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.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Festival, a Closed Military Zone, and Lots of Dancing

On Sunday, 9 August, the village of At-Tuwani organized a joint festival and press conference. The festival was to celebrate the end of Tuwani’s annual summer camp. The press conference was going to address the issues that the Israeli occupation creates for people in this area, not the least of which being the issue of the threat of violence Palestinian children face on their way to school and summer camp.

The festival was just beginning when the team received a call that the Israeli military had set up a checkpoint on the road to Tuwani, stopping anyone except Palestinians from At-Tuwani from entering the village. We discovered later that this was one of at least three checkpoints preventing people from entering the area. The military also declared the area a closed military zone until mid-afternoon (when the festival was scheduled to end.)

Needless to say, no media managed to come to the press conference.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian villagers continued with their festival. There was music, dancing, and a skit about life in Tuwani. People were clapping and laughing, and I have never seen such beautiful debka dancing, in spite of the military’s efforts to hinder the festival from going forward.

I am dumbfounded by the Israeli military and amazed and inspired by the Palestinians here in the South Hebron Hills. The event on Sunday was not a demonstration; yet the military was intent on preventing people from coming. The villagers here are committed to nonviolence, and they are courageous and steadfast – and the military knows it. There is nothing more dangerous to a violent regime than nonviolence and declaring the truth.

The villagers know this, and they were not going to allow the military to hinder their celebration or break their spirits – they went ahead with it anyway and had a mighty fun festival, living out the hope that someday their nonviolence will prevail.

And that, my friends, is far more powerful than any checkpoint or closed military zone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

At-Tuwani Urgent Action

At-Tuwani: Urgent Action Update
3 August 2008

On Sunday 3 August 2008, human rights worker Kristin Anderson was released from Israeli police custody, but the Israeli police have taken no steps to prevent setter violence in the South Hebron Hills. CPT urges you to contact the Israeli police at Kiryat Arba and demand immediate action to prevent further setter attacks on Palestinian school children. Over the last two weeks settlers have attacked Palestinian children on their way to summer camp four times. Settlers continue to yell, chase, curse, and throw rocks at the children, while Israeli police refuse to apprehend perpetrators. In November 2004 the Israeli Knesset declared that the Israeli police are responsible for apprehending violent settlers.

Please call the police and demand justice:
Kiryat Arba Contact Numbers:
(Add your applicable country code first)

Summer Camp in At-Tuwani (Part Two: Nonviolent Resistance a Success!)

So, the Palestinian villagers in the South Hebron Hills responded to the frequent Israeli settler attacks on the Palestinian children, and the Israeli military’s refusal to ensure the safety of these children.

They responded nonviolently. They organized a march.

They, the Palestinians, walked their children home from camp.

Here is an excerpt from the release we sent out about the march:

“On August 2nd, more than one hundred Palestinian children and their parents from the South Hebron Hills marched from the village of At-Tuwani to Tuba, calling for an end to settler violence and expansion in the area. In a major success for the area, the children and their parents took the most direct path to the village of Tuba. For the past eleven years, school children escorted by the Israeli military have been the only Palestinians able to use this road. Palestinians parents organized the march to call attention to the violence faced by schoolchildren, the failure of the Israeli army to protect them and the effects of Israeli settlement expansion. The march was a part of the annual South Hebron Hills summer camp for children.

The march initially attempted to take the path that children use when unaccompanied by the Israeli military, around the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havot Ma’on. The Israeli military declared the whole area a closed military zone and restrained the march with force, targeting leaders. Soldiers attacked and tried to arrest a Palestinian man. When a CPTer intervened, they knocked them both down and started choking the CPTer, but marchers nonviolently intervened and stopped the attack. One Israeli and one international member of Operation Dove were arrested. Palestinian organizers negotiated with the Israeli military and it was decided that the Israeli military would accompany the children and parents on the short path, using the road between Ma’on settlement and Havot Ma’on. A large group of settlers left Ma’on and harassed the marchers. A smaller group of settlers followed directly behind the marchers, but Israeli military and police prevented them from attacking the group. One village elder accompanying the children walked this road for the first time in years. Surprised by the settlement expansion, she shared with a soldier about how she plowed this land years ago.

Participating in the march were children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed who have been regularly attacked by Israeli settlers as they walked to primary school in At-Tuwani.”

P.S. What did you do when you were in summer camp? Was participating in nonviolent resistance part of camp?

I love the Palestinians here. They are some of the most amazing people. Ever.

Summer Camp in At-Tuwani (Part One)

For two weeks, the village of At-Tuwani has been conducting its annual summer camp. For two weeks, Palestinian children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al Abeed have been harassed and attacked on their way to summer camp in At-Tuwani. The Israeli military, which has been charged with escorting the Palestinian children to and from school (and summer camp), has been refusing to do the escort, resulting in a number of attacks on the children in recent weeks.

Here is a chronology of the children’s journey to summer camp in the last weeks:

23 July – The military refused to escort the children. On their way to At-Tuwani, the children were chased by three settlers, one of whom was masked and carrying a stick.

26 July – At least four settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havot Ma’on threatened the children on their way to summer camp. The children and my teammate and I had walked to the area where the Israeli military escort is meant to meet the children on their way to At-Tuwani. Israeli settlers walked towards the children, shouting and jeering. I called the military, explaining the dangerous situation. The military escort personnel told me the military was not coming. We then ran with the children all the way to Tuwani, fearing a settler attack.

27 July – Israeli settlers attacked the children and two of my teammates as they were walking in a valley south of Havat Ma'on. One masked settler came down the hill, hurling stones with a slingshot. The children and one teammate ran ahead, but saw other stone-throwing settlers approaching them from the opposite side of the valley. None of the stones struck the children, and they were able to run to safety.

When the masked settler saw my teammate Joel filming the attack, he began directing his stones at Joel. The settler hit him in the leg with a rock, inflicting an injury that made it impossible for Joel to run away. The settler then wrested the camera from him, and began beating him with a rock and the camera. After that, the settler ran off with the camera.

30 July – Five settlers hid themselves along the route of the children and waited for them as they were coming home from camp. When the children approached, the settlers began yelling, swearing, and throwing rocks at them. One settler jumped over the settlement fence and chased the children on a path leading to the village of Tuba. The Israeli soldiers assigned to protect the children abandoned the children approximately 500 meters earlier, thereby failing to complete the escort of the children as ordered by the Israeli Knesset.

The father of five of the children from Tuba told us, "The settlers must leave. If the settlers are here, there is no safety, only fear."

In 2004, the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military carry out a daily escort of the children of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed to their school in At-Tuwani because settlers repeatedly attacked them. In 2006, Israeli Minister of Defense stated Havot Ma’on outpost should be dismantled because of the settlers’ violence towards school children. During the 2007-2008 school year, settlers used violence against these children on at least for fourteen occasions.

That has been the last two weeks in a “nutshell.” More or less. But, as always, the Palestinians here in the South Hebron Hills are not helpless victims. They responded to these settler attacks. Nonviolently.

To be continued.

(For more images of the children's journey to and from At-Tuwani, visit http://cpt.org/gallery/album252)