Palestine (ISM) – Donald Trump abandoned plans to visit Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity due to the presence of a Palestinian protest outside the building. The US President changed plans at the last minute, reportedly infuriating the Palestinian Authority by breaking with…
Members of the Circus school in Palestine, representatives of the embassies of Italy, Spain and Switzerland, amnesty international and ISM was in the Israeli supreme court today to witness the hearing of the appealfor release for the Palestinian circus trainer Mohamed Abu Sakha, who have been on administered detention for almost one year. Administrative detention means that he is locked up in prison without having the right to a trail.
Mohamed Abu Sakha got his feedom taken away from him on the 14th of December 2015, when he first got detained at Zaatara military cheekpoint, south of Nablus, when going to his work at the circul school in Bir Zeit. He reseaved the first administrative detetntion for 6 months on the 25th of December 2015, and it got renewed again 13th of June 2016.
Almost nothing in Palestine is what you expect for the most part. And, this is so true of the negative things you see. No matter how bad you think things are or expect them to be, you are almost always guaranteed that they will be worse (usually much worse) when you actually see them. And if you tell people the truth you may be thought to be making things up. But, this is Palestine and things are this unbelievable and this bad. This was true today for me (to put it mildly). Part of our team was invited by an “inspector” from the United Nations office based here in Al Khalil to go to a Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills where a demolition took place yesterda
Today was my first full day as an ISM’er in Al-Khalil (Hebron).
A regular part of our work is to monitor Israeli checkpoints beside schools in the mornings since the teachers ask for an international presence. Often there can be problems with violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian children. Another reason ISM is there, is to count the number of school children using the checkpoint, to see how many children are suffering from this daily stress, which sadly, is part of normal life under the occupation. The data we collect is passed on to NGOs who collects data on children in the whole of Palestine. It is necessary for children living in the H2 area to pass through this checkpoint to reach their school. The Palestinian children are often subjected to intimidation and harassment as they are searched in claustrophobic rooms within the highly militarized structures. This morning i was monitoring Qeitun checkpoint with two other ISM’ers.
Around 120 children, mostly boys, passed through the checkpoint in the first half an hour. There were clearly armed Israeli solders stationed in heavily armored towers overlooking the checkpoint, creating an intimidating atmosphere. There was an older Palestinian man encouraging the children to go through the checkpoint as a few of them were nervously waiting in front of them. In the midst of our counting of children we heard shouting from around the corner and saw a group of Palestinian children being chased by heavily armed Israeli border police, although we were in H1, out of Israeli jurisdiction. A few of the children thew stones towards the invading border police and before we knew what happened a soldier lobbed a stun grenade directly at the children. This grenade exploded a few metres in front of the children standing at an entrance to a junior school. I was down the street but the loud noise really reverberated through my body and sent my heart racing. It was the first time I had experienced this kind of weapon and moments after, I was still terrified. The grenade sent the children fleeing in all directions and one of them dropped his school bag. An Israeli soldier stole his bag and took it with him. As he walked past us an ISM activist asked him “why have you taken his school bag?’, the soldier muttered “to check it”. Of course this was a lie as they did not open it and I found it infuriating that heavily armed, grown men would steal the school bag of a child as some sort of immature intimidation technique.
Leaving the meeting I was searching for a safe way to go through the old City of Hebron alone, where there was a celebration of ”Israeli Independence day” going on. I wanted to reach my ISM team members who were already patrolling there. I took off my Kufiya, the Palestinian scarf, because I would probably not be safe wearing it amongst crowds of settlers. I went by taxi to the nearest checkpoint; I got out, passed the checkpoint and descended the hill on the palestinian side.
Loud, happy music had been playing for days and at the main square, there was a stage surrounded by Jewish families cheerfully dancing, clapping hands watching the event going on. Reaching the entrance of the event, even soldiers at the checkpoint were dancing happily.
Only one old palestinian man with a cane was observing the scene melancholically. I felt his grief. Once that had been a palestinian place, with Palestinians celebrating on it. But those days were gone.
I found my friends and we started to walk through the old city, to check on the situation. The streets were empty, houses locked up and you could see Palestinian children behind lattice windows, trying to catch up on some of the events going on outside. Their parents had them made stay at home, being scared of clashes and attacks by settler groups, as they had been in past celebrations of independence day.
International Solidarity Movement human rights monitors spend the afternoon at the Women in Hebron embroidery cooperative where Palestinian women are empowering themselves and persisting with grace in a colourful and beautiful way in a community space amidst the horror of the ongoing military occupation of their home.