A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Update on Palestine by an American Activist there|
|07/14/02 at 22:59:28|
The general situation in the occupied territories is
one of uncertainty and mixed messages. Most major
cities have been under curfew for about 1 week.
Yesterday, curfew in bethlehem and Hebron was lifted
during the day. One student who needed to take exams
in bethleem said he had no probelems going and
returning. Students who tried to go to their exams in
Hebron were met with fire from Israeli snipers.
Apparently they were just joking about lifting curfew
in Hebron. Similar stories have been told about oter
citied when curfew is lifted. Wveryone goes out to try
to do the things that could not do and are met with
unprovoked gunfire and even death. The curfew in
Bethlehem and Hebron as been reinstated today.
A Number of people including a woman and two children
have been killed by the miltary in gaza and several
young men ave been killed in Nablus.
All of this without 1 suicide bomb in almost 1 month.
There seems to be much disillusionment, sadness,
frustration and fear in the palestinian population
(shaby falastiny). With the PA destroyed and the
reinstitution of Israeli occupation, people do not see
any hope in sight. Most people just want to work and
provide for their families. There seems few options
for proactive resistance let alone for anything beyond
sitting, talking, watching television and trying not
to think about the dark possibilities that might lie
Upon invitation, our group of 4 internationals left
Hebron on the 7th with a Christian Peacemaker Teams
reservist to a Hebron suburb called Beit Omar.
(Christian Peacemkaer Teams are a solidarity group
that has been working in the Hebron District for more
than 15 years. For more Information, please see
At over 3000 ft above sea level, Beit Omar is one of
the highest points in palestine. From the town you can
see the lights of Jaffa (tel-aviv) and can dream
faintly of the mediteranean as the sun sets shades of
Beit Omar is a farming community and produces some of
the best fruit (ghogh) in all of palestine. I have
never tasted fruit in the states that comes near to
the fruit in palestine. Watermelon (batiech),
Cantelope (shamaa), and so many types of plumbs and
peaches it is difficult to keep track of them all.
Beit Omar is a town of about 12,000 and about half as
many tractors (by far the most sylish way to ride
around the town). The people are unbelivably generous
and friendly and it s difficult to find the time to
sit and drink tea with everyone who invites us.
The surrounding lands of the town are farms and
orchards where the people go to work in the morning
and evening. These farms have been in family for many
years and I have had the priviege to see their
families land deeds and recipts of sale from the
ottoman empire and british occpuation. Houses are
teraced with grape vines, everyting is green and the
air is sweet.
Many people from Beit Omar have relatives in the
States (especially in Chicago) and (sadly) as in most
of the world, even the chidren know a little English.
Just like any small town, everyone wants to know who
we are. There is an initial suspicion that we are
Israeli soldiers, especially the children. Many of the
younger children become very afraid and cry when they
see us. When we tell people we are American, they want
to know about Bush and what Americans think about
palestine. There is a sense that the American people
hold all of palestine in their hand and can crush it
in one sneeze. They are confused about the way Bush
speaks about the situation and this causes them much
stress. They ask why America supports the israelis and
gives the weapons. When they talk with us longer, many
tell us that to palestinians, America is the great
We try to put the people at ease by putting our
politics out in the open from the start. That we are
against our governments policies and sad that people
support the beast that is 'America'. This puts them at
ease to discuss thier feelings about the American
government. Despite their feeling about what America
does, most people would like to go to America and
reguard it as a great country. Many people ask us if
we can get them a visa or if they can visit us. There
seems to be a deep pull for them toward 'America' but
a relative misunderstanding about the realities in
America. When we tell them that there are thousands of
homeless in our cities, they are astounded. When we
tell them about the size of our country, they cannot
imagine. When we tell them we dont like the
backstreet boys, they wounder why. When we tell them
that the dreamlike images of beautifull people and
hapiness that they see on television are lies, they do
not believe us.
Beit Omar is in the north of the Hebron district and
sits between two israeli settlements: Karmet sur to
the southwest and Gush Set-zion to the north. to the
west, the town runs into and over Route 60, a major
israeli settlement highway. The road that once
connected the town to Highway 60 is closed with a big
mound of dirt and rubble (maksum) and a fortified
military position that was made in a Beit Omar
family's confiscated home. No cars can enter or exit
the town except for the Petrol truck who must supply
his own bulldozer to remove and replace the maksum
when he makes a delivery.
The garbage trucks cannot enter the town, nor can
trucks or cars leave the town unless they take dirt
roads in creative ways trough the fields.
Ambulances cannot enter the town and must carry
patients over the maksum when they pick them up or
drop them off. The first nigt we were in Beit Omar, a
young chid drank poison and becuase the abulance could
not get into the town (and had to navigate checkpoints
and soldiers from hebron), the child did not get to
the hospital in time and is now in a severe coma. If
the chidren's hospital was not close by in hebron, the
child probably would have died.
The people of Beit Omar are under attack in many ways.
The first is direct military agression and terror.
Twice in the last week, the militray has entered the
town at sunset and shot hundrends of rounds. The army
shoots the windows in the houses, put holes in the
water tanks that supply the people with water and have
damaged electricity lines.
They provoke confrontations with the youth by shooting
and beating and tem demostrate their dominance by
forcing their way through the streets with gunfire,
both live and rubber coated metal, military grade tear
gas, percussion grenades and armored vehicles.
On the second evening of this aggression, our group
went out into the streets to make our presamce know to
the army, with the hope that seeing internationals
might disuade them from doing anything too atrocious
or at least to confuse and distract them from their
project of terror.
We walked in the street and took a place at a corner
where we knew the army would pass and watched up the
street. We saw them advance and without provocation
one soldier (jundi) seized a young man infrom of a
closed store and beat him with his fist, boots and
gun. Youth tried to come to his defense with stones
and were met with live fire from and M16.
We moved around the coner and asked the help of a
young man to get to a place that we could see but were
not in the middle of children and soldiers.
He led us to an alley that cut into the the main
street were the soldiers had arrested the man they
were beating and were holding a position against the
youth trowing stones. we took pictures and were
discovered by the soldiers.
The shooting ceased and the soldiers tried to decide
who we were and what to do with us. One soldier told
us to leave. Where? we asked nievely. "There is
shooting al around, we are sacred" They stoped
conversation and one soldier was placed at the corner
to watch us. Anoter soldier came and yelled at us to
move back, this time pointing his gun at us. We moved
back out of sight and waited as the soldiers retreated
from the youth and moved down another street.
We migrated with the people into the main square and
talked with them to get information about the beating
and to keep watch becuase we knew the soldiers would
return that way again.
After about 10 minutes of some tense decisionmaking,
we decided the most strategic and safe place to be was
in the main square and took seats on the steps of a
shop there. An armored landrover schreeced into the
square and the children scattered into the alleys and
behind corners. The landrover sat, perhaps confused
and watching us, perhaps waiting for reinforcements or
to survey the situation, peraps challenging the
chidren to do something. BOOM. A skull sized boulder
broke the armored windsheild of the landrover and put
a huge dent in the hood. Two soldiers jumped out and
began firing into the houses and stores. We stood up
and slowly walked out of the square and around the
corner where we sat at an open sweets shop.
Soon we were overcome with tears gas and took refuge
with the store patrons in the back. We returned to
watch the soldiers shooting the windows in houses as
they advanced up the street - 6 foot soldiers, two
armored landrovers and 1 armored personel carrier.
There are no armed people in Beit Omar, only cildren
with stones and a comunity who is hungry, without
income, tired of intermittent curfew and living under
military occupation. People ask wy the soldiers behave
in this way, but it is difficult to come to any
conclusion other than spreading terror in the people.
There is not security threat to them, it seems like
that are only trying to assert their dominace. Many
people try to rationalize this as military training or
This military aggression is not the most heinous
attack upon the people of Beit Omar. More inhumane
physical violence is structural violence.
Economic Strangulation is the predominant israeli
policy in Biet Omar. On June 24th, 12 Trucks from Beit
Omar along with 8 trucks from other areas in the
Hebron district, carrying over 300 tons of fruit for
export were stopped at the Tarkamian checkpoint and
detained until the 30th. Hundreds of thousands of
dollars of fruit, representing a whole years work for
many families, were destroyed that week.
Beyond closure, unemployment and curfew, Israeli
settlers continue to pose a significant and seemingly
immovable threat to te community. The settlements were
initiated following the 1967 war in which the west
bank and gaza were taken by the israeli army. Despite
international law and United Nations Resolutions,
Israel has begun to settle their popolation into the
occupied land. The land for these settlements was not
empty, but was part of towns and peoples farms. Since
1967, the settlements ave expanded continuously and
every year, despite numerous peace agreements incuding
the Oslo Peace Accords, Karmet sur has taken farms
lands from the people in Beit Omar.
Last week, the settlment reclassified about 30 acres
of land as a 'closed military area' under the
auspicies of security for the settlment, and barred
the owners of the land from harvesting their fruit.
We accompanied a number of farmers to their land with
the hope of helping to deal with the soldiers amd
settlers. We arrived to the land at about 7am ready
for the days work. We began to pick plumbs and peaces
from the trees, but only worked for about 15 minutes
before armed settler security made a round and sped of
to the settlement to get the soldiers.
Within 5 minutes, the settler security returned with a
soldier who told us to leave. We talked with him and
tried to persude him that we were obviosly not a
security thret and that these farmes had a right to
farm their land. The settler yeled and waived his uzi
at us while we calmly tried to discuss the matter with
them. The soldier became angry and thretened arrest.
As we left with the farmers, more soldiers arrived and
watched us as we walked back to the town.
The farmers ave opened a formal legal complaint with
the government, but have been deferred for some time.
The settlement has already began constuction of a
fence and security lights around the seized land.
Becuase they are in a directly israeli controlled area
and that there is functionaly no more palestinian
government, there is not place for the people to go to
presure the authorities. The only place that has been
suggested to them is the police station in Kiriat
Arba, the settlement of Baruch Goldstien and the only
way is by the settlement road. This precludes the
people from engaging in any type of governmental
process. People twell us that the settlers used to be
eld accountable and sometimes were even arrested by
israeli police, but this seems to be a thing of the
past. The settlers seem almost untouchable now.
The International Solidarity Movement as decided to
take an apartment/office near the settlment and have
committed to work with the people in Beit Omar for at
least 1 month against the military and settlement
aggresion. We wil be working closely with Christian
Peacemaker Teams who also have and apartment there.
We saw last night on Al-Jezera that 'our great country
America' bombed Iraq and we are afraid that a larger
campiagn in iraq will increase tensions here as it did
in the Gulf War and as a friend said 'turn sharon's
green light to neon' Inshallah this will not happen.
Please keep the people of palestine (and in all the
world) in your thoughts and prayers. Keep working to
educate and resist American support for this constant
catastophe. The people here are happy and to know that
people care and are trying to help.
I do not have internet in Beit Omar, so dont be angry
if i dont write very often. I do have a telephone.
Please feel free to call and talk.
freedom for palestine
011 972 6 734 9442
|07/19/02 at 00:02:31|
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