siege bending, but not broken

From Ma'an: 40 trucks to be allowed into Gaza.

From Ha'aretz: Journalists and aid workers to be allowed in and out of Gaza.


Ma'an and Ha'aretz report on the shooting in Nablus

From Ma'an:

Israeli forces kill pardoned Palestinian fighter in Nablus
Date: 02 / 12 / 2008  Time:  09:11
تكبير الخط تصغير الخط
Israeli troops in Nablus (archive)
Nablus – Ma'an – Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man formerly affiliated to the armed wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, in Balata Refugee Camp in the West Bank city of Nablus at Midnight on Monday.

The man was identified as 27-year-old Mohammad Abu Thraa, a fighter who had been pardoned by Israel as a part of an amnesty agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Nablus Governor Jamal Muheisin accused Israel of deliberately assassinating Abu Thraa.

The Muheisin confirmed that Abu Thraa had, as a part of his amnesty deal, spent time in the PA's Al-Juneid prison. After receiving a formal pardon, he would spend his days in his house, and then would be transported to the prison by a Palestinian Preventive Security bus.

The governor added that there is "no justification" for killing a man already pardoned by Israel. He called the operation "cowardly."

Hundreds of Palestinian fighters, mainly those affiliated with Fatah, have signed amnesty contracts, under which they agree to renounce armed struggle and spend a stint in jail in exchange for a pardon from Israel and a return to civilian life without the fear of pursuit by Israeli forces.

The Israeli army claimed that its forces shot Abu Thraa while attempting to arrest him, and that he died after being transferred to Beilinson Hospital in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva.

While no blood was found at the scene where Abu Thraa was seized, gunshots were heard immediately after the soldiers arrested him.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces seized nine other Palestinians during overnight raids across the West Bank. Sources in the Israeli army reported that they arrested residents of the cities of Jenin, Ramallah and Bethlehem.

***Updated at 9:39 local time

From Ha'aretz:

Last update - 10:52 02/12/2008
IDF troops shoot and kill wanted Palestinian during raid in Nablus
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Tags: Palestinian, Israel News 

Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian militant during a raid in the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday, the IDF said.

Such killings have become less frequent in the West Bank since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas launched a security campaign with U.S. backing.

An IDF spokesman said troops entered Nablus to arrest a wanted man.

When the militant attempted to get away, the troops fired warning shots and then fired at his lower body, the spokesman said.

"He was hit and was transferred to an Israeli hospital, where he died of his wounds," he said.

The militant was identified as Mohammed Abu Daragh.

He was 27 years old and a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group that has largely halted its activities. Most Al Aqsa members have received amnesty from Israel.


looking for God in the Holy Land

Sometimes I get questions from people in the US about what it's like to live here, whether my life is affected much by the Occupation, and so on. I haven't written publicly about it in a while, but I had some conversations with a few friends yesterday that helped me to articulate some of the thoughts and feelings I've been having. This is a re-print of an email I sent to a colleague back in the US who asked what things were like here.

Being who I am, with my car and my passport, the Occupation affects me a lot less than it does the general population. I get waved through checkpoints largely without hassle, I can go to Jerusalem and back whenever I please, and even though I might pay more in shops because I'm a foreigner, life here is fairly manageable from a purely logistical point of view. The things that really get to me are the settlers (especially the ones in Hebron, who are a whole different brand of crazy), the Wall, the home demolitions, and what's going on in Gaza right now, to name a few things. I was actually feeling really down yesterday after a conversation I had with the seminary intern at Redeemer in Jerusalem, about looking for God in people, even those who do terrible things. He had done his clinical pastoral experience in the ICU of a children's hospital, and once in a while there would be a kid in the wing who had obviously been put there by her abusive parents, who were also there in the room, and it was Mike's job to go in and minister to them and find some way to love them. I almost burst into tears. This is how I feel about the settlers and soldiers who harass and persecute my friends – how am I supposed to find God, or even any humanity in them? How can I love them when what they do is so hateful? My heart is heavy when I think about things like this. I know that I give into the temptation to vilify settlers and call soldiers fascists, instead of trying to see the humanity in them, but then at what point do we get to actually stand up and say no, this is wrong, this is not a matter of difference of belief, this is a matter of human rights, and of oppression and collective punishment and war crimes, and this is wrong?

Below are some media and UN updates on the Gaza blockade that got circulated on a Yahoo groups mailing list I'm on. Ma'an News has offices in several locations in the West Bank and also in Gaza, and is a great source of local news, written by people who live and work here. I also read Ha'aretz to see what "the other side" is reporting (it's especially interesting when Ma'an and Ha'aretz cover the same event, to see how each source tells the story), and also to read progressive writers like Amira Hass, Uri Avnery, and Akiva Eldar. I also like Isabel Kershner of the International Herald Tribune. The only thing about Ha'aretz is to stay away from the comments section at the bottom of articles, unless you're in the mood for a blood pressure spike.

BBC: a guide to Gaza under blockade: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7545636.stm

UN Head fears over Gaza blockade: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7737243.stm

UN Gaza Humanitarian situation report: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/EDIS-7LGNWE?OpenDocument

UN HR Commissioner on the Gaza blockade: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/media.aspx

Video - Impact of blockade: http://news.google.co.uk/news?hl=en&q=gaza%20blockade%20un%20shortage%20fuel%20humanitarian&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wn


Israel arrests its OWN teenagers

In Israel, teenagers of high-school-graduate age are required to complete a period of service in the Israeli Army -- 3 years for men, 2 years for women.  Some people refuse on the grounds of religious belief (as far as I know, none of the ultra-Orthodox Jews serve in the military) and are not punished for their refusal to serve, but conscientious objectors (COs) are often sent to prison and may face significant obstacles later in life (access to housing, jobs, social insurance, state benefits, etc.) as a result of having not served in the army.

Two Israeli teenagers were recently arrested and sentenced to 21 days in prison for refusing to serve in the army, and a third (a young woman) is also at risk of imprisonment in the coming days.

Below is a statement from the "conscience committee" outlining why some Israeli teenagers are standing up for their beliefs and refusing to act as occupiers.

The Shministim Letter 2008

We, high-school graduate teens, declare that we shall work against the Israeli occupation and oppression policy in the occupied territories and the territories of Israel. Therefore we will refuse to take part of these actions, which are being done under our name as part of the IDF

Our refusal comes first and foremost as a protest on the separation, control, oppression and killing policy held by the state of Israel in the occupied territories, as we understand that this oppression, killing and routing of hatred will never lead us to peace, and they are all contradictory to the basic values a society that pretends to be democratic should have.

All the members of this group believe in developing the value of social work. We are not refusing to serve the society we live in, but are protesting against the occupation and the ways of actions which the militaristic system holds as it is today- crushing civil rights, discriminating on a racial base and acting opposing international laws.

We oppose the actions taken in the name of the "defense" of the Israeli society (Checkpoints, targeted killing, apartheid roads-available for Jews only, curfews etc.) that serve the occupation and exploitation policy , annex more conquered territories to the State of Israel and tramples the rights of the Palestinian population in an aggressive manner. These actions serve as a band-aid covering a bleeding wound, and as a limited and temporary solution that will accelerate and aggravate the conflict further.

We expostulate the plundering and the theft of territories and source of income to the Palestinians in exchange to the expansion of the settlements, reasoning to defend Israeli territories. In addition, we oppose any transformation of Palestinian cities and villages to ghettos without minimal living conditions or income sources enclosed by the separation wall.

We also protest the humiliating and disrespectful behavior of the military forces towards Palestinians in the West Bank; violence towards demonstrators, public humiliations, arrests, destruction of property regardless to any safety or defense needs, all of which violate global human rights and international law.

The wall and blockades surround the Palestinian Territories and serve as a halter around the Palestinian's neck. The soldiers who commit crimes under the patronage and protection of their commanders reflect the image of the Israeli society; a destructive and surprising society that is incapable of accepting its neighboring nation as a partner and not as an enemy.

In order to hold an effective dialogue between the two societies, we, the well-established and stronger society, have the responsibility of establishing and strengthening the other. Only with a more socially and financially established partner could we work towards peace rather than one-sided retaliation acts. Rather than supporting those citizens who have hope for peace, the military cast sanctions and pushes more and more people towards acts of extreme violence and escalation.

We hereby challenge every citizen who wonders if the military's policy in the occupied territories is conducive to the progression of the peace process, to discover by himself/ herself the truth and to lift the veil which distorts the reality of the situation; to verify statistical data; to look for the humane side in him/her and in the society which stands in front of him/her, to disprove the myths that were routed within us regarding the necessity of the IDF's in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and to stand up against every action which he finds irrational and illegal.

In a place were there are humans, there is someone to talk to. Therefore, we ask to create a dialogue that goes beyond the power struggle, the retaliation and one-sided attrition actions; to disprove the "No Partner" myth, which is leading to a lose-lose situation of an ongoing frustration, and to move to more humane methods.

We cannot hurt in the name of defense or imprison in the name of freedom; therefore we cannot be moral and serve the occupation.

Members of the Shministim Letter 2008.


soldiers in Bethlehem

Also, as I was coming to Bethlehem from Jerusalem this morning, we were stopped outside Beit Safafa by Israeli soldiers and had IDs checked, and then got stopped again inside Beit Jala and had IDs checked by PALESTINIAN soldiers, which is new to me.  In Bethlehem, soldiers were posted at the main intersection and PA jeeps were driving around with 8-10 troops each.

Ma'an reported the incident here, but details are forthcoming.

The guys in the supermarket said they arrested "6 men with beards" and I think they said they were related to Hamas, but this could be speculation.