July 2, 2007 The everyday sorrows of occupation

Dear friends and family,
Since I’ve been here IWPS has been working with people in the area trying to help out with various problems they are facing as a result of the occupation. Here is a short list of examples.

A farmer from Deir Istiya was hit by the car of a settler while being harassed and then beaten by soldiers. The road he was using is the one his family has been using for generations and there is no other one available to him. When we met with him and some of the other farmers who have endured the same treatment they told us that they were not interested in seeking medical expense reimbursement or even a simple apology. “What is done is done.” Their only concern was to stop the bad behavior of the soldiers and settlers.

While we were taking the report of the farmer hit by the settler car we were being served numerous rounds of tea and coffee at his home. His family and some of the other farmers were sitting with us. All of a sudden the kids started shouting and running out into the fields. They heard wild pigs and went to chase them away. These pigs are huge nuisances and very destructive to crops. Apparently the farmers think the settlers released them. They told us that years ago there was unexplained deer who roamed the fields who were also nuisances but they were easily trapped and the farmers could use their meat. When the pigs arrived mysteriously they were much more difficult to deal with. Pigs are much more difficult to trap and even if they did succeed in trapping them, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork.

We met with another man from Deir Istiya who used to work in Israel and has turned to farming to feed his family (Palestinians have been prohibited to work in Israel since 2001. This used to be a significant portion of Palestinians’ income. Now the Palestinian labor in Israel has been replaced by immigrants, mostly from Thailand). He recently built a chicken coop for 1,000 chickens. He has received a demolition order for it because he built without a permit. If he doesn’t remove it by July 21st the army will come to bulldoze it. Furthermore, they will charge him for the expense to do this. Since the occupation began in 1967 Palestinians are virtually never given permits to build anything. Not new homes, room additions or even chicken coops. And when they are given permits the permit will always specify that they are “inhabitants but not owners”. When you think about the typical large Palestinian family and how the population has grown since 1967 you can imagine the crowded conditions in which they live.

Yesterday we accompanied some shepherds from the village of Salam. There is now a Jewish by-pass road on the land that their families have used for generations to graze their goats and sheep. They are not allowed to use it and they need to cross it at least twice a day. So they are often caught and stopped by soldiers. One of them was beaten by a soldier last week when he was caught crossing. He showed us his broken finger. Because we were there they were allowed to cross. But we can’t be there every day.

We took a report today in a village that was invaded last night by the Israeli army. The army entered at approximately 3:00 am with about 5 or 6 jeeps and 40 soldiers. They shot live ammunition and sound bombs and then surrounded a house. They forced the family outside and searched the home for one of the sons. When they didn’t find him they took Samir, a 30 year old mentally ill son of the family as a human shield to go to the home of the “wanted” son. The mother begged them not to abuse him because she feared they would exacerbate his mental illness. I got the impression that his illness was something like PTSD but I can’t be sure.

Yesterday, while we were visiting one of the families in Hares, one of the womyn asked us if we could go to Tel Aviv. We were very uncomfortable but had to answer truthfully. Yes, we could. She just nodded wishfully. You may think this was a strange question but I have been asked it very often here. Another very common question is whether I can go to Jerusalem. West Bank Arabs are not allowed to go to Jerusalem, or to cross the green line (the internationally recognized Israel). This means that they cannot pray at the Holy Sanctuary (Dome of the Rock) which is the third most holy place in Islam nor can they go to the sea shore although it is less than an hour’s drive away. Both these sorrows are felt very keenly.



Brother Rick said...

I admire what you are doing Wendy. I know it is sincere and your courage allows you to act on your principles. I, however, would like to understand those principles better. Are you in favor of a more humane occupation or the immediate elimination of the occupation. If it is the latter, what do you forsee as the immediate aftermath of an immediate withdrawal by Israel? Do you believe Israel enjoys the ability to occupy this area and covets staying there as an occupier?

With respect to your chronicles of Israeli abuses during the occupation, is it your view that this is a matter of policy or merely personality (i.e. the Israelis are inated sadistic?) Is it worth your effort to try to chronicle the sources of Israeli attitudes that trigger these "abuses? I don't know if you mission is to bring a balanced view but given your intelligence and your verve, I, at least, would be interested in this.

About Wendy said...

Dear Brother Rick,
You are the first real comment on my blog. It makes me so happy that you are interested in my reports!

So to answer you:
I believe that Israel needs to end their occupation, including withdrawing from the settlements, immediately, like yesterday. The continued occupation and settlement expansion of the Occupied Palestinian Territories violates International Law, the Geneva Conventions and UN Resolutions 242 and 338.

You ask what I foresee as the immediate aftermath of an Israeli withdrawal. I have trouble with the question because it presumes that Israel is providing security at some level to the Palestinian population. This could not be further from the truth. It is Israeli soldiers and settlers that are the primary source of violence and misery for the Palestinians. I am not saying that life would be perfect here in the aftermath because Palestine has its own societal problems as any society does, but their lives would be improved immeasurably. They could go to Jerusalem, to work, to school, to visit their relatives that don’t even live very far away and maybe even to the sea. They would not have to fear arbitrary arrest, home demolitions or military incursions. Oh to go a day without a soldier!

Of course I do not believe that Israel “enjoys” the ability to occupy this area. To the contrary, I am sure that Israel and especially the Israeli people yearn for peace and calm, as all people do. At the same time I believe that the Israeli leaders (ever since the establishment of the state and even from the beginning of Zionism) are willing to pay high prices, including remaining an occupying power, in the pursuit of Eretz Israel. ( i.e. the dream of a Jewish State that encompasses the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea.) I believe that the history of Israel clearly shows that the Israeli leadership has consistently chosen conflict at the expense of peace negotiations in the pursuit of land grabs.

Of course the Israelis are not innately sadistic. Their policies and objectives have the inevitable outcome of making the lives of Palestinians miserable.

As far as any effort on my part to chronicle the sources of Israeli attitudes that trigger the abuses I am documenting in the West Bank, I will leave that to the mainstream media and the various mainstream Jewish organizations who have taken lack of balance to preposterous levels. (Check out the website www.ifamericansknew.org or the excellent documentary “Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land”.) I choose to be in Palestine, not Israel. I can only write about what I see here.

Sister Wendy