“You destroy the soldier himself”
That was the response of Munir, a Palestinian who is faced with Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint opposite his shop in Hebron every day, when I asked him how he thought being in Hebron must affect the soldiers.
I have had so many encounters with Israeli soldiers during my time in Hebron – it is impossible not to, due to the intensity of the military occupation.
I have passed the time of day and talked with some of them about what we are each doing here. Some have told me of their boredom, that they would much rather be on the beach. One helped keep a stray dog away from Palestinian school children who were frightened and I thanked him. Another told the police to leave me alone when they were harassing me about where in the street I was standing during the school run, and I thanked him too.
They have also spat at me, shouted at me, threatened to arrest me and called me stupid in Hebrew and a “sharmoota” (“whore” in Arabic). I have refused to follow their orders to move or stop taking photos. I have watched heavily armed soldiers throw stun grenades, and tasted the tear gas they shoot at Palestinian children on their way to school in response to small stones being thrown at their checkpoint. I have seen them harass and detain Palestinians trying to go about their lives, push kids for “facing the wrong direction” as Israeli settlers walk past, and arrest children. I have watched them laughing and joking many times in situations that are far from funny – most recently in the aftermath of an extremely serious attack by Israeli settlers against a Palestinian family.
I have come to know some of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli army, currently serving in Hebron, by sight and a few by name. You can often tell how many schoolbags will be searched or Palestinians detained for ID checks by who is on duty. Almost without fail, the local Palestinians say that their treatment on a given day depends on the mood of the soldiers. I have often wondered what must be going through their minds and wished that I could talk to them properly about what they think. Amidst the tension and violence of Hebron, this is normally impossible.
One Friday night settlers blockaded a Palestinian family’s gateway and stopped them from leaving their home at Tel Rumeida in Hebron. I asked the nine watching Israeli soldiers to please help. They wouldn’t. One of them, whose name is Kawalski*, said “everything is fine.” 34 Israeli settlers were stopping a Palestinian family from walking down the street and thus from entering or leaving their home. Many of the settler children were shouting abuse, hitting our cameras and spitting at us.
They went on to throw two buckets of water at us, followed by a bucket of bleach. It was an awful scene and I cannot see how he could have thought it was fine.
Most of the soldiers in Hebron are young, ranging from 19-22 years old, and are conscripted into military service for three years. This is compulsory with a few exceptions, so most of them have not made a positive choice to be in the army. Yet in Israeli society there is real kudos attached to being a combat soldier like those in Hebron – just take a look at the Israel Defense Forces Facebook page. Only a tiny minority ever refuse to serve and spend time in prison as a result. Kawalski, the soldier on that Friday night, must be no more than 22 years old. After the incident, I wondered a lot about his “everything is fine” comment and thought maybe it was actually his internal reasoning – him trying to persuade himself it was all OK and he was in control (he most definitely was not).
Later, when he called an ambulance for my colleague after the attack on us that he had failed to prevent, he must have been forced to acknowledge that everything had not been fine.
Thousands of settlers and their supporters came to Hebron recently for Shabbat Chayei Sarah, which commemorates Sarah of biblical times, who is buried in Hebron. It was a difficult weekend, with heightened tensions and violence. Movement restrictions were even tighter than usual – the Ibrahimi Mosque and nearby Palestinian shops were forcibly closed. Most of Shuhada Street, which Palestinians are never allowed to walk down, was closed to my colleagues and I as well – “Jews only” as the enforcing soldier told me. Extra soldiers drafted into H2 checked the ID of Palestinian men every 50 metres.
I was patrolling with a colleague and we went to an area with a few Palestinian homes and many settlers nearby. I felt nervous because large groups of settlers, some armed and some drunk, are not normally a great thing to encounter. A Palestinian family was harvesting olives on a hill where many settlers were hanging around. We checked if the family was OK and sat down under a tree, hoping to deter the settlers from coming to bother them, throw things at them etc (there was a fence between us and the Palestinians so we couldn’t help with the olives). A couple of Israeli soldiers were standing nearby.
After a bit, a group of male settlers tried to make their way towards us and I stood up, worried about what would happen next. But rather than standing back and letting them come over, the soldier stepped in the way and asked the settlers to leave. They did. I had never seen such a thing before and, when the settlers had moved away, I thanked the soldier. “Don’t worry” he said. Shortly after, a second group of settlers tried to come and the soldier and his colleague again turned them away. After this the soldiers came to ask if we were OK. I was slightly stunned that they were looking out for us and for the Palestinians. I thanked them both and said that we would move on soon. They told us there was no need for us to leave and not to worry, they would make sure everything was OK with the Palestinians. This was the opposite of what I am used to in Hebron, where the soldiers will often do whatever they can to get rid of us, and simply stand by as settlers harass and attack Palestinians. The first soldier told me that his name was Yossi* and he was not normally based in Hebron.
Later, when there were no settlers watching, I bumped into Yossi again. I asked him if he understood what I was doing there. “You want peace” he said, and told me that he wanted peace too. He told me that after my colleague and I had gone, the settlers had pushed him and thrown stones at him. He was astonished by this and couldn’t understand it. I asked what he knew about Hebron – not much. His orders that day had been to keep the Jewish and the Palestinians apart. I told him what it is like in Hebron – the settler violence, the soldiers refusing to help, the clashes, and showed him pictures. It was all news to him. “It’s good that you are telling me this, I will tell my commander”, he said. I really appreciated this but told him I didn’t think it would help – his commander was 24 years old and decisions about what happens in Hebron are made high up in military and political circles. None of those in charge will be unaware of what actually goes on in Hebron.
Yossi told me that he loved being in the army. He told me that he loved his gun. “Why do you love your gun?!” I asked him, “It’s for killing people.” “No!” he said, “I love target practice, I don’t want to kill anyone.” “But why do you think they give you a gun?!” I asked. I learned that Yossi was 19 years old. He seemed like a good, decent young man and I believed him when he said he wanted peace and didn’t want to kill anyone. But, as I have previously written about other discussions I’ve had with Israelis, I was surprised by his lack of understanding about the facts of the conflict he is part of. I asked him to keep being nice to the Palestinians and he told me to take care in Hebron.
My encounter with Yossi really made me think. That I was so surprised at his fair conduct says a lot about the norm for soldiers in Hebron.
I wonder how it comes to be that so many of the young soldiers behave in the morally unacceptable ways I have so often observed or seen evidence of: arresting children and beating them up; demolishing Palestinian houses with bulldozers and then preventing tents and emergency aid from being delivered; even deliberately shooting innocent people, as veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence has documented. Sometimes they will be following their orders in doing these things, and sometimes not. Mohaned, a 13 year old from the town of Beit Ummar, told me how soldiers raided his house at 3am, blindfolded and arrested him wearing only his underwear. He was held for 10 days, in which he was slapped, hit with the butt of a rifle, beaten and then released.
Surely it is important to ask how young men, most of whom start off as normal, decent guys like Yossi, end up doing these things?
On a day off I visited the Golan Heights and got talking to some soldiers about their jobs. One of them said that they themselves had been discussing these issues, “Some of us were talking – we are children and they give us guns.” I met another soldier in Haifa, Israel. He was 23 years old and had previously served in the Golani Brigade in Hebron. He recalled an army education week when there had been a discussion about putting the heads of dead Palestinians on poles. He had been in the minority 20:1 to say that such things were wrong. Another former Golani soldier simply refused to speak about what he had done when he served in the army.
My friend Sam is Jewish, an Israeli of British origin who I got to know in our student days. After my blog about my some of my experiences in Israel, he emailed me saying, “I think another big reason why it’s hard to convince Israelis about what’s going on in the territories is that almost every Israeli knows somebody who serves in the territories… it’s hard for us to believe that they are monsters.”
His use of the word “monster” really stuck with me. I don’t believe the soldiers are monsters – perhaps with a few exceptions, as with all people. But sometimes they end up doing monstrous things on a regular basis. They are born into a system which takes apparently normal teenagers and seemingly trains them to behave in these ways.
One soldier who served in Hebron told Breaking the Silence, “In Hebron, I was disturbed and frightened most of all by the unregulated and uncontrolled power, and the things it made people do.” Another said, “Another thing that has stayed with me from Hebron? I think of myself as a little injured maybe, I don’t know. Not physically injured. More emotionally injured.”
Rather than monsters, I think it makes the young soldiers part of the tragedy of the conflict. I am pretty sure that it will damage them too, that they will suffer in the long run. Aside from the terrible harm that the military occupation does to the Palestinians, I am sure that Israel also hurts itself and its own young people in what it does. What kind of society, what kind of country, will Israel end up as?
Avraham Shalom is in a position to know. He led the Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence service, between 1980-86 and in the film The Gatekeepers he says,
“We have become cruel. To ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population.” The Israeli army has become “a brutal occupation force.”
*Not his real name
Shuttered shops on Shuhada street in Hebron (ISM Hebron)
BETHLEHEM – Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans’ visit to Hebron on Sunday was marred by the refusal of Israeli authorities to allow him to visit the Old City without an Israeli military escort, the Palestinian ambassador to the Netherlands told Ma’an.
Ambassador Nabil Abuznaid told Ma’an in an interview on Sunday that the Dutch minister had planned to visit sections of Hebron’s Old City but Israeli authorities imposed conditions on his visit.
When the foreign minister refused these conditions, which the ambassador described as “unprecedented” for visiting dignitaries, he was forced to cancel his visit.
“The occupation (authorities) tried to make some conditions, but he did not accept them,” Abuznaid told Ma’an on Sunday.
“We appreciate that he fought for his principles,” by refusing to accept the Israeli authorities’ condition, he added.
Abuznaid highlighted that by refusing to visit the Old City of Hebron under Israeli escort the Dutch minister made it clear that “he did not want to set a precedent” of only entering escorted by the Israeli military.
“We respect the Dutch and their decisions,” which show “their support for human rights and Palestinian rights,” he added.
“We are mad at the occupation,” for imposing these conditions, Abuznaid stressed, “as we the hosts cannot even receive a special guest in our homes.”
Expressing his frustration with the Israeli-imposed restrictions, the ambassador lamented, “We cannot show him our own city and our suffering.”
The Dutch foreign minister was able to visit sites outside of the Old City in Hebron, including a meeting with the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, a civilian observer mission based in the city.
But the Israeli authorities’ refusal to allow the Dutch leader to visit the Old City with a Palestinian escort meant he was unable to see the areas that witness some of the highest incidences of Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians.
Hebron is a frequent site of clashes due to the presence of 500 Israeli settlers in the heart of the Palestinian Old City, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants. They are protected by thousands of Israeli forces.
A 1997 agreement split Hebron into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control.
The Israeli military-controlled H2 zone includes the ancient Old City, home of the revered Ibrahimi Mosque — also split into a synagogue referred to as the Tomb of the Patriarchs — and the once thriving Shuhada street, now just shuttered shop fronts and closed homes.
More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
- Israeli military detains driver, confiscates vehicle donated for transport of schoolchildren in South Hebron Hills (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Death to Arabs’ sprayed on Palestinian kindergarten in Hebron (uprootedpalestinians.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces assault Palestinian school bus driver near Hebron (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Settlers Assault A Palestinian Child In Hebron (imemc.org)
- 3 Palestinians shot dead near Hebron (altahrir.wordpress.com)
The Israeli High Court is set to rule on the forced expulsion of all of the residents of the village of Khirbat Zanuta, southwest of Hebron in the southern West Bank on Monday.
Villagers in Khirbat Zanuta (image by ACRI)
The decision comes five years after the initial order was made by the court to demolish the village. That decision was put on hold when an appeal was filed on behalf of the villagers by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,
“Last year, a Jewish expansionist organization named Regavim succeeded in reviving the case by filing an amicus-curia request; soon thereafter, the state submitted its full response to the petition. In April 2012, the Civil Administration issued additional demolition orders for new structures in the village, including several cisterns (ACRI is arguing that objections to the new orders should be joined to the original petition, but the Civil Administration disagrees). The Supreme Court heard additional arguments on July 30, 2012. During the hearing, the justices delivered harsh criticism of the State for its intent to demolish the village without suggesting a solution for its residents.”
But the decision on Monday is expected to result in the forced expulsion of all of the village’s inhabitants, who have lived on the land of their ancestors for as long as they can remember. They consider themselves stewards of the ancient archaeological site on which they live and tend their sheep, and have prevented any looting or destruction of artifacts on the site.
The Zionist organization Regavim that managed to revive the demolition order on the village had a quick response time from the court. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports that the organization has a “cozy relationship with the authorities”, according to its Director Bezalel Smotrich, who told the settler website Hakol Hayehudi on July 31, 2012, “Another parameter of the success of Regavim’s activities is the treatment by authorities in the establishment. Among the ranks in the field and in a lot of departments of the Interior Ministry, Israel Land Administration, the Justice Ministry and more, they view Regavim as a positive factor that is coming to their aid to steel them against the pressure they receive from the left. Most of them are good people, idealistic people… happy for the counter-pressure we exercise after years in which they absorbed so much heat in the form of pressure and letters from left-wing organizations.”
The inhabitants of Khirbat Zanuta are shepherds, who have traditionally lived in caves and structures around the cave entrances. The village is located in what Israel calls ‘Area C’, a designation created under the Oslo Accords in 1993 for land that was to temporarily remain under Israeli civil administration control, but should have been transitioned to Palestinian rule within five years. That never happened, and all of the areas designated as ‘Area C’ in 1993 remain under full Israeli control today – most of the 500,000 Israeli settlers that have taken over land in the West Bank in the twenty years since that designation have moved into ‘Area C’.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,
“The case of Zanuta is demonstrative of the Israeli government’s planning policy as it relates to the Palestinians in Area C, in which actions as severe as the destruction of basic humanitarian structures are justified by an absurd Catch 22 that penalizes residents for failing to apply for a permit they could never have been granted. If these demolition orders are carried out, the residents of Zanuta will be stripped of their most basic humanitarian rights: shelter, water, and livelihood, not to mention dignity, culture, and way of life. As an occupying power in Area C, Israel is bound by international law to protect the indigenous community. The case exemplifies a policy of demolishing buildings in Palestinian villages that removes indigenous peoples from their lands in absolute violation of the international law which protects them.”
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – One international was arrested after settlers fenced off the Asseh family home for a second day in a row in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida area.
Yesterday, early Saturday morning, settlers tied a fence across the exit of the Asseh family home with a wire gate to prevent them from leaving for a second day. After the family and internationals removed the gate, settler children threw rocks, water and water mixed with faeces at them. Two Israeli soldiers stood close and did nothing. The police arrived but also took no action despite being informed of what had happened.
Within an hour of the Asseh family and the internationals dispersing, the gate had been reassembled and reinforced. One adult male settler stood over the gate and prevented anyone from passing through or disassembling it. After 20 minutes the Asseh family and internationals finally managed to remove the gate despite repeated physical attacks by the settler. A number of internationals sustained minor injuries. During this, soldiers continued to stand by and do nothing.
The police arrived and first questioned the settler and then two soldiers who were present. After being shown video footage by an international, police demanded that four internationals accompany them to the police station to file a complaint. When the internationals requested to file the complaint later, police became violent and arrested one international. Other internationals were thrown to the ground by police and soldiers who assisted the arrest. The arrested international was eventually released after being questioned in the police station at the illegal settlement of Givat Havot.
What image of Palestinians would viewers, who have a smattering, or if any, knowledge of the Palestinian struggle, gain after seeing Dror Moreh’s documentary, The Gatekeepers?
The word ‘terrorist’ and versions thereof – ‘terrorism’ ‘terror’ – occur over 40 times, and all, bar once, in reference to Palestinians implicitly justifying the raison d’etre for Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
The MO of the vicious Shin Bet or Shabak is covert counter-terrorism – based on the premise that the people of Palestine have no right to defend themselves or fight for their rightful independence enshrined in international law against the brutal illegal occupier and coloniser- the rogue State of Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel, the world’s fourth largest high-tech nuclear military force bleats its right to defend itself against Palestinian rocks and piddly homemade rockets.
The Gatekeepers presents interviews with six former Shin Bet commanders with relevant archival footage. Luke Buckmaster states, “These are men who, after consuming their toast and coffee, went to work to oversee every form of state-sanctioned violence. Manhunts. Executions. Torture. Missions that led to the death of countless innocent people… It seems highly improbable — despite unusually candid-feeling interviews — that the former top brass from the Shin Bet didn’t come to the project without an agenda in mind.” (Crikey 21-8-13)
The documentary has been hailed for presenting the human face of Shin Bet.
Dror Moreh: What shocked me was how humane they were. You have a certain image of somebody like Shalom before you meet him; he has a reputation that precedes him. And suddenly, you find yourself seated in front of Shalom and you do not see this monster, or this heartless bureaucrat, or this mastermind of espionage. You see a human being, with the same doubts and tormented thoughts that you or I have. You see a person with a conscience.
You can bet that a documentary proselytising the humanity of Gestapo heads, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolph Diels and Heinrich Muller would ignite fires of Sheol to spurt from the tongues of the Zionist Lobby.
The documentary opens with footage of a sterile ‘super clean operation’ (like the Wikileaks release of the US gunship ‘collateral murder’ video in Iraq) of the targeted killing, by remote, of so-called Palestinian ‘terrorists’ [freedom fighters], accompanied by the self-congratulatory comments of Yuval Diskin, who adds that in reflective moments he thinks it is ‘ unnatural’ to have the power to take lives in an instant. Really? Such moral musings from a man who has spent 30 years in military, Shin Bet and Mossad intelligence including Israel’s 1982 bloody war on Lebanon. Apparently ‘in no time Shin Bet controlled Lebanon’.
The sensitively airbrushed Yuval waxes lyrical about his ‘exotic encounter with olive trees’ (millions of which, along with livelihoods have been destroyed by Israel) and about his interaction with the peasants as he wandered through landscapes, refugee camps (refused right of return), visiting homes, chatting in cafes (one wonders how many of his bucolic buddies Shin Bet kidnapped and tortured) and then awakes from his fond reverie to remind himself and us of the ‘Palestinian problem’.
Right on cue the next footage, presents a newsreel on the killing of two soldiers in Al Khalil (Hebron). Mystifyingly, there is no footage of any of the hundreds of Palestinian civilians murdered there, in their own city, such as young Mohammed Ziad Awad al-Salayma who, in December 2012, was shot moments after buying a cake for his 17th birthday.
The indigenous people of Al Khalil are held hostage by a handful of settler thugs protected by the Israeli military. The once vibrant commerce of Shuhada St has been shut down and netting covers the narrow passages of the Old City to curtail the urine, faeces and rubbish that vulgar settlers throw down on passing Palestinians.
Avraham Shalom, a feared and uncompromising bully, has an acting skill range from a frisky thrill for his job security “ luckily for us terrorism increased’, to quasi-senility in remembering his ordering the execution of the two surviving handcuffed hijackers of Bus 300. Their heads were smashed with a rock. Shalom (ironic name) admits President Shamir had given him carte blanche on life-and-death decisions- literally – and that he coordinated his actions with Shamir, Rabin and Peres who rolled over and played ignorant under public pressure. Shalom later admits that Israel has become ‘cruel’ and is ‘similar to the Germans in WWII”. He should know.
Yakov Peri another of Moreh’s charming goons, comments on the First Intifada, “A nation rose up and tried to launch a revolution,” Why? Wait for it - “to kick us out”… Ah, there it is- the Israeli mantra of victimhood. Not one of these men of ‘conscience’ get that Palestinians are fighting for self-determination, for freedom from savage and systematic oppression, for their lives and shrinking country.
Peri goes on to laud Shin Bet’s ‘well-oiled’, ‘well-organized, effective’ and ‘systematic’ ‘intelligence factories’. He explains how Shin Bet learned about their territorial units ‘village by village, trail by trail’, through field trips and masses of ‘interviews’ ie interrogations about the village, the clans, number of people and its institutions. This format resembles the well-oiled, well-organized, effective and systematic Plan Dalet that mapped, for the Jewish terrorist militias, the ethnic cleansing of 531Palestinian villages in 1947-48; “These operations can be carried out in the following manner; either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up or by planting mines in their rubble)… In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.” Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine p.82
Shin Bet then set up a tight web of informers and agents and one wonders what terrible coercions would make a Palestinian betray his community, friends and family. The atmosphere of terror, the sinister recruitment practices and informant systems in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany comes to mind.
The section Our Own Flesh and Blood deals with the rise of settler power. Peri drops a hasbara (Lie) clanger stating that “the illegal settlements were built despite of or in opposition to government decisions”. Shortly after the settler protests in 1975, Rabin allowed the establishment of Ma’ale Adumin and settlers have been given financial incentives and tax concession by successive Israeli governments.
Since 1967 over 541,000 settlers have colonised the West Bank and there are 100 outposts, forerunners to new settlements. Israel threatens to annex the settlements on stolen Palestinian land and since the onset of the present peace farce in July, the Netanyahu government announced plans for 800 illegal housing units. Extremist settler parties have unprecedented power in the present Knesset.
The rise of settler power only disturbs Israel when its own may suffer as with the assassination of Rabin and the deranged plot to blow up the Dome on the Rock. Moreh never refers to these fanatics as terrorists even though, after the massacre at Al Khalil’s Ibrahimi Mosque by Baruch Goldstein, the settler groups, Kach and Kahane Chai were designated terrorist organisations.
Moreh makes much of death of Rabin and its impact on the peace process but Tanya Reinhart told it straight; “Deception and lies have been a cornerstone in Israeli policy, brought to a new level of perfection since Oslo. While the world believed that Prime Minister Rabin promised to eventually end the occupation and dismantle the settlements, the number of Israeli settlers actually doubled during his rule.”
If you are not convinced The Gatekeepers is a propaganda exercise, listen to Carmi Gillon’s testimony on Shin Bet’s justification for the use of torture in interrogations which became more difficult during the Second Intifada because “ Anyone willing to sacrifice his life whether its for the virgins in paradise or not has nothing to lose.” The belittlement of the sacrifice of suicide bombers for paradisaical virgins confirms Israel’s denial of the Palestinian political impetus for freedom and denial of the desperation of Palestinian life under the might of Israel’s control.
In 2001, Human Rights Watch asked the Danish government to reject Gillon’s appointment as ambassador to Denmark and Amnesty International, citing the UN Convention against Torture demanded he be detained.
Years after the end of the Second Intifada, “the need to use moderate physical pressure in interrogations” continues to this day. Moderate? Impunity to inflict sleep deprivation, sitting handcuffed in a painful, degrading, exhausting position, covering heads, shaking, beatings, humiliation, threats against family, medical neglect, electrocution on adults and minors is secured by Israel’s High Court and the Office of the Prime Minister.
In February 2013, Charlotte Silver’s opinion piece in Al Jazeera, How Israel legitimises torturing Palestinians, to death, exposes how Arafat Jaradet was tortured to death during the 7 days between his arrest and death on February 23.
“The ordeal that Arafat suffered before he died at the hands of Israel’s Shin Bet is common to many Palestinians that pass through Israel’s prisons. According to the prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been killed as a result of torture and 53 due to medical neglect. Less than a month before Jaradat was killed, Ashraf Abu Dhra died while in Israeli custody in a case that Addameer argues was a direct result of medical neglect… And in the first week of February, two weeks before Arafat was killed, the High Court of Justice threw out Adalah’s petition that demanded the GSS videotape and audio record all of its interrogations in order to comply with requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) to which Israel is a signatory.”
The section, Collateral Damage vividly depicts Shin Bet’s new strategy; state-sanctioned targeted killings which are outlawed under international law. In 2007, Avi Dichter, was forced to cancel a visit to the UK because of a potential arrest warrant on suspicion of war crimes for the bombing of Hamas‘ Saleh Shehade’s home killing 15 family members including 3 children. Sharon called it ‘one of our greatest successes.’
Ami Aylon points out Israel also achieved greater security because cooperation was secured at monthly meetings between Shin Bet and the PLO security in spite of the dwindling Israeli desire to reach agreement on a Palestinian state. This is backed up by footage that features Fatah gangster, Mohammed Dahlan whose death squads took over Israel’s policing of Gaza and the West Bank. Concocting competition and conflict between Fatah and Hamas is a brilliant divide and rule strategy that deflects the Palestinian focus from self-determination.
In interviews, Moreh insists these Shin Bet sadists in sheep’s clothing agreed to be interviewed because of their concern for the diminishing window for a two-state solution that is propelling Israel toward a catastrophe. Ayalon is a vocal supporter the two state solution but without the right of return; a right of all peoples. A Jew anywhere in the world has the right to ‘return’ to Israel but Palestinians are denied their legal right to return to their own country and lands even though international law guarantees, “no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal”.
Moreh’s urgent pragmatic push for a two state solution must include the corrupt Abbas, and Moreh, in an interview on Huffpost, condemns Netanyahu calling Abbas irrelevant and a terrorist. Of course Abbas, Erekat et al are the dream team because they’ve agreed to a Palestinian state on 18% of the remaining area within the 1967 borders, illegal land swaps that will contain the settlements in a vastly expanded Israeli state, no right of return, and demilitarisation. That is to say the status quo. Israel couldn’t get a better two-state deal.
Perhaps a future Palestinian leader of integrity and /or a one state outcome is the catastrophe Moreh is frantic to evade.
Moreh is honest in declaring, “I feel they came because they are really concerned about the future of the state of Israel.” (clearly there is no evidence they have any concern for Palestinians past, present or future) and Israel’s self-interest is definitely the prime agenda. Israel’s reputation is rancid internationally and it is desperately trying to sweeten it with honeytraps like The Gatekeepers that seemingly appear to criticise Israel, throw in a few moral and philosophical after-thoughts, then stamp the terrorist label onto suffering Palestinians.
Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.
Jonathan Brenneman packed for his second attempt at crossing the Jordan-West Bank border with a jacket, fully charged iPod, letters of official invitation and 500-page collection of Flannery O’Connor stories.
The lanky 25-year-old from St. Mary’s, Ohio had spent nine hours under Israeli border authorities’ questioning just a few days ago. They denied him entry, saying he needed more proof of his purposes in the country. Brenneman prepared better this time around, eating a large breakfast before leaving his uncle’s house in Amman.
Six hours later, Brenneman came back once again.
Brenneman has been volunteering for a year with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), a faith-based organization that supports peacemaking in conflict areas. CPT has worked in Hebron for nineteen years, where their main activity is walking children to school to protect them from settlers’ attacks. The volunteers leave every three months to renew their visas and to tell stories about CPT work back home.
This time, Israeli authorities have denied Brenneman’s return.
“They told me it’s because CPT is ‘not recognized by Israel,” Brenneman says. “I asked why that’s a problem if our work is legal, but the soldier just said ‘My commander says you are not allowed.’ That was the end.”
Brenneman’s family in the States wrote to their senator in Ohio, who then contacted the American Embassy in Amman. The embassy’s U.S. Citizen Services called Brenneman in for a meeting, but told him they couldn’t do anything.
“They told me the same thing I’ve heard over and over again: Israel is a sovereign nation. They can deny anyone for whatever reason they want, or without reason at all,” Brenneman said.
Two other CPT members have been denied entry in recent months, but Brenneman is the first to be rejected specifically for being a Christian Peacemaker. The other two were turned back for “security reasons,” Israeli officials said.
“Israel never gives a complete reason for denial,” Brenneman says. “Why? Because if they give a legal reason, you could possibly challenge that.”
Founded two decades ago by North American peace churches of Mennonite tradition, CPT teams have worked in Colombia, Iraq, Bosnia, Chechnya and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, among other places. Their self-proclaimed mission is to reduce violence by “getting in the way.” In 2005, four CPT workers were kidnapped in Baghdad, where they had been documenting U.S. military abuse at Abu Ghraib. One of them, a 43-year-old Quaker from Virginia, was killed.
Brenneman, whose mother was born in Bethlehem and whose father is an “eighth or tenth generation American, very white,” joined CPT partly out of religious conviction. He liked CPT’s belief that Christians have to actively pursue peace, Brenneman says.
“You couldn’t be a follower of the Prince of Peace and just sit back, saying ‘I like peace’ in a comfortable Western way,” Brenneman says. “We needed to go out, partner with oppressed people and work towards justice.”
Despite the group’s Christian title, it does not proselytize. CPT teams include members of other faiths. They begin each day with worship, but in a “very ecumenical” form.
“Although we are versed in a language of international law and human rights, we see this more as a moral and spiritual issue,” Brenneman says. “That gives us a much deeper perspective of the evils that are going on.”
In Hebron, these “evils” include violence towards schoolchildren, assault on Palestinian shepherds and military mistreatment at checkpoints. CPT members wake up before 7 a.m. every day to monitor areas of tension. They bring cameras and write reports.
“When there’s an outside set of eyes, soldiers are far less aggressive,” Brenneman says. “It’s kind of sad how racist it is. But, yeah, just having a white person there makes a difference.”
Some critics have asked why CPT does not work in other conflict zones like Syria.
“If you gave us funding so we could start another team in Syria, we would be glad to go,” Brenneman said. But the severity of Syria’s situation does not lessen ongoing injustice in Hebron, he said. “If you have to go as low as Syria to find someone doing worse things than you, you’re doing some pretty bad stuff.”
Brenneman is waiting in Amman for a new passport before he tries to enter again. He may also try contacting the Israeli Embassy, which has been closed all week for Sukkot.
“If I were you and I got denied twice, I would just give up,” an American Citizen Services official told him.
But CPT is used to arbitrary denial, Brenneman says. In Hebron, soldiers often block the team from their work areas without justification.
“They have guns and can make up whatever rules they want. Some days they make us leave. Some days they let us stay,” Brenneman says. He shrugs. “We continue with our work regardless.”
- AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Entery Denied: Part II* (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- AL-KHALIL: Settlers re-occupy Abu Rajib house (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Military Training Amid Villages in South Hebron Hills (alethonews.wordpress.com)
* The word “entry” is intentionally misspelled to reflect the misspelling on the Israeli “Entery Denied” stamp.
I made a second attempt to cross the border. Spoiler alert, I didn’t make it.
I have been volunteering with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Palestine for one year. Due to visa restrictions all volunteers have to come into the country under a tourist visa, and leave every three months to renew our visas. Last week I was returning across the Allenby Border Crossing for my fourth stint. I was questioned extensively about myself, my family, my plans for my visit, and the work of CPT. After 7 hours of questioning and waiting I was told I was denied entry. I asked the reason for my denial. They did not give a clear answer, but did suggest that part of the reason involved not having sufficient evidence to support back my story. The soldier suggested I return later with a letter from CPT, evidence of where I was going to stay, and added that I should get a letter from the Israeli embassy. I took his advice, but the Israeli embassy was closed for over a week. So I returned to the border with a letter from CPT stating our work, my position, and my purpose for entering the country. I also printed out two letters from Israeli friends ‘inviting’ me.
My second attempt was similar to the first. I was questioned multiple times. I was asked to trace my family lineage back three generations. I was asked to prove my religion. I was accused of lying about my reasons for coming to the country. I found this ironic because I have always been honest about my reasons for entering, and it has brought me nothing but trouble.
Finally I was denied entry again. This time, the soldier explained it was because CPT is not a recognized organization. I told the soldier that we legally do not need to be recognized by Israel, and I asked why this was a reason for not letting me in. He said his commander said I couldn’t come in for that reason, and that was the end of the conversation.
In recent months Israeli border security has kept two other CPTers from crossing (that is 50% of the CPTers attempting to enter during that time). This is the first time someone has explicitly stated that it is because we are with CPT, although we assumed as much before.
CPT has been working in Hebron for 19 years. We are a member of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA). We receive grants from the United Nations and from Save the Children UK. CPT is a well known, respected INGO in the region. We have no explanation for the targeting of CPTers at the border in recent months and I question why the Israeli authorities see people working for a ‘violence reduction program’ as a threat.
For Part I of Jonathan’s first border denial click here
- Military Training Amid Villages in South Hebron Hills (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- AL-KHALIL: Settlers re-occupy Abu Rajib house (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Child Shot In The Eye In Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Netanyahu Orders Court To Allow Settlers Back Into Hebron Home (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Palestinian medical sources have reported that a seven-year-old child lost his right eye after being shot with a rubber-coated metal bullet fired by an Israeli soldier in Al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday.
The sources added that the child’s mother was also shot by a rubber-coated metal bullet in her shoulder.
The mother and her child were trying to return to the refugee camp; they were far from clashes taking place between the soldiers and local youths.
Eyewitnesses said that the mother and her child were trying to cross a road in an attempt to find a way back to their home after the army closed the main entrance of the camp.
Nasser Qabaja, head of the Disasters Unit at the Red Crescent in the southern part of the West Bank, stated that an ambulance transferred the child from Abu Al-Hasan Hospital to the Hebron Governmental Hospital, before moving him to the St. John Eye Hospital in occupied Jerusalem.
Furthermore, dozens of soldiers occupied rooftops of a number of homes in the area, and fired gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets leading to a large number of injuries, mainly due to the effect of teargas inhalation.
On 23 September 2013, in response to the death of Israeli soldier Staff Sgt. Gal Kobi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for illegal settlement expansion in the Old City of Hebron.
At 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday 24 September, the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron received reports from the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee that Israeli settlers had re-occupied the Abu Rajib house west of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Settlers had been evicted from the building in April of 2012.
The resettlement of the Abu Rajib house is a direct and significant risk to the community of Hebron, international law, and human rights, as settlements are illegal under international law and impede the ongoing peace process.
In addition to the illegality of the settlement, the location of Abu Rajib will constitute a severe threat to the freedom of movement for Palestinians. The house sits between two Palestinian Schools and Israeli military checkpoint 209, which CPT monitors every morning as part of its school patrol. If the settlement remains, it will be in the middle of an area hundreds of Palestinian children must pass each morning to attend classes.
Over the past week of the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth, the Israeli military has increased its presence with additional soldiers on the ground, occupying Palestinian homes and turning them into military outposts in and around the area of the Abu Rajib house. As a result, school attendance at Al-Faihaa girl’s school and Al-Ibrahimmiye has dropped.
On Monday, 23 September, the Al-Faihaa girl’s school was shut down completely since so few students were able to attend classes. The added Israeli military presence installed around the settlement will continue this trend.
Israeli settlement expansion has led to several cases of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, including near the settlement of Tel Rumeida.
“For the residents of Tel Rumeida, living next to settlers means living under constant threat of attack,” said a representative from the human rights observer organization, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). “The Abu Shamsiyeh family who live in Tel Rumeida is particularly vulnerable to attacks, as settlers and Jewish tourists tend to enter their roof and even invade their garden without permission. Most use this private Palestinian roof to enjoy the view of the city, but incidents have occurred where settlers threw stones and garbage down at the family, urinating into their garden and verbally harassing the family.
“Last month, settler youth entered the family’s garden, threw stones at them, and beat their thirteen-year old son. When Abu Shamsiyeh asked the soldier stationed outside their house for help, he came down and watched as settlers kicked Abu Shamsiyeh, and another soldier pushed his wife, who was videoing the incident, to the ground.”
If the Abu Rajib settlement is allowed to stay, in breach of international law and during the ongoing peace negotiations, the rise in settler violence against Palestinian youth and adults will escalate.
Following the deadly shooting of an Israeli soldier in Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed to boost settlement activities, and ordered the Civil Administration, to take all needed measures to allow the return of Israeli settlers into a Palestinian home they previously occupied in Hebron.
The Israeli Civil Administration Office is run by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank.
Back in April of 2012, a group of settlers was removed from the home, near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. They allegedly purchased the property but the purchase was deemed invalid, especially since such deals must be first approved by a commander of the Israeli occupation army.
The settlers were removed after the then-Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, issued an order in this regard following a court ruling.
The decision to allow the settlers to return to the property was made on Sunday night; Netanyahu said that the settlers “must be allowed into the home without any delay”.
After being removed from the property, the settlers filed several court appeals, demanding a recognition of the alleged transaction, while Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, also vowed to do whatever he can to authorize their “return to the home”.
Netanyahu made his decision hours after a Palestinian sniper shot and killed an Israeli soldier in Hebron, following ongoing tension that led to clashes between the soldiers and dozens of local youths who hurled stones at them.
It is also related to the death of an Israeli soldier who was killed two days ago in the Qalqilia district, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.
“Anyone who attempts to remove us from Hebron, from the city of our patriarchs, will just achieve the exact opposite”, Netanyahu said according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, “We will boost our settlement activities”.
Netanyahu said that the “return of the settlers to the Hebron home would still have to go through legal means”; yet, he ordered all related government facilities, to do whatever they can to ensure their fast return.
His decision comes despite the fact than an appeals committee, looking into the purchase did not recognize the documents presented by the settlers, but criticized the way this purchase was denied.
Haaretz added that, should the process be finalized, Netanyahu and his Defense Minister could sign off the deal, and authorize the settlers back.
In related news, Israeli Economics Minister, Neftali Bennet, demanded that Netanyahu stop the release of Palestinian political prisoners, as part of peace talks with the Palestinians, and said that the Palestinians “must be punished for the killing of the two Israeli soldiers.”
Bennet, of the Jewish Home Party, who also serves at the Ministerial Council, said that “the release of Palestinian prisoners is based on progress of talks, and our duty should be a war on murderers…” according to the official.
Israel’s Transportation Minister, Yisrael Katz, said that he previously voted against the release of any detainee, and that the release of what he called “terrorists” encourages others to attack Israel.
Following the fatal shooting of the Israeli soldier in Hebron, the army initiated a large campaign and broke into and searched hundreds of homes close to the Ibrahimi Mosque area where the soldier was shot.
Hundreds of Palestinians were kidnapped, and where rounded up in the southern area of the occupied city of Hebron.
The soldiers also occupied rooftops of several homes, using them as monitoring towers, while the army operated in the area.
The military declared Hebron a closed military zone, preventing the Palestinians from entering or leaving it.
Last week, Israeli soldiers shot and killed one Palestinian, and injured four, including three children, in different attacks carried out in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The army carried out 49 invasions into Palestinian communities, and kidnapped at least 41, including 9 children.
Two Palestinians have been killed, dozens have been injured, and hundreds were detained, by Israeli forces since the beginning of the month.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Sukkot is a joyful festival in Judaism; however its impact upon day-to-day life in Khalil has only caused greater problems for the Palestinians. Many residents of Khalil have commented that it is during this holiday period every year where daily life in the city becomes all the more difficult.
Last week soldiers began preparations for taking over a house next to the container checkpoint 209 (Quatoum/Abu Rish), which belongs to a Palestinian family. The family received a military order informing them that this house would be occupied by the Israeli army until Tuesday 24th September, the end of Sukkot. Due to the large number of Jewish tourists visiting Hebron during Sukkot, reinforcement brigades have been sent to Hebron, and due to lack of accommodation for these additional soldiers, the army decided to take over this Palestinian house and use it as a military base for the duration of the holiday. Residents of this area have stated that since the soldiers began occupying the house, child detainment and arrests have increased, and there are further concerns that checkpoint 209 may be moved in an attempt to increase control in the surrounding area.
Today, Saturday 21st September, several clashes and attacks took place between settler youth and Palestinian children and teenagers in Tel Rumeida. Additionally, as on every Shabbat, settlers invaded the roof of the Abu Shamsiyeh family and verbally attacked international activists who, at the request of the family, were monitoring the entrance to the roof as it is often entered without family permission. In the past, settlers have attacked the family by throwing stones, spitting at, beating members of the family and urinating into their garden.
On Friday 20th September, clashes erupted in the afternoon as Palestinian youths threw stones at checkpoint 56. After the PA (responsible for this area of Hebron which is part of H1) chased away the stone-throwers, the clashes moved into the OldCity and souq of Hebron, which is part of H2 and thus under Israeli military control. Throughout Friday evening and most of Saturday, Palestinian youths were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, whilst Israeli soldiers responded with sound grenades, teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets. International activists witnessed border police shooting teargas canisters directly at protesters, as opposed to shooting it in an arch as they are supposed to under Israeli army regulations. Further clashes are expected tomorrow as settlers and Jewish tourists invade area H1.
On Sunday 22nd and Monday 23rd September, tens of thousands of Jewish tourists are expected to descend upon Hebron for Sukkot celebrations. On important Jewish holidays, there is a tradition of the settler community, alongside Jewish tourists, visiting a house in H1 (the Palestinian-controlled part of Hebron) which they claim used to be the home of a rabbi and thus holds religious significance. The Israeli military has ordered the closure of the road outside checkpoint 56 leading to Yatta between 10am and 3pm on Sunday 22nd September. The house that the settlers and Jewish tourists pilgrim to is located on said road, however it is the first time ever that the Israeli military has formally ordered the closure of the road and the shops located there. This order is a clear violation of the Hebron Agreement, signed in 1997 by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, which divided the city into areas H1 and H2 under Palestinian and Israeli military control respectively.