Palestinian child’s death part of a criminal, terrorist pattern

For Jewish Israeli settlers to kill an 18 month old baby is not an accident or an ad hoc incident. It is part of a criminal pattern. When I used to work in the villages near Nablus settlers routinely attacked villagers’ homes with Molotov cocktails at night.

A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family’s house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

On 30 July 2015 settlers attacked a village near Nablus. They threw Molotov cocktails to the villagers’ houses while they were asleep. Ali Dawabsheh was burned to death and three family members sustained severe burns. The baby’s mother Reham together with a four year old brother, Ahmad, were burned on 90 percent of their bodies. The father Sa’ad Dawabsha suffered 70% burn injuries.

The Jewish author of an article in The Times of Israel (31 July 2015) says that this killing will not be the last, for no-one is stopping these criminals. He describes yet another incident that he personally witnessed:

I tried to go back out and shout at the stone-throwers to stop, but they kept on throwing stones at us too. All this time, the flames were spreading.

Some of the Jewish spectators were advising the stone-throwers where to target the trapped Palestinians. They were not trying to halt the attack.

It took 20 minutes for Israeli security forces to reach the house and extricate us all.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody was ever prosecuted over this incident.

It was a narrow escape from death (to the dismay, I might add, of some people who posted comments on my article at the time indicating regret that it had ended without loss of life). The attack early Friday morning ended very differently.

We are not talking here about a tiny group of wild, deranged extremists. Rather, Jewish terrorists who heed no law, and feel empowered to do as they wish.

They are confident that the Israeli authorities will not lay hands on them. And so far, they’ve been proven right.

And no, this has nothing to do with any political stance. Early Friday morning, a family was targeted for no reason. This is a foul crime, and is regarded as a foul crime by the most of the Jewish settler population. But the silent majority has allowed these despicable people to grow and flourish. And the state has demonstrated untenable tolerance and turned a blind eye, time after time.

And this won’t be the last time that Jewish terrorists seek to murder Palestinians simply for being Palestinians.

Mourners carry the body of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set to fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015.  REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Mourners carry the body of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family’s house was set to fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Indeed, silence screams complicity. The Jewish Israeli society at large needs to speak up against these and other evils.

The Palestinian Embassy in South Africa together with the human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa strongly condemns the extremist attack. They also say it is no isolated incident:

In recent months there has been increasing attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian churches, mosques and other sites of worship. In June of this year the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fish near the Sea of Galilee in Palestine-Israel was attacked by 16 Israeli Settlers. The church is on the site Christians believe Jesus Christ performed the biblical miracle of feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish (click here). Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian sites of worship are now extending to Palestinian civilian homes, at their most vulnerable moments, at night, in their sleep.

[…]

We concur with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation that yesterday’s attacks “is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to [Israeli] settler terrorism”

The Israelis who were responsible for the death of Ali Saad Dawabsha and attack on the family must be brought to justice and face the fullest might of the law. In addition, the Israeli government must be held accountable for the impunity that is provided to Israeli settlers who carry out these gruesome attacks on the Palestinian people.

We must hold both the Israeli settlers and Israeli government accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people through all legal means available including taking Israel to the International Criminal Court and through isolation methods similar to how Apartheid South Africa was held accountable in the 1980s for its attacks on the South African people.

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Not only the people from Nablus and the surrounding villages suffer. Children, women and men – all of them civilians – are routinely injured and killed in the West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem. The United Nations statistics say it all.

Here are some examples of similar terrorist acts that I recorded when I monitored human rights violations in the villages near Nablus in 2011:

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Naja is from the village of Asira near Nablus. The Jewish settlement of Yitzhar is nearby. Her house is routinely attacked by settlers and their Molotov cocktails. Her children cannot play outside and their behaviour show signs of severe stress.

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This girl and her family in Burin suffer from weekly attacks. They too have nothing to defend themselves with other than the stones they pick up in the fields.

 

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These children are from Yanoun where my team and I were based. They need constant, 24/7 protection by internationals from settlers from the nearby settlement Itamar.

It sickens me. What kind of psyche kills a child? Again and again? What kind of government builds more and more homes to house its citizens illegally in Palestine where they create havoc? In the same week Israeli Prime Minister gave the nod for new settler homes – supposedly under pressure of right-wing Jews.

It is a dark moment for humanity. Let us continue to advocate for the dignity of all. Our voice is gaining momentum.

Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate

There are different ways to position yourself as superior to others, but the message stays the same.

Some methods may be more sophisticated or subtle than others. Miroslav Volf (1996:74-75), for example, mentions both obvious forms of exclusion such as domination and more nuanced forms such as assimilation whereby others are expected to fit into the dominating or existing way of doing things. Yet another form of exclusion entails rejection by not taking cognizance of others. A subtle yet very damaging form of exclusion is symbolic exclusion whereby we refuse to engage with others in such a way that we really learn to know them but rather choose to serve our own interests.

In a new book with the title “Palestine in Israeli School books” Israeli language and education professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan shows how an anti-Palestinian ideology is promoted in the minds of Israel’s youth through the use of exclusion and absence in Israeli school books:

“(N)one of the textbooks studied here includes, whether verbally or visually, any positive cultural or social aspect of Palestinian life-world: neither literature nor poetry, neither history nor agriculture, neither art nor architecture, neither customs nor traditions are ever mentioned” (49).

Peled-Elhanan concludes:

“The books studied here present Israeli-Jewish culture as superior to the Arab-Palestinian one, Israeli-Jewish concepts of progress as superior to Palestinian-Arab way of life and Israeli-Jewish behavior as aligning with universal values” (230)

Click on the link below to read the full book review on Electronic Intifada:

Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate.

During my time in the West Bank I visited several schools and also did research for Save the Children. I never encountered an ideology in their education system that belittle Israelis. Instead my team members and I found children that are very scared of the Israelis. (I’ve written several posts about it which you can find by typing “Children in armed conflict” in my blog’s “search” facility.)

Below are some photos I took of Palestinian children:

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Israel confiscated the family land of these two siblings to build the illegal Apartheid Wall in the West Bank.  I watched as it happened.

Israel confiscated the family land of these two siblings to build the illegal Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. I watched as it happened.

Al Walaja, wes van Bethlehem, sal uiteindelik algeheel omring word deur die Muur.  Hier het ek saam met die Hagahla familie gesit en kyk hoe hul familiegrond van ses geslagte deur die aanbou van die Muur van hulle vervreem word. Ongeveer 50 olyfbome is daardie dag onthoof, ontwortel en weggevoer.

A boy from Al Walaja in the district of Bethlehem watches intently as his family’s land is confiscated by the building of the illegal Israeli wall. .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA girl serving us with coffee during the olive harvest.

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Being searched by Israeli soldiers on their way to and from school:

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Volf, M. 1996. Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Peled-Elhanan, N. 2014. Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education (Library of Modern Middle East Studies). Tauris Academic Studies.

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Teen Murders: There is a Way out…

Official statistics have revealed that over 1500 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli occupation forces since September 2000.  It is the equivalent of one Palestinian child killed by Israel every three days for almost 13 years. The number of children injured by the Israelis since the start of 2000 has now reached 6,000. Almost half of the Palestinian population is under the age of 18. (Source: Middle East Monitor).

   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGirls on their way to school in the troubled Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. They are accompanied to and from their school daily by ecumenical workers. Israeli settlers marked the steps to the school in Israeli national colours.

Moreover, hundreds of Palestinian children are detained under circumstances that violates international law. The chilling documentary “Stone Cold Justice” on ABC Australia TV suggests that Israel targets Palestinian youth (as the upcoming generation) in particular. To view click here, but please note that viewer discretion is advised.

What is the bottom line in this horrible time of atrocious teen murders in Israel and in Palestine? In his latest book, Dr Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian theologian from Bethlehem makes a courageous point:

Sometimes, when I hear some Jewish people talk, I fell as if they speak with a monopoly on victimhood. And sometimes I feel that some Palestinians feel that they must compete with the Jews over who is the greater victim….Playing the role of victim might assist those who are oppressed gain some sympathy but not necessarily respect. (2014. Faith in the Face of Empire.)

What I find amazing and inspiring, are the voices from within Palestine – those who have been oppressed in so many ways for decades without meaningful intervention by the world. From within their suffering they show us the way to respect, honor and dignity. They take the lead where world powers fail. The question is: Will we listen and more importantly, will we act?

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For such a time as this, what is required? Says Rev.Dr. Naim Ateek, founder and president of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem:

For the last three months, approximately 200 Palestinian administrative detainees have been on a hunger strike to protest their detention without charge or trial.

On May 15, 2014, on Nakba day, a few weeks before the kidnapping of the three young Israelis, the Israeli army killed two Palestinian teenagers near Ramallah in cold blood.

On Monday evening, June 30, the Israeli army found the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers. On Tuesday morning, July 1, the Israeli army killed a 16 year old Palestinian in Jenin and some settlers tried to snatch a 9 year old boy in Beit Hanina, but he was rescued by his mother and some passersby. Early Wednesday morning July 2, settlers kidnapped a 17 year old boy from Shufat, killed him and burned his body. In addition, over the last two weeks over 10 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army some of them quite young and over 500 detained and hundreds injured.

We grieve with all the families – Palestinians and Israelis. We condemn the killings whether by the Israeli army, the unruly settlers, extremist Palestinians or unknown suspects. We uphold the sanctity of all human life Israeli as well as Palestinian, Jew as well as Muslim, Muslim as well as Christian.

For those who have eyes to see, all the killings that have taken place were senseless and the major culprit is the right-wing Israeli government. Its policy has been a total rejection of peace on the basis of the demands of international law. It refuses to share the land and accept a sovereign Palestinian state on only 22% of historic Palestine that is willing to live in peace next to Israel. The government of Israel believes that it can turn back the wheels of history and create an ethnic/religious state. It believes that it can impose its will on the Palestinians because it possesses the military power and the technology that is needed.

This cannot happen. It is on the wrong side of history. History itself is against it, not only the Palestinians. The future of the world is for multi-ethnic, multiracial, and multi-religious communities living together. History is for diversity and not for uniformity. Israel’s right wing government is the culprit. It is responsible; it is the offender. It is cheating the Israeli and Palestinian youths of life because it is charting an ethnic and racist course of history that is untenable.

The good people of Israel, Palestine, and the international community must put a stop to this madness. Long ago Jesus quoted the Psalmist saying, “The meek will inherit the land.” The meek are the people of the land and they are the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they are not the arrogant exclusivists of this world. The exclusivists will eventually pass away and someday new leaders will emerge, an Israeli Abraham Lincoln, or an Israeli De Klerk who will lead Israel to peace based on sharing the land where every person – man and woman, Israeli and Palestinian – will live as equal citizens with human dignity.

We call on our Palestinian sisters and brothers to continue resisting every act of injustice with nonviolent action; our religious leaders, Muslim and Christian, to raise the prophetic voice against injustice and oppression; and the Palestinian Authority to remain steadfast in its commitment to a unified government.

If the Israeli government wants peace, it must be transformed. It needs to believe in the power of peace that is based on justice and equality. For such a time as this, Israeli leaders need the courage and the will to do the following:

  1. They need to realize that violence can only beget violence and that despair can only beget desperate actions. Therefore the state must stop the cycle of violence and the cycle of vengeance.
  2. They need to address the root causes of the problems: racist laws, the military occupation, and the illegal settlements.
  3. They need to stop all collective punishments, arbitrary killings, and extra judicial executions and let the rule of law take its due course. It is unjust to punish innocent persons for the actions of a suspected few.
  4. They need to work with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to find the resolution of the conflict on the basis of international law that will guarantee the needs of peace and security for both Israel and Palestine.

We lament the inaction of world leaders in the face of the entrenchment of the occupation. They need to realize that ultimately the resolution of the conflict requires outside intervention. World powers helped create the conflict and world powers must help resolve it.
For such a time as this, “He told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Israeli-soldiers-guard-Pa-007Israeli soldiers stand guard over Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank city of Hebron. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA

Dr. Mitri Raheb argues that freedom is the very thing that the people in the Arab world yearn for, but what they have, are systems of fear:

There will be no true Arab Spring in the Middle East until we break out from the bondage of the security state as well as of oppressive “divine rights” to a wide open space where human lives and security are protected, where freedom is free to blossom, and where human rights become sacred.

My perspective is that all is interconnected and therefore we have the task of dissolving systems of fear within and around us. Along with this spiritual task, we have the responsibility to amplify voices of reason, and to lobby our religious leaders, politicians and the business world to stop the injustices.

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Start acting by appealing to the BBC to highlight the more than 1,500 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli ‘Defence’ Force since 2000, and to appeal for restraint and peacemaking rather than condoning ‘Inevitable’ Collective Death Sentence!” on Change.org: click here.

 

Kidnapped Kids / Kidnapped Society: A Legal Response or Collective Punishment?

Violence is NOT our solution! Violent acts are not heroic, brave, or honorable.

When will this insanity ends? asked Prof Mazin Qumsiyeh.  I share his anguish. Violence creates violence! It destroys us!

On finding the bodies of the three Israeli settler teenagers, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel said:

“Deep grief. The people of Israel were unified in prayer, unity that should remain at all times. In war, as in war, the terrorists should be hit mercilessly on one hand and provide a proper Zionist response on the other. The eternal nation is not afraid of a long journey.” (Source: BBC).

There is outrage in Israel and in the world about these deaths, and a deafening silence on the multiple murders and destruction in Palestine. Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“We will bring the boys to be buried in Israel. Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay. May the memory of the three boys be blessed.”

The murder of the teens is deplorable and my heart goes out to their families and friends. But let us remember that neither the person(s) responsible for these killings nor the motivation (criminal or political) for it have yet been identified. And even if it is clear who did it and for what reasons, it can never justify Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians or any other kind of violence against civilians.

Hamas has strongly denied any involvement in the abductions. Yet for the last two weeks, Israeli occupation forces have been striking different areas of the Gaza Strip, claiming that they are targeting Hamas’ infrastructure. Scores of causalities, including another death on Friday, have been reported as a result of the Israeli attacks. (source: Middle East Monitor 30 June 2014).

Yifrah_2959998bA ball of fire is seen following an Israel airstrike in Rafah, Gaza. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Israeli planes struck 34 sites in Gaza early on 1 July 2014 hours after the bodies of three teenagers were found in the West Bank. The airstrike killed a Palestinian from Khan Younis and wounded three others, including one with critical injuries.

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Since the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers on Thursday 12th June Israel has meted out brutal violence against Palestinians not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank where five Palestinians have been killed:

  • Mustafa Husni Aslan (22 years) died Wednesday 25th June after five days in intensive care. He was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers at Qalandia refugee camp on 20 June.
  • Ahmad Sabarin (20 years) was shot in Al-Jalazun refugee camp (17 June).
  • Mohammad Dudeen (15 years): was shot in Dura (20 June).
  • Ahmad Said Suod Khalid (27 years) was shot Al-Ein refugee camp (22 June).
  • Mahmoud Tarifi, (30 years) was shot in Ramallah (22 June).
  • Two more people have died of heart attacks following Israeli Forces raids.

Former political prisoners have been particularly targeted, and at least 52 of those released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit exchange have now been re-arrested.

Says Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh from Bethlehem, West Bank:

Dozens of Palestinian homes were demolished in the past two weeks. Over 570 more Palestinians were kidnapped in these two weeks making more than 6000 abductees languishing in Israeli gulags/prisons. 1500 Palestinian homes invaded without due process. 12 million native Palestinians still await their freedom from colonial occupation and displacement. And Israeli leaders are promising to “do more” (genocidal mayhem?). When will this insanity end?

Can it end by negotiations between occupied and occupier; negotiations that have been going on for 22 years while Israel gets $12 billion profit every year from its occupation? (that is not counting the billions from US taxpayers).

When will Israel be led by people like the previous speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Berg.

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Listen to his wise words:

“Here are Israel’s shallow prime minister and the bumbling police, the masses who cling to futile prayers and not to a moment of human peace. Here are the country’s hypocritical chief rabbis, who just a month ago demanded promises from the pope regarding the future of the Jewish people, but in their daily lives remain silent about the fate of the people who are our neighbors, trampled beneath the pressure of occupation and racism under the leadership of rabbis who receive exorbitant salaries and benefits….Despite the enormous and inspiring success of Breaking the Silence (an NGO that collects testimony from soldiers who’ve served in the West Bank), our own total silence is still the loudest thing around us. We are willing to go out of our minds over one odd and troublesome Pollard, a lone kidnap victim or three kidnap victims, but we are incapable of understanding the suffering of a whole society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us. This, too, needs to be said and heard during this moment of clarity — and as loudly as possible.” (“The Palestinians: A kidnapped society: We are incapable of understanding the suffering of a society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us” by Avraham Berg in Haaretz.)

And how about the inspiring, wise words of Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah writing from Jerusalem congratulating Muslims on the start of Ramadan:
“We all are sectarian, Christians or Muslims. We all need to continuously purify the faith in us to overcome the sectarian. The believer is one who remembers God and sees all as his creation… He sees any other as a brother or sister… I hope that we all become believers, and our faith overcomes all sectarian tendency.”

Peace in Jerusalem = peace on earth.

Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

And to all: Stay human!

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine

What makes a nation better and stronger: dealing with the issue, burying it in the sand, or using it as a pretext to suppress others? According to AMEC the Israeli government announced ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ – the most extensive military deployment on the West Bank since the second intifada:

Israeli officials said the operation had two objectives: to find the missing settlers; and to crack down on Hamas. Thus, the operation must be understood in the context of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative, and the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. The operation has substantially targeted Hamas: 500 abductions/arrests have already occurred; 354 of these are Hamas members and twelve are parliamentarians who could have served in a unity government.

The Israeli government has always opposed an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. For Israel, the prospect of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, which has financial backing from the EU, moral support from the Arab world, and political acceptance from the USA, poses a huge threat. The agreement between Fatah and Hamas, fragile though it is, has the potential to shift the status quo towards a settlement favouring Palestinian statehood. A unity government would imply the inclusion of Hamas under the PLO umbrella, thus politically unifying all parties representing the Palestinian people.

In this context, Israel’s policies of occupation and expansion in the West Bank would be impossible to implement. Moreover, with Islamic militancy growing in the region, a West Bank government that includes Hamas would be seen as doubly threatening by Israel. It was therefore strategically necessary for Israel to crack down on Hamas before a unity government was formed. Operation Brother’s Keeper allowed Israel to deal a military blow to Hamas while the movement is being strangled by Egypt’s new border policy, the closure of its offices in Syria, and by the limited support it now received from Iran and Hizbullah.

The Israeli military operation has been condemned by the United Nations as alarming. If Israel truly wants peace, why then should they object to peace amongst Fatah and Hamas?

israel 2Peace for the “self” only is not true peace.  (Photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

All lives, irrespective of a person’s nationality, carries the same value. Let us not honour these lives by destroying others.

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Jerusalem: It is done now

It happened. The people left. The dust settled. But you can still watch the children shouting, the adults trying to calm them down, the soldiers laughing, the grotesque Hyundai bulldozers hovering over the damaged furniture in the dusty rubble.

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You can also turn away – there are after all so much terror and injustices in this world. But there it remains – the flattened Palestinian house in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem.  The boy who doesn’t understand. The unsettled dust.

media_29ebc6919dd74f69ad4b1c1ff51d929e_t607(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

It happened on 5 February 2013 and it is one of thousands of similar stories.  Children returning home after school to see this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_U83yMFVFM

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-FySzDyOTI

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It is not the end.  More demolitions will follow on Palestinian land – in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.  They will be executed by the hand of Israel who occupies Palestine illegally.

My EAPPI colleague Jan McIntyre (Group 41 Sept – Dec 2011) returned to Palestine for a second term.  This time she monitors human rights violations in Jerusalem.  She wrote as follows:

Hi Marthie,

…You know how your heart is broken open in this work?  This was one of those times.  I felt physically ill at the sight of all this and my voice broke as I told the young girl how sorry I was that this had happened.  But this isn’t about me….it’s about the ongoing suffering under Israel’s occupation….

I was there yesterday to check on the family.  The scene was beyond horrible. All that is left is a massive pile of rubble.  Iman, the oldest daughter of the Castero family, a very articulate 18 year old first year law student with excellent English, came up to speak with me.  She said that the house had been a 10 year old two storey stone house (typical Arab style), built without a building permit. (Building permits are virtually unobtainable for Palestinians in Jerusalem and so people build without). A demolition permit had been issued only days ago and they had been unable to stop it. The Israeli authorities allowed less than five minutes for the family to get their belongings out of the house, and did not allow neighbours to help.  As a result, they were only able to get a very few things out of the house. The majority of their household goods are buried under the rubble.

This house was home to Iman’s grandparents, their three sons and their families.  In total, this demolition has left 37 people homeless!  They have no access to water, no food, no clothes other than what they were wearing, and no bathroom facilities.  The ICRC (Red Cross) have supplied them with two tents and other agencies have contributed a small amount of food.  Neighbours are helping out as much as they can.

Apart from the obvious physical needs of the family, they also are suffering from considerable psychological trauma.  As well, the grandmother was taken to hospital during the demolition.

I simply ask that you include this Castero family in the prayers of the people of your congregation on Sunday.

Peace,

Jan

It is all done now. The incomprehensible destruction. The shattered lives of ordinary civilians.  Israel’s repeated breaching of international law continues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_U83yMFVFM

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In 2011 almost 1,100 Palestinians, over half children, were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli forces in violation to international law. This is over 80% more than in 2010. What is the world doing about it? Why do we think it does not matter if we pretend to not see it?

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An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man from the anti Zionist Neturei Karta (Guards of the Walls) in solidarity with praying Palestinians against the Jerusalem municipality’s house demolition policy.  (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Can Five Broken Cameras heal many hearts?

“I kept thinking – how can I produce an emotionally charged film whilst maintaining a very gentle tone?”

This is what Guy Davidi, an Israeli film producer, asked himself.

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In 2012 the film “Five Broken Cameras” co-directed by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi became the most successful Palestinian-Israeli documentary ever. In January 2013 it won the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and it was nominated for an Oscar as the best documentary feature film.

But is the world ready to see it?

The film shows the first years of life for Burnat’s baby against the backdrop of the Palestinian village Bil’in and how the local civilians resist the Israeli Wall which, together with Israeli settlers, are illegally on Palestinian land.

The thing is, the story of Emad Burnat’s family in Bil’in is not unique.  It is the story of just about every village in the West Bank of Palestine. Burnat simply filmed regular events as they unfolded.  He says that five of his cameras were smashed by the Israeli army as he documented friends and family members being shot and injured by Israeli troops.

Yet despite the acclaim and international awards, the film is not allowed in Israeli schools.  But the Israeli director in the team, Guy Davidi, finds different ways to show it to young Israelis.

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Those who watched it, said the film (and the story they did not know) changed their lives.  They ask:

“What are we to do now that we know?”

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The year 2013 is upon us.  Read the story behind the acclaimed film, watch the trailer and listen to what Israeli youth say after watching it:

Can Palestinian non-violent resistance make it into Israel’s education system?

For us who have already witnessed what happens in Palestine, what are we to do?

For me one thing is to talk about the Palestinians’ choice of non-violent resistance… and initiatives with them and with like-minded others such as my Jewish and Muslim friends and colleagues.  When the time is ready, I shall do so in future posts.

May we all have open hearts in the rest of 2013 – hearts that will not only receive, but also share blessings of goodwill and love.  May we co-discover ways to create a dignified peace.  And may this film remind us that all in the world deserve dignity.

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Gaza Violence: Personal Reflections

When I say that violence offers no solution, I always think of the theologian Dietrich Bonhöffer’s inner turmoil in his resistance and complot against Hitler during WWII.  What weighs more – the lives of many, or the life of an individual?  As my colleague Muhammed Desai said in a workshop where a group of us discussed our essays for a new book on Palestine-Israel:

“The whole idea that one person should end another person’s life is a choice that none of us should have.”

There are different kinds of violence.  Right now brutal physical violence disrupts the lives of those in Gaza, in Sderot, in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Earlier in the week I received the news of Israel’s ordering of thousands of people in the northern Jordan Valley to abandon their houses so that the IDF can conduct military exercises (on occupied Palestinian land).  Some of these people may return to their houses (what will be left?) and others may not.  They have no choice in the matter.  There is also the violence of systemic oppression and the violence of apathy of the international community. In my own country there are the violence of neglect, the violence of greed, the violence of ignorance, and so many more kinds of violence.

When the American Jewish psychologist Mark Braverman (2010:24-25) reflects on his own conscientising process and analyses spiritual and psychological forces that drive the debate on Israel-Palestine, he addresses Jews and Christians alike:

“What is uncanny and tragic is that in the current discourse, the roles of the combatants are turned upside down: the Jews are portrayed as the victims, and the Palestinians as the aggressors.”

He argues that although the acts of terrorism by Palestinians and its impact on Israel should not be minimized:

“Israel’s overall power and security are not threatened by these acts”

and that nothing can excuse the systemic crimes being committed by the state of Israel.

According to another Jewish scholar, Mark Ellis (2011:n.p.):

“(t)he ethnic cleansing of Palestine is among the defining moments of contemporary Jewish history[…]Israel will not stop itself. Palestinians cannot stop Israel. Many Jews and Palestinians want a way beyond this endless violence.”

What does the law say about violence?

The international human rights law (that protects individuals in war and in peace) and the international humanitarian law as specified in the four Geneva Conventions (for war and armed conflict areas) both apply.  Although both parties experience and conduct acts of violence, the

“overall right of an occupied population to resist a foreign military occupation, including through use of arms against military targets, is recognised as lawful under international law” (Bennis 2012:3)*.

On the other hand, Israeli civilians are also protected by the two laws mentioned above, so they in turn may also not become targets in an armed struggle.

My hurt is for those who are injured and killed; for their friends and families; for those who conduct the deeds of violence as they too are wounded even though they may sense the pain only later; for those who give the orders; for those who jubilate; and for those who stand by.  May God help us all.  May we continue to search for another way.  And when we do so, may we hold hands.

*Bennis, P. 2012. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. A primer. Northampton: Olive Branch Press.

Gallery

A mother and her children at home

When my EAPPI colleagues and I visited Asira, Naja (pictured here with one of her children) gave us water and tea and cool drinks.  She told us their story and showed us how they try to protect their windows and where fire was set to the house.  But what I remember best, is the weary expression in her eyes despite her friendly smile.  I could see that she didn’t think there is much we could do to help her. Asira is a Palestinian village south of Nablus, in the West Bank.

September 2011:  In a special arrangement between the Israeli government and ICRC (the Red Cross), Israel removed 40 of its most vigilant settlers from the West Bank to Tel Aviv (where they were on holiday) for a few months.  This was necessary to calm things down in the West Bank when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked the UN to recognise Palestine.

Despite this, other (more moderate?) illegal Israeli settlers did their best to provoke Palestinian villagers during that time….  they damaged hundreds of olive trees, unarmed villagers were shot (one dead and four injured), etc.  But the removal did help, as in some of the other villages where we monitored human rights, things were more quiet.

And now those vigilant settlers are back… and they have renewed energy.  This news my team members and I have already received  from the team who replaced us.  They told us about renewed efforts of the nearby settlers (living illegally in the West Bank) to harass Palestinians who have every right to stay in their own land:

On 1 February, 2012 Padre James Bhagwan wrote:

The homes at the edge of this Palestinian village are located a few hundred metres from houses in the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar. But the relationship is anything but neighbourly.

On a late January tour of the Palestinian village led by representatives of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), residents said attacks by Jewish settlers on their village are more organised and increasing.

Sometimes the attacks, which involve rock throwing, vandalism and crowd intimidation, are a part of reprisals known as “price tag” attacks carried out by settlers after an Israeli government attempt to dismantle illegal outposts or a Palestinian attack against Israeli targets, they said.

Read more…

This breaks my heart. Naja’s husband leaves home early in the morning to start his day as a taxi driver. What happens while he is away – and also why he is there? More damage to their house due to fires, stone throwing, broken windows, and Zionist signs on the walls? Their children scared to come home after school or to play outside next to the fragrant red roses in Naja’s garden?  My heart aches for them, and for those who feel called to intimidate others and damage their property.

Naja was right.  I couldn’t do anything for her and her family while I was in the occupied territories of Palestine.  But I’m not giving up.  We, ordinary citizens, need to speak up, and cry out, each and every one of us: injustice no more and an end to the oppression! Like the world did with South Africa under an apartheid regime. The UN is not going to do it, for the USA will continue to veto the UN’s recommendations.  They have already done so many times. The mass movement against oppression in Palestine needs to grow and we need to put pressure on the powers of the empire. As Alice Walker said, “we are the ones we have been waiting for”.

(All images in this post were taken by me when we visited Naja and her family)

Palestinian children detained under the occupation: Let’s end it

20 October 2011

The Palestinian children’s plight under prolonged occupation: “Let’s put an end to it”

NEW YORK – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, urged the Government of Israel to adopt guidelines for the protection of Palestinian children living under occupation who are arrested or detained, in line with international humanitarian and human rights standards.

“Prolonged occupation deforms the development of children through pervasive deprivations affecting health, education, and overall security,” warned the independent expert in a report* to the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Falk noted that insecurity of Palestinian children is aggravated in the West Bank by settler violence and night time raids and detentions by Israeli occupation forces, house demolitions, threatened expulsions, and other practices. In Gaza, it is made worst by the blockade and violent incursions, and the still unrepaired destruction of refugee camps, residential communities, and public buildings by Israeli forces during ‘Operation Cast Lead.’

“Since 2007, the number of Palestinian children arrested and prosecuted has risen each year, and there is abundant evidence of child abuse associated with interrogations and arrests of children,” the rights expert said. “Arrest procedures documented include arrests in the middle of the night, removal of child from parents for questioning, abusive treatment in detention, and conviction procedures that appear to preclude findings of not guilty.”

The report notes an instance in which a three-year old girl was taken outside her home at 3 am and threatened at gun point: “She was told she would be shot and her family home destroyed unless she revealed the whereabouts of her brother,” Mr. Falk said, “and now, her mother explained, she can’t sleep through the night and bedwets.”

The expert also noted the frequent settler harassment of Palestinian children on their way to school, which is not stopped by Israeli forces, and has reportedly discouraged many children and their families from attending school. “The failure to prevent and punish settler violence remains a serious and on-going violation of Israel’s fundamental legal obligation to protect the civilian population.”

Palmer Report
Mr. Falk criticized the Report of the Panel of Inquiry appointed by the Secretary General to investigate the flotilla incident on 31 May 2010, in particular the treatment of the blockade of Gaza as an issue of security, which ignores the adverse humanitarian impacts on food, water, health, and wellbeing in Gaza.

The Palestinian Statehood Bid
“Statehood would expand the options available to Palestinians to fulfill their rights under international law,” the Special Rapporteur said. “The Palestinian Authority’s request that Palestine be admitted as a member state of the UN is directly relevant to their struggle to realize the right of self-determination.”

Bedouin Forced Displacement
“The Bedouin community has been victimized by more than 62 years of occupation, in which has endured severe marginalization,” Mr. Falk said noting that serious concerns have been raised recently about an Israeli plan to forcibly displace Bedouin Communities in Area C of the West Bank.

Settler Violence
There has been an increase of more than a 50 per cent in settler violence in 2011, with almost daily accounts of settler vandalism against Palestinian agricultural land and villages. “Part of this disturbing set of developments is a pattern of passive support for settler activities exhibited by Israeli security forces and border police, warned the Special Rapporteur.

(*) Check the full report: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/495/52/PDF/N1149552.pdf?OpenElement or http://www.un.org/en/ga/third/66/documentslist.shtml

ENDS

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Fred Kirungi, OHCHR – New York (+1 917 367 3431 / kirungi@un.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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