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, March 31, 2009

At-Tuwani in The Guardian

As we hauled our tired bodies across miles of rock-strewn fields, our human cargo skipped effortlessly ahead of us, seemingly untroubled by either the exertion of the hike or the relentless heat of the mid-morning sun. The excitement of a day off school had lifted their spirits, as had the prospect of their weekly football practice in the village to which we were heading.

The children flew along the torturous gradients as nimbly as the gazelles we'd encountered earlier on the trail, and – to the untrained eye – the walk through the stunning South Hebron Hills would have appeared utterly calm and carefree. However, that the pre-pubescent players required our accompaniment at all belied the seemingly benign nature of our journey. Were it not for the presence of the international activists, the likelihood of the children coming under attack from nearby [Israeli] settlers would have been too high to risk them setting off for Tuwani from the neighbouring hamlet of Tu'ba.

... Grown men attacking defenceless children on their way to school is the stuff of nightmares, yet is a waking reality for dozens of youngsters forced to run the settler gauntlet every day.
Seth Freedman, writer for a UK newspaper called The Guardian, visited At-Tuwani recently. A friend kindly forwarded me the link to the full article he wrote. He provides a fresh perspective to the situation here in the South Hebron Hills. If you're interested in a clear, concise description of the Israeli Occupation in At-Tuwani and the surrounding villages, you would do well to read the full article.

Monday, March 30, 2009

AT-TUWANI RELEASE: Palestinian shepherds resist settler violence and disruption

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli
settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

In three recent incidents Palestinian shepherds asserted their right to graze their sheep on their own land, despite Israeli settlers' attempts to
intimidate the Palestinians and disrupt their agricultural work. Palestinians in the South Hebron hills have responded to recent violence
and incursions on their lands with a law suit and a nonviolent grazing action.

The morning of March 22, as shepherds from the village of At-Tuwani grazed their sheep in nearby Humra valley, a settler brought his flock to the
area from the Israeli settlement outpost of Havot Ma'on. The settler called the police and army, claiming that one of the Palestinians had
thrown a stone at him. When the police arrived, they detained the accused Palestinian and took him to Kiryat Arba police station. Internationals
who had been present and videotaped the scene showed the police video and pictures demonstrating that the shepherd had not thrown stones, and the
man was released. The following day the Palestinian shepherd returned to the police station with papers proving his ownership of the valley. He
has filed a suit against the settler for trespassing.

On March 25, while Palestinian shepherds grazed their sheep on land belonging to the village of Juwayye, twenty Israelis approached from the
settlement of Ma'on and shot at the shepherds. Despite the presence of Israeli soldiers and the Ma'on settlement security guard at the time of
the shooting, no Israelis were arrested. Palestinian shepherds continued to graze their sheep for two hours after the shooting, but were then
forced from the land by soldiers claiming they were too close to road 317.

On March 28 shepherds from Tuwani and other villages in the South Hebron Hills responded to recent harassment by gathering peacefully with their
families to graze sheep in Khoruba valley near Tuwani. After they had been in the valley for about an hour four settlers, two with their faces covered, walked out from Havat Ma'on outpost into the flocks and among the
shepherds and their children. In response, Palestinian shepherds sat down and refused to remove their sheep from the area. Israeli soldiers,
police, and border police arrived but did nothing to prevent the settlers from disrupting the grazing sheep.

Palestinians in Tuwani and the surrounding villages face continued threats of violence and intimidation from setters. With the start of the grazing
season, villagers say they expect the actions of the settlers will become increasingly disruptive, but that the villages remain committed to
nonviolence as they confront the incursions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lunch as Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance

Recently, my teammate Jan and I were accompanying some Palestinian shepherds from the village of Tuba, one of the many villages in the area committed to nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation. The shepherds were a man and his nephew; I’ll call the man Samoud, which means “steadfastness,” because that is what he embodies.

Samoud, his nephew, Jan, and I were eating a picnic lunch when an Israeli settler security guard from Ma’on settlement appeared on a nearby hilltop, along with Israeli soldiers. Jan and I prepared for “action”, dropping our food and grabbing our video cameras and binoculars.

Samoud, however, reclining on a nearby rock, was entirely unperturbed. He told us to stop. “Eat,” he said, “and then maybe video them.”

While the settler security guard and the soldiers looked at Samoud, his nephew, and us through their binoculars, we continued our picnic. Samoud was not about to be intimidated by these men, their guns, and the state legitimizing their violence. In fact, it was not even worth interrupting his lunch.

Such an attitude typifies resistance here in the South Hebron Hills; Palestinians know they are stronger than the Israeli occupation, and they prioritize their lives accordingly. Are Israeli soldiers in the village? Fine – finish drinking tea, and then go meet them. Are Israeli authorities attempting to intimidate Palestinians off Palestinian land? It will not work. Palestinians will stay, and eat lunch on their land as an act of resistance instead.

Friday, March 20, 2009

AT-TUWANI RELEASE: At-Tuwani hosts Tony Blair to address Israeli occupation and violence in the southern West Bank

Tony Blair, representative of the Quartet on the Middle East, speaks with Saber Hereni, the mayor of At-Tuwani

19 March 2009
Photos available at http://cpt.org/gallery/album275
At-Tuwani, West Bank

On 19 March 2009, Tony Blair, representative of the Quartet on the Middle East, visited the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani, located in the southern West Bank. His reason for visiting, he stated, “is really to draw attention to the fact that without a new and different system applying in Area C [the area in the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control], then it is very hard for Palestinians to enjoy the standard of living that they should enjoy and be able to develop their land as they should be able to develop in freedom.”

Mr. Blair met with the mayor of At-Tuwani as well as members of Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove, who described the attacks and harassment Palestinians experience from Israeli settlers and soldiers when Palestinians attempt to access their land. The conversation also highlighted Israeli government inaction toward settler aggression, exemplified by the government’s failure to follow through with the demolition orders on the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on. When asked what he will do about this situation, Mr. Blair answered, “It’s got to be stopped, hasn’t it? This is what should happen. But it needs to be done in a systematic way so that the whole way this area is looked at and administered is changed to make it fair.”

Under the Oslo Accords, the village of At-Tuwani is in Area C, leaving it under Israeli military and civilian control. Israeli authorities have refused to provide electricity and running water to the village, despite the fact that the Israeli settlement of Ma’on, less than a kilometer away, has access to these utilities. In addition, the Israeli government refuses to grant building permission to Palestinians in At-Tuwani and surrounding villages.. Consequently Palestinians frequently face the threat of demolition on their houses, mosques, schools, clinics and wells. In contrast, Ma’on and Havat Ma’on and other settlements and outposts in the area continue to expand outside of regulations.

Over recent years, At-Tuwani has received increased media attention due to the people’s commitment to nonviolent resistance. Palestinians in the area have had success using nonviolence to reclaim their land and freedom of movement and to highlight the violence they experience under the Israeli occupation.

Background information is available on Christian Peacemaker Teams' website, http://www.cpt.org/work/palestine/tuwani

Thursday, March 12, 2009

At-Tuwani Release: Israeli Court Releases CPTers Arrested While Accompanying Palestinian Landowners

At 2:30 pm, on Monday, 9 March, a Jerusalem court released two Christian Peacemaker Teams members (CPTers) who were arrested while they accompanied 19 Palestinians trying to access their land near the Bedouin village of Um al-Kheir. The CPTers were charged with trespass and obstruction of construction work, despite being invited to the land by the Palestinians landowners and being at least 10 meters away from the work zone. Israeli police arrested the CPTers on Sunday, 8 March, at 11:30 am, when
Palestinian landowners asserted their right to visit their land. Palestinians from Um al-Kheir observed workers using road-building equipment on Palestinian-owned land near the adjacent Israeli settlement of Karmel. When the Palestinians and CPTers approached the work area, an Israeli settlement security guard began to shout, demanding that they leave. When they remained on their land, the guard contacted the Israeli army and police. At 12 pm, Israeli police detained the Palestinians at the scene for 45 minutes. They also arrested the CPTers and transported them to Kiryat Arba Police Station outside Hebron. Neither the army nor police asked the Palestinians for papers to ascertain the true ownership of the land.

Um al-Kheir villagers report that the work they observed is expanding Karmel settlement and stealing their land and livelihood.