Archive | December 14th, 2010




Two articles below  See more at:

The Guardian 13/12/10

Leaked dispatches strengthen Finucane family’s demands for inquiry into collusion between UFF gunmen and security forces

MI5 has said that it is prepared to hand over sensitive files on one of the most high-profile murders during the Northern Ireland Troubles carried out by loyalist gunmen working with members of the British security forces. The offer in the case of the Pat Finucane, the well-known civil rights and defence lawyer murdered in front of his wife and three young children in 1989, is contained in confidential US embassy cables passed to WikiLeaks.

Supporters of Finucane welcomed the revelation of the offer as “highly significant” and believe it could pave the way for a fresh inquiry into the killing that would be acceptable to the family.

Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland secretary, has told Finucane’s widow that he will decide early next year whether to hold a hearing that could shine a new light on collusion between gunmen from the Ulster Freedom Fighters and members of the security forces. A refusal to hold such a hearing, which Paterson has questioned in the past, would prevent an examination of the MI5 files.

Finucane’s supporters spoke out after leaked US embassy cables, published by WikiLeaks, showed that:

• Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister between 1997 and 2008, told US diplomats that “everyone knows the UK was involved” in the murder.

• US diplomats feared that “elements of the security-legal establishments” in Britain beyond MI5 were fighting hard to resist an inquiry.

• Brian Cowen, the current Irish prime minister, warned that a failure to hold an inquiry could be a “deal breaker”.

Finucane’s family said MI5’s offer was a highly significant development in their 20-year battle to uncover the circumstances surrounding the murder.

The Security Service’s offer is revealed in a cable from June 2005, written by the US ambassador to Dublin, James C Kenny, which reported on a meeting between the head of MI5 and Mitchell Reiss, the US special envoy to Northern Ireland. In an account of the meeting between Reiss and Ahern, the ambassador wrote: “Reiss briefed him on his talks in London, including with the head of MI5 [Eliza Manningham-Buller], who committed to turning over all evidence her agency has to the inquiry, but she was adamant that the inquiry will proceed using the new legislation.”

Peter Madden, Finucane’s partner in the Belfast solicitors’ firm Madden and Finucane, said: “This might significantly change things. This is something new and unexpected. It will have to be considered by the Finucane family.” Madden said the family would proceed with care because MI5 said any inquiry would be carried out under new legislation, which allows for material to be withheld from the final report. The family have demanded the same terms as the Bloody Sunday inquiry, but the legislation for that dated back to the 1920s and was repealed in 2005.

Madden said the family may change its mind in light of the MI5 offer. “Our stance has been that we want the inquiry but it’s the way the inquiry is proposed that is difficult to be part of, if it’s held under the 2005 Inquiries Act. We need to look very carefully at the cables. I think [it is] highly significant for the family and it might well change things.”

Ahern told the US he was adamant that members of the British security forces were involved in Finucane’s murder. The cable said: “The taoiseach said that the GOI wants the UK to provide evidence acknowledging its involvement in Finucane’s murder and it wants to know how high in the UK government collusion went. He said if the UK were to provide the information, it would only grab the headlines for a few hours because ‘everyone knows the UK was involved’.”

A year earlier, US diplomats raised fears that some forces in British were determined to block an inquiry. A cable by the same ambassador on 26 July 2004 quoted Ahern as saying: “Tony [Blair] knows what he has to do.” An explanatory comment inserted by the US ambassador noted: “Presumably, that the PM will have to overrule elements of the security-legal establishments to see that some form of public inquiry is held.” The elements resisting an inquiry could be the old Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch and British military intelligence.

Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, a former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, concluded in a report in 2003 that members of the security forces had colluded in the murder of Finucane.

Several members of the UFF involved in the murder turned out to have been either agents or informers for the security services.

Meanwhile, Paterson told Geraldine Finucane that he has an “open mind” on whether to hold a public inquiry.

David Cameron told MPs in June – on the day he published findings of the £200m inquiry into the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings – that there would be “no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past”, though he added that each case would be considered on its merits.

In his letter to Finucane’s widow, Paterson said that the factors influencing his decision would include: “the commitment made to parliament by the previous government in 2004”, “the experience of the other inquiries established after the Weston Park commitments”, “political developments”, “the potential length of any inquiry” and “the potential cost of an inquiry and the current pressures on the UK government’s finances”.

“It is my intention to consider the public interest carefully and in detail at the end of the two month period for representations,” he informed Geraldine Finucane, “and then take a decision after such consideration as to whether or not to hold a public inquiry into the death of your husband.”

Officials in the UK believe a public inquiry would raise difficult questions for the military but not for MI5. To win MI5’s support, Blair made two key changes to the legislation governing public inquiries to prevent investigation beyond the official files it has been granted.

Alex Attwood, an SDLP minister in the Northern Ireland executive, said last night he regarded the decision of Mitchell Reiss to highlight the MI5 offer as potentially significant.

“Mitchell Reiss very much understood and had the measure of London,” Attwood said. “He was not going to buy a pig in a poke.”


WikiLeaks cable describes legacy of distrust left by Finucane killing
The Guardian 13/12/10

Political consequences of prominent civil rights and criminal defence lawyer’s murder still reverberate more than 20 years on

Patrick Finucane, a prominent civil rights and criminal defence lawyer, was eating supper with his wife and three children, when masked, loyalist gunmen smashed their way into his north Belfast home and shot him dead.

Members of the outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters broke down the front door with sledgehammers and fired 14 shots from a .38 revolver and a 9mm Browning automatic pistol.

All of the rounds struck Finucane. The UFF claimed they had killed him because he was a high-ranking officer in the IRA. Police at his inquest said there was no evidence to support that assertion.

The attack took place on Sunday, 12 February 1989. More than 20 years later the political consequences of one of the most controversial killings of Northern Ireland’s Troubles are still reverberating.

British military intelligence’s disputed role in the murder has been the subject of successive police inquiries, several of which remain secret.

Finucane’s death fuelled suspicions of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries while fomenting distrust between Dublin and London. Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, the former Metropolitan police commissioner who conducted three inquiries into allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, reached an unequivocal judgment in 2003.

“I conclude there was collusion in both murders and the circumstances surrounding them,” he wrote of the murder of Finucane and Brian Lambert, a Protestant mistakenly targeted in 1987.Finucane, 38 at the time of his murder, had been at the forefront of arguing that suspects detained under anti-terror legislation were being held in conditions that violated their human rights.

As a solicitor, Finucane had represented loyalists and republicans.

His brother John was an IRA member who had been killed on active service in a car crash in the Falls Road, Belfast, in 1972. Another brother successfully contested attempts to extradite him to Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic; a third brother was the fiance of Mairéad Farrell, one of the IRA trio shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988.

The Finucane family has always denied, however, that Patrick was involved with the Provisionals.

Three weeks before the shooting, Douglas Hogg, then a junior Home Office minister, told the House of Commons that certain solicitors in Northern Ireland were “unduly sympathetic” to the IRA. Around the same time an RUC officer was reported to have told a client: “You will not be having Mr Finucane as a solicitor much longer.”

The man responsible at the time for assembling information about those selected as targets for UFF attacks was Brian Nelson, a former soldier who, it emerged, was an agent for British military intelligence.

Nelson was subsequently convicted of five counts of conspiracy to murder – but not in connection with Finucane’s death. Excerpts from his diary, broadcast by BBC Panorama in 1992, suggested he had warned his army handlers in the Force Research Unit (FRU) that Finucane was being targeted.

When Brigadier Gordon Kerr, who was in charge of the FRU, gave evidence at the trial of Nelson, he said the army unit’s purpose was to “save life … [and] prevent attacks taking place”. He insisted that Nelson’s actions had saved numerous lives.

Stevens faced major obstacles when he started investigating allegations of collusion in 1999. At one stage, his offices, inside a secure police compound, mysteriously burnt down. Not all of Stevens’s report have been published.

In a 2003 summary of his findings, Stevens was clear. “Collusion is evidenced in many ways. This ranges from the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, through to the extreme of agents being involved in murder.

“The failure to keep records or the existence of contradictory accounts can often be perceived as evidence of concealment or malpractice. It limits the opportunity to rebut serious allegations. The absence of accountability allows the acts or omissions of individuals to go undetected. The withholding of information impedes the prevention of crime and the arrest of suspects. The unlawful involvement of agents in murder implies that the security forces sanction killings.

“My three inquiries have found all these elements of collusion to be present. The co-ordination, dissemination and sharing of intelligence were poor. Informants and agents were allowed to operate without effective control and to participate in terrorist crimes.

“Nationalists were known to be targeted but were not properly warned or protected. Crucial information was withheld from senior investigating officers. Important evidence was neither exploited nor preserved.”

William Stobie, a former UDA quartermaster and a police informant, later revealed that he had told his RUC handlers when a UFF commander asked him to get guns for a “job” on a “top Provie”.

He said he was amazed officers still did nothing when he alerted them again shortly before the killing. Stobie was later shot dead by, it is thought, loyalist colleagues extracting revenge for his betrayal.

The US diplomatic cables passed to WikiLeaks make clear the Irish government believed the murder left an enduring legacy of distrust between Britain and the broader nationalist community.

James Kenny, the then US ambassador to Dublin, outlined the thinking of the former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern in a cable from July 2004.

The ambassador wrote: “Ahern said it is not a republican, but a nationalist, issue. Because there is such broad-based support across the nationalist community in the North for an inquiry, SF [Sinn Féin] will insist on it.”

The Finucane family have been battling for decades for an independent, public inquiry. In 2001, following peace process talks at Weston Park, the government appointed a Canadian judge, Peter Cory, to investigate allegations of collusion. He recommended a public inquiry into the killing but the Finucane family – and Cory – have been opposed to it being held under the more restrictive terms of the Inquiries Act 2005. **

The act empowers ministers to order that some inquiry sessions are held in private and to withhold material from the final published report. In the face of family opposition, hopes of an inquiry stalled.

Amnesty International, the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and the Belfast-based Committee for the Administration of Justice have all called for an independent public inquiry.

In 2007, the public prosecution service announced that no members of the security forces would be charged in connection with the Finucane killing. Michael Finucane, his son, described that decision as “extremely disappointing and in some cases very, very perplexing”.

Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland secretary, last month told Finucane’s widow Geraldine that he has an “open mind” on whether to hold a new inquiry. But on 15 June this year, when he published the Bloody Inquiry, David Cameron said: “Let me reassure the House that there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past.”

The prime minister said it was better to let a special team examine the past, though he did not close off entirely future inquiries. “I think that it is right to use, as far as is possible, the Historical Enquiries Team to deal with the problems of the past and to avoid having more open-ended, highly costly inquiries, but of course we should look at each case on its merits.”

Only one man, Ken Barrett, a former Special Branch informer, has been convicted of killing Finucane. Barrett, 44, was jailed for 22 years in 2004 but released shortly afterwards under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. He is believed to be living at a secret location in England.


** See attachment for reasons why the Finucane Family refuse an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005




No Act of Rebellion Is Wasted


December 14, 2010 



By Chris Hedges

December 13, 2010 “Truthdig” – – — I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the singer Marta Kubišová approached the balcony of the Melantrich building. Kubišová had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance, “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square.

Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion. It was then that I knew that no act of rebellion, however futile it appears in the moment, is wasted. It was then that I knew that the Communist regime was finished.

“The people will once again decide their own fate,” the crowd sang in unison with Kubišová.

I had reported on the fall of East Germany before I arrived in Prague. I would leave Czechoslovakia to cover the bloody overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. The collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was a lesson about the long, hard road of peaceful defiance that makes profound social change possible. The rebellion in Prague, as in East Germany, was not led by the mandarins in the political class but by marginalized artists, writers, clerics, activists and intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel, whom we met with most nights during the upheavals in Prague in the Magic Lantern Theater.

These activists, no matter how bleak things appeared, had kept alive the possibility of justice and freedom. Their stances and protests, which took place over 40 years of Communist rule, turned them into figures of ridicule, or saw the state seek to erase them from national consciousness. They were dismissed by the pundits who controlled the airwaves as cranks, agents of foreign powers, fascists or misguided and irrelevant dreamers. 

I spent a day during the Velvet Revolution with several elderly professors who had been expelled from the Romance language department at Charles University for denouncing the Soviet invasion. Their careers, like the careers of thousands of professors, teachers, artists, social workers, government employees and journalists in our own universities during the Communist witch hunts, were destroyed. 

After the Soviet invasion, the professors had been shipped to a remote part of Bohemia where they were forced to work on a road construction crew. They shoveled tar and graded roadbeds. And as they worked they dedicated each day to one of the languages in which they all were fluent—Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish or German. They argued and fought over their interpretations of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Proust and Cervantes. They remained intellectually and morally alive. Kubišova, who had been the most popular recording star in the country, was by then reduced to working for a factory that assembled toys. The playwright Havel was in and out of jail. 

The long, long road of sacrifice, tears and suffering that led to the collapse of these regimes stretched back decades. Those who made change possible were those who had discarded all notions of the practical. They did not try to reform the Communist Party. They did not attempt to work within the system. They did not even know what, if anything, their protests would accomplish. But through it all they held fast to moral imperatives. They did so because these values were right and just.

They expected no reward for their virtue; indeed they got none. They were marginalized and persecuted. And yet these poets, playwrights, actors, singers and writers finally triumphed over state and military power. They drew the good to the good. They triumphed because, however cowed and broken the masses around them appeared, their message of defiance did not go unheard. It did not go unseen. The steady drumbeat of rebellion constantly exposed the dead hand of authority and the rot and corruption of the state.

The walls of Prague were covered that chilly winter with posters depicting Jan Palach. Palach, a university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on Jan. 16, 1969, in the middle of the day to protest the crushing of the country’s democracy movement. He died of his burns three days later. The state swiftly attempted to erase his act from national memory. There was no mention of it on state media. A funeral march by university students was broken up by police. Palach’s gravesite, which became a shrine, saw the Communist authorities exhume his body, cremate his remains and ship them to his mother with the provision that his ashes could not be placed in a cemetery.

But it did not work. His defiance remained a rallying cry. His sacrifice spurred the students in the winter of 1989 to act. Prague’s Red Army Square, shortly after I left for Bucharest, was renamed Palach Square. Ten thousand people went to the dedication.

We, like those who opposed the long night of communism, no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We too have undergone a coup d’état carried out not by the stone-faced leaders of a monolithic Communist Party but by the corporate state. We too have our designated pariahs, whether Ralph Nader or Noam Chomksy, and huge black holes of state-sponsored historical amnesia to make us ignore the militant movements, rebels and radical ideas that advanced our democracy.

We opened up our society to ordinary people not because we deified the wisdom of the Founding Fathers or the sanctity of the Constitution. We opened it up because of communist, socialist and anarchist leaders like Big Bill Haywood and his militant unionists in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). 

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative.

It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die. 

All energy directed toward reforming political and state structures is useless. All efforts to push through a “progressive” agenda within the corridors of power are naive. Trust in the reformation of our corporate state reflects a failure to recognize that those who govern, including Barack Obama, are as deaf to public demands and suffering as those in the old Communist regimes. We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party.

They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other. 

Go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, at 10 a.m. Dec. 16. Join dozens of military veterans, myself, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, Dr. Margaret Flowers and many others who will make visible a hope the corporate state does not want you to see, hear or participate in. Don’t be discouraged if it is not a large crowd. Don’t let your friends or colleagues talk you into believing it is useless. Don’t be seduced by the sophisticated public relations campaigns disseminated by the mass media, the state or the Democratic Party.

Don’t, if you decide to carry out civil disobedience, be cowed by the police. Hope and justice live when people, even in tiny numbers, stand up and fight for them. 

There is in our sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful?—finally a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, then a strange, transcendent happiness. To stand in a park on a cold December morning, to defy that which we must defy, to do this with others, brings us solace, and perhaps even peace. We will not find this if we allow ourselves to be disabled. We will not find this alone. As long as a few of us rebel it will always remain possible to defeat a system of centralized, corporate power that is as criminal and heartless as those I watched tumble into the ash bin of history in Eastern Europe.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.” You can find out more about the Washington protest at

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on ANTI=NAZI’S REBELLION


Letter from an Israeli military prison


from Abdallah Abu Rahmah.

Ed’s Note: As I participated in the December 10th TIAA-CREF Day of Action on Human Rights Day, I felt I had gained a new holiday to my calendar. At the end of the day, as I was unwinding, I received this letter from imprisoned leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah over email, and saw it posted at sites such as Huffington Post. It is a common observation among those of us who work for human rights here in the United States that we would likely be imprisoned or worse for doing the exact same kind of work as Palestinians.

This letter brought the point home much more forcefully for me. My daughter just turned three. When I think of all that I would have missed in her life had I been imprisoned for the past year, her newly long and articulate sentences, her starting school, her greater ability to sleep at night and control her body, I am shaken.  I hope I would have the courage that Abdallah Abu Rahmah, his family, and so many others to do this work facing those risks. Here is the message in full.

A year ago tonight, on International Human Rights Day, our apartment in Ramallah was broken into by the Israeli military in the middle of the night and I was torn away from my wife Majida, my daughters Luma and Layan, and my son Laith, who at the time was only nine months old.

As the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements I was convicted of “organizing illegal demonstrations” and “incitement.” The “illegal demonstrations” refer to the nonviolent resistance campaign that my village has been waging for the last six years against Israel’s Apartheid Wall that is being built on our land.

I find it strange that the military judges could call our demonstrations illegal and charge me for participating in and organizing them after the world’s highest legal body, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, has ruled that Israel’s wall within the occupied territories is illegal and must be dismantled. Even the Israeli supreme court ruled that the Wall’s route in Bil’in is illegal.

I have been accused of inciting violence: this charge is also puzzling. If the check points, closures, ongoing land theft, wall and settlements, night raids into our homes and violent oppression of our protests does not incite violence, what does?

Despite the occupations constant and intense incitement to violence in Bil’in, we have chosen another way. We have chosen to protest nonviolently together with Israeli and International supporters. We have chosen to carry a message of hope and real partnership between Palestinians and Israelis in the face of oppression and injustice. It is this message that the Occupation is attempting to crush through its various institutions including the military courts. An official from the Israeli Military Prosecution shamelessly told my Attorney, Gaby Lasky, that the objective of the military in my prosecution is to “put an end” to these demonstrations.

The crime of incitement that I have been convicted of is defined under Israeli military decree 101 regarding the prohibition of hostile action of propaganda and incitement as “The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order” and carries a 10 year maximal sentence. This definition is so broad and vague that it can be applied to almost any action or statement. Actually, these words could be considered incitement if they were spoken in the occupied territories.

On the 11th of October of this year I was sentenced to 12 months in prison, plus 6 months suspended sentence for 3 years, and a fine. My family and I, especially my daughters, were counting the days to my release. The military prosecution waited until just a few days before the end of my sentence before appealing against my release, arguing that I should be imprisoned longer. I have completed my sentence but remain in prison. Though international law considers myself and other activists as human rights defenders, the occupation authorities consider us criminals whose freedom and other rights must be denied. 

In the year that I have spent in prison, the demonstrations in Bil’in, Naalin, Al Maasara, and Beit Omar have continued. Nabi Saleh and other villages have taken up the popular struggle. Within this year, the International campaign calling for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions of Israel until it complies with International law has grown considerably, as have legal actions against Israeli war crimes. I hope that soon Israel will no longer be able to ignore the clear condemnation of its policies coming from around the world.

In the year that I have spent in prison, my son Laith has taken his first steps and said his first words, and Luma and Layan have been growing from children to beautiful young girls. I have not been able to be with them, to walk holding their hands, to take them to school as they and I are used to. Laith does not know me now. And my wife Majida has had to care for our family alone.

In 2010 children in Bil’in and throughout the West bank are still being awakened in the middle of the night to find guns pointed at their heads. In the year that I have spent in prison, the military has carried out dozens of night raids in Bil’in with the purpose of removing those involved in the popular struggle against the occupation.

Imagine if heavily armed men forced their way into your home in the middle of the night. If your children were forced to watch as their father or brother was blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken away. Or if you as a parent were forced to watch this being done to your child.

This week the door of our cell was opened and a sixteen year boy was pushed inside. My friend Adeeb Abu Rahmeh was shocked to recognize his son, Mohammed, whom Adeeb had not seen since he himself was arrested during a nonviolent demonstration 16 months ago.

Mohammad smiled when he saw his Father, but his face was red and swollen and it was clear that he was in pain. He told us that he had been taken from his home two nights previously. He spent the first night blindfolded and shackled, being moved from one place to another. The next day after a terrifying, disoriented, and sleepless night he was taken to an interrogation room, his blindfold was removed and an interrogator showed him pictures of people from the village. When questioned about the first picture he told the interrogator that he did not recognize the person. The interrogator slapped him hard across the face. This continued with every question that Mohammad was asked: when he did not give the answer that the interrogator wanted, he was slapped, punched and threatened. Mohammad’s treatment is not unusual.

Young boys from our village have been taken from their homes violently and report being denied sleep, food, and water and being kept in Isolation and threatened and often beaten during interrogation.

What was unusual about Mohammad is that he did not satisfy his interrogator and with competent representation was released within a few days. Usually children, just because they are children, will say whatever the interrogator wants them to say to make such treatment stop. Adeeb, myself, and thousands of other prisoners are being held in prison based on testimonies forced or coerced out of these children. No child should ever receive such treatment.

When the children who had testified against me retracted what they said in interrogation and told the military judge that their testimonies where given under duress, the judge declared them hostile witnesses.

Adeeb Abu Rahmah and I are the first to be convicted with incitement and participation in illegal demonstrations since the first Intifada but, unfortunately, it does not seem that we will be the last.

I often wonder what Israeli leaders think they will achieve if they succeed in their goal of suppressing the Palestinian popular struggle? Is it possible that they believe that our people can sit quietly and watch as our land is taken from us? Do they think that we can face our children and tell them that, like us, they will never experience freedom? Or do they actually prefer violence and killing to our form of nonviolent struggle because it camouflages their ongoing theft and gives them an excuse to continue using us as guinea pigs for their weapons?

My eldest daughter Luma was nine years old when I was arrested. She is now ten. After my arrest she began going to the Friday demonstrations in our village. She always carries a picture of me in her arms. The adults try to look after her but I still worry for my little girl. I wish that she could enjoy her childhood like other children, that she could be studying and playing with her friends. But through the walls and barbed wire that separates us I hear my daughter’s message to me, saying:

 “Baba, they cannot stop us. If they take you away, we will take your place and continue to struggle for justice.” This is the message that I want to bring you today. From beyond the walls, the barbed wire, and the prison bars that separate Palestinians and Israelis.

Please Help the Enrichment Learning Program at the Cave Dwellers Village Umm-Fakra


Dear Friends,

We are appealing to you to ask your assistance in operating a learning enrichment program for the children of the cave-dwellers’ community of Umm-Fakra.

For the last two years we have assisted in conducting an enrichment programs for children in the Bedouin communities of Umm El-Kheir, bordering on the settlement of Carmel.

In light of the positive experience with such programs, and in response to a local initiative – we would like to assist in opening yet another center of learning enrichment programs for children in South Mount Hebron, this time in the locality Umm-Fakra. The annual cost for the first pilot year is estimated at only $4,000 or 3,000 Euro. The Villages Group is able to offer tax-deductible donation via partners in the US and UK (see our donation link for details).

We would be most grateful if you could take the time to read the attached plan (a text-only version follows below), and contact us if you are interested in contributing in any way to its advancement.

This appeal refers to both the new program in Umm-Fakra and to the general initiative of enrichment programs in South Mount Hebron.


Erella and Ehud,

The Villages Group


Enrichment Learning Program for Children Aged 6-14 in Umm-Fakra, South Hebron Hills (Massafar Yatta), Occupied West Bank

The Villages Group, December 2010



  1. To establish an educational framework for strengthening and enriching students in primary school to help them cope with learning difficulties and prevent dropout.

  2. To empower an Umm-Fakra resident who is the village’s first university graduate, by employing him to establish and implement the learning & enrichment classes.

  3. The overall goal here—as elsewhere in the South Hebron Mountain—is to empower the residents of Umm-Fakra and support them in their efforts to strengthen and empower their communities. The internal strength of these communities will enable them to withstand the many difficulties they face, and to continue living on their lands.


The South Hebron Hills (Massafar Yatta) is a mountainous region located in the southern part of the West Bank. Many of its residents are cave dwellers, living in traditional villages. During the years of Israeli occupation, some of these cave villages were destroyed by the army, while others have been deserted by their inhabitants under pressure from Israeli settlers. Those still in existence were saved from eviction by the Israeli authorities through a cooperative effort of local residents and Israeli and international human right organizations.

The surviving villages are not recognized by the Israeli occupation authorities, which have disregarded international law requiring that an occupying force take responsibility for the welfare of residents living in occupied areas. The policy of non-recognition means that the villagers still residing in the area are denied basic services, such as water, electricity, and building permits. It should be noted that the Oslo Accords placed the South Hebron Mountain in Area C, that is, in the areas for which Israel has full responsibility.

Umm-Fakra (Fig. 1) is one of the villages that have survived in spite of the harsh conditions. To its south lies the Arad valley, and to the north – Tuwani, the only recognized Palestinian village in the region. On its eastern perimeter it is flanked by the settlement Ma’on and the violent outpost Chavat Ma’on, while the settlement Avigail sits on Umm-Fakra’s lands to the west. The presence of these settlements severely curtails the access of Umm-Fakra’s residents to the agricultural lands and grazing grounds they legally own, and which provide most of their livelihood.

Of the approximately 120 souls in Umm-Fakra, 30 are children ages 6 through 14 (1st through 8th grades). Today, they attend the primary school in Tuwani, a half-hour walk from their homes. Although Tuwani is a recognized village, the school operates only four hours a day, because Israel’s occupation authorities governing the area do not provide support for the educational system, and the resources provided instead by the Palestinian Authority are minimal.


Umm-Fakra’s residents live under harsh conditions: mountainous topography, desert climate, limited sources of livelihood, constant threat of eviction by the occupation authorities, and a de facto creeping eviction by the neighboring settlements.

The harsh conditions, as well as the limited support from an undermined educational system for both struggling students and the most talented ones, are causing learning difficulties: some students fail to acquire the basic skills of reading, writing, and math, while those who master the skills often fail to keep up with their studies at later stages. Many students end up dropping out to help their families out with livelihood and house chores.

Post-elementary education is even harder to obtain. The nearest high school is more than an hour’s walk away, placing students at the mercy of hostile settlers. To reach the universities located in the towns of Yatta and Hebron students must use limited and expensive transportation.


Responsibility for the Program:

Responsibility for establishing and running the proposed program will be taken by Mr. Ali Hmamdeh (Fig. 2). Ali was born and raised in Umm-Fakra. With tenacity and resourcefulness, he has been able to overcome numerous difficulties and successfully graduate from the program in Arabic and Education at the Open University in Yatta (July 2009). He is the first Umm-Fakra resident to hold an academic degree. However, like many degree holding Palestinians, he remains unemployed – victim of a paralyzed occupation economy, and of the Palestinian Authority’s failure to remedy the situation.

Ali has the ability and the desire to contribute to others. Umm-Fakra needs his services. It was Ali who first proposed the idea for an enrichment program for students in his community. Moreover, the members of the Villages’ Group, who have helped fund Ali’s academic studies, support his proposal and are doing what they can to bring it to life.

Program details:

  • Status: Pilot plan for one year (school year and summer vacation).

  • Target population: Umm-Fakra children enrolled in elementary school, 1st through 8th grades (about 30 in all).

  • Place: Existing tent, located over Ali Hmamdeh’s family cave (Fig. 3).

  • Program running times: Weekends (Thursday, Friday, Saturday), 16:00 to 19:00.

  • Educational framework: Two age groups: 6-9 and 10-14; each group will meet for 1.5 hours on each of the three days.

  • Areas of study:

    • Reading and writing skills;

    • Math for beginning grades;

    • Arabic, History, Geography, Quran and tradition.

Additional areas of study will require hiring a second teacher and are proposed for a later phase of the program, based on the success of the initial pilot. These would include: English, Sciences, Art.



Teacher’s salary: NIS 12,000 (calculated at NIS 1,000 per month for 12 months)

Furnishing: NIS 1,000 for desks and seats

Teaching materials: NIS 200 for blackboard;

NIS 500 for chalks, pens, pencils, notebooks, etc.

Reserve: NIS 1,000


Total: NIS 14,700

[approximately US $4,000 or 3,000 Euro at December 2010 rates]

Note: estimated cost is for the first pilot year.



Erella Dunayevsky

Ehud Krinis


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