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Bil’in marks ten years of popular resistance

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Plumes of teargas wafted up the terraced hillside of the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday when over 1,000 demonstrators marked ten years of weekly protests against Israel’s separation wall and occupation outside of Ramallah.

Art piece made from spent tear gas canisters by Rana Bishara (photo by Allison Deger )
Art piece made from spent tear gas canisters by Rana Bishara

Israelis drove in from Tel Aviv, and international activists and Palestinians from nearby towns flocked to march from the center of Bil’in to the hamlet’s agricultural grounds. As they do every Friday, clashes ensued once protesters reached the outskirts of town where olive orchards and patches of vegetable farms buffer Israel’s concrete barrier and one of the most populated settlements, Modi’in Illit.

Two Palestinians were injured with live fire, and the army detained four.

Palestinian youths carried the flag of their occupied nation, with many sporting black tee-shirts with an outline of Ziad Abu Ein, a Palestinian minister who died in the winter after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers during an olive planting to commemorate International Human Rights Day.

“Listen to that, we destroyed the jeep” said Ahmad Abu Rahme, 21, while resting under the shade of an olive tree near the wall as stones clanged against an army vehicle. Close by Ahmad’s childhood friends lobbed stones. “We grew up like this,” he said, recounting Bil’in’s first protest a decade ago. At that time, Ahmad’s father did not want him to protest, fearing an encounter with the Israeli army could lead to arrest or injury. Now ten years later, Ahmad’s father joins him on Fridays and weekly protests have become staple family outings.

Bil’in’s Friday demonstrations started in 2005 when Israeli soldiers arrived to construct the separation wall at the edge of the town. The army wanted to build a cement barrier between a then uninhabited settlement neighborhood in Modi’in Illit and Bil’in. “Everybody from the village, we went to stop the bulldozer from cutting olive trees,” said Hamde Abu Rahme, 27, the celebrated photojournalist from Bil’in who documents the weekly protests. “At this time I was only 17 years old. And we tried our best to stop this.”

Within the year left-leaning Israeli activists from the group Anarchists Against the Wall joined the Friday demonstrations. Two years later a dozen of other villages facing land confiscations started their own weekly marches. Yet it was Bil’in that became the symbol for Palestinian non-violent resistance, a term that is debated because often the marches end in stonethrowing from the town’s youth. Bil’in is also recognized for creativity and costume. Villagers have come out in Santa Claus suits and blue alien garb and body paint modeled off of the movie Avatar. Once protestors even had an Israeli dress as Mahatma Gandhi and a Palestinian as Martin Luther King Jr. The press images of unarmed renowned peacemakers and cinema characters fleeing from the Middle East’s strongest army and its gun fire were so compelling that it catapulted Bil’in to become the West Bank’s real-life David and Goliath tale. What is now referred to as the Palestinian non-violent movement was born.

Bil’in suffered losses over the decade of dissidence. Regularly the army tear gassed and shot live fire into the crowds at the Friday protests. Two of Abu Rahme’s cousins were killed during such clashes. Bassem Abu Rahme, 31, was slain in 2009 and Jawaher Abu Rahme, 36, died in 2011 from asthma related complications after inhaling tear gas. Bassem Abu Rahme’s killing and the confrontations between villagers and the Israeli military were featured in the Academy-Award-nominated film Five Broken Cameras by Bil’in native-turned-celebrity Emad Burnat and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi. Although the army conducted investigations that trailed on for years, no soldier was ever charged in either of the cousins’ deaths.

And Bil’in lost land. By the time Israel’s army completed construction of the separation wall in 2008, around 2,000 dunums of Bil’in’s farmland was trapped behind the Israeli side of the barrier. Then in 2010 Israel’s high court intervened after a leading Israeli human rights law firm, Yesh Din, filed a petition. The jurists ruled that the path of the wall must be re-routed because it was built on privately owned Palestinian land. Still the new route took more than 650 dunums. Bil’in’s legal victory is widely seen by Palestinians as a win for popular resistance against settlement encroachment on Palestinian territory. And the protests continued. Bil’in villagers want to get the rest of their land back that the settlers usurped.

“As Palestinians you always lose, but we got something and it’s not for nothing of course,” Abu Rahme continued. “We got more than a thousand dunums back. It’s our land. It means it’s [popular resistance is] working, no? This is a good thing. And I think also Palestinians must struggle elsewhere,” Abu Rahme added.

“I believe with all my heart. I don’t just go to demonstration and say Palestine will be free, I truly believe it,” said Mohammed Hamad, 22. Hamad is from Bil’in and works two jobs in the West Bank’s economic center, Ramallah. His days are spent in a multimedia studio. At night he is a waiter in an upscale bar. Although he work days end at 4 am, Hamad rarely misses a Friday protest and comes dressed in lab goggles, eye protection against potent tear gas.

“I will never stop protesting. Just when Palestine is free then I will stop and go another country and protest there until they are free too,” said Hamad.
Tear gas canisters collected at the end of Bil’in’s tenth anniversary protest, February 27, 2015. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Palestinian youth grips sling shot and tear gas canisters collected at the end of Bil’in’s tenth anniversary protest, February 27, 2015. (Photo: Allison Deger)
Palestinian artist Rana Bishara stands between two sculptures she produced from spent tear gas canisters and pieces of Israel’s separation barrier, February 27, 2015. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Palestinian artist Rana Bishara stands between two sculptures she produced from spent tear gas canisters and pieces of Israel’s separation barrier, February 27, 2015. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Popular resistance v. Palestinian Authority

After three hours Friday, Bil’in’s demonstration thinned. Internationals lounged on boulders, snacking on chips and drinking soda with locals. A few curled up for a nap on the sofa of the town’s media center, a modest building plastered with posters of Bil’in’s fallen demonstrators and political figureheads.

Meanwhile Hamad headed home. He walked uphill where he met Rana Bishara, 43, a Palestinian visual artist from the Galilee in northern Israel who lives in Beit Jala, outside of Bethlehem. Bishara sat on a plastic chair in front of two sculptures she made that morning from spent tear gas canisters and pieces of barbed wire from an army fence that buttresses the separation wall in Bil’in. Though she is not from the West Bank, Bishara regularly travels to different villages active in popular resistance against the wall. “We are under illegal occupation and our resistance is legal,” she said.

Some local officials attended the tenth anniversary protest: Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi and the mayor of Ramallah Dr. Laila Ghannam. But Bishara has more faith in demonstrations like Bil’in than the recent actions taken by Palestinian leadership at the United Nations, seeking a Security Council resolution that recognizes Palestinian statehood, or joining the International Criminal Court (ICC). At the end of this month, Palestinian officials have indicated they will charge Israel with war crimes relating to Gaza and settlements in the West Bank.

Bishara scoffed at the Palestinian government’s hopes of achieving a trial against Israel. “It’s a big joke,” she said. “Only a small portion of the Palestinian population support the leadership.”

Comparing the Palestinian Authority’s two decades of failed negotiations that failed to reduce Israel’s occupation to the five years of protests in Bil’in that led to Israel’s high court ordering a return of confiscated land, Bishara says she has more faith in Palestinian villagers than their leaders.

Hamad agreed; overall the government is wasting its time. “We are not unified and for that I feel shame,” he said.

It is worth noting that a handful of village activists from across the West Bank receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority to carry out popular resistance as a full-time job. To some, this is regarded as a buy-out of a grassroots movement. But despite the presence of paid organizers, sentiments against the Palestinian Authority run deep.

“There are some people in the government who say they are with the popular resistance, but if you are really with the people, don’t stop them from protesting at Beit El or Qalandia,” said Hamad, noting that Palestinian security forces break up demonstrations at Israeli checkpoints or settlements as a provision of the Oslo accord, which mandates security coordination between Israelis and Palestinians. “So we are under an occupation, under occupation.”

(Source / 01.03.2015)

Written by altahrir

March 1, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Posted in Revolution Palestine

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Palestinian killed in blast near ruined airport

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GAZA CITY: A young Palestinian was killed and his brother seriously wounded in an explosion on Saturday near the Gaza Strip’s abandoned airport, the health ministry said.

“Naji Khaled Abu Sabla, 21, was killed and his brother Akram, 18, seriously wounded in the face and stomach when an unidentified device blew up in the area of the airport” in southern Gaza, said ministry spokesman Ashraf Al Qodra.

Police suspect it was “a device left behind by the Israelis in the zone, where they make regular incursions”, a local security source told reporters.

Israeli forces hit the airport’s radar tower in 2001 when Palestinians launched an uprising, forcing it to close down. Further strikes reduced the airport buildings to rubble.

In an unrelated development, the rebuilding of homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza could take more than a century to complete unless an Israeli blockade restricting imports of construction material into the Gaza Strip is lifted, aid agency Oxfam said.

Gaza needs more than 800,000 truckloads of building materials to repair infrastructure damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, yet less than a quarter of one per cent of the materials needed have entered Gaza in the last three months, Oxfam said.

Fifty days of conflict in Gaza between Hamas and Israeli forces in July and August last year killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, and left swathes of ruins in the Mediterranean enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians.

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip after the Hamas won power there in elections in 2006, and maintain tight controls on the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory.

(Source / 28.02.2015)

Written by altahrir

February 28, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Revolution Palestine

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Gaza counts cost of failed reconstruction promises

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A Palestinian woman hangs out washing in her home in the town of Beit Hanoun – one of 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the Gaza war last year.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Six months after a ceasefire agreement ended Israel’s 50-day military offensive on the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in the war-torn territory remain hostage to a UN-brokered reconstruction mechanism which has failed to deliver.

On Sept. 16, Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the Middle East, announced a deal to ease restrictions on imports of construction materials to Gaza to enable the reconstruction of the territory.

Over 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged during the conflict, with thousands of other structures, including 24 schools, razed to the ground.

The Shelter Cluster, an international group co-chaired by the UN refugee agency and the Red Cross, estimates that an average of 440 trucks of building materials would be required to enter Gaza each day to complete the reconstruction process within five years.

Figures published by OXFAM on Thursday show that 1,661 trucks of the most essential construction materials — aggregates, steel bars and cement — have entered Gaza in the three months since a donor conference pledged $5.4 billion for reconstruction in October, less that 0.25 percent of what is needed.

At current rates it would take up to 100 years to rebuild homes, schools and other damaged infrastructure, OXFAM said.

“Without easing the blockade, the situation will not improve,” Oxfam spokesperson in Gaza Arwa Mhanna told Ma’an.

“During eight years of blockade there has been a natural growth of the population, but the development of services was frozen. After the recent conflict, what remained was destroyed.”

Under the Israeli blockade — in place since 2007 — strict restrictions exist on essential items such as cement and steel cables.

The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism sought to assure Israel of its stated security concerns by ensuring the Palestinian Authority oversaw Gaza’s borders and the United Nations delivered and monitored goods once in Gaza.

The effective collapse of the Palestinian unity government and attacks targeting officials have led to a deterioration in the political stability of the territory, a factor which may have affected donor confidence, but the key issue remains a woeful shortage of Israeli-controlled imports.

“Israel is playing a game with allowing building materials to enter Gaza,” Sami Elramy, a journalist in Gaza City, told Ma’an.

“If you walk in Gaza and look around you will be astonished how people can manage to live in this situation. The neighborhoods that were destroyed are the same as 6 months ago, nothing has changed. The majority of the destruction is still there.”

Severe shortages in building materials have led many Palestinians to sell the little cement they receive from the UN on the black market as a means to survive.

In devastated neighborhoods such as Shujaiyeh — already extremely poor before the summer conflict — residents sell cement at up to five times its market value to those willing to pay, a vital means of survival for poor families amid a collapsed economy, Elramy says.

A Palestinian girl sleeps in a makeshift bedroom at a UN-run school in Gaza City.

‘State of depression’

After the end of the 50-day conflict, many Palestinians were hopeful that the blockade would finally be eased and aid could by channeled in to rebuild Gaza.

The Palestinian delegation involved in August ceasefire talks in Cairo, together with senior Hamas officials, repeatedly insisted in their truce conditions that the blockade be lifted, and it was widely expected that Israel would at least ease restrictions at border crossings.

The international community pledged $5.4 billion to reconstruct Gaza in October, another signal for many of the political will behind reconstruction.

But less than a week after the ceasefire deal in early September, humanitarian NGOs and Palestinian crossing officials reported that goods entering Gaza remained at wartime levels.

Months later, and with virtually none of the financial pledges fulfilled, the international community’s strategy for Gaza is unclear, while Israel’s eight-year blockade remains permanent.

“The pressure that people are living under is immense and you can notice that the cycles of violence have become more frequent,” Arwa Mhanna, the Oxfam representative, told Ma’an.

“The international community should put more effort and pressure to have a long-lasting political solution for Gaza, make a change in the policy towards Gaza, and then to help rebuild the lives of the Gazan population and rebuild houses, provide aid for health, education, and access to safe water.”

Over 10,000 Palestinians are still living in 14 schools run by UNRWA, while tens of thousands of other families are living with relatives or friends.

Thousands more use curtains or tents to shelter from the elements in the ruins of their homes. Many of those displaced also lost their homes in Israel’s 2008-09 offensive, subject to a cycle of destruction which has seen Gaza experience three wars in seven years.

Winter flooding, the lack of running water and severe electricity shortages — Gaza only has power for roughly six hours a day — compound the humanitarian impact of the blockade, which the reconstruction mechanism failed to address.

“The blockade is horrid. For more than six months there has been continued closure. People have not been outside of Gaza, they are stuck in an open-air prison,” Gaza journalist Maram Humeid told Ma’an.

“People are frustrated and in a constant state of depression. Life is very difficult and no one expected after this long after the aggression and brutal attack that the situation would deteriorate like this.”

Humeid says it is now commonplace in conversations to hear people insist that the world, the unity government and Arab states have forgotten about Gaza.

There is also a feeling among many that another confrontation with Israel is inevitable due to the dire circumstances so many face.

“The situation is very hard, certainly the hardest situation we have lived to witness. And there is no promise that it will get better.”

(Source / 28.02.2015)

Written by altahrir

February 28, 2015 at 8:35 pm

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OXFAM: Gaza Reconstruction Could Take Over a Century to Complete

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British rights organization, Oxfam, stated that the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip may take more than 100 years, at the current rate, to complete essential building of homes, schools and health facilities in Gaza unless the Israeli blockade is lifted.


According to Al Ray’s report, less than 0.25 percent of truckloads containing essential construction materials needed have entered Gaza in the past three months. Six months have now passed since the end of the conflict, and the situation in Gaza is becoming increasingly desperate.

Oxfam is calling for an urgent end to the blockade, which has now been in place for nearly eight years.

Gaza needs more than 800,000 truckloads of materials required after repeated conflicts and years of blockade, according to aid agencies on the ground, Catherine Essoyan, Oxfam’s Regional Director, explained on Thursday.

Essoyan also pointed out that the conflict displced about 100 thousand people, half of them children, now living in shelters and temporary housing centers or with their extended family:

“Every day that people are unable to build is putting more lives at risk. Only an end to the blockade of Gaza will ensure that people can rebuild their lives. Families have been living in homes without roofs, walls or windows for the past six months. Many have just six hours of electricity a day and are without running water.”

She added that there has been no progress in the core to reach long-term solutions to the crisis in the Gaza Strip, which was supposed to occur after the announcement of the cease-fire talks.

She noted that the growing tension within the Palestinian unity government would exacerbate the situation in Gaza.

(Source / 27.02.2015)

Written by altahrir

February 27, 2015 at 10:43 pm

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PFLP calls for emergency meeting to address the situation in Gaza

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GAZA, (PIC)– The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called on the Palestinian factions to hold an emergency meeting to address the worsening economic and living conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The meeting aims at coming up with resolutions to the current crises threatening the social security and peace in Gaza.

The PFLP stressed, in a statement on Wednesday, the need for unifying Gaza relief channels and maintaining its neutrality to guarantee its delivery to the affected people in last summer’s Israeli aggression on Gaza.

The leftist faction urged the Palestinian factions to call for cutting down university fees for one year due to the current bad economic conditions in the besieged Strip. It also called for enhancing the social fund to cover more students.

The PFLP also called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president Mahmoud Abbas to allow the delivery of money allocated for Gaza relief to the services and economic sectors in order to alleviate some of Gaza’s problems and to avoid more tragedies.

The Palestinian leftist faction also called on the PA Ministry of Social Affairs to pay the poor people allocations on a monthly basis, and asked the ministry to prioritize the issue of those allocations since they constitute the main income source for more than 50% of Gaza’s population.

The PFLP demanded the formation of popular committees to enhance the public awareness of the danger of committing crimes and to chase criminal gangs in cooperation with the police in the Strip.

It also called on the Palestinian factions to form joint operation rooms to follow up the Israeli siege on Gaza in addition to Gaza reconstruction, power cut off and reconciliation files, stressing the need for unity among Palestinian factions in terms of the confrontation of the Israeli occupation and political decision making.

“The Palestinian unity government as well as the UNRWA and NGOs should allocate special budget to fund the Palestinian youth sector and the unemployed graduates within small projects programs”, said PFLP.

The PFLP affirmed that its statement constitutes an urgent patriotic call to save the Palestinian people in the blockaded enclave from marginalization, negligence, corruption, and internal division.

(Source / 26.05.2015)

Written by altahrir

February 26, 2015 at 10:39 pm

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Thousands attend funeral for Palestinian teenager

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Thousands of mourners on Tuesday attended the funeral of 19-year-old Jihad Shehada al-Jaafari, who was shot and killed during a dawn arrest raid in Duheisha refugee camp.

Mourners received the body of the teenager in Duheisha camp after an autopsy in Al-Quds University’s forensic medicine unit.

The body was then taken for burial at the Martyrs Cemetery south of Bethlehem in Artas.

Al-Jaafari’s father told Ma’an that his son lay bleeding for an hour and a half on the rooftop where he was shot before anyone had realized what happened.

“His mother called him an hour before he was killed telling him to come back home, but he never did.”

Relatives began looking for Jihad immediately after Israeli soldiers had left the camp following a dawn arrest raid, and found his body on the rooftop where he was shot.

He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Jihad’s mother said her son was defending his home and refugee camp and called upon Palestinian officials to defend the rights of Palestinians.

Israeli soldiers opened fire randomly after raiding the camp, injuring several youths, she added.

Medics said the teenager died of internal bleeding, with witnesses at the scene saying Israeli forces stopped ambulances from reaching his body.

Stores closed their doors in Bethlehem stores as a mark of respect for the killed teenager.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that troops were attacked by people throwing stones and incendiary devices, adding that one soldier was wounded.

“After trying in vain to disperse the crowd of attackers, our forces felt in danger and opened fire at the leader of the rioters, who was hit,” the spokeswoman said, without elaborating.

(Source / 24.02.2015)

Written by altahrir

February 24, 2015 at 9:57 pm

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UNRWA needs $100m in urgent relief to repair Gaza homes

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Palestinian family search through rubble in Gaza

The Israeli war on the Gaza Strip last summer displaced 100,000 people, UN figures revealed

UNRWA needs $100 million in urgent relief in the first quarter of this year to enable it to help repair homes destroyed during Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip last summer, the organisation announced yesterday.

The UN agency said it had received only $135 million of the $724 million needed to reconstruct the enclave. This has led to thousands of displaced people being forced to live in shelters through the winter.

UNRWA announced last month the suspension of its monetary aid programme, which funds repairing houses and provides rental subsidies for refugee families in Gaza.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing, as many as 28,366 housing units were affected by the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip in July 2014.

The war displaced some 100,000 Palestinians, UN figures revealed, most are staying with relatives or renting homes, while another 15,000 are still displaced staying in UNRWA schools.

Last October, Arab and international countries pledged to donate $5.4 billion to help with the reconstruction of Gaza and provide for the needs of Palestinians.

The agency said: “$5.4 billion was pledged at the Cairo aid conference last October and virtually none of it has reached Gaza,” describing the situation as “distressing and unacceptable”.

(Source / 23.02.2015)

Written by altahrir

February 23, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Posted in Revolution Palestine

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