Friday, January 13

MCC Palestine Update #117

MCC Palestine Update #117

13 January 2006

Kull sane w-inte saalim

Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox communities have all celebrated Christmas so far. The Church of Nativity, where it is believed Jesus was born, has seen more visitors than usual. But here in Bethlehem, there remains one more celebration. The Armenian Apostolic Church will celebrate Christmas on January 19, with their Christmas Eve midnight service at the Church of the Nativity.

With about 6 million member world wide, the Armenian Apostolic Church, sometimes called the Armenian Orthodox Church, is one of the world’s oldest Christian traditions. Along with other communities that are today represented in the Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean Orthodox Churches, the Armenian Church is referred to as an Oriental or “Non-Chalcedonian” Orthodox Church, referring to their rejection of the decisions of the fourth ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE. It was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the Armenians in Turkey suffered a series of massacres and expulsions that led to the death of large numbers of them. It is widely believed that altogether between 1.5 and 2 million Armenians died in the genocide.

Today there are large Armenian Apostolic congregations in many countries outside Armenia, including the United States, France, Russia, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Of particular importance is the Armenian Apostolic Church of Iran where Armenians are the largest Christian ethnic minority. (For more information, please visit and

For our Muslim friends, this week has been a special time as they celebrate ‘Eid al-Adha. This ‘eid or feast is one of the two great festivals that Muslims celebrate, occurring each year at the end of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. ‘Eid al-Adha commemorates the prophet Ibraham and his faithfulness to God expressed in his willingness to sacrifice his son Isma’il (a story very familiar to us as Christians but told with Abraham’s son Isaac instead of Isma’il). As the story goes, Ibrahim prepared to sacrifice his son but God stopped him and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of this sacrifice. The meat is distributed amongst their neighbors, relatives, and the poor and hungry in a concerted effort to see that no impoverished Muslim is left without sacrificial food during this day. (For more information, please visit

Celebrating Nonviolence

In late December, MCC partner Holy Land Trust ( along with the U.S.-based Nonviolence International, held a conference here in Bethlehem entitled “Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance” ( This conference brought together members of the global nonviolent community to discuss the past, present and future of nonviolent resistance and to learn first hand about nonviolent activism in Palestine. It drew participants from the local Palestinian community, internationals, as well as Israelis who, due to Israeli segregation policies that make it illegal for them to travel into the West Bank, had to sneak onto Bethlehem in order to participate. It was great to see so many visitors coming to Bethlehem to see the realities of occupation for themselves.

Lingering Uncertainty

Elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) are scheduled for the 25th of this month, the first of their kind since 1996. The PLC is the legislative branch of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). As these elections are being held in the occupied territories, the PLC only represents those Palestinian living here and not Palestinians living in the Diaspora—most of whom are refugees. This means that besides the 3.8 million Palestinians living in occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, the nearly 5 million Palestinians living outside of historical Palestine are not represented in this or any other body of the PNA, not to mention the 1.4 million Palestinians living inside the state of Israel. (These numbers alone communicate how central a just resolution to the plight of Palestinian refugee issue must be to any durable solution to this conflict.)

As the election process continues to move forward, the question of whether Palestinians living in East Jerusalem will be “allowed” to vote by the state of Israel continues to be uncertain. Due to the participation of groups such as Hamas in these elections, Israel has threatened in the past not only to prohibit Palestinians in East Jerusalem from voting, but has also threatened to make voting difficult in the rest of the occupied territories by increasing the Israeli military’s presence at checkpoints or imposing closures, making movement even more difficult than it already is for Palestinians. The consistent campaign of mass arrests that the Israeli military has stepped up over the past months in and of itself has been one way to interfere in this process by simply removing potential legislative candidates from the scene.

This blatant interference in the democratic processes of the Palestinians people belies the claims of the state of Israel to uphold the virtues of democracy in the Middle East. Indeed, there is an unfortunately long history of foreign powers employing the language of democracy in their interference in local affairs in this part of the world, while engaging in actions and supporting structures that are anything but democratic, and undermining those legitimate displays of democracy that do not conform to their own ambitions.

A classic example of this would be the U.K.- and U.S.-backed overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, and the reinstallation of the brutal dictatorial (and U.K. / U.S.-friendly) regime of the shah (see Rashid Khalidi’s Resurrecting Empire (I.B.Taurus, 2004) for more on this).

Another point of uncertainty that the people of this land are experiencing comes form the recent ill health of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Last week, the prime minister suffered a serious stroke that has left his health in serious danger and his future in serious question. Most recognize that the political career of Sharon is over. This naturally brings into question the future of Israeli politics, as Israelis face an upcoming election later this year. This also has an impact on the Palestinian people, but for Palestinians, not in a manner that most of the reports and discussions about Sharon and his role in the “peace process” tell.

For it should be made clear that there is not and there has not been any “peace process” that Ariel Sharon has overseen. Movements such as the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, in which Israeli colonists were evacuated from their homes in the illegal colonies of the Gaza Strip, were nothing less than unilateral acts dictated and executed by Israel, without any negotiations with the Palestinian people—which is why the state of Gaza continues to be one of occupation, essentially one big prison.

In fact, in the words of Sharon’s close advisor Dov Weisglass, such unilateralism is meant to silence the critics of the Global North so that the “peace process” can be frozen and the question of a Palestinian state placed in formaldehyde indefinitely. Earlier this month, it was reported in the Israeli press that Sharon would move forward with this position and eventually scrap the U.S.-led “road map” plan for peace and instead seek Washington's blessing for unilaterally annexing occupied West Bank land (“Israel’s Sharon aims to scrap peace plan – report,”

Such a trajectory, unfortunately, points to the completion of the 430-mile “separation barrier,” becoming the de facto border of a “Palestinian State” composed of several isolated islands of land on roughly 40 to 50 percent of the West Bank. Palestinians will be confined to these “reservations,” which will be rendered “contiguous” by a network of tunnels. Absent a viable, contiguous Palestinians state, what remains will be a reservation life for Palestinians parallel to the Native North American experience in the United States, a reality that Israeli journalist Amira Hass has reported already exists (see below “IDF cantonizes West Bank, sealing in 800,000 Palestinians,”

And Still the Occupation

The reality of occupation is one thing that is quite certain as this new year begins. Lack of mobility, with new and “improved” checkpoints and wall terminals have already been constructed at the entrances of both the Bethlehem and Ramallah “reservations,” continues to disrupt the day-to-day lives of Palestinians. In a recent photo essay by MCC partner the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (, these fortified checkpoints (“terminals”) and gates are described as

"a key element of the Apartheid Wall and the ghettoization of the Palestinian people. Racist oppression and daily humiliation is intensifying as the Occupation builds a series of fortified checkpoints. Spread throughout Palestine they control and regulate all movement…Humiliation and frustration characterize daily life. With Orwellian control and domination, the Occupation continually subjugates Palestinians to the status of animals being herded through gates and doors…Isolation of Palestinian communities is a cornerstone of the Zionist project to ethnically cleanse the land, to annihilate Palestinian identity and struggle, and to gain complete and totalitarian control over all of Palestine." (“Checkpoints, Gates and Terminals – Driving racist ghettoization in the 21st century,”

Colonization of the land also shows no sign of letting up (“Ministry releases tenders for building 228 houses in West Bank,”, with more than 6000 new settlers moving into the occupied West Bank in the second half of 2005 alone (“Number of settlers on the rise,”,7340,L-3195205,00.html), including many settlers evicted from the occupied Gaza Strip earlier last year (“Gaza evictees settle in West Bank,”, and a more intentional effort to concretize Israeli control over the Jordan Valley (“Israel is trying to push us out of Jordan Valley,”

A major part of this project to solidify control over Palestinian territory is the ongoing construction of the “separation barrier” (“Mofaz orders resumption of separation fence around J'lem,”; “High Court okays construction of West Bank fence near Modi'in,”, the most recent manifestation in a long history of Palestinian dispossession.

Settler violence continues to be part and parcel of this illegal occupation, especially most recently with the destruction of Palestinian groves of olive trees. According to Israeli police, 733 Palestinian olive trees were vandalized in 2005. But according to a partial list of damaged trees throughout the West Bank compiled by Israeli human rights organizations like B’Tselem ( and Rabbis for Human Rights (, the real number is much higher. These organizations say that at least 2,750 olive trees were vandalized in various ways last year, including being uprooted and stolen, being torched and being chopped down (“Experts: Palestinian trees were vandalized, not pruned,”; “Shin Bet: IDF did nothing to stop settlers uprooting olive trees,”; “Settlers uprooted 2400 olive trees in three years,”

Advocacy: Our Active Engagement with the “Burning Issues of Our Time”

MCC’s recent documentary, Children of the Nakba—that takes a look at the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” that led to the Palestinian refugee crisis in which 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed and between 700,000 and 900,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands—is now available online in MCC’s Online Resource Catalog: (search keywords: “Children of the Nakba”). Also available on this new DVD is the award-winning MCC documentary The Dividing Wall. For more information on these refugee issues, please visit MCC’s partners the Badil Resource Center at and the Zochrot Association at

Some additional resources that MCC has recently produced to assist in education and advocacy include:

“Peacebuilding in Palestine / Israel: A Discussion Paper” meant to help facilitate a conversation in communities back in North America about stewardship, divestment, and economic justice, online at

What Is Palestine/Israel?: Answers to Common Questions by Sonia Weaver:

MCC Peace Office newsletter “Christian Zionism and Peace in the Holy Land” (July-September 2005):

MCC Peace Office newsletter “Walling Off the Future for Palestinians and Israelis” (July-September 2004):

How do we respond?

We ask that you would prayerfully consider these issues that continue to weigh heavily in this broken land with discussion and dialogue in your own communities. Suggestions for steps for moving towards action by advocating for a justpeace for Palestinians and Israelis can be found at MCC’s “Bridges Not Walls” website:

We also continue to ask all of you to keep our CPT colleagues being held in Iraq in your thoughts and prayers as well as their families and all of those suffering as a result of these occupations.

May a sense of newness this season bring us all hope and renewal for our engagement with and struggle for peace and justice in the coming year.

Peace to you all,

Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine

Attachments and Links:

· Amira Hass, “IDF cantonizes West Bank, sealing in 800,000 Palestinians,” Haaretz, 13 Jan 2006
· Robert Fisk, “Telling it like it isn’t,” Los Angeles Times, 27 December 2005.
· Ghada Karmi, “With no Palestinian state in sight, aid becomes an adjunct to occupation,” The Guardian, 31 December 2005
· Henry Siegman, “He never intended an equitable solution in Israel,” The Observer, 8 January 2006.
· Amira Hass, “It’s not the olive trees,” Haaretz, 11 January 2006.
· Amira Hass, “It’s not all in the details,” Haaretz, 28 December 2005.
· Sarah Leah Whitson, “Expanding Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Letter to President George W. Bush,” Human Rights Watch, 27 December 2005
· Akiva Elder, “There's a system for turning Palestinian property into Israel’s state land,” Haaretz, 27 December 2005
· “Judaizing Jerusalem - the Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinian Capital,” The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, 27 December 2005
· Editorial “On apathy,” Haaretz, 23 December 2005.
· Gideon Levy, “Twilight Zone / Dusty trail to death,” Haaretz, 23 December 2005.
· Noura Khouri, “Breaking Down the Wall,” Electronic Intifada, 20 December 2005.


IDF cantonizes West Bank, sealing in 800,000 Palestinians
Amira Hass

13 January 2006

For a month now, since the second week of December 2005, the Israel Defense Forces has severed the northern part of the West Bank from other parts, and prohibited residents from traveling toward Ramallah and points southward.

The ban applies to some 800,000 people, residents of the Tul Karm, Nablus and Jenin provinces. Until January 2, the ban applied just to residents of Jenin and Tul Karm. Since then it has been extended to Nablus area residents.

The IDF did not issue an order on the new arrangements, which people only found out about at the permanent and so-called flying checkpoints that have prevented them over the past four weeks from traveling southward from the Za'atara junction (the Tapuah checkpoint). They were not informed how long the travel ban would be in effect.

The IDF has also cut off direct traffic links within the northern West Bank. The main artery - Road 60, running from the Shavei Shomron settlement to the road leading to the settlements Mevo Dotan and Homesh, has been closed to all Palestinian traffic since mid-August by means of three steel gates. Military sources have told international organizations that this road will be closed to Palestinian traffic until the construction of an additional security fence around Shavei Shomron is completed.

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Los Angeles Times
Telling it like it isn't
Robert Fisk

27 December 2005

I FIRST REALIZED the enormous pressures on American journalists in the Middle East when I went some years ago to say goodbye to a colleague from the Boston Globe. I expressed my sorrow that he was leaving a region where he had obviously enjoyed reporting. I could save my sorrows for someone else, he said. One of the joys of leaving was that he would no longer have to alter the truth to suit his paper's more vociferous readers.

"I used to call the Israeli Likud Party 'right wing,' " he said. "But recently, my editors have been telling me not to use the phrase. A lot of our readers objected." And so now, I asked? "We just don't call it 'right wing' anymore."

Ouch. I knew at once that these "readers" were viewed at his newspaper as Israel's friends, but I also knew that the Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu was as right wing as it had ever been.

This is only the tip of the semantic iceberg that has crashed into American journalism in the Middle East. Illegal Jewish settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land are clearly "colonies," and we used to call them that. I cannot trace the moment when we started using the word "settlements." But I can remember the moment around two years ago when the word "settlements" was replaced by "Jewish neighborhoods" — or even, in some cases, "outposts."

Similarly, "occupied" Palestinian land was softened in many American media reports into "disputed" Palestinian land — just after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in 2001, instructed U.S. embassies in the Middle East to refer to the West Bank as "disputed" rather than "occupied" territory.

Then there is the "wall," the massive concrete obstruction whose purpose, according to the Israeli authorities, is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from killing innocent Israelis. In this, it seems to have had some success. But it does not follow the line of Israel's 1967 border and cuts deeply into Arab land. And all too often these days, journalists call it a "fence" rather than a "wall." Or a "security barrier," which is what Israel prefers them to say. For some of its length, we are told, it is not a wall at all — so we cannot call it a "wall," even though the vast snake of concrete and steel that runs east of Jerusalem is higher than the old Berlin Wall.

The semantic effect of this journalistic obfuscation is clear. If Palestinian land is not occupied but merely part of a legal dispute that might be resolved in law courts or discussions over tea, then a Palestinian child who throws a stone at an Israeli soldier in this territory is clearly acting insanely.

If a Jewish colony built illegally on Arab land is simply a nice friendly "neighborhood," then any Palestinian who attacks it must be carrying out a mindless terrorist act.

Please read more at,0,6099761.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions


The Guardian
With no Palestinian state in sight, aid becomes an adjunct to occupation
Ghada Karmi

31 December 2005

Israeli policy is the root cause of need in the occupied territories, but donors pay up without challenging it

The donors well know the causes of this desperate situation. At a conference in Ramallah last July, the World Bank's representative, Nigel Roberts, candidly admitted that Israel's occupation was the problem. Yet the funding continues, as if for all the world the Palestinians were victims not of a deliberate Israeli policy, but of some natural disaster. In the context of an occupation that denudes the Palestinians of their land and resources, keeps them imprisoned in ghettoes, and controls every aspect of their lives, what should be the rationale of international aid? Without doubt, emergency relief is vital to Palestinian survival and cannot be lightly withdrawn. But should not the root cause, Israel's occupation, be addressed too? Otherwise aid becomes merely an adjunct to the occupation.

By paying up without caveat, donors in effect relieve Israel of its obligations under international law. As the occupying power, Israel must deliver assistance and services to the Palestinian population. As high contracting parties to the Geneva conventions, the donors are obliged to ensure Israel's compliance with the law. None of this has happened. Instead, international aid has rendered the occupation cost-free. It has even enriched Israel's economy: according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, for every dollar produced in the occupied territories, 45 cents flows back to Israel.

Aside from the recent EU criticism of Israel's policies in Arab Jerusalem, which were quickly downplayed, the donors have made no serious attempt to challenge Israel's actions, not even to demand compensation for its destruction of Palestinian projects they had funded. On the contrary, the process of preparing Palestinians for western-style "statehood" has accelerated. Foreign funded projects for "democratisation", "reform", "capacity building" and other imported buzz words have doubled. In the absence of a Palestinian state or any hope of one, this becomes an exercise in cynicism. The donors' efforts to ensure the Palestinian security services can fight "terrorism" (ie resistance to occupation), while Israel's army freely assassinates Palestinians, bombs them and demolishes their homes, is immoral.

By focusing on the effects of occupation rather than ending it, the donors have made the conflict into a scramble for socio-economic survival. But distancing the Palestinians from their national struggle can only help Israel impose its final terms on them. If that is not to happen, then the donors must resolve their dilemma: not abandoning the Palestinians to their fate, and not challenging Israel, are incompatible. Facing up to the bully is a moral imperative, and, ultimately, the only practical way forward.

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The Observer
He never intended an equitable solution in Israel
Henry Siegman

8 January 2006

If it were true that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians incorporating these unavoidable 'concessions' were the strategic goal of the 'new' Sharon, his departure from the political scene would be grievous. But Sharon had no intention of making such concessions, nor is there any basis for the expectation that there will ever be a Palestinian leader willing or able to accept an agreement that does not include these provisions.

Many in Israel saw Sharon's decision to disengage from Gaza as evidence of a new determination to end the conflict by dismantling the settlement enterprise, not only in Gaza but in much of the West Bank as well. I believe that to be a misreading.

The precedent Sharon sought to establish was not for additional disengagements from the West Bank (other than from isolated areas and major Palestinian population centres). Rather, he intended Gaza to serve as a precedent for a continuing unilateralism enabling Israel to retain de facto control of the West Bank, even if a nominal Palestinian state were to come into existence. Sharon believed a nominal state was the only way for Israel to deal with the demographic challenge posed by Palestinian population growth and - equally important - the only way to retain US support for its unilateralism.

Sharon's ideas for an imposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a narrow conception of security that considers Palestinian national aspirations and Palestinian rights, a notion foreign to Sharon, as irrelevant, constitute a dubious foundation for peacemaking.

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It's not the olive trees
Amira Hass

11 January 2006

There is something very human about these stumps of olive trees, hundreds upon hundreds of them, their amputated branches reaching skyward as if to ask for help. Last Friday, in Tawana in the southern Hebron hills, 120 trees; In Burin, south of Nablus, earlier this week, about 50 trees; another 100 or so in Burin on December 24; and 140 trees, again in Burin, on December 14.

The police have counted 733 trees that were uprooted in 2005. According to the (incomplete) list of 29 incidents of agricultural sabotage documented by the human rights groups Yesh Din and B'Tselem from March to December, a total of 2,616 trees were sabotaged: uprooted, stolen, burned, chopped, sawed. In Salem alone, 900 trees were uprooted four times. Even if those who counted the damaged trees exaggerated, both sides agree that it is Israelis who are damaging vineyards and plantations.

The accumulation over the past few months of images of trees destroyed "by unknown individuals" has been sufficiently shocking to lead the attorney general to attack the helplessness of the authorities, and for Minister Gideon Ezra to convene a special meeting during which it was decided to focus law enforcement activities "on the settlements that are recognized as problematic."

The shock, however, is selective. The Israel Defense Forces has uprooted thousands of olive and fruit trees, cultivated lands and greenhouses, and continues to do so - in order to secure the roads it uses and to increase visibility for soldiers; to build watchtowers, checkpoints and the separation fence; and in order to pave more and more roads and construct security fences around the settlements…

The settlers do not set policy, they are its result. Everyone lives in peace and without prickings of conscience in the face of hundreds of impoverished communities that have effectively turned into prisons, in order to permit the IDF to continue to protect the Israeli state enterprise: to control as much land as possible, to drive out as many Palestinians as possible. A minority of Israelis are not waiting for the IDF and the state to destroy; they destroy on their own. It is easy to be shocked by a minority and to forget the responsibility of the whole.

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It's not all in the details
Amira Hass

28 December 2005

What is important is that the army and the Israeli citizens who design all of the details of dispossession - and the roadblocks are an inseparable part of this dispossession - have transformed the term "humanitarian" into a despicable lie.

Through the checkpoints, road closures, movement ban, and traffic restrictions, through the concrete walls and barbed wire fences, through the land expropriations (solely for the purpose of security, as the High Court of Justice, which is part and parcel of the Israeli people, likes to believe), through the disconnecting of villages from their lands and from a connecting road, through the construction of a wall in a residential neighborhood and in the backyards of homes, and through the transformation of the West Bank into a cluster of "territorial cells," in the military jargon, between the expanding settlements - we Israelis have created and continue to create an economic, social, emotional, employment and environmental crisis on the scale of a never-ending tsunami.

And then we offer a little turnstile in a cage, an officer who is briefed to see an old man, a bathroom and a water cooler - and this is described as "humanitarian." In other words, we push an entire people into impossible situations, blatantly inhumane situations, in order to steal its land and time and future and freedom of choice, and then the plantation owner appears and relaxes the iron fist a bit, and is proud of his sense of compassion.

However, even the important matter - that is, the humanitarian deception - is only one detail in a full set of details in which no single detail is representative in itself. Isolated fragments of the reality are read as being tolerable, or understandable (security, security), or may make one angry for a moment and then subside. And among all the details, the reality of colonialism intensifies, without letup or remission, inventing yet more methods of torture of the individual and community; creating more ways to violate international law, robbing land behind the legal camouflage, and encouraging collaboration out of agreement, neglect or torpor.

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Human Rights Watch
Expanding Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Letter to President George W. Bush
Sarah Leah Whitson

27 December 2005

Dear President Bush,

I am writing to you with respect to multiple Israeli announcements of its plans to continue expanding settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). This directly contravenes international law and Israeli commitments under the Road Map.

You recently reiterated Israel’s obligations to stop expanding settlements when you said, on October 20, 2005, following your meeting with Palestinian President Abbas: “Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations, or prejudices the final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. This means that Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion.” Israel has acted contrary to these obligations, escalating the building of settlements in 2005. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, in the first half of 2005, there was a 28% increase in settlement housing starts compared to the same period in 2004. Israel now proposes to further expand West Bank settlements in the coming year.

We urge you to use U.S. diplomatic and financial influence to stop this trend in 2006.

On December 26, the Ministry of Housing released tenders for the construction of 228 housing units in the West Bank settlements of Beitar Ilit and Efrat; on December 19, , the Ministry of Housing published tenders for constructing 137 new housing units in the West Bank settlements of Ariel and Karnei Shomron; and on December 14, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz’s approved the construction of approximately 300 new homes in the West Bank settlements of Maale Adumim, Bracha and Nokdim. Maale Adumim is one of the largest and fastest growing settlements in the West Bank, with some 30,000 inhabitants. The settlement is located east of Jerusalem and adjacent to the much-publicized area of “E-1,” the last remaining site for potential Palestinian development around settlement-encircled East Jerusalem. The Israeli government also has made clear that, despite U.S. opposition, it plans to build 3,500 housing units in E-1 and to include Ma'ale Adumim and E-1 on the western side (the “Israeli side”) of the metal and concrete barrier that Israel is building, mostly inside the OPT (hereinafter, the “wall”). Such actions would effectively sever the West Bank in two by cutting the already limited Palestinian north-south access routes through the West Bank. In addition, a wall encircling E-1 and Ma’ale Adumim would make access to East Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian economic and religious life, virtually impossible from the rest of the West Bank, except through limited checkpoint crossings in the wall, most of which Israel has not yet funded or built.

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There's a system for turning Palestinian property into Israel's state land
Akiva Elder

27 December 2005

In the process of preparing a new report that deals with the expansion of settlements under cover of the separation fence, researchers from B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and from Bimkom, Planners for Planning Rights were able to lay their hands on the map of "The Master Plan of the Upper Modi'in Area" for the year 2020. The map confirms that it is not only security issues that interested the planners of the route of the fence in the area of the battles for Bil'in. They were so hungry they "forgot" that security needs make it essential to keep a suitable distance between the fence and the nearest Jewish locale. It turns out that in addition to the usual master plans, at the initiative of the Construction and Housing Ministry and in cooperation with the planning bureau of the Civil Administration, in 1998 the Upper Modi'in local council and the Matteh Binyamin regional council drew up a master plan for the whole bloc. The plan does not have statutory validity, but it is a guiding document in the framework of which the planning policy is determined for a given area, and in the light of which the master plans are formulated. The report points out that under the master plan about 600 dunam adjacent to the plan for Matityahu East, which are owned by families from the village of Bil'in, are slated for the construction of 1,200 new housing units. Less than two months ago inhabitants of Bil'in discovered that a new road had been cut through from the Matityahu East neighborhood to a large grove of olive trees that is located in the area.

The village council filed a complaint with the Shai (Samaria-Judea) police about the uprooting of about 100 trees and their theft. The cutting through of the road reinforces the suspicion that under cover of the fence, there is a plan for a takeover of the land adjacent to the East Matityahu neighborhood, which is already in the process of construction.

Similarly, cultivated lands owned by the villagers of Dir Qadis and Ni'alin on an area of about 1,000 dunams, adjacent to the plan for Matityahu North C, have been added in the framework of the master plan to the plan for the neighborhood.

The authors of the report note that the master plan for Upper Modi'in arouses a strong suspicion that one of the covert aims of the fence is to cause Palestinian inhabitants to stop cultivating lands that are intended for the expansion of the Jewish settlements, to enable the declaration of them as state lands. Hence, as described above, the way to the building companies is very short.

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The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
Judaizing Jerusalem - the Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinian Capital

27 December 2005

Once the wall is finished throughout Jerusalem it will total 181km. By December 2005, over 130km of the 8-meter high concrete structure had been constructed. Completion in early 2006 will leave the majority of Palestinians in and around Jerusalem – around 190,000 people - facing two options. To stay in Jerusalem's ghetto neighborhoods, subjected to high Occupation taxes, imprisoned by Walls and a life under siege. Secondly, exile into what remains of the West Bank and Gaza or abroad, and permanent loss of the right to live in the Palestinian capital.

Given that Palestinians rely on Jerusalem for employment, basic services and education, the Wall is beginning to depopulate these villages as well as tearing families and communities apart.

In the last few months 80% of the population of West Ezawiya village have deserted their homes in order to remain in Jerusalem. Out of a population of 5000 people, only around 1000 Palestinians now remain in this village and with the wall's completion they will be prevented fromentering Jerusalem.

The Wall around Jerusalem ensures the annexation of all the settlement blocs around the city (also known as "the Jerusalem Envelope") and their expansion on the Palestinian lands stolen by the Wall.

A chain of 181 Km, the concrete Wall forms a series of ghettoised Palestinian neighborhood Palestinians are being shut in by the Wall and the settler roads into 4 main ghettos…

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On apathy

23 December 2005

In today's Haaretz Magazine, Gideon Levy tells the story of Mahmoud Shawara, a 43-year-old father of nine, who left for work on his donkey one day from his house in the village of Nuaman, near Bethlehem, was arrested by border policemen, and, after he refused to accompany the soldiers without his donkey, was tied to the donkey. The frightened donkey then galloped toward the village; Shawara sustained serious injuries all over his body, and ultimately died in great pain in the hospital to which he was taken by eyewitnesses. Although the Department for Investigating Policemen found no relationship between the border policemen's behavior and Shawara's death,testimony indicates that this is an abusive practice well known to Palestinians. It even has a nickname: "the donkey procedure."

On Wednesday, Haaretz located another man, Maamoun Abu Ali, who underwent similar abuse at the hands of border policemen two months ago, not far from the place where Shawara was arrested and tied to his donkey. Abu Ali, according to his testimony, was also tied to a donkey. A concrete block was placed on his back, his hands were tied, and the border police then prodded the donkey to run. Luckily for him, however, his donkey refused to budge, so Abu Ali was saved from death.

Cases of abuse of Palestinians, whether by soldiers or by settlers, have stopped making headlines in the press or eliciting shock. Nor do investigations of these incidents appear to be serious, and complaints are ignored until the story is either published in the media or dealt with by one of the human rights organizations active in the territories. This growing apathy can perhaps be attributed to the continuous satisfaction felt over the disengagement from Gaza, following which Israelis feel that the occupation is about to end. But, meanwhile, the occupation is continuing in all its severity, with all the abuses that have characterized it throughout the years.

This apathy is a stain on the face of Israeli society that it will find hard to remove.

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Twilight Zone / Dusty trail to death
Gideon Levy

23 December 2005

On Sunday morning of last week Mahmoud Shawara, a laborer, mounted his mule and set out from his home in the village of Nuaman to look for work in the neighboring village of Umm Touba. At about 9 A.M., he was arrested by a Border Police unit that detains workers who do not have an entry permit to Israel every morning.

The Border Police ordered Shawara to get into their jeep. He refused. He did not want to leave his mule unattended. At 9:30 his brother saw him for the last time, healthy and sound. At 4 P.M. a resident of Umm Touba named Mohammed Hamadan noticed a mule galloping toward the village and dragging something behind it. From a distance, Hamadan thought it might be scrap metal. As the mule came closer, Hamadan saw that it was dragging an injured, battered man. The mule, he says, was galloping down the slope and looked frightened. He stopped the animal and then discovered that the person being dragged across the ground was Mahmoud Shawara, from the neighboring village, whom he knew well. Shawara's left hand was roped to the mule's neck. He was unconscious and barely breathing. His skull and face were smashed on the left side and blood was pouring from him. He managed to utter a few broken, unclear words or parts of words and then stopped breathing.

Hamadan untied Shawara, laid him on the ground and pressed on his chest to restart his breathing. He then summoned an ambulance from the clinic of the Meuhedet health maintenance organization in the village. Shawara was taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, where he was admitted to the neurosurgical section of the intensive care unit. At the end of the week, during which he did not regain consciousness, Shawara died of his wounds. He was 43, a laborer and the father of nine children, who went to look for work in the neighboring village.

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The Electronic Intifada
Breaking Down the Wall
Noura Khouri

20 December 2005

It is estimated that Israel's Annexation Wall will be completed in the early part of 2006. When it is finished it will annex 47% of the West Bank, and hand it over to the settler population. At least 15% of Palestinians will be left outside the wall1, completely isolated from the rest of society, and over 222,098 refugees for the second or third times will experience, "land confiscation, destruction of property, and denial of access to their lands thus directly affecting their means of livelihood"2. In the end, it is not an over exaggeration to say that the entire Palestinian society will directly suffer by its completion, in addition to the seemingly unstoppable illegal Israeli practices that continue unhindered.

Still the question is often asked by critics and supporters alike, why don't Palestinians resist non-violently, and continue to do so even if in the face of overwhelming military force. During this time of intensive Israeli expansionism, and growing Palestinian isolationism, internationals and Israelis alike want to know where the next Gandhi or MLK is. Many may not be aware that Palestinians have in fact engaged in ongoing organized, nonviolent resistance since the beginning of the century (request detailed Palestinian history/timeline). As well, there is too often confusion and questions about the issues of history, religion and who is right, or more deserving of a homeland. The issue however, is simply one of equality, human rights and international law.

On October 28th, 2005, eleven year old Ahmad was celebrating the Muslim holiday, Eid, while playing with his friends in a Jenin refugee camp. He was shot dead in the head by an Israeli sniper. The soldier admitted he shot the boy while "mistaking" his toy gun for the real thing. Did it ever cross the mind of this soldier with the best military technology in the world available to him, to take a closer look? In response, the parents of the boy who was accidentally murdered - donated his organs to an Israeli family. At least three young Israeli girls were saved as a result. Ahmad's father said that the action he took in donating his son's organs was meant as "a message of peace to the world, stating that Palestinians want real peace, and the only way of achieving that is by ending the illegal Israeli occupation." Sadly, the difference between Gandhi & MLK, versus Ahmad's family's brave acts is that they were Palestinian; and for them was nether a whisper from within the oppressive Israeli system, nor the rest of the world community. In fact, the soldier that killed him like so many others guilty of the same crime, was found 'not guilty' of any charges. Equally disturbing, is an Israeli man present at the newly united Palestinian and Israeli family's home, who had the nerve to tell Palestinians that they need to learn to stop their violence!

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