An International Brigade For Palestine ?

Lueko Willms Lueko.Willms at t-online.de
Sat Sep 13 03:31:23 MDT 2003


in reply to
# Subject: An International Brigade For Palestine ?
# From: Ben Pincas <benpincas at isuisse.com>
# Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2003 03:59:21 +0200 (CEST)


   Well, there are already international solidarity activists working
in Palestine; just think of Rachel Corrie, who was killed by the
Israeli Army in the south of Gaza. 

  Also see the following report on a work camp rebuilding houses
demolished by the Israeli army, where "internationals" participated.
This is from the latest mailing from "The Other Israel" (the same
Adam Keller and Beate Zilversmidt who also manage the mailing list of
Gush Shalom), and I allow my to include the next item from that
mailing "From the demolition zone" also. 

  But when you do not think about solidarity work of that kind on
place, but armed activity, then I can only say that the time is not
ripe for that. 

Yours, 
Lüko Willms
Frankfurt/Main, Germany 
 


---- quote -----------------
[] Work Camp Report / ICAHD Coordinator Jeff Halper
------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Wed, 03 Sep 2003 12:58:23 +0300
From:           	Fred Schlomka <fred at icahd.org>

A Summing Up 

by Jeff Halper, ICAHD's Coordinator
Pictures can be viewed at http://www.icahd.org

ICAHD's work camp in the Palestinian town of Anata, where several 
hundred Israeli, Palestinian and international volunteers worked over
two weeks to rebuild the demolished home of Salim and Arabia 
Shawamreh and their seven children, reached its conclusion on August
21st. 

On that day the Beit Arabia Center for a Just Peace was 
inaugurated in a festive atmosphere -- laced, however, with anxiety
over the future of the building. Just a couple days before the work
camp was visited by officials of the Civil Administration, Israel's
military government in the Occupied Territories.

The military procession was headed by Micha Yachin, a building 
inspector who had supervised the previous four demolitions. Yachin 
ordered the confiscation of a generator and other construction 
equipment from the site on the grounds that they were being used for 
"illegal activities." He also informed Deborah Brous, the camp's 
director, that the house would be demolished yet again. 

Still, work went ahead undaunted, led by Arabia and Salim themselves.

Mike Alewitz, a well known muralist and American labor activist, 
redoubled his efforts to complete the colorful mural covering an
entire external wall of the center. It depicts a  "dead" bulldozer
lying atop a heap of military rubble, flanked by Palestinian, Israeli
and international workers protesting occupation and demolition
policies.

Floating over the scene where a home is being rebuilt amidst
scurrying Israeli bureaucrats preparing their demolition orders are
the figures of Rachel Corrie and Nuha Sweidan, two women killed in
Gaza during home demolitions. Hani, our wonderful Palestinian
contractor and his dedicated workers, worked feverishly with the
volunteers to complete the interior of the building.

Abu Mussa and his family, the Shawamreh's neighbors and our 
Bedouin hosts, slaughtered two sheep for the festive meal (to the 
dismay of many of the volunteers, especially the vegetarians among 
them). An exhibit showing the four demolitions of the Shawamreh 
house and its rebuilding, posters dedicated to Rachel Corrie, a
plaque with verses of peaqce from the Koran and other  "decorations"
were hastily placed on the walls so that the center began to take on
the appearance of a finished place.

At 4 pm we all greeted the visitors to  "our" home/center/workcamp --
some 150 Palestinian and Israeli well-wishers, including journalists.

Mike dedicated his mural with a fiery address linking American and 
Israeli state terrorism to the twin occupations of Palestine and
Iraq, conveying calls of solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli
workers from the Teamsters' and other US unions that sponsored the
project. 

Then Arabia, the heroic  "mother" of the work camp, took the keys and
opened the doors to Beit Arabiya amidst clapping and shouts of 
encouragement. Knowing how fragile Arabia is following the demolition
of her previuous homes, our happiness was tempered by the fervent
hope that the Israeli authorities would, despite their threats, not
again demolish. 

As is common to such ceremonies, we then had a string of 
personalities addressing the assembled throng. Amos Gvirtz, the 
chairman of ICAHD, opened the ceremony, with ICAHD staff member 
Na'ama Nagar moderating. He was followed by Ibrahim Salama, the 
Fatah representative in Anata; Abu Musa, the Anata mukhtar; Ziad 
Hammouri of the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights; 
myself, ICAHD's Coordinator; Salim, and Abu Musa, our Bedouin host. 
Devorah read a moving poem in memory of Rachel.

Thanks were then extended to our volunteers, as well as to Devorah, 
the camp director, and to Fred Schlomka who developed and organized 
the camp over the past six months, and who is leaving ICAHD to found
his own association for promoting mixed Jewish-Arab housing in
Israel. 

We then indulged in the foods prepared by Arabia, Abu Musa and our 
hosts from Anata.

In such an atmosphere, the notion that Israelis and Palestinians are
enemies, that our conflict is somehow primordial, preordained and
irresolvable, is seen for what it is: absolutely ridiculous, the
product of people with a vested interest in conflict, occupation and
domination.

So strong were the personal relationships among all of us after two 
weeks (or, in the case of our relationship with Arabia and Salim, six
years), that a conscious effort had to be made to invoke the
political issues around which the rebuilding centered.

The work camp was a bonding experience. Arabia, traumatized by 
repeated demolitions of her home, blossomed in the love and attention
she received. When army vehicles approached the camp one evening and
we all feared that they had come to demolish the home, Arabia rushed
to confront them.  "It was the first time in years I was not afraid,"
she said. 

Salim took charge of the camp, asserting in his own way his dignity
as he resisted both occupation and humiliation through the
rebuilding. His oldest son Ashraf also assumed a central role in the
work camp. 

The international volunteers had perhaps a greater sample of
experiences under the Occupation than any group I have known. 
They were expelled from a site of the Separation Wall by the army,
who then proceeded  to rough up the Palestinian who had addressed the
group and demolish the tent in which we met. They sat early in the
morning experiencing the anxiety Palestinian families feel 
when waiting for their homes to be demolished, and they witnessed the
demolition of Palestinian homes, comforting the families during the
tragic events. 

They resisted the Occupation by rebuilding a home, and visited
Palestinian neighborhoods and entire Bedouin villages in Israel
threatened with demolition. They travelled extensively in Israel and
the West Bank, learning the lay of the land from Palestinian and
Israeli activists, experts and residents. And they shared two weeks
of their lives with the Shawamreh family and their neighbors.

The project is not yet over. Even as we begin to plan activities for
the Beit Arabia/Rachel Corrie/Nuha Sweidan peace center, we are
waiting day by day for the Israeli authorities to come and demolish. 
We have organized teams of activists to sleep at the center every
night so that we may resist the demolition and document it. We pray
that the house/center will continue to stand, and we ask each of you
to monitor its fate. 

If Beit Arabia is allowed to function, it will become a center for
Palestinian/Israeli political strategizing, as well as a place where
journalists, diplomats, students and activists can learn about the
conflict and meet key players. It will contain a library of resource
materials and an exhibit of house demolitions, and will be available
to any Palestinian, Israeli or international group that wishes to use
its facilities. 

If Beit Arabia is demolished, we want the word to spread near and
far. We cannot let the Occupation win. We must rebuild every time
they demolish. And for that we will need your help and support.

Stay in touch with us.

In Peace,

Jeff Halper
Pictures can be viewed at http://www.icahd.org


[] Notes from the demolition zone / Victoria Buch
-----------Forwarded message follows-------
Forwarded message:     Victoria Buch <vvbb54 at yahoo.com>
Date sent:      	31 Aug 2003, at 1:19

Hello Friends,

Friends,

Last week I went for a tour of  the home demolition
zone - Arab neighborhoods / villages around 
Jerusalem - with a journalist who wished to study
the subject. I should like to tell you about the
Walaje part of our tour.

Victoria Buch, 
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
----------------------------------------

Notes from the demolition zone

27.8, 11AM, we arrive to the village of Walaje. A
councilman named Adnan picks us from the Beit Jallah
checkpoint. We drive along a broken road ("The
villagers were not allowed to fix it", we are told).
 A pretty view across the non-existent Green Line
(the old border) includes south Jerusalem Jewish
neighborhoods. In another direction - Ora and
Aminadav suburban moshavs. "That is where the real
Walaje was" we are told. "Walaje people were chased
out in 1948. Most left for Bet Jallah, Jordan,
whatnot. Some stayed and built a new village in
their own fields, on the opposite hill - the present
location.  '67 looked first like an improvement.
Jobs could be had in Jerusalem.  People could afford
to expand houses. No government agency took
interest. 

But in 1987 a big portion of the new Walaje was
declared part of Jerusalem. The land that is, not
the people. The war of the State of Israel on the
"superfluous" Walaje people was begun. First
bulldozers were sent to flatten "unlicensed" houses.
Councilman Adnan's, for example.  "This is the only
'service' we get from this municipality - bulldozer
service" - he quips.  Appeals to Yitzhak Rabin
produced temporary respite.  But now it is very bad.
Only two weeks ago, four and a half houses were
demolished. We head to "half the demolished house",
which is surrounded by a neat garden. Much of the
upper floor is ripped off. We are told the following
story:

Families of several married brothers could not fit
into the old 4-room house. So a second floor was
built. The construction was duly noted by building
controllers. Demolition order came, followed by a
year of legal process. Then- demolition order
confirmation, plus a 49,000NIS fine. The owner was
requested to express regret for his misdeeds. The
fine has been already paid for years, 700NIS per
month. Then the authorities decided: period of
robbery is over, time to demolish. Legal proceedings
were reactivated.

The owner is telling about the demolition day:
"Early morning, I am at work in Jerusalem, people
call - bulldozers are coming" I run to the lawyer,
we run to the court, to get a stay order - 'legal
process in progress'.  We wait for the judge to
arrive at 8AM." 

The story is picked by Abu Nidal, an elderly
relative. "Curfew was declared over the entire
village. The family was chased out in their
bedclothes and locked in another house. Demolishers
brought Romanians, to empty the second floor. I told
the Border Police commander, 'Wait, a stay order
will be coming shortly'. As a response, Romanians
were ordered to hurry, things - refrigerator, TV,
were thrown out quickly off the window. Then I get a
phone call - 'The stay order is ready' I beg the
commander  "Please, stop until I go get a fax". 
'You cannot go anywhere - curfew!' I am told. I go
anyway and ignore the order to stop.  Meanwhile they
start demolishing. On the way back I am stopped by
the second officer, who studies the fax slowly and
deliberately, for some 15 minutes. They keep
demolishing. Then the officer orders the demolition
crew away. Much of the second floor is gone, by
then."

Then we are taken for a tour of Walaje, in the car.
Most houses have pending legal cases against them.
Every now and then, remains of a demolished house. A
litany, "2 weeks ago.. 3 months ago..  2 years 
ago.." . We are shown another
part of Walaje "This is area C - under direct
military occupation. Here the Israeli Civil
administration demolishes, not the municipality." In
between there is a stretch of land: "Area B, 'free
Palestine' the only part where the Walaje council
issues housing licenses". 

A spate of new demolition and land expropriation
orders arrived recently to Walaje, this time from
the army. A circular "security road" will be built,
smack in the middle of the village.  The army
already demolished a concrete shack of a weird
lonely man of the village, near the spring. We are
shown the gardens near the spring, where the loop of
the "security road" will be built. Abu-Nidal leaves
for a moment to visit his grandma's tomb. "Grandpa
buried her here many years ago, to be close - in
those days people still hoped to return to the Real
Walaje, just across the valley".
 
Victoria 

------------- unquote --------








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