Thursday, July 31, 2014

Night time burglary

We got back close to midnight, and received a call from a Palestinian shop owner (Shaadi and Abed, the guys whose house was broken into last week) that settler kids were breaking into a gated off alley where his store used to be before soldiers closed it down several years ago, but he had some of his belongings.

We got down there with members from CPT and TIPH, and could actually see the teens coming down a ladder into the backlane. The DCO (District Co-odinating Office)- which is to be called so they can call the police- was called like 4 times both by the brothers and a CPT member. 

Not surprisingly, nothing happened. 

Exasperated, some of us ran to a nearby army base and notified a soldier on duty that settlers were breaking into a Palestinian store. The soldier is a young guy who I have seen before and is very polite, and I truly believe he means well. He immediately notified the others on the base. We made sure to thank him.  The group of soldiers went on a leisurely stroll to where we were, and began talking to the brothers.

Amazingly, at that very moment, the thieves came back and could be seen moving around in the alley. 

One of the brothers saw them, and pointed them out to the soldiers. The soldiers slowly walked back to the base, and then... nothing. I followed them along with two CPTers, and I asked the soldier on duty if they are going to do something to stop the thieves. He said of course, it's his job. He also told me that the thieves are "just stupid kids, we'll catch them". 

Then we got a phone call from ISMers who were with the brothers, that the thieves could be seen a third time in the alley, this time climbing up the ladder, carrying sacks. The soldier notified his friends, and they slowly walked over the alley on the roofs, looking down. 

When they got to where we were, lo and behold, the thieves were gone. 

The soldiers told us they will investigate tomorrow and that many of the settlers "are only children who have backpacks and travel from place to place so it's hard for us". However, they removed the ladder that was used to get down into the alley. 

The soldiers' lack of urgency, as opposed to their response to what happens when Palestinians oppose them (or are just randomly falsely accused of doing things they aren't guilty of) is depressingly noticeable and obvious.

Palestinian kids who would break into an Israeli settlement would be immediately arrested, if not worse. The soldiers would not be slowly walking back and forth, that is for sure.

"This is not your business"- photos and videos from that night

Soldiers stop the three Palestinian men, as well as an older woman who was with them.

The Palestinian men being taken away.

Soldiers taking photos of international activists and Palestinian neighbours.

Soldiers threaten people and shine lights into our faces.

More photos being taken.

More and more soldiers gather at the scene, and more settlers come in to join the "fun".

Settler girls and soldiers (1)

Settler girls and soldiers (2)

Having fun with cellphones during the "party".

Settler girls and guys, hanging out with soldiers. Behind them, three innocent men have been taken away.

Video of the incident: soldiers take the Palestinian men away, and later throw sound grenades into the crowd. 

Settler girls and soldiers shining lights into our faces

"This is not your business"

Around 10:00 PM Tuesday night, 3 Palestinian men were detained by the army after one of them got mad after a soldier made an offensive comment in Hebrew to some Palestinian women.

 The soldiers detained him, then settlers showed up and according to the Palestinians, pointed out 2 men who should also be arrested. I did not see this happen, when we came out, we saw the three men being made to stand against the wall. 

There were a few settlers, mostly teenage girls, who were laughing and clearly enjoying the spectacle.

The soldiers eventually moved aggressively towards thePalestinian men, and began forcefully marching them away.

Some Palestinian neighbours and internationals came out, asking the soldiers why the men were being detained. Some people began arguing with the soldiers, who began ordering everyone to move back, and threatening to make arrests. I was told if I did not move back I would be arrested, so I moved back temporarily, and continued filming. I and others began asking the soldiers what the men had done to them, and could they give us a reason for their detention. We got either silence or threats in response. 

The soldiers eventually threw two sound grenades into the crowd in an effort to disperse people. Neither the Palestinians or us left, so they continued threatening us before the Palestinian men were marched away.

During this time, more teenage settler girls and young women gathered, and they began laughing and taking photos of themselves beside the soldiers. Some of them joined the soldiers as they shone flashlights into our faces and cameras. It was like a sick carnival for them, at the expense of the Palestinians who just watched three people get detained for no reason.

The men were released some 2 hours later.

A brief reflection

Several times during this late evening, we were told by the Israelis that "this is not your business". I strongly disagree. The reason I am here and that other ISMers and activists- as well as the courageous Palestinian neighbours in that area who came out and continue to come out when others are being arrested and detained and worse- are here because justice being done is our business. Whenever people are being abused and harmed and mistreated, everyone has a responsibility to do something. 

Jesus said "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness". We can't hunger and thirst for justice, and do nothing when innocent people are being abused. If we are Christians, either we follow Jesus, or we don't. It's really that simple.

Ironically, in some ways, some non-Christians follow His teachings better than some Christians do. All of the Palestinians who were out there that evening to stand up for these people are Muslim, and all of my fellow ISMers currently in Hebron who are with me, are non-Christians. They also happen to be some of the most courageous people I know, and are a lot of fun to hang around with. We have a bond that would be difficult to explain to anyone who isn't with us. 

Of course, works alone do not bring salvation and without the cross there isn't hope for anyone- I pray that everyone will get to know Him one day.  

Destroyed homes

A Palestinian family inside a house that was partially rebuilt last year, after being demolished in 2012. It isn't completely rebuilt yet. The father was at work when we came.

The ruins of their house. It was destroyed because it was too close to the "security fence". (1)

The ruins of their house. It was destroyed because it was too close to the "security fence". (2)

The security fence, as can be seen from the house.

The home that is still being rebuilt.For the moment, the family live in a trailer.

The ruins of another destroyed home. The Israeli Government did not even give a reason to its Palestinian owners as  why it was destroyed. (1)

The ruins of another destroyed home. The Israeli Government did not even give a reason to its Palestinian owners as  why it was destroyed. (2)

The ruins of another destroyed home. The Israeli Government did not even give a reason to its Palestinian owners as  why it was destroyed. (3)

Some of the children in a Palestinian family who received a demolition order on July 3rd. Their home was built without a permit. They have no idea when the bulldozers will come.

Women In Hebron

Nawal shows us one of the products that the women make. Others are working at the sewing machines. The last three photos at the bottom show some of the products they make.

To learn more about them and if you want to order some of their products, you can visit:

Home demolitions

Last night, some of us ISMers went to a town called Idna, have supper with a group called Women in Hebron. They are a non-profit fair trade co-operative that makes hand-made embroidery, as well as keffiyahs (Palestinian scarves) and wool blankets. The women hosted us and served us a delicious supper, comprised of sticky rice and chicken, and different types of salad.

After supper, we went for a drive in the countryside. We met a few Palestinian villagers. The countryside in Palestine is beautiful- very rocky and hilly. One can see shepherds with flocks, and people riding donkeys.

I've never lived in the countryside and personally wouldn't want to- here or in Canada, or anywhere else. I'm city slicker. However, millions of people across the world live in rural areas, either by necessity or by choice.

One of the issues that Palestinian villagers face that rural dwellers in Canada don't- are home demolitions. The Israeli Government is infamous for destroying many thousands of Palestinian homes. We came across two demolished houses, and met a family who have received a notice on July 3rd, that their home will be destroyed.

Homes are demolished for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a demolition is a form of collective punishment on the family of someone who went out and killed Israelis. In the West Bank, rarely is this the case... and of course, the homes of families of Israelis who do such things to Palestinians are not demolished. Nor should they be. A person who goes out and murders innocent people, whether the perpetrator is Israeli or Palestinian, alone should face punishment. Destroying the home of his or her family is wrong. Yet Palestinian families are the only ones who face such collective punishment.

Most Palestinian homes that are demolished however are not because someone in them went out and killed Israelis. Most demolitions happen because a house was built "illegally". Of course, this applies to most Palestinian homes, because Israel makes it very difficult for people to get permits. This happens also in East Jerusalem.

Many Palestinian homes also have been demolished to make way for Israel's "security fence". The barrier is often called a "separation fence", but it is really more about annexation. It cuts into the West Bank, and takes large parts of land into Israel. It was built allegedly as a defensive measure against suicide bombers (who did several years ago launch attacks that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians... while at at the same time the Israeli army was killing thousands of Palestinians- also mostly civilians- in its attacks. One form of murder was termed as "terrorism" by the Western media, the other as "self-defence". You can guess which was called which), but instead of "separating" the West Bank from Israel, it stole and continues to steal large parts of land from Palestinians. Homes that are too close to the barrier also are destroyed.

A house demolition would be a traumatic thing for anyone. The Israeli Government seems to go out of its way to add as much suffering and humiliation as possible.

A Palestinian family who are facing such a calamity are given a notice that their home will be demolished and why, but one piece of information that is missing, is when. A demolition can happen a few days, a few weeks, a few months after. No one really knows, and that seems to be the point. People are kept in suspense and fear.

When a demolition takes place, a bulldozer shows up, with several armed soldiers. According to Palestinians we spoke to, a family is given a few minutes, sometimes as little as two, to get what they can out of the building. The soldiers are armed with teargas, sound bombs, and ammunition ("rubber" and live), in case people try to protest what is about to happen to them.

Sometimes, to spare the soldier and bulldozer driver from stress, the demolitions happen in the morning, when the men are off at work and women are either walking kids to school or are in the market. A family will sometimes come home and see there is nothing left of the building.

A demolition is not cheap, and families will be ordered to pay a fine to cover the cost of their livelihood being destroyed. There have been cases where Palestinians have had to destroy their own houses, so they could be spared from the fees.

Such injustices and abuses happen here on a systematic and regular basis. They cause anger, which sometimes leads to extremism and which sometimes manifests itself in acts of violence when people join armed groups and carry out attacks against Israelis. These attacks, though I do not support them, are relatively few in the West Bank. Most of the violence is carried out by the Israeli army and settlers against Palestinians. The violence manifests itself in overt forms like settler attacks and shootings of demonstrators, and also in less noticeable forms (for the Western media); like house demolitions, checkpoints, and other ways used to make life as difficult for the Palestinians here as possible.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Videos of the incident

The video below was taken by ISM. It is edited for length, since many people were filming.

The video shows Tzippi chasing the Palestinian girl, and then soldiers entering the Shamsia house and forcing the father of the house to open the closet so they can search it. It also shows one of the ISMers being questioned, before they took him and 5 Palestinians away.

Me and another ISM activist talking to one of the soldiers in the Shamsia house. We asked him why he is in their house, and why is he allowing settlers to be in their backyard. The soldier was visibly getting annoyed, but that is alright. It is our job to challenge them when they abuse human rights.

Pictures of July 28 incident

The settler woman, who identifies herself as Tzippi, filming Palestinian kids
Settler kids gather close to a Palestinian's porch. The little girl by the wall is Palestinian.

Some Palestinian kids react to Tzippi by filming her. This helped drive her into more of a rage.

More Israeli soldiers show up. They began pushing Palestinian kids with cameras around, while allowing Tzippi to continue filming.

Tzippi pointing a person out to the police. Everyone she had arrested for "assault" was released after several hours.
Tzippi with somesettler children gather in the backyard of the Shamsi family. Their mother and some Palestinian children look on. 

A Palestinian boy stands up to a soldier. His mother is also filming.

Soldiers prepare to enter and search a man's house. He can be seen on the cellphone.

Armed police officer in the Shamsi family house

Armed soldiers and police in the home.

While the army and police were in the Shamsi home, we kept filming them and asking what right do they have to be in the family's home. One of them is clearly unhappy that his abuse of human rights is being questioned.

The police car which drove one of the ISMers and two Palestinians to the station, for an 8 hour long detention.

Teenage settler youth gather at the scene of the confrontation. Neither the police or army made any attempt to remove them, though they tried to tell Palestinians to go back to their homes, and to stop filming.

Settler response to bubbles

Less than an hour after the Palestinian kids and us had fun with the blowing of the bubbles, there was a response.

An angry settler woman who is infamous for causing problems for Palestinians in Tel Rumeida, stormed down into our neighbourhood with about a dozen Israeli settler children, and began to accuse the Palestinian kids of attacking hers. She took out a big camera and began to get very close to their faces aggressively, filming. One of the Palestinian boys began filming her with his camera. Some Palestinian adults showed up and then so did soldiers, and began pushing them and the Palestinian kids around. Scuffles broke out between some of the Israeli and Palestinian children. Some of them were also very visibly annoyed with Tzipi, and one of them was trying to tell her to stop, but she was having none of it.

The settler woman saw a young Palestinian woman and began to get very aggressive, pointing the camera in her face, before chasing her. She and some of the settler kids chased her into her backyard, and the soldiers followed. The settler woman shoved the Palestinian girl and before she was able to again, one of our activists stood between her and the Palestinian.

The settler woman began yelling that the ISMer elbowed her in the face. Numerous police began to show up, and the ISMer as well as 5 Palestinians were taken to the police station. They were kept there for 8 hours. Although no one was beaten, one of the Palestinian men was kept in handcuffs the entire time. Despite being kept in the station for 8 hours, no one was offered any water or food. Inexplicably, the ISM activist said that when you enter the station, the first thing you see is a creepy picture of a clown. He was asked questions about what happened, as were the other Palestinians. Eventually they were released, since it was clear that no assault on the settlers took place.

Despite this, our fellow activist was banned from Hebron for 15 days. The Palestinians were threatened with a fine of 3,000 shekels if they are seen in the police station again... in spite of the fact they did not launch any attacks in the first place. They have no way of knowing when the next time they end up in a police station may be, since there is no way of knowing when a settler may decide to make another false accusation.

Eid is a time of celebration for Muslims, and a very big deal for Palestinians in Hebron. Families get together, feast, drink (non-alcoholic beverages), invite people over. Five of them spent most of the day in a police station, one of them handcuffed- because of a lie that someone maliciously concocted.

An as interesting aside, one of the policemen that day exchanged some words with one of the ISMers. He told the ISMer that the settler woman causes problems all the time, and that personally, "I've had it up to here with the settlers". He said that he knew that the Palestinians that were being arrested were probably innocent.

In Exodus 20:16, the following commandment was given to Moses from God:

 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Pictures will be put up in the next few hours.

Operation Bubbles

Yesterday (Monday July 28) was Eid... a Muslim holiday which marks the end of the Ramadan fast. This basically means that people can eat and drink during the day again, and in Hebron, you don't have to eat and drink in private as a non-Muslim (some people did fast also during this time, though it's not expected).

During Eid, we see Palestinians in Hebron walk around dressed up in their fine clothes, and the kids get presents. 

Most of the Palestinian kids play with toy guns and run around, shooting small pellets at each other and playing war.

Part of me is very sad seeing this, as if there isn't enough suffering and violence here already. It is probably to a part caused by what they see everyday. Also however, it is true that very many of my students in Canada (boys especially) spend their free time playing video games where basically the point is to blow up everyone on the screen, and where I live is not a warzone. 

Anyways, given how much fun we had with bubbles last night, it was only fitting that we would do so in the day also. So we launched Operation Bubbles. We had even more Palestinian kids come out, and had a great hour of fun. The soldiers at the checkpoint were watching us, and one of them I think was trying not to smile. They didn't give anyone any problems, like they didn't bug us a few nights ago when some Palestinians and us had a bit of a soccer game.

Some settlers walked by, and some looked at us with great annoyance. An hour or so later, we would learn the implications of this.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bubbles in the dark

This evening, some ISMers went out for a while to hang out with the children by our apartment. One ISMer had the awesome idea of making bubbles and blowing them. Pretty soon he was surrounded by a dozen Palestinian kids, who chased them, laughing and yelling in happiness.

Life in Hebron is very hard for everyone who lives here, especially our Palestinian friends, and especially for their children. Going through checkpoints, hearing explosions and gunshots every night and living in fear of what Israeli soldiers and settlers may do to you and your parents is beyond the understanding of most Canadians- children and adults alike. Yet this is a component of daily life for our friends.

A few minutes of fun with bubbles doesn't change that reality, but it was a great way to spend part of the evening.

May one day every child - Palestinian and Israeli- live in the Holy Land in peace, free from war and occupation and violence.

The ISM member in these photos gave permission for them to be on the blog.