Friday, November 17

MCC Palestine Update #2

MCC Palestine Update #2

Palestine/Israel continues to be a land starved for justice, peace, and reconciliation. Nearly fifty days of the al-Aqsa Intifada have passed, leaving approximately 200 Palestinians and 20 Israelis dead and around 9000 Palestinians wounded. It is estimated that 1200 of the wounded will be left with permanent disabilities. Statistics, however, do not adequately convey the pervading emotional numbness and wordless sadness that pervade the atmosphere. How to mourn, when funerals become frighteningly routine? How to comfort a family sitting in the ruins of their home, shelled by Israeli rockets?

This update consists of four items. First, news about how the ongoing conflict has effected the work of MCC's partners. Second, a reflection by MCC peace development worker Ed Nyce following a visit to a house in Beit Sahour. Third, a piece by Israeli journalist Amira Hass debunking the notion that Israeli is restraining its military. Finally, a comment by Meron Benvenisti, former Israeli deputy mayor of Jerusalem, on how Israeli settlements in the occupied territories undermine the prospects for lasting peace.

As always, we welcome your feedback concerning these updates.

1. MCC Partner News

The following are but a sample of how the current violence has disrupted MCC's development work.

a. The Marda Permaculture Center southwest of Nablus was vandalized by Israeli settlers. MCC has supported several projects in sustainable, environmentally-friendly agriculture through the center over the past decade. The center lies next to the Ariel block of settlements.

b. Zoughbi Zoughbi, director of the Wi'am Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem, was denied a permit to fly from the Tel Aviv airport. Zoughbi had been scheduled to speak at MCC's annual general meetings in Ontario and Saskatchewan this month. MCC has supported the Wi'am Center since 1994; Zoughbi is a prominent advocate of nonviolence and the peaceful resolution of conflict. All of Zoughbi's paperwork was in order, including invitation letters from MCC, a Canadian visitor's visa, and a roundtrip ticket. The Israeli military authorities, however, are refusing to issue airport permits to Palestinians from the occupied territories in an act of collective punishment. MCC then attempted to bring Zougbhi to Canada via Jordan, but since the Israeli authorities are also restricting passage across the bridge between the West Bank and Jordan, this was not possible.

c. The YMCA Rehabilitation Center in Beit Sahour was shelled by Israeli rockets on November 14. MCC began working with the Beit Sahour YMCA in the late 1980s, providing assistance to the YMCA's rehabilitation of persons with disabling injuries related to the intifada. Sadly, with thousands of injuries in the space of less than two months, it appears that long-term rehabilitation of persons with disabilities will continue to be a pressing need.

d. Restriction of movement continues to be a problem for Palestinians working for international development organizations. MCC's economic development officer, for example, lives in Beitunia, next to Ramallah, normally a 20-30 drive from Jerusalem. With the intensified Israeli closure on the occupied territories, however, coupled with a thickened network of roadblocks, the taxi ride from Jerusalem to Beitunia now regularly takes over two hours.

2. Crunch
Ed Nyce, MCC peace development worker

The following is intended to be read slowly, and maybe mumbled aloud; but for sure slowly.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

It's autumn. Back in North America, leaves are falling. Walks in the woods mean the welcome crunch of leaves and twigs underfoot.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

And in some places, there may well be snow. Ahh, the crunch of snow and ice below my boots, hardened by countless tire tracks, or maybe still new.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

This current crunch under my feet will also be unforgettable. I am in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. I am in someone's home.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

I don't see how they're ever going to get all this glass cleaned up. This glass which used to be a window, a mirror, a goblet.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

From the roof we see the nearby Israeli military camp from which came the rocket, the rocket adorned with writing in the English language, into this Palestinian Christian home.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

It's not only in the parents' bedroom, with the twins' cribs placed end to end by the window, where eluding the glass is impossible.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

But I can't quite leave this room yet to traipse elsewhere. Look at all that glass on the two cribs. The one still sports a small, half-full or half-empty bottle of milk. And lots of glass. They said no
One was hurt; maybe the bottle was left there earlier that day.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

It is unclear at presstime which baby twin committed an act "deserving" such an attack.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch..

Just to turn and look at the parents' bed, I cannot help but crunch.
Look at all that glass. How are they ever going to get it all cleaned up?

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

The hallway, kind of dark because it is not near a window, crunches. Where did all this glass come from? Pretty powerful, those rockets.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Some big pieces, some small pieces, some nigh unto invisible pieces; there's no way anyone could ever clean up all this stuff.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Oh, sure, there's the multiple-wall-penetrating bullets, the sheared blade on the circular saw in the machine shop, the huge holes in the stone walls, the crinkled satellite dish on this or
neighboring buildings.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

And the children who are doubting their parents' ability to protect them from harm.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

But I cannot forget the glass.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

I hope that I shall never forget the crunch of leaves and twigs.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Nor do I want to forget the crunch of snow and glassy ice.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

I will never forget the crunch of the Beit Sahour glass.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Crunch, Crunch, Cru

3. A different definition of 'restraint'
Amira Hass
Haaretz, 15 November 2000

Israelis are convinced that the IDF is behaving with restraint toward the Palestinians. The Israeli media's coverage strengthens this belief. The bombing of the casino on Sunday night made headlines on the radio and in the newspapers. A 15- year-old boy, Mohammed Abu Naji, was killed on that same Sunday near the Erez industrial area in the northern Gaza Strip, at
a distance of 100 meters or more from the soldiers' position.

That same Sunday, another Gaza boy died of his wounds, three 15- year-olds were wounded by live bullets at the roadblock which separates the Khan Yunis refugee camp from the settlement of Neve Dekalim, eight funerals took place in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the IDF attacked residential neighborhoods in at least six Palestinian towns, with heavy firing of machine guns and tanks, as it has almost every night these past weeks. At best, there was limited coverage of these events - some Israeli media did not report them at all.Two days ago, when two Israeli Civilians and two soldiers were killed in the territories by Palestinian fire, three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, and one youth died of his wounds.

Correction: The Israelis were murdered, the Palestinians were killed. Israel considers the murder of its citizens an escalation. Four Palestinians killed is an ordinary occurrence, maybe even a de-escalation. Nobody asks if it is logical that an unarmed 15-year-old was hit in the head by the precise bullet of a trained sniper.

Israel's policy of restraint has led to the following results over the past six weeks, up until yesterday morning: 179 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF, 48 of whom were aged 17 or under. About 8,000 have been injured, including some 1,200 who will be crippled for life. Thousands of people can testify to the efficacy of Israeli ammunition: high-speed bullets which crush bones and internal organs, bullets which split heads open, "rubber" bullets which take out eyes, missiles which destroy buildings, houses which go up in flames from the massive shooting, flare bombs which in the middle of the night light up an entire neighborhood spread out naked under the settlement on the hill above. Thousands of people are leaving their homes at night for fear of the shooting and missile attacks, several hundred have already lost the roof over their heads. Thousands of others live in fear, wondering when it will be their turn.

The policy of hermetic closure suddenly cut off about 110,000 day workers usually employed in Israel from their livelihoods. Because of the loss of their wages, for over a month already, all
regular economic activity has suffered, and the Palestinian economy is also plagued by cumulative damages because of the internal closure in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Regular movement between the towns has been frozen, almost the only business for bus companies is the (free) transportation of mourners to the daily funerals, olives are turning black on the trees because the owners of the groves are confined in their villages, thousands of fruit and olive trees have been uprooted in recent weeks so that the IDF could improve its firing and
observation positions, the old city of Hebron and its 40,000 Palestinian inhabitants are under curfew.

It is true that the IDF has much heavier weapons in its arsenal, that the government has not unleashed the full power of the armed forces, even though the settlers and some army officials
are demanding that it be used. But by any normal human standard, the correct assessment of the situation is that about three million Palestinians are living in the shadow of death, increasing economic hardship and the disruption of all the ordinary routines of life. From their point of view, not only is there no "restraint," but since the first day of clashes, Israelis have completely disregarded the political messages of the uprising, and the military response, which includes live weapons, an escalation in their use, and an economic siege, is many times greater than the Palestinian ability to inflict damage.

Let us leave aside the question of the morality of the Israeli reaction. Before it's too late - and maybe it's already too late – we have to ask the question asked by one of the senior Fatah
officials, "Don't they understand in Israel that they are turning us into Hezbollah?

4. Weaving the circle of folly
Meron Benvenisti
Haaretz, 16 November 2000

The colorful concrete blocks dispersed throughout the West Bank in the past two days are much more than a temporary means to enforce an "encirclement" and prevent vehicles moving outside the enclaves the Palestinian Authority rules. They will prove ineffective for this purpose.The blocks actually are symbols of an intention to expropriate the physical space of the West Bank and its public infrastructure, and to transfer them to the exclusive use of Jews.

As to encirclement, nobody can beat the talent of the besieged residents for improvisation, nor top their knowledge of the area. The chief of staff already has had to apologize for not halting
All movement of Palestinians in the West Bank. The blocks were not meant to be simply a security measure - whoever decided to deploy them knows they are of little practical use. The
"encirclement" is also more than collective punishment – it declares that only vehicles bearing yellow [Israeli] license plates are allowed to move.

Any other vehicle moving on West Bank roads is considered a terrorist suspect and must be handled by the army, or by the settlers who are angry over the use of "their" roads. A crucial
element in the security officials' decision ("with political establishment approval") was the need to appease the anger of settlers after the serious incidents in which three Israelis were killed on the roads of the West Bank. It is a response to their demand to "let the IDF win" - or else they would take action themselves.

Since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada the lives of the settlers have been completely disrupted. Their classic Zionist delusion - "a land without people for a people without a land" - was shattered. The same Palestinian people threatened to turn their settlements into besieged enclaves.

In the past, they tried to preserve their illusions with bypass roads connecting Jewish settlements on which they could travel without being aware of any Palestinian presence. The most pathetic monument to the delusion, the "tunnel road," which was paved above and below the Palestinians, is now closed most of the time.

With their absurdity now exposed they want "not to see" the Palestinians, by having them caged in enclaves while the physical space remains in Jewish hands. Then they can continue their normal routine - "evening classes, visits to friends, entertainment, films, and so on," as the newspapers quoted them. Now it has become clear to everyone who saw the "settlement project" as a mere collection of settlements that actually it is a domination of the entire space.

The demographic facts on the ground were only the tip of an iceberg of a complex system of roads, gas stations, infrastructure, army camps, holy sites, nature reserves, appropriated state
lands, security requirements and the activity of the "civil administration." Together these elements established permanent Israeli domination of the West Bank.

Now that the Palestinians are rising up against the expropriation of their space, the Israeli government is try to regain control by "encirclement." This legitimizes a "normal routine" for 10
Percent of West Bank residents (Jews) at the expense of a living hell for the other 90 percent (Palestinians).

As for those who object to the use of moral standards to judge "security" decisions - let them note that the "normal routine" of 500 Hebron settlers requires putting 40,000 Palestinians under curfew. This is considered reasonable - "dictated by necessity" -because Palestinians "brought it upon themselves," as they did the "encirclement." Among the slogans bandied about these days we hear "the ideology of Greater Israel has disappeared" and "the present violence has no military solution, only a political one."

The colored blocks expose the hypocrisy of both slogans. The expropriation of the physical space they symbolize is proof that a Greater Israel ideology has not vanished, even if it has become "refined" by creating Indian reservations.

The "military" decision to enclave Palestinians proves that the distinction between a military and a political solution is artificial.

A political solution means the Palestinians will give in to military pressure and agree to the expropriation of the physical space -since it already has been "proved" that any area given over to them becomes a terrorist base.

Under these circumstances, there is neither a military nor a political solution. The cement blocks will become tombstones on the route of the march of folly [ End of Original Text ]

No comments: