Palestinian-American boy, 14, locked up in Israeli military jail

Mohammed Khlaek

14-year-old Mohammed Khalek, a Palestinian-American, was arrested by the Israeli military last week

A Palestinian was arrested last week for allegedly throwing stones and is being held in an Israeli jail, a mundane and daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank. But this case has made headlines–and it’s because the Palestinian is a 14-year-old who also has American citizenship.

New Orleans-born Mohammed Khalek was taken from his home last week by eight rifle-toting Israeli soldiers. He’s accused of throwing stones at Israeli cars near Silwad, northeast of Ramallah. Khalek has yet to be charged, and his detention has been extended until April 14. Addameer advocacy officer Randa Wahbe toldHaaretz that Khlaek “was told by interrogators that if he confessed to rock throwing quickly, he would be released.”

Khalek’s case has garnered coverage in the Associated Press and Reuters.The media outlets are highlighting how Khalek’s case is an example of Palestinian children routinely being locked up in Israeli military jails.

Reuters’ Noah Browning reports that Khalek appeared in jail with “his ankles shackled together just above his running shoes.” Browning also reports that the boy’s father, Abdulwahab Khalek, said that Mohammed “was maltreated and had his braces broken from his teeth during the course of his arrest in the early hours of April 5.”

“The Israeli military’s treatment of Mohammed Khalak is appalling and all too common,” Human Rights Watch’s Bill Van Esveld told Reuters. “There’s no justification for … shackling him for 12 hours and interrogating him while refusing to let him see his father or a lawyer.”

The Associated Press story notes that a United Nations report recently castigated the Israeli military for its abuses of the rights of Palestinian children. 700 Palestinian children a year are arrested by the Israeli military, according to UNICEF. Here’s more from the report:

Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized…

The pattern of ill-treatment includes the arrests of children at their homes between midnight and 5:00 am by heavily armed soldiers; the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties; physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints; lack of access to water, food, toilet facilities and medical care; interrogation using physical violence and threats; coerced confessions; and lack of access to lawyers or family members during interrogation.

Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children; denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences;  and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel. The incarceration isolates them from their families and interrupts their studies.

These practices are in violation of international law that protects all children against ill-treatment when in contact with law enforcement, military and judicial institutions.

The boy’s father lashed out at the American government’s response to his son’s arrest in an interview with Reuters. “The U.S. government is obligated to do something for us, but it doesn’t even care. They’ve lost the issue somewhere in their back pocket,” he told the news outlet.

The indifference is to be expected. American citizens mistreated by the Israeli military are denied adequate help by the U.S. government. For instance, the U.S. government waited three days to contact the family of Furkan Dogan, who was executed at point-blank range on board the Mavi Marmara, the aid ship part of the 2010 flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Dogan was a U.S. citizen of Turkish descent. The U.S. declined to investigate the death of Dogan, preferring to allow Israel to do so itself.

(Source / 12.04.2013)

Israel offers deportation of Issawi to European country

NAZARETH, (PIC)– Israel has offered the deportation of detained hunger striker Samer Issawi to a European country or any other UN member country, the AP reported on Friday.

The agency quoted an Israeli official as saying that the office of premier Benjamin Netanyahu had proposed the offer to officials at the UN and the European Union who had expressed concern over Issawi’s condition. He added that those officials did not respond to the offer as yet.

David Kriss, press and information manager for the EU delegation in Israel, said that the EU did not receive an official notification from Israel in this regard.

Issawi’s lawyer Jawad Bulous said that his client refuses the idea of deportation.

Issawi was serving a 26-year sentence when he was released in the Wafa Al-Ahrar prisoners’ exchange deal. However, the Israeli occupation authorities re-arrested him at the pretext of violating terms of the deal and held him in administrative custody.

(Facebook / 12.04.2013)

Zuhd

Afstand nemen van deze wereld

Zuhd (spreek je uit als ‘zoehd’) in de Arabische taal betekent: een klein verlangen naar iets.
De Shari3ah legt Zuhd uit als: ‘een klein verlangen naar het leven van deze wereld, maar een groot verlangen naar het hiernamaals (Jennah).’ Een ‘zaahid’ is iemand die een klein verlangen naar het leven van de wereld heeft maar een groot verlangen naar het hiernamaals.

Imam Ahmad – moge Allah tevreden met hem zijn – zei:
“Zuhd bestaat uit 3 delen:
1.       De verboden zaken laten (geen verboden dingen doen). Dit is de zuhd van de gewone mensen. Ibn Al-Qayyim stelde dat dit type van zuhd een verplichting is.
2.       De halal zaken die je niet echt nodig hebt laten. (geen dingen doen die geen hasanath geven, omdat ze bij Allah geen waarde hebben). Dit is de zuhd van de gevorderden.
3.       Zaken laten die jou zodanig bezighouden dat je Allah (tijdelijk) vergeet. (Bijvoorbeeld als iemand voetbal kijkt of zelf speelt en tijdens de wedstrijd zo op gaat in het spel dat hij Allah vergeet, met vrienden zo druk kletsen over onzin zaken dat je Allah (even) vergeet, enz.) Dit is de zuhd van de kenners.
Ibn al-Qayyim – moge Allah tevreden met hem zijn – zei: “De kenners zijn het er over eens dat zuhd betekent dat je met je hart verhuist van deze wereld naar de wereld van het hiernamaals. Je bent pas een zaahid als je met je hele hart afstand hebt genomen van de volgende 6 zaken:
1. Geld, mooie dure spullen en bezittingen~ Dat je met je hart afstand neemt van geld betekent niet dat je het gaat verspillen. Ook betekent het niet dat je geen spullen mag hebben. Het betekent alleen dat je er in je hart niet aan gehecht bent, wanneer Allah het van je afneemt ben je nog steeds tevreden, want deze dunya is niets voor jou. ~
2.  Uiterlijk
~ Dit betekent dat je niet te koop gaat lopen met je uiterlijk om aanzien te krijgen onder mensen. Make-up, kleding met grote logo’s van dure merken, enz. Wel is het verplicht om jezelf goed te verzorgen en er netjes uit te zien! Wanneer Allah jouw mooie uiterlijk van jou afneemt zal je nog steeds tevreden zijn. ~
3. Leiderschap
~ Dit betekent dat je in je hart geen waarde hecht aan dat je een hoge functie hebt en leidinggevende bent over andere mensen. Of je nou een schoonmaker of directeur bent, een lid van een vereniging of de voorzitter, jij weet dat je altijd een dienaar van Allah bent. Het maakt jou niet uit over hoeveel mensen jij leiding hebt, want je weet dat alleen Allah de leiding over alle mensen heeft. ~
4.  Mensen
~ Je houdt van mensen omwille van Allah en je bent Allah dankbaar voor hun goede gezelschap. Toch weet je dat Allah ze elk moment kan roepen en dat zij niet meer bij jou zullen zijn. Je gaat enkel en alleen met mensen om omwille van Allah, wanneer je denkt dat Allah tevreden zal zijn met jullie vriendschap. Vrienden die je naar het slechte leiden of uitnodigen heb je niet. Je beseft dat je alleen in je graf zal liggen en geen mens jou dan kan helpen. Je weet dat niemand jou op Yawm al Qiyama zal kunnen helpen van al die mensen, dat iedereen alleen aan zichzelf zal denken. ~
5.  De Ziel
~ Je los maken van de verlangens van je nafs, je ziel. Je neemt afstand van luiheid, hebberigheid, haastigheid in het gebed, en van alle andere verlangens die niet overeenkomen met de Islam. ~
6.  Alles voor Allah
~ Dit betekent dat Allah de Enige voor jou is in de wereld en in je hart. Wanneer je goed bent voor je vrouw, is dit om Allah te plezieren. Wanneer je eet, is dit om voor het lichaam te zorgen, en om Allah vervolgens dankbaar te kunnen zijn om Zijn voorzieningen. Wanneer je kleding draagt, doe je dit om je te bedekken voor Allah. Wanneer je werkt, doe je het om je gezin en familie te kunnen onderhouden en sadaqa te kunnen geven. Heel je leven draait om Allah, en van alles buiten Allah neem je afstand. Dat is zuhd.
Ibn Al-Qayyim zegt: “Zuhd betekent niet dat je toegestane zaken als verboden verklaart, of dat men geld gaat verspillen (omdat je er geen waarde aan hecht), maar wel dat hetgene dat zich bij Allah bevindt jou veel geliefder is dan hetgene dat zich bij jou bevindt.
Zuhd is dus niet dat jij de middelen laat die Allah jou gegeven heeft als voorziening voor deze dunya (wereld). Maar het houdt in dat jij die middelen gebruikt met jouw lichaam, terwijl je met je hart je vertrouwen op Allah stelt. Je zal altijd het hiernamaals verkiezen boven deze wereld. Je kan afstand nemen van het leven van deze wereld met je hart, al bezit je duizenden euro’s. Je hoop op het hiernamaals zal altijd groter blijven dan je hoop op het leven in deze wereld. De pleziertjes en fijne zaken van deze wereld zullen jou nooit tegenhouden om je verplichtingen en taken voor het hiernamaals te vervullen. (Fath al Mulhim 6/220, samengevat en vereenvoudigd.)
 Imam Muslim heeft overleverd dat de Profeet, salalahu aleihi wasalam zei:
“Het leven van deze wereld is een gevangenis voor de vrome gelovige en een paradijs voor de ongelovige.”(Muslim 2956)
Imam An Nawawi, moge Allah tevreden met hem zijn, zegt over de bovenstaande hadith dat we hieruit kunnen begrijpen dat een moslim gevangen is in deze wereld, omdat hij zijn verboden en slechte verlangens niet mag volgen. Ook moet hij taken verrichten voor Allah die soms zwaar en moeilijk voor hem zijn. Maar wanneer de moslim sterft vindt hij zijn rust insha’Allah, en hoeft hij deze taken niet meer te verrichten. Dan vertrekt hij naar de eeuwigdurende genoegens en de zuivere rust die Allah voor hem heeft voorbereid.
(Sharh Muslim 18/92)
(Marianna Laarif / 12.04.2013)

To Palestinians, Baird’s visit is a slap in the face

Tuesday’s meeting between Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in occupied East Jerusalem not only marks an unprecedented recognition of the illegal Israeli annexation of Palestinians’ occupied capital, it undermines efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to restart negotiations.

The visit is a slap in the face to the Palestinian people, particularly Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, who suffer from Israeli policies of colonial settlement expansion, ID revocations, home demolitions and evictions. The aim of these policies is to rid our city of its Palestinian, Arab, Christian and Muslim character and eventually turn it into an exclusively Jewish city.

Unfortunately, Mr. Baird’s meeting there is the latest in a series of provocations. Under his leadership, Canadian diplomats have been instructed to reverse Canada’s long-standing support of United Nations resolutions aimed at promoting Palestinian self-determination. In many votes, Canada now stands almost alonein opposing basic, inalienable Palestinian national and human rights and in supporting Israeli violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law. These policies have placed Canada at odds with the international community and have turned Canada into an obstacle, rather than a partner, for peace.

Israeli policies in occupied East Jerusalem have caused much pain and hardship to Palestinians living there. Christian and Muslim religious sites are routinely undermined and, in many cases, vandalized by settlers who act with impunity and are encouraged by religious leaders and politicians.

Through its expansion of settlements, Israel has choked the Palestinian economy, denied the possibility of territorial contiguity and almost destroyed the possibility of peace based on the two-state solution. Canada, through its acts and omissions, now appears to support this outcome. This not only undermines our aspirations for freedom, it undermines the efforts of all those working toward achieving a just and lasting peace.

East Jerusalem’s annexation by Israel has not been accepted by the international community. Security Council Resolution 478 is clear in considering Israel’s annexation actions “null and void” and calling on all members states to support this decision. The International Court of Justice’s 2004 opinion on the Israeli annexation wall is clear on ruling that “all states are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.” This is precisely the opposite of what Mr. Baird has done here.

As a former foreign minister myself, I remember a time when Canada’s foreign policy was guided by respect for international law and human rights. Ottawa was a strong supporter of peace, and agreed to chair the multilateral committee on Palestinian refugees. Canada supported Palestinian efforts to clear parts of the West Bank from Israeli mines, and was a contributor to the now-destroyed international airport in Gaza. Those days seem very far away, and Canada’s relations in our region are worse for it.

We hope Canada will return to its historic path of respect for international law, human rights and international consensus. What Mr. Baird has done is an unprecedented offence that severely damages Canada’s standing vis-à-vis Palestine, the Arab world and those who are committed to a just and lasting peace based on two sovereign and democratic states, Israel and Palestine.

Nabeel Shaath, a former Palestinian foreign minister, is the member of Fatah’s Central Committee in charge of international relations.

(Source / 12.04.2013)

Israel destroys West Bank community center, arrests 20

Man throws up his arms in front of tree damaged by settlers

Residents of Burin village are regularly harassed by settlers and their property vandalized.

Large slabs of wood lay scattered on the brightly tiled floor. Ripped posters were still clinging to the walls by bits of tape. A handful of computer hard drives were ripped out, and lay haphazardly on their sides. The electricity wires were cut, and broken windowpanes let in what little light entered the room.

“[The Israeli interrogator] told me, ‘We are now breaking your dream and your friends’ dreams,’” said 23-year-old Ghassan al-Najjar, while standing on piece of a broken wooden desk. “They said, ‘We will come back soon, but next time will be to take you and put you in the prison.’”

Al-Najjar founded the Bilal al-Najjar Martyrs Center with friends in his home village of Burin, in the northern occupied West Bank, in 2007.

Located in the heart of the village, the center provides language and computer classes, and other educational resources, to women, children, the elderly, and anyone else in Burin.

At 11:30pm Wednesday, at least 400 Israeli forces — among them, soldiers, border police and Shin Bet intelligence officers — stormed Burin, al-Najjar told The Electronic Intifada. At around 12:30am, they began ransacking the homes of some of the center’s 400 volunteers.

In total, the homes of at least 50 volunteers were raided, and the center was completely trashed. Ten volunteers were beaten and 20 more were arrested; 17 were quickly released, and three remained in Israeli custody by early Thursday evening.

Al-Najjar said his home was raided. His parents, his sister and her three young children (three-year-old twins and a three-month-old baby), who were asleep at the time, were forced outside by a group of at least 60 soldiers.

“Normal for me”

Bilal al-Najjar Martyrs Center after it was raided by the Israeli army.

“It’s not the first time they came to my house,” he said. “It’s normal for me.”

Israeli forces also raided the center twice before — in 2009 and 2010. The latest incursion was different though, al-Najjar said, adding that he was “so frustrated” by the level of destruction he saw.

Burin is located seven kilometers from the city of Nablus. It is sandwiched between the Israeli settlements of Bracha and Yitzhar, and is the site of frequent and violent settler attacks on local residents.

In February 2012, a group of 40 settlers from Yitzhar attacked a Palestinian home on the outskirts of Burin, traumatizing four young Palestinian children. “My grandchildren kept crying and shouting because they were terrified. They wet themselves, as they do every time we are attacked,” 53-year-old Hanan Sofan told Defence for Children International-Palestine Section (“Sofan family – settler violence,” 17 March 2012).

“Since the beginning of the second intifada, most of my children, if not all of them, have been beaten and had stones thrown at them by settlers and soldiers. My grandchildren live in fear,” Sofan said.

Complaints ignored

According to a November 2011 report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 90 percent of Palestinian complaints of settler violence filed to Israeli police have been closed without indictment.

More than 80 Palestinian communities — representing a population of almost 250,000 people — were vulnerable to Israeli settler violence, and of this, 76,000 Palestinians were deemed at high risk.

“Settler violence creates pressure and constant hardship on some Palestinian communities, particularly when combined with other difficulties, such as access andmovement restrictions and house demolitions. Displacement has serious immediate and longer-term physical, socio-economic and emotional impacts on Palestinian families and communities,” OCHA wrote (“Israeli settler violence in the West Bank,” November 2011 [PDF]).

“We will rebuild”

Earlier this year, about 200 Palestinian activists from across the West Bank set up protest tents on Burin agricultural land that Israel intends to confiscate for settlement expansion. Israeli soldiers violently dispersed the activists and destroyed the structures shortly thereafter.

The new neighborhood, called al-Manatir, was the latest in a string of protest encampments built in the West Bank to draw attention to Israel’s illegal settlement expansion and ongoing violent occupation.

For Ghassan al-Najjar, who was arrested in 2010 and spent 75 days in isolation at Israel’sJalameh detention center, and one year in Megiddo prison, the recent destruction of Burin’s community center is the latest Israeli attempt to scare residents.

“They don’t want anyone to work with the people. They don’t want culture here,” al-Najjar said. “But we will rebuild and continue to work. Even if they destroyed it another time, we will continue to work.

“We will be stronger than before. We are not doing anything wrong. This is our right.”

(Source / 12.04.2013)

Zionist lobby lies about Palestine solidarity activists “joining forces” with far right

A Palestinian inspects damage by Israel in Gaza City during November 2012; the Israel lobby has tried to distract from these crimes by fabricating claims against protesters.

A new study on anti-Semitism by Tel Aviv University contains a brazen lie.

In an attempt to slander the international Palestine solidarity movement, the report alleges that “extreme right-wing and extreme-left wing activists joined forces” in a protest against a concert by the Israeli military band Tzahal in Antwerp, Belgium, last year. As well as teaming up, the activists were “shouting ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,’” the study alleges.

I attended the protest in question and can say with certainty that the accusation is baseless.

For a start, the protest was called by a number of human rights and Palestine solidarity groups. Organizers of the protest have confirmed to me that they do not cooperate in any way with the far-right.

While it appears that a small far-right demonstration may have taken place at the same time as the one I attended, this was not visible to the protest held by Palestine solidarity groups, who are firmly opposed to all forms of racial and religious intolerance.

No evidence

There is no evidence whatsoever, then, that the far-left and far-right “joined forces.”

The claim that the protesters chanted “Jews to the gas” cannot be taken seriously either. The organizers are adamant that they did not hear anyone shouting such a slogan.

It’s always possible, of course, that one or two individuals in a crowd will say something problematic. But there is nothing to back up the study’s assertion that an alliance of extremists from both ends of the political spectrum “joined forces” in a display of anti-Semitism.

The study’s claim appears to be based on a news story published by the Flemish Zionist website Joods Actueel. That story included a short audio file, which mainly features one female voice chanting slogans. It cannot seriously be considered as proof that the far-left and far-right had “joined forces.”

Laughable

Furthermore, the study betrays a fickle knowledge of Belgian politics. The main far-right party in Belgium, Vlaams Belang, has a history of anti-Semitism. But one of its most prominent politicians, Frank Vanhecke, stated in 2008 that he was one of Israel’s “staunchest defenders.”

This kind of opportunistic U-turn will be familiar to observers of Europe’s far-right. Like a number of similar parties, Vlaams Belang routinely panders to Islamophobes; I sometimes receive vile literature from local Vlaams Belang representatives who portray Muslims living in the neighborhood as a threat.

So the idea that the far-right would team up with Palestine solidarity campaigners is laughable.

Distraction

Published this week, the study was conducted by Tel Aviv University in conjunction with the European Jewish Congress (EJC), a Zionist lobby group.

Although it purports to give an overview of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the world during 2012, it conflates criticism of the State of Israel with enmity towards Jews in general. The Antwerp protest took place at a time when Israel was undertaking Operation Pillar of Defense, its eight-day bombing offensive against the civilian population of Gaza.

Insinuating that protesters horrified by Israel’s criminal conduct are Nazis in disguise is a favorite tactic of the Israel lobby. It smacks of desperation.

The Antwerp protest notched up a political success. Yves Leterme, Belgium’s former prime minister, had been scheduled to attend the Tzahal performance but stayed away, after receiving an appeal from Palestine solidarity activists. It’s not surprising that the Zionist lobby would wish to distract from that triumph with fake accusations of anti-Semitism.

Both the EJC and the American Jewish Committee have pounced on the new report in order to warn that anti-Semitic incidents are on the increase. Certainly, some of the incidents described in the study — attacks on synagogues and bullying of Jewish children — are despicable.

Yet the study does a grave disservice to the fight against anti-Semitism by smearing activists who have nothing against Jews and abhor genuine anti-Semitism. Once again, the Zionist lobby is so eager to propagandize for Israel that it tells lies about its opponents

(Source / 12.04.2013)

Playback and protest: The Freedom Bus hits the road

Women in black gesture towards audience in outdoor setting

The Freedom Bus ensemble perform in al-Hadidiya village in the Jordan Valley, November 2012.

For 13 days in March, the Freedom Bus Tour, coordinated by the Jenin Freedom Theatre, traveled through the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills. Combining improvised theater, folkloric arts, information seminars and volunteer work, the tour was meant to bring international attention to some of the most contentious areas of the occupied West Bank.

The events and excursions were met with sometimes violent opposition from the Israeli forces, who arrested and deported one of the Freedom Bus Tour participants.

The tour kicked off in Jenin, where locals and international visitors gathered to watch the Freedom Theatre’s signature “playback theater.” Participants told stories of their lives under occupation or abroad, and the troupe of four actors, all from Palestine or present-day Israel, acted the events out in impressive theatrics — sometimes sad and sometimes hilarious.

The actors portrayed a woman’s story of growing up in Arroub refugee camp, when she was caught wearing a Palestinian flag on her necklace during the time when display of the Palestinian flag was forbidden by Israel. She was chased by the soldiers and was forced to hide her flag, but resolved that it still remained inside her heart.

After each story and performance, local Palestinian poet Abu Naji walked onto the stage singing zajaal, a form of traditional improvised poetry that retold the scene just performed in prose.

Denied entry

From the energetic first night, the audience may not have guessed that five artists who hoped to come to the tour were denied entry into Israel. Ahmed Galai Ezzar and Zeid Khemiri, two rappers from the Tunisian hip-hop group Armada Bizerta; Khalid Albaih, a political cartoonist from Sudan; Sondos Shabayek and Mona El-Shimi, two Egyptian theater makers, all applied for entry first through the Palestinian Authority’s ministry of civil affairs.

This ministry in turn had to get permission from the Israeli Civil Administration, the military body overseeing the occupation of the West Bank. All visas that were applied for in this way were denied.

“I was going to illustrate a series of images to document the events [of the bus tour] to later be published,” explained cartoonist Khalid Albaih on his reason for applying for the visa. “It was the second time I applied; the first time they said I was not going to get the visa on time.” Albaih also applied for entry for the last Freedom Bus Tour in 2012.

From Jenin, the group of actors and their entourage traveled by bus to villages in the Jordan Valley. Ben Rivers, an organizer of the tour, said, “We based ourselves in communities for several days in a row which allowed us to engage in volunteer work. In the Jordan Valley, in Kherbit Samra, for example, where we helped to build a school made of mud bricks.”

Stories as a “political act”

All of the communities visited were in Area C, a zone comprising 60 perecent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. In this area, Palestinian communities suffer from unequal access to water resources, violence from settlers, and frequent harassment from the Israeli army.

“Our focus from the beginning has been largely political,” said Rivers. “We see playback theater as a way for people across the West Bank to have their voices heard, and through playback theater to have their stories amplified and transmitted to a larger audience. And the communities that we are working with are acutely aware of this. They really see the act of telling their story as a political act.”

Two other intentions of the activities are to help build a sense of community and offer a form of artistic therapy. “We work mostly in communities that experience high levels of violence, and in many cases people choose to tell their story as a way of experiencing some kind of relief and support … But even that we see as having a political focus. Because people say that by having some opportunity to process the trauma associated with political violence actually empowers them to continue in their struggle.”

On World Water Day, 22 March, the Freedom Bus teamed up with Thirsting for Justice and the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign in a 200-person solidarity walk between Palestinian communities with an inadequate access to water. Throughout the day the group stopped in villages and visited sites of vulnerable water resources, such as wells that have been co-opted by settlements. In the evening, the group held a concert in the small village of Fasayil al-Fauqa, north of Jericho, that featured Palestinian musical groups including the hip-hop trio DAM.

From the Jordan Valley, the tour moved to another imperiled part of Area C, the South Hebron Hills.

In the village of al-Tuwani, participants helped begin to build a shelter for children who have to wait for an Israeli military escort to take them to school every day, as protection from settler attacks. The escort is often late, so the children are forced to wait in the sun or rain. The structure remained unfinished, however.

Rivers said, “The army turned up every day and interfered with the construction … Only weeks earlier, the army had demolished and confiscated a tent that had been built by the community for the same purpose.”

Blocked

An Israeli soldier tries to arrest activists during the solidarity march in the South Hebron Hills.

On the last day of the Freedom Bus Tour, the participants undertook another solidarity walk through communities in the South Hebron Hills. The march was held partly to mark Land Day — which commemorates a 1976 massacre of Palestinians in Israel — but also to bring attention to the eviction orders that have been issued to more than 1,000 people living in the in the South Hebron Hills.

The walk, organized in partnership with the South Hebron Hills Popular Struggle Committee, began in al-Tuwani and aimed to reach five communities. It was stopped shortly after it began.

Just after reaching the top of the first hill, the army arrived and blocked the road on which the marchers walked. “Even according to their own logic there was no reason to stop us there,” said Rivers. “We were close to a settlement, but if they were going to use the excuse of protecting the settlement they would have blocked the road to the settlement, but they didn’t. They were obviously trying to stop the walk.”

The army began to single out participants who they believed to be leaders of the group. They arrested popular struggle organizer Abu Mosa, who subsequently fainted while being detained. He recovered under medical treatment.

Participants in the walk began to make human barriers around each other in attempts to prevent more arrests, at which point the army began to use force. Sonja de Vries, a poetry therapist from Louisville, Kentucky, was injured along with Freedom Theatre organizer Alia Alrosan while they tried to stop the arrest of Luke Nephew. Nephew is a poet, educator and hip-hop artist from the Bronx in New York.

De Vries said that while attempting to hold onto Nephew as he was being arrested, “they threw us all to the ground, continuing their abuses, threatening to pepper spray our eyes … It was during these moments that they twisted Alia’s arm and one soldier deliberately twisted my leg by yanking it below the knee. I now have a torn meniscus and it will take about six months to heal, according to my doctor.”

Nephew was eventually arrested and taken to the police station inside the Kiryat Arbasettlement in Hebron. In court, he was issued a deportation order and a ten-year travel ban to Israel.

Despite the continued confrontation from Israeli forces that the Freedom Bus Tour faced throughout its journey, the group will continue its efforts. “The communities we’ve gone to have clearly requested that we do this again and again,” said Rivers. “So there will be another ride in September of this year.”

(Source / 12.04.2013)

Israel trying to deport hunger-strike Palestinian

Palestinian protesters hold portraits of Samer Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for more than 250 days, during a solidarity sit-in outside the Red Cross offices in Jerusalem on April 11, 2013.

Palestinian protesters hold portraits of Samer Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for more than 250 days, during a solidarity sit-in outside the Red Cross offices in Jerusalem on April 11, 2013.

AFP – Israel has told the European Union and UN it can deport a Palestinian prisoner on a life-endangering long-term hunger strike to one of their member states, an Israeli official told AFP on Friday.

But a lawyer for Samer Issawi, who has intermittently refused food for more than eight months, said his client strongly rejected the Israeli initiative, and an EU spokesman said no “official” proposal had been received.

Issawi, 33, was first arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for military activities on behalf of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was released by Israel under a prisoner swap deal in October 2011, but rearrested last July for violating the terms of the agreement by travelling to the West Bank from east Jerusalem.

The Israeli official said Issawi had gone to the West Bank to establish “terror cells” there.

Israel has ordered that he serve the remainder of his original sentence.

Issawi’s health has deteriorated because of his prolonged fast, and he was being held in an Israeli hospital. The Israeli official said he could “immediately be released to Gaza.”

In addition, “over the last few weeks the prime minister’s office was approached by senior EU and UN representatives, who expressed concern over his humanitarian condition,” the official said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel was willing to deport Issawi “to any EU member country, or any UN member country,” said the official, noting that they had yet to receive an answer from either.

An EU spokesman told AFP that “Israel has not formally approached the EU on this subject.”

However, the Israeli official insisted the issue “came up in official communications between officials on both sides.”

Lawyer Jawad Boulos said that while “Israel had tried to make him agree to being deported” to any of a number of countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Finland and Switzerland, Issawi had “strongly refused in principle to be deported to any state.”

Issawi is the last of four Palestinian prisoners who were on extended hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, after two ended their fast in February and a third was exiled from the West Bank last month to the Gaza Strip for 10 years.

(Source / 12.04.2013)

Watchdog: Army shelling kills 7 in eastern Damascus

BEIRUT (AFP) — At least seven people were killed in fierce regime shelling on Friday of the eastern Damascus district of Jubar, a monitoring group said, as warplanes also bombarded rebel enclaves near the capital.

The violence comes after fresh clashes in the northeastern city of Qamishli pitting troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad against Islamist rebels of Al-Nusra Front, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Seven men were killed in shelling by regime troops on the Bayader neighbourhood of Jubar,” said the Britain-based monitoring watchdog.

“Several mortars hit Barzeh (in northern Damascus) and Al-Hajar al-Aswad” in the south, the Observatory added, referring to two flashpoint districts on the edges of the capital where rebel groups have set up cells.

Meanwhile, the army waged new air strikes amid clashes between troops and insurgents in Damascus province.

In northeastern Syria’s Qamishli, battles broke out pitting Al-Nusra Front against the army both at the majority Kurdish city’s entrance and near its airport, said the Observatory.

(Source / 12.04.2013)

Settlers assault 60-year-old Palestinian judge

Israeli settlers walk in an illegal outpost in the West Bank.

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers on Thursday assaulted a 60-year-old Palestinian judge as he worked on his land near Ramallah, sparking violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

Judge Ahmad al-Zir sustained multiple injuries, including head wounds, and was left unconscious in the attack, a Ma’an reporter said.

He was taken to the Ramallah Governmental Hospital.

Residents of Silwad headed to the al-Asour area, where the attack happened, and confronted settlers, setting fire to caravans in a nearby outpost.

Israeli forces arrived and fired tear gas and plastic-coated bullets at the Palestinians. A 16-year-old Palestinian was shot in the chest and the arm with plastic-coated bullets, medics said.

The teenager was also taken to the Ramallah Governmental Hospital and is in a stable condition.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said forces fired riot dispersal means in response to clashes between Palestinians and Israeli civilians in the area of Silwad.

“The clash included rock throwing. Palestinians set fire to land that belonged to the Israeli civilians as well as to a caravan,” she told Ma’an.

Several Palestinian groups announced they would hold Friday prayers at the outpost, which is built on lands belonging to Palestinians in Silwad and Deir Jarir.

(Source / 12.04.2013)