Saturday, March 31, 2012

Beit Hanoun: Celebrating the land and culture of Palestine

by Nathan Stuckey

Celebrating the land and life in Beit Hanoun - Click here for more photos

Today, Beit Hanoun celebrated Land Day.  It is true that Land Day isn’t really until tomorrow, but tomorrow is the Global March to Jerusalem, tomorrow, God willing, Land Day can be celebrated on the land from which the refugees were expelled 64 years ago.  Today, Land Day was celebrated on the land that Palestinians have managed to hold onto in Palestine.  Land Day commemorates the protests against the expropriation of Palestinian land which rocked Palestine in 1976.  Six people were killed, over a hundred injured and hundreds more arrested.  In Beit Hanoun we marched under the slogan, “A united land and a united people.”
About 50 people gathered in Beit Hanoun to commemorate Land Day with us.  People from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative, the International Solidarity Movement, other foreign activists and people from all over Gaza marched with us.  We marched north out of Beit Hanoun toward the no go zone.  We were going to plant olive trees, bake bread, and dance debka.  The women wore traditional Palestinian dresses; some of the men wore traditional clothing as well.  We carried flags, posters, hoes, water and olive trees, these were our weapons today.  We didn’t actually enter the no go zone, we were working on land near the Palestinian police post near Erez crossing.  When we arrived people immediately set to work, planting olive trees, setting up a tent, preparing ovens to bake bread on.  The mood was festive, people sang in circles, children threw rocks into the water of a nearby ditch; bread was eaten the moment it was taken off of the oven.  While all of this was going on others worked the land, they planted olive trees and cleared weeds away from olive trees already growing on the land.  When we finished planting the trees young men gathered to dance debka and sing.
One of the organizers received a phone call.  Apparently the Israeli’s had called the Palestinian police in the nearby police station, they were threatening to shoot us if we did not leave the land.  They didn’t claim that we were in the no go zone, such a claim isn’t necessary in the eyes of Israel, shooting Palestinians doesn’t really need an excuse.  We had no weapons, there were women and children with us, yet soldiers 500 meters away in concrete towers embedded in a giant concrete wall were threatening to shoot us.  It wouldn’t be either the first time the Israeli’s have shot at us, nor the first time they Palestinians simply for being in the range of their guns.  Many people have been shot on their land in the north of Beit Hanoun.  Israeli threats did not force us to leave the area, as one of the young men said, “This is our land, let them shoot if they want to, this is our land and it is our right to be here.”  We left when we were finished singing and dancing.  On the way back to Beit Hanoun we shared juice and cookies, the rewards of a day of being on the land.

 Nathan Stuckey is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement.

Updated on March 31, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rachel Corrie & Hana Shalabi: Flowers among thistles of Israeli occupation

by Nathan Stuckey
21 March 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza

Rachel Corrie was murdered nine years ago by an Israeli bulldozer.  Hana Shalabi has spent the last 34 days on hunger strike an Israeli prison, yet she is accused of no crime.  This was not the first time Hana has been held in Israeli prisons while being accused of no crime. She was only recently released as part of a prisoner exchange after being held without charges for 25 months. Hana has said that “freedom is more important than life,” and she knows of what she speaks.
The protesters who turn out every week for the demonstration against the occupation and the no go zone agree.
An Israeli bulldozer did not stop the message of Rachel, Israeli prisons have not silenced Hana, and Israeli bullets will not stop our protests.  Rachel Corrie was only 23 years old when she was killed; Hana Shalabi is 29 years old.   Our protest this week was in honor of these women and all of the strong women of Palestine.
At a little after eleven in the morning we set off down the road north from Beit Hanoun and towards the no go zone.  There were about 25 activists from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative, the International Solidarity Movement, and other international activists.
As we walked music played over the megaphone.  Flowers were in bloom everywhere, it is springtime in Gaza.  I was so enthralled by the flowers that I didn’t even think to look up and see if the giant balloon that always floats over Gaza observing our move was there.  We walked past blooming flowers, green fields of wheat, a few olive trees that the Israeli’s haven’t managed to destroy yet into the no go zone.
The change was dramatic.  Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth, it is also very poor, any land that can be cultivated is cultivated.  The no go zone is not cultivated; it is overgrown with thistles and weeds.  It used to be one of Gaza’s most fertile areas, full of orchards and crops.  Israel destroyed all of this, the trees were cut down, any houses in the no go zone were bulldozed, all wells were destroyed.
We made our way up a small path that we have cut through the thistles on previous demonstrations to the trench which Israel has cut across the no go zone.  The trench is lined with flags from one of our previous demonstrations, Palestinian flags and flags from many of the factions in Palestine.  We were carrying pictures of Hana and Rachel, some of us carried posters of Rachel decorated by the kids of the Rachel Corrie Youth Center in Rafah for the anniversary of her murder.
Sabur Zaaneen from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative spoke about the importance of continuing the popular resistance and the inspiration that we all take from Hana and Rachel.  We left pictures of Hana and Rachel in the thistles as we left, perhaps the Israeli soldiers can look out from their concrete towers on the faces of their victims.

 Nathan Stuckey is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The seen and unseen in the No Go Zone

by Nathan Stuckey
7 March 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza
Today, like ever Tuesday, we marched into the no go zone north of Beit Hanoun.  We gathered by the half destroyed Beit Hanoun Agricultural College and marched north, towards Jerusalem.  A Jerusalem that few of the protesters have ever seen, they have never been allowed to go to Jerusalem, it is forbidden to them, just as the land in the no go zone is forbidden to them.  Jerusalem and Al Aqsa are unseen.  We demonstrated for Al Aqsa and the prisoners.  The prisoners too are unseen; Gazans are not allowed to visit their sons and brothers and held in the prisons of the occupation.  As we walked down the road toward the no go zone a giant balloon rose over the wall.  We are the seen, watched from giant balloons, watched from soldiers in the towers that line the wall, seen from the sights of guns, an Apache helicopter roars in the distance.  Local herders tell us that there are tanks behind the wall.  For us, the soldiers who look at us through rifle scopes are yet unseen.  Later, they will make their appearance.  In the sky floats the black flag which flies over the occupation, most of the world refuses to see it, they refuse to recognize it for what it is, but for the people of Palestine it always floats in the sky, like the second moon in a Murakami novel.

We enter the no go zone and walk toward the flags that we have left during previous demonstrations.  There are about forty of us, we have no guns, only our voices and our flags.  We stop by row of flags we left last week.  Sabur Zaaneen from the Local Initiative of Beit Hanoun starts to speak, “Khader Adnan told us that honor is more important than food, Hana Shalabi reminds us that freedom is more important than food, we will continue the struggle.”  Both of them are held in Israeli prisons, neither of them have been charges with any crime.  Three months ago few people knew who either of them were, they were unseen, but they still existed, within them both was a great power and a great determination.  Both of them refuse to be oppressed in silence, their hunger strikes are calls for justice, for honor.  They are inspirations to us all.

We sit down under the flags.  Our goal is to spend twenty minutes in the no go zone.  After only a couple of minutes the unseen Israeli soldiers start to shoot at us.  Bullets whistle over our heads, thirty maybe forty of them.  We stand up, retreat down a small hill and stop.  The young men begin to chant, against the occupation, pledging their lives to defend Al Aqsa, an Al Aqsa that few of them have ever seen, in support of Hana Shalabi, a woman none of us has ever seen.  It doesn’t matter that most of them have never seen Al Aqsa, or Jenin, or  Hebron, or Jaffa, that they have never seen the homes from which their grandfathers were driven, the orange trees that fed their grandmothers, those things are still theirs, they are still inside of them.  Theft does not change possession.
We leave the no go zone when we want, we are not driven out by the Israeli bullets which whistle over our heads.  As we leave the no go zone the soldiers come out of hiding and watch us from atop their tower, we see them with our bare eyes, they see us through rifle sights. We have done what we set out to do today, we have tried in our small way to remind people that closing your eyes and saying that you don’t see something does not make it disappear.  What is unseen is often more important than what is seen.  Food we can all see, honor, none of us can see, but honor is more important than food.  Al Aqsa is something that many of the people here have never seen, but it is something for which we are willing to give our lives.  Justice cannot be seen, but all of us are willing to fight for it.  The struggle will go on, a struggle mostly for unseen things, often unseeable things.  It is a struggle for the only things really worth fighting for, justice, freedom, and peace.  I have never seen Khader Adnan or Hana Shalabi but I would like to thank them both, for showing us what heroism looks like.  Even those that have never seen Al Aqsa know that it is beautiful, that it is worth dying for.
Nathan Stuckey is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement.
Updated on March 8, 2012

European Commission asked question about shooting of children near Gaza border

DCI - Palestine

On 13 February 2012, Sir Graham Watson submitted a question to the European Commission about the shooting of Palestinian children near the border between Gaza and Israel. The question was as follows:
VP/HR - 'Children of the Gravel' and shootings into Gaza
The report ‘Children of the Gravel’ by the independent non-governmental organisation Defence for Children International (DCI) cites 28 cases, between 26 March 2010 and 3 October 2011, of children being shot at by the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip whilst gathering building materials, such as gravel, or working by the fence line. On 27 December 2011, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the leg when he was one kilometre away from the border.
  • Is the Vice-President / High Representative aware of the DCI dossier and the cases cited in the report?
  • What representations have been made to the Israeli Government regarding shootings into Gaza, including at children?

Related links:
Urgent Appeal (UA 4/10) - Children of the Gravel
Speech by Congressman Brian Baird

Occupied Lives:Sniper Fire in the ‘Buffer Zone’


Munther Rashad Saleh al-Nakhala poses next to his birds at his home in Al Daraj neighborhood in the east of Gaza City.

Goldfinches and canaries are appreciated worldwide for their colourful appearance and their melodic whistling. The birds are especially popular in the Gaza Strip as they help to create a distraction from the hardships of daily life.

Munther Rashad Saleh al-Nakhala, 44, lives in Gaza city. He is widely known by his neighbours for his success in raising canaries and goldfinches and for the care and attention he shows them. At present, he owns more than 50 birds, and although they sell for up to 1,000 NIS in the Gazan market, he refuses to sell them. “I have built special cages for them so I simulate their natural environment. They are very precious for me.”

Munther enjoys hunting goldfinches and canaries with his green net and a small wooden cage. Four days a week for the last seven years, he has taken his bicycle to go hunting in the neighbouring areas of Gaza city. In the Gaza Strip, however, such a simple hobby has put his life at risk. On the morning of 31 January 2012, Munther was shot three times by Israeli soldiers.

On that day, he was hunting in the Shajaiyeh area, approximately 450 meters from the Eastern fence that separates Gaza with Israel. When he had already extended his net on the ground, he noticed five soldiers walking along the Israeli side of the fence. “I know that the occupation soldiers approach the fence by foot when they attempt to shot at someone. Immediately, I started collecting my net and cage to leave the place. As I was taking the cage, without notice, the soldiers fired three times at me with live ammunition. One of the bullets hit my left leg. Injured, I took my bike and run away as fast as I could.” Luckily, the bullet exited Munther’s leg without leaving serious injuries. However, he needed to spend two days in Al Shifa hospital and is still under medication.

“We are hunting in our lands, they [Israeli soldiers] know me and they knew that I was unarmed as I have been hunting in that area for years. They call us terrorists when they are the ones who terrorise us.”

Munther is not the only civilian injured by the Israeli soldiers in the border areas of the Gaza Strip. Last year 24 people, including 5 children, were killed and 203 people, including 9 children, were injured. All these incidents occurred in the so-called ‘buffer zone’.

Since Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, Israeli forces have established a ‘buffer zone’, an area prohibited to Palestinians, along the land and sea borders of the Gaza Strip. The precise areas designated by Israel as ‘buffer zones’ are unknown and changing. Israeli policy is typically enforced with live fire. At a minimum, the ‘buffer zone’ is established at 300m from the land border, but it can extend to over 2km.

The establishment of a so-called ‘buffer zone’ is illegal under and international law; there is no military necessity associated with the establishment of permanent ‘closed military areas’ inside the Gaza Strip. This effective confiscation/seizure of property violates Article 23(g) of the Hague Regulations, and constitutes a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. Preventing Palestinians from access to their land violates numerous provisions of international human rights law, including the right to work, the right to the highest attainable standard of living, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Enforcing the ‘buffer zone’ by means of live fire often results in the direct targeting of civilians, a war crime; killings under such circumstances constitute the crime of wilful killing a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2012 11:12 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

IOF soldiers open floodgates on central Gaza

[ 04/03/2012 - 08:05 PM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened sand barriers to the east of Gaza Strip, which blocked flow of rainwater into the Strip, and flooded many houses.
A statement for the Palestinian civil defense brigades said that the IOF soldiers’ step flooded many houses and roads topped by the main road linking north Gaza to its south.
Heavy rainfall on the western Negev led the IOF to open the floodgates to avoid a flood on their side.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ministry: Israel detained 14 Gazans in February

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces detained 14 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip during February, including five fishermen and a cancer patient, according to report by the ministry of prisoners affairs in the Hamas-run government.

Researcher Riyad Al-Ashqar said the number of Gaza detainees rose to 21 during 2012.

Five men were detained in eastern Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip near the borders with Israel, he said. They were identified as Marwan Ahmad al-Sufi, Abdullah Muhammad al-Sufi, Ashraf al-Sufi, Muhammad Abu Athira and Saddam Abu Athira, all from Rafah.

Three other young men from Al-Bureij refugee camp, he added, were detained as they were allegedly trying to infiltrate into Israel to look for work.

Furthermore, al-Ashqar added that five fishermen were detained off the coast in three separate operations by Israeli navy. They were forced to undress and jump into the sea water to come close to the Israeli naval boats.

They were taken to Ashdod port for interrogation before they were released five hours later. Al-Ashqar identified them as Adham Mahmoud Abu Riyala, Mahmoud Mahmoud Abu Riyala, Ahmad Zayid, Jamal al-Sultan and his son Fadil.

The Gaza government official added that amongst the detainees was 22-year-old Kamil Hikmat Taramsi from Gaza City. The man was detained at Erez crossing while he was heading to seek treatment from cancer in Israeli hospitals.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

PCHR weekly report 23/2 - 29/2/2012: houses, building damaged

extract from PCHR weekly report 23/2 - 29/2/2012

Thursday, 23 February 2012 

Also at approximately 17:15, IOF positioned at the border in the east of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, opened fire at farms in al-Sreij neighborhood in al-Qarara village, northeast of Khan Younis. At the same time, IOF warplanes opened fired at the area. No casualties were reported. 

Friday, 24 February 2012

At approximately 03:25, an IOF warplane fired a missile at a training site used by the Izz Addin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in the east of the Bedouin village in the north of the Gaza Strip.  Windows of two houses in the southwest of the site crushed as a result of the explosion. In addition, the windows of the International Federation of Football, to the south of the site, crushed. Further, the locals, especially women and children, were in panic because of the strong explosion. No casualties were reported. The missile caused a big hole in the training site.

At approximately 21:30, IOF positioned at the border in the east of al-Shejaiya district, east of Gaza City, fired a shell at a house owned by Maher Ateya Darwish al-Zaq, 48.  The shell did not explode but it caused a hole measuring 1 square meter.  No casualties were reported.  The house which measures 280 square meters, located near al-Menar crossing in the east of al-Shejaiya district, is dwelled by a family of 12 members, including 8 children.  The explosives team of the police reported that the shell is a mortar shell, fired by IOF.  

Saturday, 25 February 2012

At approximately 06:00, IOF positioned at the border in the east of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, opened fire at farms in al-Sreij neighborhood in al-Qarara village, northeast of Khan Younis.

At approximately 11:50 on Tuesday, 28 February 2012, IOF positioned in watchtowers at the border fence near Beit Hanou (Erez) crossing, north of the Gaza Strip, fired at a group of demonstrators and Palestinian and international activists in the vicinity of the crossing.  The demonstration was comprised of approximately 50 protestors, including 5 international activists and 6 journalists.  When they approached to a distance of 150 meters from the border, IOF fired bullets and tear gas canisters, but no injuries were reported.

Saber al-Za'neen, Coordinator of the Local Initiative in Beit Hanoun and the one supervising the demonstration, said that at approximately 11:15 on the said day, a demonstration headed to the northern area.  When the demonstrators were around 150 meters from the fence, IOF sporadically fired bullets at them. Then they fired dozens of tear gas canisters, while firing bullets. IOF continued firing till around 12:30.  The demonstrators were terrorized and fled out of the area, but no injuries were reported.