Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mabrouk Wadi Rahhal

Mabrouk Wadi Rahhal

Today, Friday 14th May, the small farming village of Wadi Rahhal, just south of Bethlehem, held its first demonstration against the theft of its lands by the massive Jewish colony/settlement of Efrat. In particular, the villagers were objecting to the planned encroachment of the apartheid wall to within 30 metres of the village school. Regular incursions by armed settlers and Israeli troops have not previously brought forth this kind of response from the village.

It is in this central region that the cancerous growth of settlements is most noticeable. Lands annexed to various settlements have come close to splitting the West Bank in two, making a future, contiguous Palestinian state an impossibility. The Wall, both built and planned, completely ignores the "Green Line", the previously accepted eastern border of the Israeli state.

Today's demonstration was organised by the National Committee of Wadi Rahhal and is intended to become a regular event. It was supported by villagers from nearby Beit Ummar, together with a small group of Israeli activists and Australian, Canadian and United States supporters from the International Solidarity Movement and the Palestine Solidarity project. A notable feature was the number of school children marching alongside their elders.

The well-organised group of 70 to 80 demonstrators marched to within metres of Efrat's present boundary, where they were met by a heavily-armed squad of Israeli Occupation Force soldiers. Leaders of the protest spoke in Arabic and Hebrew, announcing the peaceful and non-violent nature of the demonstration and appealing to the troops not to initiate a violent response. An international activist, speaking on behalf of the ISM, PSP and Israeli supporters present, affirmed their solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have endured 43 years of military occupation and called for three cheers for a Free Palestine. The demonstrators then dispersed, with no casualties suffered, ending a successful, peaceful and non-violent demonstration.
* Reporting live from Occupied Palestine

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mosque gutted by fire

Mosque gutted by fire.

The small village of Al Libban (Libban al Sharquia) sits in rolling hills planted with olive trees, approximately half way between Ramallah and Nablus. The villagers are simple fellahin - farmers - growing wheat and fruit in addition to their olive trees. The pride of the village is the central mosque, an impressive, large structure, built in 1977 and the only mosque currently in operation.

That was, until the night of Tuesday 4th May when fire gutted the mosque's interior, destroying carpets, furniture, numerous Korans and the building's fixtures and fittings. The visitor now witnesses a scene of total devastation. The blackened walls, floor and ceiling have a nighmarish quality and it is hard to imagine that this was once a beautiful, light-filled and serene place of worship. Local children have attempted to assert their defiance by scrawling such slogans as "Allah Akbar" onto the blackened tiles on the walls.

An Israeli Occupation spokesperson has suggested that the fire may have been caused by an electrical fault, a suggestion described as "a joke" by villagers.  Situated as it is, close by the Jewish colony/settlements of Shilo, Male Livona and Bet El, Al Libban has long been the target of settler aggression and violence. Anothe mosque, in nearby Huwwara, has been vandalised in recent weeks, suggesting an emerging pattern of targeting mosques for desecration.

The cost of repairing and renovating the gutted building has been put at 500,000 shekels (about AU$175,000) an enormous sum for such an impoverished community. Nevertheless, the villagers are determined to regain their mosque as a functioning place of worship, just as they are determined not to be driven from their homes and their lands by Israel's policy - and practice - of ethnic cleansing.

Reporting from Occupied Palestine

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Two little girls

The grave of Maasa and Janaa

 "Shaheed"(martyr) poster of the sisters

Reporting from Occupied Palestine
We stopped by the roadside at the spot where the two little girls had been killed. Their blood still stained the cushion on which they had been sitting, fragments of the military jeep which had rammed their father's tractor still littered the ground. Janaa Emad (8), her sister Maasa (5) and their brother Hussein (9) never saw what hit them as they waited for their father to take them from the family fields to their home in the small village of Al Ain al Baida in the northern Jordan Valley. Al Ain al Baida (the White Spring) is one of the few remaining Palestinian villages here. Its inhabitants scratch a living from what remains to them of their lands in this fertile and beautiful area.

That April day Emad Fakha had taken three of his four children to help in the fields after school, something they enjoyed, a treat. The children had climbed into the "basket" on the ground at the rear of the tractor, ready to be lifted up. Emad was preparing to start the motor when an Israeli military jeep swerved off the road, at speed, and rammed into the tractor from behind. While Hussein was thrown clear and suffered only a broken leg, the little girls didn't stand a chance. With the body of one sister draped obscenely over its front bumper, the jeep reversed for five or six metres and then rammed once again into the tractor. What might have been a tragic accident is thus revealed for what it was - a cold-blooded murder.

Their jeep undriveable and so unable to escape, the soldiers threatened Emad with their rifles. More soldiers arrived but it was 25 minutes before the Israeli police reached the scene. The soldiers claimed that it was "an accident", but Israeli citizen Eliazer Salam, from the settlement at Yama, who had witnessed the entire incident from his car, testified that the jeep driver had not applied his brakes at any stage and had, indeed, swerved off the road and accelerated into the tractor.

The jeep's driver was arrested but there has been no news that he is to face any charges in a court of law. When I asked the family whether there would be an inquest (explaining that this was the usual procedure in Western, democratic countries) they didn't understand the term.  They have no recourse to the protection of the law, as we know it. Far from protecting the civilian population of the territories which they occupy, as required under international law, the Israeli military brutalises and preys upon a helpless people.

Recent similar incidents in the Nablus region - at Awarta and in Jenin - where Israeli military vehicles have been used to run down pedestrians and ram a civilian car, with fatal consequences, seem to point to an emerging pattern. The psychopathic tendencies of certain members of the Israel Defence (sic) Force have found an outlet.

Meanwhile, a single, small grave has been dug in the graveyard at Al Ain al Baida.  It houses the remains of two small sisters, their severed limbs and bodies buried as one, together forever under the sun, clouds and rain of their beloved Palestine.