Briefing Paper April 2014

Netanyahu convenes ministers to discuss growing Israel economic boycott threats

Barak Ravid Ha’aretz 9 Feb 2014

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting Sunday evening to discuss how to cope with the growing threat of the economic boycott on Israel in light of continued occupation and settlement construction in the West Bank. Senior Israeli officials said prior to the meeting that the plan was to try to decide on a strategy and determine whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through quieter, diplomatic channels. The discussion had been scheduled to take place last week, but cancelled at the last minute due to the political row between Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Sunday’s meeting will take place amid a different confrontation – this time between Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The previous discussion was supposed to include a broad forum of ministers. The Science Ministry asked to separate the discussion on the economic boycott threat from a discussion on the academic boycott threat, since there is already a strategy for the latter, while the former has yet to be dealt with.According to plan, Israel should be proactive in its opposition to organizations who promote boycotts against Israel. The plan proposes to invest substantial resources in organizing a public campaign.

The Foreign Ministry has a different approach. Diplomats think the non-governmental organizations pushing for a wide-ranging boycott against Israel and not strictly against the settlements are relatively marginal and that a public campaign against them will only play into their hands, bolstering them. The Foreign Ministry thinks the public response to organizations promoting a boycott against Israel should be constricted. It wants to focus on less public diplomatic activity to combat such initiatives and believes advancing the peace process with the Palestinians will stave off a large portion of the boycott threats.

One of the issues to be discussed at the meeting is whether to file legal suits in European and North American courts against organizations that are proponents of the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Ministers will also consider whether to take legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements, or boycott Israeli companies that are somehow operating in or connected to the settlements. Another issue that will be raised during the discussion is that there is a lack of knowledge and inefficient tracking by Israeli intelligence of pro-BDS organizations.

Glimpse of Hebron children’s reality: video footage of minors, some under age 12, detained for throwing stones

B’Tselem 30 Jan 2014

B’Tselem has written to Legal Advisor for Judea and Samaria Col. Doron Ben-Barak notifying him of two recent incidents in which soldiers unlawfully detained children, some under the age of criminal responsibility, on suspicion of throwing stones. Although both incidents were relatively short, the children involved remained very frightened. Video footage of the incidents gives a glimpse into the harsh daily routine of many Palestinian minors and their parents, which will undoubtedly have long-term implications for the children. On 15 January 2014, at approximately 4:00 P.M., four soldiers entered the house of Suzan and Fawaz Zaraqu in the Jaber neighbourhood of Hebron. In video footage, filmed by Suzan, a B’Tselem volunteer, the soldiers are heard indicating that they are searching for children who were observed throwing stones by a military observation camera. Several women and children were in the house at the time. The soldiers located twochildren whom the lookout identified as the stone-throwers, Muhammad Zaraqu, 12, and his cousin ‘Issa Kneiss, 11, and demanded that the two come with them. After an exchange with several adults in the house, the soldiers left the house with the terrified children, accompanied by Muhammad’s father, Fawaz. The soldiers, father and children then stood for approximately ten minutes outside the house, during which time police officers summoned by the soldiers arrived at the spot. The police officers left without taking the children, probably as they are under the age of criminal responsibility. The soldiers then took the children to the a-Rajbi building checkpoint, which lies some 250 meters from the Zaraqu house, accompanied by Fawaz Zaraqu and another adult. About 15 minutes later, the children were released.

In another case, on 20 January 2014, at around 7:30 P.M., soldiers detained 8-year-old Islam Abu Hamdiyeh, a resident of the Jabal Juhar neighborhood in Hebron….

Israeli forces demolish entire village in Jordan Valley

Chris Carlson IMEMC 30 Jan 2014

The Israeli army demolished, on Thursday, at least 50 structures, including residences, displacing 13 families in the northern Jordan Valley, as a result, according to a local official. According to a report by WAFA Palestinian News & Info Agency, the army brought bulldozers to demolish the homes, animal barns and other structures which residents of Khirbet Um al-Jimal had been using for their daily living, said Aref Daraghmeh, head of the al-Maleh local council. He described the Israeli measure against Khirbet Um al-Jimal and other similar locales in the northern Jordan Valley area as “another crime on the long list of crimes committed by the occupation forces in the area.” Israel is seeking to empty the Jordan Valley of its Palestinian residents, who are mainly Bedouin, as it plans to keep it under its control in any future deal with the Palestinians. Khirbet Um al-Jimal is notable for the substantial ruins of a Byzantine and early Islamic town which are clearly visible above the ground, as well as an older Roman village (locally referred to as al-Herri) located to the southwest of the Byzantine ruins.

Soldiers invade homes, conduct training in West Bank village

IMEMC/Agencies 30 Jan 2014

Dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded Ein Shibli village, in the West Bank’s Central Plains, east of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, broke into several homes and conducted military drills. Resident Osama Abu Hatab said the soldiers violently searched several local families, and interrogated the residents before taking pictures of their ID cards. Abu Hatab added that the soldiers violently banged on the doors, threatening to detonate them should the Palestinians refuse to open them, causing anxiety attacks among the children. The families were then forced out in the cold for more than two hours, while the soldiers conducted training between the homes, wearing military combat gear. In December of last year, the soldiers conducted three similar attacks and drills in Ein Shibli, An-Nassariyya, and Al-‘Aqrabaniyya villages, using military gear, army helicopters and various armoured vehicles.

Five years on: Gaza’s children remain targets

Brad Parker al jazeera 30 Jan 2014

Hala Ahmad Salman Abu Sabikha, 2, was killed in her yard when an Israeli tank targeted her home in Al-Mughazi refugee camp, central Gaza, on December 24, 2013. Israeli soldiers shot Adnan Abu Khater, 16, in the leg with live ammunition on January 2, 2014, and he died the following day. Mohammad Rafiq Shinbari, 17, was shot and wounded in the leg with live ammunition on December 15. These were cases of the recent cross-border violence which resulted in fatalities and injuries to children.

It has been five years since Operation Cast Lead, a 22-day Israeli military offensive in Gaza which took place between December 27 and January 18, 2008 and claimed the lives of at least 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 350 Palestinian children. Despite damning evidence of war crimes, the US government played a role in blocking international efforts to hold Israel accountable for serious breaches of international law. The resulting impunity has enabled Israel to continue its oppressive policies in Gaza where children undoubtedly remain targets.

On December 27, 2008, Israel launched an intensive aerial and naval bombing campaign throughout the Gaza Strip. A large-scale ground invasion followed the week after. The onslaught was arguably Israel’s boldest military operation since the 2006 Lebanon war when it inflicted deliberate destruction to civilian infrastructure in Beirut’s Dahiya neighbourhood, a Hezbollah stronghold. Following the 2006 war, Major General Gadi Eisenkot stated: “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on.” He added: “These are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”

Two years later, Israeli military leaders put the “Dahiya doctrine” into action in the Gaza Strip by applying disproportionate force to inflict great damage to civilian infrastructure and neighbourhoods. The devastating impact on children in Gaza was immediate. On December 29, 2008, five girls from the Balousha family (aged 4 – 17) were killed in their home when Israeli airstrikes targeted a nearby mosque in the densely populated Jabaliya refugee camp in North Gaza. On the same day in Rafah, the al-Absi family lost three sons (aged 4, 12, and 14) when their home was the target of an Israeli airstrike. These are only a few examples.

Human rights groups, including Defence for Children International Palestine, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, have documented cases of children killed and maimed in unlawful attacks; the destruction of civilian infrastructure such as schools and water and sanitation networks; the use of children as human shields; the unlawful use of white phosphorous in populated areas; and the arbitrary detention of children. Israeli forces killed at least 26 children in or near schools, completely destroyed 18 schools, and damaged 260 others during the military operation.

Since Israeli officials announced a unilateral ceasefire, ending Operation Cast Lead just over five years ago, Israel has unceasingly continued policies that amount to collective punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, a violation of international humanitarian law. Around 51 percent of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents are under the age of 18, and almost 1.2 million people in Gaza receive humanitarian assistance. Operation Cast Lead was by no means an isolated incident, as the ceasefire did not end Israel’s military violence against children. The last major Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, Operation Pillar of Defence, occurred in November 2012, and resulted in more than 30 Palestinian children killed. Israeli leaders have demonstrated they are unwilling to carry out genuine investigations in an impartial, independent, and effective way and hold perpetrators accountable. The US government’s supposed “unbreakable bond” with Israel has increasingly contributed to a context of seemingly perpetual impunity. If the US and Israel are truly the “closest of friends”, US leadership should not let Israeli officials escape reality.

If I were a teacher I would teach the truth: that a people without a land came to a land that had a people, and that it’s theirs at least as much as it’s ours.

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 29.01.14

If I were a teacher, I would tell my students that the Israel Defence Forces is not a moral army and why it could never be one. I would tell them it’s an occupation army and that the occupation is criminal. If I were a teacher, I would tell my students what happened here in 1948, and in Kibya, and in Kafr Qasem, and in Sabra and Chatila, and Kafr Kana, and in Operation Cast Lead – as well as what happens daily in the occupied territories. If I were a teacher, I would tell my students the truth.

Pete Seeger died this week and one of his songs (originally by Tom Paxton) went like this: “What did you learn in school today/ Dear little boy of mine?/ I learned our Government must be strong/ It’s always right and never wrong/ Our leaders are the finest men/ And we elect them again and again/ That’s what I learned in school today.”

If I were a teacher, I wouldn’t teach my students the lies that the dear little boy in Seeger’s and Paxton’s song learned in school – which both singers were protesting. But protest songs like that are the products of Seeger’s America. Here it’s forbidden to even ask if the IDF is a moral army, the way Adam Verete dared to do at the ORT Greenberg High School in Kiryat Tivon, as he tried to present a different version of things than what’s deemed acceptable. [NOTE: According to its website, “ORT Israel is the leading educational network of comprehensive schools in Israel” and “educates Israel’s youth to become productive, caring and contributing citizens.” As noted in the brief article for which a link is transmitted below, the “Adam Verete affair” to which Levy refers produced a pronouncement by the ORT network “that any teacher who casts doubt on the morality of the army will not be allowed to teach in ORT schools.”]

The truth about the values of the Israeli educational system was best expressed by Zvi Peleg, the director of the network in which Verete teaches: “The credo of the ORT network has several fundamental values. One of them is serving in the IDF. Indeed, that’s how it is. The job of the Israeli educational system is to prepare our girls and boys for army service. That’s a pedagogical poem that’s scary and distorted. In no democratic state does the school system constitute paramilitary service, with the schools as military academies. But that’s exactly why they instil our pupils with all the fears and hatreds and the sense of victimhood and nationalism; it’s the bread and butter of the Israeli school, ideological, conscripted, and militaristic. I would come out against that, if I were a teacher. If I were a civics teacher, I would try to teach my children good citizenship; that IDF service is a necessity, perhaps even an unavoidable one, but it’s not a value, and certainly not a moral one. There’s no connection between morals and the military, and certainly not between morals and the IDF.

I would teach the truth: That the Jewish people is no better than any other nation; that it’s not the chosen people or a light unto the nations, and whoever thinks otherwise is teaching racism and arrogance. That the Holocaust was history’s greatest atrocity, albeit not the only one, and that it obligates its victims to learn the opposite lessons of what they’re being taught. That it isn’t always David (the Israeli) against Goliath (the Arab), and Israel will not survive solely by the sword. That Jews are not always the victims, certainly not the only ones. That no divine promise is a guarantee of sovereignty, and that no holiness justifies mistreatment. That dispossession is dispossession. That it’s permitted to criticize Israel, and even to criticize the IDF. I would not try to turn my students into rightists or leftists; I would try to present them with the truth – actually, truths, not just ours. And that other truth is, that a people without a land came to a land that had a people, and that it’s theirs at least as much as it’s ours. That the Jews don’t have one iota more rights in this land than do the Palestinians. That a Palestinian teenager in this land has exactly the same rights as a Jewish teenager, and often the same aspirations and the same dreams. That democracy is not just elections, which are sometimes also held by the darkest regimes, and it’s not just majority rule, but a whole system of values and rights, first and foremost the protection of minorities, foreigners, the weak, and those who have unconventional views, including teachers. I would teach them that all human beings are born equal, including, believe it or not, Jews and Arabs.

If I were a teacher, I would never teach in the ORT network.

Bedouins fight for their right to make home improvements

Amira Hass Ha’aretz 2 Feb 2014

The Civil Administration didn’t seem to mind the rickety shacks of a Bedouin tribe, until some of its clans replaced them with prefab homes — Is it forbidden for Bedouin to improve the homes where they’ve lived for decades? This fundamental question constitutes the basis of a petition to the High Court submitted by four clans of the Jahalin tribe. Last November, the families received 52 demolition orders for their prefab homes, which had replaced rickety tin shacks that were damaged in the winter of 2012-2013. In mid-January, High Court Justice Uzi Fogelman issued a restraining order in response to the petition. The Civil Administration argues that the new structures are illegal. The army’s legal adviser, Col. Doron Ben Barak, agrees, stating that they constitute “new building that expanded the existing construction or substantially changed the character of the building that existed in the same place.” Ben Barak termed the families “invaders,” though they settled in the region by the West Bank village of ‘Anata and East Jerusalem’s ‘Isawiyah six decades ago. The families of the four clans, numbering some 450 people, live in three clusters along both sides of Road 437, which leads from Hizma to the Jerusalem-Jericho highway. The families have lived there since the 1950s, when Israel expelled them, along with thousands of other Bedouin, from the Negev. Family representatives say that after Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967, the military administration did not demand they evacuate, but neither did it offer to improve their living conditions. It also excluded them from development plans, even though all three clusters lie wholly, or in part, in the jurisdiction of the Ma’aleh Adumim and Almon settlements.

Palestinian family struggles to survive after repeated home demolitions

Nancy Hawker 972blog 3 Feb 2014

The Jordan Valley village of Hadidiya is no stranger to human rights violations by Israeli authorities. This is the story of one family whose life and livelihood have been affected by home demolitions, time and time again — “Watch out! The bulldozers and the jeeps are coming.” Shirin Salamein heard the warning from one of her neighbours as she finished milking her sheep and goats close to her home. She lives in the village of Hadidiya, behind the Israeli settlement of Ro’i in the West Bank. “I was about to start making cheese, and there was not enough time to get everything out of the way,” she told us. “The children, the livestock, food: we had no time. The sheep were all scattered over the land. We had to rebuild everything. Thank God, we survived.” The village of Hadidiya in the northern Jordan Valley and located in Area C (under full Israeli civil and military control), is home to around 150 people. Living in tents and shacks, the local shepherds make a living on the reddish, rocky earth. Shirin’s family has become used to demolitions. Their homes and the buildings were knocked down by the Israeli army twice in the summer of 2013 — and four times before that. The young mother invited me to her tent to meet her family. Clotheslines criss-crossed the “room” laden with clean wet laundry. On the floor there was a mattress and under a heavy blanket two small children. Caring for her children hasn’t been easy, particularly in the summer heat when their home was demolished. According to the Israeli army, the simple shacks, tents and animal pens are illegal because they do not conform to Israeli plans for the area, which is under complete military jurisdiction … Shirin’s second child suffers from severe cerebral palsy — he has to be cared for in the summer heat during demolitions as well as during the winter rains.

Nawal Jabarin wants to be a doctor when she grows up. For now, she lives in a cave with 14 siblings, in constant fear of military raids.

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian 8 February 2014

The rough track is an unmarked turning across a primeval landscape of rock and sand under a vast cobalt sky. Our Jeep bounces between boulders and dust-covered gorse bushes before beginning a bone-jolting descent from the high ridge into a deep valley. An Israeli army camp comes into view, then the tiny village of Jinba: two buildings, a few tents, a scattering of animal pens. A pair of military helicopters clatter overhead. The air smells of sheep.

At the end of this track in the southern West Bank, 12-year-old Nawal Jabarin lives in a cave. She was born in the gloom beneath its low, jagged roof, as were two of her brothers, and her father a generation earlier. Along the rock-strewn track that connects Jinba to the nearest paved road, Nawal’s mother gave birth to another baby, unable to reach hospital in time; on the same stretch of flattened earth, Nawal’s father was beaten by Israeli settlers in front of the terrified child.

The cave and an adjacent tent are home to 18 people: Nawal’s father, his two wives and 15 children. The family’s 200 sheep are penned outside. An ancient generator that runs on costly diesel provides power for a maximum of three hours a day. Water is fetched from village wells, or delivered by tractor at up to 20 times the cost of piped water. During the winter, bitter winds sweep across the desert landscape, slicing through the tent and forcing the whole family to crowd into the cave for warmth. “In winter, we are stacked on top of one another,” Nawal tells me. She rarely leaves the village. “I used to ride in my father’s car. But the settlers stopped us. They beat my father before my eyes, cursing, using foul language. They took our things and threw them out of the car.”

Even home is not safe. “The soldiers come in [the cave] to search. I don’t know what they’re looking for,” she says. “Sometimes they open the pens and let the sheep out. In Ramadan, they came and took my brothers. I saw the soldiers beat them with the heel of their guns. They forced us to leave the cave.” Despite the hardships of her life, Nawal is happy. “This is my homeland, this is where I want to be. It’s hard here, but I like my home and the land and the sheep.” But, she adds, “I will be even happier if we are allowed to stay.”

Nawal is one of a second generation of Palestinians to be born into occupation. Her birth came 34 years after Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem during the six-day war. Military law was imposed on the Palestinian population, and soon afterwards Israel began to build colonies on occupied land under military protection. East Jerusalem was annexed in a move declared illegal under international law.

The first generation – Nawal’s parents and their peers – are now approaching middle age, their entire lives dominated by the daily grind and small humiliations of an occupied people. Around four million Palestinians have known nothing but an existence defined by checkpoints, demands for identity papers, night raids, detentions, house demolitions, displacement, verbal abuse, intimidation, physical attacks, imprisonment and violent death. It is a cruel mosaic: countless seemingly unrelated fragments that, when put together, build a picture of power and powerlessness. Yet, after 46 years, it has also become a kind of normality.

For the young, the impact of such an environment is often profound. Children are exposed to experiences that shape attitudes for a lifetime and, in some cases, have lasting psychological consequences. Frank Roni, a child protection specialist for Unicef, the United Nations’ agency for children, who works in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, speaks of the “inter-generational trauma” of living under occupation. “The ongoing conflict, the deterioration of the economy and social environment, the increase in violence – this all impacts heavily on children,” he says. “Psychological walls” mirror physical barriers and checkpoints. “Children form a ghetto mentality and lose hope for the future, which fuels a cycle of despair,” Roni says.

But their experiences are inevitably uneven. Many children living in the major Palestinian cities, under a degree of self-government, rarely come into contact with settlers or soldiers, while such encounters are part of daily life for those in the 62% of the West Bank under full Israeli control, known as Area C. Children in Gaza live in a blockaded strip of land, often growing up in extreme economic hardship, and with direct and shocking experience of intense warfare. In East Jerusalem, a high proportion of Palestinian children grow up in impoverished ghettoes, encroached upon by expanding Israeli settlements or with extremist settlers taking over properties in their midst.

In the South Hebron Hills, the shepherds who have roamed the area for generations now live alongside ideologically and religiously driven Jews who claim an ancient biblical connection to the land and see the Palestinians as interlopers. They have built gated settlements on the hilltops, serviced with paved roads, electricity and running water, and protected by the army. The settlers and soldiers have brought fear to the cave-dwellers: violent attacks on the local Palestinian population are frequent, along with military raids and the constant threat of forcible removal from their land.

Nawal’s village is inside an area designated in the 1980s by the Israeli army as “Firing Zone 918” for military training. The army wants to clear out eight Palestinian communities on the grounds that it is unsafe for them to remain within a military training zone; they are not “permanent residents”. A legal battle over the fate of the villages, launched before Nawal was born, is still unresolved. Her school, a basic three-room structure, is under a demolition order, as is the only other building in the village, the mosque, which is used as an overspill classroom. Both were constructed without official Israeli permits, which are hardly ever granted. Haytham Abu Sabha, Nawal’s teacher, says his pupils’ lives are “very hard. The children have no recreation. They lack the basic things in life: there is no electricity, high malnutrition, no playgrounds. When they get sick or are hurt, it’s hard getting them to hospital. We are forced to be primitive.”

The children are also forced to be brave. Nawal insists she is not afraid of the soldiers. But when I ask if she has cried during the raids on her home, she hesitates before nodding almost imperceptibly, unwilling to admit to her fears. Psychologists and counsellors working with Palestinian children say this reluctance to acknowledge and vocalise frightening experiences compounds the damage caused by the event itself. “Children say they are not afraid of soldiers, but their body language tells you something different,” says Mona Zaghrout, head of counselling at the YMCA in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. “They feel ashamed to say they are afraid.”

Like Nawal, 12-year-old Ahed Tamimi boldly asserts that she, too, has no fear of soldiers, before quietly admitting that sometimes she is afraid. Ahed’s apparent fearlessness catapulted her to a brief fame a year ago when a video of her angrily confronting Israeli soldiers was posted online. The girl was invited to Turkey, where she was hailed as a child hero. Amid tree-covered hills almost three hours’ drive north of Jinba, Nabi Saleh is a village of around 500 people, most of whom share the family name of Tamimi. From Ahed’s home, the Israeli settlement of Halamish is visible across a valley. Founded in 1977, it is built partly on land confiscated from local Palestinian families. An Israeli army base is situated next to the settlement.

When settlers appropriated the village spring five years ago, the people of Nabi Saleh began weekly protests. Ahed’s parents, Bassem and Nariman, have been at the forefront of the demonstrations, which are largely nonviolent, although they often involve some stone-throwing. The Israeli military routinely respond with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets, jets of foul-smelling fluid known as “skunk”, and sometimes live ammunition. Two villagers have been killed, and around 350 – including large numbers of children – injured. Ahed was shot in the wrist by a rubber bullet. At least 140 people from Nabi Saleh have been detained or imprisoned as a result of protest activity, including 40 minors. Bassem has been jailed nine times – four times since his daughter’s birth – and was named a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International; Nariman has been detained five times since the protests began; and Ahed’s older brother, Waed, was arrested. Her uncle, Rushdie Tamimi, died two days after being shot by soldiers in November 2012. An Israel Defense Forces investigation later found that soldiers fired 80 bullets without justification; they also prevented villagers giving medical aid to the injured man.

Ahed, a slight, elfin-faced girl, is a discomforting mix of worldliness and naivety. For a child, she knows far too much about tear gas and rubber bullets, demolition orders and military raids. Her home, scarred by repeated army assaults, is one of 13 in the village that are threatened with being bulldozed. When I ask how often she has experienced the effects of tear gas, she laughs, saying she cannot count the times. I ask her to describe it. “I can’t breathe, my eyes hurt, it feels like I’m suffocating. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes until I can see again,” she says. Like Nawal, Ahed is familiar with military raids on her home. One, while her father was in prison, began at 3am with the sound of assault rifles being battered against the front door. “I woke up, there were soldiers in my bedroom. My mum was screaming at the soldiers. They turned everything upside down, searching. They took our laptop and cameras and phones.”

According to Bassem, his daughter “sometimes wakes up at night, shouting and afraid. Most of the time, the children are nervous and stressed, and this affects their education. Their priorities change, they don’t see the point in learning.” Those working with Palestinian children say this is a common reaction. “When you live under constant threat or fear of danger, your coping mechanisms deteriorate. Children are nearly always under stress, afraid to go to school, unable to concentrate,” Frank Roni says.

Mona Zaghrout of the YMCA lists typical responses to trauma among children: “Nightmares, lack of concentration, reluctance to go to school, clinginess, unwillingness to sleep alone, insomnia, aggressive behaviour, regressive behaviour, bed-wetting. Psychosomatic symptoms, such as a high fever without a biological reason, or a rash over the body. These are the most common things we see.”

The flip side of Ahed’s life is one of poignant prosaicness. She plays hopscotch and football with her schoolfriends, likes movies about mermaids, teases her brothers, skips with a rope in the sitting room. But she shrinks from the suggestion that we photograph her near the army watchtower at the entrance to the village, only reluctantly agreeing to a few minutes within sight of the soldier behind the concrete. Her answers to questions about what the protests are over and the role of the army seem practised, the result of living in a highly-politicised community. “We want to liberate Palestine, we want to live as free people, the soldiers are here to protect the settlers and prevent us reaching our land.” With her brothers, she watches a DVD of edited footage showing her parents being arrested, their faces contorted in anger and pain, her own confrontation with Israeli soldiers, a night-time raid on the house, her uncle writhing on the ground after being shot. On top of witnessing these events first-hand, she relives them over and over again on screen. The settlers across the valley appear to her as completely alien. She has never had direct contact with any of them. No soldier, she says, has ever spoken a civil word to her.

It’s the same for 13-year-old Waleed Abu Aishe. Israeli soldiers are stationed at the end of his street in the volatile city of Hebron 24 hours a day, yet none has ever acknowledged the skinny, bespectacled boy by name as he makes his way home from school. “They make out they don’t know us, but of course they do,” he says. “They just want to make things difficult. They know my name, but they never use it.”

Nowhere in the West Bank do Israeli settlers and Palestinians live in closer proximity or with greater animosity than in Hebron. A few hundred biblically inspired Jews reside in the heart of the ancient city, protected by around 4,000 soldiers, amid a Palestinian population of 170,000. In 1997 the city was divided into H1, administered by the Palestinian Authority, and H2, a much smaller area around the old market, under the control of the Israeli military. H2 is now a near-ghost town: shuttered shops, empty houses, deserted streets, packs of wild dogs, and armed soldiers on most street corners. Here, the remaining Palestinian families endure an uneasy existence with their settler neighbours.

In Tel Rumeida, Waleed’s neighbourhood, almost all the Palestinian residents have left. Only the Abu Aishes and another family remain on his street, alongside new settler apartment blocks and portable buildings. Waleed lives much closer to his settler and soldier neighbours than either Ahed Tamimi or Nawal Jabarin: from his front window, you can see directly into settler homes a few metres away. Next door to his home is an army base housing around 400 soldiers.

Following violent attacks, stone-throwing, smashed windows and repeated harassment from settlers, the Abu Aishes erected a steel mesh cage and video cameras over the front of the three-storey house where the family has lived for 55 years. When not at school, Waleed spends almost all his time inside this cage. “For me, this is normal,” he says. “I got used to it. But it’s like living in a prison. No one can visit us. The soldiers stop people at the bottom of the street, and if they are not from our family, it’s forbidden for them to visit. There is only one way to our house, and the soldiers are there day and night. I don’t remember anything else: they have been here since I was born.” Despite his “normality”, he wishes his friends could come to the house, or that he and his brother could play football on the street.

The cage, and public condemnation that erupted in Israel following the broadcast on television of a Jewish woman hissing “whore” in Arabic through the mesh at female members of the Abu Aishe family, have reduced settler attacks and abuse. But Waleed still gets called “donkey” or “dog”, and is sometimes chased by settler children. His mother, Ibtasan, says the soldiers take no action to protect her children. “They have got used to this way of life, but it’s very exhausting. Always I am worried,” she says as images from the street below flicker on a television monitor in the corner of the living room. “It was easier when they were little, although they had bad dreams. They would sleep one next to me, one next to my husband and one between us.”

A 2010 report by the children’s rights organisation Defence for Children International (DCI) said Palestinian children in Hebron were “frequently the targets of settler attacks in the form of physical assaults and stone-throwing that injure them” and were “especially vulnerable to settler attacks”. I ask Waleed if he’s ever tempted to retaliate. He looks uncomfortable. “Some of my friends throw stones at the soldiers,” he says. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t, because the soldiers know me.” Stone-throwing by Palestinian children at settlers and security forces is common, sometimes causing injuries and even deaths. Bassem Tamimi neither advocates nor condemns it: “If we throw stones, the soldiers shoot. But if we don’t throw stones, they shoot anyway. Stone-throwing is a reaction. You can’t be a victim all the time,” he says.

Another father, whose adolescent son has been detained by the Israeli police 16 times since the age of nine, concurs. “We have the right to defend ourselves, but what do we have to defend ourselves with? Do we have tanks, or jet fighters?” asks Mousa Odeh. His son, Muslim, now 14, is well known to the Israeli security forces in the East Jerusalem district of Silwan. A few minutes’ drive from the five-star hotels around the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Silwan is wedged in a gulley, a dense jumble of houses along steep and narrow streets lined with car repair workshops and tired grocery stores. It has always been a tough neighbourhood, but an influx of hardline settlers has created acute tensions, exacerbated by the aggression of their private armed security guards and demolition orders against more than 80 Palestinian homes. The area’s youths throw stones and rocks at the settlers’ reinforced vehicles, risking arrest by the ever-present police.

“Every minute you see the police – up and down, up and down,” Muslim says. “They stop us, search us, bug us. When I’m bored, I bug them, too. Why should I be frightened of them?” The boy insists he is not among the stone-throwers, an assertion that stretches credulity. “The police accuse me of making trouble, but I don’t throw stones, ever. Some of my friends, maybe.” Hyam, Muslim’s mother, says her son, the youngest of five children, has changed since the arrests began. “They have destroyed him psychologically. He’s more aggressive and nervous, hyper, always wanting to be out in the streets.”

Muslim’s detentions have followed a typical, well-documented pattern. Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli security forces each year, most accused of throwing stones. They are often arrested at night, taken away from home without a parent or adult accompanying them, questioned without lawyers, held in cells before an appearance in court. Some are blindfolded or have their hands bound with plastic ties. Many report physical and verbal abuse, and say they make false confessions. According to DCI, which has taken hundreds of affidavits from minors in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, these children are often pumped for information on relatives and neighbours by their interrogators. Muslim has been held for periods varying from a few hours to a week.

For Muslim, his repeated detentions are a rite of passage. “People respect me because I’ve been arrested so many times,” he tells me. Child psychologists see it rather differently. They say young boys are often feted as heroes when they return from detention, which denies them the scope to process their traumatic experiences and express common feelings of acute anxiety. According to Zaghrout, boys are expected to act tough. “In our culture, it’s easier for girls to show fear and cry. Boys are told they shouldn’t cry. It’s hard for boys to say they are frightened to go to the toilet alone or that they want to sleep with their parents. But they still have these feelings, they just come out differently – in nightmares, bed-wetting, aggression.”

According to Roni at Unicef, “Children can lose faith and respect when they see their father beaten in front of them. These children sometimes develop a resistance to respecting people in authority. We hear parents saying, ‘I can’t control my child any more – they won’t listen to me.’ This creates great stresses within a family.” Muslim now skips school regularly, saying it bores him, and instead spends his days roaming the streets. According to Mousa, the boy’s teachers say he is hard to control, aggressive and uncooperative. At the end of our visit, the restless teenager accompanies us back to our car. He bounces along the road, leaning in open car windows to twist a steering wheel or honk a horn. As we prepare to leave, he gives us a word of warning: “Be careful. Some kid might throw rocks at you.”

Despite their difficult lives, each of these four children has a touchstone of normality in their life. For Nawal, it is the sheep that she tends. Ahed likes football and playing with dolls. Waleed is passionate about drawing. Muslim looks after horses in his neighbourhood. And each has an ambition for the future: Nawal hopes to be a doctor, to care for the cave-dwellers and shepherds of the South Hebron Hills; Ahed wants to become a lawyer, to fight for Palestinian rights; Waleed aspires to be an architect, to design houses without cages; and Muslim enjoys fixing things and would like to be a car mechanic. But growing up under occupation is shaping another generation of Palestinians. The professionals who work with these children say many traumatised youngsters become angry and hopeless adults, contributing to a cycle of despair and violence. “What we face in our childhood, and how we deal with it, forms us as adults,” Zaghrout says.

“There is a cycle of trauma imprinted on Palestinian consciousness, passed down from generation to generation,” Rita Giacaman, professor of public health at Birzeit university, says. “Despair is also handed down. It’s hard for children to see a future. The past not only informs the present, but also the future.”

Palestinian footballers shot by Israeli forces never to play again

Ma‘an 14 Feb 2014

Two young Palestinian football players shot by Israeli forces last month have learned that they will never be able to play sports again due to their injuries, according to doctors. Doctors at Ramallah governmental hospital said the pair will need six months of treatment before they can evaluate if the two will even be able to ever walk again, at best. Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were shot by Israeli soldiers as they were walking home from a training session in the Faisal Hussein Stadium in al-Ram in the central West Bank on Jan. 31. Israeli forces opened fire in their direction without warning as they were walking near a checkpoint. Police dogs were subsequently unleashed on them before Israeli soldiers dragged them across the ground and beat them. The pair was subsequently were taken to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, where they underwent a number of operations to remove the bullets. Medical reports said that Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot. The two were taken to Ramallah governmental hospital before being transferred to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman. Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril al-Rajoub condemned the shooting and said that “Israeli brutality against them emphasizes the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport.” Rajoub called for imposing penalties on the Israeli football association, and demanded its removal from the FIFA as it should not accept racist organizations that do not adhere to international law.

Inside Gaza’s ‘death zone’

Alternative Information Centre 23 Feb 2014

“I demand to judge the Israeli soldier who shot my son dead,” says Amna Mansour. Amna’s son Ibrahim, age 35, was collecting gravel near Gaza’s eastern border with Israel when he was shot in the head and killed by the Israeli military on Thursday, February 13. He leaves behind a wife and seven children, ages 2 to 8. One of Mansour’s two companions was injured in the shooting. Both survivors say that no warning was given before they were fired upon. Mansour’s killing follows a pattern by the Israeli military in which lethal gunfire is used to disperse anyone perceived as a threat in an ill-defined “no-go zone” extending some 300 meters or more inside Gaza’s northern and eastern borders. According to B’Tselem, “The large number of cases indicates, apparently, that the IDF has classified substantial areas near the fence as ‘death zones,’ i.e., soldiers are under standing orders to fire at any person who enters the area, regardless of the circumstances.”

New identity law raises fear of Israeli effort to divide Christians

Alex Shams Ma‘an 26 Feb 2014

A new law to create a separate “Christian” nationality for Palestinian citizens of Israel successfully passed through the Knesset on Monday with more than three-quarters of votes in favor. The bill, which creates a distinction from the existing “Arab” nationality, has raised fears among many Palestinians that a renewed push is underway by the state to divide their society along religious lines. The law’s supporters have made clear that the new measure is not merely a legal formality, but instead intends to de-emphasize the Arab identity of Christians by racializing and politicizing existing religious distinctions … On Wednesday, PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the law, calling it an effort to transform the occupation into “an outright religious confrontation,” and stressing that Israel is adopting a “policy of the classification of its citizens based on religion or ethnicity” as part of a larger system of “apartheid.” A Knesset committee is even looking into instituting compulsory army service for Israel’s 120,000 Palestinian Christians, a proposal which has raised ire among both Muslims and Christians citizens, who are currently exempted. But Palestinian society is not taking these efforts lying down. One member of the Knesset has even called upon the pope to intervene. Civil society groups on both sides of the Green Line, meanwhile, are mobilizing a campaign of local and global resistance to what they fear is a a larger campaign to tear their religiously diverse society apart. ‘Divide and rule strategy’ “We will do everything in our power to stop this law,” says Rifat Kassis, head of the Palestinian-Christian activist group Kairos … In Kassis’ view, the law reflects the “apartheid nature” of the Israeli state and its inability to “deal with its citizens as citizens” but instead as a collection of religious groups.

Dr. Ashrawi strongly condemns Israel’s racist laws and policies

PLO Executive Committee Department of Culture and Information Feb 26, 2014

PLO Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, strongly condemned the passing of a new Israeli Knesset bill that was sponsored by MK Yariv Levin of the Likud Party and that explicitly distinguishes between Muslim and Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel. Furthermore, she denounced Knesset’s discussion of a proposal initiated by right-wing MK Moshe Feiglin regarding the extension of Israeli sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa Mosque:“These moves demonstrate that Israel is transforming its military occupation into an outright religious confrontation and an ideological component of official policy as demonstrated in its insistence on the recognition of the ‘Jewishness of the state.’” “Such developments, along with its systematic campaign to annex and distort the character and demography of Jerusalem, constitute institutionalized racism, which is illegal by all measures of international law and defies all the basic principles of democracy and human rights.”

“They are also fundamentally offensive to all other religions and constitute an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide. Using religion as a pretext to impose sovereignty on historical places of worship threatens to plunge the entire region into great conflict and instability. It is reminiscent of the same regressive ideology that brought the Crusades to Palestine in the Middle Ages,” stressed Dr. Ashrawi. She added, “History has revealed the dangers of extremism and religious bigotry being used to instigate and promote sectarianism and strife. This strategy is not only imposed on the Palestinians in Occupied Palestine, but it is also forced on Palestinian citizens of Israel (Christians, Muslims and Druze) who are subjected to an apartheid system of laws that neither respects nor implements human rights.” “We call on all members of the international community to hold Israel accountable and to curb Israel’s legislated racial discrimination and deliberate aggression and assaults on Palestinian holy sites.”

Israeli soldier’s needless killing of Palestinian activist: punishable by death?

Amira Hass Ha’aretz 3 Mar 2014

An elite unit shot a Palestinian activist at point-blank range dozens of times. He had received a summons and failed to appear. What should be the penalty? — If the order was to escalate, the takeover of the village of Bir Zeit last Thursday by the Yamam counterterrorism unit and the Nahal infantry brigade was surely a step in the right direction. Israeli forces killed Muataz Washaha, a 24-year-old activist in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. His funeral Friday was boiling, bubbling lava, striving to burst out of a crack. If the order was to embarrass the Palestinian Authority’s leaders and increase the hostility toward them, the attack – by 200 soldiers, a Shin Bet security service officer named Alon, dozens of jeeps and two bulldozers – was incredibly successful. Senior PA officials were wise to avoid the mass funeral, where Palestinian security personnel led cries of: “No more traitors,” “no more negotiations,” “no more security cooperation.” These were some of the more polite chants … If the anonymous genius behind the attack wanted to prove that the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians, religious and secular – are all one people under the Israeli boot, he succeeded. The Washaha family is one of the six original families of Bir Zeit. It’s one of the two founding Muslim families; the other four are Christian. At the funeral procession, which passed by mosques and churches, there was no way to tell who was who … If the brilliant strategist behind the operation meant to destroy, in five hours, the life’s savings of a Palestinian workers’ family, accumulated over 30 or 40 years, he should be up for a special commendation …The light anti-tank rocket fired by the heroic Israeli troops hit the apartment of Tha’er Washaha, Muataz’s brother. It destroyed everything inside. The apartment was on a floor recently added to the small house that the family built decades ago … When the Yamam, Nahal and Shin Bet forces left, family members ran into the house. The neighborhood was now filled with piercing cries. The elite police unit had shot Washaha at point-blank range dozens of times, according to the pieces of brain that covered the room, not to mention his legs, arms and fingers that were nearly severed from his body. He had received a summons from the Shin Bet and failed to appear. A grave crime punishable by death?

State confiscates Bedouin playground equipment donated by Italy

Amira Hass Ha’aretz 28 Feb 2014

The Civil Administration has issued demolition orders against dozens of structures in the encampment, including the local school — The Civil Administration on Thursday confiscated playground equipment that the Italian government had donated to a school at the Khan al-Amar Bedouin encampment east of Jerusalem. A representative of the Italian Consulate accompanied the delivery, which came in two trucks, one carrying cement and the other a three-seat swing set and a slide with a tunnel and two ladders. The children barely had a chance to get excited about the equipment when Civil Administration inspectors appeared and announced they were seizing the two trucks and their contents, on the grounds that the installation was illegal. The consular representative drove off with the inspectors in an effort to overturn the decision … The Khan al-Amar encampment, which is along the road leading to Jericho, is home to the Jahalin tribe that Israel expelled from the Negev in the 1950s. Around 250 people have lived in for decades in the camp, which is situated on land belonging to the village of Anata. The settlement of Kfar Adumim is only two kilometres from the site, but (as with all the other Bedouin communities between East Jerusalem and Jericho), the Civil Administration refuses to let Khan al-Amar residents build, connect to the infrastructure, or put up as much as a tin shack, animal pen or tent, on the grounds that the area does not have an approved master plan.

Six Palestinians killed in 24 hours by Israeli forces

Allison Deger Mondoweiss 11 March 2014

Tuesday marked a day of funerals as Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza mourned six killed by Israeli forces within twenty-four hours. Three were killed in the West Bank in separate instances and three were killed in the Gaza Strip from an air strike … In the West Bank on Monday Israeli border police at the Allenby crossing shot a Jordanian judge during an altercation on a bus. Raed Zeitar, 38, originally from Nablus had been living in Jordan since 2011 and was en route to the West Bank to visit his six-year old daughter who is hospitalized in a coma. In a statement the Israeli army said Zeitar was fired at after he attempted to seize an officer’s weapon: … However, Mohammed Zayd, a witness, told Ma’an News Agency that Zeitar was shot after returning to his feet from when a soldier shoved him to the ground: … Adding to the Jordan Times Zayd said, “It is not true that he tried to take the soldier’s gun,” continuing, “Passengers were shocked, and started crying and screaming.” After Zeitar’s killing Israeli forces then detonated an explosive on his luggage and held the remaining bus passengers for six hours. Per a treaty between Israel and Jordan, Jordanian officials will take part in an investigation into the cause of Zeitar’s death.

That evening around 9pm Israeli soldiers shot Saji Darwish, 18, after throwing stones on a road near the settlement of Beit El, which is separated from highway access by a concrete wall. Darwish was a student at Bir Zeit University, studying advertising. The same day Fida’ Mohyeeddeen Majadla, 23, was shot in the chest and head and was reportedly killed instantly by the live fire at a roadblock south of the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem. Another, Ibrahim Adnan Shokry was also wounded. Israeli authorities then held Majadla’s body. Hours later on Tuesday morning three members of the armed-wing of the Islamic Jihad movement were killed in an Israeli air strike near Khan Younis in the southern West Bank. Ma‘an reported the al-Quds Brigade said in a statement, “Ismail Abu Judah, 23, Shahir Abu Shanab, 24, and Abd al-Shafi Muammar, 33, “were in confrontation with the occupation trying to stop the progress of Israeli military vehicles which were approaching the area.” The Israeli army said the air strike occurred after mortar shells were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The six killings come just days after Amnesty International published a report on “trigger happy” soldiers using live-fire on unarmed protesters.

Israel’s nation-state talk means the return of the yellow star

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 16 Mar 2014

Israelis are judging people by their ancestors and withdrawing into a ghetto-state whose nature will be determined by its purity — …No one would dare to say France for the French, America is all-American, Germany is a German state or Italy is a Catholic one. Anyone who did so wouldn’t be considered credible. These countries are democracies of all their citizens; their character is determined by the components of the entire population. Living in each are minorities, their numbers growing in this era of globalization and migration. No one speaks of a nation-state, of a state of one religion, of one racial group. But this kind of talk is fashionable in Israel. It’s legitimate and even Zionist: a Jewish state. Only in Israel are individual rights and the character of the state determined by origin, like having a Jewish great-grandmother. The hell with members of minority groups – most of whom were born here. This kind of talk has also become a basic condition for the negotiations with the Palestinians. It’s just a cheap excuse, of course – one more obstacle on the road to reaching a peace agreement, heaven forfend. But the disease’s malignant symptoms are deeply encoded in Israel’s DNA. Israel is returning to the ghetto, building its own neo-ghetto with its own two hands. Welcome to the Israel Ghetto; it built the walls and fences that surround it long ago, and the mental and cultural walls are on the way. What was done to the Jews for generations, the Jews are now doing to themselves: judging people by their ancestors and withdrawing into a ghetto-state whose nature will be determined by its degree of purity.

Nothing short of a war crime

Haaretz editorial 28 Mar 2014

The IDF cannot simply shrug off the death of Yusef a-Shawamreh — Last week, 14-year-old Yusef a-Shawamreh and two of his friends left their village of Deir al-Asal al-Fauqa in the southern West Bank to pick plants on his family’s field, west of the separation fence. The three youths passed through a wide gap in the fence, which had existed for at least two years and which the Israel Defense Forces hadn’t bothered to fix. After crossing the fence, the boys heard three or four gunshots. The firing came from an IDF ambush, a few dozen meters away. According to an investigation by B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, released on Wednesday, the shots had been fired with no warning. A-Shawamreh was wounded in the hip and fell to the ground bleeding. He managed to crawl to the road, but then the soldiers emerged from their hiding place. The soldiers arrested the other two boys and a-Shawamreh received preliminary medical treatment. A military ambulance arrived only half an hour later, although an IDF camp is located a mere two kilometers away. Meanwhile, the boy bled to death … This chain of events is extremely grave. Opening fire automatically on people who pass through a gap in the fence is abhorrent and despicable. A-Shawamreh is the victim of a war crime. There is no other way to describe the circumstances of his death. The IDF cannot make do with its spokesman’s attempt to whitewash the incident. It must hold a vigorous investigation and then put on trial the soldiers responsible and the commanders who sent them on the mission.

It’s the Palestinians’ fault, let them pay

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 6 Apr 2014

This cynical and useless game, whose only purpose is to prove again that the occupied ones are to blame, will end in bloodshed — Occasionally the chutzpah of the Americans, and even of the Israelis, believe it or not, reaches still newer heights. This can be seen in the threats of both countries to by the United States and Israel to impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority. Israel threatens to withhold taxes collected on behalf of Palestinians and has even made threats against their wireless carrier. The United States threatens to suspend aid to the PA; Europe, Washington’s thrall, is next. It’s unbelievable that the occupier is imposing (more) sanctions on the occupied. It’s unbelievable that what has emerged from all the talk about Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel is more sanctions on the Palestinians, as if to tell them: You broke it, you bought it. But who broke it? Who’s to blame for the collapse of the talks? What exactly did the Palestinians do to deserve punishment (again)? After Israel repudiated its promise to release a handful of Palestinian prisoners and began to set conditions for fulfilment, published another tender for the construction of new homes in the settlements, refused to submit its maps with proposed borders, sabotaged the talks with the ridiculous demand of recognition it as a Jewish state, showed not the slightest inclination to end the occupation and continued to build unabated in the settlements and to kill innocents, also unabated – after all this, the Palestinians took a minor, almost desperate step, so they are to blame. They turned to the world and asked to join 15 international conventions, perish the thought.

Hugh Humphries


Scottish Friends of Palestine

0141 637 8046



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