The Only Democracy in the Middle East: 15-22.5.10

After the Israeli soldiers arrested the reporter, they used this incendiary device to start a fire. (Photography by Edo Medicks,

In Bil’in, the villagers tried yet another creative attempt at ending apartheid, dressing up as the assassinated Naji al-Ali’s Handala and carrying the symbolic 1948 key.

The army, like a well oiled machine, attacked with chemical warfare, invaded the village to abduct an Al-Arabiya reporter, using a smoke screen canister that spits fire as well.

Fires sparked due to the combination of Middle Eastern heat and ammunition. About 20 olive trees were lost, as it took the fire truck about an hour to arrive and the army had to be begged to stop gassing us, so we could approach the burning areas. Video clips after the fold.

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The Only Democracy in the Middle East: 30.04-01.05.2010

Four people arrested in Bil’in. As you can tell by the video’s last few minutes, as friend and journalist, Tommy Donnellan, is being carried off, the army knows that he is of the press. What do you call it when the authorities arrest the press, again?

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The Only Democracy in the Middle East: 23-25.04.2010

Emad Rezqaafter being shot with an aluminium canister. Photograph by Hamde Abu Rahmeh

Friday in Bil’in, friend and fellow activist, Emad Rezqa was hit in the forehead by an aluminum tear gas projectile shot directly at him by Israeli soldiers during the weekly anti-Wall demonstration. He suffered a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage, and is currently hospitalized at the Hadassa Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem. The demonstration Rezqa was injured in concluded the three-day International Bil’in Conference on Popular Struggle, and was attended by hundreds of people. Several other demonstrators were injured from gas inhalation, direct hits by gas canisters, and falling

This is the man who fired the canisters:
Bil'in 23.04.2010 - The day Israeli soldiers started shooting randomly into the crowd. one fractured skull and five arrested. - 16
I was later arrested along with Palestinian journalist Moheb Barghouti, two fellow Israelis and a Mexican activist, after staging a sit-in. (more details soon)

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Day Trip to the Ghetto of Hebron

Thursday was an international day of action to re-open Shuhada street in Hebron city, and mark the Cave of the Patriarch Massacre. A group of friends, from the Tel Aviv area, spontaneously decided we should go, so the five of us hopped in a car, hoping to join our friends from Jerusalem, who filled up a bus. We’ve all heard about Hebron, but nothing can prepare you for it, and nothing I can write, here, can truly depict what it means to be there.

Hebron City of the Patriarchs

Hebron Partition Schemes

In order to understand the technicalities of what is known as the Occupied Territories, you have to know about their inner control and administration divisions, set at the Oslo Accords. The occupied territories are divided into areas A, B and C. Area C is officially under Israeli control and administration. It covers the majority of settlements and cuts through and around areas A and B (creating 227 A/B islands) and keeps miraculously growing. That said, it doesn’t stop the Israeli army (and deportation unite) to come into oficially-Palestinian-controlled area A and abducting Palestinians and Internationals. Area B is the epitome of long-term occupation; A land where Palestinian Authority has “civil control” and the Israeli army has “security control”.

Hebron is in area B, but it gets even messier; In 1979, 40 settlers from the adjacent Kiryat Arba settlement (home to the ethnic cleansing advocate, Meir Kehana) took over a building known as Beit Hadassah, in the center of the city. Ever since then the population of Jews in Hebron reached the not-so-astonishing number of around 500, about 0.03% of the population. In 1994, after American born, Kiryat Arba settler , Kach party member, Baruch Goldstein, massacred between 29-52 (depends who you ask) people in the Mosque of the Cave of Patriarchs, Shuhada street, a main market street in Hebron was closed off to Palestinians. In 1997, then and now Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, redivided this area B city into areas H1 (=area A), which inhabited around 120,000 Palestinians and H2 (= area C), which inhabited around 40,000 Palestinians, half of which have fled after the redivision, for rather obvious reasons.

What does it mean to live in a city so technically divided?

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A Visit to Hebron

This was published on the Reuters Great Debate blog.

Palestine 210There’s no pretty way to describe what I saw in Hebron, no tidy conceit to wrap it in.

I visited as a participant in the Palestine Festival of Literature, the brain child of the great British-Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif. I was in the company of many wonderful writers and publishers, among them Python and traveller Michael Palin, best-selling crime novelist Henning Mankel, Pride and Prejudice screenplay writer Deborah Moggach, and prize-winning novelists Claire Messud and MG Vassanji.

Our first stop was Hebron University, where I ran a workshop on ‘the role of writing in changing political realities.’ The students were bright and eager; the only discomforting note was struck by a memorial stone to three killed while walking on campus, by rampaging settlers, in 1986.

After lunch we visited Hebron’s historic centre.

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