Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Blind men (A possible terrorist threat to illegal Israeli settlements???)
A few days before I got back to Palestine a shift in Hebron began to emerge and we are still trying to work out why. When I was last here the main problem was the settlers and we would try to convince the better soldiers to intervene. Now the problem seems to be the soldiers. They seem to be going on a real power trip lately, checking ID's longer and conducting more intense searches at the checkpoint (having people remove shoes etc.). The soldiers have also been moving around the place testing out their military training with no regard to the civilian population. Even without an emergency they are pointing guns around corners (in all directions for that matter), and running around like something from a Tom Clancy novel. They have been entering buildings randomly as well. Occasionally kicking the odd person in the ankle
But one of the latest things they have been doing is refusing to allow the Palestinians who don't live in the area to enter H2. This refusal to allow Palestinian outsiders is inspite of the reality that settlers regularly bringing large numbers of Jews from around the world here on a tour bus. They have been blocking Palestinians from freely moving around their area to visit friends etc. Today a blind man was denied entry to H2, he has always been allowed into the area before (we see nearly him every day) but today they refused him entry. They kept saying he wasn't allowed in because he didn't live there. It turns out that he did live there and the whole community knows it, but it took 3 ISM activists, one Tel Rumeida Project activist and 3 Machsom Watch (older Israeli women who monitor checkpoints) people; 45 minutes of harassing the Hebron DCO (military command centre) in order to get the soldiers to allow.
This is just another day in Hebron. In Australia you could barely list all the state injustices that are going on. Here there is no comprehensive record. They all become white noise in the ongoing occupation. After this full on day there was a bit of a high point. We went to the community centre in Tel Rumeida where there was a graduation of 20 Palestinians who had completed a course in Hebrew. Apparently a lot of them are looking forward not only to understanding the soldiers and settlers who harrass them but also to having conversations with other Israeli's. Very few of the Israeli's speak arabic. Even the Maschom watch women and many of the activists haven't learnt arabic. I asked Issa (one of the local ISM co-ordinators) about the local communities attitude towards Israelies. He said that most people welcomed them and many had worked with activists here. He said that some locals were fearful that if an Israeli slept the night at a Palestinian house that the settlers might use that as a way of justifying taking over that house (saying it was Israeli land), so many would prefer Israeli activists to come just for the day.