Category Archives: On the ground reports
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. 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 with every Friday, clashes ensued once protesters reached the outskirts of town where olive orchards and patch vegetable farms buffer Israel’s concrete barrier and one of the most populated settlements, Modi’in Illit.
Khalid Ja’ar once worked for Birthright, showing American Jews the “Bedouin experience” in the Negev. But after his son was killed by Israeli police and the town of Rahat has become a focus of Palestinian resistance, and Ja’ar’s world has changed.
Within days of Palestinians announcing they would join the International Criminal Court (ICC), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his country would stop transferring customs revenue to the Palestinian Authority. The punitive move was expected to lead to a crisis for the Palestinian leadership as government services would collapse across the West Bank. But the Palestinian Authority had an unexpected back up plan. The Arab League has agreed to provide emergency funds to cover the VAT-taxes frozen by Israel. This Arab League safety net will help the Palestinians avoid the expected temporary bankruptcy and allow them to move forward with pressing for war crimes at the ICC. In fact, financial support from the Arab League was a key component, along with joining the ICC, of long-term strategy to pressure Israel into negotiations.
By mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve crowds had thinned from the limestone plaza that is Manger Square, buffering Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and its winding old city. International tourists lingered, but the bulk of the celebrators were Palestinians—Christian and Muslim alike. A handful of children under ten years old wore costumes and sold candies for 25-cents.
Early this morning Jordan submitted to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) a draft resolution on behalf of the Palestinians to end Israel’s occupation of territory occupied in June 1967 through a negotiations process. The resolution would be the first to call for a third-party security presence to “guarantee and respect the sovereignty of a State of Palestine,” but it puts no deadline on Israel’s withdrawal.
The United States is creating momentum for the French to forestall, or all together abandon, presenting a resolution to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on behalf of the Palestinians. France has been informed of an American alternative offer to the Palestinian pursuit of a draft resolution to negotiate an end Israel’s occupation of territories gained in June 1967, a French diplomatic source tells Mondoweiss.
PLO official Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh says the current Palestinian push at the UN Security Council comes “a serious junction in the history of Palestine.” Allison Deger reports that the proposed UN resolution marks a change in Palestinian strategy for the PLO. According to Dr. Shtayyeh the resolution is “not simply as part of a routine diplomatic issue. We are going to the Security Council because this is part of a strategic shift in the way that we are dealing with the struggle with the Israelis.” Although details of the resolution are not yet public, it appears this shift includes taking a harder line on Israeli settlement construction and looking toward Europe for leadership over the peace process instead of the United States.
The Palestinian Authority has announced it will seek a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution calling for an end of the Israeli occupation within a specific time period. The draft legislation gives Israel two years to remove its forces from lands occupied in June 1967 and reaffirms per-existing agreements for a framework of negotiations, said Ashraf Khatib a spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department via telephone to Mondoweiss. While the resolution makes no explicit mention of land swamps, it does support previous accords where the PLO granted Israel the possibility of territorial exchanges where up to 60% of settlers could remain in the West Bank.
Shop windows in Ramallah were shuttered yesterday within hours of Minister Ziad Abu Ein’s death from a heart attack following an assault by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Turmusaya. Thousands poured through the streets during a state funeral held today with a ceremony at the Muqataa, the seat of the Palestinian Authority and a procession to a nearby cemetery.
Three weeks after Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip concluded, Israeli military and political leaders attended a conference next to Ben Gurion Airport to sell the successes of what Israel dubbed Operation Protective Edge, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 521 children. The “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” conference showcased the latest drone technology and previewed the industry’s prospects to a few hundred international buyers, vendors, and military figures. Inside a private conference room, political and industry leaders gave presentations — speaking in military euphemisms that avoided any uncomfortable references to the humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the 51-day bombing campaign. Among the offerings were suicide drones, “loitering munitions” that need to explode; a 16-year-old showing off high-tech robots designed by fellow high schoolers and future drone makers; and “premature” weapons, armaments that have not been fully tested before they are used on a live Palestinian population. Such is Israel the military power.
Israel’s renewed policy of punitive home demolitions was challenged in its highest court yesterday. The case comes as the Israeli government has ordered the homes of six Palestinians suspected in a series of Jerusalem attacks to be demolished. In the past judges have heard arguments to overturn demolitions on a case by case basis, but this was the first in Israel’s history to address the legality of the practice as such. And the hearing came with immediate consequences. The homes of five Palestinian families are slated for demolition, and one demolition has already been carried out.
Israeli police ransacked seven apartments and urinated inside one while demolishing the Silwan apartment of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, 21, the Palestinian motorist from East Jerusalem who killed a three-month old Israeli-American Chaya Zissel and one Ecuadoran tourist in a light rail attack in Jerusalem on October 22, 2014. “They urinated on the mattresses in my brother’s apartment, said Enas al-Shaludi, 43, the mother of the deceased driver. “You can see the urine on the mattresses.” In addition to the demolition, which the family expected after receiving a demolition order last Friday, all of the other apartments in the four-story residential building were raided.
Gaza’s bombardment convinced John Fearey to visit Palestine at last; and the unjust conditions he observed in Jerusalem are seared in his mind and explain Palestinian resistance
The alleged killers of 16-year old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir were in court today for a second pre-trial hearing. The self-proclaimed ringleader of the group, Yosef Ben-David, 29, refused to cooperate. His lawyer told the judge he could not offer a plea on behalf of his client, because Ben-David is no longer speaking.
Phil Weiss reports from East Jerusalem where Palestinians say the current violence in the city does not represent a third intifada . . . yet. But there could be an organized uprising if Jewish zealots’ incitements about the Al Aqsa mosque continue. In interviews, these Palestinians say that Israel’s escalation of violence in East Jerusalem has isolated and terrified neighborhoods. “There is no security. You are afraid economically, politically, and physically.” And the individual acts of violence by maddened Palestinians who feel they have nothing to lose reflects the universal demand for human dignity.
On Friday Palestinian protesters crossed Israel’s separation wall by Qalandia checkpoint, the artery from the West Bank to Jerusalem, demonstrating for access to the city that has been ensconced in unrest over the past three weeks. Using makeshift ladders tens of protesters walked over the barrier, but Israeli police prevented them from entering Jerusalem.
It is nearly unheard of for Israeli police to block Jewish worshipers from reaching the Western Wall. But yesterday afternoon border authorities cinched back a hard plastic retracting wall of a Jerusalem checkpoint to reach the holy structures and for the first time in 14 years they also closed all access to al-Aqsa Mosque compound, preventing prayer in a campaign to stifle unrest smothering Jerusalem.
A Palestinian teen with U.S. citizenship was killed today by the Israeli army at a demonstration in the West Bank town of Silwad, near Ramallah. Fourteen-year old Orwah Hammad was shot in the neck with a live bullet, according to Ramallah hospital staff.
Thousands gathered in the West Bank town of Silwad outside of Ramallah to bury Orwah Hammad, a 14-year old Palestinian-American from Louisiana who was killed by the Israeli army on Friday. Hammad was died after sustaining a gunshot wound to the neck and head during a demonstration against the killing of another Palestinian earlier in the week.