June 2002

Sunday 2nd June, 2002
The usual rumours abound. Tomorrow, apparently, is the next re-invasion of Bethlehem. As my scepticism last time proved to be groundless and the Israeli forces did in fact come back in on the 25th, as predicted, I feel that I should at least pay some notice this time. In fact, even after the withdrawal last Thursday they were back in on Friday night for a few hours, so it is not unreasonable to expect them again, especially as there are still Bethlehemites that are ‘wanted’. Still, I can’t imagine that anyone who knows they are a target will be anywhere near their homes or the area. We’ll see, there was a helicopter flying over a little earlier ………

Eight more internationals have been arrested, this time whilst in Balata refugee camp, Nablus. They were taken last night to Ariel police station and have now been transferred to holding cells at Ben Gurion airport, presumably in an effort to deport them quickly. There is quite an issue surrounding these detentions, as well as with the previous detainees who were deported, as they were all in area ‘A’, Palestinian controlled territory.

Monday 3rd June, 2002
No tanks overnight, just the planes screeching overhead.

I got an email from a friend a few minutes ago. As she said, it is one story in thousands but deserves to be heard, as does every atrocity committed here:

“I am so angry and upset about what I just heard, but it is just another story in 1000s.

“It is taking a friend of mine and his sister about three to five hours a day just to return home from work. They have totally closed the checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem and they have had to get six taxis over the hills.

“Just now he called me. They shot a man dead in front of him and his sister who was taking the same route as them. He is too angry, shaken and frightened now and he thinks he will have to give up his work. Maybe tomorrow it would be him or his sister instead of this poor man whose family probably don’t even know he is dead yet.”

I don’t know what to say.

And having a browse through the news I came across this article in the Jerusalem Post:

Jun. 2, 2002

‘Police cut a Star of David into my arm’


A resident of the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina said yesterday that he was beaten and physically abused by four border policemen for several hours Saturday. One of the policemen allegedly cut a Star of David into his left arm with a razor blade.

Bakar Naggi Allan, 19, said he was walking to work at a gas company in the neighborhood, when four border policemen ordered him to stop. He was dragged to an uninhabited area and intermittently beaten for two hours. He said one of the four ordered him to put his head on the ground, and, using a razor blade, cut the Star of David on his left arm, and then began cutting his face.

“I saw the blood dripping from my arm, but the border policeman warned me not to look, or he said he would kill me,” Allan said yesterday, his neck still in a brace and his arm and face still bearing the cuts.

The harrowing ordeal was brought to an abrupt end when the border policemen took off after residents began returning home in the early afternoon.

Allan’s brother, Samir, 28, said he was notified by his mother that he had not turned up for work. For the next several hours, he tried in vain to locate his brother.

“I called the Russian Compound to see if he had been arrested, and he hadn’t. I called the Neveh Ya’acov police station, and he wasn’t there either. I began to think he must be dead, only my brother has never done anything or been involved in any violence, so I couldn’t understand it,” Samir said.

Finally, at about 3 p.m., he saw his haggard and bruised brother making his way back to their home. He immediately took him to an east Jerusalem hospital.

The family said last night they have yet to make an official complaint with police, in part because Bakar said that he never saw the faces of his alleged tormentors, who were wearing helmets.

Border Police spokeswoman Liat Perel last night urged the family to issue a formal complaint, so that the case can be investigated.

“I am still afraid,” Bakar said, “but I know that not all border policemen are like this. I know the officer at the A-Ram checkpoint. The fat man. He is really nice.”


And Israel has the audacity to call Palestinians ‘terrorists’……………….. Will the world ever wake up to what is happening here? I cannot believe the politicians are so ignorant that they do not know what Israel is doing.

And as they encircle Bethlehem and other districts with barbed wire and trenches they continue to steal Palestinian land, build their colonies and settler by-pass roads, destroy olive groves, demolish homes, beat, kill and oppress.

Friday 7th June, 2002
Last night and today I was very privileged as I attended the henna and wedding of my great friends, Allegra and Abed. Abed was released from administrative detention three weeks ago now: this time he was held without charge for a year.

He was a field worker with the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) and has been imprisoned before, 7 times now I think. Allegra was in the States studying when he was arrested the last time, so she has not seen him for two years, apart from the fact that she was a lawyer on his case. But that is hardly ‘seeing’ him as they were either in court, or in prison.

In fact, they ended up announcing their engagement in court as they had no way of knowing how many times the detention order would be renewed. Israel holds Palestinians for years without charge, using a throwback to British Mandate law to allow them to do so. No evidence is presented, no charges are brought, yet Palestinains are incarcerated and held indefinitely.

His accounts of his times in prison are harrowing and the treatment he and his fellow detainees suffered quite unbelievable. Well, they would be if I didn’t know better, which I do.

So yesterday and today were very special. They have had to overcome the most incredible obstacles to achieve their marriage and the joy for them, their families and us friends was immeasurable. Since Allegra told me Abed was going to be released, each day has been filled with anxious expectation. Not least from the repeated incursions which, had we been under invasion, would have meant no wedding. Even last night, shortly after I left, the army went in to Deheishe refugee camp, close to their home. The group decorating the house for today’s wedding celebration had to leave quickly and hope that this didn’t mean another cancellation.

Luckily it didn’t and today I enjoyed their wedding. The older women were wearing beautifully embroidered dresses, dancing and singing traditional Palestinian songs. The younger people joined in enthusiastically but preferred the modern music. There is little joy here and nothing to celebrate usually. For months people have been exisiting but not living.

Today was a welcome change and a chance for people to feel some happiness and to celebrate the marriage of two amazing people. Quite a few of the people there spoke little or no English, but that did not stop us all having a great time. I danced and clapped and played with the children. As it was a relatively traditional wedding, the men celebrated separately to the women, but Abed and Allegra have a modern approach so Abed was with us for most of the time, then he and Allegra went to spend some time with the men in the other house.

Finally, they came back for one more traditional element, the bride and the unmarried women dance with candles. Then the guests left and close family remained to have a celebratory dinner, which was wonderful, of course!

And tomorrow, at long last, they can continue with their lives but this time together. No doubt there will be more difficulties ahead, that is part of life here, but the nicest thing was to see was everyone sharing the happiness. Abed is Palestinian, Allegra is Israeli.

Sunday 9th June, 2002
And so it comes around again: time for me to leave, due to visa requirements. I hate it. I am full of anxiety as to what ‘security procedures’ I shall have to endure, and also fearful of my return experience. I prefer not to dwell on it at present.

The weather at the moment is very unseasonal and the heat is stifling. Almost no one is on the streets during the day as the temperature is in excess of 40 degrees. I, of course, in keeping with the British tradition of mad dogs, etc, continue to walk almost everywhere, much to the astonishment of those I know who pick me up in their air-conditioned vehicles and deposit me at my final destination.

All the checkpoints in the area were closed today–I have no idea why. I was going to say there has been none of the usual activity in the vicinity that is a precursor to an all out invasion, but just got a phone call and went on to my roof. Not surprisingly, I heard the spotter plane doing its rounds of the area. Each morning when I wake, I listen to see of the ‘normal’ sounds still exist. As long as I hear cars, I know that the Israeli army have not come in, but if it is quiet, I expect to see tanks and APCs lining my street.

Thursday 20th June
New York is great, I am actually relaxing, but it doesn’t stop the fear and concern of what is happening so far away from affecting me. I have tried to avoid the news but it is impossible, as are the emails from friends in various areas. I got one such email this morning telling me a friend of mine, an international who has been staying in Jenin camp for a while now, was beaten up by soldiers for trying to give water to the Palestinian men being held in the blazing sun. It is all too familiar and far more depressing than ever.

The army is systematically destroying homes again, and the power, water and phone lines have been cut. This is terrifying for those in the camp. Most of the men have been taken away to Salem, although some were released, however they were told to stay away from the camp until Saturday. Most sinister.

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