Hiba Anis Mustafa Shurafa guides students in her Gaza classroom, instructing them on the art of how to hold a pen and keep a steady hand when writing out letters. She understands the task is challenging because, like her students, Shurafa has Down syndrome.
Category Archives: On the ground reports
Israeli forces busted through the doors of a Ramallah aid organization founded by a leading Palestinian politician in the early morning hours Wednesday, and took away computers, servers and security camera footage, and leaving behind a mess of shattered glass and tossed papers throughout the downtown office.
“When Sa’id ‘Awad spotted the first pomegranate saplings popping up on his fields, he should have seen it coming. A part of him perhaps already understood that the long process threatening his land was nearing its logical conclusion; that the handful of tender trees would yield the poisoned fruit of dispossession.” Yigal Bronner reports on the the Kafkaesque tribulations of a Palestinian farmer in Area C of the West Bank.
Upcoming municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza were cancelled yesterday by a Palestinian high court in Ramallah, after ruling in favor of a lawyers guild’s petition to strike down the race because East Jerusalem Palestinians were not eligible to cast ballots, or compete for seats in the government. Although the decision was said to have been made over a procedural technicality, some speculated political motives from members of the West Bank-based Fatah were at play.
Over the summer, one of the founding villages of the Palestinian non-violent movement, Nabi Saleh, decided to stop holding the weekly Friday demonstrations that brought the small West Bank town international attention. The move comes following scores of arrests and a general fatigue among protesters. “The tear gas is inside the village, the clashes are inside of the homes, and it’s a small village which makes it difficult for the people to continue,” said Bassem Tamimi, a leader in Nabi Saleh who helped organize weekly marches over the past six years. He estimates that more than 350 people from his 600 person town have been injured in clashes with the army since 2010, and 50 were left physically disabled.
Omri Baranes is a 18-year-old conscientious objector who served 67 days in military prison for resisting Israel’s obligatory military draft in protest of the nearly half-century occupation of Palestine. “Even before I knew anything about the occupation of Palestine, I couldn’t understand why our culture was centered on violence,” Baranes tells Mondoweiss. “It’s like we are born with guns in our hands. Our society is so militant and most Israelis never learn anything else.”
Members of Israel’s opposition coalition will filibuster overnight to stall a vote on a controversial bill to expand the Knesset’s power to oust one of their own. The expulsion bill, formerly called the suspension bill, grants parliamentarians the authority to permanently kick their peers out of office, without loose criteria for disqualification. It is aimed at one member: Hanin Zoabi of the Joint List.
Israel’s human rights NGOs pushed back this week after the Knesset passed a transparency law that critics say was the most recent attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition to persecute the country’s left. Leading Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now vowed to wage legal war against the new law, which requires NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign donors to declare their funding sources prior to addressing Knesset committees, speaking with public officials, as well as on publications and websites.
Israel’s security cabinet said Sunday it will spend $13 million to expand social and education programs in West Bank settlements “in order to make it easier” for residents “to deal with the effects of the security situation and minimize its impact on the daily routine.” Peace Now said the funding was a backdoor policy to build up settlements under the cover of responding to the recent bout of violence.
Muslims across the world have spent June observing the religious month of Ramadan. In Gaza, where reconstruction after three wars in six years has stalled, the celebrations, fasts followed by feasts, and prayer has brought a welcomed sense of normalcy. Palestinian photographer Mohammed Asad brings a glimpse of how Gazans enjoy the month of Ramadan.
Days away from the Eid holiday Shafooq Baloot, 25, does not know how or when she will do her annual clothes shopping. “We can’t go everywhere whenever we would like,” the English teacher tells Allison Deger. The Israeli army shut the main entrance to Baloot’s town with cement blocks and an earth mound after a teen from her village killed a 13-year old Israeli in a nearby settlement last Thursday. Over the weekend Israeli forces barricaded at least 20 more villages in the Hebron area, along with the southern entrance to the city of Hebron itself.
Khaled Makhamri was an excellent student enrolled in university in Jordan on a prestigious governmental scholarship. Now his family is trying to understand why he carried out one of the deadliest attacks in Tel Aviv in years. More than 60 of the attackers in the last 9 months came from Khaled’s district in the southern West Bank and his hometown of Yatta is a particularly difficult place to live. It has the highest school drop out rate in the occupied Palestinian territory, settler attacks on agricultural land in the outskirts of town are common, and Israeli army ordered home demolitions in the surrounding areas are frequent. “The reason why he did such a thing is the occupation, he is not working with any illegal organization,” his father tells Allison Deger.
As Israel held funerals yesterday for those killed in an attack in Tel Aviv earlier in the week, police limited Palestinian travel from the West Bank and Gaza during the Ramadan holiday.
Blue and white banners filled Jerusalem yesterday to mark 49 years of Israeli rule in the city. Crowds of settler youth chanted the slogan “the Jewish nation lives” as they marched under the ramparts of Damascus Gate. Many wore stickers supporting rabbi Meir Kahane, a former Knesset member kicked out of the government after calling for violence against Arabs, while others pasted their clothes with decals backing a greater Israel, a Jewish-nationalist movement that seeks to annex the occupied Palestinian territory. Meanwhile, Palestinians were barred from sections of the city and postponed the start of their own festivities for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to avoid conflicts with the settlers.
Mohammed Alhammami recalls stories he heard growing up of Jews, Muslims and Christians living alongside each other in historic Palestine as one people, not divided factions. But he wonders what about now? Can Jews and Palestinians (Christians and Muslims alike) really coexist in the Holy Land, after 68 years of Nakba?
When the plain-clothed men came for him, Kifah Quzmar, 27, did not need to be told why they were dragging him out of a popular Ramallah cafe on a sunny afternoon last week. “Call my brother,” he told bystanders before being tossed into the back of a tinted SUV parked outside. “The muhaberat are rotten,” Quzmar wrote on Facebook two weeks before he was detained, using the Arabic colloquial term for undercover Palestinian intelligence agents. In the West Bank, such words are a punishable offensive under a 1960 Jordanian law still on the books making illegal “insulting a public official.” The crime carries a maximum of a six-month prison sentence.
The largest Palestinian city, Jaffa, was emptied of Palestinians during the Nakba 68 years ago. It went from 120,000 Palestinians, many of them landowners, to 4,000. And many left in desperation by sea. A commemoration, by three refugees’ descendants.
Hamas scored another victory on Wednesday at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank, winning 25 seats in the university’s student elections. The university, considered the most liberal of all campuses in the West Bank, is seen as an indicator for the political climate across the West Bank.
Antony Lowenstein talks with Amany Khalifa and Fayrouz Sharqawi from the organization Grassroots Jerusalem to discuss fighting Israeli occupation, media misrepresentation of Palestinians and the dangers of foreign funding for NGOs.
The detention by Palestinian Authority security forces of three Palestinians who allegedly planned to carry out an attack inside Israel this week brought renewed public criticism of the PA amid a slew of political disputes. The PA finds itself pitted between a need to appease the Israeli authorities through security coordination and the mass upheaval such coordination brings among political rivals and the wider public.
A fire started by Israeli forces during a botched operation to dentate explosives in a West Bank commercial zone quickly spread and burned a Palestinian government office, at least nine stores and an open-air market, in the early morning hours Thursday.
Israeli forces have demolished every home in the Bedouin village of Khirbet Taha in the northern West Bank district of Nablus during three separate demolitions since the start of the year. The village’s only school was also destroyed, leaving children to study in a dilapidated 100-year-old mosque — the only structure left standing in the village.
One of Israel’s biggest newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth, staged the country’s first national conference against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in Jerusalem. Antony Loewenstien reports, “It was a surreal day, filled with determination to defeat BDS, but participants were seemingly incapable of truly understanding why the movement was surging globally. Fear, paranoia, anger and determination was ubiquitous amongst the panelists and audience. BDS could never have imagined a more high-profile advertisement for its agenda.”
Palestinians in Gaza are regularly consuming contaminated water, even when the liquid they drink has already been treated at a purifying plant. In Gaza 45% of the water processed in desalination plants is contaminated, according to the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).
The killing of Israeli civilians and the young age of the Palestinian attackers, along with their almost inevitable deaths at the hands of police, are raising tough questions for Palestinians. A recent event in Ramallah featuring Mariam Barghouti, Diana Buttu and Husam Zomlot was billed as a discussion of whether an “Intifada” has began, but the conversation soon turned to personal feelings about knife attacks on Israelis.