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Standing defiant. Khalid Daragmah’s family protect their land in a sea of settlements

By Amelia Smith | MEMO | February 1, 2013

Khalid Daragmah’s home dates back to the Ottoman times. Set on 22 dunams of green, arable land, it is sprinkled with trees, a spring and rolling hills to the back. It has been in his family for generations; his grandfather ran a business pressing olives from inside.

These days, the entrance has been fitted with solid iron doors; a preventative measure to keep out the groups of settlers who arrive at night with sticks and stones to harass his family. They mainly come from Ma’ale Levona, a settlement on the West side of his home, which has been built on the land of Al Libban village near Bablus. Across the valley, on the mountain in front of the house, the Naley and Shilo settlements stretch for miles from here until the green line.

When I spoke to Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots organisation, ‘Stop the Wall’ who are helping Khalid with his case, he explained that the family are protecting a very sensitive part of the West Bank. “The Israelis want it because it’s connecting the settlements together. In this area they are planning to cut off the West Bank from the north and the middle of the south. So from here, until the Armistice Line, there are over thirty kilometres of settlements continuously. There are gaps between the settlements, and one of the main gaps is this one, that’s why Khalid has been under heavy attack for years now.”

In August last year, Khalid’s wife and sons were beaten at their house. They have also been subject to arson attacks, and jailed for fighting with the aggressors. “I don’t count how many times I’ve been arrested because it’s been so many times,” Khalid tells me. “Last time I was arrested they even stole stones from the house, and the tools I inherited from my grandfather, which he was using for the land.” It was one of many tactics used by settlers, intent on scaring them out of their house.

The settlers attacked Khalid’s wife so badly that she had to be taken to hospital. They told her it was because the house was their synagogue and they wanted it back, though Khalid’s family insist that this is not the case. “Historically, this place has been inhabited by my ancestors, it was never empty and there is no sign of Jewish heritage here,” Khalid explains. “Inside the house, there is nothing to do with Jewish culture.”

To complement the violence, officially, in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010, Khalid received eviction notices from the Israeli military asking him to vacate the property, but the family have refused. “This is our land, and they will not force us to leave” he told me defiantly. “They are trying to find any mistake they can to use against me, they’re searching all my files and records since I was born. Which law in the whole world can penalise somebody for staying in his home and his land?”

Officials have delivered a string of excuses to the family, pretexts for why they have to leave. “They give one reason after the other, like the road leading to my house.” Khalid tells me. “They want me to open it because it is an obstacle to the military or to visitors, i.e. the settlers. They want me to allow the settlers to visit and pray in the house. They want me to remove the fence from around the spring and remove the doors from the house to allow them to come in.”

At one point, military officers even came to tell him he must use his home as a supermarket, to open it and charge visitors money to enter the room and pray inside, or let them swim in the spring. “They are punishing me and destroying my life.” Khalid tells me. “What problems have I caused them for them to do this to me? My only crime is that I’m staying in my house and I don’t want to leave.”

Khalid has a strong case because the land is officially registered in his name, and he has documents to prove the house is privately owned. But this has not stopped the authorities from claiming it is state owned and belongs to them. “In all the time I have lived here, why have they come here in the last few years? They say this is state land, and I asked them officially if they have any proof that this is state owned land. My cousins and my extended family are living in the village and we have had houses here for more than 270 years,” Khalid says.

For this reason, it is not easy for them to evict him, which is why they’re using pressure, scare tactics and making his life impossible. “Abu Jamal [Khalid] is a very strong guy and despite all of this, he’s still standing here, he’s still staying in his land,” Juma’ adds. “They want to exploit him and make him totally disparate. They want to know how long he can survive under all these years of attack and targeting and they are gambling that he will get fed up and leave.”

Life is certainly hard. He rarely leaves his house without somebody staying inside; if he goes to the shop or to work they will occupy the house. He lives far from the nearest Palestinian village, so it’s not easy for people to come and help. A large source of the family’s income comes from their 22-year-old son, Jamal, who works as a mechanic nearby earning 1000 shekels a month. But such harsh tactics have meant the family have grown stronger. “They have tried so many aggressive tactics that now we’re not scared of anything” Khalid tells me. “Before, when my wife saw a mouse she got scared and started screaming. Now, when she sees a hyena, she will attack it.”

A large part of the problem is the Palestinian Authority, who don’t do anything to help them. Responsibility therefore falls on international organizations, which collect money to buy fruit trees to plant so he can earn money from his land, and individuals like Lubna Masarwa, a Palestinian activist, who is currently helping him find a lawyer. “Myself and Jamal Juma’ are really doing our best to try and keep him in the house,” Masarwa tells me, “but it’s impossible because someone always has to be here otherwise the settlers will use the chance occupy the house.”

“The settlers are well organised, they’re becoming very violent. And they don’t respect any laws. The rule of the army is to defend the settlers. When the settlers attack the Palestinian families, the army will be standing there; the soldiers are there to protect them, this is their work. In the West Bank you feel like you’re in a jungle, they’re beating the kids, they’re shooting, the kids don’t sleep at night. And they have nowhere to go with no one who can really protect them. In the last few years, the settlers are getting stronger,” Masarwa explains.

Khalid thinks that more people around the world should start pressuring governments and officials to hold Israel to account for this behaviour. Juma’ explains that in other cases this has helped a lot. “They [the Israeli authorities] try to do these things silently and in the dark, they don’t want anyone to know what they’re doing. The question is, how we can make his case well known, and how we can mobilise people to move, to talk about it, to ask them to question the Israelis about why they are doing this to him.”

Despite the hardship, Khalid and his wife are adamant that they’re not leaving. “I don’t have other option,” Khalid’s wife Um Jamal tells me “I can’t leave the house, my husband and the land; there is nothing I can do. Before they put in the iron doors it was scarier but now I feel a little bit safer. You can’t have a decent night sleeping when you can be attacked at any point.”

Yesterday, when the settlers came, one of her children stood in the window and asked them to go away. Um Jamal smiles as she tells me the story. “What do you expect? What can we do? This is our life and we have to show our power. If the settlers feel that we’re scared or weak, they will get stronger. The younger and the older kids have to show strength and have to stand up to them because this is the only thing that we have, we don’t have anything else.”

“This is our life and this is our struggle and we’re not going to give up. We’re not going to leave the house. I will never leave my home and my land.”

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Standing defiant. Khalid Daragmah’s family protect their land in a sea of settlements

‘US a police state, Obama consciously allows torture’ – CIA veteran John Kiriakou

RT | February 1, 2013

Ten years ago, the idea of the US government spying on its citizens, intercepting their emails or killing them with drones was unthinkable. But now it’s business as usual, says John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent and torture whistleblower.

Kiriakou is now awaiting a summons to start a prison sentence. One of the first to confirm the existence of Washington’s waterboarding program, he was sentenced last week to two-and-a-half years in jail for revealing the name of an undercover agent. But even if he had another chance, he would have done the same thing again, Kiriakou told RT.

­RT: The judge, and your critics all seem to believe you got off lightly. Would you say you got off lightly?

JK: No, I would not say I got off lightly for a couple of very specific reasons. First of all, my case was not about leaking, my case was about torture. When I blew the whistle on torture in December 2007 the justice department here in the US began investigating me and never stopped investigating me until they were able to patch together a charge and force me into taking a plea agreement. And I’ll add another thing too, when I took the plea in October of last year, the judge said that she thought the plea was fair and appropriate. But once the courtroom was packed full of reporters last Friday she decided that it was not long enough and if she had had the ability to she would have given me ten years.

RT: And why did you, a decorated CIA officer, take such a strong stance against an agency policy? Did you not consider that there might be some come-back?

JK: I did. I took a strong stance and a very public one and that’s what got me into trouble. But honestly the only thing I would do differently is I would have hired an attorney before blowing the whistle. Otherwise I believe firmly even to this day I did the right thing.

RT: You have called it ironic that the first person to be convicted with regards to the torture program is the man who shed light on it. Do you believe the others, who put the program together, will ever face justice?

JK: I don’t actually. I think that president Obama just like president Bush has made a conscious decision to allow the torturers, to allow the people who conceived of the tortures and implemented the policy, to allow the people who destroyed the evidence of the torture and the attorneys who used specious legal analysis to approve of the torture to walk free. And I think that once this decision has been made – that’s the end of it and nobody will be prosecuted, except me.

RT: When you initially came out against torture, you said it was impractical and inefficient. Did you consider it immoral initially?

JK: I said in 2002 that it was immoral. When I returned from Pakistan to CIA headquarters early in the summer 2002, I was asked by a senior officer in the CIA’s counter-terrorist center if I wanted to be trained in the use of torture techniques, and I told him that I had a moral problem with these techniques. I believed that they were wrong and I didn’t want to have anything to do with the torture program.

RT: It’s no secret that Obama’s administration has been especially harsh on whistleblowers. But can the US afford leniency, in these security-sensitive times?

JK: I think this is exactly what the problem is. In this post 9/11 atmosphere that we find ourselves in we have been losing our civil liberties incrementally over the last decade to the point where we don’t even realize how much of a police state the United States has become.

Ten years ago the thought of the National Security Agency spying on American citizens and intercepting their emails would have been anathema to Americans and now it’s just a part of normal business.

The idea that our government would be using drone aircraft to assassinate American citizens who have never seen the inside of a courtroom, who have never been charged with a crime and have not had due process which is their constitutional right would have been unthinkable. And it is something now that happens every year, every so often, every few weeks, every few months and there is no public outrage. I think this is a very dangerous development.

RT: Obama’s tough stance, and harsh punishments for whistleblowers, has sent a message. Is he winning his fight against those who speak out?

JK: I don’t think he is winning this fight against whistleblowers, at least not over the long term, and I’ll tell you why.

President Obama has now charged seven people with violations of the Espionage Act. All previous presidents in American history combined only charged three people with violating the Espionage Act. And the Espionage Act is a WWI-era act that was meant to deter German saboteurs during that First World War. And now it is being used to silence critics of the government.

But so far all seven of these cases that have made their way into a courtroom have either collapsed of have been dismissed, including mine. All of the three espionage charges against me were dropped.

So, I think frankly the Obama administration is cheapening the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act should be used to prosecute spies and traitors, not to prosecute whistleblowers or people who are exercising their first amendment right to free speech.

RT: Do we still need whistleblowers? Are we going to see more of them coming out?

JK: I think we will see more whistleblowers and I think we need whistleblowers now more than ever before. Whether it’s in national security or whether it is in the banking industry, the American people have a right to know when there is evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality. If the Justice Department is not going to prosecute these cases, at the very least the American people need to know.

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘US a police state, Obama consciously allows torture’ – CIA veteran John Kiriakou

For First Time, Most Americans Believe Federal Government Threatens Personal Freedoms

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | February 02, 2013

Distrust of the U.S. government has reached an all-time high among Americans, a majority of whom now say Washington represents a threat to their personal freedoms.

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 53% of respondents said the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms. Those disagreeing numbered 43%.

The percentage of those viewing the government as a threat represents a six-point increase from nearly three years ago, when 47% said they felt that way, and a 23% jump from November 2001, when Americans rallied around their government following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Conservative Republicans are the largest group who distrust Washington, with 76% expressing fear for their personal freedoms. A majority (54%) described the government as a “major” threat.

Three years ago, 62% of conservative Republicans said the government was a threat to their freedom, while 47% said it was a major threat, according to the Pew survey.

Meanwhile, only 38% of Democrats see the government as a threat to personal rights and freedoms, with 16% viewing it as a major threat.

Among gun owners, 62% see the government as a threat, compared with 45% of those without guns.

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

PICKING CABBAGE IN BEIT HANOUN

By Theresa in Gaza | Free Gaza Scotland | February 2, 2013

Today we went to Beit Hanoun to help the farmers to pick cabbage. Its sounds like boring hard work, especially as it was raining quite hard off and on while we were there but actually it was a really enjoyable and interesting day. When we arrived at the field we joined a group of young farm labourers who made the morning very enjoyable with their singing, laughing and joking as we worked quickly to gather as many cabbage in a short period of time as possible. The field we were working on was quite some distance from the fence, we only heard gunfire twice and didn’t feel directly targeted, the jeep only showing itself once on the treeline before stopping behind a small hill in the distance. We helped pile the motorized cart high with cabbage and chatted in the rain until the cars arrived to take us back into Beit Hanoun.

While we were chatting one of the farmers talked about his Grandmother and the stories she told him about her childhood here. We were stunned when he told us that she had talked about being able to go from Beit Hanoun to Hebron in only half an hour in those days. It was something we hadn’t thought about, when you are in Gaza everywhere in the West Bank seems like such a long way away but when you think about it it makes sense, it’s actually only around 40km. To get there today takes a minimum of 2 days with no stop, Beit Hanoun – Cairo-Round the Southern tip of the Sinai via Sharm El Sheikh to cross at Taba into Israel then on to Hebron. That is of course if you are a privileged International, for a Palestinian there are a whole new set of problems.

Beit Hanoun is an interesting town, it’s directly across the border from Sderot. A place I’ve heard of very often and met a couple of residents of but never had the chance to visit. The countryside here is gently rolling low hills and as you leave Beit Hanoun to reach the fields you see Sderot in the distance. Built right up to the border, mainly nestled in between two hills with some of the red roofed buildings of the town on top of one and a large army installation with radio towers on the other.

Being so close to Sderot has meant that Beit Hanoun comes under huge pressure with all houses within one and a half miles of the border bulldozed, mainly in 2009 and all of the citrus trees which used to cover this landscape destroyed in order to leave clear lines of sight for the Israeli Military. Every building facing Sderot shows serious damage from shelling bombing and gunfire, and across the town there are damaged houses. Why is it that I had never heard of Beit Hanoun before I came to Gaza and yet Sderot is on the lips of every Israeli and everyone who defends the Zionist policies of Israel, ingraining it on everyone’s conciseness? Perhaps because there are so many places in Gaza which have the same damage, the same experience of attack, destroyed homes and death due to Israeli Military action? Whereas Sderot is special, in Israel it is the one place which has seen regular rockets causing some structural damage and very occasional death. Is it too much to ask that the violent death or injury of a human being is treated with the same shock and grief whichever side of the border it’s on? That the damage to lives and property is judged by the same standards wherever they occur?

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 7 Comments