tech products such as Intel chips and flashcards for mobile phones. It is thought that the consumer goods targeted by boycott campaigns represent around 3% to 5% of the Israeli export economy.
7. Israeli settlers take over Palestinian residence in Jerusalem’s old city
On the 2nd of April at 2am, at least seven armed Israeli settlers took over a Palestinian residence on al-Malwiyeh Street in Jerusalem’s old city. The house’s owner, Nasser Jaber, was away for four nights while the building was being renovated. The settlers arrived in the early morning, breaking open the door and changing the locks. A neighbor called Nasser to tell him that his house was being invaded, and Nasser called the police.
When the police arrived around 3am, they protected the settlers and allowed them to complete their takeover unhindered. Police claim that the settlers will be allowed to stay in the house until an Israeli court has made a decision over whether they are to be evicted. Nasser and another resident protested the takeover on the street outside of their home, and they were promptly arrested. Police released the two men after two hours. Nasser has presented his ownership documents to the Israeli court. The court says it will reach a decision as to who owns the house on Sunday. In the afternoon, police were seen giving food and electrical equipment to the settlers inside of Nasser’s house.
This most recent takeover follows months of increased settler activity in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinian residents in Jerusalem’s old city, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and elsewhere often face eviction, with settlers given ownership of their houses.
8. They Will Not Go Down: Celebrating Life and Land Day
Eva Bartlett (see blog at http://ingaza.wordpress.com)
31 March 2009
Less than two months have passed since the end of Israel’s grisly war on Gaza. Not a house has been re-built (there is no cement; Israel continues to ban its entry into Gaza), thousands are displaced or sheltering in an overcrowded relative’s house or renting a scarcely- available apartment. The aid has stockpiled on the other side of crossings into Gaza, many trucks being sent back or expired. And the pain of loss, let alone of seeing family members -children, siblings, parents-burned by white phosphorous, being murdered or left to bleed to death is still unbearably fresh.
Yet Palestinians are trying to move on, again, while dealing with a siege which has only tightened post-destruction of Gaza. Last week Palestinian youths held a concert in the burnt-out theatre in one of the al Quds hospital buildings, attacked and seriously damaged by Israel during its war on Gaza [more than 14 hospitals and medical centres were bombed and damaged by Israeli army, 2 clinics were destroyed, 44 other damaged, and 23 emergency workers and medics were killed].
Charred walls as a backdrop, piles of twisted metal, burnt rafters, and the ash of destroyed walls framing the stage, the next generation of Palestinian parents and leaders stood proud last Thursday, saying with their presence, as well as singing, “we will not go down”. The Michael Heart song written during Israel’s 3 weeks of attacks on Gaza caught the spirit of what Palestinians have been saying and living for decades, since the Zionists first began -even before Israel was created on the smoking ruins of Palestinian villages -their assassinations and acts of terrorism designed to frighten and drive out the existing Palestinian population.
On stage, a youth troupe of Dabke dancers held their own, did justice to the art that is Dabke. What was evident more than the skill of the musicians and dancers was Palestinians’ drive to live, to laugh, to show off and share their love of life. Just as with a concert organized by several youths last November to lift the spirits of Palestinians in Gaza living under a suffocating siege, the crowd clearly reveled in the opportunity for joy …after so much tragedy.
In Gaza’s northern Beit Hanoun region, Palestinians, led by women, marched to land in the Israel-imposed “buffer zone” to tend the remaining trees and proclaim their right to the land. The area once flourished with olive, lemon, orange, guava and almond trees, in the years before Israeli invasions razed them to the ground, simultaneously razing history and life. Following Israel’s latest bout of destruction upon Gaza, most sources cite 60,000-75,000 dunams (1 dunam is 1,000 square metres) of fertile, cultivable land as having been destroyed by Israeli tanks and bulldozers. In Gaza’s perimeter areas, the “buffer zone” annexes land to Israel, gobbling up rich soil which had served Gaza’s agricultural needs. As of the last attacks on Gaza, as much as 60 % of the agriculture industry has been destroyed by Israel, further rendering Gazans aid-dependent.
Yet, again despite the gravity of the bleak situation Palestinians are facing, all over Palestine, on Land Day their voices were loud in protest, in defiance, and in joy. Organized by Beit Hanoun’s Local Initiative, a group leading agricultural and social projects in the northern region, Land Day celebrants sang, danced Dabke, tended their trees, and celebrated being on their land. On any given normal day, most of the residents would hesitate to go to this border region area due to the Israeli soldiers’ shooting which routinely erupts dangerously close to anyone on the land.
9. Gazan fishermen protest against Israeli Navy attacks
On the 2nd of April, dozens of fishermen from the Salateen area in Beit Lahiya in the far north of Gaza, staged a march towards the coast to protest against recent Israeli naval attacks. The demonstrators were joined by the Director of the General Syndicate of Marine Fishers, Nizar Ayash, as well as Palestinian activists from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative. The demonstration was supported by volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), amongst them two international activists abducted by Israeli naval forces last November.
The Israeli navy has intensely escalated its attacks against Gazan fishermen since the recent onslaught on the Gaza Strip. In just the past three weeks, at least two fishermen have been injured by gunfire, 16 have been abducted (some of them tortured and later released) and seven fishing boats have been stolen without being returned. Several other boats have also reportedly been damaged by Israeli gunfire. Most of the fishermen are from the Salateen area, some of whom now face bleak situations in the wake of losing their homes during Israeli bombing raids, they have now lost their sole means of income in an area already greatly impoverished by the continued Israeli siege on Gaza.
Posted: April 2, 2009
Israeli authorities have recently removed Beit Iba checkpoint, north of the city of Nablus, only to build a new checkpoint 2km away on the same road. This new checkpoint is located west of the village of Deir Sharaf, closer to the illegal Israeli settlement of Shave Shomeron. The new checkpoint is being built on at least 70 dunums of confiscated village land. Most of this land consists of agricultural fields belonging to 23 families from Deir Sharaf. Dozens of olive trees are to be cut down or confiscated when the new checkpoint is implemented.
In 2006, when the settlement of Shave Shomeron was built, around 700 dunums of land and more than 700 olive trees were taken from Deir Sharaf village. The villagers have since been denied access to this land, apart from three days each year during the olive harvest.
A villager from Deir Sharaf speaks about this new confiscation of village lands: “There has already been taken so much land taken from us because of the settlement, why do they need to move the checkpoint? When they confiscated our land and our trees three years ago, we where denied access to it the whole year except three days during the harvest. As every farmer knows, three days to do the harvest is impossible, it is a big joke. When the harvest began, the grass around the trees was a meter high and the trees were in terrible condition due to the lack of careful treatment that the olive fields require. This is injustice, this land belongs to us. We will not accept more land being confiscated.”
11. Beit Liqya commemorates Land Day by planting trees near martyr’s graves
On the 31st of March, at 10:30am, villagers in Beit Liqya marked Land Day by planting trees near the graves of two villagers killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall in 2005. Beit Liqya is located in the Ramallah district of the central West Bank. Around 200 villagers, supported by Israeli and international solidarity activists, moved towards the Apartheid Wall, which is built on village land.
Around 50 boys from the local youth committee beat drums and marched in procession to the graves of two boys killed by Israeli forces. Jamal Jaber, 15 years old, and Uday Mofeed, 14 years old, were shot with live ammunition during nonviolent demonstrations against the construction of the Apartheid Wall in 2005. Villagers planted trees near their graves, connecting the martyrs’ deaths to the continued brutality of the Israeli occupation and remembering the murder of six Palestinian demonstrators in 1976, which is commemorated every year on Land Day.
After the trees were planted, three Israeli soldiers standing nearby began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd and firing live ammunition into the air. Some of the village youth responded to the soldiers by throwing stones. One Israeli solidarity activist was hit in his back with a rubber bullet.
12. Gazan farmers continue their work despite army shooting
On the morning of the 1st of April, ISM Gaza Strip activists returned to accompany Palestinian farmers in the area of Khouza’a, east of Khan Younis. This is the same area where farmers working their fields were almost shot on the 24th of February. The fields are far away from the Israeli watchtowers and about 400 meters from the Green Line. Despite this, the farmers had problems when they tried to reach their fields on the two previous days because of the shooting from Israeli troops.
The work began at 7:40am and about 25 minutes later, two army jeeps moved along the fence and approached the group of farmers and activists. The soldiers got out and started watching. It was obvious that the group was posing no threat to the soldiers. Most of the Palestinian farmers were middle-aged women. Many of the international solidarity activists were wearing fluorescent or Red Crescent vests. But after a few minutes of watching, the Israeli soldiers started shooting.
One of the ISM activists tried to deescalate the situation by talking to the army by megaphone but they still continued shooting. The farmers resisted the attack by ignoring the fire and continuing their work. After awhile, the soldiers withdrew and quit their attempt to expel the Palestinian farmers from their land. Despite the intimidation of the Israeli soldiers, and despite the fact that they could hear the intense battles between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian resistance fighters (two of them killed and another two injured) east of Al Meshazi camp further north, the farmers stayed and defended their rights to work their land. Today they won the battle, tomorrow is another day.
Photos and video download: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/04/5807
13. Land Day demonstration in Ni’lin
On March 30th, about 30 Palestinian villagers from Ni’lin, supported by international and Israeli solidarity activists, held a protest to commemorate Land Day. The nonviolent demonstration was stopped by Israeli forces on the outskirts of the village, far away from the construction site of the wall. Three military jeeps parked in the main street of the village to block the protest, shooting tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber coated steel bullets against the demonstrators.
The demonstration started at the main square of the village and continued towards the field where the Israeli army blocked their path. Several speeches were given and when the demonstrators tried to continue the army claimed that the village fields was a closed military zone. The Israeli commander also argued that villagers in Ni’lin do not have the right to demonstrate.
Demonstrators then tried to enter the field from other spots near the clinic and were subsequently attacked by soldiers with sound bombs, tear gas and rubber coated steal bullets. At the end of the demonstration some protesters managed to reach the illegal Apartheid Wall, damaging a small part of it.
This Land day demonstration remembers the six Palestinans murdered by the Israeli army for protesting against land confiscation in 1976. Ni’lin villagers know well that land confiscation is still a reality in Palestine. Since 1948, Ni´lin residents have lost more than 85% of their land to confiscation from Israeli authorities and illegal settlement building. Since the resistance against the Apartheid Wall began in Ni´lin in May 2008, four youth have been killed by Israeli forces in nonviolent demonstrations. Nineteen people have also been shot with live ammunition and over 600 have been injured by other army weaponry.
14. Congresswoman Barbara Lee makes statement regarding Tristan Anderson
Congresswoman Barbara Lee makes a statement regarding the American citizen, Tristan Anderson, who was shot in the head with a tear-gas projectile on 13 March 2009 by Israeli forces. Anderson, currently in critical condition at Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv, was shot during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Ni’lin.
March 31, 2009
DIGEST March 29, 2009
January 13, 2009
The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
The marchers were the most diverse I’ve ever seen. All nationalities and races. Men, women and children. Jews, Muslims, Christians, anarchists – all flavours of religious and political beliefs.
They came from everywhere around Britain. I met people from Wales to Lancashire and all points in between.
The majority of the march had been peaceful. We’d been held up a few times, initially because when we went past the Russian Embassy some people mistook it for the Israeli Embassy and staged a sit down protest and then when the march did reach the Israeli embassy we were delayed again while people burnt flags and placards and generally showed their disapproval.
There had been some violence during the march, but rather than tackling the violence that occurred when it occurred, the police chose to wait until the last of the marchers were close to the Israeli Embassy before they decided to lock down the area.
Then, for the next 4 hours we were trapped on the street outside the Israeli Embassy in freezing temperatures. We were denied access to water, food, shelter from the freezing conditions and sanitation. All because we were there when the police finally decided to do something about those who were causing trouble.
The First Lesson
A lot of the damage done to property occurred after we were detained. Despite the violence and the real risk of a further escalation and knowing that the rioters were young men, the police refused to allow the women and children to leave. Their bewilderment as they confronted the inconceivable refusal and their fear as they realised that they and their children were in danger from a situation they were forcibly detained in with no way to escape was sobering.
It�s easy to forget that most people in Britain have no concept of the heavy hand of the law and that the majority of people trust their government and the various arms of government to behave in an honourable and just way. It�s painful to see the reality of present day Britain being visited upon those who only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What Were We Told When We Were Detained? Nothing, Well, Nothing True Anyway.
There was no explanation given of what we were to expect or the timeframes. The initial actions by the police were designed to intimidate and to incite. Initially there was the threat that the police would attack if the rioting escalated yet they moved the innocents closer to the rioters.
These people would have been injured as the police approach in these situations does not discriminate between women, children, non-violent men or rioters.
By pushing those not involved in the violence closer to those who were, they deliberately placed the non participants in the violence in physical danger, both from the rioters and by the police if they had chosen to move forward to quell it.
Our main focus was to get the women and children to safety. At one stage we were told that the women and children would be allowed to leave if they went to the cordon furthest away from the violence, so we sent them there. They were soon back and told us they had been refused exit.
Later we were told that people would be allowed to leave from the other end if they approached with their faces uncovered and their palms on display. That turned out to be untrue as well.
The Law and the Bits They Forgot About
Supposedly we were held under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, also known as Stop and Search. Yet the procedures outlined in the Act were not followed nor did there appear to be even a token acknowledgement of the requirements of the Act.
When we were originally detained, we were not advised of the reason why. Voice amplification devices have been around for a while now, so it’s not inconceivable that the police have them. The final time we were told that we were to be released, it would be in groups of 10 and that we would all be required to produce our drivers licence, be searched and photographed and the procedure would take around 3 hours to process everyone. This included the stewards because, the police claimed, they had witnessed stewards involved in the violence.
Later we were told that the police had agreed that the stewards would just be required to provide their name and address and be photographed and if we refused it would be �difficult� for us. So, after 4 hours of being held in deliberately uncomfortable circumstances we were told that the only way out was to give them the information that they wanted. As we were not advised of our rights and in fact were threatened with unspecified police action if we did not comply, we were effectively compelled to give the information under duress.
When I was finally processed the police officers completely failed to follow the procedure outlined in section 60. I was video recorded from head to foot as I was asked for my name, address and date of birth. I was not given any of the information required by the act nor was I advised that I could obtain a copy of the written record.
The length of time we were held there was not due to the inefficiency of the police but was a deliberate tactic to demoralise and punish those caught up in this. I can see no other plausible explanation.
Section 60 has been used countless times down the years and inexperience in administering it or logistical issues cannot be used as a reason for the actions of the Metropolitan Police. With at least 100 police in attendance at the start of our detention, there was no justification for the slow processing particularly in light of the adverse weather conditions and the composition of the crowd detained.
For the innocents detained, it will be a deterrent in exercising their right to public protest and is just another step in the alienation and radicalisation process that occurs when collective punishment is visited on those who have nothing to do with the “crime” they are being held accountable for.
The Final Lesson of the Day
When I was finally released and was walking away, a group of police strolled passed me and one said to the group in a disappointed voice “no rough today” and the others echoed his disappointment.
It tallies with the some of the behaviour and attitude exhibited by a tiny minority of the officers on duty. Just as some of those who participated in the march were looking forward to confrontation, there was an equal element of police who were also looking forward to a fun day out.
That was the final lesson I learned that day. No area of society is immune to the siren call of violence but when it is manifest in those who we task with administering the law dispassionately, it raises questions over whether the recruitment and ongoing management policies of the police are appropriate.
Britain in the 21st Century
How can we expect the British government to protest against collective punishment occurring in the rest of the world when they condone the same thing on our soil? The only difference is the degree.
I certainly expect better from those who are tasked with creating and administering the laws on my behalf and am extremely disappointed with what I see. It’s time for some explanations.