report from Palestine August 24, 2003

Steve writes from Tel Aviv, on his last full day before he returns to New York.

The pictures above, of the Apartheid Wall from the side of the imprisoned, are my own choice, from the International Solidarity Movement site.

Context Is Everything

Tel Aviv, Sunday, August 24, 2003

I came to Tel Aviv from Jayyous on Thursday evening
intending to stay for one night, but I awoke on Friday
morning with one of my all-too-familiar sinus
infections. I saw a doctor, got some antibiotics, and
extended my stay at the Tel Aviv hotel until my
departure in the wee hours of Monday morning. It's
Sunday afternoon now and I'm fever-free, although
still a little nervous about flying with congestion.

My hotel is right on the beach, and it's lovely here.
Lots of people out and about, bar-restaurant-cafes
right out on the sand, streets bustling until late
into the night. Jayyous is 10km from here, and my
friends there haven't seen the sea for 4 years. You'd
never know here that there's so much suffering so
close, being inflicted by the Israeli army.

On Wednesday night two Palestinian-American friends
were staying at the same hotel. They were not
permitted to bring their Palestinian Israeli friends
to the room--the armed security guard was quite
insistent. I, in contrast, have had free run of the
place, welcome to come and go as I please, even when I
was their late-night guest before I registered at the
hotel myself.

I've been pretty starved for news all summer. I've
been living without radio or TV, in communities where
all the newspapers are in Arabic. Poor email access
kept me away from Internet news sites. Now that I'm
in Tel Aviv, lolling about in front of the TV and with
English-language newspapers, I see how the present
grisly turn of events is being framed.

Israeli media are forefronting the suffering inflicted
by the bombing in Jerusalem. This is perfectly
reasonable. It was a horrific attack, and its
ultra-Orthodox victims conjure up images of terrible
Jewish suffering in Europe in the 20th century and
before. The sequence of events presented in the U.S.
and Israeli press seems to be (1) bombing in
Jerusalem, (2)assassination in Gaza (3) end of Hudna
[cease fire]. Journalists (or their editors) don't
seem interested in what happened prior to the
Jerusalem bombing, in what the Hudna was really like.

A look at the website of B'Tselem, the Israeli
Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories ( shows that between July
1 and August 13 of this year, 9 Palestinians (1 of
them a minor) were killed by Israeli security forces
in the Occupied Territories. In addition, the
construction of the Apartheid Wall and destruction of
Palestinian property continued apace, as did the daily
violence and humiliation that is part and parcel of 36
years of military control of a civilian population of

During the same period, 4 Israeli civilians (none of
them minors) and one member of the Israeli security
forces were killed by Palestinians.

Then came the Israeli attack on Askar Refugee Camp in
Nablus, in which 4 Palestinians were killed by Israeli
security forces. The Rosh Ha'Ayin and Ariel bombings
followed, with one Israeli death in each case,
followed by the Israeli assassination of an Islamic
Jihad student activist. Then the bombing in

The attack on the bus of worshippers was not
justified. It was sickening. Its planners and its
perpetrator distort Islam beyond all recognition. But
it was, without a doubt, provoked, and the Sharon
government knew it. They knew it when they attacked
Askar, and they knew it when they went into Hebron.
Now the situation has spun out of control again,
Israelis will again see their buses, cafes, and
restaurants blowing up, and Palestinians will die (as
always, in much larger numbers) as the occupation army
storms through Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm, and Gaza. The
Israeli media today are proudly showing photos of
dozens of tanks assembled at Erez Checkpoint ready to
reinvade Gaza; I can only think of the 1.3 million
desperately poor Palestinians packed into ramshackle
housing in the tiny Gaza Strip, and what these killing
machines are going to do them.

So now Bush and Powell and Rice have stopped bugging
Sharon about the Apartheid Wall, and Mayor Bloomberg
is flying to Jerusalem tomorrow to stand with Israeli
victims of terror, even as the Israeli army creates
untold numbers of Palestinian victims of state terror
in the Gaza invasion. So it seems like the Sharon
government got exactly what it wanted.

I'll he home tomorrow afternoon. I'm looking forward
to doing lots of public speaking about the occupation,
as well as reconnecting with family and friends.


[images of Qalqilya on August 12, 2003, by Niki Dean of the UK]