LETTERS FROM PALESTINE
Mish Maqoul -- Unbelievable
9 December 2004
An overwhelming amount keeps happening much faster
than I can write about it. A friend of a friend in
Jayyous was shot in the back the day Arafat died. By
Israeli soldiers who were ON THE JAYYOUS SIDE OF THE
WALL far within Palestinian territory. The boy was
unarmed and running away. He never attempted any kind
of violence against anyone but might have been
involved in some tire burning to mourn the passage of
Arafat and protest the occupation.
He was thrown into an ambulance, arrested and taken to
Israel, where soldiers questioned him during and after
major surgery which left him paralyzed from the waist
down. The questioning was apparently just because
they had someone helpless and captive to pump for any
random information they could get, but they got
nothing. He's just a farm kid. He wasn't accused of
anything, charged with anything, and the soldiers
finally left him alone after harassing and
traumatizing an already brutalized and traumatized
I had to go to the Israeli hospital where he was being
held to try to get a permit for his parents to visit.
The Israelis were extremely unhelpful, lied to me
several times, delayed me and treated me badly, and
all with a stunning lack of concern for a 20-year-old
blue-eyed boy who'd had an unspeakable thing done to
him and just wanted to see his mom and dad.
Some weeks later they transferred him to a Ramallah
hospital ALONG WITH A BILL FOR 80,000 SHEKELS (nearly
$20,000). Imagine a country that shoots an innocent
kid and gets a $20,000 check for their trouble. The
kid's family obviously can't pay it, but no matter.
Israel can draw it from the money they've stolen from
This week I got back from six hours at the
Israel/Jordan border, one day in Jordan, and then
seven hours at the Jordan/Israel border being harassed
and detained, threatened and lied to and
body-searched, etc. by Israeli border guards. They
refused to tell me the reason I was being detained, to
give me an estimate on how long things would take or
why they were taking so long, to tell me what they
were doing while I was waiting, and they confiscated
my cell phone, wrote down all my phone book entries,
took the phone apart completely (I had to extrapolate
these because they questioned someone else based on
what was in my phonebook, deleted one of my entries,
and I had to reset the clock, so I knew it had been
taken apart), they leafed through and read my daybook,
jerked me around, wasted my day, wasted my money
(because by the time they were done with me there was
no more public transport, so I had to take a long
taxi), and laid off the threats only after I'd called
their bluff and demanded a lawyer...
I even asked one of them, "So you can just say the
word 'security' and do anything you want?" He stared
into space a few moments as if he'd never thought
about it that way before. Then a smile lit his face.
He looked at me and said, "Yes."
Welcome to martial law in the Age of Ashcroft. Or
should I say Fascist-croft.
Anyway, I came back from that to a super-full work
schedule, including volunteering for Dr. Barghouthi's
campaign on top of a job where my list of things to do
tends to get longer rather than shorter. But it's all
Yesterday I went to Ziryab, an arsty coffee house,
where a Jayyous friend of mine who's a cameraman
introduced me to some of his buddies, including one
who did an impression of Arafat so spot-on I was
hyperventilating from laughter. He did other
impersonations and improvisations that had the whole
table in tears. He's heading to Italy soon to meet up
with his wife and then going to Sweden to pursue a PhD
in experimental drama.
My friend pointed to the guy next to me and said, "He
is a refugee. In Tulkarem Camp." "From where?"
"From Jaffa." He's lived 20 miles away from his home
town all his life, and he's never been allowed to go
He showed me some pictures of his three-year-old
niece, an absolute vision of adorableness. My friend
mentioned that "her father is shaheed." That means
martyr, anyone who was killed due to the occupation,
even if they are a four-year-old girl shot on her
front porch or an old man who dies of kidney failure
because he couldn't get through a checkpoint to a
Most of the pictures of her were just the innocent
sweetness of a girl who's obviously been loved on too
much by adoring uncles. But in one picture, she had a
head scarf on with the black and white Palestinian
pattern like in Arafat's keffiyeh. In that picture,
the smile on her tiny face is a little cynical, sad
but brave and knowing. And proud. It's hard to
explain, but it took my breath away. This little girl
lost her dad and an uncle on the same day two years
ago. And she knows why. And there are illegal,
hideous Walls being built around the camp she's been
In one photo she's a little Barbie doll, in the next
she's a resigned but proud revolutionary. This girl
will die before she will let the world steal one more
thing that is hers. A kid like that with a stone in
his or her hand and that proud, knowing gleam in his
or her eye must be a terrifying thing for a young
soldier with an M-16. Kids are a lot more aware of
things that we give them credit for.
Last night I got a call at 11:00 p.m., just as I was
finishing my dinner and sitting down to watch Frasier
reruns, that my boss (presidential candidate Dr.
Mustafa Barghouthi) and his entourage had been forced
out of their cars at gunpoint at a checkpoint near
Jenin and beaten to the ground. All were forced to
lie face down on the ground in the cold for an hour
and fifteen minutes and beaten if they tried to move
or talk to each other. One old guy with heart was
problems hit, one man struck on the head with the butt
of a rifle, Dr. Mustafa was beaten on his back and
thigh (we and half the world's press visited him in
the hospital in Ramallah where he was sent for
X-rays). Another coworker of mine was lucky, he was
merely held by his neck, choked a bit and threatened
and lightly beaten. He was already up and walking by
the time I got to the hospital.
Shockingly, the mainstream press reported almost
nothing about it, except a weak version seemingly
distributed by Israel which makes it sound like the
claims of violence are disputed. The IDF claims no
violence was used, and that Dr. Barghouthi and his
colleagues were only detained 20 minutes because they
refused a routine ID check. Bald-faced lies. No
shame. Incredible. And that's probably the story
that will end up carrying the day. I keep saying I
refuse to be shocked any more, but I keep being
Imagine a presidential candidate being beaten by a
foreign army in any other country in the world.
Imagine if Canada beat up John Kerry while he was
campaigning. Imagine the world looking the other way.
And then continuing to preach on and on about
The attack came just hours after Dr. Mustafa gave a
press conference, the summary of which I have written
8 December 2004
Palestinian Presidential candidate Dr. Mustafa
Barghouthi confirmed today that Israel’s official
policy seems to be one of tampering with elections
results, possibly undermining their legitimacy, by
putting serious obstacles in the way of most
Presidential candidates and making no arrangements for
East Jerusalemites to vote.
These actions have been taken despite public
declarations by the Israeli government that they would
cooperate as fully as possible to make the elections
free, fair, and comprehensive.
If these problems are not solved within 36 hours,
Palestinian citizens, led by Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi,
will strongly protest and begin major peaceful
demonstrations. The Palestinians will not let these
violations of their democratic rights stand.
Just what did Israel hope to accomplish by beating up
these guys? Did they think they'd intimidate them
into laying off the peaceful protests? Did they think
they'd send a message to all the other candidates to
quit whining about free movement and democracy? Did
they think we'd all just quit?
As always when things like this happen, everyone's
resolve has tripled. The proto-fascists of the world
should face it: there's just no fighting people power.
As Gandhi said, any victory attained by violence is
hollow because it is only temporary. There is
something in us that wants freedom, equal rights, and
brotherhood, and we will get it.
Next up: they're bulldozing more land in Jayyous to
expand a settlement called Zufin that's built on other
stolen Jayyous land. Any one of you, really I dare
you to write me back and say bulldozing helpless old
men's olive trees is for security. I didn't attach
the map, but it's pretty damn chilling. Right in the
middle of Jayyous land, very near where I was picking
olives in October. Abu Azzam is a friend of mine. A
letter written by a horrified Israeli woman about it:
Settler Bulldozers are right now uprooting the
olive grove of Tawfiq-Jayyus, close to Abu Azzam’s
land which is located within Zufin’s masterplan, but
is not a part of it, and is recognized legally
protected private property which cannot be touched.
Advocate Wiam Shbeyta (0544-739982) a resident of
nearby Atiya, and an activist with Ta'ayush, is trying
to stop the bulldozing, and Zahava Galon at the
Knesset is working on it. But meanwhile it continues.
Abu Azzam is at 0547-369771 and speaks excellent
English (he has just left the site where it is
happening in order to get the parcel number to the
lawyer). Abu Azzam is the farmer who has been
involved in the anti-wall campaign and can tell you
how after a year of the fence, the farmers are not
being allowed to get to their land regularly (during
the two week full closure of Israeli high holidays
they couldn't irrigate at all), and nor are labourers
allowed to go to harvest there. The hours the gates
are open are totally unsatisfactory for farming
practices (they cannot be on their land in the early
morning cool, in time to harvest and get to market
with fresh produce, they cannot take as much produce
out as they wish, etc.)
I attach a map showing the land, from which you
will see that Zufin is fast eating up more and more of
the Jayyous land. On the top left you can see the
arrow pointing out the land currently being bulldozed.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Finally, here's the press conference Dr. Mustafa gave
9 December 2004
Regarding Yesterday's Attacks by Israeli Occupation
Forces Against Presidential Candidate Dr. Mustafa
Palestinian Presidential Candidate Dr. Mustafa
Barghouthi briefed the world press about the events
surrounding the physical and verbal assaults against
him and his entourage by Israeli Occupation Forces
yesterday when he was returning to his home city of
Ramallah after attending meetings in Jenin.
At 9:00 p.m. yesterday Israeli soldiers stopped his
group at the Sanour checkpoint outside the northern
West Bank city of Jenin. They ordered him and his
five companions out of their car. Dr. Barghouthi
immediately made it clear to the Israeli soldiers and
officers and that he was Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a
Presidential candidate returning home to Ramallah
after meetings in Jenin.
The Israeli soldiers responded by screaming and
cursing at them and physically beating people and
forcing them to the ground at gunpoint. When Dr.
Allam Jarrar, a 50-year-old man with a heart problem,
was struck and injured by Israeli soldiers, Dr.
Barghouthi attempted to intervene and help Dr. Jarrar
stand up. Dr. Barghouthi was then thrown forcefully
on the ground, and everyone was made to stay in one
position on the ground in the cold for an hour and
fifteen minutes. If anyone attempted to move or talk
to their colleagues, they were immediately beaten.
Lu’ai Arafat was hit with the butt of a rifle near his
ear, another member of the team was struck in the
abdomen, and another was hit on the neck. Dr.
Barghouthi sustained soft tissue injuries to his thigh
and back and was later rushed to Ramallah’s Sheikh
Zayed Hospital for X-rays.
Dr. Barghouthi characterized as a form of torture
forcing six people to lie still in an uncomfortable
position in the cold for one hour and fifteen minutes
and beating them if they moved or talked.
This is the third time in less than a week that Dr.
Barghouthi has been delayed, harassed, or prevented
from free movement. Near Biddya village, Salfit
region, on December 4, he was detained at a checkpoint
for two hours. On December 6, he was surrounded by
Israeli soldiers and forced at gunpoint to turn away
and not enter the Old Town of Hebron. Israeli
soldiers claimed they talked with their Commanding
Officers for one hour before coming back with the
verdict that he was just an ordinary Palestinian
citizen, and thus had no right to pass.
These violations of freedom of movement have taken
place alongside Israel’s continuing refusal to allow
presidential candidates to visit East Jerusalem or the
Gaza Strip to consult with constituents there. Only
one presidential candidate has been granted this
freedom. Israeli restrictions of movement should not
be tolerated by Palestinians or by the international
Dr. Barghouthi said that the most important thing he
had to say today was that what happened yesterday,
although a clear insult to all Palestinian people and
to the institution of democracy, was nothing compared
to what normal Palestinians endure on a daily basis at
the 703 checkpoints (OCHA figure) that divide their
world into dozens of prisons whose gates are
controlled by a foreign military force. Yesterday was
just an example of the racism, humiliation, and
brutality endured by hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians daily. The Israeli soldiers refused even
to talk to Dr. Barghouthi and his colleagues, he said,
in English, Arabic, Russian, or Hebrew. They did not
allow them to use their phones or even talk to each
If Israeli soldiers felt they could get away with
doing such things to Dr. Barghouthi, a person sure to
get publicity about it, imagine what they do to
Palestinians with no protection or attention. What
his team endured, Dr. Barghouthi said, was nothing
compared to what 21-year-old Aisha Ali Hassan Abasi
suffered. She was a dialysis patient who was
repeatedly prevented from crossing the checkpoint out
of her village of Qibiyyeh, Ramallah District, to
receive dialysis treatment. During one attempt to
cross, Israeli soldiers threw a tear gas canister at
the car she was in. She died in the car.
Or Lamis Qasim, one of 55 women forced to give birth
at checkpoints. She lost her twin baby girls after
being delayed for hours while she was in labor at a
checkpoint near Deir Ballut, the same checkpoint where
Dr. Barghouthi was stopped on December 4.
Or Tahani Fatouh, whose newborn baby boy died of
respiratory failure after ambulances were prevented
from reaching their Bethlehem home by Israeli
Occupation Forces, even though the hospital was only
two kilometers away from their house.
The time has come, said Dr. Barghouthi, to ask Israel
and the world how long this can go on. The time has
come to ask, why are the checkpoints there? For
legitimate security reasons? Or to destroy the
economy, humiliate the people, and destroy the very
fabric of life in occupied Palestine?
The recent shootings of at least three young
schoolgirls in Gaza, including Iman Al-Hams who was
shot 20 times by an Israeli officer, and countless
other incidents show that the Israeli Army has sunk to
a serious low. It is time for Israeli society to
rethink its policies in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories and to carefully consider the consequences
of Israel’s young people growing up in an atmosphere
of racism and severe violations of human rights
carried out in an atmosphere of impunity.
Dr. Barghouthi said it was “completely silly and
unacceptable” for Israel to claim that the incident at
Sanour checkpoint would not have happened if his team
had coordinated their movement with the army ahead of
time. This would mean Presidential candidates must
get a permit from Israel every time they wish to
travel between cities, villages, and neighborhoods.
It is tantamount to paralysis – it means even
Presidential candidates are in prison. How can
democracy be meaningfully established, Dr. Barghouthi
asked, in a nation of citizens and candidates blocked
Dr. Barghouthi said that he and all Palestinian people
demand and hope that the international community will
intervene to reinstate their natural human right of
free movement, and to remove all internal checkpoints
within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, not just
for candidates but for all Palestinian citizens.
Dr. Barghouthi also requested that an adequate number
of international observers be sent to make sure the
elections are free, fair, and comprehensive, to
witness and understand the scope of Israeli attacks
and assaults, and to travel with candidates to observe
the obstacles in their way.
Dr. Barghouthi reiterated that the attack against him
and his supporters would not affect their will to
improve the situation of Palestinians, to achieve
freedom, to build democratic institutions, and to
fight corruption and mismanagement. True democracy
equals true peace and security, and his team and
supporters will continue to struggle for it.
He said that Palestinians must and will do everything
possible to reach out to the world and to organize
every possible mass popular protest against Israeli
violations of their basic human rights.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS AFTERWARDS:
Q: Do you believe Israel has chosen and favors Abu
Mazen for President and this is why they are allowing
free movement only for him?
A: I think Israel is simply doing nothing to help
other candidates and their constituents move freely.
I do believe that Israel does not want to see
Palestinian democracy succeed. I also believe that
when nations around the world act as if the elections
are already decided in favor of one candidate, it is
an insult to the Palestinian people and their
democratic aspirations. We are a people with freedom
of choice, we want democracy, and we have a history of
political pluralism. It is an insult for anyone else
to impose their choice on us.
Q: Was it true what the Israelis reported, that you
refused to stop at the checkpoint?
A: Actually that is a complete and total lie. The
fact that the Israeli army has sunk so low as to lie
so blatantly to cover bad practices instead of
bringing the soldiers responsible to justice gives me
very little reason to trust anything they say.
Besides, if we hadn’t stopped at the checkpoint, they
would have shot us, as they have done so many times
before. So it was not even a very clever lie.
Q: Other candidates have dropped out in protest of the
Israeli violations of the democratic process in
Palestine. Might you do the same?
A: Absolutely not. Quitting is not on our agenda. If
Israel is violating our rights, we should have the
guts to continue to the end, expand, and show the
world the real situation here. I will never give up.
Q: Do you think you should negotiate with Israel for
your right to free movement instead of appealing to
the international community?
A: We cannot negotiate our most basic and inalienable
rights with Israel. If we continue to be dragged down
the road of endless negotiations with Israel, soon we
will be negotiating for the rights to drink our water
[the funny thing is, Israel unilaterally steals 80% of
the West Bank's water, and in any negotiated
settlements, Palestinians will be forced to negotiate
their right to drink their own water] and eat our food
and breathe our air. There will be no negotiations
about which checkpoints I can and cannot cross. This
is tantamount to admitting and accepting that I am a
Q: Since campaigning cannot officially start until
December 25, do you think Israel has any legitimacy to
a claim that it is not obstructing your campaign
efforts at this time?
A: The only thing that officially starts on the 25th
of December is the advertisement process. But the
campaigns started the minute the decree was made that
elections would be held. We had only 60 days to
organize, to consult with our constituencies, to
prepare offices, to organize supporters, and many
other things. This is a very short time. A
Presidential campaign is not just posters and flyers.
Q: Whom do you think the responsibility lies with for
A: The responsibility for the institutionalized
racism, human rights violations, and interventions in
the democratic process lies squarely with Sharon and
his government. The time has come to let the world
see that the true obstacle to peace in the Middle East
Next: something nice