War: July 2003 Archives

Steve and friends in an olive grove near Jayyous

Steve has been characteristically busy, but he writes home:

Qalqilya, Occupied Palestine
Thursday, July 24, 2003

On Monday night we learned that a time bomb had been
found by security near the farmers' gate, and was
detonated by the Israeli army. As a result, the area
around the gate was closed by the army and was
crawling with troops. We decided not to attempt
access to the lands west of the fence on Tuesday.
There has been speculation here that the Israeli army
planted the time bomb in order to justify widening
their off-limits zone on either side of the fence.

Tuesday morning, we participated in a demonstration
organized by all the political parties in Qalqilya in
support of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli
prisons. We started with a short talk at the Qalqilya
branch of the Palestine Prisoners' Association, a very
important group made up of former prisoners (i.e. just
about any Palestinian man) which provides support for
prisoners and for their families. They explained to
us that their current focus is to have 3 prisons
located on army bases (Howwara, Salem, and I can't
remember the third) closed because the conditions
there are so harsh as to violate not only
international law, but Israeli law as well.

The demonstration was in the Qalqilya demonstration
style: loud, colorful, and short. ISM was there with
banners and signs (a picture of us made it into the
Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam today), and we're told that
people were really happy to see us there. There was a
group of boys in front of us-little boys, not
teenagers-who were chanting energetically without
apparent adult guidance. I was struck by how these
boys see themselves as empowered members of the
resistance to Israeli occupation and injustice.

There were family members of prisoners at the demo
carrying photos of their imprisoned loved ones-some of
the people carrying photos were little kids.

The demo went from the city circle to the office of
the International Committee of the Red Cross/Geneva,
where Lysander and I joined the officers of the
various political parties and the head of the
Prisoners' Association to present letters to the ICRC
with our concerns. The ICRC representative was an
Australian who could only talk about ICRC policy,
passing on concerns to the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
offices, etc. The official meeting was interrupted by
some women who demanded to know why they were being
denied permits to visit their sons, and wanted to know
what ICRC was going to do about it. One has two sons
in prison, and had been denied a permit as a "security
risk". She wanted to know how she, an old woman,
could be a security risk? Another also had two sons
in prison, had been granted a permit to visit one, and
was deemed a security risk when she applied for a
permit to visit the other. She wanted to know how she
could be eligible for a permit for one visit, yet a
security risk for the other. They represented Israeli
policies about family visitation as cruel and
arbitrary, and expressed frustration at the ICRC's
apparent impotence.

In the afternoon, we met with Faris, the local
coordinator for a village called Mas'ha, and 5 from
our action group (3 from JAtO) volunteered to go there
for a couple of days. Mas'ha has hosted a peace
encampment along the fence for months now, and it has
become a place for Israelis, Palestinians and
internationals from all walks of life to come together
in dialogue and in opposition to the fence. The 5
return tomorrow, and I look forward to hearing more
about Mas'ha Camp.

I was talking with a little boy in front of our
building, and one of the adults pointed out to me that
his father was killed by the Israeli army. There are
6 children in the family.

Late in the evening, some local Muslim leaders came
over to talk with us about Islam. They are people who
dedicate their lives to the service of Allah and the
duty to be a good person, and I was thinking about how
painful it must be for them to hear Islam slandered by
political and religious leaders in the U.S., Israel,
and elsewhere. Their talk was a little too much like
a visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses for my taste, but
they were well-intentioned, and we had a good time
just shooting the breeze after they were done with
their spiel.

I was awakened at 3:00 yesterday morning by Jihad, a
young man who spends time with us internationals. He
was alarmed that Israeli army jeeps had entered the
city, and a couple of internationals walked him home.
We then bolted our door, and I didn't sleep very well
as I waited for the alarm to ring at 5:00. At 6:00
[the hours seem to be accidently transposed in these
few lines - JAW] I saw a jeep driving right near our
apartment, and quickly ducked inside.

I was up at 5:00 for attempt #3 to go out with the
farmers - successful this time!! There were no
soldiers or security at the farmers' gate, and we high
-tailed it into the fields west of the fence. We
ducked behind some trees as construction vehicles and
security sped past, and were not spotted.

We were horrified, however, to see that the Israeli
army had dug a trench between the gate and the road
from Qalqilya, and piled the dirt and boulders up
before the trench. Passage into the lands outside of
the fence, impossible by car, truck, or tractor for
months, is now impassable by donkey as well. Farmers
must bring in their crops on foot. Some of the trees
immediately west of the fence and its attendant jeep
road had been destroyed by a tank or a bulldozer.

Mohammad from the Peasants' Union took us around the
lands of Qalqilya and Jayyous all morning. We stopped
and talked with many farmers (and drank tea, natch).
The scene was idyllic - carob, loquat, orange, avocado,
fig, berry, and olive trees, grape vines, fields of
cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and
eggplant, lovely little farmers' day huts, and a huge
chicken house. But the idyll was marred by the fence,
this awful gash that cuts across Palestinian farmers'
lands. We passed many dried up fields and abandoned
greenhouses belonging to farmers who just can't get
through the security at the gate. We encountered
numerous road blocks; many dirt roads within this
agricultural area have been rendered impassable by the
Israeli army. Some of the lands are on the other side
of a settlement bypass road put in during the Oslo
process, and no Palestinian agricultural roads are
allowed to intersect with this Israeli-only West Bank
highway built on confiscated Palestinian land.

Farmer after farmer told us about the assaults on
their livelihood caused by the fence. One man has a
property that was cut in half by the fence. He used
to go from one olive grove to the next by walking a
few meters. Now he has to walk half an hour to the
farmers' gate, and half an hour back. Another has a
number of farm vehicles at home. He can get none of
them onto his land. He has to bring in his crops by
donkey cart, and then unload them by hand onto a
vehicle at the roadblock. Some farmers have taken to
sleeping in the fields during the week, because the
way home has now been made so circuitous and long. To
make matters worse, Israel has declared economic war
on Palestinian areas during this Intifada, no longer
allowing Palestinians to export, and using roadblocks
and checkpoints to impede commerce within Palestine.
Qalqilya was once the bread basket of the West Bank,
with exports to Jordan and Iraq as well. Now, all
produce goes to market in Qalqilya, at a fraction of
the price.

The attached photo shows me, Andrea from California,
and Eric from Sweden sitting with Mohammad and 3
farmers from Jayyous in an olive grove, talking about
the difficulties of harvesting caused by the fence.

We crossed back through the farmers' gate quickly and
without incident. There was a security vehicle there,
but no personnel. We went to the farm of Ziad, also
of the Peasants' Union, for lunch. He and his son
made a delicious feast for us, cooking everything with
vegetables he picked as he cooked. While we waited
for lunch to be ready, Mohammad told me about reading
Angela Davis's book about prison in the U.S. while he
was in prison in Israel, and talked about how similar
the conditions are. He also told me about the little
girl in Qalqilya who's named Angela, after Angela

Ziad's farm is breathtaking, but his property, which
used to extend further than it now does, is abruptly
cut off by the fence. The contrast between the beauty
of well-tended fields of tomatoes and cauliflower, and
rolls of accordion wire blocking entrance to the ditch
in front of the fence, is enough to make one cry.

Back in town, we visited a house that had been visited
during the night by the Israeli army (hence the jeeps
we saw). There were eleven people in the house: 3
women, one 13-year-old boy, and the rest little girls
(one a baby). We saw hundreds and hundreds of bullet
holes in the house outside and inside, including in
one of the women's dresses in her closet. It's a
miracle that no one was shot or killed, and I can't
imagine how frightened the children must have been.
One little girl (I can't say how old she is; I usually
underestimate the age of Palestinian children because
they look so small. Perhaps it's malnutrition?) was
eager to show us the damage, and they all welcomed the
attention. The teenage boy lay in a fetal position on
a mat, having had his stomach stomped on by Israeli
border guards in an attempt to force him to say where
they can find the man they were looking for. They
never found the wanted man, so they took another man
from the family, 26 years old, beat him, and arrested
him. He may be facing 6 months of administrative
detention now; under Israeli law, no charges have to
be laid for administrative detention to occur.

For the past 2 days our action group has been meeting
with community members about our proposed action at
the Qalqilya wall on Wednesday. This morning I
participated in meetings at the Palestine People's
Party with someone from the Farmers' Union, and at the
Chamber of Commerce with the Chamber's president.
Everyone has the same story - total economic devastation
as a result of closure and the wall. The rest of the
day has been preparation for the action - it's a giant
undertaking, but we hope it will be spectacular.
Tomorrow morning I'm off to document the plight of the
villages south of Qalqilya, which have themselves been
encircled by the wall.

Then President Bush's canon will come back to us: "You're either with us or with the terrorists." Those words hang in time like icicles. For years to come, butchers and genocidists will fit their grisly mouths around them ("lip-sync," flimmakers call it) to justify their butchery.

Arundhati Roy
September, 2002

And with that he closes for the night.

For more news, from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) site itself, see the story, "Palestinian Farmers Break Gate in the Wall."

When war is created by a leader for his own purposes of revenge, greed or power, it is unspeakable, but we're Americans, and we're going to speak anyway. We can't help it.

No one could speak of the personal, American impact of this war more eloquently than Anne Hull and Tamara Jones do in a two-part series in the Washington Post this week. The still photographs and video which accompany the story on the Post's "Nation" page are ineffable.

For each antagonist, war wounds or destroys both individuals and societies. Viet Nam was horrible and stupid. Iraq is horrible and calculated. Calculated is worse.

Point of information: Worthy as any account of the cost of this war may be, I'm disturbed by the fact that most of the media seem to be concerned only with tabulating the cold numbers of [Americans] who have died in Iraq, before or even after "Mission Accomplished." The absurd impression is given that the casualty numbers are something like 150 (or 226), and everybody else is safe - and sound.

The military hospitals can't bury the injured, maimed and mentally deranged, even if we do.

And don't even mention the Iraqi dead and injured. Nobody here does, unless we've murdered someone in Bush's deck of playing cards.

This is barbarism.

Think about it.

Barry shot out, "It's no wonder this administration is opposed to the International Criminal Court!" Or any court, apparently.

For a take takes not in debt to any gosh darn mainstream media interest known to humanity, see dKos.

removing a roadblock*

Steve writes from Jenin.

Jenin, West Bank, Occupied Palestine Sunday, July 20, 2003

On Wednesday evening in Qalqilya, we ISM folks were
invited to meet with representatives of the
organizations that comprise the PLO in Qalqilya. They
were all middle-aged men, and all had done time in
Israeli prisons (as has Marwan, our local coordinator,
as have most Palestinian men in the occupied
territories). Each of them spoke about the misery of
occupation, the falseness of Israel's peace
negotiations, and the Palestinian determination to
resist. We threw out a few ideas about direct action
that we can participate in alongside the community,
and there will be more meetings to knock around some

The meeting was followed immediately by a second
meeting, with representatives of the farmers' union.
We spoke about the roadblocks on the road to orchards
within the fence, difficulty in access to their land
outside the fence, irrigation lines being cut by the
workers constructing the fence, and so on. I thought
about the day last fall when Lysander and other ISM
folks were asked by the farmers to join them in
witnessing the destruction of their fruit trees to
clear a path for the fence. She described how some of
the farmers cried and had to be led away.

We decided that we will go out into the fields and the
orchards with the farmers on Sunday to work alongside
them and to witness the difficulties they encounter.
Then we'll sit with them that evening to decide what
needs to be done in Qalqilya.

In a third meeting on Wednesday night (oy), this time
just ISM, we decided who would replace the interim ISM
international coordinator in Qalqilya, since she's
leaving this weekend. Lysander and I volunteered to
share the role.

Thursday morning, we returned to court in Tel Aviv for
the deportation hearing of the 8 ISM internationals
arrested in Jenin and Nablus. They had 4 of the top
human-rights lawyers in Israel, and a packed court of
international and Israeli supporters. The court
officers kept many of the supporters in the hallway
throughout the proceeding, even though there were
empty seats in the courtroom.

Our lawyers pointed out that the 2 Israelis arrested
with the 8 internationals were released almost
immediately, that the arrests were illegal, that the
facts alleged were contradictory. They produced
affidavits in support of ISM from Member of Knesset
Yossi Sarid and from Terri Greenblatt of Bat Shalom.
They showed that while the Ministry of the Interior
was alleging that ISM interferes with the activities
of the army, endangering themselves, soldiers, and the
Israeli public, they offered no evidence to show that
the 8 defendants interfered with the army in any way.

The judge upheld the Ministry's deportation order
anyway, and agreed with the Ministry's
characterizations of ISM. He also denied a one-week
stay of deportation while an appeal is filed in the
Israeli Supreme Court.

We spent last night in Jerusalem. The pedestrian
mall in West Jerusalem was packed, because it was
Thursday night (everything's closed Friday night for
the Jewish Sabbath), and because there is a currently
a cease fire between the Israeli army and Hamas,
Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.
Everyone entering the outdoor mall had to be
thoroughly checked by one of a legion of security
guards. I found it pretty scary. I also thought that
the Israeli peace movement ought to do an action
there, hanging banners on the barricades that point
out that it's the Occupation that makes metal
detectors on a city street necessary.

I was with Lisa, from JAtO, who doesn't read Hebrew,
so I was translating the graffiti and political
posters on the walls for her. They were uniformly
right wing, and said things like "Kahane was right",
"Jordan is the Palestinian state", and "Oslo proves:
it's forbidden to give them a state." There was even
graffiti on the walls of the Old City. (To be fair,
there's lots of graffiti in Palestinian communities
throughout the West Bank, and I usually can't read
what it says.)

The previous week when I was in West Jerusalem, I saw
a number of young men who appeared to be Arab pulled
aside by police, apparently based on looks alone, to
have their IDs scrutinized and to be questioned about
their activities.

While in Jerusalem, I got a call from the ISM people
who had returned to Qalqilya from Tel Aviv. They were
absolutely denied entry to Qalqilya via the
checkpoint; apparently, the Israeli army wants the
50,000 people of Qalqilya, entirely surrounded by the
wall/fence, to be cut off from the outside world. Our
people ended up crawling under a locked farmers' gate
in a part of the fence away from the checkpoint, in
the dark. It remains to be seen how this will play
out, but it looks like our mobility in and out of
Qalqilya is going to be very limited.

Friday morning, 3 of us from the Qalqilya crew
traveled from Jerusalem to Jenin to help out with an
action. Getting from Jerusalem to Jenin was a 45
minute drive once upon a time, but now that a network
of settler roads has been built in the West Bank and
declared off limits to vehicles with Palestinian
license plates (while West Bank cities are off limits
to vehicles with Israeli license plates), the trip
involves a long detour through the Jordan Valley, many
humiliating checkpoints, and 3 hours' travel time.
One of the passengers in our van was a young man from
Jerusalem who is a student at the Arab-American
University in Zababde, a village near Jenin. His
Jerusalem ID means he is seen as an Israeli by the
authorities, so each week when he goes to school, he
gets stopped at the last checkpoint and told that he
mustn't go to Jenin "for his own safety". The delay
caused by the soldiers checking his ID led the driver
to leave without him, stranding him at the checkpoint.

We got to Birqin, near Jenin, just in time to
participate in a roadblock removal*. Lots of men and
boys from the village, as well as the ISM crew from
Jenin, converged on the giant dirt mound with a front
loader, pick axes, and shovels. If you look carefully
at the attached photo, you'll see two people hanging
off the sides of the front loader. Those are ISM
internationals there to protect the front loader from
confiscation, and the driver from arrest. My job was
to eavesdrop on the soldiers communicating with one
another, since I understand Hebrew, while another
international negotiated with them in English.
Fortunately, I had nothing to do, since the army never
showed up. The roadblock that the army built is gone,
and the drive from Birqin to Jenin is once again 5
minutes, instead of 40.

After the successful action, we spent time at the home
of Moayed, an organizer in Birqin. We were served tea
and coffee, of course, and listened to Moayed and his
family play the oud and sing songs of Palestinian
liberation. His teenage daughter recited a poem about
Palestine that made a Palestinian-American ISM member
cry. It was great chatting with Moayed; he spoke with
me about the need for coexistence of Jews and
Palestinians in this land, and about how the Torah and
the Qur'an are both used to justify exclusive rights
to the country.

We proceeded to the ISM apartment in Jenin. The walls
of Jenin are covered with martyr posters (anyone who
has died in the struggle is called a "martyr" in
Palestine), from Rachel Corrie to civilians shot by
Israeli soldiers in Jenin to fighters who died
defending Jenin from Israeli invasion to suicide
bombers. One sees these posters in every Palestinian
community in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but
they're particularly plentiful here. I am sorry that
bombers get the same status as other people who resist
the Occupation; personally, I'm convinced that the
bombings are reprehensible as well as
counterproductive. I worry about them when I'm in Tel
Aviv, Haifa, or West Jerusalem (I never ride buses),
and my friend Shanka in Tel Aviv narrowly missed
getting killed in a bus bombing a year ago. I think
it's important to remember, however, that there were
almost no bombings when the peace process was on track
in the '90s, that the bloody Israeli army assault on
unarmed Palestinian resistance in September, October
and November of 2000 preceded any of this Intifada's
bombings, and that Israeli army targeting of
Palestinian civilians has killed 3 times as many
people as the bombings have. So while I disagree (to
put it mildly) with anyone who sees the bombers as
people to be admired for sacrificing themselves for
their people, I think it's clear that the way to end
the bombings is to end the Occupation. (The Israeli
Knesset this past week reaffirmed that the West
Bank-"Judea and Samaria" in their Biblical view-is not
occupied territory, that settlement expansion must
continue, and that Israel must control all the land
west of the "security fence", even though that land is
in the West Bank and represents vital Palestinian land
and water resources.)

The ISM folks in Jenin tell me that the Israeli army
has been going into Jenin Refugee Camp at night,
destroying the building materials that the U.N. is
using to try and rebuild the community that was
bulldozed by the army in April of 2002.

I had a good discussion tonight with folks in Jenin
about their upcoming actions in and around the city,
and how we might proceed in Qalqilya. The conditions
in walled-in Qalqilya are very difficult for people
who live and work there, and for internationals trying
to support non-violent resistance there. The people
there have welcomed internationals in solidarity with
them, but I think we all feel a little stymied by
being caged up. We'll see what we can accomplish.

The trip Saturday morning from Jenin to Qalqilya was
another exercise in roadblocks, humiliating
checkpoints, and 5 shared taxis for what should have
been 1 short trip. The racism at the checkpoints was
blatant; at one point all the Palestinian men in the
car were forced to get out and stand in the sun while
their IDs were checked. I was allowed to sit in the
car with the women. No soldier asked spoke to me or
looked at my passport to ascertain who I was; I was
apparently judged not in need of checking by virtue of
my appearance alone.

We finally got to Qalqilya, and did manage to talk our
way in through the checkpoint. We had a few things
going for us: we were a small group (only 3), we had a
Palestinian-American with us who could claim to have
family in Qalqilya, and the District Commanding
Officer who has ordered internationals kept out of
Qalqilya wasn't there because it was Saturday.
Nevertheless, we got in by the skin of our teeth.

While we waited and haggled at the checkpoint, I
observed the soldiers' interactions with Palestinians
requesting permission into the city. They were spoken
to and manhandled in a way that the soldiers would
never dare with us, another manifestation of racism
run amok. The soldier with whom we were negotiating,
who was friendly to us and sympathetic, left for a
moment, transformed from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. Hyde,
and screamed at some boys on a donkey cart. Another
soldier went through a young man's pockets without
speaking to him about it first, in order to see if he
had another form of ID. I couldn't imagine him doing
that to me.

On Sunday morning we went out to the farmers' gate in
the fence. The idea was to spend a day with farmers
working in their fields and orchards and observing the
ways in which the fence is disrupting their
livelihood. Agriculture has become a central source
of income since Palestinians' travel to their jobs in
Israel was banned, and since Israeli shoppers stopped
coming to Qalqilya.

One can no longer bring a car, truck or tractor into
the Qalqilya fields and orchards outside of the fence.
The army blocked the way to the gate with boulders
and a mound of dirt, so that one can only travel on
foot or, with difficulty, by donkey. The impact of
this demechanization on Qalqilya farmers' ability to
extract income from their fields is obvious.

We walked through the gate with Shukri, an AP
photographer who is a Qalqilya resident and some
farmers. We were stopped by the private armed
security (from a company called Ari) who work for the
companies contracted to build the fence for the
Israeli government. They were very aggressive and
caused all the farmers except one to turn back and try
again later. We ignored them and walked into the
lands beyond the fence with a farmer named Khaled.

Khaled pointed out how many of the plots were
neglected since September 2002 when this part of the
fence went up. Under the Ottoman land laws, which
Israel uses to confiscate Palestinian land, property
belongs to the state if it is uncultivated for 3 years
in a row. The state's role in preventing cultivation
is not a mitigating factor in the eyes of the Israeli
legal system. The Israeli government then turns the
land over to the Jewish National Fund, whose charter
says that the land is held in perpetuity for the
Jewish people, making it technically illegal for
non-Jews, even non-Jewish Israelis, to rent or live on
that land. (The heavily fortified Border Police post
at the Qalqilya checkpoint has a sign denoting that
it's on JNF land. Not what I had in mind when I put
my allowance in those little blue boxes as a kid.)

Israeli soldiers in a Hummer followed us up the path
among the fields, and forced us to leave. We tried to
negotiate to let us stay and work with the farmers for
the day, but they said they were calling the Border
Police to come and arrest us. Again: apartheid. They
said that the farmer could proceed to his fields (his
wife and children already had), but they were intent
on keeping us apart from them.

One of the soldiers freaked when we walked back
through the gate into Qalqilya. I guess they thought
we'd walk alongside the gate on their jeep road until
we got to a checkpoint, or until the Border Police
came along and arrested us. They REALLY don't want us
in Qalqilya. They didn't follow us in, however. I
think they need fairly high level orders to come
inside the cage. They did stop Shukri, and took his
ID and press pass (Palestinians can be arrested for
not carrying ID). Shukri went to the District
Commanding Officer later, who returned his ID, but
said he'd need the name of the soldier in order to
file a complaint aimed at getting back his press pass.

This morning we tried again to go out with the farmers
(they hadn't expected that we'd come back). We
arrived at the gate at 6:15 on the assumption that the
workers constructing the fence wouldn't be at work
yet, and therefore security wouldn't have arrived.
What we found was a tank, a jeep, and some soldiers,
waiting apparently for us. Some farmers got there at
the same time, and were allowed through by the
soldiers. We of course did not attempt to cross, and
I'm really disappointed that the army has so far been
successful at separating us from the farmers.

Israeli army jeeps came into Qalqilya today and
arrested someone-I don't know the details.
International activists and local residents in the
nearby village of Jayyous had an action today at which
they went to the fence and threw food and supplies
over to a Bedouin family trapped by the fence and
unable to reach Jayyous themselves.

We're working hard on our upcoming wall actions-July
28 in Jenin, July 29 in Tulkarm, July 30 here, and
July 31 in Mas'ha. We have to find a way to bring the
world's attention to the fence and what it's doing to

That's all for now. Peace.


Jasper Johns, "White Flag" (1955) Metropolitan Museum of Art

Some day, when we stop shaking in our boots in fear, we'll realize just what evil we have done in the name of September 11. While history doesn't give us much reason to seriously believe that anyone in a position of power will pay for his or her crimes [remember Vietnam], some of us already already know that their victims here and abroad already have, and that they will continue to be paying forever.

But we ourselves should not be able to simply point fingers, now or on some hoped-for day of redemption. A letter to the NYTimes today is a sober reminder that not all of the guilty sit in Washington.

To the Editor:

Re "16 Words, and Counting," by Nicholas D. Kristof, and "Pattern of Corruption," by Paul Krugman (columns, July 15):

Mr. Kristof and Mr. Krugman make strong arguments about the deception tainting the White House, and rightly so.

But there's another party that should not be let off the hook: the American public.

When most of the deception by the Bush administration and the intelligence communities was lauded as truth and reinforced by the media, despite the numerous reports and intelligence stating otherwise, most Americans took the lies at face value, without questioning their validity.

Worse, many Americans chided and dismissed those who called for truth and reason.

True, as Mr. Krugman writes, Iraq "didn't have significant weapons of mass destruction and wasn't supporting Al Qaeda," but that didn't stop many Americans from thinking otherwise.

Those who substituted liberty for a blind patriotism are as much at fault as those who perpetrated deception.

Jersey City, July 16, 2003

I read this to Barry this morning. His immediate retort: "We're 'good Germans.'"

Three months ago Harley Sorensen explained what what a "good German" was.

One of life's mysteries, for me, is how masses of people can do the incredibly cruel things they do. Individual brutality makes a certain amount of sense in that it's limited to one person. But mass brutality?
I think this subject first came to mind after I read Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, A History of Nazi Germany.

There was nothing in either book that told me how such a highly civilized and culturally advanced nation as Germany could sink to the level of the Nazis.

"How could that happen?" I wondered.

"What is there about the Germans that allowed them to become the monsters they became? How are they different than the rest of us?"

So I spent a month pondering the question.

The answer I came up with satisfied me then, and it satisfies me still: There is nothing different about the World War II Germans. What happened to them could happen to anyone. It could happen to us. We are no better than them.

. . .

The formula to become a brutish leader, as Jean-Marie Le Pen proved recently in France, is a two-step process. First, you convince the masses they are in grave danger (Le Pen used immigrants as his boogie man), then you promise to save them.

That's exactly what Hitler did, and it's exactly what Bush and Sharon are doing.

. . . .

It's the fear factor, I believe. They go against their basic decent instincts and support a brutal regime for fear of being criticized or ostracized as traitors. Peer pressure.

You see the same thing with Americans' blind support of Bush's war policies.

"If you're not for us, you're against us," Bush said, immediately making sheep out of otherwise hard-nosed, independent-thinking Americans.

Driven by fear, masses of people can do horrible things. Now is a good time to recall the admonition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said:

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Roosevelt's warning was about the Great Depression, but the words are appropriate now. Fear can turn us all into "good Germans." We must resist it. We must not let it turn us into sheep.

Things are just not going well for the White House. Nothing is being handled well. This has been the case for almost three years now, but finally people are beginning to notice.

Barry suggests that any day now we can expect the terror alert will be raised to orange [where it's been in New York City ever since September 11].

[photo image Courtesy of E.J. Fischer and the Propaganda Remix Project]

Steve reports on his last 6 days in Palestine and Israel.

The subjects, in order, include Ramallah, Black Laundry, checkpoints, "refuseniks," his new all-gender affinity group "faygelach," a Tel Aviv court, the farming village of Jayyous, the Apartheid Wall, aquifers, Qalqilya, the wonderful and sad Amal Society for the Deaf, "extrajudicial executions," and his friends's chagrin about being generously feted rather than actively useful in the communities so far.

Qalqilya, occupied Palestine
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

We went to Ramallah on Friday and Saturday for ISM
training. To get into Ramallah from Jerusalem, we had
to pas through the Qalandia checkpoint. The
checkpoint is a huge affair, with giant concrete
blocks arranged into mazes for incoming and outgoing
people, lots of Israeli soldiers scrutinizing people
passing through, and an Israeli sniper tower overhead.
Where once people could just drive between Jerusalem
and Ramallah, two of the most important cities and 20
minutes apart, there are now giant clogged parking
fields at either end for the taxis taking people to
and from the checkpoint. We got through without any
problem because they were only checking people leaving
Ramallah on Friday, but the whole experience was
incredibly stressful. I can't imagine what it's like
for people who live in Ramallah.

There were about 25 of us trainees, from the U.S.,
Scotland, England, France, and Canada. Quite a few of
us were Jewish, including one Israeli-American and one
Orthodox woman.

Our trainers were a member of Jews Against the
Occupation/New York and a member of the Michigan Peace
Team. They facilitated role play and discussion about
commitment to non-violence, how to de-escalate in the
face of settler and soldier violence, how to protect
Palestinians and ourselves non-violently, what to do
if arrested, and so on.

George Rishmawi, a co-founder of ISM from the
Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between Peoples
in Beit Sahour, Palestine, talked with us about the
history of non-violent resistance in Palestine and
about Palestinian cultural norms in the communities in
which we will live and work.

A member of Black Laundry, Israel's gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgendered activists against the
Occupation, talked about his military service in the
Occupied Territories and Lebanon, and why he now
prefers to serve time in a military prison rather than
serve the reserve duty required of every Israeli
Jewish man until age 55. While in prison, he met one
active duty soldier who was in prison for 6 months for
smoking a joint, and another who was in for one month
for killing an elderly Palestinian civilian. The
death had been deemed an accident, but the prisoner
said that his commanding officer knew that he had
killed the old man on purpose. He also met fellow
"refuseniks" who had served their active duty during
the Intifada of the late 80s and early 90s. He said
that they were gentle, intelligent, educated men who
had never talked about the things they had done in the
army, not even to their wives, until their time in
prison with him. He was amazed at the terrible things
they had done, and the trauma they were still living

Neta Golan, an Canadian-Israeli co-founder of ISM who
now lives in Nablus with her Palestinian husband and
their baby came to speak with us, baby in tow, about
arrests, deportations, and legal issues. She also
spoke about the weaponry that the Israeli army uses
against peaceful protest, and how to respond safely to
tear gas, sound grenades, rubber bullets, moving
vehicles, shooting over out heads, and live fire aimed
at demonstrators. (The way to respond safely to live
fire is to remove oneself from the situation

Two Palestine activists from New York helped us work
on how to use the media to get the message out.

Ramallah is a bustling, prosperous town, now that it
is not under Israeli military curfew, although one
must still pass through Israeli checkpoints (more like
choke points) to get there. We had a nice time there
on Friday evening, eating shawarma and ice cream, and
visiting an Internet café.

By the time we left, our affinity group had
crystallized. An affinity group is a small group of
activists who know one another well and trust one
another, who work as a unit in planning and
implementing direct action. There are 6 of us in my
affinity group, all from New York, all of whom have
organized together before, and we named our mostly
queer, mostly Jewish group Faygelach for a Free
Palestine (faygelach is Yiddish for faggot, although
we intend it to mean queers of all genders). For the
JAtO and DAP folks on this list: the group is me,
Eric. Lisa B., Amy Laura, Ady and Lysander. Dena will
be joining us in a few days, Ryan a week after that,
and Gabriel from DAP in early August. We are hoping
that Ora and Ramzi will be joining us as well.

Leaving Ramallah was a little tricky, because the
Israeli soldiers suspected that our Israeli-American
member was Israeli. She pretended not to understand
Hebrew, and was eventually waved through despite her
lack of a visa. Our taxi was then stopped at a
traffic checkpoint, where the soldiers said they were
going to hold us for a while so they could check out
the two of us with U.K. passports. Must have had
something to do with the guy they were looking for in
the West Bank, who's a peace activist, but who the
authorities are claiming is an IRA bomb maker.
(Thankfully, he has no connection to ISM; I'm sure
they'd love to use him to smear us.)

On Sunday, a large number of ISM activists, consular
officials, and Israeli peace activists went to court
in Tel Aviv for the trial of 8 ISM activists awaiting
deportation. (The American, French, Swedish, Danish,
and British consulates were all contacted because the
arrestees come from all those countries. Only the
Swedes and Danes bothered to show up to support their
citizens.) The judge was clearly impressed to see a
full courtroom; deportation proceedings usually
involve workers from Nigeria, Thailand, and other
Third World countries who have replace Palestinian
menial labor in Israel since the Intifadas. They
usually sit in prison while their deportations are
adjudicated in writing.

The case has been put off for a few days or longer,
and the 8 young men continue to be held in the police
station at Ariel, one of Israel's illegal West Bank
settlements. We did win a preliminary injunction
preventing the deportations while the case is being
decided; one of the Ministry of the Interior's
favorite tricks is to put people on a plane in the
dead of night while their deportation cases were being
argued. Hopefully this injunction will prevent them
from doing so. We of the Feygelach have volunteered
to contact folks to write affidavits attesting to
ISM's non-violent mission, and have had a good
response from Israeli and international individuals
and organizations, including members of the Knesset.

On Monday, we traveled from Tel Aviv to Jayyous, a
West Bank farming village close to the pre-1967
border. We had to travel to an Israeli road block
where trucks have to back up to each other on either
side of the road block and their cargo has to be hand
carried from one to the other. We got into Jayyous,
where we met almost all the men, women and children of
the town, as well as about 40 internationals, for a
march initiated by the farmers.

Jayyous lost 90% of its land when the war of 1947-1949
ended, and the village found itself on the Jordanian
side of the armistice line with its land on the
Israeli side. (That land had been slated to be part
of the Arab state of Palestine in the U.N. 1947
Partition Plan, but was captured by the new state of
Israel in the war.) When Israel occupied the West
Bank in 1967, more land was confiscated to build
illegal Israeli settlements nearby. Now, with the
construction of Israel's "Separation Fence" (which we
are calling the Apartheid Wall), they are being cut
off from 70% of what's left. Farmers have one gate in
the fence through which they may pass to get to their
fields, but when internationals aren't present to
monitor, they are often detained and/or beaten by the
private armed security guards hired by the contractors
who are building the fence for the Israeli government.

First, we attended a lecture in the municipality by a
Qalqilya hydrologist about how the Oslo Agreement maps
and the location of the Apartheid Wall have nothing to
do with security, and everything to do with stealing
access to West Bank aquifers. (Millions of
Palestinians in the West Bank have limited access to
fresh water for living and for agriculture, while
hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers in the same
territory have watered lawns and swimming pools.)
Then the people of Jayyous, with international
accompaniment, marched through the olive groves to the
fence. The women and young men of the village chanted
for a while as we watched the construction equipment
completing the fence that cuts through Jayyous's
lands. Some nearby soldiers watched, and some of the
security guards joined them, but the men of the
village made sure that the youngsters kept their
distance. On the way back, some of the boys had
slingshots to throw stones at the security guards who
stood menacingly in the distance as we passed, but
they were not permitted by their elders to engage even
in this symbolic act of violence. The march ended
without the soldiers gassing, beating, arresting or
shooting at anyone, a testament to the discipline of
the Jayyous organizers as well as the effect of
international accompaniment.

Back at the municipality, the mayor thanked us for our
support, and explained that the Israeli decision to
cut them off from their land and therefore their
income is an attempt to force them to abandon their
homes. I agree. The fence is part of a policy of
ethnic cleansing, in which parts of the West Bank are
slowly being emptied of their indigenous Palestinian
population and replace with Jewish settlers, many of
them from the United States.

We proceeded from Jayyous to nearby Qalqilya, through
the Azun roadblock and the Qalqilya checkpoint.
Again, we made it through the checkpoint with our
Israeli-American member coming under special scrutiny
and pretending not to know Hebrew. We joined up with
the crew of Americans and one Brit already here. And
met our local coordinators.

Qalqilya is a town of about 50,000 Palestinian Muslims
that sits right on the Green Line, next to the most
densely populated part of Israel. It's surrounded by
rich agricultural lands, and appears to be a busy,
though not particularly prosperous, trading center. I
imagine that things were much better here before the
Intifada, when Israelis came here to shop and
Palestinians from neighboring communities didn't have
to beg soldiers to let them through checkpoints in
order to come here. When I participated in a summer
high school program in Israel in 1980, we were taken
to the position in Qalqilya where Jordanian artillery
had been able to shell Israel before 1967. We were
taught that the occupation of the West Bank was
important to protect this narrow and heavily populated
strip of Israel. We were not take to see the town of
Qalqilya, not taught anything about how the people of
Qaqilya suffered during fighting between Israel and
Jordan 1948-1967, nor given any indication of what is
was like for the people of Qalqilya to live under
military occupation. The occupation was 13 years old
then. Now it's 36.

Our primary local coordinator, Marwan*, invited the
12 of us to his home for a delicious meal. That
evening, we were hosted at Qalqilya's Amal Society for
the Deaf, the only deaf society in the Arab world
that's run entirely by deaf people. We toured their
school, received dictionaries of Arabic sign language,
and had a fascinating triple-translated discussion.
Hamid*, a member of the Society, spoke to us in sign,
the Society's one hearing member translated what he
had signed into spoken Arabic, and Marwan translated
from Arabic into English. Hamid taught us a great
deal about the Society and its programs and
international contacts. He also told us about the
deaf Palestinians who have been maimed and killed by
Israeli soldiers during this Intifada. In each case,
soldiers had opened fire on an unarmed deaf
Palestinian man after he failed to follow an order to
halt that he did not hear. Hamid also told us about
the night last year when Israeli soldiers raided the
Society's boarding school, terrifying the children and
wrecking their offices and computer lab.

Yesterday, we were invited to a demonstration in the
town center in support of political prisoners in
Israeli prisons. Tens of thousands of Palestinian men
are in prison in Israel under the administrative
detention law that relieves the Israeli government of
the responsibility of laying charges or trying the
Palestinians the army arrests. Abed*, my host from my
first time with ISM in April 2002, was imprisoned
under this law after his wedding and while his new
wife was pregnant with their first child. As far as I
know, he's never met his daughter.

The demonstration was lively and colorful, and
without army interference. The army came in the
middle of the night last week to assassinate someone
(look up "extrajudicial executions" on Amnesty
International's website to find out just how flagrant
a human rights violation that is), but in general they
don't come into Qalqilya much. Instead, they've built
a wall and a fence all the way around the town, so
that the only way in or out is the checkpoint. Now
that 50,000 people are locked in a cage, there's
little need for the Israeli soldiers to step into the
cage with them. One little boy in the demonstration
was holding a photo of his mother, who was murdered by
Israeli soldiers.

In the afternoon, we went to look at the wall that
separates Qalqilya from Israel and from the rest of
the West Bank. A photo of the wall is attached.
Construction started in April of 2002, and the
Qalqilya will be completely surrounded some time this
summer. We passed by the new girls' school that was
attacked with tear gas by the Israeli army last year.
Now they don't gas anyone-they watch from their tower
in an 8-meter-high concrete wall.

We also visited a farmers' road into orchards near the
"security fence", which has been blocked by 4
roadblocks by the Israeli army. We're going to talk
with the Farmers' Union about clearing the roadblocks
together. Last, we visited a gate in the fence meant
to allow farmers to pass into their fields and
orchards on the "Israeli" side of the fence. The
fence at that point is indeed a fence, about 8 feet
high. It appears to be electrified, although the
cable may be for motion sensors or camera. On the
"Israeli" side of the fence is a paved road that is
restricted to army jeeps, and on the Palestinian side
there is a dirt track, a ditch, and rolls and rolls of
razor wire. The path to the gate is impassable except
on foot or donkey. Farmers were returning from their
fields without interference, but we're told that at
times Israeli soldiers prevent them from passing
through the gate.

This morning, four of us spent two hours watching
Qalqilya Checkpoint. There was nothing out of the
ordinary-just the usual humiliations of men being
forced to wait for an hour in the sun while the
soldiers hold their IDs, and then being allowed to
pass. Yesterday, other members of our team intervened
on behalf of a taxi driver who was arbitrarily
detained and his taxi confiscated. They succeeded in
getting him his ID back and passage through the
checkpoint, and will try today to get his taxi back.
The cab is his only way to feed his family.

Everyone we've met in Qalqilya has been warmly
welcoming, and we've received official invitations to
events as well as lots of public thank yous. We're
being treated a little like a delegation to be feted
and not as participants in non-violent resistance, but
we're working toward a more active relationship with
the community. There was a big meeting today toward
that end while I was at checkpoint watch, and I'm
looking forward to hearing about what was

That's all for now. Thanks for reading, and call


*In these journals, I will always use pseudonyms when
writing about Palestinian individuals other than
members of ISM's core group. Using their real names
could potentially subject them to imprisonment by the
Israeli government, which has historically taken a dim
view of Palestinian non-violent organizing.

I'm sorry, but there is no way I could excerpt this message. It's information is too rare here, and the authority of its source requires that it keep its integrity.

It was forwarded from Queers for Peace and Justice, and was written by Jordan Flaherty, a New York activist currently one of the International Solidarity Movement "NOLA Freedom Summer" delegates. The others are Adam Wilson and Thomas Bacon. They are currently in Palestine working with the ISM, which was formed to non-violently resist the Israeli occupation.

July 6, 2003 – From Jordan

Letter from Jenin

I can't even put my anger into words. Really, its so much worse than you suspect and fear.

While the media talks about a roadmap to peace, here's whats happening:

People want to know if its true that the Israeli military have pulled out of Bethlehem. Of course they haven't, but so what if they had? Can people from Bethlehem leave Bethlehem? "We haven't left this camp in two years," say my family in the Azzeh refugee camp. Where can they go? They are trapped by checkpoints, fenced in by bypass roads, and choked by settlements. The hills around Bethlehem are alive - with huge, monstrous settlements, built on stolen land.

Bethlehem residents can visit the church of the Nativity. But what about the other major holy site in Bethlehem, Rachel's Tomb? Rachel's tomb is off limits to Palestinian Christians and Muslims. Only Israelis have access to this major holy site. The several hundred yards around it are also confiscated. In fact, the Israelis are in the process of confiscating more of Bethlehem, to "annex" Rachel's Tomb into Israel. If they change the definition of Bethlehem - redefine it into a fraction of its former self - when its easier to "pull out."

This is what's happening in the whole West Bank. The definition of what is the "West Bank" is being physically changed. Once the Israeli Government has cut the West Bank into tiny pieces a fraction of their current size, it will be easier to "pull out" of the West Bank.

The major tool of this confiscation is the "security wall" being built by Israel. They call it a "separation fence". Fine, lets call it that. And lets recall the the Afrikaans word for "separation": Apartheid. The Apartheid Wall is nearing completion on the West side of the West Bank - where its estimated to have confiscated around 10% of the most fertlie land. As well as cutting through or displacing - redefining - 30 towns or villages. But this is just the beginning. The Israelis are also beginning a Wall along the east side of the West Bank. The exact dimensions are unclear, because the Israeli government wont say its plans. Some estimate it will take another 40% of the West Bank.

Here's some of what I've seen here in Jenin:

All of the villages here along the "green line" border are facing land confiscation. There is no formal notice. One day, Israeli engineers come onto their land, leaving behind blue flags marking a line. Within days or weeks, the bulldozers come. Then, the builders. And within weeks, their land is gone, and a Wall is in its place.

One farmer uprooted his own trees, hoping to replant them somewhere, rather than see them destroyed. He is currently being threatened with a prison term.

The wall is being built at a devastating speed. In the Jenin area, there are at least seven Israeli companies working at building the Wall, so it is being built in several places at once. In some areas, the Wall is almost 100 meters wide. There is barbed wire, followed by a trench, followed by a fence, followed by a settler road, followed by another trench. The atmosphere in the cities is different from before - a quiet desperation.

People are still being terrorized by regular invasions: last night, there was an explosion, and all the power in Jenin went out, tonight, there was a tank outside our building - but the real terror is in the villages, where a massive land grab and depopulation is happening, with almost no media attention.

This is ethnic cleansing on a massive speed and scale. Remember that when the media talks about a roadmap to peace.

Finally, some very good pictures of the enormous Apartheid Wall (far higher than the Berlin Wall) being built by Israel on occupied Palestinian lands to separate Israelis from Palestinians. For virtually an entire photo essay, including an outside link to more photographs, see the ISM pages.

Steve writes today:

East Jerusalem, Thursday afternoon, July 10, 2003

We're off to the West Bank tomorrow morning for our
two-day training. We're still working on where we'll
go and what project(s) we'll work on. Our affinity
group includes one activist with dual American and
Israeli citizenship and an obviously Israeli name. It
will be difficult for her to pass through Israeli army
checkpoints because Israeli law forbids Israeli
citizens from entering Palestinian areas (and vice
versa--for me, a strong reminder of South Africa's
apartheid Pass Laws of years gone by).

In addition to the checkpoint problem, there are some
West Bank regions where we can't work, because the
local people are just too suspicious of Israelis. For
instance, a woman who said she was an Israeli reporter
recently went to Tulkarm Refugee Camp to interview men
wanted by the Israeli army. She returned a week later
in uniform with an army unit that then arrested the
men she had interviewed. After experiences like this,
people in Tulkarm are not ready to accept an Israeli
who presents herself as a peace activist, even though
it's true.

Fortunately, there are other areas who are willing to
accept Israeli allies and eager to work with them.
Our affinity group will go to one of those areas,
provided we can get through (around?) the relevant

Below, I've copied action alerts about the Jenin
arrestees, and today's detentions in Nablus. If
you're one of the people on this list who has
political reasons for receiving my reports, rather
than only personal reasons, read on, please make the
suggested phone calls and send the suggested emails,
and forward the reports widely.


I did not include the alerts and contact information here, but I will forward that material to anyone who emails me a request.

Otherwise, for more information, and for pictures, see the ISM site and the Electronic Intifada site.

These heroes are so tough it's scary!

Steve writes today:

I'm still in Jerusalem, safe and sound. The press
release below describes what happened today outside
Jenin. The international Arab media are already
running the story; don't know about CNN/BBC/Times etc.
The media team here is stretched really thin;
anything media folks can do back home will help


I don't see the following report anywhere else on the internet, so I will post it here complete as received.
> July 9, 2003
> For Immediate Release
> [ARRABONY, Jenin Region] Four international
> volunteers with the
> International Solidarity Movement were arrested
> today while
> maintaining a presence at the peace camp set up by
> Arrabony
> villagers and the ISM to protest the confiscation of
> Palestinian
> land for the Apartheid Wall. The four arrested are:
> Tobias Karlsson from Sweden
> Tariq Loubani from Canada
> Bill Capowski from New York, USA
> Fredrick Lind from Denmark
> Full details are not yet known and none of the peace
> activists are
> answering their phones, however we just received the
> following text
> message: "at Salem abused and beaten". This seems
> to indicate that
> the four are being held at the Salem Military Base,
> north of Jenin.
> Since the peace camp was set up on Monday, July 7,
> 2003, activists
> have faced threats and harassment from the Israeli
> Military, from
> heavily armed security guards working for the
> Israeli company
> building that section of the Wall, and from Israeli
> settlers.
> Activists have been threatened with violence,
> removal, and arrest.
> The response of international activists was that
> they were there at
> the request of the people of the village, and didn't
> recognize
> Israeli military authority over the area. On
> Monday, soldiers came
> to the area of the camp to photograph international
> activists and
> local villagers and yesterday armed guards
> threatened to destroy the
> camp.
> Despite the harassment there has been steady and
> enthusiastic
> support from the people of the village of Arrabony.
> Men, women, and
> children have been a twenty-four-hour presence at
> the camp, and are
> coming every day in greater numbers. Activities at
> the camp have
> included games and sports, music, and more.
> For the past year the Israeli government has been
> building a massive
> wall that it claims is for purposes of "security".
> The wall,
> however, is being built inside of the West Bank,
> destroying and
> confiscating from Palestinians their most fertile
> agricultural
> grounds and de facto annexing into Israeli illegal
> settlements and
> valuable underground water aquifers. Tens of
> thousands of
> Palestinian fruit and olive trees have already been
> destroyed and
> farmers are being prevented from working on land
> that they've lived
> off of for decades. The Palestinian people have
> been marching and
> protesting this land confiscation and destruction of
> livelihood but
> have been met with violence from the Israeli
> authorities and silence
> from the international community. The Arrabony
> peace camp is one of
> 4 similar protest camps in the West Bank.
> For more information, please call:
> ISM Office: 02-277-4602
> Huwaida: 067-473-308
> Jordan: 066-312-547
> www.palsolidarity.org

Update the afternoon of July 10: see bottom of this post

Some Americans don't deserve to live in a world where there's a France.

First it was French wines. Then French fries. Now it's French exchange students who are getting the cold shoulder from American families still smarting over France's opposition to the war in Iraq.
Only half of the 250 teenagers who signed up this year with one well-established summer program have been placed with American families.
The first wave began arriving on Monday, and unless homes can be found quickly, four Boston-bound teenagers in that group will get refunds instead of trips. At least 100 participants in the program who expected to come in August are also in limbo.

. . . .

"This has been a horrible year," said Deborah Bertrand, the New York area manager for Loisirs Culturels à L'Étranger, a not-for-profit exchange program based in Paris. "Usually I have no problem finding host families. The only thing I can attribute it to is the anti-French feeling going on because of the Iraq war. My coordinators all up and down the East Coast are having the same problem."

One R.I. recruiter reports her frustration.
"This year, with everything that happened with the war, people locally have just taken it personally. When I ask them, 'Would you open your home to a French teenager?' they look at me like, 'Are you out of your mind? Why would we, when they've been so ungiving to us?'"
Meanwhile, some Americans really do take the French "personally," and have done so most of their lives. An American B-17 tail gunner was hidden from the Germans after he parachuted into a tiny French village as his plane went down in flames on the 4th of July in 1943. David Butcher remembers the French. He couldn't make it to the celebrations this week, but the sister of one of his crew mates who died that day was there.
In a conversation late on Friday, she told him what he had missed, saving the best for last.

"Dave," she said, "they renamed the street by the monument `Route of the Flying Fortress.' "

As for French-American tensions generated recently by the Iraq war, speakers seemed to echo the sentiment expressed by Mr. Butcher when he said, "I love them people."

Mayor Ploncard's assessment was perhaps the most elegantly put: "Despite our governments' divergent ideas, the French remember with gratitude that it is to the Americans that we owe our freedom."

I'm going to take Bastille Day "personally" myself this year, and with more gusto/l'entrain than usual. Gotta make up for what's being lost by Americans elsewhere.

How can we send those French kids home?


The update on the French teenagers: I've found the American LEC website, and I've been told that as a result of the news article all New York-area students have now been placed for this year. There is still a need for homes in the D.C. area however. Would I be reading too much into that report if I thought it might say something about the difference between Gotham and our other Capital city, at least these days?

These are two of the teenagers who applied for the program this year, Marie and Julien. The images are from the LEC site.

Steve was in a Tel Aviv court today - as an observer. The indented email text below is complete as it was received.

Hi folks,

I'm in Haifa at the apartment of parents of a member
of JATO. We were in Tel Aviv today to observe a court
hearing with broad implications for ISM. Our report
of the hearing is below.

(A little background: anyone perceived by Israeli
border authorities to be a peace activist of any sort
is routinely turned away. We believe that thousands
have been turned away since the spring of 2002, most
of them undoubtedly tourists believed erroneously by
the border authorities to be activists. Since the
murder of Rachel Corrie by an Israeli soldier in
March of 2003 and its attendant bad publicity
for the state of Israel, the authorities have
been particularly on the lookout for ISM activists.)


Today, July 7, 2003, the District Court in Tel Aviv
held a hearing on Patrick Connor's complaint against
the Israeli Ministry of the Interior for refusing him
entry into Israel this past March. The Israeli
attorneys representing Patrick received the Ministry's
brief only today, and got an adjournment to July 22
for a decision, so that they could respond to the
brief. The chief of the Shabak (Israel's General
Security Service) was in the courtroom, and the
Ministry's lawyer kept looking back at him, apparently
for guidance.

Here is our translation of the relevant page of the
Ministry's brief. We can't vouch that the translation
is 100% accurate, but we did our best. It starts at
item #12; as far as we know, items 1-11 are just

The Position of the Ministry of the Interior

12. As was told to the plaintiff, the position of
the Ministry of the Interior is that his entry into
Israel is not permitted due to a security concern and
because of a lack of proper authorization.

13. It is the position of the Ministry of the
Interior that the plaintiff should not be allowed to
enter Israel on the basis of the recommendation of
security sources.

14. Security sources are in possession of information
according to which the plaintiff is a senior activist
in the organization ISM.

15. This organization has as its goal to hamper the
activities of the security forces in the territories
and to impede their work in preventing terrorism via
altercations with the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]
soldiers, staying in the houses of suicide terrorists
to prevent their destruction, transporting Palestinians
among various areas during periods of closure, and all
that proceeds from this.

16. The activities of members of the organization, as
described above, interfere with the security
activities of the IDF and sometimes even endanger the
well-being of the IDF soldiers.

17. In the framework of activism in the organization
the plaintiff initiated, organized, and took part in
demonstrations in the territories of Judea and Samaria
against the activities of the security forces during
the period November 2002 - January 2003.

18. From past experience with activists with this
organization, it comes up that some of these activists
tend to deceive the border authorities on entrance to
Israel and do not convey the true purpose of their
arrival in Israel.

19. As was told to the plaintiff in the letter from
the legal office (that was attached to the original
complaint), the entrance of the plaintiff in March
2003 was denied also because he did not have proper
authorization. In order to serve various
organizations as the plaintiff requested (some for pay
and some on a voluntary basis) he must equip himself
with the proper authorization of Type B1 or Type B,
and not suffice with a tourist authorization of Type
B2. The plaintiff is aware of this, and he himself
acknowledges that in the past he has been in Israel
with authorization of Type B1.

I expect to hear about another, much uglier reality in future reports. This one is an account of the almost-civilized side of the policies produced by Israeli insecurity. It seems that Israel is at least giving a hearing to the people who complain about being kept from entering the country, although the state may really only be going through the motions.

I think we can say that the U.S. is being a lot less generous with its own prejudices and insecurity.

Still, notice that on Israel's own terms, item #15 admits that Connor, as a member of the ISM, is to be kept out because he might end up "staying in the houses of suicide terrorists to prevent their destruction, transporting Palestinians among various areas during periods of closure." This is not a nice picture of the Israeli state's dominion in an illegally-occupied territory.

[updated July 18 to include contact information for Steve this summer]

Our friend Steve Quester is back in the Middle East. I posted his reports from Palestine in the spring and summer of last year, and I expect to be able to post all of his current dispatches from today.

This is Steve's first email this summer, sent just after he arrived to resume work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The text appears here with edits only eliminating his contact information - for his security and that of others while he's there.

Steve's suggestion for reaching him his summer:

While I prefer not to receive email while I'm away, I love to get phone calls on my cell phone here. If you're in the eastern United States, the best time to call is when you wake up in the morning; since we're 7 hours ahead, that corresponds to mid-afternoon here. To call me, dial the international access code (011 if calling from the U.S.), followed by country code 972, mobile phone code 67, and telephone number 308-192. There is voice mail on my cell phone in case I can't pick up or am in an area without coverage.
lockquote>I'm in Tel Aviv at the moment. Got into Israel without too much fuss; it helped to be traveling with an Israeli. There was a young Palestinian man on the plane with his wife and baby. He was whisked off to the police at the airport while his wife held the baby and waited.

We're staying with a couple who are members of Black Laundry*, Israel's queer anti-occupation movement. One of them described being pulled aside and interrogated when she tried to enter the U.K.; for some reason she
was profiled along with 2 Palestinians and 4 Pakistanis. She described how infuriating and humiliating the experience was, and also how important
for her, as an Israeli, to be on the receiving end of profiling for once. As an anti-occupation organizer, she had always understood how terrible the practice is, but had never felt it herself.

Tomorrow we'll attend the trial in absentia of an American member of ISM who was arrested and deported. We leave from Jerusalem on Friday morning to attend the two-day ISM training in an as yet undisclosed West Bank city.

See these sites for New York information about and Tel Aviv photos of the amazing group which call itself "Black Laundry," for the phrase's perverse combination of English and Hebrew meanings related to "black sheep" and "dirty laundry."

Sue Coe, "What a Golden Beak! (They Want War)" (1999)

The White House lied in order to get its war. More evidence has just emerged, and from one of its own.

As usual, it's not an embarassment for Bush, who is beyond shame [the idiot thought he could be president, for chrissakes!], but for all Americans who ever lived or will yet live.

A former U.S. ambassador, who was hired by the CIA to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein bought uranium from Niger, has gone public with his anger that his findings discrediting the reports were ignored by the Bush.

Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was ambassador to Gabon from '92 to '95, traveled to Niger at the request of the CIA in February 2002, and found no evidence that any uranium sale had taken place.

Nonetheless, the White House cited Iraq's alleged purchase of uranium as evidence that Saddam was pursuing nuclear weapons - one of President Bush's justifications for toppling the brutal Iraqi dictator. The uranium-sale accusation turned out to have been based on a forged document.

"If they'll lie about things like this, there's no telling what else they'll lie about," Wilson, who is now an international business consultant, told The Post from his Washington home. Wilson first aired his frustrations in an Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times.

[It's interesting that there's a news story on the Post site, but no news story in the NYTimes.]

The ambassador's statement ends with the somber words of a moderate man.

America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
But solid evidence for Bush's mendacity is already all over the place. There has never been a president guilty of higher crimes and misdemeaners, more worthy of impeachment and removal from office, and yet we know it will never happen.

How did we get to this?

Sue Coe, "They Cut Off Their Hands So They Couldn't Vote" (2000)

We’re not going to last in Iraq.

It's not working. Not surprisingly, we are being blamed for everything bad that happens there, which these days may be most everything, and that country appears to be literally up in arms [curious that a well-armed citizenry, traditionally just a fetish of the American radical right, did not save Iraq from tyranny]. I don’t expect we will hold out very long. We don’t seem to have a plan, we almost certainly don't have the commitment needed, and we don't even have the advantage of the kind of [courage of conviction?] which was able to maintain the last Iraqi dictatorship for so long.

They don’t love us.

Americans, incredibly uninformed or misinformed anyway, are increasingly confused about what’s going on over there, and now even military families are getting very upset, although their anger is not focused or directed at a target - yet.

The administration didn’t tell them that we wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms, that we weren’t going to spend much money or manpower on rebuilding what we destroyed, that the world wouldn’t support our unilateral invasion and wouldn't bail us out in our occupation duties afterward, especially since we look increasingly like sitting ducks, that the lights would still be out in much of the country months after we decided we won, that the numbers of Americans being maimed and killed would accelerate as time passed, that we would end up fighting an insurgency which might never end, that this was not Japan or Germany in 1945.

Perhaps most important, it’s certainly unlikely the administration told its corporate backers that, since we could not make friends or even keep order in a country we boasted we had liberated, in the end there would be no fortunes made in Iraq, and this may ultimately be the decisive factor when we decide to abandon our self-appointed role.

At least it's clear once again that for this administration it was never about "nation building." The Bushies did not change their tune as they marketed the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq with generous promises of liberation gifts. The talk about democracy, schools, health care and repair of infrastructure was domestic and foreign Realpolitik, mouthed as cover for the cynical objectives of national power and party advantage.

It's just not working out the way the White House thought it would. Unfortunately that may not be any better news for Iraq than it is for an American republic now corrupted and compromised, perhaps beyond repair.

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from July 2003.

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