Many tourists hoping to visit the West Bank are finding it impossible to do so – because Israel requires certain visitors to have an entry permit. Obtaining permission is anything but easy, because Tel Aviv doesn’t explain the process, Haaretz reported.
The requirement for military entry permits reportedly began at the beginning of 2013. However, not everyone is required to obtain the special pass – and no information has been published surrounding the selection process.
Clerics from the US reportedly had to sign a declaration at Ben-Gurion International Airport recently, promising not to enter Area A without permits from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Area A includes all Palestinian cities and their surrounding areas, with no Israeli settlements. The area is fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
COGAT is a military office which coordinates civilian issues between the Israeli government, the Israel Defense Forces, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority.
“I understand that in the event that I enter any area under the control of the Palestinian Authority without the appropriate authorization all relevant legal actions will be taken against me, including deportation and denial of entry into Israel for a period of up to ten years,” the English-language version of the declaration reads.
The clerics signed the document, but were not told how they could obtain the special permission.
The clerics told Haaretz that they had been sent from their church to work with Christian communities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But their mission ended before it ever began because they were not told how to obtain the military entry permit.
One of the clerics sought help from the US Consulate in Jerusalem – but none of the employees were aware of the restictions. The spokesman for the US consulate declined to answer whether Israel had informed the American authorities about the obligation to sign a statement, and did not explain the viewpoint of the US Department of State.
According to Sabine Haddad, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, the Entry into Israel Law authorizes the interior minister to decide on the entry of foreigners to the State of Israel. In the case of Judea and Samaria, the Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff makes the determination with a permit from the coordinator’s office.
“When a tourist or foreign national arrives at the international border crossings and it is believed that he wants to enter Judea and Samaria, he should be informed [of the procedure] and asked for his promise to receive a permit from the coordinator’s office before his entry – a permit that constitutes an essential condition [of entry to the Palestinian Authority controlled areas],” she said.
But there is no mention of the existence of such a procedure on COGAT’s English website. The spokesman for the coordinator’s office said the matter of the procedure and the form is being examined.
Meanwhile, lawyers are questioning the legality of the declaration. According to the Oslo Accords, citizens of countries which have diplomatic ties with Israel need only an entry permit for Israel and a valid passport to enter Palestinian Authority territories, Attorney Adi Lustigman said.
The declaration “is not legal because it was formulated for an improper purpose – isolating the occupied territories – and in an improper manner. It makes the assumption that people who arrive in Israel as tourists, as clerics and for other purposes want to act in contradiction to the law, which may not have been explained to them clearly,” Lustigman said.
“If there really is such a procedure, it should be publicized in a simple, clear and accessible manner…it seems there is no operative procedure, nor any procedure for submitting a request. We are left only with a prohibition, which, as we have mentioned, is invalid,” she added.
The practice of requiring tourists to sign such declarations was first reported seven years ago, but was reportedly discontinued and renewed only at the beginning of this year.
Several years ago, the Interior Ministry also began to limit the freedom of movement of tourists with work and family ties in the West Bank, in order to prevent their entry into Israel by means of a permit with the stamp “For the territories of Judea and Samaria only.”
Beit Ummar, Occupied Palestine – At 3am on 13th May, Nasri Sabarna of Beit Ummar woke up to the sound of Israeli soldiers kicking down his front door. The sound of them shooting tear gas, rubber bullets and sound bombs at people passing his house on their way to the Mosque for morning prayer also woke up his 3 year old granddaughter, whose crying in turn woke up the rest of the Sabarna household.
The 6 jeeps full of soldiers had come to arrest his 21 year old son Achmed – for the fifth time. Achmed is a 21 year old student who has yet to be charged with any crime. As Achmed was not home at the time the soldiers invaded his home, the whole family were ordered to go to the police station in the illegal settlement of Gush Etzyon the following morning at 9am. It was here that Achmed was taken into interrogation. Despite not being guilty of committing any crime, his father does not expect to see him anytime soon. Achmed has already been forced to miss two years of university because of similar incidents, which have cost his family a lot of money – Achmed was arrested for the first time when he was 13 years old.
His father, Nasri is no stranger to the Israeli culture of injustice practiced against Palestinians. At the age of 13, he himself was arrested by Israeli soldiers without charge and imprisoned for 10 months. His whole life has been shaped by the occupation around him. He remembers seeing Israeli bulldozers demolish three historic homes in his village of Beit Ummar at the age of 10 – such events inspired him to become politically active. In 1978 he established the first student council in Palestine, going on later to become mayor of his home village of Beit Ummar. In Israel’s bid to crush any Palestinian political organisation, Nasri was imprisoned for 6 years between 1988 and 1994 for the sole reason of being a member of the political party Fatah.
Nasri’s main concern now is the effect that Israel’s systematic use of administrative detention, harrassment and abuse will have on the younger generations of Palestinians born under occupation. When he was mayor, 40 soldiers broke into his house and destroyed most of their belongings. They wore balaclavas as they did so and terrified his youngest son Abdullah.
Over the following weeks Abdullah’s teachers told his father that his mood had changed, he had become aggressive, argumentative and unusually violent. Nasri sought the help of psychologists from Medicenes Sans Frontiers who worked with Abdullah regularly. He told the psychologists of times where soldiers had lined him and his classmates up when walking home from school and made them jump over their guns before beating them.
The psychological treatment helped Abdullah, who is now ten, to deal with such issues and his behaviour is now back to normal. But Nasri worries for those hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children who are not so lucky to receive treatment. A combination of abuse and detentions coupled with the daily destruction of homes, land, resources and opportunities for young people in the West Bank diminishes any hope they may have for the future and ultimately leads them to seek out revenge through violence.
Nasri emphasised that this is not a struggle between religions, nor are different religious groups inherently incapable of coexisting in harmony. Colonialism and Zionism are the driving forces behind the brutality of the occupation and only granting Palestinians their freedom can bring around real peace. To summarise, Nasri said “No nation can just get rid of another nation.”
- Israeli settlers’ attacks continue: Vineyards poisoned in Beit Ummar (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Israel’s occupation forces targets medic and injures 17 in clashes in Beit Ummar (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
As Israeli justice minister, Tzipi Livni, met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Wednesday, the Israel Civil Administration approved a plan to build 296 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El; an Israeli newspaper reported.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon approved the construction of the new housing units in line with a promise the government had made to settlers. A previous Israeli government had promised to build 90 new housing units in the settlements in an attempt to prevent clashes during the eviction of the Ulpana settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously made undertakings to stop further settlement construction until next June when he met with Kerry, angering heads of settler groups.
According to the newspaper, Ya’alon met with heads of Jewish settlers on Tuesday and told them that construction would indeed continue. Netanyahu confirmed that there were delays in issuing construction bids due to errors, but that they would be issued soon.
Settlers hoped that the approval of new housing units would mean the beginning of further settlement plans in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In Rome, Livni hoped that “enthusiastic and determined” Kerry would move the peace process forward after four years of stalemate.
“We believe that re-launching the negotiations and achieving an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is in the Israeli interest, but yet there is a need for Secretary John Kerry’s efforts to create something new after four years of stagnation,” Livni said.
Kerry has been holding talks with Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab officials for months. The Israeli newspaper said that he is expected to meet Netanyahu and Abbas separately later in May.
The US Secretary of State said, “I think it is fair to say that we are working through threshold questions and we are doing it with a seriousness of purpose, which I think Minister Livni would agree with, has not been present for a while.”
Stressing the importance of achieving something as soon as possible Livni said, “We all believe that we are working with a short time span. We understand the imperative to try to have some sense of direction as rapidly as we can.”
Kerry has been mobilizing Arab support for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in case he is obliged to offer concessions to Israelis in order to reach a peace deal. Kerry also hopes to set up foundations for a wider peace with the Arab states.
Recently, he achieved a diplomatic victory when the Arab league delegation in Washington announced an agreement to accept that a land swap deal could be reached between Palestinians and Israelis based on the 1967 borders.
Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday morning, the Barta’a village, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, declared the village a closed military zone, and demolished 12 shops.
Ghassan Qabha, head of the Barta’a village council, reported that the army invaded the village after sealing all of its entrances, declared it a closed military zone and demolished the twelve structures.
Qabha added that 120 Palestinians work in the demolished buildings, and that most of them are the sole breadwinners in their families.
Furthermore, soldiers handed military orders to eight shop owners informing them the army will be demolishing their shops under the pretext that they were built without construction permits.
Qabha strongly denounced the Israeli attack, and said that the ongoing violations and assaults against the villagers aim at forcing them out of their village that became isolated and surrounded by Israel’s Annexation Wall and its illegal settlements.
- Army Demolishes Three Homes In Occupied Jerusalem (imemc.org)
- Israeli occupation forces raid different areas of Jenin while settlers uproot olive trees (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Army Kidnaps 13 Palestinians In Bethlehem, 2 In Jenin (imemc.org)
- Israel detains Hamas leader’s sons in raid (alethonews.wordpress.com)
William Cook in his masterly way tells us not to give up even if “overwhelmed by darkness of the times”.
And he reminds us that “sixty-five years ago this May 14, the world body admitted to its membership the state of Israel even as that self-declared state was in the process of invading, destroying and leveling 418 towns and villages owned by the people of Palestine who suffered death or expulsion out of their homeland to live without human rights anywhere in the world.”
His eloquence is designed to stiffen the sinews. But some weary truth-tellers and justice-seekers simply don’t want their sinew stiffened any more. For years they’ve given the Palestine thing their best shot, their family life has suffered… and for what?
With the 14th of May comes the realization that the crimes of the US-backed Israelis continue with impunity, encouraged and rewarded by those on high who should know better, while the suffering of the Palestinians knows no limit. This has been the longest and cruelest jackbooted torment of modern times yet the blood-spattered perpetrators are warmly welcomed into the drawing rooms of supposedly civilized Western rulers and promised undying support for ever. The British government has effectively disabled its Universal Jurisdiction laws to give these creatures a safe haven.
Of course, the problem is not just the Israelis. Sami Jamil Jadallah reports how the Palestinian leadership has “failed at every thing it set out to do. It failed at liberation, it failed at ending the occupation, failed at building governing institutions, failed at disengaging Palestinian economy from the Israeli economy, failed at ending the continued expansion of Jewish settlements, failed at bringing down the Apartheid Wall (though it had a court ruling), failed at creating a transparent and clean government…”
Jadallah remarks that the Arab League “recently gave Israel added incentives allowing the trade off of prime Palestinian territories in exchange for toxic waste dump. With this present leadership there is no hope for ever ending the occupation… More troubling is the commitment made with the approval of the Palestinian leadership that ‘Palestine’ will never file legal charges against Israel for past, present and future crimes.”
Hamas, naturally, are not best pleased. Their Salah al-Khawaja told Quds Press that international law does not allow it, and any idea of land swaps gives legitimacy to the occupation to continue its settlement activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post was reporting three years ago that the Palestinians and US-backed Israel had agreed on the principle of a land swap, but denied that the two sides had reached any further agreement. The issue was the ratio of land Israel would give to the Palestinians in exchange for keeping their illegal settlement blocs, with the Palestinians demanding 1:1 and the Israelis, being their usual greedy selves, offering less.
Now the same source reports that, while the Palestinian Authority leadership supported the land swap idea, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) condemned it. “The Palestinians don’t need anyone to make concessions on their behalf. No one authorized the Arab delegation to voluntarily give up Palestinian lands. We condemn this proposal as an attempt to legitimize settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in violation of international laws and the Geneva Fourth Convention.”
Another group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), also slammed the land swap idea and accused Qatar, which has been playing a leadership role in the Arab League, of seeking to liquidate the Palestinian issue. Mohamed Jadallah, a senior member of the DFLP, said that Qatar was seeking to take over the Arab League in order to serve US interests in the region. “Qatar has bought the Arab countries with its money and stolen their political decision,” he said.
Jadallah claimed that Qatar was working toward by-passing the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative by offering to relinquish control over Palestinian territories.
Since US-backed Israel selected and stole prime locations for its settlements, knowing full well that it was committing a war crime, why should the Palestinians settle for 1:1? Why should they agree to land swaps at all? If the Jews living in these ‘squats’ wish to stay they can become Palestinian citizens.
All this simply adds fuel to the burning resentment felt by Palestinians and their sympathizers around the world towards the ‘enemy within’ who would sell their grandmothers for a fistful of dollars or shekels
In the Long Grass Something Stirs
Meanwhile, here in England it looks like a major party ‘scum clearance’ may have begun, albeit in a modest way. In elections last Thursday in the 27 English county councils and 7 unitary authorities the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won over 140 seats and averaged 25% of the vote in the areas where it was standing. Cameron’s Conservatives lost control of 10 councils, but retained 18. Their coalition buddies, the Liberal Democrats, did badly too.
UKIP aims to haul us out of the EU cesspit and bolt the door against unwanted immigrants. As these concerns are uppermost in ordinary people’s minds, UKIP strikes a strong chord with British voters. The county election results show what can happen when political leaders continually ignore the electorate’s concerns and press ahead with their own private agenda when it is obviously not in the national interest.
The breakthrough by UKIP, however, is not entirely good news. The party claims “Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record” and seeks to cement “true friendship” with its hoodlums. UKIP seems indifferent to the fact that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads (and the means to deliver them), menaces the whole region (and Europe) and defies calls to sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. Yet UKIP believes a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable, and says it would support efforts to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons capability by “military means”.
UKIP is so bonkers about Israel that it rejects calls for the suspension of trade deals such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement, apparently seeing no need for the racist entity to show “respect for human rights and democratic principles” as set out in that Agreement.
Not surprisingly UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage has been described by the Jewish Chronicle as “a good friend of Israel”. And, naturally, UKIP has a Friends of Israel group which proclaims: “Despite constant assault from within and without, Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record and remains the only country in the Middle East to extend full civil and political rights to all of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. Yet somehow it is cast as the oppressor, vilified as an ‘apartheid state’ and singled out for disproportionate criticism.
“Decades of malicious propaganda campaigns have seen to it that a one-sided historical narrative which portrays the Palestinians as blameless victims now successfully masquerades as reality…”
People who joined, then left UKIP say it’s corrupt and run on Stalinistic lines. So UKIP are not the loveliest people to have around… and certainly not the sort you’d want actually running your country. But for the time being these useful idiots may serve a purpose in helping to clear away the even more unlovely major party trash that’s funded by Zionists, owes allegiance to a foreign Zionist power and adores and supports the Zionist program of land-theft, mayhem and murder directed even against fellow Christians.
Another cause for slight hope is the recent Eminent Persons letter in which Jeremy Greenstock, former UK Ambassador to the UN, and 18 other prominent Europeans have sent a strongly-worded message to EU High Representative Catherine Ashton calling for a new European approach and expressing “strong concern about the dying chances of a settlement based on two separate, sovereign and peaceful states of Israel and Palestine”.
They warn that “the Occupation is actually being entrenched by the present Western policy” and “the steady increase in the extent and population of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, and the entrenchment of Israeli control over the OT [Occupied Territories] in defiance of international law, indicate a permanent trend towards a complete dislocation of Palestinian territorial rights.”
The letter concludes that letting the situation lie unaddressed is highly dangerous when such an explosive issue sits in such a turbulent environment.
It adds that over the years the EU’s inactivity has been unprincipled and unwise. “European leaders cannot wait for ever for action from the United States when the evidence accumulates of American failure to recognize and promote the equal status of Israelis and Palestinians… as accepted in United Nations resolutions.”
Why has it taken them so long to put pen to paper? It’s probably too late for a two-state solution, but what they say might lead to better things. Many more ‘eminent persons’ need to speak up for justice. Where are they? Why do they still skulk behind the woodwork?
Jewish settlers raided a West Bank village near Ramallah on Saturday night, attacking several houses and prompting clashes between residents and Israeli forces, Ma’an news agency reported.
Israeli forces were standing guard as hundreds of settlers stormed the village of Ras Karkar, reportedly barring ambulances from entering the village before allowing an ambulance to take only two people to the hospital.
Eight residents of Ras Karkar were wounded as Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. Live bullets were also fired into the air to scare the residents and prevent them from defending their property.
Rubber-coated bullets hit one Palestinian in the eye, one in the head and another in the chest. Four others sustained bruises and fractures from the attack by settlers and Israeli troops, locals said.
According to local sources, three houses in Ras Karkar were attacked and set on fire, as well as a number of olive trees.
One settler was wounded after being hit by a stone.
Settlers were also gearing up to attack another village near Ramallah on Sunday, Ma’an reported.
According to a witness, dozens of settlers were being escorted by Israeli troops and police officers near the village of al-Janiya in northwest Ramallah.
Residents of al-Janiya were trying to close the road to the village with rocks, only to be met with stun grenades and tear gas. Activists used the village mosque’s loudspeakers to urge residents to defend their village.
Settlers routinely attack Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank, as Israeli forces regularly turn a blind eye or even assist settler crimes.
According to figures compiled by Israeli group Yesh Din, nine out of 10 police investigations about settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.
(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar, Photo Credit – Ma’an)
I’ve been coming to Gaza for a long time. My first was in 1985 and this is now my seventh trip to the region. In the 80’s, there were no substantial physical barriers between Gaza and Israel. Many Gazans worked as day laborers in Israel and many spoke Hebrew. Group taxis traveled freely between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and directly into Gaza City. The society here in Gaza was much more Westernized and secular than it is today. Women wore blue jeans and ponytails; the hijab and the naqab were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. It was hardly a perfect relationship between Israelis and Palestinians; more of a privileged class and servant class based on the birthright of whether or not one was born Jewish. But there was abundant interaction between the two societies back then.
Then came the first intifada and then the Oslo “Peace Process” which was really a “Piece Process.” This culminated in the division of the two societies and the isolation of Gaza from the rest of the world. There was false hope then and a second intifada. Gaza was locked down as a consequence and became the world’s largest prison.
When I re-entered Gaza some 18 years later in 2003, it was a much different world. Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi, a respected physician and civic leader here in Gaza, explained to me why he had walked out of the Madrid Peace negotiations in 1991. “I concluded that the Israelis were negotiating in bad faith,” he said. It took me a while to fully understand what he was talking about, but slowly it became clear. Gaza was now surrounded by a hideous “Berlin Wall”. Rachel Corrie had just been mowed down by a giant bulldozer. Houses and apartment blocks were being systematically destroyed under the orders of Ariel Sharon “to look for tunnels” which are used to smuggle goods from Egypt. Many tunnels were found and destroyed, but even more tunnels were built in their place and remain today. Over 2000 people in Rafah were made homeless as a direct result of Israel’s pursuit of the tunnels.
In 2006 I entered Gaza during a time of assault. The streets of Beit Hanoun were ripped apart after a Qassam missile had killed an Israeli woman in Sderot. Over 85 Palestinians were killed in Beit Hanoun and then an additional 19 members of the Al Athamna family were massacred as they slept in their beds. I interviewed some of the grief stricken survivors a few days after their onslaught. Apache attack helicopters reigned death and destruction from the skies directly above us; we rushed to the Kamal Adwan Hospital to assist local doctors as 5 young men in their 20s died right in front of us. It was a time of palpable fear for me, as I shared for the first time, the fear that local Gazans feel routinely.
In 2008, I entered Gaza by boat. I was part of the maiden voyage of the Free Gaza Movement; we were the first boats to arrive from international waters in 41 years. Gaza had been under a tightening siege. There were 40,000 people on the shores of the Gaza Marina waiting to greet us. It was a time of euphoria as we demonstrated to the people of Gaza that there are many of us around the world who have not forgotten them; many around the world who do care about them after all. There were several more boat trips and then flotillas. Then there was the massacre on the Mavi Marmara. My Italian friend Vittorio Arrigoni was martyred two years ago, and he is still remembered by the people of Gaza today.
Then there was the horror of Cast Lead. I last entered Gaza again in October 2009 in its aftermath. The streets were filled with entire blocks of rubble; entire neighborhoods had been leveled; the siege had been tightened still and there were no resources like concrete to rebuild. Dr. Marwan Assalya, the general surgeon at Al Awda Hospital where we were assigned, shared horrific photographs of people he had cared for during the previous winter. There were pictures or victims of white phosphorus attacks with second, third and fourth degree burns all over their bodies. There were recipients of DIME weaponry who had had their arms completely sheared off by vaporized micro-shrapnel. Patients who survived lingered, only to succumb later to sepsis; or if they survived that, to cancer, as a direct result of the tungsten heavy metal vapor supplied by the US arms industry. And there were pictures of drone victims who had had both legs blown off; These were the survivors; there were no pictures of the ones blown completely to smithereens.
So now it is April 2013 and I enter Gaza again. We enter through Erez and we are forced this time to sit through a one hour PowerPoint presentation by the Israeli military outlining how benevolent Israel tries to help, and how these ungrateful Palestinians respond with rockets and are their own worst enemy. I try not to grimace; I try not to hurt myself biting my lip. I try not to vomit or show any indication of what I am thinking. We just want to get through this, so we can enter Gaza and be with our friends.
So now we are here in Gaza. Our medical team disperses to various assignments. Dr. Bob Haynes and I are teaching elements of Advanced Cardiac Life Support at Shifa and Public Aid hospitals. We are giving lectures to very bright young medical and nursing students at Al Azhar and Islamic Universities.
We are being greeted by smiling and attentive students who still show hope and amazing resiliency for their future. In Gaza, hope springs eternal, Phoenix keeps rising miraculously from the ashes, especially among the youth.
Now the tunnel economy has flourished. There are now donkey carts hauling around Egyptian cement everywhere, and there are shiny new cars I haven’t seen before which have been brought in through the tunnels in the south. The nicer parts of Gaza City are showing new shops and new businesses. But while some are prospering, many others among the many poor are languishing and lost in time. The refugee camps we visit seem even more soiled and overcrowded than before, and there is trash everywhere. The UN is running out of money to maintain its food assistance program and people are revolting. The Hamas government is getting more forceful in their enforcement of traditional Islamic law. In spite of this, the people in these camps remain courteous, curious to see us and friendly. Gaza is a pressure cooker. The UN predicts that Gaza may become inhabitable after 2020.
But we will keep coming back as long as we can. Our conscience demands this of us.
- Dr. Bill Dienst is a rural family and emergency room physician from Omak, Washington. He is a graduate of the UW School of Medicine and Tacoma Family Medicine Family Practice Residency Program.
A Palestinian man stabbed dead an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, the Israeli ambulance service and police said, in what may have been a response to a violent settler attack on a nearby village one day earlier that left two elderly Palestinians hospitalized.
“The Palestinian suspect stabbed an Israeli sitting at a bus stop. He died,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP, adding that the incident took place near a major junction which lies south of the city of Nablus.
It was the first time an Israeli has been killed by a Palestinian in the West Bank since 2011.
Israeli media said the attacker was standing at a bus stop used by settlers, Israeli soldiers and Palestinians when he stabbed the Israeli, a man in his 20′s.
The suspect then seized a gun carried by the settler. He began shooting at security services who arrived on the scene, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said, adding that the man was in custody.
The Palestinian, a resident of the northern town of Tulkarem, was injured and admitted to an Israeli hospital.
The incident may have been motivated by a settler attack Monday in Nablus that left two elderly Palestinian men with severe head injuries.
Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that three settlers from the Itamar outpost raided Beit Furik and attacked residents with “sharp tools.”
Fawzi Nasasra, 60, and Abdul Rahman Khatatba, 50, were taken to hospital to be treated.
Settler attacks against Palestinians and their property is routine in the occupied West Bank and rarely punished by Israeli authorities.
Annual figures compiled by Israeli rights group Yesh Din have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 police investigations about settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.
The Israeli internal security service, Shin Beit, has said that during 2012 no Israelis were killed in the West Bank. In March 2011 two settlers and three of their young children were stabbed to death in their home.
Nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of the year in various attacks, mainly in clashes that have risen sharply in recent months.
According to B’Tselem, an Israeli Information Center, an estimated 520,456 settlers live in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
There are over 121 settlements and around 100 “settlement outposts.” There are around 12 settlements in Jerusalem in areas annexed from Palestinian neighborhoods. Settlements in the West Bank are connected by Jewish-only highways.
Israel has come under widespread international criticism for ramping up its construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories, notably in occupied east Jerusalem.
All Israeli settlements on Palestinian land beyond the so-called 1949 Green Line are considered illegal under international law.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar, Ma’an)
- Settlers plant trees in Palestinian fields near Nablus (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Israel demolishes West Bank homes, water wells (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On April 24,, a Palestine solidarity activist and co-coordinator of last year’s Russell Tribunal on Palestine, was stopped at Ben Gurion International Airport by the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service, and subjected to four hours of interrogation and nearly a full day’s detention before being deported back Belgium. His “crime”? To have visited Israel while a supporter of Palestinian rights. Here, he describes what took place.
“WRITE YOUR e-mail addresses, your mobile phone number, your house phone, the name of your father and the name of your grandfather on this piece of paper” were the first words the Israeli security officer told me when I sat in front of him in his office.
As anyone involved in solidarity work with the Palestinian people will tell you, landing at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and having-to-face questioning by the authorities is never an exciting prospect. In the last couple of months, a few activists have been turned back. Due to my work with the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, I knew even before I arrived in front of the immigration desk that I was a likely target for hard questioning from the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service.
I was coming to Palestine to visit old friends and also to take part in a conference on political prisoners organized in Ramallah as part of my role as coordinator for the Russell Tribunal. Due to the fact that Israel controls all the West Bank borders of Palestine, one has to go through Israeli officials in order to reach the occupied Palestinian territories. (Now, only Gaza–via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt–is accessible without too much Israeli interference.)
So I wrote the requested details on the piece of paper in front of me–except that I put an alternative e-mail address, being fully aware that what the officer in front of me wanted was information about other people involved with solidarity work in Palestine and abroad. Mapping networks has in recent years been vigorously pursued by Israel.
The line of questioning, at first, stuck to my travel plans. Six days in Tel Aviv without a travel guide was too much to bear for the man. He then quickly moved to my personal details and asked me to log on to my e-mail account, which is apparently less illegal (in Israel anyway) than I thought (see here and here).
He started to get upset when my inbox opened and there was no message in it. He told me repeatedly, “I know you have another e-mail address. Give it to me.” “I only have this one,” was the answer I stuck with throughout the whole process. I was taken to various offices throughout the whole interrogation process and spoke to a few people, who asked, again and again, the same questions.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
I HAD to wait for long periods between each interrogation. Palestine and political activity only were raised after about three hours of questioning. I was sort of relieved to hear the word because I knew deep down that the Shabak agent had known about my work on the Palestine issue from minute one. He even asked me at one point, “What will Google tell me if I search for your name?”
The goal, however, was somewhere else. The goal was to exhaust me into giving information about workmates, colleagues and various people I knew in Israel/Palestine. The exhaustion part worked. I was clearly on my knees at 4 a.m., having had no sleep for 24 hours and faced with several unfriendly people questioning me. But they never got what they really wanted–my e-mail account and its content. After four hours of questioning, the verdict came (there were five people in the room, including me, at this time): “You lied to me. So you won’t get in. You will now be deported back. Your flight is in 23 hours.”
Still, right after telling me this, the officer tried one more time, telling me that he was my friend, here to help me and that if I collaborated he might change his decision. I was at this point taken to a room where I was body searched thoroughly (by a young man with an apologetic look on his face), and where my carry-on bag (the only piece of luggage I brought) was fully checked, in and out, approximately three times, including passing through X-rays.
At roughly 4.30 a.m., I was put in a van, alone, and driven to my next destination: the deportation center. Why we stopped, for about 10 minutes, in between airplanes on the tarmac is a question that remains unanswered. He told me before he dropped me off that I would be deported in 23 hours. “You’re lucky,” said the man. “Some people have to wait for a week here.”
The next 23 hours were the longest in my life. With no means to know what the time was, it took forever. My cellmate, a 21-year-old Ukrainian man who spoke no English at all and came to Israel in search of a better future, and I were allowed two 10-minute breaks outside, under surveillance of course, and managed to catch a glimpse of the palm trees and the sunshine that we were at this point longing for. We were then joined by two older Ukrainians as well as a Chinese man.
What I did not know at the time was that a friend in Israel, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, had contacted the office of Israeli lawyer Gabi Lasky to ask her to try to get more information regarding my whereabouts–did I enter? Was I being deported? Detained? They did not want to say anything. It took many hours for Gabi to get confirmation that I was in the detention center at the airport. Over the phone, Gabi later told me that the authorities are making life harder and harder for lawyers and that they are being more difficult every day.
I was put back on a plane, escorted by an immigration official, my bag full of security tags, paraded in front of the other passengers, at 1 a.m. the next day. The fact that the main air hostess was Arab and smiled at me when the immigration official handed her my passport felt, I have to say, very good at the time.
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WHILE THIS was an extremely unpleasant experience, it is crucial to put things into a broader context. The pressure, fear and humiliation I often felt during this time–the scare tactics used by the Shabak (“Tell me the truth, or you’re going to jail right now”) and the short time spent in jail–are nothing compared to what the Palestinians are going through every day. Right now, more than 4,500 Palestinian political prisoners are rotting in Israeli jails. A few of them have started “hunger strikes” and are slowly dying, while the “international community” (understood as the Western states, the European Union and the United Nations) is doing nothing to come to their rescue.
It is crucial to keep highlighting this. The inconvenience felt by a privileged international citizen should not overshadow the reason at the core of his activism: To acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to resist their far more powerful occupier and to do so until the systematic and institutionalized apartheid system put in place by Israel ends; to expose the active role played by third parties (states, institutions and corporations) in supporting Israel’s occupation; and to highlight Israel’s impunity regarding countless resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council that have been, so far, never followed by any concrete action.
It is our role as global actors involved in a global struggle for justice, freedom and dignity for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, political orientations, or countries of origin, to show solidarity with those people stripped of their rights. The breaking down of human civilization in sub-categories of human beings (privileges come depending on where you were born, while this act was simply an accident of nature), the slow crumbling of any “common decency,” solidarity and compassion showed by people towards others, can be reversed and is not ineluctable.
This can only happen if we all unite towards this goal.
Israeli forces on Monday demolished Palestinian homes and water wells in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as settlers confiscated land near Hebron to build a new outpost, local media reported.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces razed two apartments in the Tur neighborhood after several attempts by the owners to reverse the demolition order failed.
The authorities evicted 24 members of the Ghaith family, including five children and an elderly woman, from the two apartments ahead of the demolition, Rushi Ghaith, one of the owners, told Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
The apartments were scheduled for demolition in December but the family secured a court-ordered injunction to stop it from going ahead, Ghaith said.
The Ghaith family lawyer said they had successfully stalled attempts to raze the apartments since September 2004, when Israeli authorities handed down the demolition notice because the home was built without a licensing permit. The family’s case to reverse the demolition order is ongoing.
Ghaith said the family has been fined 80,000 Israeli shekels (about $22,000) since the case began.
Meanwhile Israeli soldiers demolished water wells south of Hebron in al-Fawar refugee camp, as settlers from the nearby Ma’oun settlement seized land west of Yatta in preparation for the establishment of new outposts.
Abdul Hadi Hantash, an expert on settlement policies in the southern West Bank, said that the Ma’oun settlers seized land of one of the hills southwest of their original outpost.
Hantash told reporters that the wells the soldiers destroyed were used for agricultural purposes and irrigation.
He added that the continued confiscation of land and demolition of Palestinian structures, including the bulldozing of homes and uprooting of trees, are part of the Israeli government’s illegal settlement expansion program.
Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank occur almost daily under the pretext of building without a permit.
According to the United Nations, 33 percent of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack Israeli-issued building permits, which are difficult to obtain, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement.
Roughly 94 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits are rejected, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
The group estimates that Israeli authorities have demolished about 27,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank since 1967.
(Ma’an, Wafa, Al-Akhbar)
- Palestinian monastery loses court battle over apartheid wall (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- We want to live in dignity (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli settlers use six times more water than Palestinians – new report (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
Silwad, Occupied Palestine – Around 50 Palestinians supported by around 20 international activists, demonstrated against the apartheid wall yesterday in Ni’lin, which is a village close to Ramallah. The residents attempted to dismantle the wall and were met with violence. Around 20 were treated for tear gas inhalation and one demonstrator was injured when he was shot in the chest with a tear gas canister.
The demonstration started when around 100 people from the community gathered for the Friday prayer in an olive field. After prayers the demonstrators approached the apartheid wall, chanting peace slogans in Arabic and Hebrew. In a speech, a member of the Popular Committee expressed the injustices that Ni’lin has faced in the past and continues to face today because of the actions of the Israeli military.
Residents tried to open the metal door that separates them from most of their land that has been appropriated illegally by the establishment of settlements and the construction of the wall. Soldiers fired tear gas at the demonstrators. One demonstrator, who had climbed the wall using a ladder, was speaking to the soldiers through a megaphone before they shot him directly in the chest with a tear gas canister. The impact caused him to fall off the ladder and require medical treatment. More tear gas was fired at other demonstrators, photographers and internationals. The demonstration lasted about one hour, weakening the wall and showing the resilience of the population of Ni’lin.
Ni’lin’s history is characterised by land theft, starting with the first Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948. Before 1948 the village of Ni’lin owned 58’000 dunams of land, from which 40’000 were stolen with the creation of Israel. The 1967 occupation lead to the construction of illegal settlements on Ni’lin’s land, stealing a further 8’000 dunams. The illegitimate establishment of the wall, which began in 2008, has stolen a further 2’500 dunams. Furthermore, the entrance of the village was closed in order to build a tunnel exclusively for settlers that lead to a further land theft of 200 dunams, highlighting the apartheid nature of Israeli policy. Nearly 90% of Ni’lin’s original land has been lost due to this systematic theft from war, settlements and the wall.
The non-violent demonstrations since 2008 have lead to the killings of five Palestinians. 10 year old Ahmed Moussa, 17 year old Yousef Amera, 22 year old Arafat Khawaja, 20 year old Mohammed Khawaja and 36 year old Yousef ‘Akil’ Srour. The residents of Ni’lin still struggle for peace and justice, and will not give up hope in spite of Israel’s use of extreme force and oppression.
- Palestine, 8 wounded, 52 abducted by Israeli forces in 1 week (nsnbc.me)
- PCHR Weekly Report: 8 wounded, 52 abducted by Israeli forces this week (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
A Catholic monastery and convent in a secluded valley outside Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the building of Israel’s apartheid wall on its land on Friday, according to its lawyers.
The Society of Saint Yves, a Catholic human rights group which argued the case on the monastery’s behalf, said an Israeli appeals court had endorsed a plan to expand the barrier it had built in the area.
The apartheid wall would surround the convent on three sides and cut it off from most of its land, Saint Yves said in a statement.
Salesian monks and nuns tend lush vineyards and olive trees on terraced hillsides under the gaze of Israeli settlements there. A convent school teaches 400 local children.
Israel started building the barrier, a mix of metal fencing, barbed wire and concrete walls, in 2002. It claims the apartheid barrier keeps its citizens safe from militants.
Saint Yves said “that the plan would violate international law and conventions protecting religious minorities and the right to education and freedom of religion”, said Anica Heinlein, its advocacy officer.
Around 50,000 Palestinian Christians, including 17,000 Catholics, live among 4 million Muslims in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza.
They say Israel’s checkpoints and apartheid barrier cut them off from their neighbors and holy places in Jerusalem.
Some 90 percent of Palestinian Christians live in a 20-km stretch from Ramallah and East Jerusalem to Bethlehem – an area locked in a labyrinth of Jewish settlements, Israeli-only roads and a drab concrete walls.
Built mostly within occupied land and not on the “Green Line”, which was the de facto border before the 1967 War, the apartheid barrier inside the West Bank is deemed illegal by the UN’s International Court of Justice.
The Palestinian Authority says the Christian population in the West Bank has shrunk over the last three decades due to emigration, but it lacks accurate figures.
“The occupation hurts Christians and Muslims both, but affects the Christian community more because it’s a smaller percentage of the population,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a diplomat in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
“This is a matter of their survival, as this is one of the last pieces of land the community owns,” he said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres will meet the newly elected pope next week during a visit to Italy.
The two men are due to discuss ties between Israel and the Vatican and improving relations between Christians and Jews. It was not immediately clear if the new pontiff would raise the issue of the monastery.