About this Blog

"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"He was attacked, so they arrested him."

In a rational world, this statement is mind-boggling at best. During this past month, I feel as though I have heard this story far too often: "He was attacked, so they arrested him." After living in Palestine for a while, this sentence is far too conceivable. For example:

A few teammates and I recently went to visit a Palestinian deeply committed to nonviolence, on whose lands we regularly have nonviolent actions -- harvesting olives, tilling the fields, etc. He has the misfortune of living between two Israeli settlements, and this is vulnerable to settler harassment and attack. So every week (weather permitting), Palestinians, internationals, and (sometimes) Israeli activists gather to work the fields. Sometimes Israeli military and police come. Sometimes Israeli settlers stop to watch or verbally harass the workers.

Only during our recent visit, did we hear part of this man's story. He told us about his upcoming trial. In July, he was shepherding his land when Israeli settlers attacked him and members of his family, and the settlers fired some shots. When he attempted to defend himself, Israeli military arrested him and two of his sons. However, the Israeli authorities did not inform him of his arrest. They told him, “Come to [the police station] to make a complaint.” When he went to the station to file a complaint, they arrested him, and he and one of his sons spent 14 days in jail. They had to pay a fine of 2,000 shekels. His other son spent one month in jail and had to pay at 3,050 shekel fine. His trial is in military court. Settlers accuse him of throwing stones at settler guards. An Israeli activist present at the time of the attack can witness to the fact that settlers attacked this man. Regardless, the settlers are asking for a three year sentence, and the court has not yet ruled on his case.

And then we heard another story, on the same night:

In January, Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian family living in the valley below the Kiryat Arba settlement, and the family recorded the attack on video. The Israeli military did little to prevent settlers from throwing stones (the one instance in which they intervened, a soldier got between a settler boy and the Palestinian home and said simply, “Go back”) but physically restrained Palestinians from throwing stones. The settlers surrounded the house on three sides. Twelve family members were injured and four taken to the hospital. Two family members were hurt seriously and required stitches (one person needed four and the other five stitches.) Two of the four seriously injured were arrested first and the military denied them medical treatment. The Israeli police held one of the Palestinian men for four hours and then released him. Only then did he receive necessary medical treatment.

"He was attacked, so they arrested him." Is this justice?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The weekend, in brief

Israeli settlers have been regularly attacking Palestinians in the Wadi Al Nassara ("wadi" means "valley"; it is a valley in Hebron). While having dinner in a Palestinian home yesterday, the woman was telling us that settlers have been preventing Palestinians from walking on the road, telling them that they will only let the Palestinians pass if they pay a thousand shekels. After that the settlers beat the Palestinians. In addition, settlers have been throwing stones at the Palestinians living in the wadi.

There have been regular (practically daily) Israeli military incursions into Beit Ummar, a village not far from Hebron (it is on the way from Hebron to Bethlehem). Last night, Israeli authorities shut off power to half the village, and then invaded. They shot two Palestinian men, and then arrested them, denying them medical treatment.

Finally, the Israeli government issued home demolition orders on nine Palestinian homes and a health clinic that is being built that would serve about 600 women and children. These homes and clinic are in the Beqa'a valley, between two Israeli settlements outside of Hebron (one can see the two settlements expanding. It is the theory that they will one day join and become one. The Beqa'a valley is right between the two settlements, so it would seem the Israeli authorities want to take over the Beqa'a -- hence all the demolition orders.) I slept last night a cell phone by my bed, ready to dash out the door if one of our friends called to tell us that the demolition crews had arrived (the demolition crews generally arrive at dawn, before the Palestinian community can get mobilized.) My first thought this morning was, "Did the demolition crews come?" I can hardly imagine what I would be thinking and feeling if it was my home at risk of being demolished.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"Way of the Cross, in Occupied Palestine"

In honor of the Christian season of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday (6 February), Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Palestine has decided to introduce the "Way of the Cross, in Occupied Palestine" campaign, to encourage international churches, communities, families, and individuals to reflect and raise awareness of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As part of this, we are publishing a number of reflections that follow the Stations of the Cross. Recently, my teammate Jean Fallon wrote the following reflection, for the first station of the cross:

Lenten Stations of the Cross: The First Station

By Jean Fallon

The First Station – Jesus stands condemned by Pilot by the word of his enemies

As we recall Jesus standing before Pilot, who represents the Occupying Roman Forces, and the full weight of the Roman Empire, let us meditate on a scene happening now in Hebron.

Six Palestinian youths, around 15 or 16, the oldest 18 and 19, stand before the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) … accused by a settler woman of breaking and entering her home. Not knowing what would happen to them, they stand with their arms raised, hands on metal doors, legs apart and some of them still in the thin clothing they were wearing at home when the IOF came to arrest them,. For close to four hours of standing in the cold, they endure a heckling crowd of settlers, being blindfolded, handcuffed and finally taken away to the police station where police continued to question and finally released them after midnight. At a checkpoint on their way home, a soldier tore up one of their IDs.

Six teenagers… whose actual ‘crime’ was discovered to be; breaking through a fence into an open square near the settlers’ housing area to look for scrap metal. Even though their Palestinian families gave witness on their behalf they were condemned by the word of a settler, with two now facing a hearing and the rest with their names on the Israeli police list of potential ‘terrorists’.