HEBRON UPDATE: 17 May-14 June 2008


3 July 2008
HEBRON UPDATE: 17 May-14 June 2008


[[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal.]

On team in this period were Sally Britton, Jean Fallon, Marius van Hoogstraten (intern), David Janzen, Kathy Kern, David Martin, Pieter Niemeyer (delegation coordinator) and Kathie Uhler.


Saturday, 17 May

Britton, Fallon, Uhler and Janzen went to At-Tuwani to participate in a barley-harvesting action near the edge of an Israeli settler outpost called Ma'on. Britton and Fallon stationed themselves on one side of the valley where the villagers were harvesting their barley. Uhler and a visitor stayed with a number of village men on the other side of the valley just below the settlement outpost, watching the harvest. In the next hour, three army jeeps pulled up at the crest of the hill above the heads of the watchers, then a white settler security vehicle, a blue police jeep and finally a white high-ranking officer's jeep. During this time, perhaps five settlers also came into view. Two walked boldly through the assembled observers at two different times. No violence occurred, only mutual observation and photographing each other's moves.

Janzen stayed between the village and the outpost with Jan Benvie and Sean O'Neill from the CPT At-Tuwani team. They observed five settlers approaching, as well as the officer and Border Police. Roughly twenty-five villagers engaged the settlers in verbal banter. The three CPTers as well as several members of the Israeli group, Ta'ayush placed themselves between the two groups. The Israeli officer and Border Police eventually convinced the settlers to leave. The settlers then headed back in the direction of the fields but did not cause any more problems.

Because settlers did not appear until the fields were almost finished, the villagers were able to harvest two loads of barley.

In the afternoon, Britton, Fallon, Uhler and Janzen visited a Palestinian family the team knows well to look at the eleven homes and medical clinic scheduled for demolition in the valley near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba. The date for the demolitions has passed without the destruction of the homes. The family confirmed the CPTers' observation that more Palestinians have received permits to drive on route 60 in the Beqa'a valley.


Wednesday, 21 May

At 1:00 a.m., Janzen, Uhler, Van Hoogstraten and Fallon went to the Islamic Charitable Society orphanage for girls for a Steering Committee meeting with Jawad Bulos, the Charity head lawyer.

"The very first moment the charity received the closure orders I appealed to the Military Legal Advisor and asked him to arrange a meeting with me." Bulos said. "The Advisor refused to meet me and later he responded, rejecting our appeal. I was forced, then, to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court."

The Israeli Supreme Court was not a better venue than the Legal advisor, according to Bulos, "After five days of my appeal to the court, the court refused to issue a stop order" [which would be normal in such cases.] "I was informed later that the court will not discuss our appeal before October,'' he added. Despite these facts, Bulos did not think that the Military would take further actions to embarrass the court or to create a new trend in the Israeli courts. However, he said, "I cannot trust the Israeli Military."


Thursday, 22 May

CPT received a call from a friend at 10:00 a.m. that a group of settlers had attacked the Ibrahimi Boys' school, by throwing rocks. Janzen, Fallon, Britton, and Van Hoogstraten spoke to a teacher who had been hit above the eye by a rock. One of the boys was also slightly injured. Apparently the soldiers guarding the area were reluctant to intervene, and the settlers did not leave before a local organization pressured a military commander to send a mobile unit to restore order. Other reports stated that the Israeli civilian police had sent away the settlers. When the team arrived, calm had returned. The team remained awhile in case the settlers came back, but they did not.

Van Hoogstraten, Fallon, Uhler, and a translator visited a matriarch in Wadi Al-Ghroos, a valley cut off completely by Israeli settlements, settler roads, an army base and police barracks. Only a four-foot wide path leads into the area. The hostess said that the soldiers and settlers had not caused problems lately.


Friday 23 May

Fallon, Uhler, Niemeyer and Van Hoogstraten attended a demonstration at Um Salamona to stand in solidarity with Mousa Abu Maria of Beit Ummar whom the Israeli authorities had taken into administrative detention (imprisonment without charge) two months earlier. The army had blocked the main roads into the village, so the two taxis had to drive through olive groves to get there.

The event went off peacefully, with children playing active roles in the march. Like the majority of demonstrators, the CPTers wore signs reading, "I am Mousa Abu Maria." When they encountered soldiers and barbed wire across the road, Yousef Abu Maria, Mousa Abu Maria's brother, told the crowd of approximately sixty people, "They are carrying weapons, because they are afraid!" Seven Israeli activists crossed the line and were arrested.


Saturday 24 May

During patrol, the team offered to accompany a Palestinian woman when they saw young, armed settler men approaching. "Oh no," she said, "it's okay--the boys aren't dangerous; it's the girls I'm afraid of."


Monday, 26 May

In the afternoon, a neighbor used the team's delegation apartment for a dramatic presentation on family issues that arise because of the Israeli Occupation. She said sixty adults came, including some men. She was pleased with this turnout, since she had expected about thirty-five.


Tuesday, 27 May

Janzen and Benvie visited a local friend and found that three settler boys had stolen his donkey. Even though the police called the guard at Harsina settlement, he would not stop the boys. The donkey's owner had just spoken to a local settler, for whom he had worked, who offered to look into getting the donkey back. The donkey was thirteen-years-old and had been trained to walk in the field between the rows without stepping on any plants.

Fallon, Van Hoogstraten, Uhler, and a visitor had tea with the former mayor of Beit Ummar. The Israeli military authorities had just released him from prison after eleven months in administrative detention. The initial charges--Hamas membership and being elected mayor from the Hamas party--were dropped by the judge, after which, the military took up the case and decided the evidence in a "secret file" justified holding him. He told the CPTers that he is willing to go to jail for the rest of his life rather than betray the people who freely elected him mayor. He said he and his family are willing and "very happy" to make this sacrifice.


Wednesday, 28 May

At the Yatta Road checkpoint, a boy of about ten reported soldiers had searched him and forced him to remove items of clothing and shoes. The team could not confirm this story since these actions did not happen in an area visible to them; the checkpoint is inside a metal container. The team learned from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron that closing the doors of the container is against regulations.

The former mayor of Beit Ummar received a military court appointment for 23 July, giving him some time with his family.


Sunday 01 June

Soldiers refused to allow one of the team's neighbors access from her front door to Shuhada Street even though she has documents allowing her access. She was leading a group of foreigners, when settlers started to shout at her and at the soldiers that happened to be nearby. "Why are you letting her pass?" they demanded, "if they can come here, we will to go into the souq!"

Although the soldiers were initially reluctant to act, they finally acquiesced to the settlers, and the police took the neighbor away, threatening arrest. Israeli courts have repeatedly reaffirmed that Palestinians are allowed to walk on Shuhada Street, the main road through this part of the city and the road on which most of the settlements have been established. The army has repeatedly ignored these rulings.


Monday 02 June

While traveling just outside Hebron, the CPT Delegation stumbled on a barricade. The military had blocked off Route 60 because local settlers had decided to cycle to Jerusalem in celebration of the subjugation of the city's eastern half forty-one years ago. Soldiers detained one delegate in an army vehicle for a few minutes amid general confusion.

Upon the delegates' return, the team joined them for a tour of the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) buildings that the Israeli military had raided, enjoyed supper in the girls' orphanage and then split up along gender lines to spend the night in both the boys' and the girls' orphanages.


Wednesday 04 June

The team learned that in villages near Hebron, the Israeli military raided two ICS schools and a kindergarten during the previous night.

Fallon and Uhler left for the Third Annual Bil'in Conference on Grassroots Nonviolent Resistance (4-6 June). At the conference, Fallon and Uhler invited Mairead Maguire, 1976 Nobel Laureate in Ireland, to stay overnight at the Girls' Orphanage in Hebron on Thursday after the conference tour to Hebron and Bethlehem. In the last presentation of the day, Dr. Jad Isak of ARIJ Center, gave an update on the current Palestinian situation in which he showed on a map how Israel may close route 60 from Hebron to Bethlehem to all but Israelis and force a new route looping eastward from Hebron some forty-four km, almost twice as long as the present route. "With the price of gas so high," he said, "the people will find this route too expensive to use for daily or commuter travel."


Thursday 05 June

Mairead Maguire spent the night at one of the orphanages in Hebron, along with Fallon, Uhler, and a married couple.


Monday 09 June

The team spoke to a legal expert about the Israeli destruction of ICS property. He told team members, "The Israeli army has an obligation under international law... as the occupying power, to provide for the physical, material and psychological well-being of the children in this area. Blocking access to their schools, denying the ability to educate and feed ICS students is a clear violation of the Geneva conventions."

Upon returning home, Van Hoogstraten, Martin, and guest Angela Storey walked patrol. At theYatta Rd. checkpoint, a soldier walked up to them, asking if they had some information on CPT for him. He was from Seattle, and was in the army "because everyone did it," and because he wanted to, "you know, do something for my country". He explained about the length of his tour of duty, his equipment and where he was generally stationed.


Wednesday 11 June

The team attended a meeting with a number of other international organizations active in Hebron. Wadi Nasara, the Palestinian neighborhood immediately adjacent to the settlement of Kiryat Arba, was identified as a focus area. The inhabitants of this area suffer from near daily settler harassment and violence. CPT resolved to visit the area on a daily basis, as well as to make a detailed map of the area, to better track events.


Thursday 12 June

In the afternoon Fallon and Martin patrolled Wadi Nasara for first time. Anat Cohen, a prominent settler in the Hebron community, passed by immediately. Within minutes, an army jeep also swung by, and took up an observation position near the Kiryat Arba south entrance. An Israeli minibus dropped off a settler at the settler-occupied building across from Wadi Nasara after the team passed it. When the driver sped off, he crossed to the wrong side of the road, and passed within eighteen inches of the two CPTers at about forty miles an hour.

Martin made arrangements to be able to visit a deaf Palestinian woman living in a closed-off area next to the Avraham Avinu settlement. Her family is the only one still living in the building. Relatives and friends are not allowed visit her.


Friday 13 June

The team's colleagues from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program reported that Israeli activist group Breaking The Silence tried to resume its tours of Hebron this day. A large group of settlers kept the peace activists from entering Hebron via Kiryat Arba. After a standoff of several hours, Breaking the Silence decided to call off the tour.


Saturday 14 June

Martin, Van Hoogstraten, Uhler and Fallon set out on a patrol to cover the mosque area, the deaf woman, the route bulldozed through a Palestinian neighborhood that settlers describe as "Worshippers' Way," and a home in Wadi Nasara close to the encroaching Kiryat Arba settlement.

Upon their return from Wadi Nasara, Van Hoogstraten and Martin stayed behind at a checkpoint on Shuhada Street, where Border Policemen were detaining a large group of Palestinian youth. The Border Policemen appeared to be stopping every passing youth between the age of twelve and early twenties, and leisurely checking their IDs. None of the youths was detained longer than forty minutes, none less than twenty-five.