Sunday, January 9, 2011

Attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem

It's 10:41am on Sunday and already a very difficult morning for Palestinians in Jerusalem. Today, like every day, their efforts to live in peace have been thwarted. Already one Palestinian community organizer was called in for interrogation, a second arrested, and construction began on a new illegal settlement in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood.

As soon as I turned on my computer, I read about the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem. Israeli settlers have official Israeli permission to tear down this hotel to build a new settlement (illegal under international law) in the heart of a Jerusalem neighborhood. This illegal project is funded by Irving Moskowitz, a businessman in the US that has donated to many efforts to takeover Palestinian land. For those of you nearby, a protest has been called for 4pm today.

At 8:49am I received a call from the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The center's director had just been called in for interrogation for the second time since a judge ordered his release on Friday. Jawad is an energetic young man working to improve the situation of his community in Silwan by organizing children's activities at the Madaa Center and also working to educate the international community about the history of Silwan, a Palestinian village in Jerusalem. He was arrested last week (while working with children) on suspected assault but then released two days later for lack of evidence. Jawad has since been called in for interrogation twice. According to the information center, Jawad has been questioned about his activism in the local community. This amounts to harassment and intimidation by the Israeli police.

*UPDATE* The Israeli police are now seeking to ban Jawad from Silwan, the neighborhood in Jerusalem that his family has lived in for generations. There is a hearing tomorrow and I'm hoping against the odds that the judge will not approve this request.

Just a few minutes ago, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee announced that Nidhal Abu Gharbiya, a Palestinian organizer in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, was arrested by Israeli police while watching the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel. Since he was simply observing Israel's illegal activities, I can only conclude that his arrest was another way of silencing Palestinians demanding the right to live in their homes.

Every day, Palestinians in Jerusalem face the threats of illegal Israeli settlers, state repression, and lack of equal rights and services. But this morning is an extreme example. One Israeli activist posed the question: "Is Israel taking advantage of the jammed news cycle in america to push forward in East Jerusalem?" Probably not. But still, I hope you will share this information to make sure Palestinians in Jerusalem are not forced out because no one is watching.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011: More than words necessary to make it “happy”

It's only the second day of 2011 but I can't bring myself to write “Happy New Year” anymore. Living in Palestine, these words were made hollow by the death and destruction all around me.

The start of a new year is always a time of reflection for me and I thought back to New Year's Day two years ago, hoping that this year would be different. In 2009, I was glued to the television watching live footage of Israel's savage attacks on Gaza. I stayed by the phone trading text messages with friends and colleagues in Gaza that were desperate for contact with the outside world as the bombs and white phosphorous rained down. And on my computer, I followed the unfolding story about the murder of Oscar Grant by BART police in my hometown of Oakland, CA.

This New Year's, I went to Nablus, a city in the north of the occupied West Bank. My mom and husband had never visited the market in the old city and we spent hours walking through narrow passages under impressive stone arches taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling marketplace. But everywhere we turned, there were memorials for Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation. Plaques with the names of the dead, posters with their photos, and rubble from partially destroyed buildings were a constant reminder that this beautiful city holds painful memories for many of the residents.

As we walked through Nablus, we learned that a Palestinian woman in the village of Bil'in had died. Jawaher Abu Rahma was rushed to the hospital the day before after inhaling concentrated tear gas fired by Israeli forces at a demonstration against the Apartheid Wall. Her death is the latest in a long list of deaths, injuries, arrests, and torture in this village, all carried out by Israel.

Today, Ahmad Maslamani was killed by Israeli forces at a checkpoint near Nablus and Israeli airstrikes hit Jabalya Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip. This camp is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with more than 100,000 refugees living on 1.4 square kilometers. I can only imagine the fear and trauma that children and families are experiencing in this camp as they are reminded that life under Israeli occupation is always precarious.

Two years ago, I thought that something could change. I thought that people like Oscar and Jawaher would have a chance to make a difference with their lives, not just their deaths. I thought that the world's outrage and shock would build into a movement that listened to their voices and demanded their rights. But today, I am still receiving notice by texts, emails and in the market place that nothing has changed.

I hope that together we will transform 2011 into a year of freedom and justice for people in Palestine, Oakland, and all over the world.