Saturday, April 17, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Truth from the land of Israel - disparity between media reports and reality (no Israeli activist killed yet) 17/04/04

"Well-equipped Border Police units surrounded the village, and a few hundred meters from where the security forces were deployed, six or seven bulldozers plowed away areas where the fence is to be built, sometimes ruining agricultural areas." 'How not to disperse demonstrators' "The separation fence is going up along a controversial route that is generating protests and acts of resistance." 'Protest is not Terrorism,' below "The security forces know how to show restraint and caution when it comes to the "hilltop youth" and they should show the same measure of restraint when it comes to civilian demonstrations at the fence." 'Protest is not Terrorism,' below

"It's become an almost daily routine. Every morning the residents of villages located on the planned route of the separation fence - from Elkana in Samaria to the outskirts of Jerusalem - wake up to the harsh metallic noise of the bulldozers. In the early morning hours the heavy machinery rumbles into the area, surrounded by security guards and army and Border Police troops." Picking Their Battles -----------------------------

Dear Friends,

Below, I continue my inquiry of the preceding days into media representations of the protests against expropriation of Palestinian lands, their destruction, the uprooting of olive trees by the hundreds (probably thousands), the enclosing of Palestinians into ghettos, and the rest. My inquiry has been prompted by what the average Israeli that one meets believes regarding what is happening in the OTs, and why Israelis are so ill informed. While some Israelis do not want to know, this is by no means true of all. Unfortunately, most think that they do know, even though those of us who do take the trouble and the time to learn the history of the conflict, to be part of the protests, to meet Palestinians and talk to them, to share their pain, to live with them through some of their tribulations, and to look around at what is happening to Israel as a result of what is occurring in the OTs, immediately recognize that the Israeli public is being fed a steady diet of misinformation. The media is as complicit in distributing misinformation as is the government in distributing propaganda.

Part 2 of this intro, discusses the quotations from newspapers above. Part 3 scans newspaper depictions about yesterday's protest at Biddu. Part 4 relates what I know about yesterday's events. Part 5 closes this message with 3 reports, first the Ma'ariv English depiction of yesterday's events at Biddu, then yesterday's editorial in Ha'aretz, which, I believe, rightly complains that protests are not terrorism and should not be treated as such, and finally an ISM report relating (sadly) that a 17 year old was killed at today's protest.

Lots of reading below, but I hope you will find most and perhaps all worth your while. II.

The initial two quotes above are an example of how the media (intentionally or unintentionally) mislead the public. The first one relates that the bulldozers "sometimes" ruin agricultural areas. But unless the reporter omits olive groves from "agricultural" areas, or refers mainly to cities as Abu Deis, the statement is not true. All the villages where the wall/fence has been and is being built are losing agricultural land, crops, and olive tree groves.

The second quote ("The separation fence is going up along a controversial route that is generating protests and acts of resistance.") likewise misleads by misplacing the emphasis. It's not strictly speaking the route that is controversial, but what is involved in that route, i.e., the destruction and expropriation of agricultural lands and olive tree groves. While it is true that no Palestinian would waste his/her precious time protesting if the wall/fence were being built on the 1948 armistice line, the protests are only incidentally over the route and are directly over the expropriations and destruction of Palestinian lands.

The final two quotes accurately depict the situation. No class of demonstrator except Arabs, and now also Israelis and internationals who join protests, are ever subjected to tear gas and stun bombs, not to mention rubber bullets. Even when the 'haridim' (the ultra religious), for instance, have at times used violence against the police, the police have shown restraint. The "hillside youth" could be as rowdy as they please without being shot at by the military or the police. And this precisely is as it should be. Protestors should not be shot, period. What is happening at the protests against the wall/fence is wrong and is frightening. It is frightening on at least two counts: (1) the violence against protestors places their lives in danger ; (2) the soldiers who perpetuate the violence on a civilian population are likely to become emotionally disturbed creatures. A person who becomes accustomed to using violence on the elderly, on infants, on men and women and children, is not likely to doff the habit when he/she doffs his military clothing.

And as for the final quote, yes, it has become a daily--and I may add, painful--routine for "residents of villages located on the planned route of the separation fence - from Elkana in Samaria to the outskirts of Jerusalem - [to] wake up to the harsh metallic noise of the bulldozers. In the early morning hours the heavy machinery rumbles into the area, surrounded by security guards and army and Border Police troops." It is painful for people (anyone-- you, your neighbors, I) to witness the destruction and theft of their lands and properties.


It took me several hours this morning to verify the information about yesterday's protest at Biddu. Today's Israeli newspapers were of no help due to the lack of uniformity in their reports. Besides, they left out too much.

The Ha'aretz report was the briefest of them all. Perhaps satisfied that it has given the subject enough space the past several days, Ha'aretz devotes but a few lines to the event, and even these at the end of a report about a 19 year old who was killed in Rafa yesterday. The report ends with Biddu, relating that among 20 injured yesterday at the protest, 4 were Israelis, that 100s of Palestinians and 10s of Israelis and Internationals participated in the protest against the fence's alignment, and that there was a general strike in the village.

Ma'ariv-on-line relates in its English edition that 26 were injured in the protest at Biddu, that 1,500 had participated in the "highest turn out to date," and that 10 protestors had been arrested. The Ma'ariv Hebrew on-line agrees with the numbers of protestors and injured, but adds one to those arrested. The Hebrew additionally adds 2 paragraphs and a picture omitted from the English. The picture is of a Palestinian youngster (hard to determine his age) sitting on the hood of a border-police jeep (the word "police" is clearly printed on the jeep of the kind used by the border police). Now, the border police don't just let Palestinian kids sit on their jeeps! To anyone who knows the situation, the kid was in trouble, but for the reader who believes everything that he/she reads in the media, the youngster might just have decided to take a rest at the invitation of the kind police, except the pained expression on his face would suggest otherwise. Two paragraphs relate the details associated with the picture: the first paragraph as told by a Palestinian, the 2nd paragraph as told by a Military spokesperson (most Israeli readers believe Israeli sources, and discount Palestinian ones). The Palestinian relates that a 12 year old had been detained, that he was tied to the front of a police jeep for long hours as a human shield to protect the security personnel from rock-throwing kids. According to this source, the boy was detained at noon and not released until almost 10:00 PM. The military spokesperson denies it all, declaring the preceding to be "an out and out lie." This source insists that the boy was a 15 year old youth, who was standing near the jeep while being questioned, and whose hands were tied, as is normative for detainees. No Palestinian, the spokesperson declares, was tied to the jeep! (I've heard differently from an eminently reliable source, but more of that in the ensuing.) Remember, the kid in the picture is sitting on the hood of the jeep; in the picture his hands are not tied.

Ynet (the Yedioth Ahronoth online) states that there were 300 protestors, 46 of whom were injured; of them 21 required medical treatment. The injuries resulted from inhalation of tear gas and from rubber bullets. According to an army spokesperson, the protestors on these occasions consist of rioters who disturb work by throwing rocks. The military spokesperson says that yesterday hardly any shooting of rubber bullets occurred, that primarily tear gas was used. But according to one Israeli protestor injured by a rubber bullet, the military went to extremes in the use both of the gas and the bullets. Ynet also reports that among the injured were a three year old and a four year old, who were overcome by tear gas when the canister landed on the porch of their home. Ynet further informs that 8 protestors were detained (4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians, and 2 internationals). One protestor supposedly attempted to stab a border police with a pair of scissors taken from the vest of an Israeli army medic.

So much for Israeli newspapers. I found no reports in the 7 online foreign English language newspapers that I checked out (Wash Post, NY Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Times, Guardian, Independent, and Herald Tribune).


Now let me tell you a little about yesterday at Biddu, as I experienced it and as related to me by reliable sources who were also there.

Protests against the destruction of Palestinian land and expropriations of property have taken a different turn from the protests arranged by a given anti-occupation organization (e.g., Ta'ayush, Gush Shalom, etc.). When an organization arranges an affair, activists come as a group, either by buses or by caravans of cars clearly marked and in procession. Yesterday, except for the Rabbis for Human Rights, who brought a mini-bus full of participants, others came individually. Ta'ayush did send out emails asking people to come. But basically, these recent popular protests are an individual thing. Except for the Anarchists, who have undertaken to be on hand as much as possible, one comes if one can, and gets there on his/her own. I learned from a phone call the evening before that the next morning several people were meeting at the central bus station, and that we (spouse and I) could join. Since I have never been to Biddu, I welcomed the opportunity to go with others who know how to get there. We took a bus to the depot in Tel Aviv, and from there a bus to Jerusalem, debussing at Mivatseret Zion. We walked through the community to its end, then through olive groves, walked up a hill, arriving at the village of Beit Surik, where a Palestinian mini bus met us and took us the rest of the way into Biddu. We arrived at around 11:00 and spent about an hour outside the Municipal hall waiting for others to come. I would guess that in the end there were probably between 300-500 Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals. But this is a rough guess.

While we were waiting, I had the opportunity to speak with others, including Palestinians. One Palestinian gentleman who was waiting with his small son (perhaps 5-6 years old), pointed to me and to other Israelis and said, "You see, there are good Israelis, too. Not all are bad." Then he explained to me that the only Israelis the children see and experience are soldiers, and he did not want his son to grow up hating Israelis because of what the soldiers do.

When the march finally began, everyone lined up orderly. Israelis were asked to head the march, so that the soldiers would know that Israelis were also present, and perhaps would not shoot. Palestinians chased away children and teenagers (the shabab), who were told to stay away. The organizers did not want rock throwing, and it is the kids that normally do it. This was to be an absolutely non-violent demonstration (according to some Anarchists, non-violence is normative for them, but not for the military). We continued to march in orderly procession. The Palestinians, as well as some Israelis and internationals loudly chanted various slogans as we marched. I admit that I paid no attention to what was said. I knew that all no matter how courageous everyone is and however great the slogans sound, the minute that the gas and bullets fly, we all run for cover. As we neared the edge of the village, Israelis were again requested to go ahead. I obeyed. Somehow or other, spouse, who'd pleaded with me to stay close to him, didn't notice that we'd parted, and was elsewhere, but exactly where in the procession, I don't know.

Without realizing it, I had gotten ahead of the procession which had stopped. I was up front nearly alone, facing the soldiers. I mean, this was not bravery or anything of the sort, I'd just kept on walking unaware that the rest of the procession had stopped. The only thing in front of me apart from soldiers (border police?) were media photographers. It took a minute for me to realize that I was standing about 15 meters from the soldiers and that all the rest of the procession had stopped about 10 meters in back of me. There were media photographers in front, facing the procession and taking pictures, but were not standing between me and the soldiers. When I understood the situation, I raised my hands to show that I was harmless, but didn't move back. I was curious to see what was going to happen. I stood there, hands raise, without moving, for about 5 minutes. One Israeli (probably from the Anarchists) was using a megaphone to plead with the soldiers not to shoot, not to use violence, explaining that this was a peaceful demonstration, and that we intended no harm. The soldiers/border police used megaphones to shout at us to go back, to get out, and to declare our demonstration illegal. The megaphone discussion went on for several minutes--3? 5? 8 minutes? All this was taking place, mind you, at one end of the village. The barrier that the soldiers had erected and were standing at was parallel with the last houses of the village at that end. Subsequent military violence was in the village itself and on its outskirts where the bulldozers were.

The Israeli with the megaphone was still pleading with the military not to use violence, to let us peacefully demonstrate, when without warning all hell broke loose. The tear gas started flying. I had barely time to get a kerchief round my nose and mouth, but not to remove my glasses, which trapped the tear gas inside, momentarily blinding me. Fortunately, spouse came to the rescue and lead me out of the gas. For the next several minutes or half hour the military continued to shoot tear gas nearly nonstop. There had been absolutely no provocation on the part of the demonstrators. Nor was anyone threatening the soldiers. But after the tear gas began, Palestinians began burning tires, and the shabab began slinging rocks, or at least I presume they did, since I saw them coming on the run, some with slingshots. I personally did not see rock throwing. But one thing I do know 100%: if there was rock throwing, it was precipitated by the military violence. During the day I saw the ambulance several times rushing to a call.

The tear gas attacks blew organization to the wind. People scattered in different directions trying to escape that acrid stuff. We remained mainly so as not to leave the Palestinians to face this alone. But from then on, spouse and I had no definite purpose, that is to say, no one told us where to go or what to do. Many people just seemed to be walking around aimlessly. Spouse and I spent most of the next several hours running periodically away from tear gas. The military was everywhere--on hills around the village and in the streets of the village. In addition to the tear gas, we heard explosions, but couldn't tell whether these were stun bombs or rubber bullets. At one point, my 76 year old other-half, I, and a 29 year old female visitor to Israel/Palestine, found ourselves alone in an alley. We were relaxing for a moment, during a lull in the tear gas, sitting on a low fence. Suddenly a group of about 6 border police dashed into the alley towards us. We shouted to them in Hebrew to leave us alone. Amazingly, they stopped, peered at us, and backed out without firing tear gas or rubber bullets at us. During the few minutes that we sat there, our young companion asked how it was that soldiers shot when a Rabbi was present? Her mother had been active in S. Africa against apartheid. There, she related, the police never dared to shoot or use violence when whites were among the demonstrators, and most certainly never when a cleric was present. The situation here appears to be different. If the incident that you will shortly hear is typical, then it would seem that the Israeli soldier has no more respect for activist clergy than for activist laypersons.

At the outset of the activity at Biddu, I had been given a list with the names of Israelis participating and the details about each we'd need for each if any of us were arrested. The list had been given to me for safekeeping, because it had been decided that I was the least likely to be arrested. Don't know why. Age? Maybe. So when arrests began, I was sought out for the necessary information. I learned that 4 persons had been detained. There were more later. Then, about 3:00 PM, while several of us were wondering what to do, a friend asked spouse and myself to accompany him to the police station in Givath Ze'ev to see what was happening to his cousin who'd been detained. Sure, we said. He went off to where bulldozers were working to tell others with whom he'd been that he'd be away for awhile. While we were waiting for him to return, a Palestinian ran up to us and said that a 10 year old boy was being beaten by the soldiers, and pleaded with us to go rescue him. A number of others jumped to the job, and there was already quite a gathering down where the youngster was. We therefore did not go (although I must admit that I felt uncomfortable about leaving a 10 year old without trying to rescue him), continuing to wait for our friend to return instead. Meanwhile, the lawyer had phoned and had asked me to pick up an x-ray at the local clinic. After waiting another 10 or so minutes, we finally left for the clinic; with x-ray in hand we took a local minibus to the local road block, where we took another vehicle to Givat Ze'ev, and from there a 3rd one to the police station. Luckily, the station is built around a courtyard to which the rooms open up. I walked gingerly into the courtyard trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Fortunately, one of the detainees was standing by an open door. I managed to talk to her for about 5 minutes before a policeman spotted us and chased me off. Because there was nothing further that we could accomplish there, and since I had most of the information we'd wanted (how many had been detained and who), we began our journey home where we arrived at around 6:30 PM, some 11 hours after we'd left. As usual, my feelings are mixed upon return. We arrive home to 'normality,' Palestinians stay stuck in the muck.

Before ending, I want to return to the youngster who in the picture is sitting on the hood of the jeep; he apparently is also the boy that was beaten. While we had been at the police station, someone phoned me and asked me to verify the shocking news that Rabbi Arik Asherman was being held as a human shield. I phoned Arik, but he did not answer, and I was unable to get hold of anyone else who could ascertain the truth. It was unbelievably appalling, if true. As it turns out, events were even yet worse. Successive attempts to talk to Arik failed. Finally, upon returning home, I phoned his home, and learned that he'd been arrested. Only this morning after speaking to him did I get the full details.

Arik been among those who'd gone to help the boy, and though he'd not seen the beating, he'd found the 12 year old youngster strapped to a jeep, being used as a human shield to curtail rock throwers. Arik and two others, while trying to convince the soldiers to let the child go, while telling them that the practice of using human shields was illegal, were themselves detained and made to stand in front the jeeps. They were not strapped to the jeeps, nor were they told in so many words that they were being used as human shields, but for all practical purposes, they were for the next 2-3 hours. During this time, Arik was butted in the face by the helmeted head of a border police. When I spoke to Arik this morning, he was coming out of the doctors office. In addition to suffering a cut near his nose, he had pain in his shoulder. The child was eventually released, but Arik and the other 2 men were taken to the Givat Ze'v police station. Arik and an international were released around midnight, but the third man, a Palestinian was sent to Offer prison, where he remained this morning (if letter writing is required to release him, I'll inform you). Arik said that he'd been charged with so many offences that he couldn't remember them all. One of the offences is so inconceivable from Arik that it would be laughable if the situation were not so tragic: he was charged with spouting foul language at the soldiers.

[Here is Arik's press release, just now came into my inbox, forwarded by The Other Israel; the Hebrew version and the picture can be had from me upon request]

This is our press release regarding yesterday's events. I am working on a longer and more detailed account. Shabbat Shalom Arik

P.S. We are looking for hosts for Shabbat dinner for members of a group from the Episcopalian Archdiocese of Massachusetts for next Friday night.

Child Used as Human Shield after Beating Attached a picture of the child photographed by G.M. and The Alternative Information Center

Four arrestees, including a 12 year old boy, RHR Executive Director Rabbi Arik Ascherman, an additional Palestinian and ISM activist, were used as human shields in Bido on Thursday. After local Palestinians and Israeli activists saw a young boy being beaten by border police, the boy's mother sent a Palestinian man to try and help him and Rabbi Ascherman also approached the police. Both were arrested, along with a Swedish ISM activist.

The boy, crying, shaking from fear and eventually cold, was sat on the hood of a jeep and tied to the bars protecting the glass. The other three arrestees were bound and placed in front of a second jeep. After the arrests, local Palestinians began throwing stones, a number of them hitting the jeeps. The unit commander was Shahar Yitzhaki

Rabbi Ascherman repeatedly requested over the next few hours that they not be used as human shields, that the boy receive medical attention and that the officers identify themselves. He also asked to lend his coat to the child and to stand in front of the child to protect him from stones. All these requests were met with physical and verbal threats, orders to "shut up," and/or derision. The division commander, "Benny," also visited the site during these events. Rabbi Ascherman also directed his requests to him. Rabbi Ascherman was eventually told that the boy had been checked by a medic before Rabbi Ascherman was arrested.

Rabbi Ascherman was seized by his throat and head butted by Yitzhaki upon arrest. The arrestees were moved from the scene after several hours, but kept outside. The child was allowed to go home around 18:30. By this time, the adults were also shaking from cold and sharing Rabbi Ascherman's coat. They were released, but Yitzhaki "rearrested" them and took them to the Givat Zeev Police station. There, after continuing to be held outside, Rabbi Ascherman convinced the attending officers to allow them to sit inside. The Palestinian was taken to Ofer, while Ascherman and the ISM activist were conditionally released late that night.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have the disparity between media reports and reality. I must admit that I believe Arik implicitly. But the greater part of the Israeli public will never know his story, will never know about the violence that the military and border police employ, will never know what their sons, husbands, brothers, uncles (and some sisters, aunts, etc) are capable of, will never know what they do and how. Then they wonder why so many Israeli men are violent! Imagine how much worse it will be as time goes on. Most Israeli parents still raise their children to be decent human beings. But then they send them to the military, which teaches them (with the government's blessing) to be beasts! Heaven help us.



Ma'ariv Friday, April 16, 2004 12:11 PM Israel Time


Clashes during anti-barrier protests escalate

One activist charged: Police fired huge amounts of tear gas at us. 26 suffered injuries. 1500 participated in Bidu protest - highest turnout to date. Marwan Atamna and Uri Glikman"They fired tear gas at us out of all proportion", a left wing activist described the confrontation in another day of demonstrations against the security barrier outside the Palestinian village of Bidu. The Palestinians reported that 26 people sustained injuries, five of them with medium wounds. Ten people were arrested. 1,500 protestors took part in the largest demonstration since the protests against the barrier began. Together with them were Israeli leftists and activists from foreign countries. During the first part of the demonstration a number of Palestine Legislative Council members were also present. The demonstrators claim that IDF forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them.

Raz, a 23 year-old Israeli activist, told Maariv Online, "We were on our way out of the village. A Border Guard unit was positioned at the houses on the perimeter. As we got relatively close to them, they began firing teargas madly at us in unbelievable quantities! Right at us!". During the demonstration two wounded Palestinians were taken to hospital in Ramallah with moderate injuries. Doctors at the local Bidu clinic said that many of the injured they treated had been clubbed by the police. Ten demonstrators were arrested during the clashes- four Israelis including Rabbi Arik Asherman from the Guardians of the Law organization; three leftist foreign nationals, and three Palestinians. (2004-04-15 18:39:17.0)

[ynet write up of the same protest:,2506,L-2903149,00.html]


Ha'aretz Editorial Thursday, April 15, 2004

Protest is not terrorism

Hebrew: [title of the Hebrew is The Anarchists should not be doomed to die (Ha anarchistim ainam bnei mavet)]

The separation fence is going up along a controversial route that is generating protests and acts of resistance. In addition to the protests of those directly harmed by the fence - the Palestinians whose lands were expropriated for it and whose movement has been curtailed or limited - there are also groups of Israelis and foreigners protesting against it in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The protests are not uniform in their intensity, and range from demonstrations where protest slogans - including some that are blunt and provocative - are shouted, all the way to attempts to shake the fence physically and break through its gates. There have been incidents where protesters damaged construction vehicles, or blocked their way and when clashes between the protesters and security officials turned into active physical resistance, there have been arrests. In many cases, protesters threw stones and used slingshots to hurl stones at security forces and in one case, at Beit Lakiya last month, masked men among the local protesters fired shots, say the police.

The security forces respond, with tear gas and stun grenades, shots fired in the air, all the way to aiming and shooting rubber-coated bullets, sometimes at a close range that causes many casualties. In one clash near the village of Biddu, three Palestinians were killed and some 50 wounded. The IDF regards the fence and its surroundings as a military installation and is very strict about halting any attempt to damage it. In addition to the conscripts and Border Police operating in the area of the fence, private security firms have been hired.

In December 2003, an activist from Anarchists Against the Wall was wounded in the leg and another hit in the eye. That group, which has dozens of activists, is one of the most vocal and consistent in its protests against the barrier. Their activity, which expresses general protest, is blunt and includes personal, provocative shouting at police and troops, which intensifies the clash. Many of the group's members have experienced tear gas and stun grenades and have been hit by rubber-coated bullets. They say that the security forces use exaggerated violence against them, with the deliberate intention of hurting them - and then the security forces prevent medical crews from reaching those who need treatment, says the group.

An investigative report yesterday by Haaretz reporter Arnon Regular shows the security forces are not operating with a uniform, coordinated policy for handling demonstrators. There are various forces at various levels and local commanders on the ground appreciate the severity of the situation on the ground in different ways, treating the demonstrators in ways that endanger lives. IDF forces busy with operational activity in the territories find it difficult to understand the difference between civil disobedience along the fence and armed combat with terrorist cells. The rules of engagement have not been made consistent and uniform and there are not enough means "softer" than rubber-coated bullets and shooting to disperse demonstrations. And investigations are not undertaken as required, after particularly difficult incidents.

The security forces know how to show restraint and caution when it comes to the "hilltop youth" and they should show the same measure of restraint when it comes to civilian demonstrations at the fence. The chief of staff and chief of police must coordinate a policy and match it to the circumstances of the civil disobedience. Their duty to protect the fence from demonstrators does not justify harming protesters. Apparently, the security forces have not learned the lesson from cases when demonstrators were exposed to lethal risks. Demonstrators must not be made to pay with their lives for legitimate civil protest.

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