Tag Archives: Israeli Occupation Forces
Ben Ehrenreich’s March 15 cover story
On March 15, The New York Times Magazine broke important ground in the mainstream by publishing Ben Ehrenreich’s long and often-thrilling account of resistance in occupied Nabi Saleh, based on his visits to the Palestinian village last summer and earlier this year. The cover of the magazine featured heroic portraits of villagers who had guided the village’s political movement at huge risk, and Ehrenreich’s article portrayed young Palestinians’ throwing of stones as a valid response to military occupation. “The stones were … symbols of defiance, of a refusal to submit to occupation, regardless of the odds. The army’s weapons bore messages of their own: of economic and technological power, of international support.”
While the Forward and Haaretz were quick to attack Ehrenreich for his failure to believe in Zionism–seemingly out of fear that the piece would get a lot of attention– there has been surprisingly little media followup to his important article.
So last week I called the anti-Zionist Jewish novelist, 40, at his home in California to ask a few questions. The record below includes some follow-up by email.
Q. What’s the response been to your piece?
Ben Ehrenrich: Predictably it has been mixed. The most immediate reaction came, not all that surprisingly, from liberal Zionist quarters, from Chemi Shalev in Haaretz, who wrote something of a self-fulfilling prophesy, predicting that the piece’s critics would focus their attacks on me. All of Shalev’s substantive points were written in the subjunctive, such as his suggestion that the piece “might” be read as encouraging an intifada and would “likely” elicit condemnation. He pointed readers to an op-ed I published in the L.A. Times in 2009 ["Zionism is the problem"] in which I argued that a principled opposition to Zionism had been a mainstream stance within Judaism for most of the twentieth century and in which I made the case for an ethical, Jewish critique of Zionism.
Everything that followed both from both liberals and from points much farther to the right followed Shalev’s lead. No criticism that I saw made any serious effort to take on the piece on a factual basis. Factually it was ironclad—it was extremely closely fact-checked. So no one attempted to engage with the piece directly, which is a shame.
It was the usual attempt to limit the discourse by delegitimizing any possible criticism and demonizing any possible critics. The approach was, “This guy’s an anti-Zionist and he shouldn’t be allowed to talk about the issue at all.” Which is absurd really. Ali Gharib made the point in the Daily Beast that if only Zionists are allowed to talk about Palestine, 99 percent of Palestinians would be disqualified from analyzing their own predicament. Another popular line went, “There are a lot of interesting facts in this article, but it’s all out of context,” and it quickly became clear that the only context they would have accepted as relevant was one that would refute all the facts, namely that the people I wrote about are really violent terrorists and everything they say is a lie.
I didn’t think it necessary or productive to respond to any of the criticism. Some people seemed to want me—or my editors—to recant what I had written in the L.A. Times op-ed, as if it were something I should be ashamed of, but I stand by everything I said in that article, and I think it’s worse than ridiculous to demand absolute allegiance to Israel as a precondition for being able to comment on the actions of the Israeli state. One of my goals in writing about these issues has been to broaden what has for years been an extremely and dangerously narrow discourse, to try to expand the borders of what can be said. Some people clearly find that threatening.
Q. There wasn’t a lot of pickup of your story by journalists seeking to interview you.
No. I went on one radio show out of Chicago. Other places I might have expected to follow it chose not to go after it.
Q. Are you telling me that the only interview you did was with that Chicago radio station?
The only interview I did was that one radio station.
Q. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. There’s obviously been a great deal of hesitation among editors and producers to grapple with this issue at all. They did have a news hook: Obama was in the West Bank.
Q. Did this surprise you?
Q. But Amira Hass is over here on her duty-to-throw-stones story, and Nancy Updike did a story on Nabi Saleh for “This American Life.” Aren’t we in a new moment for the American discussion about Palestinian resistance?
I certainly feel that it’s possible to say things in the American press that it wasn’t possible to say a few years ago. I think the tipping point was Cast Lead. After the bombardment of Gaza in 2008 and 2009 a lot of Americans found they could no longer offer Israel the kind of uncritical support they had given it for so long. The logic of self-defense became harder and harder to justify. I wrote that L.A. Times op-ed in the wake of Cast Lead and was shocked when the paper agreed to publish it. I was quite happily surprised when the New York Times decided to assign the Nabi Saleh piece. It’s extraordinary that they chose to publish this piece. They showed a lot of courage in doing it.
And I was very happy to have my inbox overwhelmed by supportive emails after the piece ran. I received a couple of dozen emails attacking me, which I expected, but also dozens and dozens and dozens of emails thanking me for writing the article, expressing happiness and surprise that it was published in such a prominent place as the Times Magazine. I had a similar experience with that op-ed in 2009. People wrote me with this incredible sense of relief, that I had been permitted to express ideas in print that many people share but that they never see reflected in the mainstream press. At least in terms of popular opinion and media discourse, something is certainly shifting in the U.S. Unfortunately that shift isn’t reflected in the actions of our politicians, which was quite clear from Obama’s trip.
Q. Your piece didn’t take a political position or offer much political analysis, one state, two state.
I think that it’s fairly easy to make a case in one direction or another and it happens on op-ed pages all the time. More in one direction than the other perhaps. But what you don’t see at all in the American media is Palestinians who are not P.A. officials or Hamas officials being taken seriously. You do not see them portrayed as human beings dealing with the humiliating realities of a military occupation and you do not see them as individuals making painful moral choices and committing themselves to a daily struggle with no end in sight. I don’t believe the piece romanticized anything, but I did make a great effort to provide sufficient historical and political context for readers to understand why and how the people of Nabi Saleh act as they do, to allow readers to understand their struggle on their terms, not on terms provided by the IDF or the State Department. Those are perspectives that we don’t get in the US media, and it seemed far more important to document them accurately than to make easy political points.
Q. It was rumored that the Times editors were surprised to learn of your 2009 LA Times piece at the time of your detention by the Israeli army in Nabi Saleh July 2012–when news broke that you were over there for the Times, and folks on twitter got very excited about the LA Times story.
I don’t think so. It took a lot of courage for The Times to publish it, and I felt very well backed throughout. They were very committed to this piece.
Q. The piece seemed to be delayed for months. I thought it was going to die. What happened?
There isn’t really a story there. They held it for various reasons that weren’t political. It was about to close when the Gaza war broke out in November, and, since no one knew what was going to happen, they decided to hold off. By December my original reporting, which I had done over the summer, was beginning to feel stale, and they made the decision to commit more resources to the story. They sent me back for another three weeks and sent Peter van Agtmael, the photographer, whose work is really extraordinary, back as well. They certainly knew they would catch heat for publishing the story, and they pushed ahead and ran it almost as soon as Peter and I returned from the West Bank.
Q. How did the piece originate?
I had visited Nabi Saleh briefly in 2011 while working on a piece for Harper’s about the role of water in the occupation of the West Bank. In early 2012, a Times magazine editor asked me to pitch stories. I came up with five or six ideas, including a piece on Nabi Saleh. (None of the others were Palestine-related.) To my surprise, the Nabi Saleh story was the one that caught the editors’ interest.
Video and Photo Essay: Nabi Saleh continues to resist and call for all Palestinian political prisoners to be freed
Video by Bilal Tamimi
Photo essay by Haim Schwarczenberg: 19 April 2013
Nabi Saleh popular struggle demonstration begins
Roadblock made of stones to try and prevent Israeli Occupation Forces invading Nabi Saleh vilalge
Palestinian youth attempts to prevent Israeli Occupation Forces invading Nabi Saleh village
Skunk (foul chemical water) fired at unarmed demonsrators
Israeli Occupation Forces invade Nabi Saleh
Israeli Occupation Forces firing teargas
Israeli Occupation Forces firing teargas
Nariman Tamimi treated for tear gas inhalation
by International Women’s Peace Service: 19.04.2013
Human Rights Report No.464
Human Rights Summary: Use of cruel and unusual punishment in An Nabi Saleh
Date of incidents: April 19 2013
Place: An Nabi Saleh
Witnesses: IWPS, ISM, Anarchists against the Wall, Community of An Nabi Saleh
IWPS arrived in An Nabi Saleh at 11 am, one hour before the demonstration was scheduled to start. At 11:30am, two Israeli Military jeeps were stationed at the main road and a group of four soldiers were observed walking on foot through the village.
Over a hundred gathered at An Nabi Saleh for their weekly demonstration against the occupation. The community of An Nabi Saleh was present with people from all ages alongside national, international activists and media. At 12 pm, following the afternoon prayer, there was a short speech that commenced the march through the centre of town down the main road. At the main road three Israeli Military Jeeps were stationed along with a large white “skunk-truck” equipped with a long range hose and a bulldozer apparatus in front.
Chanting and singing, the crowd walked 300 meters past the gas station before pausing to set up defensive barricades with rocks. Two rock lines were set up before the Jeep and Skunk truck came forward removing the barricades, shooting several cans of tear gas and spraying the crowd with a sickeningly foul-smelling liquid.
The crowd quickly dispersed and the truck and Jeep continued to drive the length of the village drenching each house and the street with the foul smelling liquid and tear gas as a form of collective punishment which is prohibited under international law. Furthermore, such attacks on private homes are unnecessary and dangerous to the families inside. Numerous people were soaked; many reported feeling ill from the overwhelming smell. By 2pm the jeeps and skunk-truck had parked at the surveillance-tower crossroads. The demonstration had dispersed into small groups of 4 to 10 people being met by similar numbers of Israeli soldiers on foot, regularly shooting tear gas.
Report written by: Alex
Report edited by: Meg and Sylvia
Date of report: April 19, 2013
On Palestinian Prisoner Day in 2013, there are 5,000 Palestinian political prisoner incarcerated in 27 Israeli prisons, jails, detention centers and interrogation centers. 106 prisoners have been in jail since before the signing of the Oslo accords between Israel and PLO in 1993. 14 prisoners are women, with Lina Jarbouni being the longest serving prisoner, so far held for 11 years out of her 20-year sentence. There are 235 child prisoners in Israeli jails and 200 administrative detainees, 14 of whom are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council
For more information: http://english.wafa.ps/index.php?action=detail&id=22151
12th April 2013 | International Solidarity Movement, Nabi Saleh, Occupied Palestine
Updated: Nabi Saleh demonstration violently suppressed by Israeli forces; activist shot three times
UPDATE 13th April 2013: The injured Spanish activist returned to hospital Saturday morning, after experiencing continued pain, dizziness and fatigue. She had been shot three times with plastic coated steel bullets at Nabi Saleh demonstration the day before. She is currently under observation at the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, being treated with antibiotics.
12th April 2013 | International Solidarity Movement, Nabi Saleh, Occupied Palestine
Around one hundred Palestinians, joined by a handful of Israeli and international activists, participated in today’s demonstration in Nabi Saleh. After midday prayers, protesters marched from the centre of the village, deviating from their usual route and walking across the main road and up the hill, trying to reach the water spring stolen by settlers from Halamish settlement more than three years ago.
By the time protesters reached the hilltop, several Israeli Border Police officers waiting and immediately started to shoot tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets at them. One Spanish international activist was hit by a rubber coated bullet in the right leg. As people retreated from the hilltop back to the main road, Israeli forces continued shooting tear gas canisters.
Teargas shot at peaceful demonstrators
As protesters walked chanting and clapping towards a large group of Israeli military personnel and jeeps blocking the road, they were ambushed. Border police officers who had invaded the village shot multiple volleys of rubber coated steel bullets directly at unarmed protesters from a vantage point on top of the hill, as protesters retreated.
The same international activist who had previously been shot was again shot with two bullets; one in the ribs on the back and the other on the stomach. This breaks the Israeli forces’ own rules of engagement which state that rubber coated bullets should be fired at the legs. Despite the fact that officers clearly saw that the activist was injured, they continued shooting rubber coated steel bullets along the road. The activist was immediately assisted by Red Crescent personnel and taken to hospital by ambulance. She is in good health condition, recovering from the injuries at home.
Activist’s injury by rubber coated steel bullets
Israeli forces continued shooting tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets at protesters until three in the afternoon, when the demonstration finished.
The village of Nabi Saleh has been demonstrating against the theft of the natural spring and the occupation since December 2009. Israeli forces violently suppress the weekly Friday protests by shooting tear gas canisters, skunk water, sound bombs, rubber coated steel bullets and even live ammunition at protesters. Two people have been killed, Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi, and many others severely injured. Bassem Tamimi, from Nabi Saleh, has spent 16 months in Israeli jails, merely for being a prominent activist at the protests. After more than three year and despite the repression, Nabi Saleh continues to fight against the injustices of a brutal military Israeli occupation.
Photos by Haim Schwarzcenberg and Tamimi Press/Video by David Reeb
Nabi Saleh residents begin Friday demonstrations – photo by Haim Schwarczenberg
Israeli Occupation Forces open fire on unarmed demonstrators in Nabi Saleh – photo by Haim Schwarczenberg
Israeli Occupation Forces fire teargas at protestors – photo by Haim Schwarczenberg
Palestinian woman carrying flowers in front of Israeli Occupation Forces soliders – photo by Tamimi Press
Skunk being sprayed at protesters – photo by Tamimi Press
Israeli Occupation Forces harass journalists and press in Nabi Saleh – photo by Tamimi Press
Illegal Israeli settlers occupy spring located on stolen Palestinian land owned by Nabi Saleh residents – photo by Tamimi Press
Former prisoner of conscience Bassem Tamimi holds plastic and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces.
Yesterday morning, US President Barack Obama arrived in Israel to much fanfare. He has said that he has come to listen. One place he should start is the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
I visited Nabi Saleh last week as part of an Amnesty International research mission to the West Bank. The village sits atop a hill, facing the illegal Israeli settlement Halamish. The settlers of Halamish, like so many other Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), are backed by the lethal force of the Israeli army.
For protesting against the settlement, the residents of Nabi Saleh have paid a heavy price. I spoke with village resident Bassem Tamimi, a man who Amnesty International previously declared a prisoner of conscience when he was imprisoned by Israel for involvement in peaceful protests. During Bassem’s most recent jail term, his brother-in-law Rushdi Tamimi, 31, was shot by Israeli soldiers at another protest in November 2012 and died days later in a hospital. In December 2011, another member of the village, Mustafa Tamimi, died after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired at close range from an Israeli military jeep.
The village of Nabi Saleh is home to some 500 members of the extended Tamimi family. The villagers say that the expanding Israeli settlement of Halamish has blocked their access to a nearby source of water, a spring. For holding weekly protests against this settlement, they have suffered greatly at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Israeli military law imposed in the occupied West Bank places sweeping and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. This makes any unauthorized peaceful protest by Palestinians a criminal offence. Palestinians engaging in such protests face arrest and excessive force from the Israeli military on a regular basis.
All of this becomes quite clear when visiting homes in Nabi Saleh. Bassem Tamimi filled his hands for me with some of the plastic and rubber-coated bullets he has collected which were fired by Israeli forces in the village. Coatings aside, each bullet I examined had a hard metal interior.
Inside one of the Tamimi homes, a coffee table serves as an exhibit of used tear gas canisters and other spent munitions. And as I walked up and down the streets of this small community, residents had strung up countless more used tear gas canisters like Christmas tree ornaments.
The Tamimis have experienced this tragedy because they dare to protest against Israeli settlements. Since 1967, Israel has established some 150 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The settler population has now grown to over half a million Israelis.
In opposing the settlements, the residents of Nabi Saleh have international law on their side. A policy of settling civilians in occupied territory – such as Israel’s settlement policy – is a serious violation of the laws of war. It can be prosecuted as a war crime under the statute of the International Criminal Court.
While in Israel and the West Bank, President Obama would be wise to listen to Bassem Tamimi and other Palestinians about life in the shadow of settlements and the Israeli army. But listening is not enough. The US government must actively support Palestinians in their opposition to these illegal Israeli policies.
That means that the Obama administration must insist on a complete freeze on Israeli settlement construction, instead of calling on Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel first, as Obama did earlier today. This would be a first step to the total evacuation of all Israeli settlements from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.
Without such a clear approach, the daily human rights violations and displacement that Palestinians face because of Israeli settlements will only get worse. Israel’s new defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, is reported to oppose any limits on settlement construction. Israel’s new housing minister, Uri Ariel, is himself a settler. Without significant international pressure, Amnesty International fears that the new Israeli government will simply continue building illegally on occupied land and using excessive – and sometimes lethal – military force against Palestinians who get in the way.
President Obama must move beyond diplomatic pleasantries during his visit to Israel and the West Bank. He should bluntly address Israel’s settlement policy and the devastation to Palestinian life that lies in its wake. Bassem Tamimi, the villagers of Nabi Saleh, and Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories deserve no less.
By George Meek: Washington Report on the Middle East: March 2013, pg 20-21
When I visited the West Bank late last year, Palestinians told me how they suffer under the Israeli occupation.
In the village of Nabi Saleh north of Ramallah, scene of a weekly protest demonstration, Manal Tamini said that “the Israeli soldiers shoot tear gas into my home every morning before breakfast.”
Every Friday about 70 men, women and children, accompanied by Israeli and international observers and media, walk nonviolently down the street in Nabi Saleh singing, chanting and waving flags. Invariably their peaceful effort provokes a reaction of tear gas, sound bombs, rubber bullets and skunk water from the Israeli soldiers.
Tamini showed us a video with horrifying and heartrending images of soldiers beating women and children, a boy screaming after being shot in the eyes with pepper spray, and an observer being dragged into custody. We saw a picture of the bloody wound of her own 12-year-old son, who sustained liver damage when an Israeli soldier shot him in the side with a high-velocity tear gas canister. According to Tamini, more than half of the village’s 550 residents have been injured—160 of them under the age of 17, with one boy paralyzed. Tamini spent 10 days in jail; her husband has been arrested four times and had his camera broken. But despite the daily violence, she says, they have power from within to keep resisting until the occupation ends. Tamini believes the harsh military reaction to their peaceful protests reflects Israel’s fear that the virus of non-violent resistance will spread, and spark a third intifada.
In a sheep-raising village in the hills south of Hebron called At-Tuwani, community leader Hafez Huraini said that every family experiences violence and harassment from nearby Jewish settlers. Every day the settlers harass village children on their way to school, and every week there is a house or cistern demolition and cutting of olive trees. Settlers have poisoned more than 100 village sheep. These settlers are the most violent and aggressive of all, Huraini says, and physically assault men, women and children alike, trying to make their life intolerable so they will leave. In his first experience with them, when he was 12, Huraini ran to escape when settlers beat up his brother. His community’s nonviolent demonstrations, legal work, and international pressure have paid off: the building of the illegal separation wall was stopped, and the Israeli High Court allowed residents of 13 forcibly evacuated villages to return. Huraini has been held under arrest for a month at a time after demonstrations, but he remains committed to the nonviolent path.
East of Jerusalem, expansion of Israeli settlements threatens the survival of the Jahalin, a beleaguered community of nomadic Bedouins harassed by settlers. With international aid, the Jahalin community has built a beautiful and functional school from mud and old tires for its 95 children, and has installed solar panels for lighting in the tents that are their homes. Jahalin leaders said that the community’s 160 people (along with their 140 sheep and goats) face forced relocation. The High Court has temporarily blocked an army order to relocate the Jahalin to Jericho, but it could be reinstated and executed any time. The Bedouins told us that settlers killed and maimed their children by luring them with toys attached to booby traps, then made the parents pay fines for trespassing. “Settlers are above the law, and have no restrictions,” the Bedouin leaders said.
The immediately visible signs of settler harassment in Hebron include a main street on which Palestinians cannot ever travel, hundreds of Palestinian shops that have been closed, and huge nets erected by Palestinian merchants to catch the trash and garbage thrown down on the shopping street by the Jewish families in the apartments above. A young woman in Hebron said she knows at least one person wounded by acid thrown down by the settlers. She also said that a settler tried to run her brother down, then beat him, and falsely told police she and her brother had attacked him. She was arrested and held for five hours.
“When settlers destroy one of my olive trees, I plant 10 to replace it,” said Daher Nassar at Daher’s Vineyard, near Bethlehem. Last year he planted 1,000 trees. For decades he has been fighting court battles to hold on to the farm, purchased by his grandfather in 1916. The hilltop site is a prime target for settlement expansion, but Nassar has refused offers to sell it at any price. “The farm is like my mother, and I won’t sell my mother,” he explained. The family’s motto is “refusing to be enemies,” and it hosts hundreds of visitors annually in its Tent of Nations project, which brings people of various cultures together to build bridges of understanding, reconciliation and peace.
Tear gas at protest demonstration at Israel’s illegal separation wall in Bil’in. (Photo G. Meek)
I observed a protest demonstration at the village of Bil’in, west of Ramallah, and was nearly overcome by tear gas. Although I was 50 yards away, I felt blinded, disoriented, and suffocated for a few minutes. A tear gas canister struck my shoe and left a mark on it, but did not injure my foot. Bil’in has been protesting for eight years against the separation wall, which took about half the town’s land. First the demonstrations took place daily, then weekly. As a result of the demonstrations, as well as litigation, Israel moved its wall, but it still deprives the Palestinian residents of 250 acres of town land. Leaders say the weekly protests will continue, because their goal is to end the occupation.
These are but a few of the voices I heard. I concluded that there is widespread violation of Palestinians’ human rights: the right of self-determination, the right of return, the right of assembly, freedom of movement, the right to property, freedom from collective punishment, the right to due process in civil courts, freedom from arbitrary searches and seizures, and the right to family unification.
Palestinians I met throughout the West Bank were sharply critical of Washington’s unconditional military and diplomatic support for Israel, which perpetuates the occupation, expansion of settlements, and human rights abuses. What I heard convinced me that there can be no balance or middle ground between the oppressor and the oppressed. As Bishop Desmond Tutu put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
George Meek, a retired American journalist, spent four weeks in Israel/Palestine late last year listening and learning with D.C.-based Interfaith Peace Builders and the International Solidarity Movement. He currently volunteers in the West Bank with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program. For more on his impressions, see his “Palestine Journal” at <http://seekpeaceinpalestine.blogspot.com>.