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Activism 2004

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January 18, 2004

International Human Rights March of Women

 

The International Human Rights March of Women has finally come to an end, and it was much harder and more successful than any of us had hoped for.

 

This was a 3-week march (from December 20 through January 10) through Israel and Palestine, and 100-150 women came from overseas to participate, in addition to the locals – Palestinians and Israelis – who joined intermittently.  Women marched in all the major cities of Palestine (with the exception of Nablus, then under curfew) and Israel (with the exception of Haifa).  Along the way, the women witnessed and often experienced the brutal heart of the occupation – checkpoints, curfews, closures, demolished homes, the ‘security’ wall, refugee camps, and – on the Israeli side – sites of terrible suicide bombings.

 

It was a kind of reverse VIP tour:  Instead of meeting with official dignitaries, participants met mainly with people on the ground: Palestinian and Israeli families, representatives of grassroots organizations, Israeli soldiers manning checkpoints, Palestinians trying to get through.  The Palestinian side arranged for a meeting with Arafat; on the Israeli side, we were turned down for meetings by a long list of officials (Sharon, among others) on the pretext of insufficient advance notice, though Knesset Member Issam Makhoul (from the left-wing Hadash Party) did find time to meet.  On both sides, the group met with a rainbow of progressive organizations – peace, human rights, social justice, and women’s issues – learning about the nexus for both populations of occupation-inequality-poverty.  And women spent unforgettable nights with families in Palestine and Bedouin families in the desert region of Israel.

 

The march itself took place for an hour or so each day, as a single file of silent women walked through city streets or well-travelled roads, holding banners that called for an end to occupation and the protection of human rights.  Many stopped to stare and accepted flyers that explained who we are.  Although silent marches are not a common format in the Middle East, we too began to appreciate their power, radiating dignity and steadfastness as we walked through harsh weather.

 

But these women from Europe, North America, and Australia were all experienced activists – who else would undertake such a journey? – and they soon added an intense activist component to their presence.  A few highlights:

 

         After witnessing the appalling conditions at the Erez checkpoint, the women demonstrated solidarity with the Palestinian workers returning to Gaza, meeting and greeting them with signs of support.  While the army refused the marchers entry into Gaza – even those with explicit entry permits – the group managed to send through a truckload of infant food and messages of support to the strangled population, and this was met on other side by a large crowd of Palestinian women and dignitaries.  This was given good coverage in the Palestinian media, though Israeli journalists were not interested.

 

         Participants visited their own embassies in Tel Aviv to deliver a letter calling for their governments “to demand the Israeli government immediately stop military actions against the civilian population; to expedite the delivery of urgently needed food and medical supplies; to call on the United Nations to deploy an International Peacekeeping Force to secure the safety of the civilian population on both sides and to demand implementation of United Nations resolutions.”  In Jerusalem, they delivered a similar letter to Sharon, and a petition to the UN office in Bethlehem.

 

         After reports arrived about the prolonged Israeli military strike in Nablus – a tale of death and destruction that was never properly reported in the Israeli or international media – the wome again raised money among themselves for another truckload of baby food for Nablus women.  A delegation of three women managed to get through and make this vital delivery.

 

         On the final day of the march, a demonstration was held at the Qalandia checkpoint, which separates Jerusalem from Ramallah.  Palestinians, internationals, and a small group of Israelis (small because 2 other important political actions were being held that day) demonstrated on both sides of the checkpoint, and this received extensive international coverage...everywhere except Israel.

 

The march was intense and exhausting, and we all came away from it with a chronic cough brought on by hours of marching in cold, sometimes rainy, weather and coming back to inadequately heated rooms, tepid showers, and never enough sleep.

 

But we all came away with something more:  150 smart and committed women from all over the globe now know more about the Middle East conflict than all the politicians who sit in plush offices around the world.  They have seen the occupation with their own eyes, and no one can tell them that it has anything to do with security for Israel.

 

The women met an old man in Palestine, 107 years old, he said, whose grandson was killed in the conflict.  “You will leave and I will remain, and nothing will change,” he told the women.  I don’t think there was a single woman in the group who did not resolve to prevent this bitter statement from coming true.

 

On behalf of the Organizing Committee of the Coalition of Women for Peace – the Israeli side of this march – we are grateful to all those who invested their time, money, and energy and braved a trip to our troubled part of the world in order to share our struggle to reach a just peace between our peoples.  We remain your committed partners in activism.

 

Omaima abu-Ras, Nicole Cohen-Addad, Rachel Amram, Yvonne Deutsch, Pnina Firestone, Yana Knopova, Gili Pliskin, Michal Pundak, Taghrid Shbeita, Aliyah Strauss, Gila Svirsky, and Alix Weizmann

 

*   *   *

March 20, 2004

Rachel Corrie, One Year Later

 

Delivered at an evening in memory of Rachel Corrie sponsored by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

 

I was not present in Rafah that terrible day, but I have frequently replayed in my mind the events leading up to the moment when a bulldozer rolled over Rachel Corrie.  I think to myself:  What compelled this young woman, neither Jewish nor Palestinian, to travel 10,000 miles from home, to throw in her lot with a family not her own, a people not her own, and ultimately meet a death that came suddenly, swiftly, in an instant of shocked comprehension.

 

In the biblical Book of Ruth, we read of Naomi whose two sons have died, leaving two young widows.  Naomi chooses to depart from the land of Moab and return to her home in Judah.  She encourages her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab, their own land.  One daughter-in-law kisses Naomi and bids her farewell.  The other, Ruth, chooses to accompany Naomi to the distant climes of Judah.  Why does Ruth go?  “Entreat me not to leave thee,” says Ruth, “for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God.”  And she continues, “Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried”.

 

The biblical figure of Ruth journeys to her new people, expecting never to return, but to be buried in foreign soil.

 

The modern figure of Rachel journeyed to her new people, expecting to return for the start of the school year, and never to be buried, or to be buried at some vastly distant unimaginable future, but never to find her death in the soil of her chosen destination.  She journeyed to her new people expecting to find another culture, another language, another way of interacting, but never to find another attitude toward the taking of life.  She journeyed expecting to see death, but never to be embraced by it.

 

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard recounts the story of Abraham as he takes his son Isaac to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah.  The story is so unfathomable – how could Abraham take his son, his only son, and prepare to slay him for no apparent reason other than God’s inscrutable request?  Kierkegaard constructs several scenarios of what may have been coursing through Abraham’s heart as he walked his son to Moriah to kill him.

 

Writes Kierkegaard:  “It was early in the morning, Abraham rose betimes, he embraced Sarah, the bride of his old age, and Sarah kissed Isaac, who had taken away her reproach, who was her pride, her hope for all time.  So they rode on in silence along the way, and Abraham’s glance was fixed upon the ground until the fourth day when he lifted up his eyes and saw afar off Mount Moriah, but his glance turned again to the ground.  Silently he laid the wood in order, he bound Isaac, in silence he drew the knife – then he saw the ram which God had prepared.  Then he offered that and returned home…From that time on Abraham became old, he could not forget that God had required this of him.  Isaac throve as before, but Abraham’s eyes were darkened, and he knew joy no more.”

 

In my mind’s eye when I see Rachel standing on that mound of earth and facing the bulldozer, I envision a young woman looking at the small window fast approaching her in the brow of the bulldozer, peering into that dark space to find the eyes of the soldier who was driving, perhaps someone her own age, someone who also loved to dance and joke with a younger sister, someone who was thinking about how long it would take until he could finish this job and get back to the base where he didn’t have to face the anger of people who don’t understand what he’s doing, thinking about his weekend pass and his own future, maybe he would go back to school and finish that course, or about his own loneliness, and how it is to be out here alone at the gears every day, and then there’s this girl out there, and why doesn’t she get out of the way.  What was the next thought of this young man – “Shall I kill her?” or “Shall I scare her – she’ll move at the last minute”?  or “Still time to brake”?  Or some other fleet words that race through his mind as he hurtles forward.

 

In this land where blood pours down like lemon drops and sticks to all the senses, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, we cannot know what thought compelled this young man to carry out the deed.  Later that day, he may have wept and found comfort among his friends.  He may have shrugged it off – a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.  But we do know one thing:  He will live with the death of Rachel for the rest of his life.  He may not read every article about her, he may agree only with those that justify his deed, but we know that he reads some of what is written, and we know that he thinks about that day, and wonders if things, somehow, could have ended differently.  How do we know this?  We know because we agree with Rachel, who risked her life in the belief that whoever was driving that vehicle would stop before he harmed her.  We know because we believe, like Rachel, in the fundamental decency of every human being, and that even those who kill, harbor pain in their hearts for that death.  We do not have to forgive this man or this system that led him to kill in order to understand that the trauma of Rachel’s death, which affected millions of people throughout the world, also affected the man who took her life.

 

On that blindingly sunny day in Rafah, when optimism glints irrationally from every tank, every M16, every dogtag on the necks of 18-year-olds in uniform, photos of loved ones in their pockets, Rachel stood her ground with ease, waiting for his eyes to meet hers, waiting for decency to slow the grinding treads, waiting for the moment of sanity to kick in, to interrupt the flow of tension swelling toward collision, waiting for the inevitable to happen – that reason would prevail.

 

Today we are one year from that moment, 12 months of time to think about it, and still no more capable of fathoming what transpired that day: That until the moment of impact, Rachel never lost her faith in the decency of the bulldozer driver; that until the moment of impact, the driver never understood that he was capable of this terrible crime.

 

Writes Kierkegaard, “It was a quiet evening when Abraham rode out alone, and he rode to Mount Moriah; he threw himself upon his face, he prayed God to forgive him his sin, that he had been willing to offer Isaac, that the father had forgotten his duty toward the son.”

 

In my own efforts to understand these terrible deeds, the one on Mount Moriah and the one in Rafah, I ask myself:  At Moriah, what was the more terrible – that Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son?  Or that God had demanded this of him?

 

And in Rafah, who is the real sinner – the soldier who ended the life of a girl on a mound of earth in a land not his and not hers – a land where Rachel, like Ruth, was invited and welcomed, but he was an interloper and resented?  Or, in Rafah, too, is the real sinner the God who had demanded this of him – God the army officers, God the brutal policies, God the society of those willing to inflict pain on others to still their own fears and traumas?

 

And whose gaze turned from one of trust to astonished alarm?  The driver, who trusted that Rachel would leap away before it was too late?  Or Rachel, who trusted that the driver would halt the vehicle one tread sooner?

 

Ever more relevant is the poem “Season of the Camomile” by the Palestinian Samir Rantisi, written 16 years ago after the killing of an Israeli and a Palestinian near the village of Beita.  An excerpt:

 

How many more ordinary mornings

will fill us with horror

and transform our day to another sky

who chose us

to be the victim and the symbol

to be the beginning of the beginnings

the moment of historical trial

we, the two dreamers

the routine, the ordinary

who chose us

to be the heart of the conflict

and the crossroads of time

why didn’t you find someone besides me to be a symbol?

why didn’t they find someone besides you to be a victim?

why could they only find Beita in the spring.

 

Our hearts in grief, we ask:  Why didn’t they find someone besides you to be a victim?  why didn’t they find someone besides you to be a symbol?  Ah, Rachel, ah, unknown soldier, why could you only find Rafah in the spring?

 

*   *   *

April 7, 2004

A Petition to Open Gaza

 

Dear Friends,

 

Two of us, both peace and human rights activists in Israel, have just prepared an online petition called:  “Open Gates to Allow Food into Gaza”

 

This petition refers to the recent suspension of aid into Gaza by the UNRWA as a result of Israeli actions that prevent the UN food trucks from entering.  Please read the petition below and add your signature.

Yours,

Oren Medicks & Gila Svirsky

 

The Petition: “Open the Gates to Allow Food into Gaza”

 

To:  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

 

We are appalled to hear that UNRWA has been forced to suspend its food aid in Gaza as a result of new Israeli regulations. The severe economic hardship of the children and adults in Gaza is well documented by US AID and other sources.  Preventing the access of humanitarian aid will exacerbate already existing conditions of starvation and malnourishment.

 

Therefore, we individuals and organizations concerned with peace, justice, and human rights – Israeli and international – call upon the Israeli government to ensure that UNWRA and other relief agencies are able to continue their work or, alternatively, that Israel replace this aid with its own, and thereby ensure the well-being of the population, as mandated by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

 

We demand that the Israeli government address this matter with the utmost urgency, as human lives are at stake. We call upon the governments of other countries to lend weight to this humanitarian appeal, which is intended to secure Israel’s compliance with its obligations under law as well as basic humanitarian values.

 

*   *   *

April 21, 2004

Yes, Alice, It Does Do Some Good

 

Dear Alice,

 

You were signature number 2,750 on the petition “Open the Gates to Allow Food into Gaza”, and you added after your name, “This won’t do any good, but here goes.”

 

Thankfully, Alice, you were mistaken:  The gates to Gaza have now been re-opened to regular UNRWA emergency food shipments, following three harrowing weeks of sporadic delivery.  Celebration, or at least great relief, is in order.

 

I asked a senior UNRWA official what he thought made a difference, and he replied, “Everything – the people who signed the petition, the Israelis and Palestinians who spoke out against it, the internationals who expressed their indignation, the letters to the officials – everything together made the difference.”

 

So thank you, Alice, wherever you are, and thank you to the 6,685 others who signed the petition and sent letters or made phone calls.  It’s a drop in the ocean of what remains to be done, but for 600,000 men, women, and children in Gaza, it means that tomorrow they won’t go hungry.

 

*   *   *

April 25, 2004

Anarchy in Our Souls

 

I just spoke to Molly Malekar on her way to the hospital from a demonstration in Bidu, and here is what she reported:

 

“We were about 60 women, only women:  roughly 1/3 Israeli, 1/3 Palestinian, and 1/3 internationals.  We gathered at Bidu to protest the construction of the wall in this village.  It was a quiet march, with women carrying signs and walking toward the area where soldiers were guarding the construction of the fence.  At a distance of about 10 meters (30 feet) from them, we stopped walking because the soldiers turned to point their rifles directly at us.  I called out to them in Hebrew, “Don’t shoot, we’re not armed, this is a nonviolent demonstration.”  Suddenly there was an onslaught of tear gas and stun grenades falling all around us, completely out of proportion to the quiet, nonprovocative nature of our action.  The grenades fell right there at our feet and we were choking, unable to breathe.  Most dispersed and ran back.  Soldiers charged toward us and fell upon the women, grabbing some whom they arrested.  By then, there was no demonstration at all, nothing to disperse.  Most of the women had run back, trying to recover from the tear gas, but I stayed as I wanted to talk to the soldiers to prevent the arrest of the four women.  Suddenly out of nowhere four horses charged, with border police mounted on them.  I started to run away, but one of them ridden by a young woman in uniform caught up with me and she struck me on my head with her billyclub.  I fell, and then a second horse charged toward me and I felt more blows on my head and back.  There was no provocation whatsoever at any point while this was happening.”

 

Molly is the director of Bat Shalom, which is the women’s peace organization that forms the Israeli side of The Jerusalem Link (the Palestinian side is called the Jerusalem Center for Women).  Molly is the most wonderfully serious and thoughtful woman you would ever want to have at the head of your organization.  Anyone who has ever met Molly knows that she has never engaged in provocation, but has only been cautious and respectful.  I asked her by cell phone, on her way to the hospital, how she feels and she said, “A horrible headache, my ears hurt, and I’m aching from the blows.  But let’s think about how to wake people up to what is happening out there.  We have to wake people up.”

 

Wake up, world!  Hear O Israel, wake up!!  Israeli soldiers have made brutality a way of life against Palestinians, then they turned their weapons and death upon international peace activists, and now they are brutalizing Israelis who express disapproval of their ways.  Who will be the first one killed?

 

Writes US woman activist Starhawk, who participated in some of these actions, “The Israelis who are involved in the day to day resistance ... said to me that they know it is only a matter of time before there is an Israeli ‘shaheed’— a martyr of the occupation.  Being Israeli is no longer a protection against the violence of the military.”

 

What’s worse:  Nonviolence is no longer protection against the brutality of the military, regardless of whether you are Israeli or Palestinian or international.  No one should be assaulted for peacefully demonstrating, and yet that has become the norm.  Today, all demonstrations that take place in the territories – whether by Palestinians or Israelis, women or men, nonviolent or violent – are treated to the same brutal behavior of guns, stun grenades, and clubs.  And no one investigates the incidents in a serious, unbiased manner, meaning that the soldiers learn that they can be cruel with impunity.

 

What has happened?  The occupation has happened.  The occupation has corrupted the soul of Israel.  A situation of “Ein din v’ein dayan”, as the Bible says:  “No law and no one standing in judgment”.

 

There is anarchy in the soul of Israel today, and it won’t be gone until we uproot the occupation from our land and from our hearts.

 

*   *   *

May 3, 2004

And Now, the Movie

 

This June marks 37 years of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.  We hope that friends all over the world will take the opportunity to protest the occupation in whatever way suits you –  demonstrations, vigils, petition-signings, visits to elected officials, etc.

 

In Israel, the Coalition of Women for Peace has decided to hold a number of activities on and around June 5 – workshops  at conferences, posters all over the country, and vigils.  In addition, we are trying something new this year –  an 18-minute video called “Women Resist the Occupation” that we plan to show on public street corners, in homes, and other locations.

 

We think that this video might be useful to you as well:  To show others that there are Israelis who do not support our government’s policies, to illustrate nonviolent and feminist activism, and as a way to support the Israeli women’s peace movement.   You could also incorporate it into your plans for protest events.

 

More details:

Title:  “Women Resist the Occupation”: An 18-min. video showing actions by Israeli women, sometimes in cooperation with Palestinian women, in efforts to resist the occupation and achieve a just peace.  Includes footage of Women in Black, Bat Shalom, Machsom Watch, Black Laundry, the Coalition of Women for Peace, and others [with scenes from the women’s action at Biddu last Sunday, where Molly’s shoulder was fractured by a mounted border policeperson].

 

Production:  Directed by experienced Israeli filmmaker Claudia (Cala) Levin and a team of 4 women from Israel’s Indymedia.

 

Format:  Available in NTSC or PAL.  (NTSC is common in the U.S., and PAL in Europe.)

 

Language: There is no narrative, but English subtitles will be used to identify the events, filmed at women’s peace actions.

 

Price:  $25 (or 20 Euro) which includes shipping anywhere from Israel.  Feel free to pay more, and the balance will be used to advance the work of the Coalition of Women for Peace.

 

To order: 

1. Send me an e-mail.  Give me your mailing address and whether you prefer NTSC or PAL format.

 

2. Send cash or a check (Euro, US$, GBP, CAN$, CHF) made out to “Coalition of Women for Peace” and mail to:  Coalition of Women for Peace, P.O. Box 10252, Jerusalem, Israel 91102.

 

3. We will mail it out immediately.

 

*   *   *

May 18, 2004

Emergency Right Now in Gaza

 

We need your help.

 

There is an emergency situation right now in the Gaza Strip and the town of Rafah, in particular, with scenes that bring to mind Israel’s invasion of Jenin and Nablus in the spring of 2002.  So far today, 18 Palestinians were killed, but the action continues.  Last weekend, 116 homes were destroyed, making over a thousand people homeless (www.btselem.org.il).  Hundreds more are slated for destruction.  Amira Hass, filing dramatic daily reports in Ha’aretz from inside Rafah, describes the scenes of people grabbing their children and whatever comes to hand and fleeing their homes, anticipating the entry of the bulldozer-tanks.  Yossi Sarid from the Yahad Party (formerly called Meretz), normally a staunch defender of the IDF, described actions in Rafah as “war crimes”.  My friend In’am called me from Gaza trembling with fear, and reported that the Palestinian news broadcaster broke down in tears as he spoke.

 

Many – Israelis, internationals and Palestinians – are desperately trying to halt the bloodshed.  The Israeli women’s peace movement just placed an ad in Ha’aretz calling for an immediate halt to the violence and renewal of negotiations for a peace agreement that will extract us from all the occupied territories (“True and enduring solutions,” we wrote, “are attained by negotiation, not destruction, revenge or humiliation”).  This morning, forty women drove to Gaza to see if they could intervene physically, but they are being prevented from entering Gaza by the army.  The women have set up an encampment at the Sufa checkpoint and say they will not leave until the army stops its actions there.  Other peace and human rights organizations have placed newspaper ads, and many are organizing a larger delegation to join the women on Friday.

 

International figures have begun to speak out, but we need more, and quickly.  Can you please take a moment to write a letter (email or fax) or make a phone call to your elected representatives?

 

Please take a minute to try to save someone’s life or home.  Imagine that you had to walk out the door of your home this very moment, with nothing but what your arms can carry, and you would never see your home or its contents ever again.  Please make a couple of calls.

 

*   *   *

May 23, 2004

Protesting the IDF in Gaza, and How to Help

 

As most well-read people already know, the Israeli army has spent the last five days battering and bludgeoning the inhabitants of a hot and dusty town on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, known as Rafah.

 

Also well known is the rally of 150,000 last Saturday night in Tel Aviv to demand that Israel leave the Gaza Strip.  Less well known, however, is the frenzied activity of the Israeli peace movement to get the army to leave Gaza in one piece – to end the death and destruction as it seeks to “save face” for the killing of 13 soldiers last week.

 

On Monday, a small group of women drove down from the north of Israel and sought to enter Rafah from the closest military checkpoint, just 3 km east.  Rebuffed by the army, they pitched camp a short distance away, vowing not to leave until the army does.  I joined on Thursday and found 30-40 women, some who had driven down from the north and others from nearby kibbutzim, who kept them supplied with food and water and solved logistical problems.

 

Standing (and sitting) there, watching the tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, and busloads of soldiers move in and out of Rafah – and being unable to stop them – was terribly frustrating.  Drivers in passing vehicles threw eggs, garbage, and curses at the group.  “Violence will never bring peace,” proclaimed one of our futile signs as dozens of Rafah residents met a violent death while we vigiled.  It was agonizing.  A decision was made to continue the protest in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

 

Another new women’s initiative is “Shuvi: Women for Withdrawal from Gaza”.  Dressed in black t-shirts with a yellow U-turn signal, Shuvi activists are collecting 60,000 signatures on a letter demanding that Sharon implement the “disengagement” plan that he promised, and get out.

 

On Friday (May 21), a large group of organizations (including Ta’ayush, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Yesh Gvul, Gush Shalom, and ICAHD) held a dramatic demonstration at the Kissufim entrance to Gaza, through which most of the settlers pass.  Close to a thousand demonstrators made their way there, many carrying black flags to symbolize “the black flag of illegality that waves over some [military] orders”, citing an Israeli court judgment from the 1950s.  At the end of the rally, many demonstrators charged the checkpoint, which ended, of course, in pandemonium: 8 were detained and many injured, but no one seriously (I believe).

 

The agony and helplessness of last week was epitomized by the announcement that women Members of Knesset from the left would be holding a demonstration on Sunday opposite the Prime Minister’s office to protest his actions in Gaza.  Do MKs have to resort to demonstrations to affect government policies?!?

 

But the worst thing I saw at the various peace actions was poised just beyond the entrance to Gaza at Kissufim – 5 armored bulldozers.  Maybe these were the bulldozers that demolished 62 homes in Rafah during the previous two days (www.btselem.org.il)?   Maybe one of these bulldozers rolled over Rachel Corrie?  We’ll never know, though whoever drove them surely knows what he was up to, and must live with it.

 

But the devastation continues.  This morning’s Ha’aretz reports that 700-2,000 more Rafah homes may be destroyed in order to widen the buffer zone with Egypt.  Relief agencies report that food supplies are dwindling and that potable water is scarce.

 

Hannah Safran from Haifa just called me to suggest the following:  In every city, organize a group (even 2-3 people will do) to bring food and water to the Israeli embassy or consulate, demanding that it be delivered to Rafah.  Make sure that the media meet you there to cover the event.  Explain to the media that the Israeli army’s assault on Rafah has caused a severe humanitarian crisis, and you are calling upon Israel to deliver the supplies and end its brutal campaign.  You may also want to do this at U.S. embassies (or Caterpillar companies), since the United States funds the weapons that make this possible (and Caterpillar sells the bulldozers).

 

The Israeli government is concerned about the international outcry, and just announced that it will “compensate” the owners of demolished homes.  Now we have to get it to stop the demolitions.

 

*   *   *

June 6, 2004

Working to Break the Silence

 

Last week probably set a record for demonstrations in Israel against the occupation – a result not only of the 37th “anniversary” of the occupation, which we mark in June, but also of the ongoing violence in Gaza: Some 30-40 more Rafah homes were destroyed this week, while many Palestinians were arrested and some killed.  Comparatively speaking, the army is now showing restraint compared with the original onslaught, thanks to the outcry from people all over the world.  If you ever lose faith that your faxes and phone calls make a difference, remind yourself that hundreds of homes, maybe even thousands, were saved as a result of your efforts in this campaign.  Keep them coming.

 

The streets of Tel Aviv had “walking exhibitions” this week, as protesters donned “sandwich boards” showing photographs of Gaza and the so-called “security wall”.  On Wednesday, shoppers downtown and university students got to see these graphic scenes and, on Friday, a big beach day in Tel Aviv, the exhibitors snaked through beach chairs and blankets, bringing some reality into the sunbathing.  More reality was brought to Tel Aviv’s cultural set on Saturday night, as women brought the photos of Rafah’s destroyed homes to the lines of people waiting to get into the Philharmonic, Habima Theater, and a movie theater.  “How can you watch movies when homes are being destroyed in Gaza?” chanted the women.  Just in case people in cars missed the sights, the women also blocked the streets, and a car accompanying them projected slides of the atrocities onto the shutters of buildings along the road.

 

A remarkable photo and video exhibit opened on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, showing not art, but the abuse of Palestinians committed by Israeli soldiers in Hebron.  And who were the photographers?  30 soldiers who themselves had served there.  Through their stories and photos, this exhibit tells terrible tales of violence, physical abuse, and property vandalism during their tours of duty.   Yehuda Shaul, a 21-year old, organized this exhibit after completing his service in Hebron as an officer of a high level combat unit.  (After his release from the army, Yehuda stood with us several times on the Jerusalem vigil of Women in Black.)  When asked if the photos showed isolated incidents, Yehuda replied, “Breaking silence about this subject is exceptional, not the acts themselves.”

 

At Thursday’s gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Kveesa Shchora (“black laundry”), the anti-occupation movement of lesbians and gay men, marched separately carrying their own signs.  The ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemites turned out to insult and curse them, with a prominent Kabbalist rabbi declaring that homosexuals were “subhuman” and would be “reincarnated” as rabbits.  “Be careful what you wish for,” said a lesbian friend, thinking perhaps of the procreation patterns of these sweet animal friends.

 

On Friday morning, we held a bus tour for women attending the Feminist Conference in the north of Israel, bringing participants to see the “Security Wall”, which most had never seen before.  This was followed by a large Friday vigil of Women in Black, in which many conference participants took part.

 

Saturday morning saw a joint Palestinian-Jerusalem demonstration at A-Ram, just north of Jerusalem, where the government has just begun work on the Wall.  Fortunately, this demonstration went smoothly, with no violence from the border police, which was another exception to the rule, unfortunately.

 

Saturday night, Peace Now held a demonstration in Jerusalem, where several thousand people showed up to demand that the government leave the territories.  Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former army Chief of Staff, called upon everyone to go see the photo exhibition of the Hebron-based soldiers (good for you, Amnon!).  Less nice was the part where Peace Now told the police to shut down the video screening of “Women Resist the Occupation” that we were showing on a side street – in no way interfering with the main body of the demonstration, which we supported.

 

Finally, beautiful purple posters bloomed like flowers all over Israel this week, calling out “Dai Lakibush, Yad l’Piyus”, meaning “End the Occupation, Seek Reconciliation”, and having the women’s symbol on it.  We simply can’t imagine who would have illegally pasted posters in 3 cities, covering the walls, traffic signs, garbage cans, billboards, bus stops, and fences...

 

I end with a translation of the flyer we handed out all over Israel this week:


 

Shhhhhhhh, security!

They tell us not to speak of unemployment,

because the security situation is so bad.

They tell us not to talk about the municipal workers who haven’t received their salaries, or sexual violence, or hungry children, not right now, because we’re at war and there’s no one to talk to.

And not about the corruption of politicians,

because we’ll soon be leaving Gaza.

And not about selling the country to the World Bank

at end-of- season prices,

because who knows anything about that bank and anyway

we’re in the midst of war.

And not about foreign workers,

racism,

 clean air and water,

 selling women into bondage,

road accidents,

or breast cancer.

WE ARE FURIOUS

ABOUT THE OCCUPATION

And about

The capitalists who create this war,

The generals who continue to sleep well at night,

And the governments of occupation that bring us more and more destruction, killing, and hate:

37 YEARS OF OCCUPATION AND OPPRESSION ARE

37 YEARS TOO MANY!

 

The women’s actions this week were all organized and carried out jointly by the various member organizations of the Coalition of Women for Peace.  In addition, we worked in alliance with our friends in many other wonderful organizations.  It’s not easy to bring reality into Israel, especially when the local media do not do their part, and we need all the friends and cooperation we can get.

 

*   *   *

June 17, 2004

Help Protest the Wall

 

Demonstrations throughout the West Bank are increasing as Palestinians – with Israeli and international help – are trying to prevent construction of the so-called ‘security wall’.  Erection of the wall is not only illegal by international law, and not only destroys access to farmland, schools, hospitals and jobs, but it also ultimately damages Israeli security by intensifying the bitterness and hatred against Israel.  The wall is not only bad for Palestine, it is bad for Israel, too.

 

Yesterday saw several major demonstrations against the wall.  I attended the women’s event at A-ram, organized by Palestinian Women Against the Wall, Bat Shalom, and international women.  We marched the 3 km (almost 2 miles) from the A-ram to the Qalandia checkpoints, as we banged pots, pans, drums, blew whistles, and chanted slogans against the wall and for peace.

 

The army intelligently (and unusually) decided not to clash with the demonstrators, though four of us had an unpleasant run-in with soldiers who tried to prevent us from reaching A-Ram, and the busloads of participants had to use alternative routes and transport to get in.

 

Real violence was directed at demonstrators who tried to prevent the wall from going up near Ariel, and the Israeli media covered this.

 

If you could come here and see the wall transform villages and towns into ghettoes – civilian populations entirely surrounded by 30-foot high gray concrete slabs, watchtowers set into it every few yards in which soldiers train automatic rifles through narrow slits, you would be horrified.  How can we Jews create ghettoes for another people?  Our security is not served by ghettos, just as forcing Jews into ghettos never served any security needs.  The people inside are not violent animals that must be penned.

 

Last night, I watched an old Palestinian woman surveying with horror her family’s olive trees that the army had cut down, shaving a swath on which the wall will rise.  “Those stupid people,” she said, careful not to name them, “If not for their stupidity, we could have lived in peace with each other.”

 

Who is not a partner for peace?

 

*   *   *

The following appeared as an op-ed in the South African Sunday Times [Johannesburg, July 18, 2004], and was subsequently reprinted in the Oakland Tribune [Oakland, CA, July 15], Zeit-Fragen [Zurich, July, in German], and Ivrea (Torino, July, in Italian).

 

July 10, 2004

Thank You, Your Honors

 

In a carefully reasoned and unequivocal decision, the International Court of Justice in the Hague did the expected:  It found that Israel’s construction of its security wall inside Palestinian territory is illegal according to international law.

 

As an Israeli deeply concerned about the security of my country, and a Jew deeply concerned about the moral implications of building this barrier, I applaud this decision.

 

Israel’s security claims in favor of the wall are seriously flawed:  As it is now being constructed, the wall does not follow the 1967 border, but rather reaches deep into Palestinian land, a route that will ultimately leave hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli side.  How will this prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel?

 

On humanitarian grounds, the wall is unconscionable.  It prevents Palestinian access to farmland, schools, hospitals and jobs.  Picture your children having to wait at the wall twice a day for soldiers to show up and unlock the gate, allowing them to get to and from school.  Picture the farmer who made a living from his olive trees, which are now inaccessible or have been felled to make way for construction.  Imagine that you suddenly need to see a doctor, but have no permit to get through.  Imagine that you simply want to visit your elderly mother, but the wall now comes between you.  According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, when the wall is complete, some 38% of Palestinians will find their lives disrupted and their livelihoods discontinued.

 

The presence of the wall is not only cruel to Palestinians; it will ultimately harm Israeli security as well, as it intensifies the bitterness and hatred directed toward us.  Is this the security that the wall will provide?

 

Unlike Palestinians who can hardly avoid it, most Israelis have never even seen the wall; it is built inside Palestinian territory, where only Israeli settlers (and the soldiers sent to protect them) now venture.  If other Israelis saw it, I hope they would be shocked.  In several places, the wall does not simply wend through Palestinian towns, it actually surrounds them entirely, penning the residents inside – their right to enter or leave left to the whim of young soldiers guarding the gate.

 

In these localities, civilian populations are now entirely encircled by a 30-foot-high, gray concrete battlement interrupted only by watchtowers from where soldiers train binoculars and automatic rifles on the residents below.  Lights mounted on the wall shine down into the streets, making constant surveillance that much easier.  As a Jew whose ancestors were confined to ghettos during anti-Semitic periods of history, I find this horrifying.  Will keeping 100,000 Palestinians penned in ghettos and enclaves serve the security needs of Israel?  Did forcing Jews into the ghettos of Europe serve the security needs of those countries?

 

Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court acknowledged the grave violations of Palestinian human rights resulting from the wall, and ordered the army to reroute it in specific locations.  While our government is hoping that this Israeli court ruling will make it possible for Israel to ignore the Hague tribunal – on the grounds that “the wall is an internal security matter that we are dealing with” – most Israeli peace activists do not agree.  Construction of the wall within Occupied Territory – meaning on somebody else’s property – is a violation of basic rights, no matter how you look at it.  And claims that the wall provides security are undercut by the large numbers of Palestinians who will remain on the “Israeli” side.

 

Ultimately, the best way for my country to achieve security is to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, and sufficiently improve the lives on both sides so that there is a vested interest in maintaining the peace.  The wall, however, does just the opposite.  As a result, it is not only bad for Palestine, but bad for Israel too.

 

A few days ago, I watched an old Palestinian woman surveying with dismay her family’s olive trees that the army had cut down, shaving a swath on which the wall will rise.  “Those stupid people,” she said, careful not to name them, “If not for their stupidity, we could have lived in peace with each other.”

 

*   *   *

August 6, 2004

Hiroshima and Depleted Uranium

 

Today is Hiroshima Day.  A day to reaffirm our commitment to end the use of nuclear weapons in the world.

 

On this day, I would like to bring to your attention the use of weapons that are tipped with Depleted Uranium – in use by the U.S., Japan, Germany, Russia, Israel, and other countries.  Depleted Uranium can have dire consequences to the shooters, those shot, and the generations that follow.

 

Below are brief excerpts from historic documents – among the first public writings about the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) by the Israeli army (IDF).

 

Don’t feel you have to be an expert to start talking about Depleted Uranium in public.  The point is the use of uranium to make weapons more efficient, and the long-lasting effects of exposure to radiation.

 

Thank you to Rela Mazali, Israeli feminist peace activist, who was the first to bring this topic to public awareness in Israel.

 

Dedicated to Mordechai Vanunu, noble whistle blower.

 

From: Rela Mazali

To: Professor Baruch Kimmerling, Sociology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Date:  1999

 

…I’m referring to the use of Depleted Uranium ammunition in conventional weapons. This doesn’t tend to be counted among nuclear weapons because it spreads radioactivity as a byproduct of conventional warfare, and does so gradually, over extended periods of time, rather than  disintegrating enormous amounts of life all at once in spectacular mushrooms. It is only “incidentally” radioactive. Yet in terms of the human pathologies it seems to cause and the dangerous, longterm environmental degradation, I believe it qualifies as clearly “nuclear”.

 

One of the reasons I think this is important, beyond simply alerting people to its dangers, is my hope that public debate concerning such weapons as DU and their effects, might be generated more easily than debate about ‘the bomb’. I believe this might be so precisely because these weapons seem conventional, because their image isn’t one which automatically evokes such a sense of powerlessness and a consequent need for denial. Also because, by the same token, talking about them may not be perceived as breaking a security taboo (at least not as harsh a one). And, on the other hand, because DU, unlike conventional weapons and analogously to nuclear warheads, causes cumulative, insidious physical damage to “us” which is uncontrollable and just as lethal as its damage to the “enemy”.

 

I think such a debate about “incidentally” nuclear weaponry could possibly lead, in the long run, to heightened public attention to nuclear policy in general. It might gradually introduce a perception of the entire question at issue.

 

Depleted Uranium ammunition makes use of, and disseminates, radioactive waste material. You may recall that Calman Altman published an excellent article on it last year (first on the “aleph” list and then) in Ha’aretz. I believe the first reports on DU began circulating following the US-led war in the Persian Gulf in 1991. It was reportedly used by the US on an unprecedented scale in Bosnia and now seems to be widespread in Kosovo. Reports have it that Israel is one of the countries allowed to purchase DU ammunition from the US. For all we know it may be used routinely in Lebanon or in target practice on IDF firing ranges.

 

I have been following the subject for several years. Last year I reported on it to MK’s Naomi Chazan and Tamar Gozansky, after which each of them submitted a query to the Minister of Defense. His answers were inconclusive. Naomi Chazan told me, in a phone conversation, that she understood his answer to mean that the IDF is indeed in possession of DU ammunition (what the minister rejected were her claims of radioactivity and potential damage)…

 

From:  Dennis Flaherty, Secy, Amnesty International Military Profession’s group, UK

Date:  late 1999

 

I am working on behalf of Gulf War Veterans who believe that Prototype Depleted Uranium penetrators were first battlefield tested by IDF tank forces during the Yom Kippur war [in the early 1970s]...The IDF members who originally used DU Munitions may have been exposed to health hazards without being informed of the consequences…

 

From:  Prof. Colman Altman, Professor of Physics, Technion University, Haifa, Israel

Date:  January 27, 2000

 

It could well be that Prototype DU penetrators were first used by IDF tanks in the Yom Kippur war, as suggested by Dennis Flaherty. What is certain is that the IDF was already using Depleted Uranium before the Gulf War. I quote from The Samson Option by Seymour Hersh (Random House, 1991).  Referring to the Dimona reprocessing facility, Hersh writes (p.291):

 

“There is also a laser-isotope-reprocessing facility for the enrichment of uranium in Machon 9. Depleted uranium – that is, uranium with very little or no uranium 235 left – is chemically isolated in Machon 10 for eventual shipment to the Israeli Defense Force or sale to arms manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere for use in bullets, armor plating, and artillery and bomb shells. The shells, buttressed by the heavy uranium, which is much denser than lead, can easily penetrate thick armor plating AND ARE A STAPLE IN MODERN ARSENALS.”

 

In an e-mail to the alef list in 1998, I expressed my conviction that the anti-tank missile “Gill” (see Ha’aretz, 17 June 1998), “produced by RAPHAEL [Israeli weapons industry], and recently deployed in the infantry regiments in the army, is capable of penetrating any armored vehicle now operational in the Middle East” – was another depleted uranium missile in the IDF arsenal. I also expressed my conviction that tanks and troop carriers were reinforced with depleted uranium armor (protection against mines and missiles). Soldiers sitting daily in DU reinforced tanks would be exposed to low level gamma radiation from the uranium, and after many months would no doubt receive a quantity of radiation far above the permitted doses.

 

A statistical follow-up of cancer incidence among tank crews could be interesting. A similar follow-up of cancer incidence among Lebanese or Palestinians who were exposed to, and survived bombardment by Israeli tanks, would also be interesting.

 

From: Rela Mazali

Date: August 04, 2004

 

Just to update you: The Defense Minister Mordechai [in 1999] answered the Knesset queries with what seemed like a denial but was in fact simply evasive …However, it was later publicized by ex-officers from the Israeli navy that DU ammunition had in fact been in use in the navy. This was soon after the conflict in Kosovo and the bombing of Zagreb, when DU residue in Europe ‘blew up’ (briefly I must say) in the international news. At the time military authorities claimed that the use of this ammunition by the navy had been discontinued. Nothing was said about its use in any other part of the army, but I think it’s not unreasonable to conclude that it was (and possibly still is) used elsewhere too, for instance by the [Israeli] tank corps and the airforce. As usual, after one or maybe two press articles, the subject dropped out of sight in Israel and there was no public debate that I’m aware of…

 

“What Depleted Uranium is:  A more detailed look” by Leuren Moret can be found at http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MOR407A.html

 

*   *   *

August 10, 2004

A Direct Fax that Can Make a Difference

 

Your fax can significantly reduce funding to Israeli settlements in Palestine.  How?

 

Irving Moskowitz is a Miami resident who makes millions of dollars off the poor in California by running “non-profit” bingo parlors in low-income neighborhoods.  His money is used to support the most extremist right-wing elements in Israel – settler homes in Silwan, the Old City, Ras al-Ammud, and other Palestinian communities.  I have been at many actions trying to prevent these settlements from being constructed, and once arrested trying to prevent Moskowitz himself from driving up to survey his new property.

 

Right now there is a singular opportunity to cut off Moskowitz’s corrupt gambling operations in Hawaiian Gardens.  A flood of faxes can influence the regulatory agency not to renew Moskowitz’s gambling license, and thereby cut off this major flow of money into the settlements.

 

Please fax a letter to the Gambling Commission.  Mention their concerns – the rampant corruption accompanying these casinos and the neglect of the local community, on which the license is premised.

 

This campaign is being organized by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak and Jan Hunter, so contact them if you have questions (news@stopmoskowitz.org).

 

It’s good to work together from Israel & the U.S., each in our own way, on this.

 

*   *   *

September 2, 2004

Eviction Threat to Cave Dwellers

 

We need the help of decent people from all over the world to prevent the threatened expulsion by Israel of a powerless community of herders and farmers who live in caves in the Occupied Territories, with little connection to the outside world.

 

Fourteen Israeli organizations have joined together to help them, and are sponsoring a petition called:  “Stop the Eviction of Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills”.

 

Sponsoring organizations (all Israeli):

 

* Bat Shalom * Coalition of Women for Peace * Fifth Mother * Gush Shalom * HaCampus Lo Shotek [Campus Speaks Out] * Israel Committee Against House Demolitions * MachsomWatch * New Profile * Noga Feminist Journal * Public Committee Against Torture in Israel * Rabbis for Human Rights * Ta’ayush: Arab-Jewish Partnership * Women in Black (Israel) * Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Israel Section)

_________

 

To:  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Ministry of Justice Yosef Lapid

 

STOP THE EVICTION OF PALESTINIANS FROM THE SOUTH HEBRON HILLS

 

We, the undersigned, call upon the Israeli government to abandon all attempts to evict the Palestinian inhabitants of the south Hebron hills from their ancestral homes in the region.  Forcible expulsion of a population is reprehensible and a violation of international law.  Israel, as a member of the community of nations and a signatory to the Rome Convention of 1994, is committed to safeguarding the population of the occupied territories and is strictly forbidden from any attempt to change its residency status.  We further demand that the Israeli authorities protect this population from ongoing harassment and aggression by Israeli settlers in the area.

 

________________________________________________

 

Background Information

 

      We ask your help in preventing an emerging human and cultural tragedy in the south Hebron hills on the West Bank in territory occupied by Israel.

 

      This area is inhabited by a small Palestinian population of approximately 2,000 pastoralist herders and farmers living in caves carved out of the mountainside.  Their way of life is unique in Palestine, perhaps in the Middle East, as they have survived by farming the rocky hillsides and tending their flocks for at least 170 years.

 

      Today, their homes, fields, and way of life are under existential threat.  Israeli settlers have established a string of settlements and illegal outposts in this area and seek to annex the land in the immediately foreseeable future.  The Jewish settlers of Susya, Maon, Yatir, and other places in the Hebron hills are among the most militant and violent in the occupied territories, and they have turned the lives of the Palestinian cave-dwellers into a nightmare.

 

      With support from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Civil Administration, the settlers have systematically destroyed nearly 80% of the Palestinian’s cave-homes, in some cases going so far as to poison their wells.  In most cases, even simple agricultural work, such as sowing the fields or harvesting the crops, has become impossible; settlers and soldiers terrorize the Palestinian families and chase them at gunpoint from the fields.  Indeed, several of the cave-dwellers have even been shot by these militants.  In most cases, the IDF and Civil Administration have turned a blind eye to these crimes.

 

      Recently the cave-dwellers were informed that the Israeli government intends to permanently expel them from their villages and seize their lands.  The threat is real, credible, and immediate.

 

     We, a coalition of organizations in the Israeli peace movement, are trying to prevent this from happening.  A legal battle in the Israeli courts, led by human rights lawyer Shlomo Lecker and the staff of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, has temporarily granted these people the right to remain on their land.  However, there are now indications that the Israeli High Court of Justice will soon issue a decision that allows the IDF to evict the Palestinians and seize their land.

 

     We have joined together to help these people preserve their homes, their culture, and their human dignity.

 

     We need your help.  We feel now that only massive international pressure will be able to stop these heinous crimes. We ask you to help by signing this petition, and  forwarding it to colleagues and friends. We will ensure that it is brought to the attention of the Israeli authorities..

 

     Please help us protect these innocent families from falling victim to the conflict in the Middle East.

 

     In our experience as Israelis, serious petitions can be an effective tool in cases of this nature.

 

*   *   *

September 13, 2004

Peace Roundup at Year’s End

 

An update of several issues occupying the Israeli peace movement lately:

 

Palestinian cave-dwellers in the South Hebron Hills

In a ruling last week by Israel’s High Court of Justice, one small village of this community was given a 4-month reprieve from further destruction of its caves, wells, and animal sheds.  The bad news is that the residents are now required to obtain permits to legalize these structures, a nearly impossible task for Palestinians in the occupied territories, especially when nearby Israeli settlers covet the land.  Two of the presiding judges noted the absurdity of demanding a permit that is “unattainable”, in their words (Ha’aretz, 8 September).  Nevertheless, even a temporary reprieve was of crucial importance, and the judges’ words hold some encouragement for future disposition of this case, though the court will be hard pressed to rule these structures legal in the absence of Israeli building permits.

 

Israeli human rights activists, led by Ta’ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights, have been organizing to protect this community.  Three large ads were placed in last week’s Ha’aretz, each representing a different constituency:  prominent Israeli authors, anthropologists of internationally stature, and a coalition of 14 Israeli organizations working on the issue.

 

A parallel court case is even more dire:  The IDF is threatening a large number of cave-dwellers with eviction from the region, on the grounds that the army needs the land as a firing zone.  Yes, you read right.  Channel your anger into action, and sign one of our petitions, if you have not yet done so:

 

The Bingo Magnate

Unfortunately, our faxes did not make a difference here:  On August 19, the California Gambling Control Commission voted 3-0 to award Irving Moskowitz a conditional license to operate his bingo parlors.  Moskowitz, as many of you know, bankrolls some of the most extreme settlements in the West Bank out of proceeds from his casinos in the low-income LA suburb of Hawaiian Gardens.

 

Tali Fahima

For years, Israel has placed “wanted” Palestinians into “administrative detention” on just the signed order of an official, rather than due process, and these detentions can last for years.  (About 730 Palestinians are currently in administrative detention by the Israeli army, some for very extended periods.  See www.btselem.org.il.)  But what’s new is the arrest and detention of Tali Fahima, a 28-year old Israeli woman, who decided to cross the lines and see things for herself.  The military (and emotional) obstacles to entering Jenin are formidable, and this was a daring act, particularly for a Sharon supporter.  However, what Tali saw in Jenin seems to have changed her mind about things – she does not hide her new political views or friendship with the leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, who happens to be the most wanted man on Israel’s West Bank list.

 

Terrorism is deplorable, and this man boasts of his bloody exploits, but to jump from this to Tali’s aiding and abetting terrorism should be subject to due process.  Unfortunately, this case will be handled like many security cases in Israel (including that of nuclear whistleblower Vanunu) – without the defendant or her lawyer having access to the evidence, and therefore unable to prepare a proper defense.  The case gets decided between the security services and the judges, to whom the evidence is revealed.  The Coalition of Women for Peace and others are pressing for an open and fair trial, but the authorities are not impressed.  The Defense Minister (heaven knows why it’s his call) ruled that Tali would be held in detention for the coming 4 months, and this is renewable.  Security officials say they have “extensive and reliable” evidence to incriminate her, but they just can’t show it, as it would compromise their sources.  Now is that a fair trade – protecting these ‘upstanding’ sources at the expense of a fair trial for someone with no criminal record whatsoever?  The only democracy in the Middle East, did someone say?

 

The “Security Wall”

Sharon hated the wall to begin with, as it threatened to distinguish between Israel and the West Bank, which he seeks to annex, but now that the wall is routed deep inside the Occupied Territories, it’s a lot more palatable.  Except to the Palestinians, of course.  The latest egregious harm relates to the start of the school year, and the thousands of Palestinian children who cannot access their schools on the other side of the wall.  The women’s peace movement, Bat Shalom in particular, has been holding regular demonstrations in the large A-Ram neighborhood, where some 5,000 children are separated from their classrooms.  What about UNESCO?  Is there someone out there who can activate this or other international agencies for the protection of children?

 

The Refuseniks

Our joy could not be greater – to welcome home the five brave young men who refused to serve in the army of occupation and will be released from prison on Wednesday.  The peace movement will hold a big party in their honor, also as a way to encourage the other brave souls who are still in prison for refusing to serve, and those who are following in their footsteps.  Let’s hope the army does not renew the cycle of trying to recruit them.  The 5 honorees: Noam Bahat, Adam Maor, Haggai Matar, Shimri Tsameret and Matan Kaminer.

 

Travel

I’ll be traveling in the US in October together with two Palestinian women (Marianne Albina from Jerusalem and Hidaya Said Najmi from Jenin) as part of the Partners for Peace tour called “Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision”.  So I’ll be out of touch for a while.

 

Finally, on a personal note, this week is Rosh Hashana.  I quote from the wonderful New Year’s card issued by MachsomWatch, the women who monitor checkpoints in the territories:  “Happy New Year. A year of open roads, from town to town, from people to people, from person to person”.  Amen.

 

*   *   *

September 29, 2004

Settlers Attack CPT in Hebron

 

I just got off the phone from talking with two members of the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) – Diana Zimmerman and Diane Janzen – who are based in Hebron.  They told me the details of a terrible incident this morning, a story that has just begun to circulate:

 

It happened in the South Hebron Hills of the occupied territories near the settlement Ma’on and its satellite settlements.  This is the area where cave-dwelling Palestinians have frequently been attacked by the local settlers.

 

This morning, two members of CPT – Chris Brown (male, from San Franciso) and Kim Lamberty (female, from Washington, DC)  were walking a group of children from their homes in Tuba to their school in al-Tuwani – a function that CPTers perform regularly for the children in Hebron and have now extended to outlying areas.

 

At 7:15, five men suddenly lunged at the two from the side of the road where they had been waiting in ambush.  The men, wearing black scarves wrapped around their heads so that only their eyes were visible, assaulted the CPT volunteers with baseball bats and chains that they had brought with them.  Kim fell and remained down.  Chris remained standing for a while before falling, and continued to receive kicks and blows from the settlers.  The five settlers spoke English and Hebrew to each other while unleashing their blows, and then ran away.  The children had run off at the very beginning.

 

Chris and Kim remained conscious and used a cell phone to call their team, who reached them at 7:30.  Their teammates called the Israeli military in the area, who took half an hour to arrive (a trip that should have been much faster), and the two were evacuated to the hospital in Beersheba, where they remain hospitalized.  Kim has a broken arm and severe contusions of her right leg, leaving her unable to walk for a while.  She may need surgery on the arm.  Chris has a punctured lung, so a chest tube has been inserted.  He also had severe blows to his head, but we are hoping there is no further damage.

 

So what did CPT do?  They immediately sent a replacement team to the area, to ensure that the children will have someone to walk them to school tomorrow, if the children are brave enough to go.  They are also working closely with Ta’ayush, an Israeli peace organization active in this area, to see how the local people can be protected from the nearby settlers.

 

This incident follows on the heels of escalating violence by settlers, as plans for the evacuation of some settlements progress.  Yesterday, without provocation, a settler from Yizhar shot and killed a Palestinian at point blank range.  A UN vehicle was also attacked by a settler, though the driver managed to avoid injury.  Settlers are feeling the heat.  Peace activists have also stepped up activity.

 

*   *   *

November 24, 2004

License to Kill

 

It’s been a terrible week.  Our elderly cat was diagnosed with kidney failure, our newly built basement flooded with water at the first winter rains, and Yelena was stabbed to death right over our heads.

 

I didn’t hear Yelena’s screams, as some of my neighbors did, but was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by the police trying to bash down my door, in the search for her apartment.  When they found her one flight up, she was already dead, lying in a pool of blood with stab wounds to her neck and chest, two horrified daughters (aged 7 and 8) at her side, and a boyfriend who claimed that he killed her in self-defense because she attacked him.  Never mind that she was a graduate of a battered women’s shelter and he had 3 complaints of assault filed against him.  Never mind that she was 31, short and of slight build, and he 50, tall and solid.  Somehow he had to stab her multiple times to protect himself.

 

This week we mark International Day of Eliminating Violence Against Women, and I’d like to say a word about the culture of violence that is growing around us, in Israel, in the United States, and everywhere that people and nations that are big and powerful think they can solve problems by raising a knife or gun.

 

Killing, in all its many forms – crime, political assassination, suicide bombings, and the war against terror – doesn’t work.  Why not?  Because killing ultimately destroys more than it saves.  It destroys the victim, it destroys the families of the victims and perpetrators, it destroys masses of innocent bystanders, and it sends a message that violence is legitimate, thereby inviting another round of it.

 

Ask the Palestinian survivors who lived in the building as the terrorist who had a one-ton bomb dropped on his apartment, and were left to count the loved ones killed by that bomb.  Ask the Israeli parents who try to pick up the pieces of their lives after a suicide bomber has gutted a bus.  Ask those whose loved ones were wiped out in the Twin Towers.  Or the Iraqi children who live in Falluja as the U.S. army gave them a demonstration of bringing democracy to the world.

 

All killing is a crime.  And killing by governments becomes a role model for others.  Take Israel as an example, though this could be applied to Palestine, the U.S., or any country whose leaders practice or condone violence.

 

In the past four years, as the Palestinians justly seek their independence from occupation and Israeli leaders try to prevent it, violence has spiralled on both sides.  The results are not only more death in political action, and more bitterness and hatred, but also more violence in civilian society:  In the past four years in Israel, we have had more rape, more killing of women by their male partners, and more violence in schools by children.  The overlap between the “war on terror” and increased violence in the streets, homes, and schools is no coincidence.

 

A culture of violence filters down into society when its leaders use force to resolve problems.  This culture of violence – loosening the reins on the use of force – is not an invention of TV and movies (which have certainly overdone it), but begins by personal example of those who influence our values and norms: parents, political leaders, the most powerful nation on earth.  What are we to learn when a superpower, with all imaginable means at its disposal, uses violence?

 

So at a time when we are thinking about how to end violence against women, I submit that you can’t wipe it out without also addressing the example set by the state.  When power and violence dominate political strategy, governments are issuing a license to kill, and that trickles right down to us and the apartments over our heads.

 

 

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Int'l Human Rights March of Women, Jan 2004

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Masks of Tali Fahima to protest her trial, 2003. Photo: Gush Shalom

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Breaking Molly's shoulder at Bidu, April 2004

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Clouds of tear gas at Bidu, April 2004

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Scuffling with army in Gaza protest, May 2004

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Conquest of an armored bulldozer in Gaza. Photo: Yosefa Sartiel

2006 Gila Svirsky, Dispatches from the Peace Front available on www.gilasvirsky.com.  Please cite this full reference if you quote passages from the book.