Israeli Border Police occupy the area around the Shuhada Street checkpoint. The concrete barrier was also moved further up the road recenty by Israeli forces, extending their control in H1.
Since the evening of April 10th, 2017, Israeli forces have imposed increased restrictions on the Palestinians of al-Khalil as colonial settlers and Israeli tourists celebrate Pesach – or Passover – across the city. So far, homes have been occupied, checkpoints closed, and Palestinian children attacked with teargas during the week-long holiday. Preparations for the festival began early in the week as an increasing number of Israeli soldiers and military vehicles arrived in Hebron.
Since the beginning of the week, an increased number of Israeli soldiers and military vehicles have arrived in al-Khalil.
Israeli soldiers gather in al-Khalil
Consequently, Palestinians have faced increased delays and harrassment from soldiers, both the areas of H1, officially under full Palestinian civil and security control, and H2, which is under full Israeli control – the two areas into which al-Khalil has been divided since this Ibrahimi Mosque massacre of 1997 by a Jewish settler. The number of ID checks, bag searches, and body checks have increased across the city’s checkpoints as well as in the Old Town, as a result of Israeli military incursions, both day and night. Israeli forces also entered the homes of Palestinians living on Shuhada Street – for whom the only entry is through the rear of the house – before occupying the roofs of the houses for hours at a time.
An Israeli soldier aims his rifle at Palestinians making their way past the boys’ school
A Palestinian is subject to a body check by Israeli soldiers outside Mutannabi boys’ school, H2.
Israelis and colonial settlers celebrate outside the kindergarten on Shuhada street, while Palestinian children are made to pass through a military checkpoint every day on their way to school.
A group of Palestinian boys are questioned by Israeli Border Police in the souk, al-Khalil’s Old Town.
On Wednesday 12th April Israeli forces closed and barricaded the Ibrahimi mosque and the adjoining checkpoints, further restricting Palestinians’ rights to free movement and worship in and around the mosque. ISM activists were also informed by the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) that teargas was being fired at Palestinian children by Israeli Forces outside Saleymeh checkpoint. Whilst the checkpoint nearby the Ibrahimi Mosque had reopened for Friday Prayers, Palestinians continue to face long delays and harrassment at the hands of Israeli forces.
The checkpoint leading to the Ibrahimi Mosque was closed on Wednesday, an barricaded with an upturned table.
Palestinian residents are made to wait outside the Ibrahimi Mosque checkpoint following its reopening on Friday.
Meanwhile that day, Israeli forces gathered outside Shuhada checkpoint for over five hours, shutting down a whole road in H1 to allow (often heavily armed) Israeli settlers and tourists to pass through the area. Two military vehicles blocked the road, causing significant traffic congestion along Bab es-Sawiyah, while upwards of ten Israeli soldiers and fifteen Border Police filmed internationals and prevented Palestinians from passing through. Shuhada checkpoint leads to Shuhada Street, an area where Palestinian vehicles – including ambulances – are forbidden. Palestinians are only allowed to enter the street if they are numbered and registered as residents of the area.
Soldiers escort heavily-armed colonial settlers during an hours-long incursion into H1, near Shuhada Street.
Colonial settlers walk through H1 as part of the Pesach celebrations.
Armoured personel carriers block off roads in H1
On both Wednesday and Thursday, the Palestinian-owned shops surrounding the Ibrahimi Mosque were ordered to close. Further closures and roadblocks were also imposed by Israeli forces during several incursions by large groups of colonial settlers which passed through the souk in Hebron’s Old Town. Whilst these settler ‘tours’ happen every Saturday in al-Khalil, this week’s incursions follow similar events in occupied Palestine this week, most notably in occupied East Jerusalem where 385 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa.
A group of colonial settlers make their way through the Palestinian souk, escorted by heavily armed Israeli forces.
This year, Pesach is celebrated from the evening of Monday, April 10th, until the evening of Tuesday, April 18th. For Israeli settlers, the holiday this year has an additional significance in marking the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of Rabbi Moshe Levinger and followers of the Greater Israel movement – the first colonial settlers in al-Khalil – to the Park Hotel in 1967, posing as Swiss tourists. Today, around 700 colonial settlers live in the H2 area of al-Khalil and are accompanied by almost 1,500 Israeli soldiers as well as Border Police and Israeli civil police.
Israeli soldiers walk down the stairs of the family home, where some of the children wait, after occupying the roof.
A Palestinian family living in the Old City of al-Khalil were subject to nightly home intrusions by Israeli forces throughout the week leading up to Pesach, or Passover. On Wednesday 12th April, ISM activists visited the home on Shalallah Street before staying with the family overnight to monitor the situation.
The father of the family told ISM activists how six soldiers would arrive at the house at roughly 2 am, banging aggressively on the door with their M16 rifles before forcibly making their way up to the roof of the family home. These incursions occurred several times throughout the week as the same soldiers would arrive in the middle of the night to access and occupy the roof where they would sit for just one hour before leaving again through the family home.
The father believes these nightly intrusions come as punishment from Israeli forces in response to him welcoming tour groups and tourists onto his roof to witness the family’s situation. The rooftop overlooks the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah – from which members of the family often experience harassment from neighboring colonial settlers – as well as the nearby Israeli military outpost.
The family has eight small children, all of whom are frequently woken-up scared at the sight and sounds of Israeli soldiers entering the home. The intrusions occurred all week before culminating on Wednesday the 12th of April when Israeli forces – this time consisting of eleven soldiers and two dogs – appeared at the house a total of four times throughout the day.
The entrance to the family home, located between Shuhada Street and Shalallah Street. To the left of the house is the playground for the children of Israeli settlers.
The past week in Khalil has been characterized by an increased military presence, house intrusions, closures, and harassment as Israeli settlers and tourists celebrate the Jewish holiday of Pesach. However, incidents such as these are not unique, as many Palestinian families living close to illegal Israeli settlements or outposts across the occupied West Bank often experience night raids, vandalism, and harassment at the hands of both colonial settlers and Israeli soldiers.
Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.
Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.
Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.
Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.
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I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me give birth only to terrorists and murderers.
A few years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.
The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.
Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.
Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishments.
Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.
Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.
How to account for this unbelievable state of affairs?
Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent.
Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.
Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.
Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.
Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics around the world.
Their solidarity exposes Israel’s moral and political failure. Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.
Living through a war is an experience I don’t wish on my worst enemies. It’s one of the most excruciating experiences a person could have, and I first had mine when I was 10 years old.
It was 2006 when Fatah and Hamas fought for control of Gaza. I find myself at loss for words when trying to describe how I felt when my uncle rushed my cousin and I out of school, ducking behind a wall to escape gunshots as we tried to get home in one piece. Or when guns fired endlessly through the night, practically shattering my eardrums, while my grandma held me so tightly I could barely breathe, assuring me everything was going to be okay.
As a child, it baffled me how people who were supposed to be from a strong Islamic brotherhood could do this to each other. How could you possibly point your weapon at another human just like you? It didn’t take my 10-year-old self long to figure out this was going to be a recurring event in Gaza. But next time it was waged by a stronger enemy who wasn’t just looking for power, but to wipe us out completely.
It was a day only about two years later, as I was leaving school after my first final exam in fifth grade, when I heard a massive explosion and saw a huge cloud of black smoke in the sky. I didn’t understand what was happening. By luck, my usual bus driver was running late that day and we were assigned another one who didn’t know my home address exactly. He dropped me off a mile or so away from my house, and I walked like I was in a daze, explosions still going off in the distance, ambulances rushing through the streets, people running around all over the place. I didn’t feel scared though; I felt confused.
As the days passed, the war kept getting worse and worse. I think the first time it hit me that the Israelis with their so-called “defense” forces wanted to hurt us was in the middle of one night when the bombing kept going on and on. With every bomb, a car alarm would go off, and suddenly I felt so scared for myself and my family that I started sobbing. To this day, the sound of car alarms makes my heart race.
When the war was finally over, I thought it was never going to happen again. I was mistaken, of course. The 2012 war came. This time, I was much more aware of what was happening. I thought, if I was scared shitless, then how must the people who were defending us feel? The resistance fighters who were out there in the middle of it all risking their lives for us?
I was growing stronger, but there’s always a moment in a war when you feel death is so close it’s breathing down your neck, sucking you in; when all your senses are on such high alert the world around you seems to still. That moment in 2012 happened when I was with my aunt and brother. I distinctly remember standing by the balcony door watching huge bombs drop in the distance, lighting up the world around us in the pitch black night. I don’t remember the bombs having sound, I only recall the blinding, orange light.
That war ended after a “mere” eight days. But the worst was yet to come.
The Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014 was the worst, the war that left me so bruised and hurt it’s impossible to describe. It was the longest and scariest; there wasn’t just a moment when I felt death was near, it was all the time.
I felt its presence when all six members of my family gathered in one small room for the worst night of our lives, the night bombs kept going off every five seconds until dawn. I felt death slowly tightening its grip around my neck every time we jolted awake to the sound of explosions. For the first three seconds after waking up, I felt relief, thanking God I was alive–until I remembered another family just like mine has been killed instead.
That war went on so long. I remember sitting like a lifeless skeleton in the candle light one evening, just staring into space, waiting for the end, waiting for our deaths to be reported on the radio. That war left everyone in Gaza deeply scarred.
After that war ended, I knew better than to think it would never happen again. Of course it will, on an even worse scale. It kills me that so many people around the world either stand with Israel or refuse to take sides. It kills me that an Israeli teen who spent the war in a fancy bomb shelter underground says her experience of war was horrible, while I spent it out in the open praying the next bomb would miraculously miss its target.
My words are nothing but a glimpse inside these wars, a glimpse from a fortunate person who never personally lost anyone or anything as a result, yet still feels their massive effect. I hate never feeling truly safe, knowing an Israeli assault could happen any day. I hate that everyone in Gaza has to live with that fear for the rest of our lives.
Do not judge us until you understand what we’ve gone through, because we’ve all been to hell and back. Every war that doesn’t kill us truly makes us stronger, even if it batters us and smashes us into pieces. We always seem to get back on our feet, and that’s what we’ll keep doing until this occupation comes to an end.
I feared I wouldn’t be able to go back to my former life after the war ended, but I did.
It felt so awkward. Everything was normal and people were acting as usual. How did I go back to my life, loaded with the guilt of being alive, of breathing?
I apologize for being alive. I apologize to the son who asked his dad to bring him some chocolate, but he got neither chocolate nor his dad. I apologize to the woman who dreamt of having her first child in two months, but a rocket stole her sweet dreams of motherhood. I apologize to the boy who wanted to see the sky, but it was the last thing he saw. I apologize to the people who went to an UNRWA school believing it was safer, a haven, but it was their graveyard. I apologize to the kids who prepared kites for summer, but never had the chance to try them out or boast about how good they’re flying. I apologize to the kids who had to spend a soulless Eid, forced to stay home, deprived of joy, sweets and swings.
I apologize to the man who worked overnight to build a house for his children and then witnessed it turning into rubble.
I apologize to the girl who thought her father abandoned her when her mother couldn’t be candid with her and tell her they could never find his body.
I apologize to Gaza, my love. I apologize that it must carry such a burden.
The Palestinian child Ahmad Manasra at Zionist occupation military court today. Ahmad was severely injured after being shot by fascist Zionist occupation police about 8 months ago, he was left bleeding for about an hour, then he was kidnapped. Ahmad’s will to live was stronger than their will to kill, he is the living evidence of their terrorism, they tried to bury his story but he insisted to survive to tell the whole world his story despite their ongoing brutality against him.
The United States has offered to increase its military aid to Israel on the condition that Tel Aviv spends more of the aid on the purchase of American equipment and fuel rather than on its domestic products.
Israel and the US have been engaged in negotiations over a memorandum of understanding for an aid package to replace the current one that expires in 2018.
A letter by National Security Adviser Susan Rice and co-authored by the White House’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shaun Donovan, outlines the US offer which includes a pledge to substantially increase the aid package, worth some $30 billion over 10 years. It further aims to secure a new deal that would constitute “the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in US history”.
The next 10-year deal could top $40 billion, and would include a 10-year pledge to fund Israel’s missile defense systems, the New York Times reported.
Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about 25 percent of the aid it receives outside the US and another 13 per cent on fuel for its aircraft.
According to an Israeli newspaper, this arrangement originated in the 1980s to build up Israel’s defense industry, which has thrived. As a result, Israel has become one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, and a US competitor.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported a senior US official as saying that this stipulation “no longer serves Israeli or US interests,” adding that “We would like to modify it.”
“It doesn’t make sense from a US perspective,” the source added. “We want more of the assistance to be spent in the US on US companies helping to support economic growth and jobs creation here at home.”
They came from Europe,
these people, single and in
families, eager to settle.
They said they were returning
home, though we had never
seen them, were here
for generations stretching back
for a thousand years
or more. Then, along
about 1917 – a British Lord
named Balfour said our land
was theirs without asking if
we minded. And so they came,
saying our land was empty,
was full of sand and little
else. Failing to see our ancient
olive groves, our cities, our
libraries and our learning,
they took everything
they wanted, killed our people
and destroyed our villages,
setting a million people
fleeing for their lives, then
denied us the right to remember
the event. They call their
attackers the most moral army
in the world. But we remember
the grandmother sitting on her
veranda embroidering a gift for
her granddaughter, when a
sniper sent a bullet through
her head. We remember the
by a bomb dropped by this
very moral airforce, and all
the other bombs
too numerous to count.
When will it end? Have we to
weep a tide of bitterness
until all our memories
of joy are erased and replaced
What is wrong with
people that they mistreat
others with demonic fury
and contempt, yet continue
to proclaim their innocence
and see themselves as the victims?
– George Polley is a novelist and a poet. He is the author of The Old Man and The Monkey, Grandfather and The Raven, Bear, and, most recently “The City Has Many Faces“. He contributed this poem to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his blog.
This 9-minute video, showing Israeli Jewish MPs’ reaction to a speech by Haneen Zoabi today, offers a very revealing insight into how Israel’s tribal democracy works. And it isn’t pretty.
Even in the British parliament, which is imploding at the moment, it is impossible to imagine scenes like these.
Zoabi made the speech after Israel agreed this week very belatedly to pay compensation to the families of nine humanitarian activists killed by Israeli commandos in 2010 on the Mavi Marmara, as it plied international waters on its way to deliver aid to Gaza. In fact, it would be more accurate to say Israel assassinated the activists, as a way to deter others from following in their wake.
The Marmara was a Turkish vessel and the compensation was part of Israel’s reconciliation deal with Turkey.
Zoabi was the only Israeli MP on the ship, and was accused of treason by Knesset members for participating in the aid flotilla. She became public enemy number one and received many death threats at the time, including some barely veiled ones from Jewish MPs.
All the exchanges in this video are in Hebrew, but that doesn’t really matter. You don’t need to understand the language to understand what is going on. One Jewish MP, Oren Hazan, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, heckles Zoabi non-stop for more than four minutes, with the Speaker doing nothing more than politely asking him to calm down and refrain from interrupting.
Remember that Palestinians MPs are regularly ejected from the Knesset for far less than this kind of barracking and violation of parliamentary protocol. Notice also that the Knesset TV spends as much time, if not more, focusing on the heckler than Zoabi, implicitly legitimising his anti-democratic behaviour.
But when Zoabi accuses the soldiers of “murder” at about 4.30-min into the video, all hell breaks loose. A dozen or more Jewish MPs rush to the podium and start circling Zoabi like a pack of baying hyenas. By this stage, when Zoabi is being physically threatened by a number of MPs in the parliament chamber, you might think it would be time for some of them to be forcefully ejected, if only to indicate that this subversion of the democratic process will not be tolerated. But not a bit of it. They are treated with kid gloves.
The Knesset guards simply try to block the violent Jewish MPs from reaching the single Palestinian MP in their sights, presumably fearful that were she to be physically assaulted that might make headline news and make Israel look bad.
Paradoxically, the only MP you can see on the film being pushed out of the Knesset chamber is Zoabi’s party leader, Jamal Zahalka, who from the look of things is interceding because he’s worried she is in danger. Hazan was finally removed, though after more than eight minutes of heckling, threats and belligerence.
Another paradox: Zoabi and her fellow party MPs have only recently been allowed to speak in the Knesset again, after the ethics committee (dominated by Jewish MPs) suspended them for several months because of their “unacceptable” political views.
I doubt very much that any of these Jewish MPs, even though they have threatened and tried to physically harm another MP, one from the wrong tribe, will suffer any consequences at all for their behaviour.
Zoabi said in her speech: “I stood here six years ago, some of you remember the hatred and hostility toward me, and look where we got to. Apologies to the families of those who were called terrorists. The nine that were killed, it turns out that their families need to be compensated. I demand an apology to all the political activists who were on the Marmara and an apology to MK Haneen Zoabi, who you’ve incited against for six years. I demand compensation and I will donate it to the next flotilla. As long as there’s a siege, more flotillas need to be organized.”
In addition to the violent reception from MPs visible on film, there was widespread incitement from other MPs. Michael Oren, who a while back was Israel’s ambassador to the US, sounded like Avigdor Lieberman as he said Zoabi’s speech proved she was not loyal and should be permanently stripped of her parliamentary status, under a soon-to-be-passed Suspension Law.
In true colonial style, the government’s chief whip, David Bitan, was reported to have told Palestinian voters in Israel after Zoabi’s speech: “We need to make sure she doesn’t stay in the Knesset. We’ve had enough of this and she doesn’t even represent you properly.”
Northern California branch of the Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.
Founded in August, 2001, ISM aims to support and strengthen the Palestinian popular resistance by providing the Palestinian people with international protection and a voice with which to nonviolently resist an overwhelming military occupation force.