Israel-Palestine round-up

IssueSeptember - November 2003
News by Jess Orlik

International Solidarity Movement activists have been taking action with local Palestinians against the ongoing construction of the “apartheid wall”. (ISM point out: “The officially stated reason for building the `security fence' is to prevent the unauthorised passage of Palestinians out of the West Bank. However, the route of the so-called `security fence' does not follow the internationally recognised pre-1967 borders of the State of Israel”.)

The wall has recently gone up around Jayyous, a village in the West Bank. One Bedouin family, the Sharibs, who live just to the south of Jayyous, have been completely cut off from the rest of the village. They are prisoners in their own home, unable to access food, water and their children's school.

After one failed attempt, when Israeli guards shot at those attempting to reach the Sharibs, a peaceful procession of about 20 activists, half Palestinian, half international, managed to deliver food to the family on 21 July.

Links through the wire

Another area being suffocated by the “apartheid wall” is Qalqiliya. The 45,000-strong population is now isolated within concrete and barbed wire, preventing movement between Palestinian cities and villages. The wall has effectively “confiscated” 35% of the city's arable land and 33% of its water resources. The local economy is suffering and the city faces dire food and water shortages.

On Thursday 31 July Palestinians and internationals gathered at Qalqiliya to take part in a protest march to the wall where art performances and speeches took place. Israeli groups convened at the same point on the other side of the wall and representatives from the two groups managed to meet and exchange roses.

One more recent ISM action met with less success. On 5 August, 44 Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists were detained as they attempted to stop the demolition of a Palestinian family's home near the village of Mas'ha: 38 of the detained activists have been forbidden from re-entering the occupied territories.

House demolitions

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) has been working to stop the continuing illegal demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli government.

The ICAHD is currently rebuilding the home of Arabia and Salim Shawamreh of Anata, near Jerusalem, which has been demolished four times. The house is being rebuilt as a peace centre named Beit Arabia (Arabia's House) and will host educational activities, and activist and peace building events between Palestinians and Israelis.

Refusal continues

While ISM and local peace groups continue to put pressure on the Israeli government, Israeli COs and refuseniks continue to face long prison sentences for speaking out against what they consider to be the illegal actions of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

CO Yonatan Ben-Artzi has now been in military prison for over a year. However, the army's conscience committee, which has until now refused to recognise him as a pacifist, is to review Ben-Artzi's case again. Five other men - Haggai Matar, Matan Kaminer, Shimri Zameret, Adam Maor and Noam Bahat - are also currently being detained under court martial.

A solidarity rally was held for those imprisoned for their refusal on Friday 8 August in Tel Aviv.