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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem
Chair of West Midland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Dear Friends,

Just 5 items today—not because there is not more, but because 3 of the 5 are reports that warrant close attention.  I realize that all of you know what happens in the oPt, that you are aware that Israel does not treat Palestinians as human beings. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile on occasion to know exactly what is happening.  I can’t express my exact feelings when I read reports as the last 3.  I know what it’s like.  I’ve participated in many a non-violent demonstration in Palestinian villages, have talked to many Palestinians who relate their own experiences, have been around, so to speak. Yet, nevertheless, when I read or hear stories as the ones related here, my stomach turns upside down.  I know—human inhumanity to humans is legend.  Nevertheless, for me it is as painful to read about what Israelis do to Palestinians as though I were undergoing the trials myself.  May these events come to an end, soon.

The initial 2 items are brief reports, the first that the EU is sending the PA money to cover the salaries of essential workers in lieu of the money that Israel is not sending.  Actually, Israel should be held responsible!  It should not be allowed to get off the hook.  Item 2 reports that Hamas has agreed to a new ‘Shalit deal’  Let’s hope that Israel will too, both so that Shalit can go home and so that at least a thousand (of 6 or 7thousand) Palestinians can go free, too, including all the children and women being held.  Let’s hope that some day soon all the Palestinian political prisoners will be able to go home to their loved ones.

All the best,

Dorothy

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1.  Haaretz Saturday, May 07, 2011


EU approves $124 million in aid to PA after Israel blocks transfer of Palestinian funds

The European Union agrees to provide extra money to cover the salaries of essential workers and support families in need; move comes after Israel blocked transfer of 105 million dollars in tax funds to PA due to Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/eu-approves-124-million-in-aid-to-pa-after-israel-blocks-transfer-of-palestinian-funds-1.360273

By Reuters and Haaretz Service

The European Union said on Friday it would provide an extra 85 million euros (124 million dollars) to the Palestinian Authority to help pay salaries of essential workers and to support vulnerable families.

According to Reuters, the move was decided on after Israel on Sunday blocked the transfer of 105 million dollars in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, following a deal to reunite the two rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.

But an EU spokesperson told Haaretz that the move was not connected in any way to Israel’s blocking of the transfer of customs duties. The spokesperson said that the payment was part of a regular series of payments planned in advance.

Israel has explained the withholding of funds, saying it refuses to let revenues flow to Hamas.

A European Commission statement said the EU funds were being advanced under an accelerated procedure at the request of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to meet urgent financial needs.

The statement said 45 million euros would go toward salaries and pensions of vital workers, mainly doctors, nurses and teachers. A further 40 million would go to social allowances for vulnerable Palestinian families.

“It is important that access to essential public services remains uninterrupted and the right to social services is respected,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

The EU funds are in addition to 100 million euros already approved for 2011.

The money will be channeled through an EU mechanism which has provided 762 million euros in aid to the Palestinian Authority since 2008, in addition to 276 million from EU states.

Palestinians see reconciliation between the secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas as crucial for their drive for an independent state in Gaza and the West Bank. The two groups had been at odds since a brief civil war in 2007, after which Hamas seized control in Gaza, and Fatah was left to administer the West Bank.

Israel has condemned the unity pact as a “tremendous blow to peace”, with Netanyahu refusing to negotiate with Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

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2.  Haaretz Sunday, May 08, 2011


Report: Hamas agrees to new Egyptian draft for Shalit deal

Citing Palestinian sources, Al Jazeera reports that Egyptian authorities will present the draft to a new negotiator – presumably Israel’s – set to visit Cairo in the coming days.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/report-hamas-agrees-to-new-egyptian-draft-for-shalit-deal-1.360519

By Jack Khoury

The militant Palestinian group Hamas has agreed to a new draft agreement drawn up by Egypt for a prisoner swap with Israel that would see the release of an Israeli soldier held captive by the group for almost five years, Al Jazeera reported Sunday.

Following Hamas’ recent reconciliation with rival Palestinian faction Fatah, Egypt has reportedly stepped up efforts to mediate the deal, which would secure the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian jailed in Israel.

Citing Palestinian sources, Al Jazeera said that Egyptian authorities will present the draft to a new negotiator, presumably from Israel, who is set to visit Cairo in the coming days.

Shalit has been in Palestinian captivity since he was abducted in a 2006 cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip by militants from a number of factions, including Hamas. Shalit is now in the possession of Hamas, which seized complete power in Gaza in 2007.

The group’s leader, Khaled Meshaal, said during last week’s signing ceremony for the  reconciliation with Fatah that he hoped to see Palestinians imprisoned in Israel released as soon as possible.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for years via a foreign mediator on a prisoner swap deal.

The Al-Hayat newspaper reported late last month that Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing, met recently with Egypt’s new intelligence chief to hash out a plan to advance the prisoner exchange.

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3.  The IWPS house team has been very active for the past couple weeks. There are few internationals in the West Bank at the time and we are working together in an attempt to cover the many needs of Palestinian villages under attack from settlers and the Israeli Occupation Forces. It must also be noted with sadness that the Michigan Peace Team suffered a major loss when one of their members was brutally attacked by soldiers in Izbet at Tabib, resulting in both her wrists being broken. Their team, being only 2 on the ground at the time, has had to leave Palestine.

The IWPS house had 3 people on the ground for the past 3 weeks. Prior to that we were 2 people for 2 weeks and during that time we accomplished a lot of administrative work- our computer was updated and the filing system updated, our human rights reports were organized and uploaded to the website by year, IWPS cards were updated and sent to a printer in Biddiya, we purchased a new printer (our old one stopped working) and our website has been given a lot of life though it remains an ongoing work in progress.

We have made a number of solidarity visits to friends of IWPS in Deir Istiya, Hares, Biddiya, Mas’ha, Nabi Salih, Qusin, Awarta and other villages in the West Bank. We attended part of the International conference in Bil’in and attended the weekly demonstration there one time, We responded to a number of arrest reports and settler attacks both in Deir Istiya and other villages in the region. We also made several visits to the Wadi Qana, both to gather information about the problems farmers face there as well as to assist in some farming work.

We were called to the village of Qusin because 2 children were arrested, being falsely accused of throwing rocks. They were released after 12 hours, however their father had to pay 1200 NIS and has been threatened to have to pay another 100,000NIS less his children have to go to court where they stand the chance of a long imprisonment. It was a sad situation as the extended family was preparing a large celebration because the children had been released then the father received the phone call that the additional fee would have to be paid. He does not have such an exorbitant amount of money.

A third team mate arrived and after orientation we made the rounds of village visits in Deir Istiya, including a tour with Abu Nasser. During our village visits we learned that the IOF had bulldozed dozens of olive trees and destroyed a new terrace which an elderly couple had labored to build. This demolition was for the expansion of Revava. We offered to accompany the couple on their next visit to their farm land.

On the following day we walked the road to Hares in order to photograph and document the expansion of the illegal settlement of Revava. The expansion is immense. We then visited Issa Souf who shared openly with us his views and analysis of what is happening in the West Bank vis a vis the illegal military Occupation and the Illegal Settlements. We exchanged stories about the local settler violence and settler attacks and Issa expressed to us how he sees the future unfolding. He believes that the settlements have been intentionally established in order to complete the work of the Israeli Occupying Power and in time will want their own autonomy. This way, Issa believes, the settlers will continue on with the project of illegally annexing the West Bank and obtaining and controlling a united Samaria Judea. While Palestinian villages will be further stunted and vanquished. The visit ended by  Issa introducing us to his new baby girl and boy twins and other children and thanking us for our time and extending an invitation to us to come back again soon.

We  also visited with Um Rabia and then met with Um Fadi with whom we visited [Muneira Amar] in Mas’ha. Behind the locks, chains and gates this family continues to survive but their isolation and forced separation from their old neighbours and friends stands out clearly. In spite of the hardship that this family are facing every day Munira told us that she is still hopeful that her resistance will bear fruit and that she still has hope.

We participated in a detailed tour of the Qalqiliya region with a Palestinian activist. We learned and witnessed the many negative impacts of this Apartheid Wall through hearing her personal story and through listening to her account of how the Wall disrupts the lives of every Palestinian in the region. She has become an excellent contact for IWPS.  We also met with the Municipality Press officer who gave us a CD which will be uploaded shortly on our website.

In a follow up visit with residents of Awarta we learned that settlers were continuing to attack village homes and the Mosque. The villagers stated that they are fearful of future settler violence. We along with ISMers offered to co ordinate a presence in the village. Fuller co ordination is necessary between village council and internationals. A follow up meeting was held between Palestinian activists, ISM, IWPS and Jordon Solidarity Group. Palestinian activists are to follow up with village council and villagers of Awarta.

On the following day we were asked by Rizik to attend a meeting in Zeita Jamma’in re: annexation of land in Wadi Qana and settler attacks. IOf  had accompanied “archeologists” who are claiming that agricultural land of Zeita Jamma’in is an ancient Jewish heritage site. We visited the site… it is an ancient ruins perhaps 4000 years old. The villagers have used this land for agriculture for as long as they can remember.

At the same time another IWPS member accompanied a Danish delegation to the Wadi Qana. The group had funded agricultural development in the area through a human rights and democracy program. The Wadi Qana valley is an area that will need fuller international support lest it be entirely taken over by the settlements; unfortunately, this is an area that is often overlooked by international activists, due to its isolation and the fact that the farmers of the area are hesitant to contact internationals when they are and their land are attacked. This is an issue IWPS could be more proactive in given our proximity and connections.

We spent a night in Nabi Salih, visiting with the women whose husbands are recently arrested political prisoners for their non-violent resistance to the theft of their land by the illegal settlement of Hallamish. The following day we attended the weekly demonstration which was one of the more violent ones we have witnessed. The IOF injured several people, and an 11 year old boy remains in the hospital with bleeding from his liver and kidney after being hit with a tear gas projectile the previous week. Skunk water was sprayed into villagers homes 3 times after the demonstration had ended.

During our visit to Zeita Jamma’in we met a woman whose job is outreach to needy women in the Nablus area. We arranged a visit in Burin to a widow whose home is attacked by settlers on a regular basis. She and her children live in constant fear and the settlers have caused considerable financial hardship to them by destroying their olive trees and killing more than half their sheep. Unfortunately our visit was cut short by a call to respond to imminent land and home demolitions in the village of Izbat at Tabib.

When we arrived at Izbat at Tabib we witnessed three activists under arrest and a 3rd seriously injured by the IOF. It was later determined that this activist- a 60 y/o woman from the United States sustained 2 broken wrists. Though only a small portion of the planned demolitions took place that day, we have maintained a presence there for the past week. In this time 2 homes have been raided and ransacked by the IOF and the solidarity tent which was erected on May 2, 2011 was destroyed and its remains were confiscated. Internationals are now staying in villagers homes to maintain a constant presence.

IWPS house team has now returned to Deir Istiya to welcome and orientate a new and fourth team mate.

In Solidarity,

House Team

7th May 2011

PS… for more information please visit our new website at http://iwps.info.org  and volunteer blogs at http://wordsfrompalestine.org

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4.  The Weight of Nationalism in Nabi Saleh

http://972mag.com/the-weight-of-nationalism-in-nabi-saleh/

Joseph Dana

=================================

5.  David Shulman in another of his reports,

sending his personal testimony from the

fields of Susya and Lasefer in south Mt. Hebron.

Susya and Lasefer, May 7, 2011

Two things strike you immediately, closely followed by a familiar third. The first is the sheer brazenness of the theft—or, rather, of the thief, who stands before you jeering, smug, sure of his power, eager to hurt. He has already taken some 95% of your family’s land, and now he bullies his way into the tiny patch that is left in order to harass you and humiliate you further, for this evidently gives him joy. Then there is the pure racism, purer perhaps than what one sees anywhere else in the world today. The thief regards you as barely human, an object capable only of feeling pain, though he needs you as his victim, for without you he is incomplete, profoundly frustrated, lonely, unfulfilled. Thus the settler in his Shabbat white, a huge knitted skullcap on his head, takes a pebble and holds it out on his fingertips to a Palestinian woman from Susya as he clucks his tongue at her, beckoning her, teasing her, as one would a dog, then tosses the pebble at her in contempt, as one throws a dog a biscuit, and he laughs. I saw him do it this morning in Susya, and I wasn’t the only witness.

The third thing is the system that protects the thief and ensures that no harm will come to him and that he will never be punished, for the system is built upon his theft.

None of this is new, only somehow starker, more palpable, yet hardly credible, on this perfect spring morning in south Hebron. Drops of bitter-sweet dusty rain fell in Jerusalem as I left home, but here in Susya we witness a shocking choreography of cloud and sun, and the air lingers on my tongue and the light caresses my eyes and the wind is here, too, to welcome us back. The stubborn barley is a bit higher than it was when I was here three weeks ago. It is 9:00, and there is no time to lose. We rush from the van over the hill to the olive grove in the wadi; a donkey brays. Past the trees, up the slope, on Palestinian land, a group of ten or twelve settlers is enacting a brutal ritual of mockery, singing, snarling, making obscene gestures, sneering at the Palestinians who stand in disarray just below them. The leader—the one of the dog-gesture—literally dances in and out of the Palestinian clusters, daring them to stop him, taunting them, and from time to time he lashes out at them with his fists, pushes, shoves, pounds at them, demonstrating his absolute superiority, relishing this moment of his power and the precious opportunity to insult. The three soldiers who have clambered down the hill from the settlement cannot stop him, nor do they seem very eager to do so. They struggle vainly to separate the settlers from their victims, but this is not a static setting; the settlers push ever more deeply into the tiny Palestinian enclave, and movement swirls and spills out over the hill, an alternative, ugly human choreography to match that of clouds and sun above as we ebb and flow in arcs and circles, trying to shield the Palestinians from their attackers, and the soldiers bark their futile threats and orders, and soon we’re already half a mile north of the olive grove where we began and the settlers are closing in now on the sheepfold and the tents and the access road, still very much in control.

More soldiers—Border Police—arrive. They begin, as usual, by arresting, more or less at random, an elderly Palestinian gentleman, whom they spirit away to a makeshift holding area among the trees. By now a second Ta’ayush contingent has arrived, a large group. Amiel strides straight into the battle zone and, within seconds, is arrested and handcuffed; as always, he is calm, self-possessed, and unafraid, but the Border Police officer tells him he is resisting arrest and will suffer the consequences. Why, one wonders, should the officer want to lie? No one touches the rampaging settlers.

So it goes for a long time, maybe two hours or so of dashing madly over the hills to head off one settler attack after another, and then the settlers send their large herd of sheep to graze, where else, in the Palestinian fields and the soldiers force them back uphill, and a vast line of settlers from Susya, women, children, men, some armed with machine guns, emerge for their Shabbat stroll through the lands of their Palestinian neighbors with four or five army command-cars to protect them—as if the Palestinians and not these settlers were the threat to peace and quiet on this bright windy morning. “They always want to make trouble, and the soldiers go with them,” says a dignified Palestinian shepherd, watching this long column in disgust as he holds high the upper row of a make-shift barbed-wire fence so we can pass through. It’s been some time since I’ve run so far and so fast over these rocks.

We’ve got it all down in high-quality digital films. Someday, I think, not yet but someday, some of the criminals will yet pay for their crimes. Their time will come.

When at last it’s over and we’re no longer needed, we split into two groups. One crosses the road to what’s left of the Jbur family’s encampment, which the Civil Administration demolished on Thursday. Yesterday the family itself was driven out with stun grenades and tear gas and blows—one woman was wounded in the leg. I won’t repeat the whole story, which I’ve described before. But I take this demolition as a personal affront, since among other acts of violent destruction the army obliterated a large well that I helped dig out from the stones and dirt left by its  previous demolition. We worked for hours that day, and it looked like the well would eventually be serviceable again. My back hurt for weeks. There’s nothing left there now. The Civil Administration prides itself on its efficiency.

The other group, which I join, heads for the Abu Kbeita fields on the slopes under a small khirbeh called Lasefer. This is another long and tortuous story. We are close to the Green Line—and, indeed, the main checkpoint on the road, recently privatized, is several kilometers north of the border, as if Palestinian lands lying to the south had already been annexed to Israel. What this means in practice is that the Abu Kbeita family, among others, have been turned into Illegal Aliens (shabachim) while residing in their own homes. They’re not the only ones to suffer this fate, heavy with consequences for daily survival; but in addition, they have to deal with a settler, Danny, who claims that the Abu Kbeita fields, leased from the original owner, Hawamdi, in Samu’a, belong to him. He is wrong: the case went to the Supreme Court, which decided in 1991 in favor of the Palestinians. None of this has stopped the settlers, including those from Beit Yatir just across the main road, from trying to drive Mahmud Abu Kbeita and his three brothers off the land. These settlers, like so many others in south Hebron, are often violent; they have stoned the Abu Kbeitas when they felt like it, broken the arm of Osama, one of Mahmud’s sons, and even penetrated into the family house in al-Aseifar where, according to some testimonies, they drove a large knife or other weapon right through the wall.

Here’s a lesson in reality in the south Hebron hills. In November the family plowed the main field and sowed it with barley and wheat. In December settlers came and plowed over the fledgling shoots. The family sowed again, and now it is harvest time—but two weeks ago the settlers invited the police to arrest Mahmud on some trumped-up charge, and the police acceded with alacrity to this request. He spent 24 hours in one of the ugliest lock-ups in the country, handcuffed and footcuffed much of the time. When they finally brought him before a judge, the latter could find no evidence of any possible violation that could be attributed to this man, but the judge fined him anyway with a 5000-shekel “bond”– a huge sum of money for a Palestinian family of small-scale farmers– and also ruled that he could not approach his fields for 14 days. If you have ever met a farmer, you know what this means.

Mahmud is that rarest of beings, a really good man. You know this from the first instant you meet him. Decency and goodness and good cheer radiate from him, and from his sons as well. He tells me the sorry story without acrimony but with a kind of aching bewilderment. “I don’t understand the judge. He could find nothing against me, but still he ruled that I have to pay and have to stay away from my fields. Where is the law? Why should it lie? And how can Danny the settler stand in front of me and lie to my face? I thought I’d go crazy in the jail; I’m a farmer, I am always outside in the fields and the open air, not confined and chained. After 24 hours, your whole body aches. Then they bring you to the court and keep you there, handcuffed, for a whole day with nothing to eat or drink, nothing, your bones hurt, and when you finally come before the judge you can’t find the words. I and my family own 350 dunams, all the way up to and beyond the checkpoint, and I lease this field from Hawamdi and have all the documents to prove it; the Supreme Court also confirmed this, but the settlers still harass us day by day. I submitted a complaint to the police, and you know what happened? Nothing at all. But today you are here, and this is as life should be, Arabs and Jews working together as friends.”

And indeed we are working hard: after a short lesson from Isma’il, another gentle, good-natured son, in the ancient mysteries of ripe barley and wheat, we crouch in the fields and pull the stalks from the caked brown earth with our fingers, brush off the clods sticking to the roots, and pile our treasures here and there in the field in small, slowly swelling heaps. I don’t remember the last time I harvested the spring wheat crop, like in the Book of Ruth, but I remember well the unearthly joy of it, which can, in my view, heal all sorrows of the soul (as I guess it did for Ruth). I’m not sure I can tell the barley from the wheat, even after Isma’il’s lesson, but clearly both somehow manage to emerge, in bright greens and yellows, out of this unpromising, desiccated soil. When I’m not bending over the stalks, I steal glances at the hills and the Yatir forest and the not-so-distant desert, a landscape that ravishes the heart– perhaps, I think to myself, the most beautiful I’ve seen in the world. They bring us tea and fresh bread and white cheese made this morning and the salty hard yellow cheese of this region that lasts forever, and after a while they invite us to feast on fariki:  you take the green, freshly-harvested wheat and roast it in fire, there in the field, then you crack it open and let it rest on your tongue, still hot and pungent, before your swallow. There’s nothing like it, take my word.

A great peace comes over me. For just a moment I let go of the questions that torment me:  how can anyone, man or woman, steal such a field and then stand before the true owner and lie shamelessly to his face? I’m 62 years old and I don’t understand, will clearly never understand. I can imagine greed, in all its cruelty and obsession, can even find it in myself, but that brazen lie, eye to eye, troubles me—that and the ruthless assault on the goodness that the earth offers those who care for it. Anyway I’ve been thinking about truth and its intrinsic worth, and the value of the moral act, even if it goes unnoticed. It is so easy to say in a wishful, or hopeful, romantic way that truth—speaking truth– will necessarily leave a mark on the world. Is there a deeper, tougher way to think about it? I indulge the romantic notion, no question. And yet to stand up to the lie, even for a moment, even on the simplest and lowliest level, surely heals some small abrasion in the body of a wounded world. Israel today is ruled by lies, beginning with most everything the Prime Minister says and moving down the scale through his ministers and members of his cabinet to infect large parts of the press and the army and the courts and thence to the soldiers who man the checkpoints and the policeman who arrested Mahmud and the Border Police who arrested Amiel today, on and on downwards all the way to a Hell entirely of our own making. Yet I know indubitably from my own body that an act of truth can cut like a knife and that in the end it will not be wasted. This I have learned in south Hebron.

When it is time to leave we gather up the stalks and sheaves and load them onto a tall cart coupled to a tractor that Isma’il has driven down the hill. There is enough, Mahmud says, to feed the animals for over a week, and some will be left over. And there is still a vast piece of the field waiting to be harvested:  maybe next week. You take the sheaves in your arms and hold them to your chest, and then there is the sudden, wild movement when you fling them upward into the cart and let them go, like the wild movement that may happen soon when Palestine flings itself free.

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