Updates from Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories

P/R: Ongoing expansion works in Havat Ma’on illegal Israeli outpost, South Hebron Hills


On November 23 Israeli settlers hammered in the ground three meters high iron pylons at the edge of the wood inside of which the illegal Israeli outpost is located.

At-Tuwani, November 23, 2014
On November 23 Israeli settlers from Havat Ma’on hammered in the ground three meters high iron pylons at the edge of the wood inside of which the illegal Israeli outpost is located, keeping on the ongoing expansion.Have not taken any measure.
Some days before on November 13 the same settlers (equipped with a white jeep carrying an electricity generator, a drill and cement) had already dug 10 cm diameter holes  in the  surrounding boundary.

In both occasions South Hebron Hills Popular Committee members and B’tselem operators called the DCO to denounce the illegal works, but Israeli forces didn’t show up.

During the last month in the South Hebron Hills area, Israeli forces carried out several demolitions  in the Palestinian village of Um Al Kher and seized materials in the Palestinian village of Susiya. In the meanwhile they have not taken any measure to stop an illegal expansion of an illegal Israeli outpost.

Nevertheless the Palestinian communities of the South Hebron Hills area are still strongly committed to nonviolent popular resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.

Pictures of the incident: http://goo.gl/iTnWri
[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

P/R: New water tanks were needed to provide Palestinian inhabitants drinkable water


At Tuwani – On November 20, the Israeli forces seized a tractor, its truck, four water tanks and three tanks’ bases from the Palestinian village of Susiya. In the early morning DCO officers approached the Palestinian village to take pictures of the ongoing works to install four new water tanks. In the early afternoon DCO officers returned with Israeli army, police, two trucks, one of which with a mechanical arm.

The tractor and its truck, that carried water cisterns and their bases, were seized with the accuse of being used for illegal works, since Palestinians didn’t have permissions to install new water tanks. Tanks and bases were seized without any previous issued demolition order under the pretext that they were not yet installed on the ground.

Water tanks were geared of filters to provide drinkable water and were donated to the Palestinian village because of the lack of drinkable water that effects all the South Hebron Hills area.

The Palestinian village of Susiya is located in area C, under Israeli military and civil administration, and it is surrounded by the Israeli settlement of Suseya, the outpost of Suseya’s Ancient Synagogue and the military base of Suseya North. Around the settlement and the military base there are 26 wells and water cisterns that Palestinians are forbidden to use even if they are on Palestinian private proprieties. Even more, DCO doesn’t allow Palestinian residents of Susiya to connect to Israeli Makorot Company’s water pipes that run right through the Palestinian village and bring water from the settlement of Suseya to the outpost of Ancient Synagogue.

Palestinian residents of Susiya pay 35 NIS per cubic meter of tanked water, six times more than the nearby settlement, which is served by the network, and Palestinian residents spend up to 1/3 of their income on water. Water consumption of Palestinians in Susiya is 28 liters/capita/day, significantly less than the 70 l/c/d consumed by an average Palestinian and well below the World Health Organization standard of 100 l/c/d. (source OCHA OPT)

The Palestinian inhabitants of Susiya are struggling through the nonviolent popular resistance in order to gain the right to access their own lands and to live a dignified life.

Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.

Pictures of the incident: http://goo.gl/9IuTq2

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

P/R: IDF demolishes in the Bedouin village of Um Al Kher, South Hebron Hills

An Israeli activist and an international volunteer arrested.

At-Tuwani – On October 27 Israeli forces demolished a total of seven structures in the Bedouin village of Um al Kher. The structures demolished are: three houses made of concrete, a caravan donated by the United Nations (United Nations Human Rights Response Fund with the support of Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom) to be used as a home, a tinplated house, a tinplated kitchen, a traditional oven. The structures belonged to five families, for a total of thirty people affected. An Israeli activist and an international volunteer were brought and detained in Kiryat Arba Israeli police station.

At 9:20 am a convoy of eleven Israeli army vehicles and two bulldozers reached the Bedouin village of Umm Al Kheer. At 9:34 the bulldozers started the demolitions while Israeli soldiers, Border policemen and DCO officers kept Internationals and Israeli activists away from the village, declaring “closed military area”. Around 10 am the Israeli police arrested an international volunteer and an Israeli activist with the accuse of remaining inside the area. Both were released during the same day.

Um Al Kher is a Bedouin village in area C, under Israeli civil and military administration. It’s located very close to the Israeli settlement of Karmel, established during the beginning of the ’80s and expanded in the recent years, especially in 2013. The village routinely experiences harassment from Israeli settlers and army.

Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills keep struggling in a nonviolent way to claim justice and defend human rights. The South Hebron Hills Popular Committee together with international volunteers and Israeli activists will soon gather to re-build the demolished structures in Um Al Kher.

Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.

Pictures of the demolitions: http://goo.gl/EmtJqE

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

Tragedy and Humanity in Hebron

by Prof. Michael Nagler – Metta Center of Nonviolence

A little over a week ago I stood in the South Hebron Hills not far from the spot where, we now know, three Israeli teens had been put to death, assumedly by operatives of the Palestinian organization Hamas (though that is far from proven at this time). I was visiting a prominent nonviolent Palestinian activist from the village of At-Tuwani, where successful actions have been carried out against various provocative measures of the Israeli police and soldiers, just as I had visited their counterpart some days earlier, Rabbis for Human Rights, in Jerusalem.

Not only my host, Hafez, but many of the Palestinians I met and many whom I knew from one connection or another before are of like mind with their Israeli counterparts: strong, peace-loving, generous. Why can they not prevail against the madness that inflames the region now? Why, on the Israeli side, does the “tail” of settler fanaticism wag the “dog” of Israeli society, as one of my rabbi friends put it? Why does the fanatical group Hamas so easily drag Palestinian society as a whole into the maelstrom of violence?

In my search for an answer to this question I remembered a reflection that had come to me after 9/11 when I asked myself how one terrorist act (assuming, for now, that the official story of those responsible is correct) could have wrought such a devastating change in the democratic fabric of America. The answer is that acts of terror, an extreme form of violence, resonate with an atmosphere of violence, when that’s present, and it multiplies their effect. It does not have to be that way. Just recall how, at the successful conclusion of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956, a Ku Klux Klan bomb went off to virtually no effect, where attacks like that had previously wrought havoc. The powerful nonviolent atmosphere of the campaign overcame the cowardice of the attack, smothering its effect. People just ignored it.

Such an atmosphere, alas, is rarely present anywhere. Certainly it was not present in the United States on 9/11, and thus the attack’s effects were amplified, perhaps beyond the attackers’ wildest dreams.
The day we left At-Tuwani Hafez took us on a tour of the village. I will never forget how, as we stood looking back at his side of the valley and the simple concrete structures strung out across the hills, he shared with us some of the ongoing harassment he and his people had to endure. I said, at one point, “They’re trying to provoke you into violence.” For a long time he stood silent and I thought he was searching to understand the word, but that wasn’t it at all. With great passion he looked at me finally and burst out, “They will never provoke me into violence.”So it is in Israel/Palestine today. The seeds of peace are there where we need them, but the conditions that would nurture those seeds are not. It is this that we must somehow change. One way would be to understand and support the courageous activists who embody them – just as we are reaching out right now in support, quite appropriately, to the parents of the three teens who just met their end in the grinding conflict.

Hafez, if there were more like you, think of the bloodshed we would be spared; think of the human dignity we would reveal.

Israel and Palestine Can Never Be Secure Until Both Are Secure

by Michael Nagler from Truthout

In The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, the short story by Ursula Le Guin about an imaginary paradise, when its happy residents come of age, they are let in on a horrific secret: The idyllic life they’re leading depends on one innocent child being imprisoned forever in a basement room. Some of the Omelans can’t take it, and they walk away.

Wherever I went in Israel last month – speaking to Rabbis for Human Rights in Jerusalem, visiting my relatives near the Lebanese border, staying with my friends outside of Tel Aviv – I could not get the image of Omelas out of my mind. For underneath the outdoor pools, well-appointed museums, universities, and popular cafés lurks the terrible suffering, not of one child, but of 1.8 million people trapped in “the world’s largest open-air prison,” Gaza. Many of them children; for in that densely crowded entity, the average age today is 17. And some Israelis do walk away – if not out of the country, out of the mindset of fear and hatred that at present prevails there.

The question is, is that enough? Is it enough that they are one in spirit with the incredibly courageous Palestinians who have been resisting the West Bank version of this occupation, for example in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani, which has been the scene of a good deal of relatively successful nonviolent protest, mostly thanks to a man I greatly liked and admired, Hafez Huraini, sometimes called the “Gandhi of the South Hebron Hills.” Is it enough, given that my Israeli friends could not accompany me even into Bethlehem, where I gave workshops to very appreciative Palestinian and international supporters, much less into the villages of South Hebron?

The Jewish refugees who came flooding back to their ancient homeland after the Holocaust were traumatized, perhaps more deeply than we can readily imagine. This is a very bad state in which to remain. He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me; in those who harbor such thoughts, hatred will never cease. These words of the Buddha sound a serious warning: “If hatred will never cease, peace will never begin.” To cite an uncomfortable parallel (this will offend many Israelis, but I’m going to say it anyway), I once had the chance to study German popular magazines from the run-up to World War II, and was startled to see that the dominant tone in all of them was, “We are victims.” Never mind of whom.

Whether it’s based on reality or paranoia, or both, to be frozen in a posture of victimhood is to invite disaster. It means that anyone who attacks you is immediately demonized as the Ultimate Enemy – and sadly many Palestinians (not to mention five wars) have stepped into that role. No one has ever dealt with the trauma of those early refugees; there has been no healing. On the contrary, the right-wing majority that defines Israel’s present policy have deliberately perpetuated it as, to quote one statesman, “the defining event of the Jewish state.” (Whether there’s anything particularly Jewish, in any meaningful sense, about the modern state of Israel is another question).

Operating from this self-definition, Israel has reduced the Palestinians, and in particular the Gazans, to a state that would be recognized by sociologist Ted Gurr, who in Why Men Rebel showed that even the most placid populations will fight back when the alternative is extinction, or a humiliation that murders hope. This is the very state that was eloquently described by one Gazan recently, Um Al Ramlawi: “They are killing us all anyway – either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose – we must fight for our rights, or die trying.” Murder is murder. As Gandhi said, “It little matters to me whether you shoot a man outright or starve him to death by inches,” exactly what the murderous, senseless blockade of Gaza accomplishes.

In this situation of clashing desperations, real and imagined, reason will have little purchase. Where, then, is the hope? Let’s start with those who walk away. On this trip I learned that there are more of them than I had thought: one-off experiments like the Palestinian-Israeli soccer club depicted in the film Promises; dialogue and reconciliation groups; and long-standing schools with students from both communities like the famous “Oasis of Peace” Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-Sala’am. And now, of course, social media gets into the act. #JewsandArabsrefusetobeenemies, with 7,000 friends and over 10,000 tweets so far this month.

But what we need to do now is close the gap between these personal reconciliations and real policy. “Maybe that will change the policy eventually?” says the curator of the hashtag just mentioned; but that “maybe” and that “eventually” are not good enough. In Promises, you may remember how the Palestinian boy weeps when, summer over, he realizes that his new Jewish friends will go back to join the IDF while he and his friends go back to their hopeless village – or refugee camp. One-on-one friending and reconciliation work is the sine qua non, to be sure, the psychological foundation on which a healthy society could be erected. But now we have to erect it.

It should not be impossible. The well-being of Israel doesn’t really depend on the suffering of Palestinians; quite the contrary. And a phrase I heard on both sides was, ‘the tail is wagging the dog’; in other words, there are extremists on both sides – there will probably always be extremists everywhere – but aside from the 500,000 Jewish settlers on Palestinian land, they are not a majority. They just act like one. It is alleged, for example, that the killing of the three Jewish teenagers that triggered the present violence was done by a rogue element, the Qawasameh clan of Hebron, known to act counter to the policies of Hamas and deliberately disrupt their ceasefires and other arrangements. (Of course, one could even argue that the Israeli tail is wagging the United States dog, but that again is another question.) Israel is still a democracy and the people still have some agency. I say this knowing that in their present state of panic, 95 percent of the Israeli public recently voted that the attack on Gaza is “just.”  They reached that state through systematic propaganda, and, unlike the extremists, their minds could changeHow, then, can we create a climate in which the destructive fury of these elements on either side does not resonate with the larger public and unduly amplify their influence?

We might take a clue from the climate that prevailed in Montgomery, Alabama, at the successful conclusion of the famous bus boycott, in 1956. To disrupt the progress won at such cost, some Klan members set off a bomb; but instead of panicking, people just ignored it and the try fell flat. That’s the power of nonviolence. And there are ways that the nonviolence that’s been a bright spot on both sides of the struggle could be amplified. It could be reported on (what a concept) and otherwise supported. More and more Israelis could be made to understand that, while it frustrates some of their projects for taking over land and demolishing homes and farms, it is not something that ultimately threatens them. (Think of the way they deported Mubarak Awad, an architect of nonviolent resistance in June, 1988, but Sheik Yassin, a founder of Hamas, was left free to operate until they finally assassinated him (and nine others) in Gaza in 2004.)

We should never ask that the Israelis, or Palestinians for that matter, renounce security. Nor do we need to. We might instead be able to help them rethink what they mean by security. “They define security as only military. We (Palestinians) define security as human security – not just personal, but territorial, economic, geographic, historical, identity, existential; there are all sorts of different aspects to human security.” And the critical aspect to human security is what’s called common security, where one sees that her or his real security comes when the other is equally secure, not a threat held in check. How long can the Israelis rely on intercepting missiles and blowing up fighters the minute they emerge from their tunnels? To have any meaning, “security” can only mean a state where there are no rockets or tunnels – and thoughtful people can surely understand this, especially as the failure of military “security” becomes more evident.

As the ferocity of the present conflict makes clear, we are running out of time to find a permanent solution. The hatreds on both sides are like molten lava (in the words of my friends at Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem), which has already spilled over into the West Bank, where about nine Palestinians have been killed so far, and is ready to explode into even wider violence in that region’s turmoil.

Prior to the slaughter of innocents (and some combatants) now going on in Gaza, two things had changed for the worse in the last few years. Israeli police and military more or less dropped the pretense of staying within the four corners of their own (already biased) law, sometimes operating with brazen disregard of that law; and in uncivil society, a kind of “brown shirt” element acting like racist thugs has emerged, three of them having murdered Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir and helped precipitate the present outbreak.

In a very real sense, no one can stand apart from this violence. Let me give the last word to Meir Margalit, a founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

“We are demonstrating not only for Gaza, but to try and save the human condition.”

Copyright, Truthout.