Mish Maqoul -- Unbelievable

Pamela Olson
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 person.

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 Palestinian banks.

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 very exciting.

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 back.

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 dialysis machine.

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 exiled to.

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 shocked.

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 democracy.

The attack came just hours after Dr. Mustafa gave a press conference, the summary of which I have written below:

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 today:

9 December 2004

Regarding Yesterday's Attacks by Israeli Occupation Forces Against Presidential Candidate Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi

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 community.

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 other.

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 inside prisons?

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.


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 prisoner.

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 these violations?

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 is Sharon.

Next: something nice

Previous | Contents | Home