Archive for July, 2009

Israeli Settlement Continues To Steal Palestinian Land With Intimidation And Fences By Michael Galvin

July 30, 2009

Israeli Settlement Continues To Steal Palestinian Land With Intimidation And Fences By Michael Galvin,,,,,,,,


Karmei Tzur Settlement Steals Beit Ommar Land with Intimidation and Fences

July 30, 2009

Damaged grape vines on Ahmed's landDead treeAhmed Khalil Abu Hashem near his remaining plus trees

Representing just a tiny piece in the enormous puzzle of settlements that litter the West Bank, the settlement of Karmei Tzur is striving to expand.  Founded just 25 years ago by students from the Zionist Har Etzion Yeshiva, 120 families, or 700 settlers – out of a total settler population of roughly 500,000 – currently inhabit Karmei Tzur.  However, the settlement has several obstacles in the way of its desire to increase in size, notably its distance of only 100 meters from the large agricultural village of Beit Ommar with almost 15,000 Palestinian inhabitants.
Surrounded by rich agricultural land Palestinian farmers have been using for centuries, Karmei Tzur is gradually expropriating this land through the insidious use of “security fences” guarded 24/7 by the Israeli Occupation Forces – the IDF in the occupied territories – and armed settlers.  When the fence was expanded in early 2007, incorporating the land of many Palestinians, the Israelis promised that the farmers weren’t losing their right to use their land and that they could continue to access it.  Majdi Za’aqiq is a Palestinian who owns land on the settlement side of the fence: “They say you can go Saturday or Sunday, ‘Just tell us and we will let you go,’ they say… but I don’t need permission to go to my land.  If I want to go in the morning, in the evening, whenever, it’s up to me.”
The army ordered that for one person to work one day – with limited hours – on the land, the Palestinian owners would need to give two weeks notice.  Knowing full well that the majority of Palestinians would refuse to collaborate with the occupying forces, thus giving up their land to be legally taken by Israelis three years later, most of the land lies fallow.  “All farmers with land on the other side of the fence refuse to cooperate with the settlement security,” Za’aqiq said.  Even in cases where Palestinians have tried to access their land in the way proposed by the Israeli military, they were consistently denied access or harassed by the army and armed settlers.  Anti-occupation international and Israeli groups like Anarchists Against the Wall used direct action tactics to destroy parts of this fence in several instances throughout 2007.
Most of the remaining Palestinian agricultural land on the southwest side of Beit Ommar, which includes olive trees, plum trees, fig trees, and grapevines, still lines the valley along the “security fence” surrounding the settlement in a zone between Jala, an area where Bedouins live which only recently got running water for the first time, the project paid for by a foreign government, and the settlement.  Yet, as Palestinian farmers naturally continue to cultivate the land on their side of the separation fence, intimidation tactics continue as settlers and soldiers occasionally shoot live ammunition at farmers working in the area.
Ahmed Khalil Abu Hashem is a 42 year old farmer with eight children who has six dunnums – or roughly two acres – of farmland, four of which are destroyed by settlement bulldozers, without warning, every year.  The last incident of destruction took place in April 2008 in which soldiers and settlers cut 260 trees including 200 old grape vines and 60 young olive trees.  Like most Palestinians, he recounts these unbelievable events calmly as he sips his coffee on the veranda of his house with a view of the red-roofed villas in Karmei Tzur.  Besides the two dunnums of remaining plum trees, Ahmed has only three or four olive saplings left.
We accompany Ahmed on his daily trek down a dirt road to the land.  The route is bumpy, rough, and covered with large rocks that could easily pop a tire.  An open air landfill sits on the side of the road just waiting to be set alight.  Stopping just 20 meters from the fence, Ahmed leads us down to the damaged crops, only slightly recovering from last year’s attack, which end at the razor-wire fence with two rows of barbed wire in front of it.  On two occasions since last year’s destruction of the trees and vines, soldiers and settlers have shot at him with M-16s, he claims.  The most recent event was in April when six settlers arrived with their rifles and started shooting, forcing him to run and flee the field.
“The army protects the settlers all the time, no matter what they do,” he says.  When I ask Ahmed if he’s scared to come down into the fields, referring to the threat of attack and constant Israel army presence on the road just on the other side of the fence, he responds “No!” before I can even finish constructing the question in Arabic.
After just fifteen minutes on the land, an armed settler sees us and calls the army on his phone, notifying them of our presence.  Not wanting trouble for Ahmed, we leave.
Fifty meters further east along the security road which follows the fence, tractors are hard at work constructing a new street leading from the road to the settlement’s villas perched on a hilltop.  Just yesterday bulldozers were seen entering the Palestinian farmland there, though no damage was caused.  Rumors circulate in Beit Ommar that the settlement is planning to build a second security fence closer to Beit Ommar, potentially expropriating dozens of acres of some of the village’s best farmland.  Mousa Abu Maria owns land stolen by the existing settlement fence: “The Israelis lie.  They say we can apply to go to our land inside the settlement fence but this is a lie.  They say they build a new fence for security but then they build new houses.  That is Israel.”

Settlement "security fence" with villas and fruit trees on stolen land in the backgrounSettler security alerts the army of our presenceValley leading to Bedouin area of Jala

Police protect settlers, attack protesters, after settler invasion in East Jerusalem

July 28, 2009

A truly fair fightPolice violently arrest Huda ImamSettlers occupy Palestinian home in Sheikh Jarrah, East JerusalemSettlers record protestors from the occupied house.  They smile and laugh a lot, taunting the crowd from behind the lines of state protection.Settler security forces their way through the crowd of protesters so settlers can get more suppliesInternationals were threatened with arrest by Israeli police following Huda Imam's incarceration

On Sunday, July 26th at 12:30pm, three internationals, one Israeli and two Palestinians, including the former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, were arrested in an attempt to block settlers from entering a Palestinian home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.  As they were arrested, settlers entered the home and began to destroy the house from the inside, as they plan to build a new house for Jewish settlers on the site.  At 3:30pm three internationals tried to enter the Palestinian home to stop the destruction and were also put under arrest.  A protest in solidarity with the arrestees and against the actions of the settlers was called for at 4pm on Monday.

The scene at 4pm on Monday is relatively calm with people videotaping the activities of the settlers and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans outside the tin barrier put up by the settlers along the perimeter of the pedestrian path in the center of the neighborhood.  Roughly 60 protesters are present, about 1/2 Palestinian and 1/2 international.  Young Palestinians set off fireworks nearby and bang on the tin wall making loud clanging noises.  The approximately 15 police and 10 border police present for the settlers’ “protection” from the beginning of the protest begin to react more and more violently as the protest continues, threatening the kids with violence by lifting their hands as if about to hit them.  Despite a court order ordering the settlers not to work or build on the land of the Palestinian home they destroyed, the settlers move building materials into the house from outside – on two occasions with the help of the police – despite cries from the Palestinians that they were breaking the court order.

Between 4:30 and 5pm, one settler provocatively exits the zone two times to get tools.  Each time the police force their way through the crowd, pushing people aside, at times violently.  The settler laughs as he moves through the crowd and protesters scream “fascist.”  Roughly 15 more police enter the occupied house’s yard during this period bringing the total to around 40 or 50.

At 5:42pm as the protest gets more agitated, 10 to 12 police, unannounced, charge the crowd attacking a small boy and pouncing on a Palestinian woman, Huda Imam, who was leading the anti-settler chants.  Imam is thrown to the ground as at least five officers hold her down and twist her arm behind her back.  She is the only arrest of the afternoon.  Witnesses also report seeing people trampled during the assault, and an Israeli was held and dragged by the neck after earlier attempting to negotiate with the police.  Chaos ensues following the charge and the protest is split into two; both halves are further separated from the settlers who were taunting, laughing and sticking out their tongues at protesters earlier in the afternoon.

At 5:47pm police intimidate international activists near the van holding Imam by threatening to arrest them if they do not show their passports.

This is the first house in western Sheikh Jarrah that has been taken over by settlers.  One house in eastern Sheikh Jarrah is currently occupied and the Hannoun and Al-Gawi families are currently facing eviction orders there.

All but one of those arrested on Sunday have been released on the condition they stay out of Sheikh Jarrah for three weeks.

Best chants of the day: 1. “ya moustawtan itlaa barra, falasteen hourra hourra” or “settlers put them out, palestine free free” 2. “ana falastiniyy, ana mish erhabi” or “i’m palestinian, i’m not a terrorist” and the oldie but goodie 3. “1234 occupation no more, 5678 Israel’s a fascist state”

Posted at and

Two-day-old demolition info center, like 88 houses, in Silwan threatened with demolition

July 28, 2009

read about it at

After visiting the new Silwan info center, a local takes us down into the condemned community of 88 homes which sits on the "City of David" archeological site. Kids in Silwan sit in front of a demolished houseRubble left of destroyed house in Silwan

Weekly anti-wall demonstration in village of Ma’assara

July 25, 2009

“Al-Ma’assara formed the committee to protect the Bethlehem district, and became an example for activities that express the best of the historical and religious significance of Bethlehem district.   The village became the eye of the district and the eye of the south.  The popular committees to resist the wall in Palestine were able to convince the world of the justice of the Palestinian cause and to bring international support.  International solidarity activists became faithful messengers of Palestinian cause and unknown soldiers standing by the Palestinian people.  They transmit the stories of Palestinian suffering to people around the world to pressure their government to end the brutal occupation.”
– Iyad Burnat, one of the founders of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. He was been the victim of Israeli brutality and kidnappings on many different occasions.

Cortege approaches line of Israel soldiersMa'assara protestSoldiers filmed Palestinian and international activistsA Palestinian woman and her daughter cross the soldier's barrier at one point but are quickly put back on the other side

Settler Attacks In Southern West Bank Exact Heavy Toll

July 24, 2009

Settler Attacks In Southern West Bank Exact Heavy Toll

Beit Ommar Farmers Under Attack by Violent Bat Ayin Settlers

July 24, 2009

Jabber Soleiby in his blackened field near the violent Bat Ayin settlementDead plum trees in Safa valley

Beit Ommar is a Palestinian agricultural village roughly fifteen minutes north of Hebron and fifteen minutes south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.  With 15,000 inhabitants and surrounded by rich farmland, Beit Ommar is largely composed of farmers who grow everything from cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, apricots, plums, berries, grapes, olives and grains.
Among these farmers are the Abu Jabber, Abu Mohammed and Abu Fahed Soleiby families which share the edenic valley of Safa just to the south of town, where they cultivate grapevines, and plum and olive trees.  Yet, when you look just up the hill from the valley, opposite the town, you notice a group of houses that do not resemble the Palestinian town where they live.  This is the Bat Ayin settlement, a 1980s extension of the massive Gush Etzion block that juts deep into the West Bank.  One of the most violent in the West Bank, and former home to the “Bat Ayin militia,” the extremist residents of this outpost are known for their attempted bombing of a Palestinian girls’ elementary school in 2002.
While the Palestinian families who cultivate the valley just below have frequently been victim to settler expansion and harrassment over the last decades, attacks in the last few months have intensified as the settlement’s inhabitants attempt to intimidate the Palestinians to give up their land for settlement use.  These attacks climaxed in April when Hamad and Abdullah Soleiby took their donkey down to their fields to tend to the orchards.  Sixteen settlers descended into the valley and beat them with rocks, fracturing Abdullah’s skull.  Hamad, also beaten, lifted his 81-year old unconscious brother onto his back, onto the donkey and out of the valley.
Rather than arresting the settlers or preventing the attacks, the Israeli military responded by issuing several “Closed Military Zone” orders in which farmers and activists – but not Bat Ayin settlers – were prevented from entering the valley under penalty of arrest.  Despite an Israeli Supreme Court ruling declaring these orders illegal after being presented overwhelming evidence that the military used the orders to prevent farmers from cultivating their land, the army has ignored the decision and continued to implement the “Closed Military Zone” orders.  After a certain period, this would allow the settlers to claim the land under the notorious Absentees’ Property Laws with which Israel has reappropriated thousands of acres of Palestinian land over the decades for the use of Jewish Israelis.
In the past month, farmers and activists have been frequently brutalized by the Israeli soldiers, during which 47 Israeli activists and 5 international activists have been arrested.  Repression reached its high point two weeks ago when 26 Israelis and 2 international activists were arrested before reaching the valley.  While the use of direct action and media attention temporarily pressured the Israeli military into stopping the settlers and allowing the farmers to access their land for a certain period, events once again degenerated last week when settlers set fire to the valley destroying hundreds of trees on several acres.  As the fire quickly spread across the valley due to unfavorable wind conditions, Bat Ayin settlers stood on the hillside cheering and shouting in Hebrew.  Two Israeli fire trucks sat idle in the settlement to ensure that the fire did not affect the settlement land as Palestinian residents and farmers used a tractor carting a water tank to control the fire before it could be brought under control by a Palestinian fire truck from Hebron.  Combined with the cutting of 125 trees in June and an earlier fire, this act of arson destroyed 1/4 of the land that provides income for 125 extended family members.  And while dozens of activists have been arrested for attempting to help the farmers maintain their right to cultivate the land that has been in their family for generations, not one setter has been arrested for their acts.
Descending into the valley on the back of the tractor with Hamad and Jabber Soleiby to document the destruction was like entering into a moonscape.  The earth was black and the valley was filled with giant dead plum trees.  Hamad leads us around yelling “chouf!” so that we look at every object destroyed by the settlers.  Motioning how they cut the trees several weeks ago, asking “why why why,” Hamad vents his frustration.  He shows us a torn jacket under a tree.  He points to the tears on the jacket, and points to his arms, lower back and ankles where the settlers held him down and beat him with rocks.  The bruises on his arms and legs are still clearly visible.  Yet despite all this, Hamad is resilient and will never cease coming to work his land in Safa valley.
Out of roughly 1000 trees and plants, over 300 are now dead – including the enormous plum trees at the bottom of the valley.  Plans to build a fence to keep out the settlement’s sheep, which are periodically brought down to eat the ripening fruit, are in the works but costly.  The thousands of dollars it would cost to replace the destroyed fauna are beyond the families’ means as they are currently more worried about making ends meet in the present.  Even if the fence is built and the destroyed land is replanted, what would prevent the “victorious” and unpunished settlers from striking again?  While a broader political change is obviously necessary, the goal of Palestinians at the moment is to continue to maintain their daily lives as best as possible under a foreign occupation that wants them to leave.
To help the farmers replant the land in the valley, go to and click on donate.  Specify that the donation should go toward trees for Safa farmers.  Stay up-to-date on the status of Safa farmers and the village of Beit Ommar on the same site.
To see disturbing Bat Ayin propaganda go to:

Cut olive trees in Safa valleyMohammed and Mahmoud Soleiby gather some of the remaining grapes

Israel Allows Momentary Peace In Order To Maintain Long-Term Occupation

July 20, 2009

Israel Allows Momentary Peace In Order To Maintain Long-Term Occupation,

Northern West Bank: Nablus and Jenin

July 19, 2009

“[At the end of the second intifada in 2002] Israel committed daily war crimes during that invasion, but the pit of the horror was in Jenin.  The Jenin refugee camp and the Casbah [old town] in Nablus were considered by the Israeli army to be the toughest areas to conquer… Nablus and Jenin were the only places where the Palestinians showed a real, stubborn resistance to Israel’s invading army.  In Nablus, the Israeli army used the same methods as in Jenin – heavy shelling and bulldozing that sowed destruction in the old Casbah and killed seventy-five people, many of whom were civilians… On April 9, 2002 – the seventh day of fierce fighting in Jenin – thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed in battle.  The military reaction was a decision to erase the entire center of the camp even though many of the residents were still hiding in their homes.”
– From Tanya Reinhart’s “Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948” on the second intifada.

Jenin refugee campBullet-riddled building, Jenin refugee campPhotos of Emad Awaad, before he was beaten and badly handicapped by Israeli soldiers, Jenin refugee campPicture on wall of Awaad house, Jenin refugee campMartyrs in Jenin refugee campSign with martyrs in Jenin refugee camp"Chaheed" poster, Jenin refugee campHamas graffiti, Jenin refugee campCircus Behind the Wall, Freedom Theater, Jenin refugee campGiant Knafeh at Nablus Shopping FestivalCrowd at Nablus Shopping FestivalRemaider of the crowd and flattened knafeh tableDabkeh dancers on stageSquare in Nablus old town where Israeli army camped during post-intifada siegeStore in Nablus old town where Israeli army camped and murdered the owner when he came to open his shopPlaque commemorating the massacre of a family in a house in Nablus old town during Israeli siege in 2002Poster in Nablus old townHole in house on street in Balata refugee camp, Nablus.  As Balata's streets are too narrow and dangerous for soldiers to navigate, they blast walls in the buildings and move house to house.Wall of martyr posters in Balata refugee camp, NablusBalata refugee camp, Nablus

In the Balata refugee camp in Nablus I met a cool young graphic and comic book artist named Ahmed who was eager to share his art with the world.  I gave Ahmed my email address and told him about  He wrote to me: “ah iam so glad today that you game me that site it makes me contact with a great comic that soon will come to the city ..waw”
To check out his art visit: and watch his short film at

Israel Allows Momentary Peace in Order to Maintain Long-Term Occupation

July 19, 2009

Reuters reports that the Nablus Shopping Festival last Saturday, “brightens up West Bank… marking a fresh start for the commercial hub that is reviving after years of decay.”  But there’s something not quite right…

Indeed, the city was brimming with people not only from other parts of the West Bank but from Israel and elsewhere in the world as well.  Thousands took to the main city square in front of the new movie theater and mall, as dancers performed the traditional dabkeh on a large stage and everyone marveled at the largest knafeh – a trademark Nablus dessert – in the history of the local delicacy.  I heard rumors that the feat went into the Guinness Book of World Records.

For the first time in nine years the city was open and people were able to come from all over to see Nablus and enjoy a giant festival.  While many suspected the Israelis would try to sabotage the festivities, one of the largest checkpoints in the West Bank, recently dismantled by the Israeli army, remained open.  The name Nablus Shopping Festival reflects the hopes of the town for economic revival and openness to trade with the outside world.  Judging by the massive crowds crammed into the square to see Prime Minister Salam Fayyad take the first bite of knafeh, and the teeming throngs that surged toward the table after he left, crushing the table and spilling food everywhere, the festival was an obvious relief from a decade of post-intifada zero-tolerance Israeli occupation.

Similar to Nablus, the city of Jenin further north has recently undergone an Israeli-permitted economic revival.  Israeli Arabs, previously unable or unwilling to venture into the occupied West Bank, find themselves making weekend trips when Israeli shops are closed for the Jewish day of prayer.  Shops lined all of the streets and the mood seemed light and carefree in the city center.

Yet, despite the promotion of “economic stability” in the West Bank, scars from the intifada just seven years ago lie just below the surface.  A kilometer from the Jenin city center lies the Jenin refugee camp, known for its fierce resistance to the Israeli occupation and Zionist expansion.  From April 3rd to 11th 2002, the Israeli army put the camp under siege killing 64 Palestinians and destroying an entire neighborhood of the camp, roughly 200-square meters of houses.  The leader of the Israeli Labor Party at the time called the siege a “massacre” and Amnesty International reported that there was clear evidence that the Israeli army committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians, including unlawful killings and torture, in both Jenin and Nablus.

Numbering roughly 12,000 people, compared to the 35,000 in Jenin proper, the Jenin refugee camp maintains its identity rooted in the resistance.  Posters of martyrs holding guns and rocket launchers plaster the walls of the city.  Plastic and metal signs with more images of the camp’s heroes hang from buildings and street lights.  While some of this is posturing, as the people are actually some of the most peaceful and friendly I’ve ever met, they maintain these images as memorials, and symbols of the violent and ongoing occupation by Israel.

Set just to the west of the camp, the graveyard holding the dead from the last intifada is the most tangible marker of the violence of the siege.  Kamal Awaad, a resident of the camp, shows us the many graves commemorating victims and martyrs – several of them his friends – most killed during the three days of 24-hour bombing raids on the camp.  Arriving at Kamal’s modest house, another camp resident tells the story of what happened to Kamal’s father in the days following the siege.  Once the Israeli army gained control of what was left of the camp and its residents, he says, they began searching and humiliating all of the residents in a sort of collective punishment as payback for the 23 Israeli soldiers killed in the attack.  A soldier ordered Kamal’s father, Emad Awaad, to strip naked and sit down in front of him.  Kamal’s father refused and punched the soldier in the nose.  Four soldiers jumped on him and started beating his head with the butt of their guns.  At this point in the story, a man walks into the room motioning that he’s unable to speak and I realize it’s Kamal’s father.  Not wanting to take responsibility once they realized they’d inflicted mental damage, the Israeli soldiers kept him in jail for a number of days.  He now has the mental capacity of a 5-year old.  Unwilling to momentarily submit to Israeli oppression, they subdued him for life.  Kamal and his siblings will always live with their father’s handicap as a stark reminder.

Keeping alive the memory of resistance in the camp, the Masrahe Hourriyya – or “Freedom Theater” as seen in the documentary “Arna’s Children” – was originally established by a legendary Israeli activist for the rights of Palestinians, Arna Mer-Khamis.  Following her death in 1994, the project was momentarily abandoned and her son, a well-known Israeli actor, returned to see what became of the young refugee actors his mother embraced.  Following the intifada from 2000-2002, only three of the children remained alive with one of the three in an Israeli prison.  This became his documentary and the event that sparked the rebirth of the theater.

Attempting to create a place of “drama therapy” for the conservative community of the camp which frequently associates psychological trauma and feelings of shame, the Freedom Theater puts on plays that not only maintain the identity of the place, but help the actors cope with trauma in their own past.  One such act is the “Circus Behind the Wall” from Ramallah.  At five o’clock all the kids in the neighborhood converge on the theater to watch the acrobatics of the circus.  While the show started with the normal flips, twists, and gymnastics associated with any circus, after roughly ten minutes three figures in black step onto the stage, representing death.  They take an olive branch from the acrobats and put up a large gray wall.  Light shines on the actors stuck on the reverse side of the wall from the audience and they continue their stunts as shadows, seen only as dark apparitions though flipping and juggling just as before.  Not only does this leave the viewer with a different perspective on the circus, but it turns an event that is usually only meant for entertainment into something artistic and deeply political.

Despite this recent history and Palestinians’ strong feelings about the occupation at present, there is an international agenda being pushed through that is not on their side.  The reality is that the current right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to promote the idea of “economic and diplomatic peace” – as he recently put it – with the Palestinians, in the hope that they will be satisfied with something less than full statehood.  If this becomes the case, the occupation will intensify and Israel will continue to massively expropriate the remaining land in Palestine, as massive settlement construction is already continuing apace, especially in the area surrounding Jerusalem.  Setting aside $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel in his FY 2010 budget request, President Obama has already established his support for Israel despite their reticence to freeze settlement construction.  Some, like Noam Chomsky, are convincingly pessimistic about the outcome: “Obama called on Arabs and Israelis not to ‘point fingers’ at each other or to ‘see this conflict only from one side or the other.’  There is, however, a third side, that of the United States, which has played a decisive role in sustaining the current conflict.  Obama gave no indication that its role should change or even be considered.”  However, Obama perhaps understands that no people should live under an occupation by a violent and imperialist government that hates them, and wants to get rid of them by either driving them out or killing them.  “Economic and diplomatic peace” as intended by the Zionist leadership is fleeting at best and should not be considered an option.