November 2001

Wednesday November 28th
I am at a loss to understand how five children, all from the same family, being blown apart by unexploded ordinance has had so little reaction world wide. Dare I suggest the difference had they been Jewish?

There are so many things that happen here which never reach the television screen or the newspaper. On Saturday in Hares, a village north of Ramallah, IOF soldiers entered the village with no justification (as far as I am concerned there can be absolutely no justification for their presence anyway) and threw tear gas into the school. The children ran out in terror and were chased by the soldiers. Last thing I heard was the army had surrounded the village. (This was recounted to me by a Jewish friend who was there, I put it out through our media alert project, and not one journalist called.)

A 14-year-old boy from Bethlehem was shot on Sunday, and later died, following a Hamas organized demonstration. I did hear that he may have been throwing stones. I also heard that his school books, which he was clutching to his chest, had a large, sooty, smoking hole left in them where the bullet passed through into his heart.

And, to show some ‘balance’, here is the other side; Hebron’s settler community. These Jews are the ones who get their children to stone, spit and taunt Palestinians and foreigners. Do they get shot at? Do they have tear gas thrown at them? Of course not; the Israeli army do nothing, and they certainly don’t shoot little Jewish children for stone throwing, unlike Palestinian children.

There was also a rather nasty leaflet found in the old centre of Hebron, produced by the rabid right wing settlers there. The leaflet contained a plea from the settlers to the soldiers to go against orders and to shoot to kill, including such gems as “attack and annihilate!” and “If your commanders…….do not obey them!”

There is an interesting situation emerging following the shelling of the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem. This is the hospital that contains an orphanage; during the reoccupation the little children had to sleep in a corridor and have not really recovered from the trauma of being under attack. The hospital itself is funded through the Knights of Malta, the orphanage has to rely solely on donations. The attack on the hospital, which no one in their right mind could possibly describe as a ‘mistake’ (over 40 shells hit the complex, including at least two that hit the chapel, located right in the centre of the whole area) are going to sue the Israeli army for breach of the Geneva Conventions (hospitals can never be described as legitimate targets). As the organisation is not Palestinian there is some hope that this case may at last draw some attention to the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israeli forces.

Monica is leaving, rather unexpectedly. She has a great job opening up a New York office for ADC, which is the Arab American Anti-discrimination Committee. A fantastic opportunity for her, and another holiday destination for me. It will be very strange having spent so much time together, in some rather unusual situations too. I have one less reason to go to Haifa now. John was here doing a story about football, or rather the effects of the occupation of Palestine and the Intifada, for an exhibition in London next year. Footballers stuck at checkpoints, a martyr who was goalie for the national team, that sort of thing. Incidentally, Coca Cola sponsor the Palestinian team. It is certainly a very weird world in which we live.

Saturday 10th November
It has been a while since I have had time to write anything. In the last few weeks I have acquired a new job, with money, and been to Sinai.

I needed to renew my visa, every three months I have to go through this aggravation, so I decided to have a couple days complete rest. Sinai is one of my favourite places where three of my favourite things are; the sea, the desert and the mountains. To get there I had to catch a bus from West Jerusalem to Eilat, then walk across the border into Egypt.

Sinai is absolutely stunning, really beautiful and a welcome relief after the last few weeks. I completely stopped! I sat and read for two whole days, walked along the shore, swam, went riding. The only stress was running the gauntlet of over excited Egyptian Shebab each time I went to the beach.

Returning from my idyllic paradise was horrible. At Taba I had a run-in with the customs and visa officials. I was issued with a one  month visa, something I have since discovered has recently become automatic at that particular border, but I argued with the official about it. I then stomped through and as customs didn’t stop me, I certainly was not going to stop for them. At the exit gate I was told off for not having my bags checked and that I had to go back. I, of course, refused and told him if they wanted to see my bags they should have stopped me, not let me walk past them unchallenged. A few minutes passed and he let me through.

Now back to reality. At the moment I am working for Rapprochement on their Media Alert project. This involves monitoring five areas around the West Bank. We have given a local person in each place a digital camera and a mobile phone. The five areas chosen are suffering more than most under the occupation. The point is for them to document all that happens and report to us about it. There are two coordinators – I am one of them – and we have to decide whether we issue an alert to the media or not. There are a few flaws in the plan at the moment, but I hope that we can iron out the wrinkles.

In addition, I am also helping to coordinate the December action campaign. There will be two weeks of direct actions around the West Bank, with a large amount of international participation. Phew!

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