Saturday, 23 July 2011

Jordan Valley

Jordan Valley

This past week, four of us from ISM went to work with Jordan Valley Solidarity in the desert terrain bordering Jordan.

The scenery is amazing in the Valley - the base camp is surrounded by mountains and cacti, and on the average day it is about 40 degrees. In the evening it's a bit cooler with the breeze, so the four of us decided to go for a walk up one of the mountains to see the view. It was spectacular. Although from the top, you can see the Israeli military checkpoint which regulates who comes in and out of the Valley, and on the top of the mountain we noticed that a few stones had numbers painted on them. We didn't think much of this and continued our leisurely walk until the sun had set.

When we got back to the camp, the Palestinians told us that what we had just walked through was an Israeli military shooting range - all the mountains in the valley are. Jordan Valley is often forgotten even among activists, but is key to Israel's ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Jordan Valley Solidarity work to rebuild Bedouin homes and schools that Israel demolishes; their belief is that existence is resistance. Bedouins are Palestinians who have been made homeless when Israeli settlers steal their homes and their land. There are hundreds of bedouins in the Valley, where it is excruciatingly hot if you have no shade or water.

The Palestinians living in the Valley only own 2% of the water, as Israel is redirecting 98% to the illegal settlements, so they can use it to water their palm trees that are planted on stolen Palestinian land. Netanyahu has visited the settlements near where we were staying, to ask what they needed there in order to carry on expanding.

If Palestinian land isn't being stolen by settlers, homes are being demolished by the Israeli army. Ramadan is a particularly worrying time for the Palestinians there as it is too hot to fast in the Valley with no water, so many people often go to stay with relatives in the rest of the West Bank for a month. The military then claim that their houses are not being used, and tear them down. Last week, the army destroyed three Palestinian wells that more than 200 people relied upon for water and for agriculture. But this is the Israeli army; they didn't just destroy them, they shoved cement and metal down the pipes to ensure that the Palestinians couldn't rebuild them. Each well costs more than 250 000 NIS to build.

The volunteers at JV Solidarity make a refreshing change from NGO workers and their paperwork. They build every day - the Palestinians for at least 12 hours a day. There are two young boys from Bedouin families volunteering there who were a real inspiration for me to keep going when I was tired. For the first two days, we were making mud bricks to build houses...

The second two days we spent on a construction site at a Bedouin village, where we were building homes for families whose land and water had been stolen by settlers. It was hard work in the sun, laying bricks and mixing cement, but the Palestinians were amazing and it was really good fun. If someone was slacking, it was fair game to throw cement in their face, or a rock at them - Palestine isn't so pedantic with health and safety as in the UK, and I can say that life is much more fun this way.

On our final night, we put some planks of wood together on the construction site and slept under the stars, with the wild dogs and scorpions and Israeli drones flying overhead. After twelve hours of manual labour, I could pretty much sleep anywhere. The moon was huge and blood red, and there were awesome shooting stars that night.

Luckily, we weren't disturbed by the military attempting to rip down our day's work. But Ramadan starts on the 1st August and the people are worried. Once Israel manage to drive the last of the Palestinians out of the Valley, they have the West Bank surrounded and that will make their ethnic cleansing all the more easy, and Netanyahu knows this - hence why he is a visitor to the settlers in their air conditioned condos here.

I cannot emphasise enough how much of a farce the 'peace talks' are. They are a distraction for the international community while Israel evicts the Palestinians from their land and murders those who resist. But there is not much need for the peace talks as a cover-up for long; just the fact that settlers have access to 98% of the water in the Valley is a reminder for the Palestinians here that Israel is winning. And Israel is winning because the international community needs to wake up.

I'm beginning to realise that being able to sit with friends in a pub in London without fear of soldiers with AK47s invading and threatening you, puts you in a minority in this world - not the majority. We Westerners are living in a bubble, and it's about time we woke up to what our governments are doing in our names to defenceless people.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Yes, the BBC is Zionist

On July 13th, Ibrahim Omar Serhan was murdered by the Israeli military in Al Faraa refugee camp, near Nablus.

We were immediately informed and went to talk to the village and eye witnesses just hours after the attack, which is the most inhumane I have experienced since being here. Read our report here:

Today, the BBC reported on Ibrahim's death. Read their report here:

ISMers saw the trail of blood left by Ibrahim as he tried to escape from the soldiers, who hunted him down and left him to die in the road, where no ambulance could reach him. We attended the funeral. We spoke to his friends and family.

The BBC listened to the lies of the Israeli military and reported on it three days later. There was no stone throwing. There was no threat at all towards the military. This was cold-blooded murder, and the BBC reports the lies of the Israeli military.

I am glad I have witnessed this first-hand. I can assure you that the BBC, along with every other news channel are liars and complicit in covering up ethnic cleansing.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Here are some video links for you on YouTube from demonstrations and actions here. I can't upload my photos yet, because I need to make sure they don't have any Palestinian/international faces in them (the Israeli military can use it as evidence 'against' us).

Nabi Saleh -

Ni'lin -

Ashraf (the brother of Basem, who was murdered in Bi'lin) getting shot whilst blindfolded - - I was at some demos with Ashraf this week. He and everyone else in Bi'lin are such strong people, and a real inspiration.

Also check out active stills: - you may recognise someone.

Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing

My apologies for not posting anything substantial lately, but it's been really hectic with the Action Week organised by Welcome to Palestine in aid of the flytilla. Although I realise I always use the excuse that it has been hectic. This is true.

There are two phrases used often by activists when talking about the Israeli occupation of Palestine: apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Before coming here, I thought that these might be misnomers for something unjust and frustrating - people exaggerating in their anger. Having been here for a month, I can now see that these phrases are shockingly accurate.


I was hitchhiking from Nablus to Ramallah with a Palestinian. He didn't speak much English, and I didn't speak much Arabic, so we just listened to Fay Rouz and some Egyptian music on the way. The journey should take about forty-five minutes, but on the way we got stuck at a flying checkpoint, so it took us nearly two and a half hours. He kept apologizing to me for the wait, at which point I said to him (in broken Arabic) 'You should not be apologizing for the army. They are the problem.'

'I know,' he said. 'This is our life here.'

Flying checkpoints can be set up at anytime, almost anywhere in the West Bank by the Israeli military. They stop and search Palestinian cars at random, sometimes taking down the passport details of Palestinians and internationals to add to their elusive database. I find it hard to believe that these soldiers ever believe that Palestinians are carrying weapons - this is just a way to make life hard for the Palestinians. As a friend of mine said here, the West Bank is now divided up into three main islands: Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus, and the military does everything they can to make traveling in between each difficult. This is restriction of movement.

Crossing from the West Bank into Israel, there are permanent checkpoints for when you have to pass through Jeddah - the Apartheid Wall. The worst of these checkpoints is Qalandia. The Palestinians have get out of their cars and buses and queue up in what I can only describe as cattle cages. It's like being in a prison cell, surrounded by metal bars with teenage soldiers watching you on their cameras. They are controlling everything. 

There is one revolving metal door at the end of each cage, and every few minutes, when the soldiers feel like it, a green light will come on allowing three people to pass through to the scanners. You have to take off your belt, bags, phones and sometimes shoes before you walk through. You then have to show your passport to a teenage soldier as they half glare at you from behind their glass window and snap 'show me the visa'. The soldiers can decide to turn anyone away for any reason. A few weeks ago, there was a Palestinian man in front of me and a soldier, after taking his passport, threw it on the floor, laughed at him and then shouted at him to go back. He was quite old, so had to struggle to bend down to pick it up and then make his way back through the cramped cages.

This level of security is not reciprocated coming into the West Bank from Israel; you can just walk straight through.

A couple of weeks after I'd been at Qalandia, I was at a demonstration with some Israeli activists in the West Bank, and they offered to drop me off in Jerusalem. The bus pulled over, and I asked where we were.

"This is West Jerusalem," one activist replied.

"But what about the checkpoint?" I asked.

"We drove through it about twenty minutes ago." The soldiers never check Israeli cars.

From some of the hills in the West Bank, you can see Tel Aviv and Mediterranean, but the children born here have never been to the sea. A lot of Palestinians have houses in Tel Aviv, Haifa and other places in Israel that have been stolen from them - they have the paperwork to prove it, but they cannot access their land. Most Palestinians are not even allowed to go to Jerusalem to pray in Al Aqsa or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (there is a significant Christian minority in Palestine, that Israel doesn't like to mention). This is because you need a permit to pass through to Israel if you are Palestinian, and this permit is denied to most.

There are settler only roads in the West Bank and different legal systems for Israelis, internationals and Palestinians. In theory, internationals and Israelis can only be held for 24 hours without charge when they are arrested; Palestinians have been held for up to six years. Most Palestinian men have spent time in jail for 'attending illegal demonstrations' or something similarly ridiculous.

If this is not apartheid, what is it?

Ethnic Cleansing.

Yesterday morning we got a call from some ISMers working in Jordan Valley telling us that the army had invaded the Bedouin village that they had been working in, as the had demolition orders for the wells there. We went in two cars to go and help, and record what was going on. My car got escorted out of the village by a military jeep, after they took our passports - the other car managed to get in and record what was happening.

The army destroyed three wells; the soldiers bulldozed two and set fire to a third. They then stuffed the foundational pipes which carry water to the village with metal so that the village could not repair them, but would have to build new wells from scratch. It costs the village over 150 000 NIS to build each well, which are used for aggregation in the village. The 2000 villagers - half of whom are refugees - were dependent upon the wells to water their crops.

Soldiers were sighted four times in the village in the past week, coming in to document what sort of equipment they would need to destroy the wells.

I was in a small village a few days ago for a demonstration against a new wall the soldiers are building. Our contact there told me that the army had fifteen demolition orders for houses in the village - basically three quarters of the village.

The same is going on in Sheikh Jerrah in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians are being systematically evicted from their homes, and settlers moved in. When Palestinians demonstrate non-violently against these evictions, the army responds violently.

As far as I can see it, Israel is 'cleansing' the land. They are attempting to drive all traces of the Palestinians from this land, and they are willing to kill to do so. They are not going to stop - the peace talks are bull shit, a distraction for the world while Israel continues to wipe Palestine off the map.

If this is not ethnic cleansing, what is it?

If we don't rise now, it will be too late. The last beauty that is left in the West Bank will be taken; the Palestinians killed or driven away through fear and settlements will take over. Israel is blacklisting any international activists it can. A lot of us here have been blacklisted, so we need more people to come to Palestine to continue the struggle side by side with the Palestinians.

We need people to rise.


Thursday, 7 July 2011


Another quick post - my apologies; I will write something more substantial this weekend.

Our Brazilian activist has been released from prison after being held for five days without trial, having been illegally arrested on Saturday. This is some good news!

Tomorrow there are between 500-1000 activists flying into Ben Gurion airport and announcing that they are here to support the Palestinians in a week of peaceful actions. We're calling this the 'Flytilla' although, unfortunately, we don't expect many people to get through security as Israeli authorities will try to deport them purely on the basis of their support for the Palestinians. The biggest fear is that activists will not be allowed to board their planes in their country of origin, which means that the media may not get a whiff of it.

Personally, I am hoping that Israel suspect many unknowing tourists tomorrow of being activists and deporting them too, so that people who don't know what's happening to the Palestinians may be woken up to apartheid when it smacks them in the forehead.

So please pass this message on and look out for it on ISM news and Al Jazeera tomorrow.


Monday, 4 July 2011

An Appeal

This is just a short appeal post for two people.

The first is a Brazilian activist here in Palestine, who has been kidnapped by the Israeli state before her court hearing and transferred to the Oz Unit (the deportation unit). The activist was arrested whilst attending a peaceful demonstration in Iraq Burin, near Nablus.

The demonstration turned extremely violent when the soldiers fired twenty to thirty high speed tear gas canisters and rubber bullets directly at unarmed demonstrators as they ran down the side of a mountain to escape. The Brazilian activist was caught by soldiers as she ran, and has been in the hands of the Israeli state for 48 hours now.

There are no grounds for deportation and the entire process is illegal, but this will not stop Israel. ISM is asking for donations for the legal case to keep her here:

The second person is Sheikh Raed Saleh, who was arrested in London two days ago. The Sheikh is one of the most prominent campaigners for Palestinian rights in Israel and was invited to the UK to speak alongside MPs at 'Building Peace and Justice in Jerusalem'.

He was arrested under Section 3 of the 1971 Immigration Act as, according to Theresa May, he had been banned from the UK. When the ban was implemented or why has not been declared. This appears a clear demonstration of Westminster's support for Zionism and discrimination against the Sheikh for his pro-Palestinian stance. Please sign the petition demanding his release here:

Alternatively, email Theresa May personally on: And ask her why he has been banned.


Saturday, 2 July 2011

A.S.A.B. - All Settlers Are Bastards

Today was my first day off at the end of another intense week.

Two nights ago, myself and five others spent the night in an empty house in a village called Al Masara, near Hebron. Last week the army managed to get a demolition order for the mosque in the village, arguing that it had been built 'illegally'.

I should explain that in the West Bank - especially in areas B and C under the Oslo Accords - it is 'illegal' for Palestinians to build upon their own land, according to Israeli law. This one of the many ways that Israel controls the lives of the Palestinians. And so when a community needs a new mosque or school, and they are repeatedly denied a construction permit by the Israeli authorities, they are forced to build without one.

ISM activists had been in Al Masara for six days - the village expected the soldiers to come within a week of receiving the order. Our shift was on day seven. The plan was for us to stay the night; the Palestinians had people watching both entrances to the village 24/7 and so when the soldiers and bulldozers were spotted, a car would come by the house, pick us up and drive us to the mosque, where we would chain ourselves to the door and climb onto the roof before the soldiers arrived.

The six of us stayed up, watching films (we voted against horror films in favour of Scott Pilgrim..) and eating bread, hummous and the Palestinian equivalent of Pot Noodles. The cockroaches kept us company in our five-star squatter pad.

The soldiers didn't come that night. The mosque is still standing. But the army could come anytime, and the village cannot predict when. Fear is another means of control used by the Israeli state.

This week we also had two more activists arrested at a peaceful demonstration in Beit Ommar. Their arrest, I have to say, makes mine last week look like a holiday in Tel Aviv (not that such a holiday would be desirable). They were violently arrested, blindfolded for three hours, separated from each other and kept in rooms with about ten soldiers, who spat on them and harassed them calling them 'whores'. One activist was accused in court of assaulting a soldier - these kinds of lies I'm beginning to think are taught at basic training.

You can read about the girls' arrest here:

And so by the end of the week, I was quite looking forward to my day off. I decided to go for a walk around the Old City in Nablus. I spent about half an hour in the bustling market, with Arabic pop music booming from various speakers around. I soon realised that I'd gotten myself lost, so decided to ask some Palestinians the way back.

They were glad to help! But not before giving me tea, and bread, and pizza and offering me clothes, and even money... The hospitality of these people living under occupation is extraordinary. I don't see the Palestinians filled with hate or even anger, but just a deep appreciation for what they have left - and a fire in their hearts for justice, which keeps us all going.

As I was enjoying my day off in the Old City, I received a call that settlers had set fire to the valley in Burin, a village just outside of Nablus. I went to meet some others so we could document what had happened.

By the time we got there, the settlers had gone, just leaving the flames to burn the Palestinian olive trees and crops. Fifty settlers (men, women and children) came in a group, making it a planned attack. As we tried to document what had happened, a couple of army jeeps blocked the road to where the fire was burning; the military tends to protect the illegal settlers indiscriminately.

The settlers - who ruined my day off - are the ugliest face of the Israeli occupation.

It is illegal under international law for an occupying power to transfer any of its civilians into its occupied territories (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention). But Israel continually ignores this. In June 2010, 42% of the West Bank was taken up by illegal Israeli settlements; and they are growing.

The settlements in the West Bank literally look like Europe has spat on Palestine. The hills are beautiful, and the Palestinian homes are tall and white and are in harmony with the landscape. The settlements comprise parallel rows of houses with orange, triangular roofs - as if the Middle East has a lot of rainfall. It seems obvious to me at least that these are European and American settlers, who don't know how to live on this land, yet insist upon stealing it.

Perhaps the only thing more unmerciful than the eyesore of these settlements, is their occupants. Settlers tend to be Zionist ideologues, who move to the West Bank to reclaim 'their' land from the 'Arabs'. Unlike the majority of Israelis who - despite being influenced by the Zionist media - have a desire for peace, the settlers seem to have none. They often attack neighbouring Palestinian villages. This could be setting fire to their lands, or coming into villages, throwing stones at children, or bringing rifles and knives to attempt to kill Palestinians. They have been successful on occasions.

ISM, for example, has a tent outside a house in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, where settlers are occupying half of a Palestinian house. The owner, whose family is now twelve people, was forced to build an illegal extension to his house after the Israeli authorities denied him a permit for years. When he had finished the extension, the military annexed it off and settlers moved in.

The settlers in Sheikh Jarrah are there to cause unrest and to make Palestinians feel uncomfortable on their own land. The settlers are not a family; they are mostly radicalised teenagers. They have two dogs, which they sometimes release on the Palestinians. One Palestinian boy who got bitten was actually imprisoned for two days for 'letting the dog bite him'. There is no logic in this conflict.

There is a term well-known throughout the West Bank: 'ASAB' - 'All Settlers Are Bastards'. I think I will make a t-shirt with this slogan, to wear on my next day off.