September 2002

Sunday 1st September
I have been incredibly slack updating the journal, primarily due to the fact that my modem is broken so I cannot access the internet from home. Still, that is an incredibly lame excuse, I know.

I went to Jerusalem earlier with a friend who has UN ID. The traffic at Tantur checkpoint was so backed up we decided to try another way. First, we went to Beit Jala. I spoke to the soldier, explained that we needed to go through (this is not a ‘border’, it is a checkpoint which separates Beit Jala). He asked his commander but he refused. I said we were on UN business (!) but he did not budge.

Next we drove all the way out to Cremisan Monastery and through the village of Walija. This is close by to the illegal settlement of Har Gilo. The checkpoint here has control over vehicular access from three directions. We watched as a service van was searched and then turned away. Again, this is on the West Bank, not a so-called ‘border’. Bethlehem district, like everywhere else, is effectively sealed. Even with the ‘right’ documents and passports, it is incredibly hard to move around. For Palestinians, it is virtually impossible.

Coming back through Tantur the queue was very short and we waited for less than ten minutes. The soldier on duty was an arrogant man, determined to throw his weight about. I presented him with my British passport, my friend showed her UN ID. He took my passport, told us to pull over, then walked off.

He was speaking to the man in the car behind so I got out and asked for my passport back. He told me to get in the car. I told him he had my property and I wanted it back. He told me to get back in the car. I demanded my passport back. He came over and told me to open the boot of the car. There was nothing inside, bar a few bottles of water and a plastic bag. Satisfied that he had ‘proved his point’ of having the ability to demand whatever he liked and of his control over us, he let us go on. Typical example of the arrogant and superior attitude of soldiers. If either of us had been Palestinian, it would have been so much worse.

Thursday 5th September
20.30: Got a call from a friend that the Israeli army are in town. They were in Al Khader last night, although nothing happened. There are still homes under threat of demolition and people who are suspects according to Israeli authorities. Of course, there is no need for Israel to provide evidence for any of their claims. “Suspected terrorist” is all they have to say and that’s it. They can then come in and assassinate them with no fear of being criticized as the world seems to have bought the ridiculous story of Israel that it is the victim, that it is under threat, that it is defending itself.

The truth is Israel is systematically murdering, brutalising and destroying Palestinians and Palestine. And the world, by which I mean politicians and people with power, don’t give a damn. The powers that be are morally destitute: there is no such thing as justice, not here at least.

I have had a few organisations approach me, desperate for volunteers. (Email me if interested….) There seems to be little support forthcoming from the PNA, presumably as they are spending upwards of $250,000 on armoured Mercedes. I actually do not know how society is managing at the moment. Superficially people seem OK but this is just a veneer. There is the most dreadful crisis in communities, I can’t imagine how it will continue.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been distributing food coupons to needy families in the area. The problem is, so many families are in need. Beit Sahour submitted 500 families to be included. There are still some people in work but there is so little actual cash in the economy. There will be a serious breakdown soon unless the crippling siege and curfews are lifted.

Each day is such a struggle for people and it is so sad to watch proud people having to come to collect coupons just so they can feed their families. It makes me so angry to see this happening. Where are the politicians? Busy preparing to bring the world to war rather than looking after humanity.

The world is going to become a very, very dangerous place soon and Palestinians are going to suffer more than most. It is a hot topic of conversation here right now. I am dreading to see what will unfold. And George Bush and Tony Blair have the audacity to call Saddam Hussein a threat to peace and world stability!!! The world has gone mad and anyone who supports this is completely out of touch with reality.

Thursday 12th September
Not having a modem is making it really difficult to update the journal. It is really frustrating at the moment as there seem to be all sorts of things happening but by the time I get to write about it, something else happens.

Yesterday, in the Knesset, Israel decided to annex the area of Bethlehem where Rachel’s Tomb is situated. This means that the land will become ‘part of Jerusalem’. This means that the land they steal from the Palestinians will be regarded as part of Jerusalem, thereby extending the current (illegal) borders created by Israel. Not only this but also dozens of families will loose their homes and businesses. They will receive no compensation, they will just be forced to leave their homes and their land. The Palestinians were termed as “a cancer” last week by Lt. Gen Moshe Yaalon, the threat of which, he added, needs to be “fought to the bitter end.”

I decided to go to Rachel’s Tomb today to see what, if anything, was happening there. I did not expect there to be any land grabs or demolitions today, but perhaps a change in the military presence. There is already a military base there–it is where some of the tanks appear from when we are invaded.

Today the soldiers were out. I didn’t realise until I got back that ministers from the Shas party were visiting. There were some press people there, sitting in the entrance. I was with two friends and we wandered about a little.

One of the soldiers came over and told me to get back as it was dangerous: “there are snipers” he said “Ah, Israeli snipers”, I replied. He emphatically told me that there are Palestinian snipers there, which is bollocks.

This was all to set the stage for the press that poor victim Israel is under constant threat, although the threat he cited is a figment of their imaginations. We got told off for walking up the road too, as it was so dangerous. We ignored them and carried on to the checkpoint, which was closed to Palestinians because of the Israelis visiting Rachel’s Tomb. I took some photos to document the area before: in who knows how many days, weeks or months, the whole area is going to look very, very different.

Not only is Bethlehem district being slowly eroded away, the rumour mill went into overdrive today. At the moment many people believe that ‘something will happen tonight’. Unusually I have heard that there may be an assassination attempt, although on whom I have no idea. More people believe that there will be an invasion. Judging by the actions today of the Israelis, and with the holiday of Yom Kippur looming, it would not surprise me.

The entire of Bethlehem was sealed today by military order. The Mayor was refused passage to Jerusalem. The checkpoints were all closed. All afternoon there has been the spy plane flying over and with the comments being made to the press regarding Palestinian snipers, there may well be something afoot.

Saturday 14th September
I had to go to Ramallah today to meet someone about a project. the journey is not easy at the best of times: having to get separate service taxis to each checkpoint, waiting to be checked, etc. I got to Qalandia eventually, the checkpoint before Ramallah. I have not been there for months and it is even worse than ever. Lines of cars and people waiting to go through, having to wait in the blazing sun and always not knowing how the soldiers are going to behave.

I was in line and taking photographs of the queues and the area when I was shouted at to stop. Just as this happened an elderly man, who was having obvious difficulties walking, was approached by one of the soldiers who proceeded to help him by putting his arm around him and walking him through along the tarmac, instead of over the rough terrain, strewn with rocks and rubbish. It would have made a great picture. I was touched. It’s rare to see a human gesture towards a Palestinian from an Israeli soldier.

Still, back in the line the soldier who shouted at me demanded me to come over to him and his colleague. They were older, at least in their forties, and their attitude was of hardened soldiers who don’t give a damn. One of the two, who had a bloated, pock marked face which seemed to exude bitterness and contempt, demanded my camera.

“Give me your camera.”
“Give me your camera.”
“Give it to me, stop arguing.” I reluctantly handed it over. His colleague then spoke.
“I hate people like you. You only ever take pictures of bad things. You didn’t take a picture of the soldier helping that old man.”
“I would have loved to have taken a picture, but you had ordered me to
stop taking photos.” Then his colleague started on me again.
“This is a closed zone. I’ve seen you here before. You know you can’t take pictures here.”
“I thought this was a checkpoint.”
“This is NOT a checkpoint; it is a closed military zone.”
“I have never once been told that. I have never been stopped from taking pictures before.”

Then the young soldier, who had helped the man came over, took my camera and started on me.

“Why didn’t you take a photo of me helping the man. You never take pictures of that.”
“Like I said, I would love to have taken a picture but I was told not to, so you cannot blame me for that.”
“You cannot take pictures here. It is a military area. You see your camera? Well, I can do what I like. I can take out the film and burn it. I don’t care and I will do it.
“Look, I told you, I have never been told not to take pictures here before. You tell me where I can take pictures from.”
Outside the barriers. You cannot photograph between these barriers.”
“So, I can stand over there (indicating a concrete block about three metres away) and photograph whatever?”
“Yes. This time I will give you your camera back, I will not take your film. Do not take pictures.”

Finally I was allowed to go through, but they never once asked for my passport or press card.

Friday 20th September
A friend left today to go back to New York. Her driver called from the checkpoint to say that they were refusing to allow him into Bethlehem so we had to take her and her luggage up there to meet him. As we left Deheishe, an Apache was circling overhead. The checkpoint was almost deserted: there was one taxi trying to get out but they refused.

Three of us stated to walk through the checkpoint, not the tunnel where pedestrians are supposed to go, but along the road itself as we had heavy luggage to drag and it would have been a nightmare to try and go the other way. One of the soldiers waved at us and told us to go back so we shouted back then someone will have to help us with our bags. We carried on.

The first soldier was with the taxi driver and ignored us. The second stopped us as we went to walk past and he asked us if we had been checked. He then told us the checkpoint was closed, and that no one was allowed in or out. We explained that our friends actually has a flight at 5pm so has to leave, and that she obviously could not manage to carry all her belongings without help. He checked my passport and said ok. We told him that two of us would be coming straight back in, and he said ok, you have to walk the proper way.

There was some military activity but no tanks. The helicopter was ever present, buzzing across the skyline. All other towns have been placed under curfew (which makes no change) but Bethlehem (and Jericho) are still ‘open’. By open I mean that people can move around inside, but no-one can pass in or out.

Yesterday five Israelis were killed by a suicide bomb attack, but little news coverage has been given to the fact that a ten-year-old boy was shot to death by a soldier near Ramallah for breaking curfew to try and get to the shop. One life, five lives. What difference is there other than the victim’s ethnicity?

A little boy can be murdered and no attention is paid; Israelis are murdered and the whole world knows about it. Arafat is again surrounded and there is a new batch of ‘wanted’ men inside the Moqata’a. Again there is nothing other than the Israelis claim of this, but the world hears their accusations and. No evidence will be required, no fair judicial process will be followed.

Life as a Palestinian remains to be the victim of a racist and arrogant nation who has no genuine desire for a peaceful solution with any degree of justice or fairness for the Palestinian population, who, afterall, have been here for centuries. But what the hell does that matter?

Tuesday 24th September
A 13-year-old boy from Nablus was murdered two days ago. I know it was murder as a friend of mine was standing next to him when the soldier aimed his gun and fired a single shot, hitting him in the shoulder/chest. He did not die immediately and there’s no doubt he suffered greatly.

The Israeli army has made a few, inconsistent comments, including that he was holding a bomb which went of prematurely. My friend tells quite a different story, a little of which was actually published in today’s Guardian (UK).

Baha Albahsh had spent many hours with the various internationals who have been in Nablus. They were always careful to not let him be with them if there were any suggestion of danger to him. Following a demonstration, when all had quietened down, he was out in the street, just standing with them outside a closed shop, talking. He had no stones, no bombs, no gun. He was just a 13-year-old boy who has known little else than military and settler aggression directed at him and his community.

A tank and APC drove toward, then the tank turned into another street. The APC appeared to follow but then stopped. A soldier, protected by heavy armour and weaponry, aimed his gun toward Baha and shot a single live bullet directly at him. Baha died with the internationals present holding his hand, talking to him. The Israeli army denies this version of events.

Today, in Gaza, at least nine people have been killed. Arafat is still holed up in the Moqata’a, and the occupation continues with its lethal force. I have been told that the PA will not relinquish the so-called “wanted men” into Israeli custody. I was then told that negotiations will follow a few days of the stand off and that Qatar has offered a safe haven for those involved.

So the men who have willingly put their lives on the line for the safety of Palestinians and for the fight for justice will be expelled from their land again? Despite being told that one must die for one’s country and to never, ever leave it, no matter what? Nativity church all over again.

So, yet more children are sent to an all too early grave (one of Gaza’s dead from today included a child) and the world is wrapped up with the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that over half-a-million Iraqi children, at the very least, have died as a direct result of sanctions.

Never mind that the Israeli army murders Palestinian children with impunity each day. Never mind the brutal and unrelenting siege of Palestinian cities, towns and villages continues. Never mind that America, Britain and others have weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that Israel disregards ALL UN resolutions but those who are not favoured by the powerful must accede to their demands.

Never mind that the American administration has publicly declared that it will not allow any other country in the world to be as powerful militarily as it is. Never mind that the American administration, aided and abetted by a vomit-inducing sycophantic British prime minister, declares what it believes to be right and wrong and anyone who disagrees is a terrorist. When will the world wake up? When it is too late.

Friday 27th September
Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the Intifada. There will be marches in the various towns where Palestinian citizens of Israel were murdered by police and special forces in the first two weeks. Here in Palestine I do not think much will happen on our streets. Most are under curfew and although last Saturday night saw thousands come out to protest the latest siege of Arafat (I walked around Bethlehem for about two hours after the shebab decided going to Rachel’s tomb was perhaps not such a good idea) no one I have spoken to thinks anyone will march or protest.

Over the last few days many Palestinians have been killed and injured, including a baby dying from tear gas inhalation in Hebron and 15 children injured yesterday in Gaza when an assassination attempt was made.

There is such disparity in the reporting between the killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians and children and the killing and injuring of Israelis. Surely the killing of anyone is morally wrong, regardless? Why does Bush send condolences to the Israeli people following a suicide attack, along with harsh words condemning the act, yet Palestinians are regularly killed with no such words of sympathy or demands for the actions against them to stop?

Yesterday morning four tanks were brought up to the main Bethlehem checkpoint. I guess they are still there, in the field, waiting. The checkpoint isn’t totally closed but it is very hard for Palestinians to travel through. Travel anywhere is almost impossible and one has to resort to taking the most circuitous routes to get anywhere. Food prices are beginning to creep up (I paid five shekels for a cauliflower the other day) and there is less and less work available for people.

I went to see a film this evening called ‘House of God’. It was truly dreadful. It was supposedly about the siege of Nativity church, however it was told by the clergy, Father Ibrahim Faltas being the main commentator. He is also the man who had all the personal items belonging to the internationals in the church entrusted to his care.

He refuses to speak to me or give back anything. In fact, we believe that everything was handed over to the Israelis after the church allowed them to enter and kidnap the internationals for deportation. The invitation I received touted the film as “They talk about the fear, the pain, the resistance and steadfastness” however it was just church propaganda.

In one scene the wives and mothers were tearfully saying goodbye to their men through the barbed wire barricade however there was no mention in the film of what had happened concerning the negotiations and that the men being seen coming out were being exiled. There was absolutely no mention of the internationals and no reference to the Palestinian freedom fighters or the cause. When Father Faltas spoke of the shortage of food, he neglected to add that the clergy had plenty. Throughout the film all we heard were the words of the church, nothing else. The film had no context or substance, it was totally empty of meaning, and full of lies and distorted truths.

Bookmark and Share


Recent Posts

Tag Cloud

1948 activism ahdaf ameer makhoul BDS beit jala Bethlehem budrus checkpoint community deheishe economy gaza Ghassan Kanafani home illegal occupation Intifada Iran Israel juliano mer hamis Lebanon Leila Khaled nakba negotiations PA Palestine palestine papers palestinian PFLP popular struggle prisoners rap refugees resistance revolution Sam Bahour Settlements society students tunnels wadi fukin wall war Water west bank

Copyright © Georgina Reeves