EAPPI May-June 2009
May-June 2009 have been extremely eventful for EAPPI, as seen in this second issue of our web-based newsletter. This newsletter provides an overview of the issues EAs have been involved in during the past two months and directs you to eyewitness reports for further details.
Pope Benedict XVI visits the Holy Land
Although shrouded in controversy before and during his visit, the historic "pilgrimage for peace" of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land, 8-15 May, became more political than anyone anticipated. After visiting Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, His Holiness made a remarkably strong speech before departing Ben Gurion airport. He acknowledged that "the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely" while recognizing that "the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders." He also spoke of the "sad sight" of the separation wall and prayed "for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation." After attending masses in Jerusalem and Bethlehem the EAs wrote eyewitness reports detailing the general feeling among local Christians during the Pope's pilgrimage.
Continuing Israeli settler violence
Israeli settlers continued to vandalize private
Palestinian property by cutting down trees and setting fire to fields and homes during May and June. Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in the village of Jit forged an important network while Israeli settlers set fire to olive groves and wheat crops in the village of Burin, according to EA reports. The teams also report on Israeli settlers suspected of dumping a dead piglet on the steps of a mosque in Nabi Elias, living with settlers in Hebron, a protest action against the erection of an illegal outpost on Palestinian-owned land and living beside a settlement in Wadi al-Hussein. The UNOCHA states these attacks followed media reports saying the Israeli government will dismantle 26 settlement outposts and in the context of an explicit strategy among some settlers to exact a "price" for every attempt to dismantle a settlement outpost. The failure of the Israeli authorities to adequately enforce the law on violent settlers remains a protection concern. The EAs also reflect on US President Obama's statement that settlements must stop.
Home demolitions in Jerusalem and Area C
Home demolitions continue unabated in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank. During May there was a sharp increase in demolition orders. Christian families living in Beit Hanina and the Old City of Jerusalem have also been targeted. The municipality of Jerusalem recently ordered thousands of families to demolish their homes under the pretext of lack of building permits. Even though most of the targeted homes have been owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Catholic Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land for centuries the families may face high fines and prison sentences if they fail to follow the orders. Eyewitness reports from EAs include the Silwan-Al Bustan struggle, destroyed dwellings in Livjim, living with a demolition order in Al Walaja and a touching poem on forceful displacement in the Jordan Valley.
Resistance at a cost
Palestinians continuously find new ways to creatively and legally resist the occupation: protesting against the wall by having a picnic in front of the soldiers; exhibiting a form of steadfast resistance at the checkpoint; continuing to go to their school despite hostile settlements surrounding it; getting involved in international fair trade to be able to remain on the land; or like Um Kamel living in what has become an internationally well-known protest tent ever since she was evicted from her home in Jerusalem in November 2008. Some Israelis are also objecting against the occupation by refusing to serve in the Israeli military.
However, many of these forms of resistance come at a high cost. The EAs report meeting human rights defenders who have been beaten and tortured by the IDF for their non-violent acts and others who have visited the Palestinian Prisoners' Society in Hebron. They further report on beatings and imprisonment of minors, encounters with a child prisoner and tell the story of a 16-year-old girl administratively detained without charge for seven months. An EA describes how different laws are used to serve different purposes and how Addameer, a Human Rights organisation, is demanding an end to administrative detention.
The multifaceted tasks of the EAs
The tasks and duties of the EAs are extremely multifaceted. They reflect on the power of presence in Yanoun, adult learning and teaching in Tulkarem, monitoring the Bethlehem checkpoint and walking through Qalandiya checkpoint.
During the past two months, EAs have received and guided 40 visiting delegations in the placements, totalling nearly 300 individuals. Receiving groups in the West Bank is an important part of the EAs' advocacy work. Please contact the EAPPI Communications Officer to visit or accompany the EAs in one of the placements: Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Yanoun, Jayyous and Tulkarem.
We thank Group 31 from Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK who completed their mission and returned to their home countries at the end of June. They are available to speak to groups and mobilise local communities to work together to seek to realise the aims of the programme: an end to the occupation and a just peace for Israeli and Palestinian alike. Make contact with the National Coordinator in your country and have an EA speak to you. During the month of July, we are scaling down the work to only have EAs in Yanoun but look forward to welcoming 24 new EAs and returning to all the placements in August.