December 2002

Wednesday 11th December, 2002
It has been almost impossible to update my journal for over a month now due to another broken modem, no phone line and another invasion. Despite the fact that we are under curfew again, I still go out and visit friends. Each day I go to Deheishe and each day the Israeli army comes along and fires tear gas into the camp. On Eid (the feast at the end of Ramadan) the army attacked the mosque in the camp, gassing the men as they prayed. I can’t see how that is ‘fighting terror’.

We are almost at the end of the third week of curfew and invasion. The first night (November 22nd) I was forced out of the home I was in by a squad of over 30 soldiers. they were looking for a relative of the family I was staying with. We were held at gunpoint from 4am until after 6am, when they finally abducted one of the men in the family and took him as they couldn’t find who they were looking for.

The man they took was Abed Al Ahmar, the husband of Allegra Pacheco, the human rights lawyer. (I went to their wedding in June–see the archive for more info.)

Allegra is currently the legal adviser to UNRWA. Despite her position, which supposedly affords her protection, they totally disregarded the protocols for dealing with a UN official. Considering an Israeli sniper murdered Iain Hook (a friend and colleague of Allegra’s) that same day, it is hardly surprising.

Abed is now being held in Ofer prison, under a six month administrative detention order. Administrative detention is a throwback to British Mandate law. A person can be detained without charge or trial and held for 6 months. After six months the order can be renewed. At no time is the detainee or his legal counsel given any access to evidence in connection with the detention and the file is deemed secret and can only be viewed by the military judge and the Israeli security forces.

The International Committee Against Torture has ruled that administrative detention is a form of torture. At this time there are over 1,000 Palestinians being held using this order. Along with Abed, in tents due to overcrowding in Ofer prison, are detainees as young as 15 and men as old as 75. The reasons for their detention are unclear but in some cases people are being held as a relative is wanted. This is illegal under international law.

Thursday 19th December, 2002
Curfew has been lifted for three days in a row–Saturday through until Monday. We had hoped that the Israelis were going to allow curfew to be lifted daily, this is what had been reported, however this is not the case.

Since Tuesday everyone has remained as prisoners in their homes. There is also a report that there will be a partial withdrawal, only the refugee camps will be kept under curfew. This is utterly ridiculous and there is no reason for Bethlehem, or any Palestinian area, to remain under curfew. This is not about security: it is purely about power and control.

There is much anxiety concerning the imminent attack against Iraq. Some Palestinians have been talking about what will happen after America installs its own puppet administration. Some fear that they will be transferred to Iraqi territory and their land handed over to the Israelis. That may sound crazy but they have good reason to fear this may happen. The world will not be interested in what is going on here.

Christmas has in effect been cancelled. There are no decorations and there is no atmosphere apart from fear, dread and desperation. It is unbelievable to see a population so brutalised with so little intervention. It doesn’t seem to matter what the Israelis do, no one is challenging them. Each day many homes are destroyed, 16 in Rafah (Gaza) the day before yesterday. The ethnic cleansing, although slow is very sure.

Friday 20th December, 2002
The weather is utterly miserable and the curfew has been lifted so people are out, frantically stocking up and trying to get things done that many take for granted. Going to the shops, seeing relatives and friends, going to school, and for those fortunate enough to have a job, going to work. Are we supposed to feel grateful to the Israeli army for these few hours of freedom?
On Wednesday night, the Israeli army evacuated an illegal settler outpost in Hebron, close by to the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriachs. The historic city centre of Hebron is under threat. Israel has declared that it will demolish a whole street of homes to allow ‘safe passage’ for the Jewish settlers to go to the Tomb.

These are all old buildings, part of the heritage of the area, but that means nothing. Nor does the making homeless of many families who will have no recompense for their loss. It is not usual to see these outposts dismantled; once they spring up the settlers cling to the land and colonize it, taking Palestine inch by inch. A friend of mine had to go to Hebron on Wednesday and she told me that vehicles from the American Consulate were there, along with the CIA. Apparently, there has been pressure from the US concerning this outpost, but not all the other illegal settlements and outposts that carve up the West Bank and Gaza, isolating Palestinian towns and villages from one another.

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