Briefing Paper April 2005

Palestine’s War of Independence

It is as though the campaign against Sharon by the settlers and their allies, the rebellion inside Likud and the rallying of the Zionist peace camp behind the prime minister have turned Sharon into a courageous peacemaker. They certainly increase the burden on Mahmoud Abbas to prove that he is a worthy partner in a new “peace of the brave”. Once again, the victims must prove their righteousness to their predators with full American complicity.

Haim Baram Middle East International 18/2/05

Did you say the Israelis are withdrawing?

Y Khellef Live from Palestine, 27 February 2005

Bethlehem, Feb, 20th 2005 — Since the Sharm El Sheikh summit things have significantly improved in the Palestinian territories. The Army has stopped its incursions in Palestinian towns, Palestinian civilians are free to move, prisoners are about to be released and economic activity is slowly recovering…

At least this is the information that most western media is conveying to its people.

The situation on the ground is unfortunately completely different. The Separation Wall is being completed faster than ever, all the military check points are still in place, the Palestinian detainees are still under Israeli custody and daily life is still hell for all Palestinians. The only significant gesture Israel has made towards the PA was the handover of 15 corpses of Palestinian gunmen kept in Israeli morgues. Nothing however has been done for the living. The Separation Wall or “Confinement Wall” should we say, has already been completed around most of the Major Palestinian cities.

Ramallah is technically sealed off, Qalqiliya is surrounded and Bethlehem is almost completely cut off from the outside world. In this latter, the occupation authorities have left the temporary check point, and waited until the end of the Christian holiday season (which goes on till the end of January in the Orthodox calendar) to complete the Wall. A major “border” terminal will be operational in few days and the face of this holy Christian city will be irreversibly changed.

However, it is true that daily life inside these enclaves (Bethlehem, for instance, is reduced to a 35 km2 area) is generally calm these days. Healthy, elderly people earning a decent pension can live a fairly normal life. All the other sections of Palestinian society continue to suffer daily insuperable difficulties which make normal activities such as studying or earning a decent living “mission impossible”. Students can hardly get to their universities unless they live nearby. For example, a student from Bethlehem enrolled in the law school at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis — only 20 km away and a 20 minute drive — cannot get to class without passing through “Container”, the major Israeli checkpoint cutting West Bank in two, and there is no tangible sign of this checkpoint being removed in the near future.

Anyone travelling from the south of the West Bank, from Hebron or Bethlehem to Ramallah or Nablus (note that it is almost impossible to enter Nablus due to near hermetic closure of this major town) has to go through this incredibly restrictive military checkpoint, which is located at the entrance of As-Sawahra village near Jerusalem at the top of a steep hill overlooking the Cedron Valley. Due to these checkpoints, which restrict all movement inside the West Bank, Palestinians are not only denied the basic human right of freedom of movement but also that of studying and working.

It seems clear, from tangible facts and observations, and daily travelling throughout the West Bank that these checkpoints are not going to be removed until the “Wall” is completed, they will be replaced by huge state of the art “terminals”, making it almost impossible for any Palestinian to get to East-Jerusalem.

Five such terminals are planned to be built in the West Bank according to Israeli sources, one has already been completed in Bethlehem and is mainly destined to foreign tourists and pilgrims, and a second one will be located east of the city in Al Nu’man destined to Palestinian citizens. This “terminal” will allow some 250 trucks and 1,000 people (with special permits issued by the Israeli authorities) to pass each hour.

Only then will the 61 permanent checkpoints (there are 10 of them around Bethlehem alone), 48 road gates and hundreds of earth mounds be removed.

Who really ‘shattered’ this truce?

Jenka Soderberg, February 26, 2005

After Friday’s attack in Tel Aviv which killed 3 and injured 38 Israelis (according to Israeli police), the American media has been quick to repeat the Israeli claim that Palestinians have ‘shattered the truce’ established February 8 when the two sides met in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt. But from February 8th until February 25th, when the Tel Aviv attack took place, 8 Palestinian civilians (5 adults and 3 children) have been killed and 36 injured (according to the Red Crescent Medical Society – RCS). Just to point out the obvious, this is higher than the number of Israelis killed on Friday — but where was the media when the Palestinians were killed? Why is it suddenly a ‘shattering of the truce’ when a bomb explodes in Tel Aviv, but the deaths and injuries of these Palestinians don’t count at all in the question of how, and by whom, the truce was really broken?

The daily atrocities against the Palestinian people didn’t cease or desist on February 8th — the very next morning, February 9th, saw a large-scale military invasion of the West Bank city of Nablus. There was no ‘relative calm’ for the people of Rafah refugee camp as they faced the almost daily demolition of homes and the shooting of high-velocity bullets and tank shells at their homes and neighbourhoods. The Israeli military constructed additional checkpoints and brought in more troops during the ‘cease-fire’ period, without dismantling any of the over 400 checkpoints already in place. And just try talking about the Israeli ‘cease-fire’ to the family of Hani Khaleel Mohammad, 15, who was shot in the head and killed on February 15th, or that of Sabri Fayez Al-Rajoub, 16, killed while walking to a mosque the day before.

On Friday, the day the bombing took place, Mazin Ahmad Bin Hasan, 16, was killed in Rafah, and two other teens were injured. Also Friday, Kerin Kayemit, the Permanent Israeli Fund, announced that they will be constructing tens of thousands of new homes this year in settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank. Maali Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem will erect 21,000 new units, and over 5600 units will be constructed in ten other West Bank settlements, in a plan reportedly approved by Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. The settlement expansion, as well as the construction of the Israeli annexation wall have continued throughout this supposed ‘cease-fire’, even despite an additional ruling against the wall this week at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. In fact, on February 8th, the day the ‘cease-fire’ was being negotiated in Egypt, the Israeli High Court issued a ruling allowing for the construction of the wall around Ariel settlement, 16 miles into the West Bank.

Nearly all Palestinians agree in the counter-productiveness of suicide bombings, which target mainly civilians, and most Israelis oppose the targeting of civilian populations in the Palestinian occupied territories. Yet the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land and the sporadic suicide bombings against Israelis both end up killing civilians. Since the beginning of the current open conflict in September 2000, 3,587 Palestinians (RCS figures) and 1,042 Israelis (Israeli military figures) have been killed. It is estimated that 2/3 of the casualties on both sides are civilians.

While the American public, until Friday, has been reading rose-coloured headlines about ‘prisoner releases’ (in a month when more Palestinians were arrested than released) and ‘cease fires’ in Israel and Palestine, the Palestinian civilian population was living a very different reality — a reality in which, from February 8th until today, the Israeli army has not for one minute ceased its fire against them.

In the process, Israel was shown shamefully shown up to be a Third World country in which the government bamboozles itself, permitting a quasi-underground network to control its own policies. The government feigns not to authorise these policies but in practice turns a blind eye on them and simulates surprise at the consequences. In some South American countries, that is how the drug trade operates.

Uzi Benziman Ha’aretz on the report

Talia Sasson into settlement activities.

(Sharon commissioned Sasson to carry out the investigation. Unsurprisingly Sharon, who for decades has had his fingers in the settlement movement pie, gets no mention.)

Twighlight zone / Riding roughshod

By Gideon Levy (Ha’aretz 14/3/05)

We ride in the ambulance toward the first iron gate. It is painted white and manually operated. An armed settler stands there impassively and doesn’t ask anything. The gate stays closed. Afterward, we ride in the ambulance over the dirt road, being constantly jostled from side to side. There are sections where the vehicle has to come nearly to a stop to cross a stream or an especially deep hole. When we reach the second gate, on the other side of Kedumim, our Palestinian escorts hurries away. The guard named Danny, whom the villagers particularly fear, is standing there.

A not-so-young settler with a rifle and an American accent emerges from the guard post and soon begins to throw things out of our vehicle violently. Danny immediately summons the settlement’s security brigade – a collection of tough guys armed head to toe with pistols and rifles, who appear almost instantly, driving brandnew Japanese pickup trucks.

“This isn’t your home here,” the thugs bark at us.

The Kedumim settlement has virtually imprisoned its neighbors in the village of Kadum by building iron gates along the main road.

An imprisoned village. Kadum. With 4,000 residents and no way out. A rocky, four-kilometre-long path is the only escape route. When it rains, the route is impassable. And when there’s no rain, it makes for a very difficult and bumpy ride. Even on a clear day, only vehicles that sit high on the road can negotiate it.

Women in labour, the sick and the injured must make their way by ambulance over this long and rough road, via the olive groves, solely because Kedumim Mayor Daniella Weiss’ armed security officers won’t let them use the direct route. This disgrace is visible from every home in Kedumim. In the past three years, three ill Palestinians have died on the way. In recent weeks, an ill new-born, a child with a head injury, another child who just had surgery on his leg, and an old man who had a stroke (and subsequently died) were all delayed here. Such is the state of neighbourly relations in the northern West Bank, even at a time of hudna (truce). And they don’t call this terror.

The “highway” to Kadum: You park your private vehicle in Haja and board a Palestinian transit taxi that lurches its way to the village. There is no other way in or out. There are almost no cars to be seen in the village. They’re basically useless here. This is one of the most beautiful villages in the northern West Bank, with many old stone houses, and it has also been very quiet here during the second intifada. A white flag was waved here, too, above this prison – the prison of Kadum.

Council head As’ad Shatiwi explains that the two main problems of Kadum are expropriation of land and the endless siege there. The village had 21,000 dunams (5,250 acres) of fields and olive groves; one-third of this was expropriated for the sake of the neighbours living in the nearby settlement of Kedumim, which is continually expanding, skipping from hilltop to hilltop and strangling Kadum. Meanwhile, the villagers also cannot get near about another 2,000 dunams (500 acres) of their property, for fear of the settlers, and another 4,500 dunams (1,125 acres) are expected to be taken for the sake of the separation fence. More than half of the village’s land is essentially no longer the village’s land.

During the olive harvest, they couldn’t get to some of their olive groves because of harassment from the neighbours. The villagers counted 3,500 trees in these groves that were not harvested or whose olives was stolen by the settlers. The Israel Defence Forces allowed them too little time in which they could go out to their fields. Sometimes, they snuck in for another hour or two, until armed settlers appeared and chased them away. Shatiwi’s counterpart on the other side of the gate, Daniella Weiss, recently screamed at and chased away a group of IDF soldiers and officers, who were planning to hold a seminar in Kedumim.

The only asphalt road leaving the village passes right by the edge of Kedumim, near its outermost ring of houses, but does not enter the settlement. The settlers installed two iron gates on the road and thus blocked it. Armed settlers are stationed next to these barriers. For three years now, the settlers here have kept the gates closed to the Palestinians, with a few exceptions.

With no other choice, the villagers began using the rutted farming road that leads to their fields, which was originally meant for tractors and donkeys. Now this dirt road is the main route. About two weeks ago, a man named Gilad from the Civil Administration came, riding in a Jeep, and pronounced this road up to par and sufficient for the residents’ well-being. Gilad also suggested that they take any complaints they might have to court. Shatiwi says Gilad’s Jeep also got stuck on the road and had to be helped along.

There are 180 students in the village who attend classes in Nablus and Qalqilyah. Another 150 villagers work in Nablus. To get there, they have to take this rough, unpaved road that is twice as long as the regular one. And the fee for the ride has just gone up from NIS 5 to NIS 20. When the road through the fields was all muddy and the potholes filled with water, they stayed home.

But the real problem is when people get sick. The council head says that three residents have died in the past few years because of the time it took to get to the hospital. What do you do with a boy who gets seriously injured, with an elderly man who has a stroke in the middle of the night or with a woman who has gone into labour?

End of the road

Majd Shatiwi is the village’s ambulance driver. He remembers all the bad cases. Late in the night of January 14, the children of Mahmoud Da’as, 72, discovered that their father had lost consciousness. They quickly summoned the village doctor, who told them their father had had a stroke and must be rushed to the hospital. Every minute was critical. The family members called Majd to come with his ambulance, which does not have any resuscitation equipment on board. The patient’s condition was rapidly worsening. His pulse was irregular. Shatiwi sped down the asphalt road, but when he reached one of the iron gates, the guard there wouldn’t let him pass. Shatiwi tried to explain that he had a patient who could die in the ambulance, but the guard explained to him that this was a military road and Palestinians were not allowed on it. The driver’s pleas were to no avail, so he had to go back and try the dirt road, on which his ambulance could barely get anywhere, between one rut and another. By the time they finally reached the end of the road, the doctor pronounced the patient dead.

The face of Mohammed, the man’s son, is nearly expressionless as he describes the events of that night.

Rawda Abdel Rahman, 60, was more fortunate. About two weeks ago, she, too, suffered a stroke, but it happened after heavy rain had made the road through the fields absolutely impassable, and the compassionate settlers gave the Palestinians access to the main road for a few days. Within 16 minutes, Majd Shatiwi’s ambulance arrived at the state hospital in Nablus and the patient’s life was saved. But the gate was closed again a few days later.

Rajd Usama was just two weeks old when her parents saw that she was turning blue, vomiting and suffering from diarrhea. Panicked, they called Shatiwi, who was in Nablus with another patient at the time. This was about three weeks ago. He rushed back to the village, and on the way, called the Palestinian Coordination and Liaison Office to ask it to intervene and speak with the IDF Coordination and Liaison Office to coordinate his ambulance’s passage with the settlers. But when the ambulance reached the iron gate, it was forced to wait almost 15 minutes – even though the driver explained to the guard that it was an emergency – until an IDF patrol arrived and gave the okay to let him through. By the time the baby arrived at the hospital in Nablus, she was nearly brain dead. She is still in the pediatric intensive care unit there. Shatiwi credits his resourcefulness in calling the Palestinian liaison office with having saved precious time.

The next day, the driver was called upon to transport seven-and-a-half year-old Nihad Hamzi back home from the hospital in Nablus. Hamzi was born with one leg 10 centimeters shorter than the other and he had surgery in Nablus. It was around nine in the evening. Shatiwi wanted to spare the boy the rough ride over the makeshift road. He tried to coordinate the trip as he’d done the day before, but the Israeli side did not approve it. He even offered to bring the child to the coordination and liaison office, so they could see that the youngster had just had surgery on his leg, but nothing helped. “Not even a bird will pass here at nine in the evening,” Shatiwi was told. So he drove the little boy back over the bumpy road.

Now Nihad lies in his parents’ bed in the family’s old stone house and smiles his wonderful smile. His leg is still completely bandaged and he is not allowed out of bed.

Shatiwi always takes the women in labor over the rocky road, in order not to lose time. In Kadum, there are about 80 births a year. The trip that should take about 15 minutes by the regular road takes about 45 minutes on the rutted one. On the way to Nablus there is always at least one checkpoint, at Beit Iba or Hawara, and two or three more might have sprung up that day, too. Entry to Nablus on foot is currently permitted only to residents over the age of 25. Before Abu Mazen was elected, entry to Nablus was only permitted to people age 35 and up.

We ride in the ambulance toward the first iron gate. It is painted white and manually operated. An armed settler stands there impassively and doesn’t ask anything. The gate stays closed. Afterward, we ride in the ambulance over the dirt road, being constantly jostled from side to side. There are sections where the vehicle has to come nearly to a stop to cross a stream or an especially deep hole. When we reach the second gate, on the other side of Kedumim, our Palestinian escorts hurries away. The guard named Danny, whom the villagers particularly fear, is standing there.

A not-so-young settler with a rifle and an American accent emerges from the guard post and soon begins to throw things out of our vehicle violently. Danny immediately summons the settlement’s security brigade – a collection of tough guys armed head to toe with pistols and rifles, who appear almost instantly, driving brand-new Japanese pickup trucks.

“This isn’t your home here,” the thugs bark at us, threatening to call the police to deal with the invaders from Tel Aviv.

An Election Issue

The British government, within the parameters allowed by the US and Israel, has quite clearly set out to be a mediator/honest broker in the search for peace in Israel/Palestine. In doing so, the govern- ment has been quite vocal on the need for the Middle East to abandon anti-democratic practices and start on the road to democracy.

This is the time to question the practices of our own government. The following letter was sent, twice, by SFoP to Jack Straw, Foreign Secrteary. It has been ignored. Likewise my own MP (Tom Harris, Cathcart Constituency) refused to address the issues raised when the letter was sent in my personal capacity.

You are urged to raise the issue with Jack Straw ASAP, before any election is announced and with your prospective parliamentary candidates should an election be announced. The Oslo Accords have been cited as a reason for the situation outlined. If this is correct, it raises the further question as to why Britain is party to such an agreement.

Jack Straw MP   Foreign


House of Commons London SW1A 0AA

Dear Mr Straw,

The Jericho Six

At a recent meeting of the Executive of Scottish Friends of Palestine (SFoP) the matter of the six Palestinians exiled to, and imprisoned in, Jericho was raised. As was the British role in this affair and its continuing role in keeping the detainees in Jericho.

As SFoP understands the situation

  1. Fuad Shobaki was never officially charged with any offence
  2. Ahmad Sa’adat was never charged with any offence
  3. Ahmed Ghulmi. One of the four sentenced by the military tribunal. Mr. Ghulmi was sentenced to   one years imprisonment. The sentence period finished a year ago but he still awaits release.

The other three are still imprisoned and were sentenced by a military tribunal:

  1. Hamdi Qur’an was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment with hard labour. Three charges were brought against him: killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Zeevi, breaking the cease-fire and threatening the “higher national interest”, and possessing weapons without a license.
  2. Basil Al Asmar was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Three charges: participating in the killing of Zeevi, breaking the cease-fire and threatening the “higher national interest”, and possessing weapons without a license.
  3. Majdi Al Rimawi was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. He was charged for planning the killing of Zeevi.

As SFoP also understands the situation, the trials were not fair and lacked due process. It was a military tribunal with no access to a defence lawyer since military tribunals and state security courts are boycotted completely by Palestinian lawyers and the Bar. The court proceedings were not observed by any third and neutral party. The court was held at midnight in the compound of Yasser Arafat and lasted for half an hour only. At that time the headquarters were besieged by Israeli occupation forces. Neither American nor UK bodies monitored the trial itself. But the arrangement was that they transfer the prisoners from the besieged compound to a prison in Jericho as a political agreement between Arafat and the Israelis brokered by Americans and British.

Since then American and UK guards (about 50 of them together) oversee the detainees. Although the prison itself is administered by Palestinian Authority, these prisoners are under the authority of the USA and UK representatives. Anything related to their detention conditions, access to visitors, lawyers… etc. must be approved by the Consuls of USA and UK in Jerusalem.

I was asked to convey a number of questions and concerns with regard to the above:

1]            There has to be a reason why HMG should become involved in court proceedings which are

patently unlawful and unfair and why it should involve itself with a brutal military occupation SFoP has been advised that Israel would have carried out extra-judicial killings of the six men if the UK and the US had not agreed to become involved. Is this the case?

2]            If this is the case, why is HMG not prepared to extend the analogy and help in providing a

protection force for all Palestinians under occupation, against the actions of the occupier?

3]            SFoP is particularly concerned that in agreeing to remove the six to Jericho and act as gaolers, HMG is actively participating in the removal of Palestinians from their land at the behest of the occupier. Under current conditions in occupied Palestine this is equivalent to being sent into exile, a state of existence particularly painful to the Palestinian people.

How long will the six be held in exile, removed from family and friends? Who makes the decision as to when they they will be released?

4]            Who are responsible for the “security” of the exiles? Are British troops involved? Are British contractors involved?

5]            A comment on their conditions of detention is sought. Do they have frequent access to friends and family? Are they allowed to undertake, for example, political activity should they so wish?

6]            How can they be contacted from the “outside”?

(Sent on 5 July 2004)

Balfour Revisited

Scottish Friends of Palestine is organising a two day conference on the 88th annivesary of the Balfour Declaration – the document which effectively gave the Palestinian people notice of their eviction. The conference will include a number of international participants. All will look at the legacy of Balfour.

The conference will be a contribution to the debate on the requirements for a peace which give the Palestinian people a measure of justice It will take place in Haddington, East Lothian – about 5 miles from Balfour’s family home.

Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th November 2005

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