Report from Palestine IX

[Donald just sent this message describing Steve's report of his experiences yesterday and today in Palestine.]


I am writing this around 10:30 AM on Sunday, August 25, New York Time

This report covers Saturday, August 24 and some of Sunday, August 25.

As reported previously, a demonstration protesting the occupation was
being planned for Saturday in a town called Hawara (sp?).
Internationals from ISM were joining Palestinians, along with an
Israeli group from Jerusalem, Ha Taayush.

Approaching Hawara, the ISM contingent was met by soldiers. These
soldiers did not advise the group of anything, they simply started
detonating sound bombs and launching tear gas. Steve says he got
mildly tear gassed.

The groups were split up as they dispersed, and Steve ran into an
olive grove. It was while he was doing this that I happened to make
my usual morning call. He told me he would call me back. A few
minutes later, I heard from him. He was in the olive grove, and told
me everything I have just written. He said he had been invited to
someone's home and was going there. While he was in the olive grove,
Palestinians came out with onions, which can provide some relief from
tear gas when you sniff them.

While he was in Hawara at this person's home, tanks went through the
streets with bullhorns and shouts of "Curfew", while launching
teargas. Steve and his hosts locked their doors and shuttered their
windows and decamped to their hallway. Some little boys were brought
in off the street. Steve helped the little boys and they helped
back, offering their onions, as well as rags soaked in vinegar (which
helps alleviate the stinging of tear gas).

Later, when Steve was in the town, he spoke with a woman, saying what
a shame it was that little boys were getting tear gassed. She
said "Tear gas is nothing. You can get over tear gas. Bullets are
the problem". Steve realized that it was possible that the soldiers
might have used live ammunition if it weren't for the presence of
internationals.

Steve and the ISM people never met up with Ha Taayush. Ha Taayush
was physically stopped by the soldiers from entering the town. They
weren't tear gassed but as Steve put it, they were manhandled. They
weren't allowed to march to the checkpoint, but were allowed to hold
a rally. Then they went back to Jerusalem.

So how to get back home to Nablus and Askar refugee camp? Steve and
about 30 other internationals (plus two Palestinians) got in cabs as
started a journey along a settler road. Eventually they were stopped
by the Army because the cabs had West Bank plates and weren't allowed
on the road. The soldiers made everyone get out of the cabs. It was
unclear what would happen next. Obviously, they would have to walk
to the village of Iraqborin. But before they could do that, the
soldiers wanted to check everyone's ID. This would have guaranteed
arrest of the two Palestinians. So Steve and others fluent in Hebrew
argued and obfuscated and generally prevented IDs from being checked.

They were all welcomed very graciously by the people of Iraqborin and
spent Saturday night there.

One of the Palestinians in the group had not been allowed out of
Nablus for more than a year. She was very happy just to have been
out for a little while.

On Sunday they went back into Nablus. This wasn't supposed to
happen. Steve says the soldiers are preventing internationals from
getting into Nablus and trying to remove all the internationals who
are inside. Apparently, soldiers are stopping everyone, even
searching ambulances, and not allowing them through if they contain
internationals. Steve believes that the military is planning a big
action in Nablus and does not wish to be fettered by humanitarian
concerns which internationals might call attention to. Nevertheless,
with the help of some seasoned drivers who knew all the right dirt
paths to circumvent checkpoints, Steve was delivered to the door of
the Nablus office of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief
Committees.

Steve is going to rest today. He was exhausted by Saturday's
activities. Tonight he will stay in Askar refugee camp, and tomorrow
he will go back to Bethlehem to visit people and bring things to them.

Steve says "It's amazing how hard life is here under curfew. You
risk imprisonment just for going out to get food."

That's the report.
dsg