Hebron, Occupied Palestine – With only a sliver of their land left to protect, having their entire lot of land encircled by Israeli settlements, Faryel and Arwa Abu Haikal climbed over a pile of rubble and boulders and stopped the Israeli bulldozer from shearing further into their property, dumping their dignity into the back of a dump truck, and hauling away their rights. There they stood under the unrelenting sun, staring into the teeth of the approaching bucket excavator, protecting their land from the ever encroaching Israeli settlement enterprise, facing arrest and physical assault – a reality they have faced for decades. Their resilience and steadfastness held off the Israeli Antiquity Authority (I.A.A.) for at least a few hours.
The I.A.A. continues to deploy a variety of tactics to annex privately owned Palestinian land on the hill top of Hebron, including ignoring previous orders issued by the Israeli police to halt work. Under the directive of Emmanuel Eisenberg, the I.A.A. project coordinator, the excavator bucket began carving deeper into Faryel Abu Haikal’s land, breaking both Israeli and international law in the process.
“They don’t know where the land is,” said Eisenberg about the Abu Haikal’s resistance to the archeological dig. “We will keep working. We are like the wagon that goes by the barking dog: The wagon keeps going and the dog keeps barking.”
In many ways, it’s hard to disagree with Eisenberg on the trajectory of the illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank and the recent illegal activity in Hebron. More than 1,500 hundred shops or homesteads have either been squatted or blocked off, creating a Hebronite Diaspora of several tens of thousands of Palestinians. The Hebronite refugee population didn’t happen all at once, but rather has occurred and continues to occur in a system of apartheid which operates with immunity.
Since Rabbi Moshe Levinger first led his caravan to the Park Hotel in the heart of Hebron to establish the Kiryat Arba settlement in 1967, the Jewish settlers have slowly, inch by inch, piece by piece, constructed an elaborate security apparatus that only Israelis have the keys to. In Hebron, there are over 130 road blocks, dead end streets, check points, and military patrols that restrict Palestinian access to their city.
The Abu Haikal’s land and life is a microcosm of the principles of ethnic cleansing at work across Palestine today.
For the sake of expediency, this is just a short history of the aggression and assault that the Abu Haikal family has endured at the hands of the Jewish settlers and the Israeli security forces while trying to maintain a home to raise their family.
In 1984, Jewish settlers first arrived on Tel Rumeida, the historical hilltop neighborhood of Hebron, which, according to some religious texts, is where Abraham first laid claim to land. It is this historical interpretation that provides impetus for archeological digs to establish exclusive Jewish claims to the hilltop. The Tel Rumeida settlement stands today on concrete pylons built directly on a previous archeological dig. This marked the genesis of the heightened tensions that would continually boil over and spill onto the Abu Haikal’s land year after year.
The next year, the Abu Haikal family’s land was trespassed by settlers looking to establish religious significance on the land by praying on it, a tactical first step that often leads to the construction of a synagogue.
A few years later in 1991, the Israeli Army sent a formal letter to the family informing them that they were confiscating parts of their land (plot 54) for military purposes, which then was reconstructed into an army barracks. To this day, the Abu Haikal family has a military base in their backyard, a backyard that for generations has been cultivated by their family. Their field of family memories is now the staging grounds for night raids into Palestinian homes.
The following year, settlers brought a caravan to another corner of the Abu Haikal land (plot 53). Fortunately, they were able to halt the annexation of that plot – temporarily.
February 25, 1994, is a day that will live in infamy. The American-born, Jewish religious extremist Baruch Goldstein entered the Cave of the Patriarchs, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125. The following day, the Israeli military responded by taking over the Mosque of the 40 Companions which had been on the land of the Abu Haikals for centuries. Their place of religious sanctuary was stripped out from underneath of them, even though it had little connection to the incident.
As the construction continued on the illegal settlement near their house and the Jewish extremist population of Hebron started to swell, the attacks on their land and family continued in frequency and heightened in intensity.
On July 2, 1998, Jewish settlers cut down three trees on their property and brought a bulldozer to uproot more, but the family was able to utilize the law and nonviolently halt the destruction of their property.
A year later, in July, the internet icon of settler violence in Hebron, Anat Cohen along with her children and eight settlers, trespassed on their property (plot 54) using a footpath between the Abu Haikal houses to the settlement. The Abu Haikal family objected and the settlers, as they had so many times before, resorted to violence. Escalations involving 40 settlers erupted, and a settler with a wooden stick bludgeoned Arwa Abu Haikal, seriously injuring her. Despite the trespassing settlers and the initial aggressions, it was the Abu Haikal family that was issued fines, having to pay 1,500 shekels.
The settlement expansion continued under the guidance of a familiar face: Emmanuel Eisenberg. Eisenberg was responsible for the oversight of the archeological dig that led to the illegal settlement of Ramat Yishai in Tel Rumeida.
Despite the years of attacks and threats of land confiscation, on Jan 22, 2000, the Abu Haikals renewed the rental agreement with the Israeli Authorities and paid a year in advance, keeping the hope that justice would be realized. Signing the protection tenancy wasn’t about the land for them, it was a commitment to resist the illegal settlement expansion, knowing that years of harassment and violence awaited them.
Within three months, 70 settlers had occupied their land inside a structure. The Abu Haikals again called the police to evict the settlers from their land. The rule of law prevailed in that moment, but the leniency, which borders on absolute impunity, led to almost 100 settlers again attacking the Abu Haikal family on their land. Again, it was the Abu Haikals who had to pay 3,000 shekels in the aftermath.
When the Second Intifada broke out in September 2002, the pressure cooker which is Tel Rumeida, was quickly turned into a strategic Israeli military asset, and homes overlooking the city had their rooftops transformed into lookout towers and sniper positions. The Call to Prayer, the spiritual serenade from the mosques on the hill top, was replaced by the sounds of bullets cutting through the air and rocketing through their neighbors’ houses. For the next three years, curfews would further restrict the ability of the Abu Haikal family and others to even leave their house and provide for their family.
Shortly after the Second Intifada erupted, Wadea Abu Haikal (age 16) was attacked on the street in front of the house, and the stones hurled by the settlers broke his nose. The soldiers explained they could not protect the family, and prevented them from accessing their front path to the road in front of the settlement.
The Israeli authority then approached the Abu Haikals about putting a fence around their plots of land (53, 52) to help keep out the settlers. The key to the gate was never handed over the family.
One month later, the Israeli authorities refused to accept their rent, and plots 53 and 52 were declared a closed military zone. The fruit orchards would soon bear their last harvest.
The same year in September, despite being a closed military zone, Israeli settlers celebrated Sukkot on plot 52, building a wooden structure associated with the holiday on their land. A few weeks later, the booth was dismantled by the Israeli authorities. The settlers responded to Faryel Abu Haikal’s petition to remove the illegal booth by attacking her on the way home from school where she worked.
During the 2002-03 military campaign, it was normal for the military to show up during the month of Ramadan, a holy time for Muslims who fast during the day and then at sunset, break their fast in communion with their family. Routinely the military showed up and pulled the family out of the house to disrupt their religious practices. The Abu Haikals creatively resisted, preparing tea and taking nuts and seeds with them as the guards sat them on the ground. They refused give up their tradition, their religious rights.
October 22, 2003 was a day that changed Arwa Abu Haikal’s life. A Palestinian was shot. Knowing that soldiers would quickly mobilize to shut down roads and lock down access paths to her home and that her younger siblings would need to be attended to, she left her work at Bab Al Zaweyah, a 20-minute walk up hill to her house. As she walked down the road, a soldier stopped her and held a gun to her head, threatening her life if she continued her walk to her home. Frightened, but undeterred, she continued, forcing the soldier to make the decision between murder and humanity. Shortly after, the IDF brigade besieged the house, dragging the family out onto the street. Her parents were unable to preempt the lockdown and had to wait until 1:30 am before the streets were reopened. As the parents waited anxiously, not knowing if their children were safe, the children sat by themselves outside the home in the cold and the dark. The Israeli military proceeded to unload round after round from their machine guns into the walls, furniture, closets, and cherished belongings while the family sat helplessly outside. Some of the holes remain today.
Two days later, the soldiers returned and took the mother of the household, Faryel, into a separate room and questioned her for four hours as the rest of the family sat helplessly.
The following year, the settlement expansion continued and Jewish extremists took control of the elderly Al Bakri couple’s home nearby. They later build structures on the Al Bakri garden. The close proximity to the Abu Haikal’s house led an increase in frequency of attacks on their home, forcing them to put metal cages around their windows.
“Our windows have been broken several times over the years, until finally we were forced to put metal grates around them,” said Faryel Abu Haikal. The Abu Haikal had to replace the windows with their home money, a situation unique to the occupation: the oppressed have to pay for the aggression of the oppressor.
The settlers found other ways to cause damage to the family’s home in the hopes of driving them off the land.
Settlers systematically razed the olive trees and stole their harvest. When their grape vines had matured, those too were consumed by the indifference of extreme Jewish ideology. Fires to their dried up field continued over the next several years. By 2006, half of the trees on plot 52 had been cut down and destroyed by settlers, and what was left had been burnt by almost continuous arson.
Two years later in December of 2009, the military entered the Abu Haikal house, pointing their guns in the face of the males in the room. The women of the house stood between the guns and their men. The soldiers responded with extreme force and attacked the family, many of whom were badly beaten. The four who had resisted the assault were arrested and had to pay a 1,000-shekel fine a piece.
Over the next four years, settlers held women’s Torah groups on plot 52, right outside the family’s salon, singing, discussing the Jewish heritage of the land, and praying in the hopes of establishing a synagogue.
The repeated attempts by Jewish settlers to establish claims to the land continued, as they planted 200 vine plants and an irrigation system on plot 52, forcing the Abu Haikal family to seek legal remedy. Again, they had to take time off from work, renegotiate responsibilities away from the home, and convince the Israeli police to intervene. After six long weeks the army removed the vines.
A short time later, Israeli soldiers helped settler children build a tree house in the big ancient olive tree on the Abu Haikal land, next to the soldiers look-out structure. It took the police three hours to remove the children.
In April of 2012, the settlers cut more trees on plot 52, again with the protection of soldiers. The Abu Haikals continued to advocate and speak up in the hopes that one day the international community would respond.
On January 5th, 2014, Emmanuel Eisenberg returned to attend to unfinished business. Settler “archaeologists” from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ariel University moved onto plot 52 with a bulldozer and two containers. The Abu Haikal family protested, and Sami Abu Haikal was detained. The settlers uprooted all the almond trees immediately and began with the illegal excavations.
There was a small victory in the small Palestinian neighborhood in Tel Rumeida. In 2014, Israeli High Court granted possession and the return of Al Bakri family land . . . but ordered the family to pay the police the costs for 50 police officers to remove the settlers. The court would attempt to recover the cost of eviction from the Jewish settlers. That has yet to happen.
One month later, plot 53 was consumed by the archeological dig that was never about archeology, but rather the establishment of a biblical museum. On February 5th, 2014, the I.A.A. moved onto plot 53 with a bulldozer and uprooted all the cherry trees. It also blocked a well-used right-of-way and replaced it with a longer, narrow footpath around the edge of the property that descends a steep, precarious slope.
Despite their land being confiscated, a week and a half later the Abu Haikals paid their rent up to 2015 in order to confirm their continued legal ownership of the land. The money was accepted by the Israeli institution, but excavations continued.
On February 19th, 2014, settler archaeologists uncovered a Muslim grave built of stone slabs directly on the bedrock and oriented to Mecca. Contrary to best archaeological practices and religious principles, they removed the grave.
Despite a police injunction to stop working, on March 26th, Emmanuel Eisenberg and David Ben Shlomo supervised the destruction of another section of the retaining wall, representing the border between plots 54 and 53. The Mayor of Hebron, Dr. Dawood Al Zatari, visited the area and stated that he was going to pursue legal remedy to the confiscation of land. His words have yet to lead to action.
Even after 20 years of extreme, systematic and planned abuse built by detailed policy after policy, the Abu Haikals continue to resist, even though so many times the expansion around their land has continued.
This week they were able to risk their lives in order reinforce a police order to stop working. The police orders should have stopped work, but as Eisenberg has said so many times, he doesn’t “give a shit,” and reminded everyone that at the end of the day, “We will keep working. We are like the wagon that goes by the barking dog: The wagon keeps going and the dog keeps barking.”
Excavations continue on Abu Haikel Land
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) – The Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) continues to expropriate Palestinian land in Hebron, on the Tel Rumeida hillside. On Sunday 18 May 2014, the IAA workforce, under the instruction of project coordinator Emmanuel Eisenberg, continued to cause structural damaged to the Abu Haikel land, deploying questionable and illegal archeological practices, while at the same time utilizing the Al Jobeh family’s land without the family’s consent.
The excavations are illegal under Israeli law, according to the Oslo Agreement, which Israel signed in the mid-90s— a process jointly agreed upon by Israel and Palestine as a vehicle to peace and stability. Article 2 of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement describes in detail how Israeli and Palestinians would jointly administer archeological projects in Palestinian territory. The IAA has not abided by this agreement in Tel Rumeida.
As previously reported, the IAA had verbally agreed to halt the archeological excavations on the land bordering the Abu Haikel plot until the borders of the property were properly demarcated. Despite the agreement, the IAA illegal activities continued onto the Abu Haikel’s property, eventually undermining a retaining wall, causing it to collapse and exposing the roots of a centuries-old olive tree to the elements. These breaches were not the first damage to the Abu Haikel land as a result of the excavations.
The disregard of both international law and Israeli law, combined with verbal and physical assaults of the families living on Tel Rumeida is not an isolated incident, but rather constitute a colonial methodology by the Jewish settler enterprise in Israel. These tactics were the same political instruments that led to the establishment and expansion of the Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida.
Explaining how he could destroy the foundations of the Abu Haikel’s wall, Emmanuel Eisenberg said explicitly that he, “Doesn’t give a shit,” and articulated at length the nature of his work, in which he envisioned the site becoming a tourist destination with a kiosk or restaurant on the Palestinian lands. At one point during the dialogue, Eisenberg had attacked a human rights observer.
As has been chronicled by Israeli Jewish historian Illan Pappe, among others, forced displacement, harassment, and the suppression of basic rights has been the central component of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. This reality is demonstrated with facts on the ground in Hebron specifically, with over a thousand Palestinian homes and shops evacuated, razed, or confiscated for the benefit, protection, and expansion of Jewish settlements.
Eisenberg’s work on Tel Rumeida is an extension of formal Israeli policy to settle in “Judea and Samaria” and another instrument of the settlement plan to force Palestinians to leave Hebron.
The gate to the Abu Haikal house
HEBRON – Israeli settlers set fire to a private Palestinian field in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday night as part of a celebration for the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer.
Settlers circled around the field and watched as the fire burned olive trees, in a field that locals said belongs to the Iqneibi family.
Some of the settlers reportedly assaulted a cameraman who works for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz as he tried to take film the fire.
Lag BaOmer marks the the death of a 2nd century sage associated with Jewish mysticism, and is traditionally marked with bonfires.
Activist and co-founder of the Hebron activist group Youth against Settlements Issa Amro told Ma’an that Israeli settlers have recently been harassing and assaulting the Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida in an attempt to scare them and get them to leave their houses and lands.
Hebron is a frequent site of tensions due to the presence of around 500 Israeli settlers in the Old City, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants.
Tel Rumeida hosts one of the most militant Jewish settlements in the city, and locals complain of near daily harassment and attacks by the groups, who are under heavy Israeli military protection.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – The Israeli occupation uses many methods to take over land – from settlements and military camps to the nature reserve and political treaties. However, the Abu Haikal family of Tel Rumeida in Al-Khalil (Hebron), faces a much more unexpected enemy: archaeologists. Currently, the family home is completely surrounded by an Israeli archaeological excavation – there is only one gate into the property, which can be shut at any time, leaving the family isolated from the surrounding city.
At first glance, the presence of an archaeological site seems quite positive, or at the very least harmless, however a quick look at the politics surrounding the Tel Rumeida excavation shows that this is far more sinister than a simple historical inquisition.
Under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) must coordinate all of their work in the West Bank with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. In Tel Rumeida, Palestinian officials have been denied entry.
IAA archaeologists – many of whom live in the surrounding illegal settlements – began digging in Tel Rumeida on January 5th, 2014. They claimed they were looking for the graves of Jesse and Ruth, figures from the Hebrew Bible. The IAA has also stated their intent to turn the area into a ‘Biblical Archaeological Park’, depending on what the dig turns up.
While no uniquely Jewish artifacts have been found, Palestinian officials confirmed that the settler-archaeologists have destroyed several Muslim graves that were found on the site. Residents of Tel Rumeida have reported that IAA employees are also in the process of bulldozing an ancient Canaanite retaining wall. For them, the deliberate annihilation of non-Jewish history in Hebron is anything but innocuous.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority has been a tool for settlement expansion and land grabs in the West Bank for a long time, including the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, the town of Khirbet Susiya, and other settlements within Hebron. The strategy is simple: Archaeologists enter an area and search for signs of uniquely Jewish history. When a site or artifact is discovered – or possibly fabricated – the area is declared to be an integral part of the ‘Jewish State’. To ‘protect’ the land, a settlement is built on top of the site, driving away the Palestinian owners. – Video interview
Attempt by settlers to begin construction of walking path on Tel Rumeida. The blue fence is on the
On 24 March 2014, settlers attempted to begin construction of a walking path outside the fenced “archaeological” dig near the Abu Haikal home on Tel Rumeida. The settlers pounded in metal stakes in an area just below the fence erected by Israelis around what was once the orchard of the Abu Haikal family, and is now an archaeological site to which Palestinians, including Palestinian archaeological experts, are denied access. The stakes are a first step in an apparent attempt to link the settlement of Tel Rumeida to the fenced area of the archaeological dig.
Palestinians living in the building adjacent to the land on which the settlers were trespassing called the police, who ordered the settlers to stop. However, the following day, 25 March, soldiers arrived at the home of the Abu Haikal family and threatened them with arrest.
Feryal Abu Haikal had just finished hosting a group of neighbors, along with the Palestinian Liaison Officer and an officer from the Hebron Governor’s office, when soldiers arrived at her home and began to dispute the ownership of some of the land on Tel Rumeida, showing her a map that contained false information. The soldiers told Feryal Abu Haikal that no visitors are allowed on the land surrounding her home, and threatened to arrest and deport any internationals there, including members of the Abu Haikal family.
For background on the settler archaeological dig on Tel Rumeida click here
To see a map of multiple land-grab efforts by settlers in Hebron click here.
|The Al-Rajabi building.
Settlers have won a victory in their ongoing attempt to grab land for a new settlement in Hebron. On 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court agreed to hand over the Al-Rajabi building in the Old City of Hebron to settlers, despite the grim humanitarian impacts of the decision on Palestinians living in the neighborhood. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has appealed to the international community to speak out against this violation of Palestinian property rights, and to use all means available to prevent the creation of a new settlement in the Old City of Hebron.
Settlers claimed ownership of Al-Rajabi house on 19 September 2007, when a group of them stormed into the building in the middle of the night. In November 2008, the court found that the settler’s purchase documents were forged and evicted them, placing the building under military control pending a final decision. In reaction, Hebron settlers set fire to Palestinian homes, farms, olive trees, and vehicles in the area. Six Palestinians were injured, two with live ammunition. On 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Palestinian owner of the building must, against his will, accept payment from Israeli settlers in the amount specified in the forged sale documents.
A thirty minute walk from the Al Rajabi building settlers are using “archaeology” to rewrite the history of the city and take control of two large plots of land on top of the hilly neighborhood of Tel Rumeida. On 5 January, Israeli settlers and soldiers uprooted fifty almond trees belonging to the Abu Heikal family, and began digging on two plots of land that surround the family’s home, and which the family has leased and cultivated for sixty-five years.
Since January, the settlers have used heavy earth-moving equipment to remove truckloads of soil from the orchard. Tall metal fences now cut the Abu Heikal home off from the orchard, leaving the house accessible by only a narrow drive. Fencing off the land, which soldiers have declared a “closed military zone,” has also isolated portions of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, making it difficult for residents to walk to shops and the nearby mosque.
|Israelis have unearthed and desecrated what Palestinian archaeological experts believe are three Muslim graves,
constructed on bedrock with stones pointing toward Mecca. Pictured is second of three Muslim graves unearthed by
settlers digging on Tel Rumeida. In this photo, the grave has been partially removed.
|This public footpath has been fenced off
and replaced with a longer path with a
gate at each end, leading to these steep
and precarious dirt steps
According to Hamed Salem, chairperson of Birzeit University’s archaeology department, the dig is illegal and is merely an attempt to “advance the settler’s political agenda by using archaeology to justify their presence in Hebron.” An archaeologist from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities recently attempted to inspect the site but was denied access. The Israeli Culture Ministry and Civil Administration are financing the dig, and expect it to cost an estimated NIS seven million. Residents of Tel Rumeida fear that because such a large sum has been allocated there may be plans for much greater destruction of surrounding ancient olive trees and orchards. The Abu Heikal family is currently challenging the legality of the excavation in the Israeli Civil Court system.
Roughly midway between the Al Rajabi building and Tel Rumeida, near the Ibrahimi Mosque, settlers are attempting to gain control of five buildings: the Bouderi House and the Tomb of Abner, both directly outside the entrance to the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Ashhab Shops, across the street from the Gutnick Center, which is directly in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Abu Rajab house near Checkpoint 209, and the Al-Sharif House, the front door of which opens onto the street just below the Ibrahimi Mosque. In recent months settlers and soldiers seeking to access the Al-Sharif building have attempted to open the house from the front directly below the mosque by breaking open a welded door, and have repeatedly invaded the home of the Al-Atrash family, which shares an enclosed courtyard with the Al Sharif building. If settlers are allowed to occupy these seven sites the humanitarian impacts on residents of Hebron’s Old City neighborhoods will be devastating. The targeted properties are links in a chain that, if completed, would effectively encircle the Ibrahimi Mosque and link the four existing settlements inside the Old City to the larger settlement of Kiryat Arba, which borders the Old City. This connection would cut off Palestinian neighborhoods and homes from access to schools and services, and would put all of the Old City under increased risk of settler incursions and violence. Currently about 500 settlers live in the four downtown Hebron settlements of Beit Hadassah, Avraham Avinu, Beit Romano, and Tel Rumeida. An additional 7,000 live in Kiryat Arba.
Two International Solidarity Movement activists walking on Shudaha Street area were brutally attacked by French Zionist tourists who were visiting to attend the weekly settler tour of the Palestinian part of Hebron.
At around 1:30 PM the activists were walking in the direction of Shuhada Street when the 6 young men rounded the corner, upon seeing the activists they spread across the road. Within seconds, the group attacked the ISM activists, chasing one back in the direction of the Ibrahim Mosque and continued to attack while soldiers leveled their weapons at the attacker.
The other activist was chased, tripped and kicked in the body and face by the Zionist assailant until he was chased away by the two soldiers. On gaining his feet, the activist was punched in the face by the man who had just chased his companion away. The activist ran and the army stopped his pursuer.
The incident was reported to the police, who found two of the attackers in Shuhada Street and took their details. They were not detained as it was the Sabbath when religious Jews are rarely arrested. The activists were taken to a local Police station to make a statement and overheard aggressive integration of a Palestinian prisoner.
We also received a report that an Italian tourist was attacked by 10 religious Zionists in the city on the same day of the attack. After his beating, was told that if he wants to come back he must wear a Kippah.
Israeli soldiers have shot teargas and sound grenades at children who cross checkpoints 29 and 209 on their way to school in the morning on seven of the last eight school days.
International observers and human rights workers in Hebron have witnessed Israeli soldiers repeatedly firing grenades and sound bombs into the streets near these checkpoints while children are walking to school. The children attend several schools located both in the Old City and in the area of Hebron designated as H2, on the other side of the checkpoints, and include preschool students as young as four. Depending on where they live and which school they attend, children must cross these checkpoints in both directions to reach schools both inside the old city and in H2.
Because the Israeli military does not allow buses that transport younger children to preschool and kindergarten classes in H2 to cross the checkpoints, very young children living in the Old City must walk through these checkpoint areas in order to reach their school buses.
At times, the use of teargas by soldiers has been in response to several children throwing stones, but internationals have also witnessed soldiers firing teargas canisters without provocation. In any event, because so many children pass through the same area to reach school at the same time, hundreds of children, many of them in primary grades, suffer the effects of gas on an almost daily basis. Additionally, because the agents used to manufacture teargas are actually solids, they remain inside shops, on clothing, and in the streets where children walk and play throughout the day.
Although the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the use of teargas and pepper spray in warfare, domestic police and state forces are allowed to use these weapons on people as “riot control” agents.
Tear gas is a non-lethal chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain—which can be extreme, immediate and severe nausea, and even blindness. Longer term effects include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and other lung-related problems (heightened in people who already have lung problems), heart and liver damage, delayed menstruation, and an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths in women exposed to the gas. The NGO Physicians for Human Rights believes that “‘tear gas’ is a misnomer for a group of poisonous gases which, far from being innocuous, have serious acute and longer-term adverse effects on the health of significant numbers of those exposed.”
In addition to the effects of the gas, the teargas cartridges fired by soldiers can cause serious injury and even death if they strike people, especially if soldiers fire the cartridges straight into crowds rather than into the air. Internationals and Palestinians report having seen soldiers fire teargas straight into the roads near these checkpoints.
The teargas used on school children in Hebron comes primarily from the United States and is manufactured primarily by Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania and Defense Technology of Casper, Wyoming. Combined Systems Inc. (CSI)—often manufacturing under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) are owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlyle Group. CSI is the primary supplier of tear gas to the Israeli military as well as a provider to Israel’s police (and border police) for use in occupied Palestine.
Defense Technology is headquartered in Casper, Wyoming. Along with U.S. company Federal Laboratories, with which it shares a product line, it has links to the U.K. arms giant BAE Systems through BAE’s ownership of U.S. arms company Armor Holdings.
The War Resisters League has launched a campaign to abolish teargas, and to encourage people who have been impacted by its use to tell their stories. The campaign seeks “the global ban of tear gas by first ending the sale, manufacture, and shipment of tear gas made in the US through organizing and applying grassroots pressure on
- companies that produce the gas,
- the US government agencies that approve the export licenses for the sale of tear gas,
- US government officials who allow for the sale and transfer of tear gas to repressive regimes abroad,
- the prison and police forces within in the US who use tear gas and similar chemical weapons such as pepper spray to threaten, injure, and torture people.”
To learn more about teargas in Palestine and throughout the world, or to add your story to the campaign, visit facingteargas.org
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Sunday, the 16th of February, Israeli soldiers and border police in Hebron fired tear gas and sound grenades at children on their way to school. The border police also chased the children, attempting to arrest them.
At Checkpoint 29, around 7:30 a.m., a few children on their way to school (there are three schools near the checkpoint) were throwing stones at the soldiers stationed there. In response to this two border police and a soldier appeared from an alley and threw a sound grenade at the kids close to the United Nations school on Tareq Ben Ziyad Street.
This frightened not only the children who had thrown stones but all the children on their way to school, causing them to flee. When they did not catch any children the two border police and the soldier stood in front of the school blocking the entrance and started firing teargas at those who had fled.
As the border police and the soldier returned to the checkpoint, three new soldiers came out of an apartment across the street, preventing the children from entering their school. The soldiers continued firing teargas towards the crowd of upset and frightened children.
Tear gas is a nondiscriminatory nerve gas which affects all persons nearby. The gas often takes a long time to disperse, forcing children to go through the half-dispersed gas clouds on their way to school, leaving them crying and coughing. The use of tear gas against schoolchildren is common in Hebron.
In total, seven soldiers and two border police were involved in the incident, firing six tear gas grenades and two sound grenades at the children.
Jonathon Cook writes:
I never thought I would see it. A mainstream TV programme, this one made by Australian channel ABC, that shows the occupation in all its inhuman horror.
The 45-minute investigative film concerns the Israeli army’s mistreatment of Palestinian children. Along the way, it provides absolutely devastating evidence that the children’s abuse is not some unfortunate byproduct of the occupation but the cornerstone of Israel’s system of control and its related need to destroy the fabric of Palestinian society.
Omar Barghouti has spoken of Israelis’ view of Palestinians as only “relatively human”. Here that profound racism is on full show.
There are, of course, concessions to “balance” – in the hope of minimising the backlash from Israel – but they do nothing to dilute the power of the message.
This is brave film-making of the highest order.
It is an indication of quite how exceptional this film is that it has cornered Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, into expressing her “deep concern“. That’s the same Bishop who last month doubted that the settlements in the West Bank were illegal.
If the video above is removed, you can also watch the film here:
PALESTINE: Border Police detain, humiliate and arrest men trying to go to Friday prayers; CPTer’s camera taken.
Occupied Palestine – On Wednesday 8th January, Vincent Mainville and Fabio Theodule were arrested by Israeli border police in Khalil (Hebron).
The two boys were handcuffed and taken to Jaabara police station where they were forced to kneel on the concrete floor for approximately 30 minutes. Fabio was blindfolded with his own keffiyeh and while kneeling he was pushed against the wall by Israeli border police officers and kicked in his legs.
After an hour passed, the makeshift blindfold was removed although their hands remained cuffed behind their backs for the next four to five hours.
Fabio and Vincent were questioned by Israeli forces, both refusing to sign documents that were written in Hebrew. They were went taken to Kiryat Arba police station, fingerprinted and then interrogated once again. Several hours passed and it was only at this point that they were allowed to call their legal representative.
They were transferred to a police facility near Ben Gurion airport where they were made to wait outside in a prison courtyard for two hours. Fabio asked for water and was told by a border police officer, “If you want to drink, you can drink my piss”.
Fabio and Vincent repeatedly asked for jackets or a blanket due to the cold weather, they were both ignored.
They were taken inside this facility for 30 minutes before being transferred back to Kiryat Arba police station in Khalil. Their handcuffed were removed at 12:30 at night and they were placed in a cell to sleep.
In the morning, on Thursday 9th January, Vincent and Fabio were awakened and handcuffed at 6:30 in the morning. They received no information about their situation and were not informed they had a court hearing that morning. When they arrived at court in Jerusalem they were allowed to speak to their lawyer for approximately four minutes outside the courthouse, with Israeli border police present.
After they had the short conversation with their lawyer they were taken to the immigration office in Tel Aviv. The two activists tried to refuse to enter this building as they knew their lawyer was attempting to argue against their arrest [which was eventually declared illegal]. It was at this point Israeli forces became extremely aggressive, dragging both Vincent and Fabio by their handcuffs causing their wrists to bleed.
Vincent attempted to resist as they dragged both boys up a set of stairs and it was at this point a man from the immigration center kicked him in his ribs and his face. They were taken into a room and after one hour, were able to contact their lawyer, though they were not allowed privacy for this phone call.
Vincent asked if he could file charges against the man who has beat him, and he was told he was not allowed to do this.
At this point Vincent and Fabio were given food for the first time in 25 hours.
The boys were then taken to Giv’on prison in Ramle, close to Tel Aviv. They were unable to contact their lawyer again and received no information about their case, until they were finally able to be contacted by ISM two days later.
Vincent and Fabio are very likely to be deported within the next few days, their arrest has been ruled illegal by an Israeli court but this has not made any difference to their situation. Their treatment since being arrested should serve as a reminder in terms of how Israeli forces are able to treat their prisoners, whether justified or not. However, Vincent and Fabio as internationals have received far better treatment then Palestinian prisoners. The brutal treatment of Palestinian prisoners echoes throughout Palestine and serves as a daily reminder of the Israeli occupation.