I am in Hebron, Occupied Territories of Palestine, as a member of the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT). Every Saturday there is an "Israeli Settler Tour" of Hebron. More than 100 Israeli settlers and their guests come through the Old City where our Palestinian friends live. The Israelis are escorted by an equal number of IDF soldiers. This is a "Real Estate Tour" because the settlers stop and "ooh and ahh" at the beautiful rehabilitation work that has been done by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC), no doubt anticipating that the Israeli settlers will eventually take ALL of Hebron's Old City.
During this "tour" by Israeli settlers, Palestinian residents of Hebron are not permitted to walk to or from their homes. We followed the soldiers on the tour to observe that Palestinians are not mistreated. At one point, we yelled at a soldier to stop pointing his gun at us and others who were waiting to pass. A small Palestinian girl walked by me and suddenly became aware of the soldiers -- she almost walked right up to a soldier's gun. She looked up at him and wailed, crying for her Mama. I took her hand and began to walk with her to look for her mother or someone who might know her. We waited until finally, a young girl (maybe her sister) picked her up. Later, I thought about the soldier and wondered if his heart was moved when he saw the beautiful little Palestinian girl terrified of him and his gun.
A day earlier, on the way to join Friday prayers at a protest tent in Tel Rumeida, three members of our team stopped to stand with a Palestinian man who was being detained by a soldier on Shuhada Street near Beit Hadassah, an Israeli settlement. The soldier immediately said to us, "Go, you cannot stay here!" We told him it was our job to stay until he released the man. At that, he threatened to arrest us. We said "OK, call the police if you like. We are not leaving." He picked up his phone, then immediately gave the Palestinian his ID back so he could go on his way. We left. Soldiers cannot arrest internationals; they have to call the Israeli police to make the arrests.
protest tent was set up after a car owned by the Abu Heikal family was set afire
by settlers while soldiers watched. The family filed over 200 complaints with
the Israeli police but has received no response to date. A female member of the
family fasted for 40 days in the protest tent, but to no avail.
On mats scattered on the ground, 50-plus men and youths with hands held toward the sky offered praise to Allah and implored Allah's aid. As we watched from the tent, we were moved by their implicit trust in their God. After prayers, a friend translated the imam's message for us. He thanked the people for their steadfastness, talked about the IDF's escalation of violence, the 16-year-old boy who was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier in Yatta village in the south Hebron Hills and the two 11-year-olds who were killed by an unexploded ordinance left by IDF soldiers in Sa'ir village near Hebron.
In the afternoon, Hamed Qawasmeh of the U.N., invited CPT and ISM for lunch to thank them for the report about the Golani Brigade's abuses of Hebron Palestinians. We have had word from the U.S. Consulate and the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) -- an NGO created by the Olso Peace Process -- that Israel's notorious Golani Brigade will be leaving in a few days, rather than at the end of May. The Golani Brigade has been brutal in its occupation of the village of Al Khalil, and has threatened CPT members with assault or death for documenting their abuses.
We learned that one-and-a-half hours after we were on Shuhada Street, two women from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were assaulted by settler men. One woman was punched in the face, the other was pushed to the ground and had wine poured over her while soldiers stood by and did not intervene.
In another round of assaults and illegal detentions, around 9:30pm on Saturday night, March 10, 2012, soldiers knocked down the door of the Palestinian Municipality Inspectors Office which is across the street from us. They detained two of the men, took them to Beit Hadassah where they beat them badly. After the men were released around midnight, they went to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.
much has happened in the West Bank and in Gaza where 16 Palestinians have been
killed in Israeli airstrikes. I don't remember this much violence
by the IDF since the 2001-2002 intifada!