Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Interviews from Al Masara - a focus for non-violent resistance to the apartheid wall

From the International Solidarity Movement

Interview with Hasan Brijia, a member of the Popular Struggle Committee

I am Hasan, 43 years old and father of 7 children. I currently work in the Ministry against settlements and the Wall, which was established a few years ago. I, Mahmoud and Juma started to organize some resistance activities in Al-Ma’sara in 2006. The popular committee is really a grassroots organization. When we started we had a lot of different actions during the weekly protests; we planted trees, acted out the crucifixion of Jesus and had a Santa Claus (“Baba Noël”) in the demonstration. The Santa Claus was a big success: 63 magazines published pictures of the demonstration! What makes Al-Ma’sara different from other villages though is that it was the first one where children participated in the marches. We achieved this by going to schools and universities, talking about our case.

Can you tell more about the struggle and the situation in Al-Ma’sara?

We started our struggle when Israel started to build the Apartheid Wall in Al-Ma’sara and we heard about the actions in Bi’lin (a village near Ramallah). We started thinking about actions that we can do here, and tried to involve others from the village. Slowly the number increased. The minimum amount of people who joins us on Friday is 40, including international and Israeli activists, as well as Palestinians not only from Al-Ma’sara but also other places of the Bethlehem district.

The village of Al-Ma’sara in build in Area B and Area C; the houses on the other side of the main street in front of our house are in area C. Many of those houses don’t have a building permit and are in danger. In total 35.000 km2 will be annexed by the Wall going around the Guz Etzion settlement block. Of those only 15.000 are from Al-Ma’sara. I think this is because we resisted. They wanted to invade more, but didn’t do so. The village of Um Salamone lost much more land, but many people of this village work in Israel and are afraid to join us.

It has been five years since you started, do you see any change?

Yes! I see that the Israeli soldiers have changed; they are more scared of us, or actually they are scared of our cameras. When they shoot at us we can record all of that now. One time I was in jail for ‘petting soldiers’, it was the longest time they kept me: 30 days. Thanks to the camera’s we could show there was no evidence for this charge and so they had to release me. By our experiences we know now that the soldiers can arrest us, but we fall under the responsibility of the police and the Ministry of settlements. This way we gained a few rights and we know now what they are. We ask for a lawyer and remain silent when they try to interrogate and intimidate us. Lastly, during the years we also gained the public support of the government. So we feel happy about all these successes.

Do these changes also affect your own motivation?

Yes of course! When I first went to prison the others were laughing about me; “What are you doing here?!” they asked. From the people in Al-Ma’sara I have been in jail the most times: 9 in total. And now, after I was jailed a few times, they started to respect me and take the popular struggle more serious. But I also feel motivated by the foreigners who come here and support our struggle. When I see them I know that I am not alone. Sometimes we think that people in the rest of the world ignore us or don’t care about us. But when we see people from other countries trying to learn about Palestine and participating with us in the demonstrations side by side we feel more strong. And this is important, because sometimes it is hard. The soldiers came to take me from my house in the middle of the night one time. They woke up the whole family and took me out of my bed. They brought me to the living room and started asking questions “who is this?” they asked me while pointing at a picture of my brother who was killed in Germany. I think they just wanted to scare me that the same thing could happen with me.

Why did you choose nonviolent resistance?

We don’t call it nonviolent resistance but ‘popular resistance’, because it is a form of resistance in which all people can join. Palestinians have tried armed resistance and we saw that it was very damaging. Palestinians are the victims and people start to see that now. Even when we didn’t have any weapons and were throwing stones, the Israelis used bullets. More Israelis are joining us now, and they also believe in our right of return. This makes the government angry; they know that they will lose. You will see, we will prevail in the end and have a nonviolent revolution!

What do you think is needed to further develop the popular resistance movement?

Besides the demonstrations we have to think of other activities too. For example, there was an area which Israel wanted to use for settlement building, but it was prevented by an environmental organization because there were endangered plants on it. We should know about such species and plant them in different places and then try to appeal to the environmentalists around the world to support it. In this framework we can also have a project about water, because right now Israel is controlling almost all the water. Finally it is important to attract more tourists to Palestine, and inform them about the situation. Right now the majority of the tourists come with Israeli companies and they only visit the holy places in Bethlehem, without learning anything about occupation.


Interview with Fatima Brijia

My name is Fatima, or Umm Hasan (mother of Hasan). I have four sons, one was assassinated in Germany in 1999 and another one is 15 years in prison. I am a farmer; I work on the land four hours a day. In the morning I go to the school to make meals for the children and I am active in the women association in the village.

How did the Israeli occupation affect your live?

It is the worst occupation in the world! They stole our land, our water. It is inhuman, unjust. All we can do is to resist. Sometimes the army came at 1AM in the night and took the whole family outside the home shouting “you can’t go to the demonstration tomorrow!” So we resist even more. We will have our freedom! Everyone in the world who believes in freedom is with us. Israel wants us to shut up. That is very undemocratic… We have the right to speak up and give our opinion.

So how did it affect your personal life?

My son was killed by the Mossad, we believe. He was first studying in Italy and then got a scholarship to go to Germany. He studied physics and wanted to continue in nuclear science. He was the only person from the 3rd world. We all advised him not to do this, but he insisted. Then he was taken for investigations and later he was dead. The police did an investigation, but we still don’t know what the official cause of his death is. I sometimes had 4 children in jail. There are 11.000 Palestinian political prisoners, but no-one gives it attention. On the other hand, there is Gilad Shalit, who was a soldier on mission, and he gets all the attention. It was in 2009 that all of my sons were arrested. Then the women of the village decided to go the demonstrations on Friday, to show that we can continue without the men. We are also able to lead demonstrations! We celebrated Mother’s Day, Prisoners Day and even Christmas.

How many women were you, and why are there so few these days?

We were about 70 women. I think the women want to avoid the violence during the demonstrations. Teargas and bullets do not differentiate between men and women.

What motivates you to join the demonstration?

Injustice motivates me. I call for freedom. It is the same as what motivated Rachel Corrie and Vittorio Arrigoni; they are lovers of freedom. I want peace for the children of Palestine. They don’t have the same opportunities as children in Israel. They are much richer, they can have good education and travel abroad.

When do you think that the children of Palestine will see peace?

The international policy is against our liberation. This is the longest occupation in history. There were many UN resolutions, but they are not implemented. The UN General Assembly is with the Palestinians, but governments have made secret agreements with Israel. All the surrounding countries are allies of the US. But they will change under public pressure. That’s what happened in Egypt. One day we will all have our Human Rights.

One last thing: I want to tell you that we are happy you are here. It is easier to face Israel when we have international support. We can also show you what is happening here. I want to ask you to send others our message and explain our situation.

Thanks to ISM

Red Cross donates all its local stocks to Gaza hospitals and clinics as drugs crisis continues

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Red Cross in Gaza announced Tuesday that it had donated all of the medicine in its local warehouses to public Gaza hospitals as the health sector remained in a shortage crisis.

ICRC spokesman Omar Fery said warehouse managers were coordinating shipments with hospitals across the sector as they await a second shipment of medicines from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah. more

Australia Gaza flotilla activists seek protection of government from Israeli threats

From the Sydney Morning Herald
Three Australians who will be aboard a boat hoping to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza have called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to demand Israel not attack them.

Former NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale says the Australian government should exert its influence to ensure there is no repeat of last year's violence, when nine people died while trying to break the blockade...

..."We call upon the government of Australia to remind the government of Israel of its obligations under international law and to demand the immediate cessation of the blockade."

Ms Hale said it would be "deeply disturbing" if Australia stood by and did nothing.

Youth worker Michael Coleman said the passengers on board the boat would be acting "completely lawfully".

"We are committed to non-violence and will offer no active resistance should our boat ... be attacked," Mr Coleman said. more

German development minister demands end to blockade and siege of Gaza

German Development Minister Dirk Niebel on Tuesday urged Israel to fully lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets into southern Israel, DPA reported.

"It's so important to have a permanent ceasefire and it's so important that Israel completely ends the blockade," he told a news conference at the Gaza City headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), which aids Palestinian refugees.

Only that way, Niebel said, "we can start reconstruction of Gaza."

Israel in June last year eased its restrictions on the entry of goods into Gaza. But exports remain highly restricted, as do the entry of raw materials such as concrete and textiles - defined by Israel as "dual-use" items because militants can use them to build weapons.

The German minister also said Berlin would contribute 3 million euros to building schools in Gaza. more

Bernama reports a figure of 73 million euros earmarked for German spending on projects in Gaza, including schools.

Video: Holocaust Survivor Suzanne Weiss gives her support for the Canadian Boat to Gaza

Suzanne Weiss, Holocaust survivor voices her support for the Canadian Boat to Gaza.


Turkish Jews contact Israel on behalf of IHH offering international inspection of aid vessels

From Ynet News - the report also claims, in an outburst of wishful thinking, that the Turkish government continues to urge the IHH to postpone the sailing of the re-fitted Mavi Marmara. The IHH has made it clear there will be no postponement of the mission.
Sources linked to the Jewish community in Istanbul say that leaders of the IHH organization have approached them with a request to send a message to Israel saying they are not interested in a violent clash with the IDF, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.

Senior elements within the Jewish community in Turkey have conveyed this message to Israeli representatives.

The IHH heads propose that the vessels taking part in the upcoming flotilla will be checked by an international team in a third country such as Cyprus. According to the proposal, the ships will be allowed to head for Gaza only after it is confirmed they are carrying nothing but humanitarian aid. more

Turkey's Erdogan hails AKP election landslide as 'a victory for Gaza and Palestine'

Reelected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told thousands of supporters in Ankara on Sunday that the victory by his AKP party was a victory for Gaza and Palestine.

“Gaza and Palestine have also won,” Erdogan told well-wishers.

He added, “Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul, Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, Beit-Ul-Moqaddas won as much as Diyarbakir.”

According to Today’s Zaman newspaper, Turkey has taken another step forward on the thorny road toward democratization with the general elections on Sunday having brought the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to power for the third time. more

100 countries are ‘staying human’ – but will Israel?

Posted on Gaza TV News

A year after Israeli Defence Force personnel massacred nine humanitarian aid volunteers on the Mavi Marmara in international waters, preparations are well underway for another 1500 to take their place, to confront the root cause of Gazan’s dependence on humanitarian aid – the illegal naval blockade of Gaza. (1)

Like Hydra’s heads, for every boat that Israel attacked in 2010,(2) at least another two have appeared, to take up the challenge to bring justice to Gaza, and hold Israel accountable for its breaches of international law.

2010’s six boats carrying over 600 people from 37 countries, have swelled to an expected 15 boats carrying 1500 passengers from 100 countries. To give an idea of the magnitude of international civil support for the 2011 flotilla, Turkish relief agency The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) reports it has already had some 300,000 applications for the 500 places available on its repaired Mavi Marmara.

First to leave for Gaza will be Freedom Flotilla II, a German ship departing Hamburg on June 19, with journalist Peter Wolter and Swiss writer Henning Mankell aboard.

They plan to meet up in the Mediterranean in late June with boats from Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland (Saoirse), Italy (Stefano Chiarini), Norway, Scotland (Discovery II), Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Turkey (Mavi Marmara), the U.S.A. (The Audacity of Hope) and Canada (Tahrir). All are then expected to sail to Gaza with their cargoes of humanitarian aid, including medicines, educational materials, and even letters and cards with messages of solidarity and hope for Gaza’s beleaguered population.

Parliamentarians from several countries are preparing to join the peaceful activists from all walks of life – professionals, labourers, even sportspeople such as recently-retired Irish rugby star Trevor Hogan – setting sail for Gaza, despite threats by the Israeli armed forces to use attack dogs and snipers against them. Threats of physical violence have been accompanied by diplomatic pressure from the Israeli government on the governments of flotilla participants, and an Israeli law centre is even threatening the satellite navigation company providing services to the boats.(3)

The greatest peril facing those taking up the Herculean task of breaking Israel’s illegal blockade is not the stench of Hydra’s breath, but that of Israel’s brutality and mendacity.

As the flotilla participants prepare for their hazardous journey in the coming weeks, I will be talking to Gazans about their perceptions of this dangerous trip – and why is so important, and so necessary for civil society to take the lead, when international organs have failed them so miserably.

Stay tuned.

And to donate online, go to: http://kiaoragaza.net/

(1) Ceren Mutus, in An International Law Analysis Of The Flotilla Crisis Between Turkey And Israel, noted that Israel remains the occupier of Gaza, and because states are not allowed to impose a blockade on the territories they occupy, the naval blockade itself is illegal. Thus the subsequent interception of the flotilla based on the illegal blockade is also unlawful in itself. http://www.turkishweekly.net/article/401/an-international-law-analysis-of-the-flotilla-crisis-between-turkey-and-israel.html

(2) Huwaida Arraf, human rights activist and lawyer on board the Mavi Marmara, gives a brief history of the flotilla movement here http://www.thisweekinpalestine.com/details.php?id=3382&ed=193&edid=193

(3) http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=278915

by Julie Webb-Pullman SCOOP NZ