Al Mezan Condemns Israel’s Crimes in Rafah and Calls for International Intervention

Reference: 43/2003
Date: October 13, 2003
Al Mezan Center For Human Rights

On Monday 12 October 2003 Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) redeployed their forces around the town and refugee camp of Rafah. Mezan’s fieldworkers visited the area, under direct occupation since Friday 10 October, to collect information and meet with victims and their families.

According to the field investigations the Israeli military committed war crimes in the town, as defined by international humanitarian law. Soldiers destroyed 192 houses, homes to 1,952 people. Ninety-three of these homes were completely demolished and 99 others partially destroyed. Tens of other homes were damaged by the IOF as well. This raises the total number of destroyed homes in Rafah since the beginning of the Intifada to 1,631 and of displaced persons to 12,430.

Eight Palestinians were killed by the IOF and 81 were wounded during this incursion. Since the beginning of the current Intifada, Occupation Forces have killed 238 people in Rafah, two of them international citizens. Soldiers also restricted movement in the area, including by ambulances and relief staff, and caused a serious shortage of food and medical supplies.

According to Articles 146 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (12 August 1949) such practices are defined as “grave breaches”, and necessitate the pursuit and trial of the perpetrators, and of those who ordered them to be committed.

The Mezan Center for Human Rights emphasizes the urgent need for effective international intervention at this time. The international community is called upon to carry out its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention by putting an end to Israel’s breaches. Silence only encourages Israel to continue committing such crimes. The Center also appeals for international relief agencies to provide urgent aid to the Palestinian civilians under occupation.

Israeli Occupation Forces Withdraw from Rafah Leaving Behind Devastation

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, October 12, 2003
In the early morning hours of Monday 13 October 2003, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) withdrew from the refugee camp of Rafah after a three-day incursion. Initial reports from the camp revealed massive home demolitions and damage to the city’s infrastructure. Israeli soldiers killed eight people and wounded dozens. 
Al Mezan condemns all incursions into Rafah, and the silence they are met with on the part of the international community. Such silence reveals a moral indifference to Israel’s persistent violations of Palestinians human rights.
The Mezan Center calls upon the international community to fulfill its responsibilities towards Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and provide effective protection to them. The Center also emphasizes the urgent need for relief aid and shelter in the camp and asks relief agencies and governments to provide assistance for the victims of home demolitions and curfews.

Amira Hass: Explaining the occupation to the occupier

Allen Ruff, Palestine-Israel Peace and Justice Alliance (PIPAJA), 12 Oct 2003

Amira Hass, the author of the article below, will be appearing in Madison on October 30th as the second speaker in the “Reporting the Middle East” speakers’ series produced by the Palestine-Israel Peace and Justice Alliance (PIPAJA). Hass will appear at the Morgridge Auditorium, Grainger Hall (Brooks & University) at 7:30 on the 30th.

(The first speaker in the series, ROBERT FISK, will be at the Union Theater at 8:00pm on the 23rd. Hass will be followed by Ali Abunimah of the “electrinicintifadfa”, on Novemebr 6th at MATC-Downtown , Rm D240, 7:30. A’sad AbuKhalil will speak on November 13th in the Great Hall, Memorial Union.)

Please spread the word!

Jewish Peace News

Last week, a Palestinian woman working with Islamic Jihad carried out a horrible suicide bombing that killed 19 people including 4 children, and wounded many many more in a joint Arab and Jewish owned restaurant in Haifa.

It is both natural and appropriate to wonder how anyone could commit such a vicious act, an act that was intended to ruin and end the lives of so many innocent people. Amira Hass guides us through the pitfalls of this question, with characteristic intelligence and candor. She points to two types of answers, one acceptable to the Israeli political establishment and one not. The acceptable type of answer involves demonizing Islam, attributing Palestinian criminal behavior to fundamentalist tendencies in the Muslim religion, real or imagined. The unacceptable answer involves pointing to the acute and growing despair of the Palestinian population in the territories, who daily experience the humility of the occupation, their land being stolen and destroyed, their children being starved, and their loved ones being shot and incarcerated.

It is certainly much easier to blame Islam (or the Palestinian educational system for that matter); and people reeling from the trauma of a gruesome terror attack are experiencing enough suffering without adding the pain of self-critique. But if the imperative is to stop these horrible attacks from happening again, and this should be the immediate imperative of the Israeli government, looking honestly and critically at the effects of the occupation has the very great advantage offering an immediate solution to Israel’s crisis of terror. And after a suicide bombing, what could be more important than this?

Explaining the occupation to the occupier

Amira Hass, Haaretz, 8 October 2003

How can a tiny Palestinian organization like Islamic Jihad produce so many walking bombs, suicide bombers who choose babies in strollers and their grandparents as targets? And how does an organization that once declared it would only target soldiers send its latest suicide bomber to a mixed Jewish-Arab city, to sow death and sorrow in a restaurant whose owners, workers and customers are Jews and Arabs, old and young.

Intelligence experts and Arabists on our side say it’s because of Islam, which sanctifies wars, that there is unceasing incitement in the mosques, that Iran and Syria are behind it, that the suicide bombers and those who send them are out to destroy the State of Israel, that the people who blow themselves up are animals and that Arafat encourages terror.

There’s a concept behind all these explanations, in which this sickening form of the Palestinian struggle has nothing to do with the occupation, that Israelis should not believe Palestinians who say there is a connection to the Israeli occupation. The concept says there is no connection between the proliferation of suicide bombings and the prevailing view in Palestinian society, which is that Israel, as a military and nuclear power, wants to squeeze a surrender out of the Palestinians that will legitimize the Israeli takeover of land in the West Bank and Gaza.

In other words, the concept is that the historical, political and geopolitical connections, the sociological and psychological ramifications – none of it is relevant. The concept is that there is something inherent to the heritage of the suicide bombers and those who send them that is to blame, because the Palestinians won’t give up their dream of destroying Israel and that Muslims only believe in the most radical interpretation of their religion.

Israeli society can accept this insane situation – investing billions in something called “defense” and then being afraid of primitive walking bombs made up of a few kilograms of explosives and nails – because of a belief in the Israeli intelligence apparatus and the “objectivity” of its information. After all, the intelligence officers are fluent in Arabic, they analyze the speeches of every imam, they watch all the Arab TV stations that broadcast incitement, they get their hands on texts that are barely known to Palestinian writers and their audiences, and they have personal human intelligence from all sorts of collaborators and informants.

Indeed, from Islamic Jihad’s perspective, now is a good time to intensify the sense of chaos in the country and region. As a tiny group, it is able to disregard and scorn the condemnations and warnings of the Palestinian Authority; it isn’t looking for an electoral constituency. But that perspective does not explain why Islamic Jihad, despite the blows it suffers from the army, is able to find candidates to conduct a policy that is dictated from abroad and is foreign to the Palestinian longing for normalcy. Yes, only the Israeli occupation can explain that. All the rest of the explanations are appendices, marginal footnotes.

So, how does one explain the occupation to the occupier? The knowledge of daily life of 3.5 million people, whose future offers no chance of normalcy: the daily experience of the land of their grandparents and parents falling prey to this or that army order, for some “public” expropriation or pirate outpost? How does one explain to the bulldozer what it means to live when the land is constantly shrinking under your feet, when across the way, meanwhile, some rich settlement of Jews grows and a brand new road is paved just for them? How can the paper on which the army orders are written know what it’s like to live for 37 years under the arbitrary rule of the representatives of the foreign occupation, many of whom are residents of the settlements, who make arbitrary decisions about who will be able to travel and who won’t, who will get medical treatment and who won’t, how many inches a water pipe can have as its diameter, if and when a water tanker reaches the village, which tree will be uprooted and which won’t?

How to explain to the tanks and planes what a little boy’s fear is like – not the fear of 10 or 100 but hundreds of thousands, not once a month or every other week, but daily, for three years, and what happens to a daughter and grandmother whose loved ones, civilians, are killed in front of their eyes, not by the dozens but the hundreds. How to explain to Israelis, who get only the most partial of reports about the horrors of the military occupation, that the Palestinians also suffer daily from horrific scenes, indeed, from the very first day of the renewed clashes, when they were still only throwing rocks and not blowing up in our cities?

Yes, the suicide bombers feel they represent their society. That’s their strength. They represent their society’s sense that it’s no use living under the occupation, with the terrible weakness against the Israeli military power, the impotence as they watch their land vandalized and degraded, the rage over the stupidity of the Palestinian leadership. They are willingly represented by the vengeance.

Israel tends to blame those who demand to explain the phenomenon of the suicide bombers in the context of the occupation, as if they understand and even justify the terrorist means. That might be understandable for a developed society, but it does not help Israeli society when dealing with the threat of the terror.

Jewish Peace News (JPN) is an edited news-clipping and commentary service provided by A Jewish Voice for Peace. JPN’s editors are Adam Gutride, Amichai Kronfeld, Rela Mazali, Sarah Anne Minkin, Judith Norman, Mitchell Plitnick, Lincoln Shlensky, and Alistair Welchman. The opinions expressed by the editors and presented in the articles sent to this list are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of A Jewish Voice for Peace.

A Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a San Francisco Bay Area grassroots organization dedicated to the human, civil and economic rights of Jews, Palestinians, and all peoples in the Middle East.

The mirror of fire and tears

Laura Gordon, The Electronic Intifada, 10 October 2003

9 October 2003 — This Yom Kippur (October 6th), the most holy day on the Jewish calendar, the day of atonement in which we are supposed to cease every form of work in order to pray and request forgiveness from God, the Israeli army began construction on a new permanent checkpoint in the Gaza Strip, another slice.

Tanks cut off the main road between Rafah and Khan Younis (the city just north of Rafah) by driving ten tanks right in front of the European Gaza Hospital, the only decent hospital south of Gaza City, and the road has been closed for days. Nothing can get to Rafah, many things in Rafah are simply not available right now, things like medicine, the ability to cash checks, basic supplies.

People who study or work in Gaza City and Khan Younis haven’t been to work or university for days. It makes me think of high school, when snow and ice could shut a city down. Upstairs from our apartment, Rasha can’t hide the small relief she feels from this reprieve of study. I wonder how much the relief Rasha feels has to do with getting let off the hook from dealing with checkpoints.

The week before this closure, she spent 5 hours one day waiting for Abu Holi to open so she could go home and the next day it closed all night, leaving her to sleep at her friend’s sister’s house in Gaza City after waiting for 4 hours in a hot taxi in line with hundreds of cars waiting for the checkpoint to open. I compare our worlds, like parallel universes, squinting at each other from both sides of a mirror.

When tanks cut off the main road, people trying to get home used the sandy road and tanks cut that road too, shooting all the time, and bulldozers followed, demolishing anything anywhere near Moraj settlement, mostly olive trees. They are still demolishing. They’ve also started construction of something, people are saying it’s a permanent checkpoint, another Abu Holi.

Nobody knows much, not even the human rights organizations are going, nobody is risking going near the place because the tanks are shooting anyone who approaches. Nobody has dared approach since the first day of the incursion, when the army invaded without announcement, taking people by surprise as they drove to and from work. They injured four people, including a doctor who was shot in the head and is in critical condition in the European Gaza Hospital where he used to work.

In addition Rafah has accumulated another shaheed (“martyr”), Said Abu Azzum, 26 years old, who was driving with his wife and their two sons on a routine trip to Khan Younis, without any idea what was happening some meters down the road; shot in the heart as he turned a corner. He had no job, no money, and no house, and now he leaves behind a 21-year-old widow with nowhere to go, a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old with nowhere to go. They couldn’t even have the wake in his sister’s house where he used to stay because it’s near the border and because it’s too small to accomodate visitors, so they sat for three days in a cousin’s house in Shabura so that people wouldn’t be afraid to come and pay their respects.

When I went on the third day, his mother was angry. She said, Where is your camera, where are the journalists? Not one person from the media had come to photograph her. I was embarrassed. I hadn’t brought my camera, thinking it disrespectful to bring journalism to a wake. She said, if you’re going to write, at least take notes that I can see, write in your book that Sharon and Bush murdered my son, from the comfort of their offices.

On the same day Said Abu Azzum was killed, Mohammed’s older sister Wisam was coming home from the European Gaza Hospital, where she works as a nurse, when she heard the army had cut the road, and her taxi went with the other taxis towards the sandy road to bypass the tanks, but not fast enough. Tanks drove into the road as they were crossing into Rafah and began shooting indiscriminately, and it was at this point that people were injured and killed upon running from their cars to try to reach safety. Wisam was part of a group of women that walked together after the men had left, holding a white mendeel to signify surrender and peace.

The tanks shot at them anyway — is this the way to tell this story? — as they were walking — the words are so vile — and they lay down on the ground in the sand for a half an hour while a tank rode back and forth right next to them, a meter away — vile bastards — before retreating. Wisam did not walk to Rafah, she ran, in bare feet (having left her sandals somewhere on the ground) and arrived in her family’s home, her abaya torn, with the black glove of a woman she didn’t know that somehow found its way to her shoe. With her family, she cried for hours, saying that she would never go back to work. The road is closed in any case so, for now, it’s not even a possibility.

She is taking her respite with her family, in Tel Zorrob, farther from the border than the main street in town but not far enough that their third floor flat can’t be seen by the Zorrob sniper tower, which effectively keeps them from using the kitchen and one bedroom. The tower shoots all day and night. It shot at us while we were eating kabbab in the living room, and as Wisam impressed me from room to room with the delicate furnishings in her home. She said, “Yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about your friend Rachel. I thought I was going to meet the same fate.”

So it goes. There is nobody in Rafah who doesn’t feel the effect of this new blockage. Feryal is wondering where she will go if the road is closed when she gives birth to her fifth child, who is turning in her belly for the ninth month. When I visit them, her daughter Rula tells me, They’ve closed the road. What can we do? We want to see the world, we want some fresh air, we can’t go anywhere, we’re Palestinians.

Rula is 7 years old. Her older brother Mohammed, 11 years old, has been given an assignment by school to draw something related to human rights. He draws a world, an armed man shaking hands with an unarmed figure. The armed figure is America, he tells me, and the unarmed is Israel. Palestine is a cloud raining down lightning bolts of anger onto them, separate, alone, excluded from the conversation, unable to hold anything but its own fire and tears.

Laura Gordon is a 20-year-old American Jew who came to Israel in December 2002 with the Birthright Israel program and proceeded, three months later, to begin work with the International Solidarity Movement in Rafah.

September 19-21, 2003
Toward a Peaceful World

How to Spread Nonviolence, Globally and Locally

September 19-21, 2003
Hosted by Edgewood College, Madison, WI

Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is looking for volunteers to help staff our table at this event. If you are interested, please contact RafahSisterCity at

Brochures with registration information will be available the first week of August, including suggestions for lodging in the area.

Contact: Maureen McDonnell
(608) 663-3233
mcdonnel at



Capitol Times article:

The Schedule (as of 9/8/03)

Friday, Sept. 19:
5:30-6:30PM, Tailgating for Peace
Food available for purchase, with entertainment by local musicians.
Predolin Terrace

7PM, Presentation: “What Would A Peaceful World Look Like?”
Father Roy Bourgeois (founder of School of the Americas (SOA) Watch)
Anderson Auditorium

8 PM for kids: “Sing Your Way Around the World” with Clare Norelle.

Saturday, Sept. 20
9AM-Noon, Nonviolence Training w/ Eric LeCompte

Kids for Peace Events start at 9AM

Noon – lunch in the EC dining room (pay as you go)

1-2PM, SOA Watch w/ Roy Bourgeois
2PM, Islam & Conflict Resolution (Islamic Perspective)

3:00-3:30PM Ice Cream Social — Predolin Terrace / Commons area

3:30-5PM, Peace Communities in Colombia & Palestine, with Sr. Marge Eilerman of Colombia Support Network and Jennifer Loewenstein of Madison-Rafah Sister City Project
Supper break (on your own, on campus or in Madison restaurant)
Fr. Roy will possibly be speaking at church service in the evening.

5PM, Theatre as Nonviolent Protest

Sunday, Sept. 21

10AM-11:30 and 2-6PM, Nonviolence Training for Trainers w/ Eric LeCompte

11:30 Mass, Roy B. preside/preach — St. Joseph Chapen, Regina Hall

12:30PM, Brunch in the EC dining room (pay as you go)

1:30-2:30PM, Music as Nonviolent Protest w/ C. King, K. Brandow and Prince Myshkin

2:40-3:40PM, Nonviolent Atonement w/ Denny Weaver

3:40-4:50PM, International Solidarity Movement w/ Adam Shapiro

5-6PM, Supper in EC dining room (pay as you go)

6PM Concert in the Anderson Auditorium w/ Charlie King & Karen Brandow, Prince Myshkin
(ticket price: $13 in advance, $15 at door; seniors and students: $8 in advance, $10 at door)

Added Attractions:

Kids for Peace
Activities for kids ages 6-11, including multi-cultural stories, movement, music, and a socio-economic meal that emphasizes just distribution of food. Childcare for children ages 3-5 will be provided free of charge.

EPI Artists’ Exhibit
Many of the EPI Artists’ who contributed to the Epidemic Peace Imagery Exhibit have contributed similar art to the TaPW Conference. The Epidemic Peace Imagery Exhibit can be viewed at the Public Library Main Branch through the month of September.

An opportunity to do some weaving during the weekend on a peace piece that is in progress.

Food can be purchased throughout the weekend in the Regina Hall dining room or in the Wingra Cafe in Predolin Humanities Center.

Sign Interpretation
Sign interpretation will be offered for the Friday, 7PM presentation.


(“Some critics have tried to discern a semantic distinction between toward and towards, but the difference is entirely dialectal. Toward is more common in American English; towards is the predominant form in British English.” [American HeritageÆ Dictionary])

Israel’s Assassination Policy Triggers Latest Suicide Bombings

Graffiti in Gaza. (Ronald de Hommel)

Steve Niva, The Electronic Intifada, 2 September 2003

Palestinian suicide bombings are vicious and grave abuses, clearly war crimes under international law for intentionally killing civilians. They have also been a strategic disaster for Palestinian national aspirations, souring the Israeli public on peace and damaging the Palestinian cause in the court of world opinion.

Nevertheless, it is nearly impossible to avoid concluding that the current Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has either deliberately provoked a number of them or at least undertaken actions that would clearly risk them. Either way, it is complicit in the deaths of scores of Israeli citizens.

For how else can one explain the Israeli decision to assassinate senior military and political leaders from militant Palestinian groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad during the past three months when it is well documented that such actions frequently result in a suicide bombing, usually within a week?

In four of the past five suicide bombings, the timing of the bombing, the fact that group whose senior militant was assassinated carried out the attack, and the explicit claim of revenge for the assassination in all of these cases leave little room for doubt about cause and effect.

The most recent atrocity in Jerusalem on August 19, in which twenty-one Israelis were immolated on a bus returning from Jewish holy sites, including many children and elderly, came within four days of Israel’s August 15 assassination of Muhammed Sidr, the commander of Islamic Jihad’s Quds Brigades in Hebron. The Quds Brigades issued a statement warning that their response would be swift “like an earthquake” and would strike at the heart of Israel.

Islamic Jihad’s immediate claim of responsibility after the brutal bombing initially appeared to be contradicted by a Hamas released videotape of one of its own Hebron activists, Raed Abdel-Hamed Mesk, who undertook the attack. Yet although Jihad and Hamas are often rivals, Mesk asserted in the video he would carry out a suicide bombing to avenge the killing of Sidr, who was widely reported to be a close associate at a local mosque. Hamas spokesmen claimed it was also avenging the June 21 Israeli assassination of Abdullah Qawasmeh, Hamas’ local West Bank chief in Hebron.

The dual suicide bombings a week earlier on August 12 near Tel Aviv and near the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank, killing two Israelis, came within four days of Israel’s August 8 assassination of Fayez Al Sadr, head of Hamas’ Qassem Brigades in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. Three other Palestinians were killed in the raid. Both the Qassem Brigades and the Fatah-linked Aqsa Martyrs Brigades immediately vowed revenge and each claimed responsibility for one of the bombings that ensued. According to several reports, the young bombers, both seventeen year-olds, were both from the Askar refugee camp and had grown up within blocks of one another.

The bloody suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem two months earlier on June 11 that killed 16 Israelis came a day after Israel’s June 10 attempted assassination of the senior Hamas political leader in Gaza, Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, which wounded him and killed four Palestinian civilians. Hamas had vowed a swift and dramatic response that came earlier than many predicted.

The only exception to this pattern in the past three months is that no assassination precipitated the July 8 suicide bombing in the Israeli town of Kfar Yvetz that killed an elderly Israeli woman. The Jenin branch of Islamic Jihad claimed the attack was in response to Israel’s refusal to release Palestinian prisoners, though Islamic Jihad’s official spokesman disavowed the attack.

None of this should be surprising. Nor should anyone believe that Israeli political and intelligence officials who planned and implemented the assassinations were surprised by the ensuing suicide attacks. Ariel Sharon and his Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz are touted as among Israel’s most acute and ruthless military tacticians, who undertake few actions without thoroughly studying their consequences.

It would be extremely difficult to imagine they were unaware that since the first Palestinian suicide bombing inside Israel on April 6, 1994 following the massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque by the American-Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein, many Israeli assassinations of militant commanders have been followed by suicide bombings.

This pattern can be traced to Islamic Jihad’s first suicide bombings in 1994 and 1995 which it claimed as responses to the Israeli assassinations of its senior and founding leaders Hani Abed and Fathi Shiqaqi. When Hamas launched its second bus bombing campaign in 1996 following Israel’s assassination of its bombing mastermind Yehiya Ayash, known as “the Engineer,” the potential for such assassinations to provoke a suicide bombing was well established.

Following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada on September 29, 2000 and Israel’s resumption of a systematic assassination campaign on November 9, 2000, many suicide bombings can be directly traced to this pattern of assassination and revenge.

It should be noted that the majority of the over 100 suicide bombings in the past three years cannot be directly correlated with Israel’s nearly 160 extra-judicial assassinations undertaken during this time. But it undeniable that, according to Palestinian sources, Israeli assassinations have also killed over one hundred civilian bystanders in the past three years fueling demands for revenge, and that militant groups frequently list assassinations as a key justification for such attacks.

But a nearly certain predictor for a suicide bombing is when Israel assassinates a senior commander or political leader of a militant group, especially when it does so during or in the negotiations for a truce by these groups on attacks on Israelis. Examples from the past few years include:

  • Israel’s assassination of the two leading Hamas commanders in Nablus on July 31 2001 that put an end to a nearly two-month Hamas cease-fire on Israeli civilians, leading to the August 9 Hamas suicide bombing in a Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria.
  • Israel’s assassination of the senior Hamas militant Mahmud Abu Hanoud on November 23, 2001 while Hamas was upholding an agreement with Arafat not to attack targets inside of Israel following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, leading to the Jerusalem and Haifa Hamas suicide bombings on December 1 and 2.
  • Israel’s assassination of leading Fatah militant Raed Karmi on January 14, 2002 during a cease-fire declared by all the militant groups in late December, leading to the Fatah linked Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade first suicide bombing on January 27.
  • Israel’s July 23, 2002 air attack on a crowded apartment block in Gaza City that assassinated the senior Hamas military leader, Salah Shehada, while also killing 15 civilians, 11 of them children, hours before a widely reported unilateral cease-fire declaration by the Fatah-linked Tanzim and Hamas, leading to the Hamas suicide bombing on August 4.
  • Israel’s assassination on December 26, 2002 of three prominent members from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade while representatives from Fatah, Hamas and other factions were meeting in Cairo to formulate a cease-fire on Israeli civilians to last through the Israeli elections on January 28, leading to the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade suicide bombing on January 5, 2003 that killed twenty-two Israelis.

Given this striking pattern, it was no surprise that four out of the five recent suicide bombings came within a week of Israel’s recent assassinations or attempted assassination of such high level militant commanders. All of them came during or in the process of negotiating the three-month truce against attacks on Israeli civilians that was implemented on June 29. Palestinian militants group had very clearly stated that they would consider Israeli assassinations to be a violation of the truce and that they reserved the right to respond accordingly.

Moreover, one could argue that Sharon had already undertaken nearly every action possible short of a high level assassination to undermine Palestinian support for the cease-fire and President Bush’s Road Map process. In addition to mass arrests and low level killings, he had refused to dismantle Israeli settler outposts, end the siege and blockades of Palestinian cities and towns, release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners, or cease building a separation wall deep within the West Bank.

The only conclusion one can draw is that either Sharon thought it so important to kill these high level militant leaders at this time despite the bloody consequences for Israeli civilians or that he took these actions precisely because he sought a violent Palestinian response. It appears that the only thing more threatening for Ariel Sharon’s government than Palestinian terrorism is a Palestinian cease-fire.

By the same token, militant Palestinian groups must be condemned in the strongest terms for seizing upon Sharon’s provocations through their myopic preoccupation with revenge through suicide bombing that has brought untold misery upon both Israelis and Palestinians.

Suicide bombings against Israeli civilians are clearly not the only option they could undertake in response to assassinations or any other Israeli provocation. A sustained guerilla campaign against settlers and soldiers and the infrastructure of occupation in the occupied terroritories, which sends a clear political message to Israeli’s that the conflict is over the occupation and not Israel’s existence, is far more dangerous to Sharon and his right wing allies.

Palestinian militants have, in effect, aligned themselves with Israel’s expansionist right-wing by providing the crucial pretext for Sharon to reoccupy and lay siege to Palestinian population centers, seize more Palestinian land for Israeli settlements and to build a barrier around Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza that traps them within tiny enclaves.

Nevertheless, based on the evidence from the past few years, Israel’s actions are of incomparably greater significance for ending these attacks than those of Prime Minister Abbas and what little remains of his decimated security services. At a minimum, Israel should immediately cease its assassination campaign. The escalation of these assassinations illustrated by the August 22 assassination of the major Hamas spokesman Ismail Abu Shanub in Gaza, widely seen as a Hamas moderate, is a clear sign that the Sharon government is concerned more about its own extremist political agenda than it is for Israeli civilian lives.

While Palestinians must do what they can to end suicide bombings, it is past time to rethink Israel’s assassination policy. They make it impossible for Palestinian authorities to undertake steps to reign in the militant groups without risking a major civil war and fuel popular support for retaliation.

Given all the carnage that can be traced to Israel’s assassination policy, the only remaining question is why more Israelis and their supporters abroad are not in the forefront against it.

Steve Niva is a professor of international politics and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington. He is an associate of the Middle East Research and Information Project, writes occassionally for its magazine Middle East Report, and has had articles published in Al-Ahram Weekly, The Jordan Times and Peace Review. A shorter version of this article appeared on Counterpunch.

Steve Niva

Eight-year-old Aya Fayad shot dead as she rode her bicycle

The Palestine Monitor, 2 Sep 2003

Aya Fayad was one little girl out of one million eighty-five thousand Palestinian children, who should be having their first day back at school today. Aya is not having hers because she was murdered; thousands of others will not have theirs, because of some 400 Israeli checkpoints and road blocks, which prevent passage between cities and villages.

According to her mother, Om Isam, little eight year-old Aaya was excitedly awaiting the first day of the school year. She was delighted with her new books, and for days she had insisted on carrying her new school bag, and wearing the new clothes her mother had bought in preparation. But Om Isam’s youngest daughter did not go to school with her five sisters and friends today, because she was shot on Saturday night as Israeli soldiers began shooting from the Nave Karim settlement into the Anum Sarwi neighborhood, in Khan Yunis, where Aaya was riding her bicycle. Aaya died instantly.

393 Palestinian students have been killed since the beginning of the Intifada, and 2991 have been injured by the Israeli occupying forces. Most children suffer from some kind of trauma or fear, not just as a result of the treatment they encounter at the checkpoints but because of the horrors they have witnessed and experienced, often, this is the death of their friends.

The city of Qalqiliya, for instance has approximately 26, 000 students in the city and surrounding villages. The Director of the Ministry of Education is particularly concerned about the problems faced by these students, and their teachers who must pass through checkpoints to move to and from school. The Director, Khalil Abu Libdi explained how because the city is surrounded on three sides, everyone is forced to pass through one checkpoint meaning people may wait for many hours. The Ministry of Education has, he explains, come to an agreement with the Israeli District Coordination Office so that teachers are given special identification in order to ease restrictions on them passing through the checkpoints, but often these IDs amount to nothing, as the attitude of the Israeli Soldier on the day can override any Palestinian documentation.

Naim Abu al-Houmous, Palestinian Minister of Education has little doubt that the year ahead will be another hard year, how can it be anything but, when it begins with the killing of an eight year old little girl.

For more information contact: The Palestine Monitor

+972 (0) 2 298 5372 or +972 (0) 59 387 087

September 14-16, 2003
Palestinian Labor Tour

South Central Federation of Labor Meeting
Monday, September 15
7 pm
Madison Labor Temple, 1602 S. Park St.
Contact: Ron Blascoe, c/o RafahSisterCity at

Multicultural Student Coalition Meeting
Tuesday, September 16
7:00 pm
See “Today in the Union” for room location.

There will also be a display on library mall the day of the event in commemoration of “Al-Nakbah”, the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948.

Contact: Genia Daniels genia02 at
UW-Madison Multicultural Student Coalition (MCSC), and
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition

Representatives of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and The Farmers Union will be touring the United States September 10 through October 12. Two of the delegates are also representatives in the Stop the Wall campaign.

They will travel to several cities for speaking engagements. Topics will include labor and trade unions, the construction of “the Wall,” analysis of the Road Map to Peace, and the impact on workers and farmers. They will also focus on building relationships here in the U.S., and how we can get involved.

Sharon Wallace

Delegation members:

Abdel Raheem Saleh Abdel Latif Khatib, Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions
Mr. Khatib has worked for eighteen years as the official representative for the Hotel and Service workers in Jerusalem. He is responsible for the education and implementation of Palestine Labor Law, elections and bylaws.

His daily responsibilities include union organizing, collective agreements, addressing grievances and legal issues faced by Palestinian workers, (which included Palestinians working in Israel prior to the second Intifada). As a member of the Legal Affairs Department of the PGFTU Mr. Khatib works with the various unions of the Federation and international labor representatives.

Nasser Ai-Faqih, Palestinian Agricultural Development Association (PARC), Stop the Wall Campaign
Mr. Al-Faqih is program manager of PARC: Rural Development Program in locations impacted by the separation wall. He is on the steering committee of the ìStop the Wallî campaign. His duties include training and organizing men and women farmers and agricultural workers, providing legal and other services. He works out of Ramallah, West Bank.

Fayez Audeh Al-Taneeb, Farmers Union, Stop the Wall Campaign
Mr. Audeh is coordinator for the Farmers Union in Tulkarem, West Bank and coordinator for Stop the Wall campaign. His responsibilities include organizing and providing support services for farmers and families in the area, especially those affected by the construction of the Wall. Mr. Audeh can no longer work his own land as it was declared off limits by the Israeli Army due to the construction of the Wall.

Suhal Al-Salman, Stop the Wall Campaign
Mr. Salman is coordinator for the Stop the Wall campaign for the three provinces of Tulkarem, Jenin and Qualquilya. He has presented on the Wall extensively and provides, with visuals, an in depth analysis of the impact of the Wall on the surrounding areas, as well as the entire West Bank.

Children’s author faces Jewish wrath

Tale of boy’s life in West Bank prompts pressure groups to call for withdrawal

Fiachra Gibbons, The Guardian, August 23, 2003

Jewish pressure groups are calling on a publisher to withdraw a children’s book about a Palestinian boy growing up amid the intifada on the West Bank.

A Little Piece of Ground, by the multi-award-winning author Elizabeth Laird, is a fictional account of how a 12-year-old called Karim – whose family’s olive groves have been confiscated by settlers – copes when his father is stripped and humiliated by Israeli troops.

As the boy is swept up in the protest against the occupation, and his friends make a fake bomb, he dreams of developing an “acid formula to dissolves the steel in Israeli tanks”.

Macmillan has received three demands for the book to be pulped, and many bookshops are worried about stocking it, lest it provoke further protests from Jewish groups. So far, most of the attacks on Laird have come from North America, led by a chain of Canadian bookshops which made the first “vitriolic” complaint to her publisher. It is understood that others have come from Jewish pressure groups.

The New Zealand-born novelist wrote her book after visiting Ramallah as part of a British Council scheme to encourage writing for children. She denies the story is anti-Israeli.

“I did expect comeback, but to say that any criticism of Israel is anti-semitic is doing Israel a disservice. This is an important story that should be told. It shows a child under military occupation. It’s terrible for the occupiers, and terrible for the occupied. I hope I have shown how awful it is for the soldiers too,” said Laird, who has lived in Beirut and Iraq.

“There is already a great deal of understanding of Israel. All western people have felt sympathetic to Israel, for good reason often; and I don’t think that should stop. The voice of the Palestinian child, on the other hand, has not been heard.”

Children’s writer Ann Jungman, a member of the liberal Jews for Justice in Palestine group, said that she admired the book but still found it biased. “It’s not what is in there that I object to. It’s what has been left out. There should have been a broader picture. All the Palestinians are reasonable, and all the Israelis are monsters.”

Laird, who has won the Children’s Book Award, the Smarties Prize and been nominated three times for the Carnegie Medal, claimed A Little Piece of Ground was not meant to explain politics. “It’s true, lots of Israelis are trying to come to an accommodation with the Palestinians, and many refuse to serve in the West Bank. But the book is written through the eyes of a 12-year-old who just sees men with guns. It would not have been true to my characters to do otherwise.

“The book is not so much about politics as about brothers, friendship, falling in love and football.”

The title comes from a scrap of waste land that Karim and his friends turn into a football pitch and which later becomes a flashpoint in the violence.

Laird insisted that everything in the book was drawn from real events. “A lot of the incidents have come from the main Israeli human rights website”, while others were taken from the experiences of her collaborator, Sonia Nimir, a lecturer at Bir Zeit university on the West Bank.

Laird said she “toned down” several parts of the book, but that the motivation for suicide bombing had to be tackled. “Suicide bombings are going on in the background, and in one scene I have Karim’s uncle questioning his [Karim’s] hunger for vengeance after his father is humiliated by the soldiers. He tells him: ‘Does that make it right for us to go and bomb them?'”

Britain’s children’s laureate, Michael Morpurgo, has defended the novel. “Sometimes we need more than escapism. No one but Elizabeth Laird could have written this book. She has lived in the Middle East. She knows it, loves it, grieves for it, and hopes for it.”

He urged parents to encourage their 11- to 14-year-olds to buy it. “Read it, and we know what it is to feel oppressed, to feel fear every day. And we should know it, and our children should know it, for this is how much of the world lives,” he said.

Macmillan refused to discuss where the demands to pull the book had come from, but Kate Wilson, managing director of its children’s arm, said the firm had no intention of withdrawing it. “We thought long and hard about whether it was responsible to go ahead. We were aware it might provoke a range of opinions.”

She said Macmillan was not afraid of enraging Jewish opinion: “I do not think there is a powerful Jewish lobby in this country. Elizabeth is a remarkable writer, with an amazing ability to get under the skin of her characters – we see the perspective of the soldiers as well as Karim’s.”

Ms Wilson maintained that the book directly confronted Karim’s support for suicide bombers. “Its central theme in many ways is his clash with his uncle, who opposes them.”

    Family crisis — Extract from A Little Piece of Ground

    Karim has watched his father being dragged from the family car and stripped at an Israeli heckpoint…

    He [the young Israeli soldier] is terrified, Karim thought, with surprise. He thinks we’re going to attack him.

    He could almost smell the soldier’s fear.

    “She didn’t mean any harm,” he said, hating the placating note he could hear in his own voice. “I’ll take her back to the car.”

    The soldier shoved at him roughly. “Take her. If there’s any more trouble from you, you go over there and join the other terrorists.”

    Karim scooped Sireen up in his arms and ran back to the car with her.

    Lamia had half opened the door, but another soldier was alongside the car now, ordering her to shut it. Karim handed Sireen to her and jumped into the back seat.

    “Oh, my darling,” sobbed Lamia, her face in Sireen’s hair.

    Karim was trembling violently. He felt sick with the backwash of fear.

    Farah moved across and leaned against him, her thumb firmly in her mouth. Her other hand clutching at his arm. This time, he didn’t push her away.

    I hate them. I hate them. I hate them, he thought, unable now to look at his father, who still stood, reduced to an object of ridicule, beside the bewildered old man.

September 9, 2003
Working Meeting

MG&E Innovation Center, 505 S. Rosa Rd., Madison

This is a meeting to gear up for our fall plans, which are extensive and growing.

SUMMARY OF MRSCP STATUS (Please review prior to the meeting; these will all be discussed)

MRSCP has four working committees at the moment: The Delegation Committee, the City Council Committee, the Material Aid Committee, and the Literature Table Committee. In addition we have a website coordinator and a treasurer.

The Delegation Committee is preparing for sending a delegation, probably around 10 people maximum, sometime in early winter. For further details, contact Jennifer.

The City Council Committee has been active over the summer, and has drawn up plans for approaching the City council sometime this fall, hopefully before the delegation is scheduled to depart. We have been talking to other Sister Cities (including officially joining the Madison Sister Cities Coalition) as well as meeting with numerous individuals to solicit their advice and support. We have secured a number of endorsements and have set up an Advisory Committee of individuals.

The Material Aid Committee had set up the framework for a Medical Aid Campaign, however, due to difficulties in implementation in Palestine this is temporarily on hold. The Committee will be deciding on a fall campaign, probably in coordination with the Olympia-Rafah Sister City, which will be supporting a Women’s Empowerment Center and a Children’s Center in Rafah.

A campaign may also be done in coordination with the delegation planning. The Well Fund Campaign collected just short of $2500 which is being forwarded to Rafah this month.

The Literature Table Committee is being split off from the material aid work. The lit table committee has a good stock of literature (although we can always use suggestions for more!) and had a very successful day at the Farmer’s Market on Aug. 23. We should also be at Bobfest this weekend and several events are planned for this fall.

Fragments of Rafah

An iron wall on the right, a line of rubble from destroyed homes on the left, one of many toxic untreated human waste in the foreground are all that remains in this part of the Block “O” refugee camp in Rafah. A mobile IDF watchtower in the distance looms over the remaining homes. (Mark Zeitoun)

Laura Gordon, The Electronic Intifada, 21 August 2003

And outside, they are shouting again, men’s voices fighting to stay afloat like it was an ocean they were drowning in. Down the street in Al-Awda Square, Hamas has been demonstrating since 8 pm between Christmas lights in bright colors and loudspeakers. Further down, the shooting from the tower dominiates the night, louder than angry men, louder than demonstrators. Earlier tonight, an ambulance’s urgent wail, me holding my breath praying. Death is so close now you can smell it. Already it has come like a rain storm beginning in Hebron, like the time I watched rain come towards me from across a lake and ran toward the forest and my feet were not faster than the rain.

In the West Bank, tanks close in, six dead in a day. In Gaza, five missiles from an F-16 assassinate Ismael Abu Shanab, a non-militant spokesperson for Hamas; kill his two bodyguards, and injure 20 bystanders, 5 seriously. F-16s paint the sky everyday, blue and white like clouds. But so far in Rafah, a military tower is shooting in the air, bullets have remained abstract in their threat, have not collided today with flesh, but still I see death everywhere, in the faces of my friends and of strangers in the streets. Shouting upstairs as the images paint TV.

29 August 2003 — In my haste to leave the Internet cafe, I forgot to mention in my last letter that just as we were leaving the hospital, one 17-year-old was dying in the ICU from the injuries he had received from the missile in Jabaliya Camp the day before, and crowds of people were flowing into the waiting room like rivers, falling all over each other and you could hear the sounds of hearts breaking.

And last night back in Rafah, I slept so well that I didn’t hear the two five minute bouts of gunfire near us or the two tank shells that landed near us, but woke up anyway with my whole face clenched and my head pounding which is how I wake up everyday for no reason I can discern, woke up to hummous and foole and shakshuka, bread warmed directly on the burner, don’t mess around here, Al-Jazeera playing war scenes in India and Iraq and Palestine; Al-Jazeera covering the blackout in London, CNN offering American talking heads going on and on in that disinterested stance that even seeps through the overdub.

Abu Ahmed’s shrill and disgruntled (existing for itself only) voice, demanding we find our way outside to where the air is softer, under the fig tree; to where Sally’s eleven-year-old legs all wrapped up in green bellbottoms are climbing the wall to find the freshest figs, deep purple like red grapes, insides full of erotic pink fibers disolving like sugar. Sally bickering tirelessly with her father over figs.

Can I tell you about this family? Can I tell you that I managed to sleep through high caliber gunfire and tank shells but wake up promptly at 7am every morning when the members of the family start hollering at each other about breakfast, and that they only cool down after they’ve eaten and after they’ve had tea and settled down to watch TV and climb fig trees and sit around all day together chatting and poking fun at each other. Abu Ahmed hollers all day I think just to holler and not because he’s deaf in one ear.

1 September 2003 — On Saturday we went to Khan Younis to visit the martyr’s tent of Hamdi Kallakh, who had been assassinated two days earlier, decapitated by an Apache helicopter missile at the age of 35. We were led to the house where women were crowded together on cushions, filling two small rooms. We walked in, murmering condolences in stilted Arabic, not knowing what to say. We asked about his mother, but she was unconscious from grief and from fasting. She hadn’t eaten since her son was killed.

So we walked on; The 20-something widow he had left behind was sitting in the far corner and lifted her niqab to greet us, revealing a soft face with large cheekbones. Everyone seemed a bit confused about what we were doing there. We sat down in a corner where people made room for us, between aging women, eyes wide and bottomless, coffee brown skin in delicate folds like the pages of old books. They wore looks of disbelief and soft white cotton scarves wrapped loosely around their faces, folding into soft hills over their full, fat bellies, and below that, heavy black jilbabs down to their bare callussed old feet.

We were served traditional coffee and dried dates, the bitterness of a person’s passing followed by the sweetness of Allah’s patience.

A younger woman with a round face and thin lips began to translate. She wanted to know what we had to say about the helicopters that had killed her cousin and why Bush was sending tanks to their borders and their cities. Bush and Sharon is one word here. More than a few times I’ve heard people say America to mean Israel without thinking. The old women pitching in their frustrations with the rest. Us agreeing with them, us angry out loud with them. At some point they heard our anger and it brought us toether into the room.

The young widow sat silently through all of this, lips smiling faintly, removed from the whole weight of the room and the agitated women, nursing her 4-month-old child, the youngest of seven. Someone brought in shaheed posters for us to examine. About the M-16 he was holding, they said his wife had pleaded with him to leave it so the army wouldn’t kill him and leave her and their children behind to pick up the pieces; but now that he’s been murdered by that army she’s proud and says she’ll give that gun to his oldest son.

But outside it’s the first day of school and you wouldn’t notice the grief. The streets explode with children in bright new uniforms, pinstripes and fresh blue polo shirts and shiny white mendeels are lining the streets in row formation. The entire youth population of Rafah in mass exodus in the eleven-AM sun.

2 September 2003 — And as students rush through the steets from their second day of school, we drive past them to the pale white of the shaheed tent of Ayya Mahmood, shot deat three mornings ago at the age of eight. What can be said about that. White plastic chairs hold men in long lines under the shade of the tent. Above, a mural hangs from the wall, a tree bleeds as it cradles the Haram al-Sharif (Dome of the Rock) in its branches.

We follow Ayya’s uncle up a pathway of stairs and through the narrow maze of refugee camp streets, through rusting doors. We sit with the mother and some men from the family who have gathered. Her retelling of the story is calm, unemotional until she breaks into shaking, silent sobs at the end.

“She was eight years old and she would have started her school year the next day. She was so smart, so sweet, y’achti, look at her”

(the photos passed around, Ayya looking bright and determined in a red sweater her hair high in pigtails)

“It was Yom il-Jumaa (“Friday”) and she had been fasting all morning with me. I gave her some money and told her to go buy something to eat, she was only eight and there was no reason for her to fast. She went on bicycle. She bought wafers, chips, and a popcycle and rode back. A tank was shooting from the Neve Dekalim settlement which borders their neighborhood. It shot her through the heart, she fell from her bicycle, we found her covered in blood, all the snacks she had just bought to break her fast, covered in blood, her hands still holding onto them.”

Her uncle pitches in. “I didn’t recognize her when I saw her in the hospital. I said, ‘This isn’t Ayya. Ayya is b’khair (“in good health”).’ She was covered in blood and I couldn’t tell it was her. Her mother was there and she told me it’s Ayya. I couldn’t believe it.”

More pictures are passed around of Ayya four months ago against a garden backdrop taken in a local studio. Ayya’s new backpack. Ayya’s new school uniform, unworn and fresh, pinstripes too blue, sleeves too empty of little girl arms.

“She wanted a guava that morning but we didn’t have any guava. We said we’d buy her some the next morning, but she was killed.”

Six other children were injured in this shooting including one girl who lost her legs. No adults were in the area at the time, it was just tanks against kids.

Ayya’s sister Safa sits down next to me. “I want you to tell this to the world.”

She tells me how smart Ayya was, and good, how she prayed five times a day and fasted on Ramadan, and sometimes Safa would take her to the mosque. She was good in English and in every subject (her last report card is brought to where we are sitting, an average of 91%, high enough to receive state subsidies to go to engineering school, but Ayya wanted to be a doctor).

Safa helping her study all the time, Safa telling her bedtime stories, Safa teaching her to read Qur’an. When there was shooting at night coming from the settlement Ayya would run to Safa’s bed and Safa would protect her from her fear. “I was,” says Safa, “her closest sister.”

I think her mother and her cousin, sitting together on my other side, are trying to make sure she doesn’t lose connection to religion, pointedly declaring La ilaha il Allah, (“There is no god but God”). Safa stares back at them blankly. Mohammed rasul Allah, (“Mohammed is God’s messenger”). Safa ignores turns her head to face another direction. She looks at me. “Do you believe in God? You say you believe in God? Where was God three days ago?”

Different family members take turns sobbing and comforting each other, don’t cry, don’t cry, believe in Allah. It’s the third day of the wake and we eat maklouba, rice spiced with cardamom and roasted garlic and a spice they called asfar, yellow, in Arabic, and meat on top, a traditional dish at weddings and funerals. Safa doesn’t want to eat but she does.

We leave in many prolonged farewells, planning to meet again soon. I follow her uncle, down the narrow pathway to join up with the men from our group, imagining the life of 8-year-old girls and fresh guavas.

(Roland de Hommel)

4 September 2003 — For the longest time during the night, I avoided the half of Abu Ahmed’s house that faces the border, two bedrooms and a bathroom, remembering the first night I’d ever slept here, when Abu Ahmed explained to me that I couldn’t sleep in the bedroom by the border — despite the massive softness of the Western-style bed there (such a luxury next to the simplicity of the thin floor mattresses typical of this culture) — because of the tank that parked there at night, often shooting near or into the house.

Months later, on a night when several of us were sleeping here, he put us in that same room to sleep. I was confused and asked him if it wasn’t dangerous as he had said before or if anything had changed. Between a prolonged bout of laughter and ranting punctuated with exclamations of Inty fahemti ghalat (“You understood wrong”), he explained that it was fine for me to sleep there, “as long as when you hear gunfire, you don’t get scared and sit up in bed. If you sit up you might get shot.” He demonstrated several times how I should react to gunfire in the night, how not to sit up, and then to add weight to his explanation, motioned to the bullet holes in the wall barely above head level.

It was dark tonight when we got to Abu Ahmed’s house, which made me kind of nervous about the tank I knew was parked next to the house. Abu Ahmed was leaning out of the door frame staring into the night. We sat for long minutes on long benches made of old wooden slabs and cinderblocks (covered with colorful decades-old woven carpets) and white plastic Israeli chairs whose feet sunk into the soft sand, drinking tea (Abu Ahmed is a tea fiend, he says every time he serves us tea that he would dring the whole potfull himself if it wasn’t for us.)

Abu Fat’hi is over this evening. Between a full face of hair, full cheeks, large muild, and general demeanor of joviality, he reminds me of my old social studies teacher Mr. Granagan, or a Palestinian verson of Santa Claus. He invites us to see his family, and this night we accept to amble down the road to the Fat’hi area — I’m not talking about one house but three, built one on top of another, to accomodate Abu and Om Fat’hi, their two sons, and their 35 grandchildren. On the wall of every flat there is a picture of their third son, who was shot dead on his way to school at the age of sixteen. That was in the year of 1994, in the midst of the hopeful beginning of the Oslo era.

We’re in Fat’hi’s flat. Fat’hi, who is just like his father except his demeanor lacks the wight of age and body build; his wife and all the women and girls in the famiy gather around us, the children demanding pictures. We intend to stay five minutes and stay for two hours, enthralled. People full of end-of-the-day banter, chewing on the latest news.

In the middle of this rumbling scene, one of the men of the family walked in. He was coming from Tes es Sultan, and with news. The army had just announced over loudspeaker its intention to demolish two large new apartment buildings on the border that faces the Rafiah Yam settlement from the new refugee camp still being built by the UN to accomodate those who had lost homes earlier in the Intifada. Gunfire in the early evening had already landed one man in the hospital, after he was shot in the leg by a high-caliber bullet. Later, five tanks had entered the area and occupied the new well (rebuilt after the army demolished it this February).

Remembering too clearly the sleepless terror of living through past incursions makes it harder to sleep easily here tonight where a night broken by tank fire seems peaceful when compared with what we know is happening 2 km away, grappling with my own powerlessness to do any thing and my anxiety that one of the areas where we sleep will be next.

We leave despite please of all the children to stay. Especially Rowan, a 4-year-old beauty, too wise for her age, touching my arm gently, Naami hayna al-yom, (“sleep here tonight”). We walk out into the night, searching the landscape for military patrol vehicles, inching uncertainly along the fifty meters of path between Abu Fat’hi and Abu Ahmed’s homes. And sure enough, a jeep fires into the night and drives across and away towards Brazil Camp, sending us running back towards Abu Fat’hi’s. Abu Fat’hi himself now walks nonchalantly down the path to Abu Ahmed’s, yelling back at us to come now while there’s no military on this side of the border. I hold my breath until I reach Abu Ahmed’s door, five and a half months into life here and still I am not used to this.

Suzan is the only one still awake when we get back, mulling over her last night with her family; tomorrow she’s getting married at 27 and that is its own rambling story of weeks spent in the souk (“market”), sudden infatuation, and the anticipatory shyness of marriage through the formalized channel of traditional Islamic marriage rituals in a culture of gender division.

Every, and I mean every part of her body is freshly waxed in preparation for tomorrow night. She is daydreaming, her eyes rest somewhere between the frankness of the bedroom air and the future she is escaping too. Her head droops slowly into the pillow, and I follow suit. I fall asleep to the sound of the machine guns of tanks as they rumble back and forth on border control, clearing the way with bursts of gunfire. It doesn’t stop.

Laura Gordon is a 20-year-old American Jew who came to Israel in December 2002 with the Birthright Israel program and proceeded, three months later, to begin work with the International Solidarity Movement in Rafah. She moved to Rafah two days after Rachel Corrie was killed and has been there since. She works primarily in media work and documentation; and also to liaise between the Rafah community and the international community through summer camp projects, cooperative building projects, and English teaching.

Cycle of Bloodshed Resumes

Gush Shalom, August 20, 2003

The horrifying suicide bombing in Jerusalem, in which dozens of innocent civians were killed and wounded,
deserves to be condemned in the sharpest terms. We offer our condolences to all the bereaved families. But
it is imposible to avoid also considering how did this come to happen.

The renewed cyce of bloodshed has begun with the decision of the political and military echelons to implement – in the middle of the Hudna (cease-fire) – a series of “targeted liquidations”, knowing full well that that act would lead to retaliation bombings and to the breaking of the Hudna.

The perpetrators of the bombings came from Nablus and Hebron, two cities under full control of the Israeli army, and their deed of blood was committed in West Jerusalem, where the Israeli police is in charge. In none of these places does the Palestinian Authority exercise any measure of real control, and its police has no ability to operate there.

The real immediate solution is to remove the IDF from the Palestinian territories and hand over full control to the Palestinian Authority – as was laid out in the Road Map.

Israel’s New Citizenship Law

Jewish Peace News, 10 Aug 2003

[Israel’s new citizenship law, passed recently by a wide margin in the Knesset, denies any Palestinian who is married to an Israeli citizen the right to reside in Israel or acquire Israeli citizenship. Only Palestinians — who in the overwhelming majority of cases are married to ethnically Palestinian Israeli citizens — are singled out in this way. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the law as racist, and Israel-based B’Tselem claims that it contravenes the Israeli Basic Law.

Because Israeli citizens are themselves not permitted into the Palestinian territories under illegal occupation by Israeli forces, couples targeted by the law cannot live together anywhere in Mandatory Palestine and must, presumably, emigrate to a 3rd country. Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook — here writing in Al-Ahram, an official Egyptian Government organ — argues that this is probably the effect intended by the law’s framers. AWJW]

Racism Reinforced

New Israeli citizenship law targets Palestinians and empowers Israel’s transfer policies. Jonathan Cook writes from Jerusalem

By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram Weekly, 7-13 August 2003

[Picture Caption: Farahti with three of their four children. Ahmed Farahti is facing deportation back to West Bank even though he has been married to Samar for eight years]

Morad as-Sana and his wife Abir returned home from their honeymoon in Istanbul last Saturday to the news that the Israeli parliament had passed a law two days earlier that will make their planned life together impossible.

As the young couple crossed back over the land border from Jordan to Israel, they parted ways: Abir to her family in the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Morad to his apartment in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva. Neither knows when they will be able to see one another again.

The enforced separation is the result of legislation rushed through the parliament last week on the orders of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, before the Knesset’s summer recess this week. Sharon made the new law — an amendment to the Citizenship Law barring Palestinians from joining a spouse to live in Israel — a vote of confidence in his government.

The measure was approved by a wide margin last Thursday.

All Palestinian applicants will now be refused residency permits and access to the naturalisation process that would lead to citizenship.

Thousands more Palestinian spouses who are already living in Israel — and their children — face an uncertain future. They will have pending applications for citizenship frozen or refused, and unless they are allowed residency status they too will be forced to separate from a husband or wife.

The law provoked almost universal condemnation as “racist” from international and local human rights groups. Btselem, an Israeli rights group, pointed out that it contravened Israel’s basic laws on equality as well as the Declaration of Independence, which pledges the state to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or ethnicity”.

Before the vote, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch submitted a joint letter to the Knesset urging its members to reject the amendment on the grounds that it is discriminatory and violates international law.

Even the minister responsible for the new law was apologetic. At an earlier stage of submitting the legislation, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz said of the measure initiated by his predecessor: “It would be best if the bill never made it to the law books, because an enlightened and humane society should allow reunification of families.”

The law only affects Palestinians and will not apply to other foreigners marrying Israelis. Most Palestinians seeking citizenship are married either to one of Israel’s one million Arab citizens, or to one of the 220,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem.

The measure is being introduced for a one-year period but can be renewed annually — and many observers suspect that, once the initial outrage dies down, it will become a permanent feature of the statute books.

Morad and Abir, like thousands of other couples, now face a heart-breaking future. Abir, a 27-year- old lecturer in social work, is barred from living with Morad in his home in the Negev; and Morad, a 30-year-old lawyer, is prohibited from moving to Bethlehem by army regulations that ban Israelis from entering Palestinian-controlled areas.

“The state is making it impossible for us to be together,” said Morad. “I am an Israeli citizen and this is supposed to be my state. What other country treats its citizens in this way?” Paradoxically, the couple met at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 2000 on a masters programme on peace-building, co-sponsored by the Israeli Embassy and designed to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to trust each other.

“What message does this send me and other Arab citizens apart from that our government not only doesn’t trust the Palestinians but it doesn’t trust us either,” said Morad.

Orna Kohn, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority in Israel, said she had not heard of any other country apart from apartheid South Africa that had enforced such a law. “What are couples in this position supposed to do?” she said. “Maybe the state should prepare special prisons so that they can live together. Or maybe it really wants them to leave the country and live abroad.”

Other critics took a similar line. “We see this law as the implementation of the transfer policy by the state of Israel,” said Jafar Ferah of the Mossawa political lobbying group.

Israel’s official justification for the new measure, however, is that it is needed on security grounds. The government claims that 20 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have been involved directly or indirectly in terror activities during this Intifada, using their blue ID cards to move around freely.

Echoing a by-now familiar government position that the country’s Arab minority harbours scores of terrorists, Gideon Ezra, a cabinet minister, said: “Since September 2000 we have seen a significant connection, in terror attacks, between Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli Arabs.”

However, Adalah, which is petitioning the Supreme Court to have the new legislation overturned, challenges the state’s arguments. It points out that the government has repeatedly avoided providing details of these 20 cases. When pressed by the court in April, the state produced only six examples.

Adalah also observes that the figure is tiny as a proportion of the thousands of applications for citizenship.

Palestinians passing through the naturalisation process are already subjected to stringent security tests. “The current law grants the government wide authority to conduct criminal and security background checks on all persons seeking to gain citizenship or residency status in Israel,” said an Adalah spokesman.

Morad makes a further point about the discriminatory and sweeping nature of the measure, referring to two Britons who set out on a suicide mission to Tel Aviv in April, one of whom successfully detonated his bomb and killed three diners. “On the logic of this law, no one with a British passport ought to be allowed into the country. Where does it stop?”

Others suggest that the measure could rebound on Israel, driving couples underground and making it even harder for the security services to keep track of what they are doing.

The bogus nature of the security justification is suggested by the experiences of some 14 families whose cases are being handled by Adalah.

Ahmed and Samar Farahti, for example, have been married since January 1995 and now have four children, the youngest only a month old. They are distant cousins whose families were separated by the war of 1948 that created Israel. Ahmed’s family is from Jalameh, a village close to Jenin, while Samar lives in Sulam, a village 10km away in northern Israel.

Samar, aged 27, has been applying for citizenship for her husband at the nearby Afula office of the Interior Ministry for eight years without success.

Ahmed, 30, was given a series of six-month permits to stay in Israel starting in July 1996, although the renewals were intermittent. In November 2001 his request for temporary residency was finally granted, although no action was taken by the authorities.

He is currently facing deportation to the West Bank, although the courts have put the order on hold while they consider his case.

“We were married years before the Intifada,” said Samar. “If my husband was a threat to the state, either he would have done something by now or the Shin Bet [security services] would have the evidence against him.”

Ahmed has not been able to see his elderly parents in Jalameh for 18 months, even though they are a 10-minute drive away and his father is ill with cancer. “I have been told if I leave Israel and go to the West Bank the army will not let me return,” he said.

Hanging over Samar and the four children is the constant threat that their father may be arrested any day and escorted back to the West Bank. “How can we get on with our lives when we have to live like this?” said Samar.

The harsh treatment of families like the Farahtis is the result of an administrative decision taken more than a year ago by the Israeli government which is only now being enshrined in law. It reveals much more clearly the true thinking behind the legislation passed last week.

In April 2002 the then interior minister, Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, froze all applications from Palestinians for what is known as “family unification”: the right of Israelis to bring a spouse of a different nationality, and his or her dependents, to Israel to live together.

Although Yishai cited “security” grounds for the decision, his real concern lay elsewhere.

Four months earlier, in January 2002, he was reported by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz to have been seeking statistics from his ministry on how many Palestinians were trying to acquire Israeli citizenship through marriage.

By early March he was reported to be disturbed by the findings: according to his officials, 22,400 Palestinians had requested “unification” after marrying Arab citizens in the decade since the signing of the Oslo accords. Each had brought with them on average a further three relatives, meaning 100,000 Palestinians were in line to receive citizenship.

In fact, the rise in applications was the result not of Oslo but of the policy of general closures — the sealing of the borders between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza — imposed by Israel in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war. Palestinians who had previously been able to move freely between the occupied territories and Israel were now required to seek permits.

Arab citizens who had married a partner from across the 1967 border quickly became aware of the legal importance of getting citizenship for their Palestinian spouse. Applications started to pour in. In fact, as the Farahtis’ experience shows, the Israeli authorities had hoped to delay citizenship in most of these cases indefinitely. But their hand was forced by a Supreme Court decision in 1999.

Known as the Stamka ruling, the judges decided that anyone marrying an Israeli citizen was entitled to equal treatment in the processing of their application, unless they had a criminal past or were a security risk. On this basis, Palestinians like other foreigners would be entitled to citizenship after a four and a half year naturalisation process.

Yishai and others, including the prime minister, were said to be deeply troubled by the demographic threat such a development would pose to the “Jewish character” of the state. The one million Arab citizens of Israel already comprise a fifth of the total population, and their numbers are expected to rise steeply in the next few decades.

Various ministries have been investigating ways either to limit the growth of the Arab population or raise the birth rates of Jewish women. Last year, for example, the Welfare and Labour Ministry reconvened the Demography Council, disbanded six years ago after its work was described as racist.

The council of lawyers, educators and gynaecologists is charged with devising ways to increase the fertility of Jews as a way to preserve their ethnic dominance of the state.

Yishai too asked his legal advisers to find a solution to the “post-Oslo marriage boom”. They suggested several options, including limiting the number of non-Jews receiving citizenship annually and barring citizenship to anyone who had previously stayed illegally in the country (including tens of thousands of Palestinians caught crossing into Israel illegally to look for work after the closures were imposed).

But a suicide bombing carried out on 31 March 2002 at a restaurant in Haifa by Shadi Tubasi, a Palestinian from Jenin married to an Israeli Arab, offered Yishai the chance to implement his preferred option. The next day he froze all applications for family unification from Palestinians, plunging thousands of couples and their children into an immediate state of legal limbo.

Six weeks later the government retroactively approved Yishai’s measure, saying it would apply indefinitely until new legislation could be passed. More than $5 million was allocated to the police and Interior Ministry to enforce the new regulations.

There is little doubt that Sharon was one of the prime movers in this episode: since he formed his second government in February, he has taken charge of just one ministerial committee — that dealing with the non-Jewish population.

Under Yishai’s regulations, the situation of each applicant was frozen at the point he or she had reached in the naturalisation process on 12 May 2002.

Farahti had been promised residency in November 2001 and was due to meet officials first in April and then in May 2002, but both appointments were cancelled. On the government’s imposed date, Farahti was effectively living in Israel illegally.

He has not been deported only because Adalah has been able to win an injunction from the courts while the judges consider his case and the petitions of 13 other families.

Orna Kohn, the lawyer handling the cases, says: “The judges have been delaying this petition for a year to see what the government would do about changing the law. Now the law is clear. But we hope to show that it violates basic rights enshrined in Israeli and international legislation.”

Kohn points out that even in the cases of Palestinians who have received temporary residency their families’ lives have been scarred. “With just temporary residency and no hope of citizenship, it is very difficult to find work, rent an apartment, open a bank account or get a mortgage.”

She also questions the figures produced by the Interior Ministry. Although it cites 22,400 cases of Palestinians seeking unification, it has refused to confirm or deny whether these are all separate applications or include multiple applications. As many Palestinians applying for residency are regularly turned down, like the Farahtis, there is a strong likelihood that the figure is inflated. The government’s bad faith in attributing the new policy to security is also revealed by reports in the Israeli media that in late May Sharon, backed by the Shin Bet and the attorney-general, Elyakim Rubinstein, asked the Justice Ministry to formulate another amendment to the Citizenship Law.

This one would strip citizenship from children born in Israel to a mixed Palestinian-Israeli Arab couple.

Torturing innocent children and women

Mohammed Omer, Rafah Today, 8 Aug 2003

Everyone in Palestine tastes the Occupation crimes, this occupation which wasn’t kind to children, women, old men, old women, and youth also, every day. Thousands of crimes I saw at the checkpoints, many immoral crimes which are impossible to describe; yes, hard things, you don’t know what they are doing now against humanity. All over the world I didn’t hear about occupation which jails children and subjects them to all kind of crimes. Today, in Khan Yunis according to Nasser Hospital, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) killed a Palestinian in the camp. Also, AL Aqsa Martyrs Hospital added that the IDF killed an old man called Rawhi Al Haour (47 years old). He was injured in his belly while he was walking to his house.

The Occupation jails children and women. Did you hear about this new crime that no one from the human rights centers knows about even here in Palestine? I get this information from two women who were in the Israeli prison. There are more than 93 women jailed in the Israeli prison since the beginning of this Intifada, and 7 of these 93 women are girls under 17 years old. Here are their names:

    Asmaa Mahmoud, 16 years old
    Fedaa Ghannam, 14 years old
    Zenab Al Sholi, 14 years old
    Tamara Derbas, 15 years old
    Aisha Abiat, 16 years old
    Sana Amer, 15 years old
    Rabaa Hamil, 14 years old

And I also have most of the names of the other women who are still in the Israeli prison. New babies children were born in the Israeli’s dark prisons!! This was the luck of some babies who were born in the Israeli prison, by such women as Omima Al Aqaa, Samiha Hamadan, Majda Salamh, and Mervat Taha. This woman who gave birth to a baby called Waiel in the Israeli prison, on 8th Feb 2003 in Al Ramalla prison in Israel, suffered and is still suffering with her baby child from many medical problems because of the serious injuries received when they jailed her. The woman is still till this moment trying to let the people hear her voice, but no one hears. But I knew this information from one of the prisoners who was there, and promised to let the people know the truth of what is happening to the women and children in the Israeli prison.

Difficult experiences for all of them in the Israeli prison and in a very difficult time. And this was just a few things I wrote from this woman, and there were still many more crimes which the soldiers committed in the prisons against all these women.

2000 children have been jailed in Israeli prisons. According to the lawyer Hussein Al Shekh on 30th Jul 2003, more than 2000 children were arrested over 3 years, most of the children between the ages 12-17.

The children suffer from all kinds of torturing, as the soldiers don’t allow them their simple and basic needs. For instance, the lawyer interviewed one of the children and asked him what he wants to say. The child, Mohammed Shaker Haboush, is 13 years old and now in Atsioon Prison in Hebron. He said

    “They didn’t allow us to drink water when we needed it, and every day they hit us, and didn’t allow us to have a shower for two months. . . sometimes they exile the one who asks for water and food to a very small room, so this leads all of us not to ask for food or water to avoid this small room. The soldiers also forced me to sign papers, but I don’t know for what. Every day the soldiers hit us and force us to do things that we don’t like. I want to see my father, I want to see my mother, when will I see them, and what did I do for them to put me in this place?!”

If we just look at all these crimes against innocent children. Do the international Human Rights conventions say to do all these things against Palestinian children?! Or protecting child agreements and especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which says we protect civilians in wars?

Many, many conventions which protect children are not working in the Middle East, and why?! Because here we have Israel, this country which did many things and didn’t respect the UNITED NATIONS conventions and especially Law 37 lines A and B which say that it’s not allowed to arrest children and do any things against them. Why did they sign this convention, that’s all, why?! Why don’t they respect these laws or at least respect the countries which created these laws and conventions. We have to look at these conventions, the United Nations conventions, and confirm what Israel is doing now and what they signed in the past. Or does Israel have new laws? If that is so, why didn’t we hear about it?!

Well, I have many things on this subject and went to many sources to get this information. Now, after realizing there are 300 prisons with people jailed months or years, many thousands in Rafah launched a very big demonstration asking the human rights centers and peacemakers to find a quick solution for the prisoners.