AT-TUWANI UPDATE: December 2007

5 January 2008

AT-TUWANI UPDATE: December 2007

Every school day, the team monitored the Israeli army escort of children coming to and from the At-Tuwani school.  The soldiers were often late, which meant long waits for the children.  After calling Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, on December 9 and 10, the soldiers became more punctual.

The team accompanied Palestinian farmers plowing their fields near the Israeli settlement of Ma'on, and the settler outpost of Havot Ma'on, and undertook limited accompaniment of shepherds.

On team during this period were CPTers Jan Benvie, John Funk, Art Gish, Joshua Hough, Sean O'Neill, Jonathan Stucky, and several members of Operation Dove.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

More than 200 Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals walked from Tuwani to Tuba hoping the presence would help farmers from Tuba plow their fields without harassment. (See 4 December 2007 CPTnet release, "AT-TUWANI: Demonstrators walk from At-Tuwani to Tuba, protesting settler harassment.")

Soldiers stopped a Tuwani farmer when he started home with his tractor. Tuwani women shouted at the soldiers.  One soldier became very aggressive and pointed his gun at the women.  His commander tried to restrain him and ended up ordering him to return to their jeep and stand beside the jeep like a child who had misbehaved.

Around 2:00 p.m., when the plowing & planting were finished, the marchers returned to At-Tuwani and several people gave speeches before the marchers left.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The South Hebron Hills received the first good rain of the season.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Two members from EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) Jerusalem, and three of the present EAPPI Hebron group came to talk about work in the South Hebron Hills for the next EAPPI group.  They appeared happy to continue with a weekend presence in Susiya, and other work in the area as required.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The teachers were on strike because although they are now receiving their paychecks, they have still not received their pay from last year.

After learning that soldiers were on the road running past At-Tuwani, Benvie and Gish went there at 2:20 and saw about twenty soldiers, who told them the road was closed for a race.  The soldiers had put rocks across the road to At-Tuwani.  Two years ago, a bulldozer dug a ditch across the road to close the road for a similar race.  Lots of Israeli traffic was on the road, so Gish told the soldiers that the road did not look closed to him.  "It's closed for Arabs," a soldier said.  Gish asked why Jews could use the road, but not Palestinians.  "We do what we do because we are in charge."  Gish asked him if he thought this would bring peace. "There can never be peace with Arabs," he said.  "They do all the bad things here."

At 2:50, runners were on the road, headed for Susya.  Yet Israeli cars kept whizzing by in both directions.  A woman on a horse went through a group of runners and struck one of them.  One of the runners had a rifle slung over his shoulder.

By 3:15, the race was over, but the soldiers said the road would remain closed until 5:00. Benvie and Hough tried to intervene when a Tuwani woman tried to cross the road at 3:40 with her donkey and two children, one of whom was sick.  The soldiers refused to allow her to cross even though the race was over. They opened the road at 4:10. (See 18 December CPTnet release, "AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: No winners.")

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The team heard that settlers had attacked Jawiyya shepherds and sheep using a slingshot.  No one was injured.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The team made a list of all the times in the last three months that the soldiers were late for school escort to give to Israeli groups working on the issue.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Gish went to Friday Prayers in the Tuwani mosque.  He was impressed that he knew less than half of the people there.  Many came from Yatta and surrounding villages, as far as Jinba, showing that At-Tuwani is becoming a social/religious/political hub for the area.

Hough went with the EAPPI group to Susiya to document settlers having cut down thirty-five olive trees the previous evening.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Benvie, Hough, and Gish visited a family in Mufakara in the afternoon.

At about 5:15, Benvie and Gish went to observe a checkpoint on the road. The soldiers had made villagers wait a half hour there. When Benvie and Gish approached the jeep on the Palestinian road across 317, they saw four soldiers detaining about ten Palestinians standing outside whom they had asked to get out of their van.  Although they continued to stop all vehicles, the soldiers eventually stopped asking people to get out of their cars.

At first, the soldiers showed no interest in talking but then asked about CPT. They responded by saying, "There can never be peace with Arabs.  They cause all the problems.  The Arabs are animals.  The only answer is to arrest all the Hamas people." Gish challenged these remarks by asking why they needed to escort school children past the Ma'on settlement every day. "Oh, the people in Ma'on are stupid," they replied.  Gish asked, "So there are problems on both sides?" They did not reply.

After Gish told them he hoped their generation would do better than his generation, one of the soldiers said, "Oh, like John Lennon said in 'Imagine:

They may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one. I hope one day you'll join us, And the world will live as one.'"

After two hours the soldiers gathered their stop signs and strips of spikes they put across the road, and left.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The people of At-Tuwani had some unexpected "guests."  Apparently, people in Ma'on organized an "educational" hike for Israelis to acquaint these Israelis with the settlements and all the land that they think will be theirs.  They trekked from Susya to Ma'on with backpacks, looking like middle class Israelis out on a hiking trip.  They casually walked through the village, seemingly without fear, taking pictures of buildings and caves.

Benvie spoke with a man about the inappropriateness of walk through the village, particularly with a gun.  He asked why the villagers would be anxious, and she spoke to him a little about the attacks from settlers.  He seemed genuinely surprised but interested.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Both the old and new EAPPI teams from Hebron came for a short visit this morning to get acquainted.

Benvie and Gish went down to the road after hearing that settlers had killed a sheep.  They met a shepherd from Jawiyya who said his sheep was along the road when a settler car swerved to hit it, drove on, and turned into Ma'on. Police came a half hour later and did a report.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

No school, because teachers were on strike.

Monday, 17 December 2007

A Dove and Funk went to Sh'eb al Botom for a plowing action close to the Miztpe Yair settler outpost. Three tractors and a complement of Palestinians spread seed on the terraces below the outpost.  One of the Palestinians had a video camera and filmed the action.  They efficiently plowed the lower fields as settlers and soldiers watched from the outpost.

When the tractors moved up the terraces closer to the outpost, three soldiers came down the hill to meet them.  In an exchange with the landowner, the soldiers explained they would not interfere with the plowing but that the effort was futile since the settlers will plow the field under to stake a claim on the land. The action was to confirm continuous land use by the Palestinian family and prevent the land from reverting to the state.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

In the afternoon, a group of four people, two Israelis and two American Jews visited At-Tuwani. The leader of the group was a member of Rabbis for Human Rights.  A friend of the team showed them around the village.

Friday, 21 December 2007

The Doves went to road 317 where Israeli soldiers had erected a checkpoint and were preventing Palestinian vehicle traffic from crossing 317 in either direction. All Palestinian vehicle traffic was stopped for thirty-five minutes, after which the soldiers stayed another ten minutes checking identification.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

In the morning, CPTers Funk, Gish, and two Doves went with local Palestinian families to plow and sow seed in Sarura Valley.  Settlers watched from a distance but did not approach.

In the afternoon, Doves monitored a checkpoint on Road 317.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

CPTers Benvie and Gish spent the morning accompanying a local family sowing wheat below Sarura.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

In the afternoon, CPTer Benvie met with two field workers from Action against Hunger.  They had results from the testing of a cistern in Humra valley done after an Israeli settler tour was seen using the cistern on 9 December.  The test results confirmed that the cistern was contaminated. They said that they would empty the cistern, clean it out, undertake any remedial work necessary, and then refill it. They also said they would check water of other cisterns in the area where the Israeli settler tour was walking.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

CPTers Benvie and Gish met with a lawyer from Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, regarding the contaminated cistern and the Israeli settler tour that may have been responsible.

Friday, 28 December 2007

In the afternoon, CPTer O'Neill and two Doves monitored a checkpoint at the crossroads of road 317 and the road to Yatta.  All Palestinian vehicle traffic was stopped for an hour and a half. Both a soldier and a worker from Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch, an Israeli group, explained that checkpoints were all over the area, because soldiers were looking for men suspected of involvement in a shooting incident earlier in the day near Hebron.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

In the morning, the team was informed that a shepherd was having problems in Lakhelli, just over the hill from the village.  Soldiers and the settler security guard had forced a shepherd from Jawiyya to move.  CPTers stayed with shepherds as they continued to graze.  The soldiers, in the meantime, set up a checkpoint at road 317 that lasted one hour and twenty-five minutes.

Sunday, 31 December 2006

Around midnight, the team received a call from a friend in the village that settlers had been discovered walking on the roof of the family's house nearest to the outpost. They had been chased away when discovered, but the family was shaken up and requested accompaniment.  CPTer O'Neill and four Doves went up to check on the situation and O'Neill and a Dove stayed the night with the family.

Monday, 31 December 2007

Around noon, CPTer O'Neill and a Dove received word that shepherds were having problems with settlers in a valley between the settlement of Ma'on and the nearby settler cow barns.  When they arrived, the shepherd explained that a settler from the cow barns had stolen a sheep from him at gunpoint and demanded 300 shekels to return it.  A Palestinian boy with the shepherd had caught the incident on tape from a distance.  The team called the police who arrived at the cow barns and spoke to the shepherd.  After long discussions, the settler returned the sheep.  The police tried to persuade the shepherd to come with them to the police station, but he refused.