This issue is devoted
largely, although not entirely, to material about what is happening
in Palestine and Israel. Esther Ho has drawn together excerpts from her
contacts with Christian Peacemaker Teams there and with other people working
nonviolently for peace and justice. These excerpts date from several months
ago and may be considered background material, useful to keep in mind as
you read the daily paper and watch the television news.
To keep abreast of what peace activists are
doing, we have to go to alternative sources. Esther Ho of the EPI Board
of Directors is able to help in this regard with her email links to the
work in the region and her work with people on this issue locally.
Wendy Kaufmyn, who has been active in the anti-nuclear
movement locally for many years and is a member of one of the oldest faith-based
affinity groups around, is as of this writing part of the International
Solidarity Movement, a campaign of nonviolent, direct-action against the
Israeli Occupation. Her emails describe her work in a Palestinian children's
summer camp. It will be very interesting to hear her reports on her return.
via Greg, June 29 & 30
Yesterday Wendy traveled to a small village called
Deir Ibzi, near Ramallah and the Green Line. . . . she experience[d] first
hand the way IDF check points impede travel and isolate Palestinian communities.
This particular village has been cutoff for four months by the IDF. When
villagers attempted to bring in food via car, soldiers shot the ties out.
So villagers now bring food in over the mountains using donkeys. Similarly,
anyone seeking medical care must go over the mountains to Ramallah.
A German Palestinian is organizing a summer camp
for the children of the village. He has asked that internationals participate
[to] discourage the IDF from breaking up the summer camp. . . .
Prior to leaving for Deir Ibzi, Wendy’s affinity
group had spent the night sleeping in a hospital waiting room. . . The
IDF has just blown up all the cars in the hospital’s parking lot. Apparently
the IDF had been crushing Palestinian cars parked on the street with their
tanks, so the Palestinians started parking them in parking lots. The IDF
responded by blowing the cars up. . . .
. . . other ISM affinity groups are engaged in
more direct action, but in Palestine running a summer camp to relieve the
boredom, stress and isolation of occupation, and perhaps offer a bit of
hope, is a revolutionary enterprise.
Stories from Israel/Palestine
—compiled by Esther Ho, April 29, 2002
My e-mail inbox has overflowed in recent weeks with first-hand reports
of the bloody assaults in the Holy Land. Knowing that most mainstream media
give very biased news on these events, we offer these brief excerpts especially
for those of you who do not have alternative sources of information readily
available. Since I worked with the Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West
Bank for several weeks on two different occasions and have had contact
with most of these sources, I have confidence that these reports are reliable.
Readers may recall that the current intifada was touched off in September
of 2000 by the visit of Ariel Sharon (who is now Israeli Prime Minister),
with a large armed guard, to the Haran Al-Sharif mosque in the Old City
of Jerusalem, which is considered one of the holiest Muslim sites. The
following day, as Palestinians were demonstrating against this intrusion
into their holy site, Israeli forces entered the area, shooting into the
crowd and killing a number of Palestinians. In the intervening months 458
Jews and 1210 Palestinians have been killed, including many innocent civilians
on both sides.
March 10, Rev. Sandra Olewine, United Methodist Liason in Jerusalem
and Saturday nights were again very difficult in the Bethlehem area. Bethlehem
University was hit for the second night in a row, causing significant new
damage to the new Cultural Center. Thankfully, the tanks withdrew from
the Dar al-Kalima school grounds. But, as staff tried to approach to check
on damage today, they were forbidden access to the property. Roads are
cut up and people are isolated from each other. Water mains have been destroyed
and numerous phone lines are cut. Few people are moving outside, not knowing
when the next Israeli sniper, helicopter or tank is going to fire....Across
the West Bank and Gaza, over 60 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds
wounded since Friday.
March 28, Christian Peacemaker Teams
Last night a Palestinian suicide bomber killed more than 10 people in
Netanya celebrating their Passover Seder meal — the most important family
holiday in the Jewish calendar.
April 2 — from international civilian peace force in Ramalla We’d
like to confirm that there are 34 foreign civilians still inside the Presidential
compound in Ramalla under siege by Israeli forces. They are 27 French,
2 Germans, 1 British, 1 Belgian, 1 Brazilian, 1 Israeli/Canadian, and 1
Irish. They have been in there since March 31and are reporting a severe
shortage of food, no water and a desperate need for medical supplies. We
have repeatedly attempted to deliver food, water and medicine via a Red
Crescent ambulance, but the Israeli military is not allowing the aid through....The
United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are being
prevented from working inside the besieged Palestinian town. The Palestinian
Red Crescent Society and aid workers are being detained by Israeli forces
and their ambulances are denied passage to deliver humanitarian aid and
to pick up wounded and the dead. Ambulances are also being shot at and
medics and doctors forced to sit on their knees at gunpoint in the streets.
April 2, Bishop Dr. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church ...the
pastor’s home and the church’s International Center in Bethlehem have been
hit by shelling from Israeli tanks and soldiers today. Rev. Raheb reports
that they have heard much glass breaking, both in the church and in the
offices. Although they cannot go to see the damage yet, it seems that at
least some of the 110-year-old stained glass windows have been destroyed.
April 4, Physicians for Human Rights As of today there are 28
kidney patients in Jenin who cannot make it to hospital for dialysis treatment.
Attempts made by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to coordinate
their arrival to the hospital have failed. Only on Sunday, after at least
four days without dialysis treatment, were four of the 28 taken to hospital.
Sources at the hospital in Jenin do not know what happened to the remaining
24 patients. As of the early evening, electricity to the hospital is cut
off. An IDF armored vehicle is stationed at the entrance to the hospital,
preventing anyone leaving or entering.
April 7, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Phone Call to Bethlehem One
of the team called to Bethlehem to check on the welfare of a friend who
lives near the Church of the Nativity...As they were speaking she heard
the explosion from a missile destroying a house down the street from their
house. The mother of the family told Clausen the worst thing they had to
endure was the stench of bodies lying in Manger Square for the previous
several days....We watched television reports of millions of people demonstrating
in Morocco, Bahrein, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Texas, Los Angeles
and New York against the Israeli invasion of the West Bank and Gaza.
April 8, from Mohammed, PhD., in Ramalla
Additional tanks and bulldozers were called in today to the Jenin and
Nablus camps in order to finish its (the Israeli Occupation Army’s) job
by demolishing all the houses in Jenin refugee camp that come in the way
of the army. In fact, at this moment the bulldozers are working around
the hour to demolish the entire camp and erase it from the map.
...Bulldozers are demolishing entire neighborhoods with people inside
their houses. Children, women and elderly are being buried under the rubble.
Children are seen searching for their parents and parents searching for
their children after the houses are destroyed. It is truly horrifying,
and the situation is only getting worse!
...There is a report from one of the few people who are able to report
from inside the camp that hundreds of bodies are seen in the streets of
Jenin, Balata, and Nablus, while hundreds of others are still bleeding
to death. The Israeli Army still prohibits ambulances from helping the
injured....The Israeli Army is attacking Jenin, Balata and Nabalus using
its most advanced weapons...Fl6 fighters, Apache gunships and tanks are
all being used to attack refugee camps and market places, which are very
heavily-populated urban centers.
April 8, from Marla in Bethlehem The international UN staff has
begun distributing food in Ramallah. This is no easy task. They must wear
helmets and bullet-proof vests in order to do so. But the people of Ramallah
are suffering tremendously; they have been under assault for over a week.
Many neighborhoods have no water and/or electricity and definitely no access
to medical care no matter how critical one’s case.
April 9, Janilne di Giovanni in Times of London Hamid’s last
image of Jenin Refugee Camp was a city of the dead. The 14-year old student,
who surrendered to Israeli forces on Saturday night after witnessing 30
hours of bombardment, shakes slightly as he describes the apocalyptic scene.
Piles of corpses were moved aside by bulldozers. Houses lay in smoldering
ruins. Children screamed for water, some were forced to drink sewage.
...But the most terrible thing was seeing Israeli soldiers take eight
men and line them up and kill them," he said, describing in detail the
procedure and the injuries the men sustained. After that, Hamid, his twin
Ahmed and his older brother Khadir made a white flag and waved it from
a window. They had no other way out.
April 11, Voices in the Wilderness Returning to the Sheik Zayed
Hospital, we learned that IDF soldiers had shot Arduf Mussa Khandil, a
23-year-old mentally retarded man whom we had seen on the hospital grounds
just hours earlier. Apparently he had wandered out into a street behind
the hospital. Witnesses saw 11 Israeli soldiers chasing him. They speculated
that the young man ran because he was scared when he saw armed soldiers.
He was unarmed. They shot him dead.
April 11, Christian Peacemaker Teams JoAnne Lingle from the Beit
Ummar team called the team in Hebron to report that the Israeli military
had arrested 150 men during their Dura operation . The men, ranging in
ages from 13 to 80, were taken to the Gush Etzion military camp blindfolded
and handcuffed. While they were there they were interrogated, forced to
kneel for hours, sleep on the ground outside and given no food or blankets.
Some were beaten.
...At 6 pm a young Palestinian man came to the team apartment to report
that he had been beaten by soldiers as he tried to reach his home in the
Old City on the previous day. He described how the soldiers pressed his
forehead into a stone wall and kicked his legs apart. Soldiers then hit
him in the back near the kidneys, the upper back, and kicked him in the
groin. Then they forced him to kneel with his hands behind his head while
they struck him again. Eight soldiers, whom he identified as members of
the Shimshon unit, took part in the beating. One soldier was taping the
beating. The man required medical attention for his injuries, and the X-ray
he showed the team indicated a cracked rib and blood clots. Clausen, Rollins,
and a translator accompanied him to the place where he was beaten to gather
information from several families living nearby who witnessed the beating
of the man and several other men throughout the day.
April 12, from Marla In Bethlehem we are into our 11th day of
house curfew. We were allowed out for a few hours today to search for a
dwindling supply of food. The US Consulate had telephoned me in the morning
to warn me that Israel may still shoot people even when the curfew is officially
lifted. What a choice: scramble for food and risk being shot or stay in
the house and ration my few remaining tomatoes. House to house searches
continue with looting, destruction of personal property, mass arrests of
just any boy or man and sexual harassment of women.
On April 5, 2002, B’Tselem received information from an Israeli source
about difficult conditions and the use of torture during interrogations
in the Ofer military camp located near Ramallah. The army has issued a
sweeping order denying detainees the right to meet with lawyers, such that
it is impossible to verify the scope of this phenomenon.
B’Tselem, together with three other Israeli human rights organizations,
filed an urgent petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice demanding
that detainees be allowed to meet with lawyers and that the court forbid
the use of physical force against the detainees during interrogation. Following
a short court hearing on April 7, 2002, the court rejected the petition.
April 15, translation by Gush Shalom (Israeli peace group) of
an article by Haggai Huberman which appeared in Hebrew in the right-wing,
ultra-nationalist Israeli Newspaper Hatzofeh. The pilot of an Israeli helicopter
gunship reportedly refused an order to shoot a missile at a Palestinian
home. It happened in the early hours of April 9 when an Israeli army regiment,
supported by tanks and helicopter gunships, captured the Palestinian town
of Dura, near Hebron... During several hours of fighting...the regimental
commander ordered the pilot to shoot a missile at a Palestinian home in
which five alleged terrorists were hiding, in order to "liquidate them."
The pilot refused, telling the regimental commander there might be civilians
in the house. The radio debate continued for a long time, with the helicopter
hovering over the house. The commander told the pilot that the five terrorists
could be exactly pin-pointed in the house and again ordered him to shoot.
The pilot again refused, and at a certain point left the vicinity of the
house and cycled the town. When he got back to the point above the house,
the commander told him that the terrorists had disappeared, but ordered
him to shoot at the house nevertheless. The pilot again refused. After
two hours he finally shot one burst from the helicopter’s cannon, but near
the house rather than at it. Soldiers nearby on the ground described the
shot as "perfunctory, meant to hit nothing." (According to Gush Shalom
the article was critical of the pilot, accusing him of "helping five terrorists
April l6, Phil Reeves in Jenin A residential area roughly 160,000
square yards, about a third of a mile wide, has been reduced to dust. Rubble
has been shoveled by bulldozers into 30 feet piles. The sweet and ghastly
reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human
tomb. The people, who spent days hiding in basements crowded into single
rooms as the rockets pounded in, say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed
beneath the dust, under a field of debris, criss-crossed with tank and
April l6, Brian Wood from phone conversation with friend inside the
Church of the Nativity ...about two hours ago the Israeli military
attempted to break into the Church of the Nativity. They have been throwing
sound bombs (percussion grenades) into the church for days such that the
ears of the people inside are bleeding....The latest reports is that there
are l80 people inside comprised of families, one of the armed factions,
and Palestinian Authority police. And there are approximately 30-40 priests,
monks and nuns on top of that, totaling about 220 people.
April l6, Amnesty International press release
Derrick Pounder, Professor of Forensic Medicine at Dundee University,
currently on mission with Amnesty International, has been denied access
to Jenin refugee camp and Jenin Government Hospital. The only forensic
pathologist in the vicinity, Professor Pounder had sought access to the
camp in order to begin gathering vital evidence about the fate of those
who died in Jenin.
April l6, Greg Myre, Associated Press writer in Bethlehem
Israel has stepped up the pressure in recent days by erecting a crane
near the Church (of the Nativity) and attaching speakers. In addition to
the siren sounds, which wail late into the night, they periodically broadcast
pleas to surrender....Two Palestinian policemen have been shot dead inside
the compound, as well as the church’s longtime bell ringer, killed as he
was walking on the streets outside.
April 16, Christian Peacemaker Teams (Three team members) visited
a family whose 14-year-old son had been shot in the leg by soldiers two
months ago. The boy is still in severe pain. While the team was visiting,
a doctor came to give him an injection to ease the pain. When asked about
possible medical help for the boy from other Arab countries, the doctor
replied that those who had helped in the past had worked through the Palestinian
Authority, the infrastructure of which has now been destroyed by the IDF.
He added that this was just one of hundreds of cases of suffering patients
who need assistance.
April 17, Voices in the Wilderness visit to Jenin camp
As we climbed higher, entering the demolished center of the camp where
close to 100 housing units have been flattened by Israeli Defense Forces,
we heard snipers shooting a small group of men who had come to pull bodies
from the rubble...With pickaxes and shovels, they dug a mass grave. They
pulled four bodies out of the rubble, including that of a small child....An
older boy, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, helped carry his father’s corpse
to the mass grave....
My partner Jeff sat down on a rock and shook his head. "After September
11, I drove toward New York City, and all along the highway carloads of
volunteer firemen sped past me, coming from all over the country to help
at Ground Zero. Here, bullets paid for by US taxpayers are being fired
on people simply trying to bury their dead."
April 20, Christian Peacemaker Teams Emergency CPT delegates
and members of the International Solidarity Movement greeted a World Council
of Churches convoy of about 15 cars and two flatbed trucks, carrying much-needed
food and water to the curfew-confined residents of Nablus. People are in
dire need after 17 days of Israeli re-occupation. Ambulances and internationals
are the only ones allowed relative free movement.
... Our presence has also allowed many to express frustration over the
lack of international interest in the situation. "We were shooting at them
with guns, and they kill us with F16s and Apache helicopters from the United
States," was a cry heard from many. "And still they call us terrorists.
WE are the ones being terrorized!" Horrific stories of the last two and
a half weeks abound: of soldiers using women and children as human shields,
hospital clinics being bombed, newborns dying in their parents’ arms after
being coached on home birth over the phone, and civilians being shot in
the back as they walked away from checkpoints.
The IDF has systematically used fear and humiliation as a weapon. Medics
have been forced to strip naked while trying to reach needy patients. Tanks
still move and fire through the streets at night to keep people awake.
Homes were broken into by soldiers who slept in families’ beds and, in
at least two instances, stole money. More than a thousand cars and school
buses throughout the city were targeted and demolished by tanks for no
April 2000, Jeff Halper, Israeli peace activist
Massive military actions against the fragile Palestinian infrastructure
and population centers using the most sophisticated and powerful of US
conventional weapons — F-l6’s, Apache helicopters equipped with laser-guided
missiles, tanks and artillery culminating in the all-out invasion of Palestinian
areas are intended to beat the Palestinians into submissiveness. Although
seemingly in response to Palestinian terrorist attacks and carefully cast
as part of America’s "war against terrorism," these military actions are
pro-active, exploiting terrorist attacks to achieve political goals of
...The uncritical support of Congress is Israel’s trump card; it provides
it with an impenetrable shelter from outside pressures.
° ° °
Beyond the terrible agony and suffering which these reports reveal,
we would like to share several grave concerns: First of all, even though
these excerpts contain little information regarding the Palestinian suicide
bomb attacks, we want to make it very clear that we also condemn these
attacks, just as we condemn all violent acts. Nevertheless, it is very
important to recognize the huge disparity existing between the sides of
the conflict. It is not true that there is a level playing-field as our
administration and the media would lead us to believe. We must understand
that Palestinians who have no hope left for any kind of normal life under
Israeli occupation have in their desperation performed desperate acts.
It is clear to us, as it is to many Jewish peace groups, that the only
way to end suicide attacks is to end the Israeli occupation of the territories,
as required by UN resolutions.
Another pressing concern in my mind is the possibility of widespread
anti-Semitic acts arising from the atrocities performed by the Israeli
government. I am convinced that Jews in the Middle East and around the
world are being placed at great risk by the unconscionable acts of the
Israeli government. We must make it clear in all of our contacts that we
will not tolerate anti-Semitic actions in our communities. We must be able
to decry the actions of the Israeli and US government without implying
criticism of all people of Jewish heritage. The fact that 433 members of
the Israeli army have at this writing signed papers refusing service in
the occupied territories and that an estimated few thousand others are
ready to do so shows clearly that the "war" against the Palestinians is
not welcomed by many Israeli Jews.
The enormity of the events of the past few weeks has thrown many of
us into a state of despondency and inaction. However, it is of utmost importance
that all of us who know what is happening rouse ourselves to speak out
loudly and often at this critical juncture of history.
Begin or maintain a constant stream of phone, fax and e-mail messages
to U.S. and Israeli government officials.
a. Insist that Israel withdraw immediately from the Palestinian territories
as required by international law.
b. Call upon the U.S. to withdraw military aid to Israel.
c. Urge the U.S. government not to block the UN from sending international
personnel to protect the Palestinian people.
A few addresses:
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20400
Vice-President Dick Cheney
(The White House, as above)
National Security Advisor
(The White House, as above)
Secretary of State Colin Powell
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister
Shimon Peres, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs
° ° °
"The hottest fires in hell are reserved for those
who remain neutral in times of moral crisis." — Edmund Burke