Report from the West Bank

Following are notes from telephone reports by a U.S. volunteer in Occupied Palestine.

    August 31, 2002

Jennifer reports that the intensity of Israeli occupation continues to build in her area. In the past three to four weeks there have been no suicide bombings in Israel, what amounts to a unilateral cease-fire on the part of the Palestinians. But there have been 10 assassinations of Palestinians by the Israelis. The Israelis have a de facto policy in which they insist on their right to detain or kill whoever they wish at will. Curfews continue to be imposed on Palestinian towns, making it impossible for people to go to jobs, to school, to shop for food, to get medical attention, to carry on basic family and social functions.

Since people cannot work, cash is becoming very scarce and people are losing their ability to pay for the basics, for instance for electricity, which the Israelis control. Once that happens, then the water will become a serious problem since the water tanks are controlled by electricity. Housing demolitions also continue. Palestinian families are given minutes to evacuate their family homes, which are then bulldozed because the Israelis suspect some sort of connection between someone in the family and someone else connected to a suicide bombing.

The olive harvest that is just now beginning is being severely disrupted because the Israelis continue to increase the number of road blockages. These are not the same as the ubiquitous checkpoints, where Palestinians are routinely stopped, searched, and harassed in trying to get from one place to another. The road blockages are huge piles of earth, trash, old vehicles - whatever - that are bulldozed into roadways to prevent the movement of people and equipment into the agricultural harvest areas.

For Jen the most outrageous and the most astonishing thing is the horrible, intense, constant, constant, constant humiliation that the Israelis impose and the physical and spiritual stamina with which the Palestinians continue to try to meet it. Way beyond any possible justification for "security needs" the Israelis heap on the collective punishment and the humiliation. When Palestinian families are evacuated, their homes are looted, all of their personal property is deliberately destroyed, and the soldiers literally shit on what is left. Stands of ancient olive trees are needlessly bulldozed. Bulldozers have also recently been used to render completely useless 3 of the 6 functioning ambulances in the area. And those still operating are endlessly stopped and searched while the driver is slandered and harassed. An ambulance trip from Tulkarem to Nablus, which should take 20 minutes, instead takes 7 to 10 checkpoint stops and requires 1 1/2 hours. Water in the towns is usually stored in large tanks, which sit on top of buildings and houses. These tanks are routinely shot up by Israeli soldiers. And in the middle of constant denunciation of the Palestinian Security Forces, the Israelis have systematically destroyed the infrastructure of the government and security forces, including recently the last standing municipal jail.

    September 3, 2002

Jennifer said that unprovoked assaults by the Israeli military on Palestinian civilians, Palestinian property, and infrastructure continue unabated. At 5:45 this morning, Tulkarem time, as a Red Crescent shuttle driver watched from the doorway, an Israeli tank rolled around the corner and deliberately and without provocation rammed and then rolled over a clearly marked ambulance, destroying it.

The curfews continue day and night, holding the entire civilian population under "house arrest." Although the curfew was lifted on Saturday from 6 AM to 6 PM so students could attend the first day of school, the Israeli military allegedly lobbed tear gas into a local elementary school, causing the school to be evacuated. Today, the second day of school, no children have been allowed to go to school because the curfew has been reimposed. Jennifer said that the community finds this disruption to the children's education especially troubling because they value education and know without that it their children have no future.

She also said that she has heard that conditions in Zetta, a Palestinian agricultural community located along the "green line" where the wall is under construction, are quite desperate. Zetta depends on its olive trees and the annual harvest of the olive crop in October and November as the main source of income. However, the Israelis are constructing the wall INSIDE the line, instead of along the agreed-to boundaries, grabbing the olive groves for Israel. Any trees along the line of the wall have already been bulldozed. The Palestinian farmers feel their only source of income has been taken from them unlawfully and that they have no recourse.

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