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[Nablus] Institutionalizing Occupation and Isolation

ism | 27.03.2004 16:22 | Anti-militarism | World

Fri March 26, 2004

1/Institutionalizing Occupation and Isolation
2/Two Dead in Balata, Situation Rapidly Escalating
3/These are the Indians…

1/Institutionalizing Occupation and Isolation, By ISM Nablus
March 16, 2004

[Nablus] While movements within the West Bank got easier in the past
few months, the villages around Nablus still suffer from very tight
closure measures. Checkpoints added to hundreds of roadblocks and
several no man's land areas prevent many villagers from reaching
their fields as well as the markets. This situation has been lasting
for years now and the consequences for the villages are fatal.

In the past few weeks we visited many villages surrounding Nablus.
Wherever you go – Beit Furik, Salem, Iraq Burin, Tell, Deir El-
Hatab, Azmut, Asira ash-Shamaliya, Tallusa, Far'a – the same story
repeats itself: isolation from Nablus or neighboring villages due to
closure measures, complete destruction of the local economy,
incredibly high unemployment rates leading to increasing poverty …
These towns' survival depends on their access to the city and this
access is heavily restricted for all Palestinians.

Asira ash-Shamaliya for example, a town of around 10 000 inhabitants
in the north of Nablus (behind Mt. Ebal), used to be about 10
minutes driving distance from Nablus. Now, it takes the villagers at
least two hours to reach the city. Instead of a few kilometers
through the close valley to a hill known as "17" and then down to
the neighborhoods of Nablus, they now have to travel through an-
Naqura to the checkpoint at Shavei Shomron colony. Only a few
kilometers from there, they need to pass another checkpoint, Beit
Eba, to enter Nablus. This way is at least ten times as long as the
usual way through "17". While last year it was still possible to
walk through the valley below "17", this way is now completely
closed and no one dares to go there anymore. While last year people
used to be detained and humiliated behind the roadblocks in the
valley for often more than 5 hours, they now risk their life when
entering this area. Soldiers don't hesitate shooting from the nearby
hills anymore.

This results to a lot of difficulties for the villagers. Not only it
takes them more time and a longer way to reach Nablus, but the
travel costs dramatically increased as well. While "17" was still
accessible (despite all the difficulties), they spent less than 5
Shekels for their way to Nablus. The long way through Shave Shomron
and Beit Eba now costs them around 20 Shekels. Many people cannot
afford paying such a big amount of money on a daily base. Lots of
students left the village and rented a flat in Nablus. Many
privately employed workers from the village either lost their jobs
or started to stay overnight in Nablus. Most of those 30 percent of
workers employed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) maintain their
jobs, at the cost of a lot of difficulties reaching their workplaces.

The isolation of the village hits the local economy harshly. While
in other villages like Tallusa almost no money is being paid anymore
to work inside the village. In Asira, some people are paying
electricity bills with olive oil. Asira has a huge capacity of
producing olive oil and the quality of the village's oil has a
widespread, reputation of excellence. However, only a very small
percentage of the approximately one million liters oil that are
produced in two years can be sold outside the village. Since many
villagers lost their jobs in other regions of the West Bank, in
Israel or Nablus, Asira completely depends on the local agriculture.
While producing agricultural goods became more difficult (e.g. many
roadblocks hinder the farmers from reaching their land, without any
obvious security purposes for the Israeli army), the distribution of
these goods in large amounts is almost impossible. Although the
village is very close to Nablus, selling goods on its markets has
become almost impossible.

The medical situation of the village is alarming as well. Accessing
Rafidia Hospital in Nablus is almost impossible, forcing the
villagers to take the patients to Jenin or Jericho hospitals, dozens
of kilometers away from the village. Minor health problems, light
injuries or delivering children are now hazardous for the concerned
people and sometimes end fatally.

A few years ago the villages of Asira, Tallusa and Yasid opened a
new High School. As it is located about 5 kilometers outside Nablus,
in the middle of the triangle Asira-Yasid-Tallusa and as the Israeli
army is controlling the junction leading to the villages and the
school, no one can reach the school anymore. School children have no
choice but going to access education through a "shift" system. The
first shift is from 8 to 12 a.m., the second from 12 to 4 p.m. Next
September, the teachers and headmasters from the area are planning
to reopen the High School outside the village.

The result of these occupation-rooted problems is that each tenth
family depends on support programs by the Red Cross. Harmful
consequences such as increasing rate of people leaving the village,
diseases, malnutrition, no-investments in local construction work
are numerous. However, since this daily harassment of Israeli
occupation is not spectacular, the villagers' situation ends up
being ignored and/or forgotten by the outside world.

Azmut, Deir El-Hatab and Salem as well as the town of Beit Furik
provide other examples of this increasingly difficult situation. The
first three villages are located only a few kilometers east from
Nablus and Beit Furik is further away southeast from the major town
of the region. Salem is overlooked by the illegal Israeli colony of
Itamar. On the mountain topping Salem, Deir El-Hatab and Azmut is
located the colony of Elon Moreh.

Between Nablus and these three villages, there are a military road,
a huge Caterpillar-made trench, sometimes filled with sewage, a
yellow military gate and most of the time at least one Israeli army
jeep. Azmut is further isolated from the other two villages by
another military road, leading to the settlement road above the
villages, cutting them off from a major part of their land and olive
groves. Beit Furik is cut off from Nablus by a checkpoint and a
recently built watchtower at the settlement road from Elon Moreh to
Itamar. The Israeli army also added roadblocks at several locations
between Beit Furik and the checkpoint.

While last year Salem (about 5 000 inhabitants) and its two
neighboring villages Azmut and Deir El-Hatab (together counting
about 5 000 villagers) could not be reached by car anymore, the gate
is being opened now sometimes by the army. Food and other goods do
not need to be brought to the villages by donkey anymore. The
villages can also now often be reached easily by crossing a nearby
field and the trench in the south as well as a steep valley in the
north. These ways are more or less accessible now – though only the
young and fit part of the population can use it. Most of the time,
this area is guarded by only one military jeep. However, many people
who cannot walk around the checkpoint are often turned back and/or
sent to the Beit Furik checkpoint. From there, they would reach
Salem by crossing a settler-road and a wide, open field where they
can be easily spotted, caught or shot at by the Israeli army. The
same way is often used by vehicles of all kinds to get people or
goods to Nablus. At least once a day, cars or trucks would get stuck
in the trench in the middle of the field. Then, the army would show
up and harass the driver, sometimes destroying the tires or other
parts of the vehicles. Very often, the Israeli soldiers shoot in the
air or across the fields, often hitting houses on the edge of the

Besides these restrictions on the movement of the villagers, Elon
Moreh colony constitutes one of the worst problems. About 80 percent
of the villages' land lies behind the settler bypass road which was
built to allow the few hundred residents of the colony to settle and
expand illegally on Palestinian land on the top of the mountain.
Water for the three villages comes to pipes from Marda.
Unfortunately the settlers control water. A 4-inch pipe distributes
water to the colony and a 3-inch pipe goes to the 10 000 people in
the villages. Because the pressure of the water floating through the
pipes is reduced on purpose by the settlers, some Palestinian houses
cannot get water. In summer, usually about 70 per cent of the
villagers don't receive water through the pipes and depend on water
they buy from outside the village, which often leads to diseases
like hepatitis due to its bad quality.

The settlement road prevents the villagers from delivering garbage
to the appropriate place which is located outside the village. Since
the army built many roadblocks along the broad Israeli highway
through the olive groves, the garbage-truck cannot reach this place
anymore. Therefore villagers are throwing the garbage on the edges
of the villages as well as into the trench surrounding them. They
sometimes burn the garbage along with other material coming from the
close industrial zone of Nablus. Increasing cancer rates are one
among other consequences of this unhealthy practice.

As a large amount of the land of the villages is illegally occupied
by the settlers and as the rest of the land behind the settler road
is very difficult to reach, the production costs of olive oil – the
major, if not only, source of income for the farmers – have
dramatically increased. Meanwhile the price for olive oil has fallen
down to a third of the former price. Other goods produced in the
villages, such as cheese for instance, are even more difficult to
sell. This led many farmers to sell their cows, even when flocks
constitute the only livelihood to most of the villagers.

The restrictions of movement for the villagers had very severe
social consequences. In Salem, agriculture employees and private
sector employees (workers in Palestine as well as in Israel) have
been impoverished . 65 percent of the inhabitants now depend on aid
from outside. In the beginning of the 2nd Intifada the rate was
around 10 percent. While some years ago around 80 percent of the
population used to work, the percentage now fell to about 20
percent. And still, working doesn't mean earning enough money for a
living. It mostly means that people are working some hours a week
and earn not even enough to sustain their families…

So far, we only addressed a few of many problems these villages are
facing. Another worth-mentioning aspect is the frequent incursions
of the Israeli army, during daytime or more often at night. Heavily
armed young soldiers enter the villages, shooting around randomly,
provoking the youth, firing tear gas canisters or shock-grenades in
gardens or backyards. Most of the time, the only obvious purpose of
night incursions is to terrify the inhabitants for hours.

The willingness of many people to fight and confront the repression
by the Israeli army seems to be lower than it used to be in the past
years. More and more people are exhausted because of the occupation
and they fear the endless consequences resulting from actions
against the occupying army – despite their situation could hardly
getting worse. This added to the lack of numerous international
presence in Nablus area – which could support nonviolent resistance
against the occupation – lead to a sentiment of hopelessness. The
situation is getting worse while the world remains blind and silent…

2/Two Dead in Balata, Situation Rapidly Escalating, by ISM Nablus
March 22, 2004

[Balata Refugee Camp, NABLUS] Today, Mohamed Abu Halimi (22), a
radio-journalist from Sot Nablus (Voice of Nablus) radio station,
who lives on Rujip Street in the camp, was shot in the stomach by a
live round fired by Israeli soldiers at 10:45 am and passed away at
11:30 am. Abu Halimi is the 13th journalist to be killed by Israeli
army fire since the beginning of the second Intifada.

The Israeli military entered the Balata camp this morning at around
10 am, with 6 jeeps for no apparent reason but to provoke
Palestinians in the wake of news that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was
assassinated today in an air strike (along with 8 others, including
his son).

Abu Halimi's death comes a day after Balata buried another teenage
victim of the conflict. Mohamed Shtawi (17) was shot to death the
evening of March 20th at 9 pm while walking home from his sister's
house on Shar Al-Quds (Jerusalem Street) by Israeli army soldiers.

The Israeli military spokesperson would later claim that Shtawi had
approached the soldiers with a weapon, but eyewitness accounts at
the scene and the testimony of medical personnel belie the claim.
Shtawi was buried in the Balata cemetery on March 21st at a funeral
attended by thousands.

The streets of Nablus today, like those of other West Bank cities,
are furious with anger and spontaneous demonstrations have been
occurring through the city since the morning - with a large
convergence currently taking place at the Duwar in downtown Nablus.

Most of Nablus and Balata are closed today, with a general strike
declared throughout the country in a sign of mourning and as a show
of protest against Sharon's murderous administration.

Reports are filtering in throughout the region of further
casualties, including the news that a 13 old boy, Musab al-Khalban,
was shot to death by occupation forces in the Khan Younis camp. The
boy's death comes a day after Fatma Al-Jaled (8) was killed by
Israeli army 'warning shots' in the same camp.

Currently in the streets of Balata, local shebab are waving black
flags in an expression of mourning at the days events, many with the
green banners of Hamas rapped around their necks like capes.
Families and groups of men and women of all ages are slowly making
their way to Abu Halimi home on Rujip street to pay their respects
to the relatives of the assassinated journalist.

3/These are the Indians…, by Phyllis
March 25, 2004

Today I visited Baka El Sharkia, a village split by the wall. Rather
than a demonstration, the town got together and put on a "market"
about the wall. I sat next to the regional governor who translated a
bit of it. All, of course was in Arabic. In fact, I didn't need
translation. I heard what the people were saying in a way that I
wish I could convey to you. A 10th grade young lady, Ayshi, the
student of a woman named Inshirah was acting as master of
ceremonies. She spoke with such power and challenge that she
reminded me of myself in the same grade back at Trinity High School
in debate and original oratory classes. I was good, but was speaking
on whatever the topic I was assigned. In this case, in a language I
could not understand, she shared with me, her brown eyes reaching
deeply into my soul as she told of her love of the land, her
connection with the land, her childhood fears (no regularly
childhood bogeyman, this occupation and dreads, her hopes and
dreams. She spoke of the helplessness and yet not hopelessness of
her people. She spoke, as she read and recited pieces written by her
classmates, eloquently of loss of innocence early, as soldiers broke
in and carried away her brother. She spoke the groans of her
grandfather and great grandfather whose lives were given for her
country. She wept the cries of her mothers and grandmothers, the
fears of her friends, the dreams and knowledge that she is of this
land and it is of her.

She introduced the young boys in a drum corps who, following the
opening blessing and prayer, marched in, scouts, as we have in the
United States, who want to learn (as ours) to do their duty for God
and for country. Their rhythmic chants willing away the wall that
separates them from family, farm, friends, education, healthcare and
livelihood. Things we, as children, took for granted. We expected
it. It was nothing desired or longed for. It was ours.
The poems spoke of the checkpoints, the soldiers searches and
disregard for their humanity, for their dignity.

And then the younger boys, tiny scouts, one very small one with a
kaffiya wound around his head, with a toy machine in his arms. He
stood in front as the 2nd and 3rd graders sang of the need to
protect their homeland, their desire for peace, their desire for a
life. These are the Indians...when we used to play cowboys and
Indians as kids....they are the ones who, because they throw stones,
are killed. They are the ones who never had a chance with a bow and
arrow, before we cowboys tied them up and then shot them.

The tiny girls in red skirts, white shirts, white leggings and green
head crowns with "the wall must fall" written across them. They sang
of their homeland, the land of their fathers and brothers whose
lives were taken from them. The land they loved, the land they would
die for.

It was a day of hope. It was a community celebration. I'm afraid I
can't give you the flavor of this gathering. It wasn't surrounded by
soldiers. Had they known, they would have blocked the way so that
people couldn't have gotten together for this project.
I remember in the 50s buying war bonds and fearing the Soviets, our
Enemies. These people I met today, Asyshi, Inshirah, Hanon, Suhael
and so many more are, according to mainstream media, our Enemies.

And then, I went into gallery next door and was immediately hit by
the enormity of what is happening to these people. On the wall were
children's drawings, virtually all with tanks and guns, jeeps and
hummers...always the Israeli soldiers, killing, blocking,
bulldozing. Little boys throwing rocks at tanks. I nearly cried when
I saw a Caterpillar bulldozer drawing of a young child, bulldozing
his house down. His rendition of something he experienced. My father
retired from 36 years of Caterpillar in East Peoria. It fed us.
Bulldozers, turnapulls, road graders...these, to me, are instruments
of construction, not destruction.

The children's sayings:
"Give me a happy childhood."
"I am a child. Let me dream and let me live."
"Children of the world! Notice that my childhood has been killed and
my toys damaged"…

… and on and on. There were photographs of the wall, towering 25' of
concrete above a 4 year old Palestinian child, someone the media
would call a terrorist because and only because he is a Palestinian.
Photos of a woman in traditional Palestinian garb sitting in her
potato fields, a bulldozer in the background as they begin to uproot
her plants on land her family has had for generations.
Photographs of the olive trees some families call "grandfather"
because they are over 700 years old.

"I will die for this land" these children say. Is it any more than
we as Americans have sang and said for years.

I signed the guest book, asking forgiveness for the people of the
United States for not knowing.


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