ISM Reports: Day of Brutality in Deir Al Hatab

Published: Thu 21 Oct 2004 04:58 PM
ISM Reports: Day of Brutality in Deir Al Hatab
Four Activists Share their Stories
1. "Because I'm Crazy" Deir Al Hatab, West Bank
2. "Those who say that Israel maintains purity of arms and the moral high ground, I say, you either have not seen/experienced what I have experienced, OR you simply do not care."
A Day of Brutality in Deir Al Hatab
3. "They went for our media team who were standing alone taking pictures, this is a common tactic they use-if there are no pics or film it did not happen."
Report on Deir Al Hatab
4. "A Swedish man had a loaded and readied assault rifle pointed at his head-thesoldiers appeared to revel in their display of naked aggression."
Small victory in the face of violence
1. "Because I'm Crazy" Deir Al Hatab, West Bank
With crusty eyes and little sleep, 15 internationals awoke this morning at 6:45 am to prepare for a day of olive picking in Deir Al Hatab, a village very close to Nablus. After a short time of playing tunes on an itty bitty guitar I found in Rafidia to alleviate accruing stress, we conjured the motivation and energy needed to support our Palestinian farmer friends threatened by the Israeli settlement Elon Morah—the same settlement affecting Salem Village. The international activists were relatively new but had two days worth of experience after harvesting in Beit Furik.
We piled into our hero, the taxi driver's van and pulled away from our flat like a herd of clowns in a VW Beetle. The bumpy ride into the village, over boulders and through open sewage, massaged out some of the tension in our necks and backs. Personally, it helped push some of the funk out of my lungs, which were damaged by yet another fairly serious chest cold.
At the point of exit from the taxi, a family stood by in anticipation of our arrival. They wanted to continue onto their land, which at 8:30 am was already occupied by soldiers. We enthusiastically joined them as men put wooden ladders onto their shoulders and women carried bundled tarps on their heads. The internationals initialized cameras and mobile phones as we came up the rear. As soon as everything was laid out under the first olive tree and we began picking, a Jeep pulled onto the village road. Out stepped—take a guess—the same arrogant soldiers that tried to push us all down the mountain the week before.
Three internationals went to speak with the soldiers but their response was a stone thrown in their direction by one of the soldiers. Luckily, it missed. The soldiers pushed forward while the negotiating team moved backwards. Right away everyone assumed their planned positions and stuck to them as the soldiers approached and immediately began pushing us around for no reason. The man who appeared to be the leader of the troupes shook the Palestinian farmer's hand and patted him on the back as the other soldiers began kicking and punching the internationals. Needless to say, we were rather confused at their tactic and didn't quite understand who they were after. But they clarified their objectives when they said to us, "The Palestinians can pick their olives, but you can't be here." Obviously we were not their to escalate the situation and were only there because the family asked us to accompany them, so we quickly decided to move back provided the soldiers posed no threat to the Palestinians.
As we explained our position to the soldiers and began to move along, they spotted one of our coordinators "Ahmad" and asked him for his ID. Because he is from Balata Refugee Camp—a main target for Israeli forces in Nablus, they immediately reacted violently and began pulling on his arms and clothes with no explanation other than, "You're coming with us!" While the soldiers have no authority to arrest internationals, they are allowed to take Palestinians at will and because we knew how aggressive they were, we had no choice but to dearrest him through whatever means possible—or else he could face unspeakable torture if taken. This is a risk that Ahmad—only 25— has faced his entire life, especially when working and travelling with us; yet he continues to fight the occupation through non- violent means, and is an absolute inspiration to every activist.
I was the first to grab onto Ahmad while assuring him I wouldn't let go. I stood paired up with him as though we were in a kinder embrace, but I was terrified when I saw the soldier grab his neck and put him in a headlock as we all fell to the ground. I thought for sure that they were going to break his neck. I felt the most overwhelming sense of fear for his life. My face was deeply pressed into his stomach because of the international pileup and I nearly started crying. When he had the chance to barely lift his head, he looked up at me and said with a smile, "Haram! It's Ramadan!" We both started laughing even though we were still smashed between bodies. He meant it was haram—against God's will—to have all of the women on top of him, but I told him there must be an exception in this case.
Our group consisted of men and women of all ages and backgrounds, and every last one of them was a target. The soldiers had Ahmad's ID and were not willing to give it back, nor were they willing to let us leave unharmed. They continued to try and pull people off of the pile and began to beat the internationals walking about, especially those with cameras. The situation was total chaos, but the most organized chaos I have witnessed on behalf of the activists. No one broke down, no one gave in, and everyone looked out for each other, namely the Palestinians who continued to pick despite the turmoil at their feet. They were incredible!
We tried several times to talk the soldiers into checking Ahmad's ID so we could get it back and leave, but the majority of them were totally uninterested, as signaled to us by their completely blank and evil faces. We even tried to get up and move Ahmad away while "Kate" negotiated with the captain, but his buddies, blatantly disobeying orders, followed us as we walked away and repeated the first episode of beatings. Only this time they were really after the internationals.
When asked why they continued to beat us, the buzz cut soldier boy replied, "BECAUSE I'M CRAZY!" Another accused one of the activists of punching a soldier in the face. And yet another targeted a Swedish chap Greg (on his first day out with us) and really lit into him. The women did their best to create a shield, but it didn't stop the fuzzy hair soldier boy with a little freckle on his cheek from sticking his M16 into Greg's temple. ALL of the soldiers took notice of his outrageous action and began yelling, "Dye! Dye!" which we later found out meant, "Stop! Stop!" in Hebrew. I suppose they finally summoned some sort of conscious or perhaps work ethic and realized that shooting an unarmed international point-blank in the head wasn't kosher. They finally obeyed orders: retreated, let us all go, and even gave the confiscated Ids back to the village mayor.
Every last one of us was taken aback by their aggression. Internationals who were out there for the first time expressed how outraged they were at the soldiers' behavior. Of course, I wasn't completely surprised, but surprised at how well the Palestinians and activists reacted. At the end, no one was arrested, the Palestinians kept picking, and the most severe injuries thus far are bruises; although, I'm suffering what I can only describe as whiplash. What we didn't know at the time was that there was at least one press person taking pictures from atop the hill, but the soldiers got to him and deleted all of his photographs. Fortunately, our own media people did such a good job of filming and photographing, we managed to walk away with quite a bit of footage—only as a result of quick thinking and secretive handoffs.
So how do I feel about this? Personally, I'm just as affected as the first day I stepped into an action. But I have to say that with this new wave of activists I'm reassured that the message of freedom and justice for Palestine will continue to move throughout all circles and will eventually have a positive affect the outcome of this situation.
To be thanked at the end of the day by the village mayor—even though we really didn't do much other than get our "***" kicked—was nice, but it was even nicer to see the family walk away with bags full of olives. I can't help but think about the symbolism of the olive branch and how atrocious it is that Palestinians have to suffer so much hardship even after their repeated attempts to find peace for all people in Palestine.
It was a long day indeed, but I hope that our testimonies are worth something for those of you who can't be here with us or for those of you who just don't know what is happening.
2. "Those who say that Israel maintains purity of arms and the moral high ground, I say, you either have not seen/experienced what I have experienced, OR you simply do not care."
A Day of Brutality in Deir Al Hatab
Where to start – the shocking realities or the good times? Since I'm on the verge of tears, probably best to debrief. Please know that all my reports are meant to be shared with anyone – I want people to know what is really going on. If one of you will forward my reports to Tim Holden, my US Rep, and Arlen Spector, my Senator (not that it will do any good or that they will even read it) please do.
Our group,(there are approximately 15 of us now – several Americans, several Swedes, 2 English, 1 German, 1 Japanese, 1 Italian, 1 Dane) went with our Palestinian coordinators from the Balata Refugee Camp where we have been staying to Deir Al-Hatab, a village near the settlement Alon Moray, to assist with the olive harvest and provide an international presence. Although the villagers had a written permit to harvest (imagine having to get permission from your occupier to try to harvest the fields that provided your livelihood – and being given only 2-3 day to accomplish this task) they were quite frightened of the settlers up on the hill.
We had not been picking more than 15 minutes when a group of soldiers arrived (6 of them) and told us we had to leave. Several from our group tried to negotiate with them. They said that they would allow the Palestinians to continue picking but that we would have to leave. Then they demanded the ID from our Palestinian coordinator, a young man in his 20s (the most vulnerable of the Palestinian population are the young men – most every Palestinian male has spent time in Israeli prisons). Ahmad gave them his ID but then they attempted take him away. At that point a number of us piled on top of Ahmad to prevent this (this is called de-arresting). At that point things turned very ugly. This group of six soldiers viciously beat several of our ISM men on top of Ahmaqd – kicking, hitting with their guns, punching, grabbing their necks, noses & ears, trying to strangle them, pulling hair – all of us in the pile were yelling at the soldiers to stop. At one point I yelled, "This is purity of arms?"— it was obvious their intent was to both get our Palestinian coordinator and to hurt primarily the male internationals – though the women were not exempt.
Though I experienced nothing more than some rough shoving and pulling, several of the women were roughed up. At one point they said we could leave but they wanted Ahmad– we tried to get up and get him away from the soldiers, and at the same time retreat ourselves. But the soldiers advanced again and Jennifer, a young American from St. Louis was brutally kicked in the legs & punched in the stomach and back as she attempted to block a soldier from going after Ahmad. A number of us again piled on Ahmad to protect him and again the soldiers came around us punching and beating and threatening us, even pointing a gun at the head of the young Swedish man while he was down – it was at that point that the commander of the soldiers shouted "Dai, Dai" (enough, enough) and the soldiers retreated and we were allowed to leave.
I cannot express to you the rage, hatred, and cruelty that was manifesting in the faces of these soldiers. To Rabbi Forman of Rabbis for Human Rights who says that Israel maintains purity of arms and the moral high ground, I say, you either have not seen/experienced what I have experienced, OR you simply do not care. While we were on top of Ahmad, attempting to protect him, one of the soldiers said that if we were not gone in 10 minutes, that he would become crazy (toward us) – and you could tell by their expressions that there were no limits to their craziness.
To those in my own Jewish community who say that things like this don't happen, that the Israeli Army is a defense force, I say there are no benevolent occupiers. Occupations breed cruelty. If we are, each of us, responsible for the nextn generation, then what are we teaching them? What are the Israelis teaching their children that their soldiers act with such gross injustice and violence? What are we teaching our children if we do not take a stand and say this is immoral and unjust?
There was an AP reporter who was filming what had transpired (we didn't know this until afterwards when he joined us) and the soldiers went after him and deleted all his film. Fortunately some of our group were able to take pictures and footage –though one our camera people was viciously attacked and the soldiers tried to break the fingers of the Japanese young man – and film was shared with the AP reporter.
After we called Rabbis for Human Rights (someone remarked this morn that it is telling that it's RHR, not Rabbis for Justice – a marked difference) several of their members showed up and took reports from all those who had been beaten, as well as to take photographs of the bruises the soldiers inflicted. ISM had already taken photographs.
To say that I was so "ashamed" at Israeli soldiers is such gross understatement – I'm sitting here with tears running down my face that we Jews, who have known centuries of oppression, have turned into oppressors. Its one thing to read and hear these things from legitimate sources and quite another to see and experience the reality – its harrowing. But the fact is that I, and the other internationals, can go home when we want – despite the cruelties and inconveniences that we experience and the risks that we take, we can eventually go home, the Palestinians cannot. They deal with these situations(and much, much worse) day in and day out; they cannot escape. Where is the voice of the world to cry out against these crimes?
When GWBush was "selected," I often bemoaned the lack of young people to protest against him – there didn't seem to be a popular resistance like there was in the 60s – I would often say "where are the young people?" I'm happy to report that many of them are here in Palestine, putting their lives on the line for an oppressed people; living the non-violent precepts of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
I am so honored to be among them.
Please continue to hold us all in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, dreams, visualizations, dances, etc – whatever your practice is, please send that energy to ISM and the Palestinian people. After the incident with the soldiers today I recalled that I had stood yesterday on a hill with many olive trees beneath me and a breathtaking panorama spread out in front of me – suddenly a hawk swooped down into the valley in front of us. Many of you know that Hawks are my favorite bird and when I see them, I feel they are a good signe – one of the symbolisms of the Hawk is, in fact, guardianship and protection. I can't but help wondering if yesterday's appearance of the Hawk was a promise of protection.
I wish you could see the stamina of the Palestinian people – not only their physical stamina (I've realized just how soft and privileged [and out of shape] I am) but their spirit - how they deal with having their roads torn up (huge deep trenches dug or mountains of dirt over their roads) by settlers and soldiers who seek to harass and keep them from their fields, the polluting of their water sources by soldiers, etc. They have much more bravery and fortitude than I.
Till Later – Yalla Shalom!!
3."They went for our media team who were standing alone taking pictures, this is a common tactic they use-if there are no pics or film it did not happen." Report on Deir Al Hatab
Early in the mornign we arrived in the village of Dear Al-Hatab to the east of Nablus to help the local villagers with their annual olive harvest. The villagers are afraid to pick on their own because of the real danger of settlers and soldiers beating them up, chasing them away and stealing there olives. A few weeks earlier an old man, who we saw in the hospital after the attack, from a village nearby was stoned whilst in one of his trees harvesting and fell to the ground and beaten. In another incident a Palestinain child was beaten by settlers demanding that they leave their own land.
At aproximately 9am a team of 18 ISMers arrived at the olive grove, where we were expecting to stay all day. Five mins after we arrived an army jeep arrived and six soldiers jumped out. Immediately three ISMers went to negiociate with the soldiers. The captain very nicely greeted the three by throwing a stone in their direction. Quickly all the soldiers were coming towards the rest of the group who were staying back with the palestinain farmers. The internationals who had first gone up to talk to the soldiers did a good job slowing them down so as to give the rest of the group time to prepare.
The captain told us that we had to leave whilst his companions tried and failed to grab the cameras out of our designated media three. Our focus was being drawn towards the centre of our group as our local co-ordinator Ahmad who was being questioned about where he was from. One of the soldiers took his ID and demanded that he be given Ahmad's backpack. The soldiers began to drag Ahmad away. At this point internationals who had been in close proxcimity got between them to stop him from being taken away to an uncertain and most likely brutal fate. The co-ordinators neck was grabbed by a soldier and he along with the group aound him all fell to the ground.
At this point the soldiers looked puzzled and confused at what to do with a group of 5 internationals piled ontop of one suffocating man , so they proceeded to use force and violence against the pile of covering internationals. After a few minutes of this they changed tactics and went for our media team who were standing alone taking pictures, this is a common tactic they use becasue if there are no pics or film-it did not happen. Some of the ISMers who were not in the organised pile began to block the army from taking the cameras and hurting the internationals. The Israeli soldiers at this point they were becoming very violent and sadistic.
As the soldiers attention was drawn away from the local co-ordinator we decided to try and leave with him. We passed around 10metres when four soldiers tried again to grab him. The cluster of international bodies fell to the ground and the bunch of soldiers began to beat the group around Ahmad. Various means were used to try and release us from him including eye gouging, being picked up by the nostrols, being kicked, using buts and fronts of guns and punched.
During all this time the captain stood idly by as those under his command used violence and brutality against unarmed internationals. The soldiers again tried to take our cameras and as their attention was drawn away two internationals and our local co-ordinator managed to escape.The ISMers who were left skillfully negociated successfully for Ahmads ID to be returned. Practically every single international had some sort of bruise or injury. No palestinains were injured or arrested.
4."A Swedish man had a loaded and readied assault rifle pointed at his head-the soldiers appeared to revel in their display of naked aggression."
Small victory in the face of violence
This morning 18 internationals arrived at the olive fields near Dear Al-Hatab at the request of Palestinian local as their fields lie next to Elon Morei an Israeli settlement. At about 09:30 Israeli soldiers arrived, three (3) ism went to negotiate with the soldiers but were met with aggression. A stone was thrown by the soldiers who then charged through the negotiators towards the main group, we were ordered to leave, They (the soldiers, six (6) in total) told us that the Palestinians would be left in peace provided we (internationals ) left. The local farmers agreed it would be better if we left under these circumstance.
As we were preparing to leave the area the soldiers grabbed one of our Palestinian coordinators from the group and made as if to arrest him, they were very aggressive in the way they were handling so the rest of the group intervened, got him away from the soldiers and piled on top of him to prevent him being taken.
The soldiers then started hitting and kicking everybody in the pile in order to make us get away from our Palestinian coordinator, We refused to leave the area without him and the soldiers became more aggressive, on several occasions I was grabbed by the nose and had my head lifted in order that a choke hold be applied to my throat, I was punched many times in the back of the head and at one stage had a rile butt slammed in to my ribs causing bruising. The soldiers made no distinction between men and women and assaulted and marked many members of the group.
A Swedish man had a loaded and readied assault rifle pointed at his head-the soldiers appeared to revel in their display of naked aggression.
At the first available opportunity we got our coordinator and two of us accompanied him out of the area. ( I do not think I have ever run so far and so fast in my life. One of the soldiers had accused me of punching him, this is a lie-even I am not stupid enough to strike an armed man )
I am pleased to report that we got our Palestinian coordinator away from their clutches and remaining members successfully negotiated for his i.d. to be returned. The farmers managed to get their olives and any injuries sustained are superficial.
This appears to be a deliberate attack on International observers.

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