New Palestinian resistance camp

Published: Thu 18 Dec 2003 12:56 AM
New Palestinian resistance camp / and ISM in the Daily Star
1) New Palestinian resistance camp in Deir Ballut to start this Friday 2) Activist say Israel hides human rights abuses_The Daily Star
For more information contact: Fatima Khaldi at +972 (0)67-514-783 or IWPS at +972 (0)9-251-6644
A group of Palestinian, international, and Israeli activists have chosen the village of Deir Ballut, in the Salfit Governorate, as the site for the next round of activities in opposition to Israel's continued building of Phase II of the Apartheid Wall. Building on the lessons of the successful Mas'ha camp, which brought enormous international attention to the political motives behind the wall, these activists will create a two-week continual presence on their land that is threatened by the building of the wall. Activists have chosen a primary school that is now under construction approximately in the path of the on-coming wall. The camp will function as a center for the dissemination of information about the Apartheid Wall, a planning and strategy forum for resistance to the Wall, and a starting point for various resistance activities in Deir Ballut and neighboring villages. The camp's activities will begin on Friday, December 19.
Deir Ballut and the Occupation:
Deir Ballut is an extremely fertile area, which grow a lot of summer crops for the entire Salfit region. Before 1948, the village owned 40,000 dunums of land (10,000 acres). In 1967, 20% of the land of Deir Ballut (or 2,000 acres) was confiscated into Israel. Since then, like so many other villages in Palestine, Deir Ballut has been subjected to almost continual land theft for Israeli settlements, bypass roads, and military bases. The Oslo agreements of 1993 which divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C caused a huge problem for Deir Ballut and the two nearby villages of Azzawiye and Rafat. The three villages together own 370,000 dunums of land but about 80% of the land falls into Area C, which is under Israeli control.
Recently, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) prohibited Deir Ballut, Azawiye and Rafat from building an agricultural road to connect the villages, saying that they had already informed the Mayors not to build on 'Israeli land'. The Mayors then demanded to know how much land the Occupation Authorities consider to be 'Israeli land' and were shocked to discover that 345 000 dunums out of 370 000 dunums is either said to be 'Israeli land' or 'Area C'. The three villages only have the right to build on 25,000 dunums, according to the Israeli Occupation authorities. In Deir Ballut, only the village itself plus 150 dunums of land remain in Area A (where Palestinians can build without permits from Israeli authorities). One hundred houses fall into Area C and are not 'permitted'.
Life is made even more difficult because the IOF have set up a checkpoint with an armed concrete watchtower between Deir Ballut and the nearest city, Ramallah. The checkpoint is closed from dusk till dawn which poses a serious problem for night emergencies.
Twenty-two Palestinian families (90 people) live in 14 houses on the other side of the checkpoint which now totally separates them from their village. The residents were not allowed to take part in the Eid feast this year, and schoolteachers are often prevented from going to the village to teach. They worry about what would happen to them in a medical emergency or during a curfew - like the one imposed by the IOF on 8 December 2003. On this day, the IOF moved into Deir Ballut at 5am and closed the checkpoint, trapping dozens of Palestinian cars between the village and Rafat for more than 4 hours. This has happened many times.
To add to the villagers' worries, no-one knows what will happen after the wall is built. The village is in an area that is between the Green Line and the wall, leaving them in limbo as to their status. In the first half of 2003, Israeli soldiers took all the identity numbers of the residents and told them that "after a certain period" they would not be able to get into Deir Ballut without special permission. Most of the second phase of the wall has been communicated in this type of vague language to villagers. A rumour is circulating in Deir Ballut that 'an Israeli guy' told a worker at the Palestinian Ministry of Interior that he 'should be ready to cancel 40 000 Palestinian identity cards because we want to issue those Palestinians with Israeli cards.'
What is not a rumour is that on March 25th, the Mayor of Deir Ballut received a visit from the US State Department. They told the Mayor that they had read an article about the Apartheid Wall and they asked if the village would be prepared to be annexed into Israel. The village flatly refused.
Deir Ballut decides to resist
The Apartheid Wall is a project of massive proportions. It destroys Palestinian land and property, separates villages from their agricultural lands and water resources, and illegally expands Israeli territory. It will take an enormous amount of action from the Palestinian, Israeli, and International communities to pressure Israel to stop building it. The Wall is simply the new face of the continuing illegal Occupation of Palestinian land. In the face of such a huge threat, it is especially important to take action on the ground.
The activists behind the Deir Ballut camp believe firmly that every struggle is led by the people, not by government representatives or political negotiators. The people directly affected by the wall must take steps, with Israeli and International allies, to protest and oppose this wall in strategic and effective ways. It is nonviolent direct action against the wall which will expose its true motives: Zionist expansionism for political and fundamentalist reasons.
Nonviolent civil resistance will help to demonstrate that the wall does damage to Palestinian life. The camp in the village of Mas'ha, a neighboring village to Deir Ballut, existed for over 5 months, and emerged as a center of information and relationship building between activists. Over 1,000 people visited the camp, including hundreds of journalists. Mas'ha camp put the issue of the wall on the world stage. Now it is time to take further steps against the wall in Deir Ballut.
The camp's activities will include resistance activities at the checkpoint, at nearby Wall gates where farmers are prohibited from accessing their land, a day of action for students in local schools, visits by journalists, solidarity visits to and from people from local regions who are affected by the Wall, and a program of speaking and strategy sessions about effective civil resistance techniques.
2) Activists say Israel hides human rights abuses Occupiers arrest, deport nonviolent objectors Efforts of Palestinian-led peace movement, whose members include Americans, Israelis, meet fierce resistance from Sharon government
Laila al-Haddad Special to The Daily Star
GAZA CITY: They leave comfortable, safe environments to live in one of the most volatile areas in the world, often putting themselves in the direct path of danger. In the US and many parts of Israel they are considered traitors to the fight against international terrorism ­ human shields defending dangerous criminals. Elsewhere they are thought of as unsung heroes. Either way, their work usually goes unnoticed.
They are the volunteers of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group which describes itself as a Palestinian led nonviolent movement of Palestinian and international activists working to raise awareness of the Palestinian plight and bring an end to the Israeli occupation.
More than 1,500 volunteers from around the world have participated in activities organized by the movement since it was founded more than two years ago. Some 20 percent of these volunteers have been Jewish.
So far, however, their efforts have been met with fierce resistance. Two ISM volunteers, Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, who were both stationed in Rafah in the southern end of the Gaza Strip, have been killed by Israeli troops despite clear markers indicating their civilian status. One other, Brian Avery, was critically wounded in Jenin earlier this year when Israeli machine-gun fire hit him in the face.
According to a plan drafted by the Israel Army and the foreign and defense ministries earlier this year, Israel has decided to bar pro-Palestinian activists, such as ISM volunteers, from entering the country and will try to expel many of those who are already here. Dozens of ISM activists have already been arrested and denied entry.
In further confirmation that these new tactics are now policy, another ISM volunteer was arrested and taken to court last week. As she got off a bus in Tel Aviv, Radhika Sainath was approached by undercover Israeli police officers who accosted her in a dramatic public display before locking her up.
"What does the Israeli government have to fear from nonviolent civil disobedience against the occupation that it would spend so much time, money and energy on the abduction and arrest of a 25-year-old female US nonviolent human rights activist?" asked Sainath. Sainath had been arrested once before, in November 2002, along with nine other activists during a peaceful march by Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners against the construction of the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank village of Jayyous. Now under house arrest, she says these latest Israeli actions are further proof that resistance of any kind to the occupation, even nonviolent, will not be tolerated.
"My arrest is yet another example of the efforts by the Israeli authorities to prevent nonviolent groups like ISM from supporting Palestinians in nonviolent resistance to the occupation and to the construction of the wall deep within the West Bank, and to stop groups like ISM from getting information out to the world about the daily human rights violations committed against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories," said Sainath, who is in the process of suing Israel.
Sainath says her arrest and attempted deportation by Israeli authorities took place away from the eyes of the press and without access to her lawyer. "They are afraid that a legal suit like mine will publicly demonstrate that the methods they are using to crush nonviolent opposition in the Occupied Territories are both illegal and immoral," she added.
Sainath's is the latest in a string of Israeli arrests, deportations, and incidents of harassment of human rights workers in general, and ISM volunteers in particular, serving in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Patrick Connors, an American aid worker who was based out of the occupied Palestinian territories for three years, was denied entry and imprisoned upon trying to return to Gaza earlier this year to continue work for a humanitarian agency.
Connors volunteered with ISM from October 2002 to January 2003, when he helped Palestinian farmers access their land during the olive harvest and Palestinian communities to peacefully protest against the separation wall being built on their land in the West Bank. "Israeli authorities cited my participation in protests and my association with ISM as their reason (for denial of entry). But all my work and actions supported humanitarian aid, human rights and nonviolent activities, all of which is in the interests of the Palestinian and Israeli people," said Connors, who was among the first of the activists to take his case to court. "My case and other cases like it show that the Israeli government treats nonviolent support for Palestinian rights as a security threat. This leaves few opportunities for achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Unfortunately, the Israeli court system, which in a democracy should serve as a check on the government, instead is serving to legitimize Israeli government violations of international law."
Human rights activists who attempt to take their cases to the Israeli courts are faced with an increasingly tainted judiciary and seldom succeed in attaining their desired result. Leading Israeli human rights lawyer Shamai Liebowitz, who is representing both Connors and Sainath among others, says he has no doubt of the Israeli government's motivations. "The Israeli government is very suspicious of human rights activists for two reasons. They monitor human rights abuses and are able to record severe cases of humiliation and torture by soldiers and settlers, and the Israeli government doesn't want the world to see this," explained Liebowitz.
"Also, it is because they are helping to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and this is at odds with the government's portrayal of the Palestinians as one big mob of terror," he continued. While Liebowitz says some of the individuals he has represented have been successful in re-entering the country, ISM activists in general face much more difficulty.
"They are portrayed as an organization that aids international terrorism in Israel," he said. In a manner that is eerily Kafkaesque, the activists are not told why they are being arrested or denied entry. The evidence against them is "secret" and the court proceedings all but a charade, as Connors explains.
"I was not allowed to enter Israel from Egypt to testify at my own hearing in Beer Sheva, even handcuffed and under Israeli police guard. Two Israelis present at my hearing, one a rabbi, were not allowed to testify on my behalf. I was accused based on 'secret materials' which were given only to the judge by the Israeli General Security Services, and which we could not refute because we had no access to them," said Connors of the events leading up to his trial and appeal.
"They could have invented false information but we'll never know," said Liebowitz. "They want to keep it completely arbitrary and arrest them and try the cases in the most humiliating of manners. That's part of the policy, to make them reconsider whether or not they want to return to work here," he added.
The ISM volunteers are left with few alternatives. They can try to sue the State of Israel for libel, as Sainath is doing, or simply make more appeals to an increasingly jaded press. Either way, says Liebowitz, the fact remains there is a very disturbing truth underlying the Israeli government's ruthless stance against human rights activists.
"From all these cases, one can make the solid conclusion that Israel has a lot to hide in the occupied Palestinian territories. But this will only give (the activists) more incentive to keep on trying to return."
"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." Robert F. Kennedy

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