Saturday, April 28

MCC Palestine Update #21

MCC Palestine Update #21

"There is no escape from the solution of justice"--Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, April 2001

While Msgr. Sabbah is certainly correct in the eschatological sense that there is no escape from the solution of justice, for Palestinians in the occupied territories at present there is no escape from the Israeli siege. The siege has devastated the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics this past week announced the results of a survey which indicated that 64.2% of Palestinian households are now under the poverty level (55.7% in the West Bank, 81.4% in the Gaza Strip). 52% of households have encountered major obstacles in accessing health care because of the siege. 10.7% of households have lost all means of income, while 49.2% of households have lost 50% of their income. For the full results of the survey, look at

Below are three pieces. The first two, by Israeli Jewish peace activist Jeff Halper and Palestinian advocate of nonviolence Ghassan Andoni (also director of MCC partner organization, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement), use sarcasm to good effect to undermine Israeli propoganda concerning the situation in the occupied territories. The final piece, by Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy, tells the story of a young infant shot in the head by Israeli border police.

1. How to Start an Uprising
Jeff Halper,* April 2001

First, you create great expectations. Handshakes on the White House lawn. A rhetoric of peace ("No more war. No more bloodshed"). Elections, giving them a flag of their own. Then secret meetings, summit meetings, dinners, retreats, peace treaties, interim agreements, promises, tantalizing benefits held before hungry eyes. More handshakes, more "gestures."

Then you create a framework of peace that guarantees you negotiating superiority. Take out international law, human rights covenants, UN resolutions, and for good measure enlist your
strategically, the strongest power in the world, the one who supplies you with all your arms, as the "mediator."

Then, as you talk peace in Oslo, Washington, Paris, Cairo, the Wye Plantation, Stockholm, Amman, Camp David, Sharm, you "create facts" on the ground that ensure your continued control and prejudice the negotiations altogether. You exploit the last seven years since the signing of the Oslo Accords to:

1. Dismember the West Bank into "Areas A, B and C," giving the Palestinian Authority full control of only 18% of the land while retaining control over 61%; divide tiny Gaza into "yellow, white, blue and green areas," giving 6,000 settlers control of 40% of the territory and confining 1,000,000 Palestinians to the rest; and completely sever East Jerusalem from the wider Palestinian society;

2. Expropriate 200 square kilometers of farm and pasture land from its Palestinian owners for your own exclusive settlements, highways and infrastructure;

3. Uproot some 80,000 olive and fruit trees that are in the way of your construction projects, thereby impoverishing their owners and making them casual day workers in your labor market -provided they can get access to your labor market;

4. Add some 30 new settlements, including whole cities like Kiryat Sefer and Tel Zion, to the dozens of settlements that already exist in the Occupied Territories over which negotiations are taking place, and construct 90,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the settlements exclusively for your own population;

5. Demolish more than 1200 homes of the people with whom you are negotiating peace;

6. Double your settler population across the 1967 border to 400,000, 90% of which you have already decided will remain under your sovereignty even though you haven't negotiated that with the other side yet;

7. Begin construction of 480 kms of massive highways and "by-pass" roads serving your settlements while dissecting the future territory of your peace partner into tiny disconnected islands, thereby preventing the emergence of another viable and competing economy next door;
8. Impose a permanent "closure" to prevent those whose lands you took from finding employment in your own economy, because you have discovered that workers from Rumania and Thailand are cheaper and more docile. While you're at it, you also exclude them from entering Jerusalem, the site of their holiest places;

9. Exploit their natural resources, unilaterally and illegally drawing, for example, 25% of your country's water from your neighbors' aquifers while leaving them thirsty for months on end;

10. Vandalize their countryside and environment, burying its fragile historic landscape under your massive settlements and highways and turning it into a disposal site for your industrial and urban wastes.

Next, you wait until your occupation has become irreversible and all-encompassing, until you've integrated your two economies under your control, the electrical grids, the highway and urban
infrastructure, until you've completely absorbed your partner's economy and society into your own. Then you announce that your concept of peace is "separation," and you lock your neighbors into a few small islands, taking away any hope they have for a better future, for a real country and identity of their own. You keep tightening your control, restricting their life space, humiliating and harassing them - until the uprising finally explodes.

Then you tell your story to the world: how you tried to negotiate, how "generous" you had been, how you wanted peace, and how disappointed you feel that "they" let you down. How "they" met your good intentions with stones, how "they" are not partners for peace, how "they" are not yet ready for peace. And so, until they agree to end their violence against you and return to the same negotiating table that allowed you to construct your matrix of control in the first place, you resort to force – defensive force, of course, since "they" are the aggressors. The most up- to-date American weapon systems, snipers, closures until starvation, clearing thousands of acres of agricultural land, destruction of hundreds of houses.... Until they get the message.

* Jeff Halper teaches anthropology at Ben Gurion University in Israel. He is co-ordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and is editor of the critical Israeli-Palestinian magazine NEWS FROM WITHIN, published by the Alternative Information Center.

2. A course to overcome Violence in the Middle East
Ghassan Andoni
Palestinian Center for Rapprochement

In following what many Israelis and supporters of Israel write about the current crisis in the Middle East, I get the impression that Israel is running an intensive disciplinary course 101. The students,
against their will, are 4 million Palestinians. The course outline is:
Pragmatism: how to find for your self another road if the main road is blocked; how to find for yourself a different piece of land if yours is expropriated; how to find for yourself a different country if yours is taken for someone else; how to be thankful and hopeful if your home is bombarded, your brother is shot dead, your family is starving, and your life is controlled by a teenager in uniform and a gun; how to serve in order to live; how to accept all offers regardless.
Non-violence: how wonderful it is to be a victim; how to be able to see the good side of the solider who destroyed your home; how to blame yourself for the cold blood killing of your dears; how to die quietly and at the same time be the shield that protect the ones who killed you; how to provide the excuse for the ones who torture you; how to control your anger and pain.
Obedience: how to blindly follow military orders; how to uproot your trees if the authority decides on their removal; how to demolish your home and save the army the headache of doing so; how to
serve the masters who decided to take your home and live on your land; how to accept control and dictates without questioning them; how to stay indoors in times of curfews; how to starve silently; how to protect the ones who attack you; how to turn the left cheek; how to offer your coat as well; how to convince your self that God created men/women as masters and slaves; how to remove No
from your dictionary.
Obedience Lab: you will be provided with a wide range of examples to what will happen if you are disobedient.
Experiment 1: you will experience massive bombardment of civilian residential areas. Equipment needed: tanks, choppers, and heavy machine guns.
Experiment 2: High Tech assassinations. Smart missiles will be used to destroy people who exceeded a certain level in disobeying orders. Booby trap assassinations: exploding bombs in peoples cars, telephone boxes, and cement blocks. You need to learn how not to call it an act of terror.
Experiment 3: collective punishment. A wide variety of experiments are available: curfews, road blockades, checkpoints, economic siege, indiscriminate shooting etc.
Our labs are different from other because you will be always the subject. You will experience them all being on the recipient side.
Voluntary work: in this course you will learn how to adjust to the needs, state of mind, and reactions of your masters. How to give voluntarily before it is taken by force; how to relinquish your rights voluntarily before you are forced to do so; how to leave the country voluntarily before Zeevi (Gandhi) replaces Sharon. [NOTE: Rehavam Zeevi, nicknamed "Gandhi," is a proponent of transfer and a minister in Ariel Sharon's government.]
By passing this course successfully, and if you manage to survive then you need to take course 102 and we will make sure that you will not pass it alive. You already know the golden rule: the only
good Arab is the dead Arab.
First part of this course is offered by Prof. Ehud Barak; currently offered by prof. Sharon; to register in course 102 please check with Prof. Zeevi (Gandhi).

3. They shoot babies, don't they?
Gideon Levy
Haaretz, 27 April 2001

Nothing can bring a smile to Amani's face. Not even the three new dolls - one pink, one yellow and one green - that she got as a present from her parents, who received their baby daughter as a gift when she was released from the hospital a few days ago and brought home. Amani goes around the house wearing festive clothes, also new - a red suit and shiny sandals - providing a sharp contrast to the poverty all around.Amani doesn't cry, and she doesn't laugh. Her big blue eyes are wide open and her smooth golden tresses cascade down the right side of her head; the left side is bare and bald, furrowed by three scars - a large arc of stitches on her forehead and two smaller scars below. Most of the time, Amani clings to her mother. She makes the occasional sortie into the living room, but quickly scurries back to her mother's arms, constantly enshrouded in silence. Even when her father picks her up and gives her a hug, she stretches out her arms toward her mother; she wants to go back to her.
Maybe it's because of the memory of that day, that terrible day, on which her father took her on his shoulders and the whole family walked innocently and tranquilly to the clinic in the city. Until the soldiers shot them.
Amani Gnaim is one year and nine months old. She was shot in the head by Border Policemen, at appallingly close range, it appears. If her father, who carried Amani on his shoulders on that bitter day, is to be believed, the troops fired a few rounds at his family as they walked along the side of the road. If we believe the spokeswoman for the Border Police, her organization knows nothing about any such a shocking incident of fire being opened at short range on a family. But the scars on Amani's head tell a story, and provide crushing, painful proof that is more convincing than a thousand testimonies and denials.
The turrets of Israeli tanks concealed on the ridge threaten those who use the road that ascends from Bethlehem to the village of Al Khader. Palestinians throwing stones and hurling Molotov cocktails, as well as snipers, threaten the Tunnel Road, "the settlers' highway," which runs below, in the valley. A Palestinian youngster wearing a black shirt labeled "Labor Party Youth" shows us the way to Amani's home, at the far end of a narrow alley. His friend walks on crutches. According to the data of Abd al-Ahmar, a field worker for the Palestinian Human Rights Group, 1,350 residents of Bethlehem, nearly all of them civilians, have been wounded since the start of the current Intifada; 95 of them are under the age of 18. Amani is the youngest to be wounded so far. In the past few weeks, she has also suffered from a severe throat inflammation, probably caused by the tear gas grenades the Israeli soldiers fire here occasionally.
The photograph of a shahid - martyr - Rami Yihyeh Mussa, who was 16 when he was killed on April 17 in shelling by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), hangs at the entrance to the neighborhood grocery store. The rusting remains of an old car lie on the road leading to the house: it served as a makeshift Palestinian barrier to the IDF jeeps that hurtle through the area from the Tunnel Road in pursuit of stone-throwers. Al Khader, which lies on the outskirts of Bethlehem, is under Israeli security control, but is a hotbed of unrest and violence. The improvised roadblock of the local residents has been shunted to the side of the road; it can no longer stop the progress of any jeep.The home of the Gnaim family is on the second floor, above the village blacksmith's shop, and the way to it passes through the shop, between iron bars, soldering irons and two sooty workers. This is a house of poverty: two rooms for seven souls, the plaster on the walls peeling. The family has lived here for 17 years. Nawal the mother, Mohammed the father and their five children: Amal, 14; Yusuf, 12; Mahmoud, 10; Omar, 8; and Amani, the baby. Mohammed was a construction worker in the settlement of Beit El, but has been out of work since the Intifada erupted more than six months ago. What do they live on? "We make do." It's the same answer you get in all the poverty-stricken homes of Palestinians. Neighbor women with their children sit on the floor: they have come to congratulate Amani on her almost- healthy return home from the hospital.
On Sunday, April 8, Amani's sore throat worsened and her temperature went up. Her parents decided to take her to the clinic run by Dr. Ali in Bethlehem. They had been to see him a few times, and he has said that the little girl was suffering from the effects of the tear gas, but it was her rising temperature that worried the parents. They left the house at about 2 P.M. - Nawal, Mohammed and their two children, Mahmoud and Amani. They walked down the alley and reached the main road, which is flanked on both sides by vineyards and overlooks the Tunnel Road. It's usually dangerous here, between the flying stones and the flying bullets, but Mohammed says they thought it was quiet, as quiet as on Sunday of this week, when we walked the same road with Mohammed to reconstruct the events.
Two Border Police jeeps swooped down on them. Mohammed says they stopped a short distance from the family. There were six men in the jeeps; five emerged, and suddenly opened fire. That is what Mohammed says. Amani, whom he was carrying, began to bleed, Mahmoud and Nawal were also wounded lightly, the boy in his arm, the mother in the back. Mohammed says a few bullets whistled between his legs. They were rubber bullets, he says. His wife and son lay down on the sidewalk, he himself rushed the bleeding Amani to an ambulance that was parked below, where the Palestinian ambulances are always parked, ready for any incident that may occur - and does, in this violence-prone place.
Mohammed recalls that as he began to run with his daughter, he shouted at the Border Policemen, "Why did you do it?" - but they only smiled, perhaps in embarrassment, and sped off in their jeeps. According to Mohammed, there was no one else but them on the sidewalk at the time of the incident. "They saw that they shot a baby girl. There was no way they couldn't have seen that."
The Palestinian ambulance rushed Amani and her family to the Al-Husseini Hospital in Beit Jala, which borders on Jerusalem. That night, Amani was transferred to Al-Muqassed Hospital in East erusalem. A fractured skull, the doctors said. She underwent surgery. Her brother Mahmoud remained at Al-Husseini with his uncle. Amani was in intensive care for five days, and then spent another three days in the ward before being released. The doctors said it would be some time before it became clear whether permanent damage had been done. On May 5, her parents will take her for a follow-up examination. "I could identify them out of a million people," Mohammed says of those who shot his daughter. And an elderly woman neighbor interjects, "Who do you want to identify, and what for? There's plenty of them who do plenty of things. "Amani came home on Saturday. Says Nawal, the mother, with unabashed pride: "People ask her who shot her and she says the army. She's a smart girl." Mohammed: "Look how they treat our children. They shoot them and they laugh. In Hebron, they destroyed a whole neighborhood, the Abu Sneina neighborhood, because of a Jewish baby girl, and they refused to bury her until they avenged her death. We are simple people, we did nothing. All we did was to take our girl to the clinic. We didn't want to hurt anyone. I don't understand how the soldiers don't go crazy after they do something like that."
Here is a photograph of Amani from before the incident: a sweet little girl in the local studio, Disney figures in the background. She's holding a sweet in her hand - it looks like she has a strong grip. Here is Amani after the incident: with her head shaved and the stitches and the scars that will heal.
The spokeswoman for the Border Police, Chief Inspector Liat Perl: "The Border Police confirms the fact that there were severe disturbances that day in Al Khader, in which dozens of locals threw irebombs and stones at Border Police forces at the site. Because of the intensity of the events, the forces had to make use of means to disperse the mob. We have no knowledge of citizens who were urt and we are sorry if that in fact happened."

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