March Peace update from Jerusalem Date:
These last few weeks have been full of people politics -- the people speaking out on the streets. I won't give you a blow by blow, but just a sample of today and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday). (Feel free to repost this wherever.)
*Hiking for Peace*
The morning began with a march to Jabal Abu Ghaneim (Har Homa) -- about 3,000 Palestinians joined by about 50 Israelis, organized by the Bet Sahur/Israeli Rapprochement group. It was peaceful, even pastoral, like a camp outing, chanting and all. The banners read: "Palestinians walk for peace", "Goodwill on earth", and other pacific slogans; Faisal Husseini was equally dignified in his call for nonviolent protest. Palestinian police held back a few who tried to break ranks and run toward the Israeli soldiers.
*Women in Black*
By 1 a.m., protesters were back in time to join Bat Shalom and Women in Black in a large vigil in Jerusalem to commemorate International Women's Day. Dressed in black, we held aloft banners with messages printed, white on black:
The Occupation is Not Yet Over Jerusalem: Two Capitals for Two States Har Homa -- An Obstacle to Peace Fund Poor Neighborhoods, Not Settlements
And we handed out flyers, reprinted below.
*A Tragic Irony*
Tomorrow, a condolence call organized by the Meretz party will be paid to the family of Muhammad al-Hilu, aged 57, who was killed by Israeli undercover soldiers in the village of Hizmeh. The soldiers, who had been there on a "training exercise", misread the behavior of some villagers who gathered to watch them, and opened fire into the crowd. Muhammad was "only" hit in the knee, but then a soldier sat on his back and neck and, for some 20 minutes, clobbered him on the head with his radio to prevent him from rising. By the time other soldiers arrived and al-Hilu was taken to the hospital, he was dead on arrival. Said the hospital spokesperson, "The physicians consider it unlikely that he died from a wound to his knee."
B'Tselem, the human rights organization, has demanded prosecution of the soldiers and a halt to the use of undercover agents in civilian populations. B'Tselem notes that since the beginning of the Intifada, Israeli undercover units have killed 159 Palestinians, among them 19 children. Since the Oslo Declaration of Principles (September 1993), undercover soldiers have killed 30 Palestinians.
And the tragic irony to the story. At the time of the incident in the village, al-Hilu's son Abed was not around. The young man was in Jerusalem, participating in a peace-through-dialogue group with Israeli students from Hebrew University. Did he change his mind about cooperative activity? "My father's death makes it clear that we must continue to work together," said Abed simply. "We must continue."
Peace Now has organized a march of torches for tomorrow evening near Jabal Abu Ghaneim (Har Homa). Ugh, I hate that hot wax dripping onto my hands and sleeves, but the procession always looks impressive on camera. Thousands of Israelis are expected to show up and get wax on their sleeves tomorrow.
*Flics for Peace*
And finally, Saturday ends with a movie for peace. Bat Shalom is running a benefit performance of "Antonia's Line" at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, preceded by a reception with women Knesset Members. I wish more of you could join us for this and the other events.
*But at least read our material*
The following flyer (translated by me and slightly edited for English-speaking readers) was distributed at today's Women in Black vigil to explain what we mean when we say that ...
The Occupation Is Not Yet Over
* Israel continues to be in sole control of 78% of the West Bank and 44% of the Gaza Strip. This is true even though Jewish settlers comprise only 6% of the population of the territories.
* Israel continues to confiscate thousands of acres from the Palestinians in order to expand settlements and build bypass roads to them. Har Homa is only one such example. Not only is this a violation of international law, but creating "facts on the ground" pre-empts any good faith negotiation with the Palestinians in the final status talks.
Closure [=sealing in the occupied territories]
* Since March 1993, closure has never fully been lifted, although there are periods during which it is eased. Closure plays havoc with the Palestinian economy, which is dependent upon Palestinian workers entering Israel.
* Approximately 29% of the Palestinian labor force in the territories is unemployed. During closure, unemployment soars to 50% in the West Bank and an astounding 70% in Gaza.
* The Palestinian economy has sharply deteriorated since the Oslo Agreement. Between 1992 and 1996, the real per capita GNP in the Palestinian territories plunged by almost 40%, from $2400 to $1500 per annum.
* Most damaging has been the "internal closure" in which Palestinians are not allowed to leave their towns or villages. This has a devastating effect on access to health services, schools, food products, and commerce.
* Thousands of Palestinian students cannot attend university because of Israel's failure to comply with the Oslo agreement to provide passage between the West Bank and Gaza. Some of these students have also been subjected to pressure by the Israeli security forces to become collaborators.
Other Occupational Hazards
* House demolitions continue to take place in the territories, sometimes as a punitive measure against the families of suspected terrorists, sometimes to pressure the inhabitants to emigrate, and sometimes to prevent Palestinian economic development (especially in East Jerusalem). In recent days, demolition orders were issued by the Israeli authorities against approximately 1,000 more Palestinian homes, which will leave thousands of innocent persons, many of them children and old folks, without a roof over their heads.
* The Oslo Agreements give Israel far-reaching control over the autonomous areas of the Palestinian Authority -- control over access by land, sea and air; veto power over bills in the Palestinian Legislative Assembly; and the right to enter any part of the autonomy at will for what Israel deems to be its security needs.
Occupation is wrong; it is also counterproductive. Peace will come only when Israel recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people to their own sovereign state, and both sides sign an agreement based on justice and mutual respect.
Write to Benjamin Netanyahu (Office of the Prime Minister, P.O. Box 13169, HaKirya, Jerusalem 91919) and demand that Israel withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967 and abide by U.N. resolutions 242 and 338.
*Bat Shalom is a feminist center for peace and social justice that draws the connection between Israel's policies of oppression of the Palestinians, and its shunting of women to the political and social sidelines. Bat Shalom with its Palestinian counterpart, the Jerusalem Center for Women, were both founded in 1994 and together form the Jerusalem Link -- Israeli and Palestinian women working for peace.
*Your material and moral support would be greatly appreciated:
Bat Shalom of the Jerusalem Link firstname.lastname@example.org P.O. Box 8083 http://www.nif.org/batshalom/ Jerusalem 91080 Tel: 972-2-563-1477 ISRAEL Fax: 972-2-561-7983
Tax-deductible contributions can be made through the New Israel Fund. Please specify that this is for Bat Shalom: New Israel Fund, 1625 K St. NW, Washington, DC 20006, U.S.A. New Israel Fund, 33 Prince Arthur Ave., Toronto, ON M5R 1B2, Canada. New Israel Fund, St.James House, 10 Rosebery Ave, London EC1R 4TD, UK. Neuer Israel Fonds, PO Box 425, CH-4010 Basel, Switzerland. *********************************************************************
Thanks for your patient reading,
Gila Svirsky, Jerusalem