Wednesday, April 10

MCC Palestine Update #44

MCC Palestine Update #44

In 1949 MCC began work in Jericho will Palestinian refugees following the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948. For more than ten years, the bulk of MCC's program with Palestinians was relief distribution to refugees. Then, from the 1970s through to the present, MCC's work focused more on development work, support of local Palestinian initiatives to build up Palestinian services and infrastructure in agricultural, women's empowerment, kindergarten education, rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, and conflict resolution.

Sadly, the mounting humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories has meant right now that it once more makes sense for MCC to be engaging in relief efforts. MCC has so far committed US $43,750 for the local purchase of basic foodstuffs (e.g., flour, rice, sugar) to be sent to cities recently reinvaded by Israeli troops to families whose monies and food are running low thanks to 19 months of 60-80% unemployment and now nearly three weeks of curfew. The first convoy--joined by a wide variety of international and Palestinian humanitarian aid organizations--went to Nablus on Tuesday; after some negotiation, we were able to enter and deliver the goods. Many more convoys are planned during the coming days.

Below you will find five pieces. The first, by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, outlines in a grim way the massive support the Israeli public is providing its governments' repressive actions in the occupied territories. While we celebrate the refusal of some soldiers to participate in this senseless war, we must also be realistic about the fact that the vast majority of Israelis are simply giving the Sharon government carte blanche for all of its actions in the occupied territories. The second piece, by Bir Zeit professor Islah Jad, is a report on life in Ramallah under curfew. Third. This is followed by a report from LAW, a leading human rights center in the West Bank, on reports of Israeli soldiers digging mass graves in Jenin. Fourth, we include a poignant call by a Palestinian lecturer to UNESCO, asking the United Nations to take action to protect historic Palestinian buildings if it does not wish to protect Palestinians themselves. Finally, Israeli journalist Tom Segev discusses the disturbing frequency in Israeli political discourse of talk of "transfer" (i.e., expulsion/genocide).

1. The People’s War
Gideon Levy
Haaretz, 7 April 2002

For the second time in Israel’s history, Ariel Sharon is leading the country into a war of choice—as pernicious as any war of choice—and nearly the entire public is following him more than willingly. When history judges this war, only a few will be able to say that they opposed it from the outset. In the last analysis, it will also be very difficult to blame Sharon for the consequences of the war, in the light of the sweeping support he has been give by the majority of Israelis.

With a huge leap in the percentage of citizens who “rely on him”—from 45 percent in March to 62 percent in April, according to a poll reported by the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth—it seems that no one can express the aspirations of most Israelis like the prime minister. This is not a war that was waged by Sharon, the “warmonger,” this is the war of all of us. The call that was sounded at the right wing’s demonstration almost a month ago—“We want war,” the kind of call that is not heard in any enlightened country—has become the general sentiment.

Israel has set out on a bewildering operation whose goal no one understands and whose end no one can guess. Nearly 30,00 men were mobilized and they reported for duty as one man, making the refusal movement, with 21 refuseniks currently in jail, irrelevant. “We didn’t ask why, we just came,” the reservists told the prime minister, expressing the “together” syndrome that characterizes Israel at such times. Tens of thousands of men leave their homes, putting their normal life behind them, and set out to kill and be killed-and they don’t even ask why? That is the behavior of the herd.

The series of horrific suicide terrorist attacks in the heart of Israeli cities, which were preceded by brainwashing, brought about the present mess. The groundless contention that former prime minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians “almost everything” and in return they set in motion a wave of terrorism, has become the most widely accepted axiom in Israeli public opinion. To it was added the old assumption that “something has to be done” in the light of the terrorist attacks and that “doing something” means making use of a lot more force.

The Labor Party and the Likud joined forces in order to reach the conclusion that it was necessary to reoccupy the Palestinian cities, and to strike hard against the Palestinians to teach them a lesson in the practice of peace. Even the lying statements of prime minister that he had done everything he could to achieve a cease-fire, while ignoring the wholesale liquidations of wanted Palestinians, were widely believed.

So we have again become one nation that speaks in one voice and doesn’t ask questions, such as: Who will fight terrorism after we crush all the Palestinian security units? Who are all the “armed people” Israel is arresting, and will they become Israel’s security contractors after their release? What is the infrastructure of terrorism if not the occupation, the despair and the hatred? How will the shattering blow we have delivered against the entire Palestinian population help in the war against terrorism? How will it advance the peace, or at least the security of Israelis?

The nation wanted war, and it got what it wanted. Within a few days we succeeded in sowing hate in the heart of every Palestinian and it will not soon fade. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who are imprisoned in their homes after an unbearable year and a half, who are frightened by the sounds of gunfire and the rumbling of the tanks, the bodies that continue to be brought to the hospitals without letup; the mass arrests and the general destruction—these are now generating fierce resentment against us. The world, with the exception of the United States in the meantime, is again treating us like lepers, and public opinion in the Arab states is threatening to push their leaders into an all-out war. This is the balance of blood and terror of this operation, which has not a thing to be said to its credit, other than it satisfies the feelings of a public that is terrified by the terrorist attacks.

The Labor Party is a full partner to everything that is happening, despite its leaders’ talk about a political horizon, the Saudi plan and the day after. The problem is not the “day after” when the acts that are being perpetrated in Labor’s name today are horrendous. Meretz, Hadash [Israeli political parties] and the extra-parliamentary movements have begun to come out of the slumber lately, but have not been able to obtain mass support. Over the weekend the Peace Now organization announced that it would hold a “demonstration of tens of thousands”—but only a month from now.

Most of the press is in one of its lowest periods, not only in its near total mobilization in the cause, but also because it is not supplying the public with concrete information about what is going on an hour away. Rare shots of the suffering that the Palestinians are enduring were broadcast on Channel 2 and led the defense minister to temporarily close the territories to the Israeli media, according to a report last week.

In any event, much more about what is really going on can be gleaned from the foreign networks. The suffering of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is hardly given expression, and the critical damage being done to the health and supply systems is barely mentioned. Again, the majority of Israelis don’t have the slightest idea of what their neighbors are going through.

This is a dark time in Israel. The damage we are causing ourselves will in part be irreversible. In the not so distant future, when it becomes clear that this war was pointless, the meaningful voices of opposition will begin to be heard. But they will be too few and toolate.

2. Where is the world to see this?
Islah Jad
9 April 2002

Dear friends everywhere,

Today is day 11 of the re-occupation of Ramallah. We hear less shootings but from time to time we hear explosions of forced entry into houses and I keep hearing the same stories over and over again. Ask everyone to gather in a room, they start their 'searching'. It is supposed to be a search for people, but in many cases they were 'searching' for something else, money, jewels, laptops, mobile phones... etc.

Jenine Al-Bina gave me a call to tell me that she cannot connected via e-mail first because she has no electricity and second because they stole her laptop during their 'visit'. She is neighbor to Elan Halevy who is in France. They 'visited' his apartment and turned everything upside down. Majdi al Malki is also a nearby neighbor. They used his house for two days, used the bath, kitchen, food, sleep, then stole his wife's gold and his two girls gifts. They did not forget to urinate on his carpeted floor. Today, I managed to get finally a bottle of gas for cooking, it took me one hour to find it, I was so happy to get one, everybody was asking me from where I got it. The usual shopsfor cooking gas were empty, the shopkeeper told me you are our customer, I will tell you, they allowed us only one truck to bottles, but it is in the industrial zone you have to get a taxi, if you find, and get one. This becomes so difficult, but I have to get one, since two days I am using my electric oven to heat water and also for cooking. I found a taxi, take my empty bottle, go to the place, get a bottle and come back full of happiness. I paid 35 NIS for the bottle and 30 NIS for the taxi ($12). In my house, Amal was waiting for me, we have to go and give some money to a woman who lives in downtown Ramallah.

This is the second case today I heard about, without having any money to buy food. We gave her some money.Her baby had an infection for two days with a fever. We told her to take him to one of the Medical Relief clinics. We went to the market to buy some vegetables and fruits, forget it. One kilo of tomatoes cost 10 NIS ($2). On normal days we get 4 or 5 kilos for that price. I was angry, and said to the man, "Are not you ashamed, why you are raising the price?" He denied and said "This doesn't stem from us, they allowed very little quantity from Israel. Our gardens where we get the good vegetables are sealed. Not even a bird can get out of Jenin and Nablus now." We left without buying. I wrote down a list of things to buy, but when you see the devastation in the city, shattered windows, the dirty streets, the clouds of dust filling the air, the provocative presence of the Israeli troops in al-Manarah square, I lost the desire to buy anything. I ask Amal about our friends in Nablus. She tells me what happened to Inas. She lives very close to the old city, the hottest point now, they visited her at 3 a.m., searched her house and asked her to come with them. They took her as a human shield to her neighbor's house about 20 meters away. They ordered her to knock the door, she rang the bell, they laughed at her and told her "Stupid! Don't you know that we cut all power in the city?" She knocked with her hand, but was pushed aside and they put a kind of dough on the door. It was blown up in a second while she was close to it. She started to shake all over.

In the house a family of 10 people, half asleep. To wake them up, they threw a stun grenade with a huge reverberation. The mother started to weep, saying, "Please don't harm my children." Inas
started to cry to see her see her very proud neighbor weeping like this. They ordered Inas to leave. "How, and what if they shoot me?" she asks, "It is curfew and almost dawn." They pushed her out but she insisted. The officer called out to let her go and she returned back to her home in her night dress and her slippers.

I said to Amal, the story I heard on ANN t.v, an Arab satellite channel, at 3 a.m. They interviewed Dr. Tariff Ashour, he is the head of what he calls a 'field hospital' in the old city of Nablus. During the interview you can hear clearly the cries of injured people dying. He said that in front of him were 18 corpses, and 3 on the way. They were mostly civilians, "one was shot dead when he came to give us some blankets to cover the bodies, another one was shot when he went to dig a grave in the courtyard of the hospital". The field hospital is located in an old mosque with very simple equipment. "We could not get out of the Old City even a single one of the injured or any of the bodies," he said. "We have no morgue in this place. What we have are plenty of first aid staff who can treat light injuries, but for serious injuries we have to leave them to die. These are the ones you can hear crying now and we can do nothing to help them. I have another one with serious injuries in his leg, we have to cut it tomorrow at 7, we have no other choice."

"For your information," he added, "we do this under continuous bombardment, this place was hit several times, but we have to do our duty. Where are our Arab brothers? Where is the world to see this?" I was telling Amal what I heard. I felt so angry. Why did no one prepare a proper hospital there? Why did no one provide needed equipment there? She replied that no one ever expected that, "They will go to this limit." I tried to calm myself down, and said at least they are better off than injured and killed in Jenin refugee camp, where they have nothing. I heard Dr.
Mohamed Ghali, head of Jenin public hospital saying on Al-Jazeera t.v that he gives directions to people in the camp what to do and after 5 days of fighting and heavy bombarding in Jenin refugee camp and the Old City, and the Old City of Nablus, they did not allow one single ambulance to get to these places or to evacuate any injured or killed. Kamel Jaber from Jenin tells me too that his friend Ibrahim Said has the body of his son Walid of 19 years old in his arms since two days now. He does not want to bury him but even if he did, he cannot. The Apache helicopter did not stop firing missiles and nobody knows what to do with their dead. On al-Jazeerah too I heard the voice of Hussam Khader, a Palestinian MP from Balata refugee camp. "Yes, they fired three missiles at my door step. My young daughter could no longer speak and we cannot take her to a doctor." Then Mahmoud Al-Alool, Nablus governor, "The situation is horrible and catastrophic. I keep getting calls from the Old City about the killed and the injured. If the Red Cross cannot manage to get them out, who can?"

On April 7th, they demolished Hendeya building with an F.16 bomb, a building of 7 floors turned to rubble. An old woman refused to leave her house. She is buried now under the rubble. They commit war crimes but who will punish them? "But people in Jenin refugee camp manage with their injured," said Amal. "They have a 'field hospital'", she insisted. I was surprised and I wished that what she is saying is true. I said "But yesterday, I heard the head of a first aid clinic there and he does not say that they have a 'field hospital'" "No," she adds, "I have a friend there and she told me that some shabab (young men) in the camp collected all towels and keffeya (the checkered Palestinian scarves) and put them in a big pan of water and boiled them on coal because they have no electricity, of course. They use these towels as sterilized bandages." "These might be useful for light injuries," I asked her, "but what about serious injuries?" "No, they die,"
she said.

I felt so depressed and angry. We saw a big poster of Yasser Arafat in al Manarah square written on it 'Just decide what you want, you are the great knight of this time'. I noticed that something was written in Hebrew over the Arabic writing and asked some passing by what is written. Nobody could tell me. When I came back home, my daughter told me that they wrote over Arafat's picture, "Mother, mother, where did you leave me?" or something like this. In al-Manarah square we meet many other women, all say Hamdulla assalama, ("Thank god for your safety"). "Yes, for the time being," we answer back.

We were a small group of women but we shouted at soldiers. “Go away, go back to your mothers! Sharon, get out of our land!” They just stared at us but after few minutes they threw a stun grenade with huge sound, and we ran away. Amal was laughing and said history has to register that the first bomb thrown at demonstrators was probably thrown at women. “As usual,” I said, “women are always the first to demonstrate after each occupation.” This happened after the 1967 war and in 1987 in the first Uprising. I came back home exhausted as usual, my hair felt like metal wires, so dry and full of dust. I need to take a shower. My daughter cooked some spaghetti again. I feel no desire to eat.

She forced me, saying "You have to. This might go for a long time. We have to survive. At least we are lucky that we are not dead or under ferocious fire like in Jenin or Nablus." When she mentioned Jenin and Nablus, it was too much for me and I started to cry. She left the food and joined me crying too. "It is good for our survival to cry sometimes," said Yasmine.

By 7p.m, I hear the news. "We extend our hand to the Palestinians for peace. We want to live side by side with them. They have to abandon their leadership. They brought on them catastrophe after catastrophe," Sharon said. I felt that he was not talking to us. He talks to some aliens he sees. He addresses the outside world with this talk but us we know how he speaks on the ground. How can politicians lie like this?

Sharon decided to add three ministers to his government, all right wing. One of them, Effi Eitam, is an ex- general who says publicly that "The land of Israel cannot contain two nations, it is us or them. We will not bring buses to force them into but we will make their lives so difficult to leave by their 'free will'." What a free country, what a free people, what a free spirit!

With these people in power, I think the worst will happen, although we did not see it yet. My love to all of you. Islah

3. Israel digs mass graves - covering up war crimes
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment
10 April 2002

This morning, April 10, LAW has managed to obtain the following information from Jenin refugee camp. Residents of the refugee camp report that they were first moved from the camp. Eyewitnesses stated that Israeli forces are now digging large holes inside Jenin refugee camp and in surrounding areas. They have stated their fears that these are mass graves, where the several killed (numbers still to be confirmed) in the refugee camp will be buried. Eyewitnesses saw Israeli forces putting bodies inside the holes. The area is located in the middle of the camp, also known as Haret al-Hawarish.

LAW has sought assistance from the international humanitarian agencies to enter the area and document the current activities of Israeli forces and photograph evidence of how the dead were killed, but has been advised that it is currently too dangerous to enter the refugee camp to do so.

LAW believes that these current actions suggest an intention to hide evidence of Israeli war crimes committed in Jenin refugee camp.

They follow statements made by Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres in Ha'aretz, April 9, 2002, that a "massacre" has been carried out in the camps and statements made by Israeli army officers that "the soldiers are almost not advancing on foot. The bulldozers are simply 'shaving' the homes and causing terrible destruction. When the world sees the pictures of what we have done there, it will do us immense damage."

"However many wanted men we kill in the refugee camp, and however much of the terror infrastructure we expose and destroy there, there is still no justification for causing such great destruction."

Peter Hansen, director of UNRWA also confirmed on April 7, 2002, that "We are getting reports of pure horror - that helicopters are strafing residential areas, that systematic shelling by tanks has created hundreds of wounded, that bulldozers are razing refugee homes and that food and medicine will soon run out. In the name of human decency the Israeli military must allow our ambulances safe passage to help evacuate the wounded and deliver emergency supplies of medicine and food."

These statements confirm reports received from Jenin refugee camp earlier this week, reported by LAW in its press releases of April 8 and 9 and LAW's Weekly Round ups.

LAW's attorney Hanan Khatib has lodged a pre-petition with the Israeli State Attorney's office to stop these mass grave burials and allow access for LAW's legal team to investigate the circumstances of their deaths.

Yesterday evening, LAW received reports directly from Jenin and Nablus of an escalated military assault, including in Jenin refugee camp, bombardment from Apache helicopter gunships; F15 and F16 war planes shelling the old city of Nablus and Balata refugee camp; and further deployment of Israeli tanks.

LAW reaffirms that these military assaults targeting civilians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Jenin and Nablus amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. LAW condemns as well these ongoing attempts to prevent access for human rights monitors, journalists, and humanitarian agencies to these sites of mass killings to investigate and document evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

LAW urgently appeals again to member states to apply effective measures, including in the form of economic sanctions, to pressure Israel to accept an international protection presence, end its gross violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and genuinely commit to final peace negotiations.

LAW welcomes the recent moves by states to impose an arms embargo, including by the Government of Germany, but believes that stronger measures, in particular, economic sanctions and immediate deployment of an international protection force is vital for the protection of civilians.

LAW calls again on member states, including as High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to comply with their obligations under article 146 by searching for, investigating and bringing to trial perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, under universal jurisdiction and through a War Crimes Tribunal. And calls for an end to all acts by member states aiding and abetting the perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including by ending supply of all arms used to perpetrate such crimes.


LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Federation Internationale des Ligues de Droits de l'Homme (FIDH) and the World Organization Organization Against Torture (OMCT).

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, PO Box 20873, Jerusalem, tel. +972-2-5833530, fax. +972-2-5833317, email:, web:

4. To: UNESCO, United Nations, From: Re-Occupied Palestine
Nahla Assali

Having given up on the world community to provide protection for human life in the Palestinian towns, villages and camps in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, especially during the current
brutal incursions, we call upon you as guardians of culture and cultural heritage to act on preventing the equally brutal destruction taking place right now in the historical old city of Nablus, a city that treasures tens of invaluable sites and private property which goes back to hundreds of years and which include houses and even palaces to well- known Nabulsi families beside the mosques, Turkish baths, soap factories and traditional suks.

The Israeli government is persistent in its policy to destroy human kind, trees and stone (Al-Bashar, Al-Shajar and Al-Hajar: these are the rhyming equivalents in Arabic) and since there is
nobody-not even in the stature of the President of power number one in the world-capable or willing to bridle this insanity, we approach you to stand up to your claims to civilization and culture. And in case this appeal reached you after the fact i.e. after the disaster, we still hold you –as a United Nation body – responsible to exercise your right in conducting the required investigation and inventory of all the damage incurred and make the perpetrators pay for their crimes against our precious stone.

As to trees, there will be Palestinians to replant them for generations to come.

As to human life lost in this most unjust war, time will take care of that. Living or deceased, those who committed crimes against us shall be prosecuted when this world we inhabit regains its soul.

Nahla Assali
Retired lecturer / Birzeit University
Written on behalf of friends besieged in Nablus.

5. A Black Flag Hangs Over the Idea of Transfer
Tom Segev
Haaretz, 5 April 2002

An evil spirit is infiltrating public discourse: the spirit of expulsion.

The zealots among the settlers still mostly use the slogan “Kahane was right,” but the slogan “No Arabs—No Terror” is representative of increasing number of spokesmen. It happens whenever there’s a proliferation of terror attacks. Kahane relied on God, Rehavam Ze’evi on David Ben-Gurion. Ze’evi tried to dress up his expulsion plans in the costume of decency: His planned expulsions would be “by agreement,” meaning on the basis of an agreement between the basis of an agreement between the state of Israel and the state that would absorb the expelled.

This week, Ze’evi’s heir, former minister Benny Elon, gave up the “agreement” element: He proposed to exploit the current war, and under cover of the battles, to “evacuate” the refugee camps in the West Bank. Elon was allowed to express those views on Israel Radio.

Minister Ephraim Sneh recently came out with a plan to transfer some Israeli Arab towns, including, apparently, one city, Umm el Fahm, to Palestinian sovereignty. Like physical transfer, the legal transfer proposed by Sneh is an expression of the desire to get rid of all of the Arabs: those in the territories and those in Israel. While still in uniform, Dr. Sneh liked to nurture his image as one of those officers who knew how to help the Arabs. In government cabinet sessions he sounds like a Liberman-Landau clone. Some participants find it difficult to believe their ears. Passionately supporting that transfer concept, the minister was allowed to propose on one of the TV talk shows that Israel expel relatives of suicide bombers.

Israeli law and international law do not allow a person’s citizenship to be revoked. But the law is only a law, so Eli Yishai, the interior minister, is hurrying to prepare legislation that would allow the state to strip citizenship from those it chooses. One of the suicide bombers lived in the territories, but was an Israeli citizenship by virtue of his parents’ marriage. Yishai has already ruled that there will be no more family reunifications. He also wants to take action against residents of the territories who hold Israeli identity cards. The result could be the same as in Jerusalem: a flood of people with Israeli ID cards in the West Bank swarming into Israel, but that problem could be solved if Sneh’s proposal is accepted.

This is not merely a matter of clean language. If the wave of terror propels Israel back to the 1930s, the next stage of deterioration is possible. Leaders of the Zionist movement discussed the transfer idea; up to the War of Independence it was only written and spoken about, but there is a link between the idea and the Palestinian tragedy of 1948. In advance of the Sinai operation of 1956, plans were drawn up for the mass expulsions of Israeli Arabs from the “Triangle.”

In the Six-Day War, nearly a quarter million Palestinians from the West Bank moved to Jordan, many by force. It wasn’t easy for them to return, and not all managed to do so. This is where the danger lies when the possibility of transfer becomes part of the political discourse, when it seemingly becomes a legitimate subject. Like military orders that have a black flag hanging
over their illegality, there are ideas that should have black flags over

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