Palestine Eyewitness

Palestine eyewitness

I am an Australian working with international human rights group, the International Women’s Peace Service in Palestine. This is a blog on my time here.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Budrus: The threat of a good example

In a earlier blog, called Report from Palestine on the 4th Anniversay of the Second Intifada, I introduced readers to the village of Budrus, west of Ramallah. Budrus for the last year and half has been waging a united non-violent campaign to stop the confisication of their land and the construction of the Apartheid Wall on it (see also Green Left Weekly

The village had been successful in stopping construction for a period of time and had shown that a united non-violent campaign could actually win some victories.

The village continues to resist and the Israeli government is threatened by their stance.

Recently one of the leaders, Ahmed Awad, of the Popular Committee from the village was arrested and put under administrative detention (see the Ha'aretz article Ahmed is currently under administrative detention, meaning that the Shabak (Shin Bet/Secret Police) do not have to publicly present any proof that he has committed a crime or done anything wrong.

Originally one military judge deemed that there was no evidence to hold him, but another has agreed that he is a "security threat" and placed him under administrative detention for two months. This detention could be extended indefinitely if they chose to do so. In response to Ahmed arrest and the continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, the village invited Israeli and International peace activists to help plan a solidarity action to highlight Ahmed's arrest. The idea that the Israeli peace activists came up with was that to have a demonstration with the theme being "I am Ahmed Awad". The idea was that the Israeli activists would carry no ID and they would voluntarily be arrested and submit their name as Ahmed Awad.

The action, while very symbolic in many ways, was very inspiring because was exactly what the Israeli security forces are trying to stop – fraternization between Israelis and Palestinians, who are working peacefully in a joint struggle against the occupation and the wall. Fraternization between Israelis and Palestinians is a major taboo and is something the Israeli state tries to ensure does not happen.

Awad and Budrus' main crime is that they have been a successful in their non-violent campaign, not only uniting Israeli's and Palestinians, but also stopping the wall construction for a short period. Budrus is a real threat because they offer a real example of how to win and how to do it in a united and non-violent way.

Kate, S and myself left Al Quds around 10 am, hoping that three hours would be adequate enough to get us to Budrus, even if there was some delays. We headed first for Ramallah to catch a serveece from there to the village. The journey from Ramallah to Budrus, is probably one the prettiest ones I have taken here. Lots of olive trees lining the road and rolling hills either side. A half an hour into the journey we hit our first checkpoint. The soldiers did not even ask us to stop fully or check our IDs, they simply yelled "Go Back" and waved their guns at us. Our driver, who had no choice but to obey, turned us around.

As we headed back the way we came, Kate asked whether we were going to Ramallah or another way. Another way, said the driver. I have begun to joke that Palestinian serveece drivers are definitely the font of all knowledge. I can not count how many times we have relied on their knowledge and ingenuity to get us to demonstrations, through checkpoints, to provide information on situations for us and assist us when it comes to the army or other problems.

The previous week when we had left Jenin, we had hit a flying checkpoint and the driver not wanting to wait and miss the small period of time allowed by the IOF to pass through Beit Iba checkpoint, turned us around and took us cross country, through the agricultural fields. There had been heavy rain for several days and the ground was soft and we held our breaths several times, thinking we were going to be stuck in mud. However, after a bit of "bush bashing" through fields, rubbish dumps and river beds, we finally got safely to the other side and continued on our way unabated.

As we approached the village of Ni'alin just outside of Budrus, we hit a permanent checkpoint. At this checkpoint, everyone was hauled from the car and asked where we were going. After some more questioning, the soldiers eventually told the Palestinians they could get back into the car. As we went to do the same, they told us we were not allowed to go. As we started to argue with them, the soldier in charge kept saying, "you know why you can't go".

It was obvious that we were not going to be able to continue in the serveece, so not wanting to hold up the Palestinians and cause them any trouble, we got our bags and paid the driver and said thanks. As the serveece drove off and we were stuck in the middle o nowhere, we again started to argue with the soldiers. I asked one why was he harassing people to which he replied, "I'm not". But you are I said, "you are stopping people going about their journeys, you are making hard for the Palestinians who just want to get home to their families".

We quickly decided to try and make a break for it and just walk through the checkpoint hoping that they would not be paying to much attention to us now as other cars came through. As we started to walk quickly, Kate almost made it when the soldier in charge came running up to stop us. Kate kept trying to get past him but he was having none of it. So we sat down and two more soldiers came over.

For the next 10 minutes we started to debate and argue with them about what they were doing here. Parroting the usual refrain of all the soldiers we have ever encountered, they said," We are just following orders". "But don't you ever question what your are told", we all chorused. "The order was signed by somebody high-up" said the woman soldier, "and they know better then us".

S and I then started to say, "well other soldiers in history have said that too and look what happened". The female soldier confused by our obstinacy kept telling us that they were trying to protect us and when I said we really didn't need or want their protection and that they were harassing us, she said "but I am not doing anything too you". She seemed even more perplexed when I responded, "but you are. You are infringing on our civil liberties and our right to move freely".

Realising that time was getting away from us, we decided to walk away from the checkpoint and see what our next move would be. As we headed down the hill out of sight of the checkpoint, we decided to cut across the fields of Ni'alin. For a half hour we weaved in and out of terraced hills, through the cactus, rocks and olive trees before we finally reached the village. Relieved we had not been seen by the soldiers, we found the main street of the village and hailed a serveece to take us the rest of the way, hoping we would not encounter anymore IOF.

Within 15 minutes we reached the village, but it was 1.20pm and the demonstration had started dead on time at 1pm. As we made our way to the fields, we could hear teargas and sound grenades being fired and saw groups of boys, villagers and internationals running.

As we moved up too the hill where the internationals were, we were told that around 50 Israeli activists and 30 Internationals had joined 100 villagers. Usually, village demonstrations are always lead by the Palestinians with Internationals and Israelis at the back of the rally, however, because the idea of this rally was for the Israeli activists to be arrested to highlight the arrest and detention of Ahmed for non-violent resistance, it was the Israeli activists who this time led the march. The demonstration we were told, had been peaceful and the demonstrators wearing signs in five languages, saying "I am Ahmed Awad" had successfully made it down to the bulldozers.

Once the IOF had started firing on and attacking the non-violent demonstrators, the shabab (Palestinian boys) began to take up positions with their sling shots and rocks. As Kate and I moved down the street to the open field we could see IOF arguing with some of the women from the Israeli human rights group, Maschom Watch (Checkpoint Watch). Kate began filming and I began to take pictures. A few minutes later teargas began exploding around us, as the IOF began firing on us and Kate narrowly missed being hit.

We moved back up the hill and for the next half hour, the young women in the village began chanting at the soldiers to go home. As we moved cautiously back down the street, we could see that some of the Israeli activists who had been detained were coming back up from the valley where the bulldozers were. The villagers began to move out into the field, with the young women of Budrus once again taking the lead. For a half another we stood there watching the soldiers and the young women slowly moved out into the field.

The television media, which had been down in the valley, suddenly began to make their way back up to the flat area where we were. Seeing the media and hoping their presence would deter the IOF from attacking, the young women and the rest of the village began to move calmly and slowly towards the soldiers. The shabab had stopped throwing stones sometime back, when asked by leaders of the village and the non-violent peaceful demonstration once again began to move out onto the field. The soldiers confused as to what to do, with the media present but also around 100 demonstrators advancing on them, at first held fire. Clearly rattled by the advancing, peaceful, chanting crowd, the soldiers knelt and began to take aim, firing teargas and sound grenades directly at demonstrators.

As we began to run back, one Israeli activist wearing a prosthetic leg fell. As she fell, she landed on an exploding sound grenade, while another landed next to her and exploded. As we rushed to assist her, we could see that the explosion had burnt a huge hole in her clothing and that she had sustained burns. We picked her up and carried her to the ambulance. All the while the IOF continued to fire into the crowd.

As we were retreating to the ambulance, the IOF began to fire on the ambulance. Several of us were hit full force by tear gas canisters fired at high velocity. D, one of the ISMers was hit in the stomach, when suddenly I felt a huge whack on my upper thigh. I initially did not realise what had happened, but within seconds I could feel my skin burning and gas began to explode around me and knew I had been hit by teargas canister. Everyone around me began running and the ambulance drivers tried to maneuver up the hill to get out the fire of the IOF.

When we were finally out of range of the IOF we began to take stock and see how badly people were hurt. The woman who we had carried to the ambulance, luckily only sustained minor burns. D and I, despite being hit by the canisters were reasonably okay. We had copped the teargas full on and like everyone else our eyes and noses were streaming but within ten minutes this had subsided. I was in some pain and limping from being hit full force by the teargas canister, but while there were some abrasions caused from the velocity and heat of the canister, my skin was not broken and there was no bleeding.

I now, however, have a massive round deep purple bruise around 10 –12 cm across in diameter and it has of course been quite tender. In the days following, my body has started to ache all over, no doubt in reaction to the trauma of being hit with such force. Despite "creaking" a lot and aching, I am fine and will recover with no problems and I am extremely grateful that I had not been hit in the head or back with the canister or by a rubber bullet which were also being fired (recently one activist had been hit with rubber bullet in the upper thigh and it had penetrated 4 cms).

For the next hour and half, a stand off between the village and the IOF continued. The IOF armed with rubber bullets, live ammuniation, teargas and sound grenades to continued to attack an overwhelming peaceful demonstration. Kate had sought refugee in the house that I had been given refugee in at the last demonstration at Budrus. The soldiers, however, also raided the house and commandeered the roof from which they continued to fire teargas and sound grenades at us.

In response to the full frontal attack on the peaceful demonstration by the IOF, the shabab once again began to amass behind a half built house to defend their village and began firing a constant rain of stones at the soldiers on the roof. The soldiers armed with high tech weaponary and boys armed with stones continued their standoff for about another half hour before both sides decide to retreat slightly. At this stage, the village leaders decided it was time for us to pull back all together. Several of the ISMers agreed to stay in the village over night in case there were any further incursions.

41 Israelis had orginally been detained by the IOF. As we gathered back at one of the village leaders house, the phone call came through that most of them had been realised and only four were being officially arrested. A half an hour later, those who had been released were soon back at the house. They had been split up and some taken to the local area command and then released, while others were detained down in the olive groves.

Budrus' campaign to stop the wall will continue. Budrus’ campaign is one which frightens both the Israeli military and the Israeli state. They are a threat because they have successfully forged ties with Israelis, something which is taboo and which Israel does everything in its power to prevent. They are a threat because their campaign has been overwhelmingly been non-violent for the most part. They are a threat because they have united activists from all Palestinian factions and from Palestinian civil society. But most of all they are a threat because they have shown that a small Palestinian village can take on the Israeli state and military and win.


This blog is written by my friend and colleague, Kate.

Kate is a Jewish activist who has spent almost a year in Palestine and writes regularly about her experiences here for her own blog and for her friends and family. Kate has kindly given me permission to publish her blog, ‘Humiliation’, on Palestine Eyewitness.


December 5, 2004

Humiliation.When you ask Palestinians to talk about the occupation, especially the men, the word that comes up more than any other is "humiliation." Ask about the occupation, and the first ten stories will be about checkpoints, and all of them will have the word "humiliation" in them.

It is hard for people not living in this situation to grasp, that humiliation is the hardest thing about living under occupation, much worse than violence. I have said something like this before, the dailiness of it, the ordinariness, the fact that it might happen ten times a day or even more, depending on where you live and work and what is happening there, the way that it emphasizes to you that you have no control over your life. It is hard for me to grasp, and I have lived here for more than a year now (a fact that is also very hard for me to grasp). It's hard for me to understand because I don't feel humiliated when I am stopped at a checkpoint or asked a hundred times a day, "Where are you from?" "What are you doing here?" But of course, the checkpoints are not meant to humiliate me. They are not asking the questions for that, though why they are asking them, I cannot quite figure out. It is certainly not because they want to know, and not because it tells them anything.

But it is telling that "Where are you from?" ("Meayfo at?") is almost always the first question they ask, before "Where are you going?" or "What are you doing?" It speaks to the apartheid nature of these control mechanisms. By asking, "Where are you from?" they are asking, "How do I have to treat you?" Last night in the Old City, a border policeman stepped in front of a group of men and asked, "Where are you from" in Hebrew. One of the men said, "Do you speak English?" He repeated the question, immediately more polite. The man said, "Colombia." The policeman was visibly shocked and withdrew, saying, "Oh, go ahead," and then answered some questions about how to get to a certain bar near New Gate. I thought, they could have been from Nablus and answered, "Colombia," and would he have known the difference? He did not ask them for ID. I think it doesn't even occur to them that people might lie to them.

Whenever I am in a service going to Jerusalem, at the checkpoint the border police get on and usually everyone just holds up their IDs and they look at the cover and if they are blue, they don't ask to see them, only the green or orange ones. So I always think, isn't there a huge underground market in blue plastic covers? But I don't think there is, because most people are too afraid to lie. And that in itself is humiliating, that you feel like you have to tell these bastards the truth, because if you are caught lying, you will be punished so severely. It is like being a child with an abusive parent.

The South Africans who are working here talk about it being worse than their apartheid system. I tend to react negatively to that, because I think of the violence, and certainly, the South African government was as violent and as harsh in its repression of Africans and much more so of dissent within the white society. But I think what they are seeing is the humiliation factor, the in-your-face-ness of the occupation, the way that it controls every aspect of Palestinian life, they can never forget it, while the Black South Africans had more space to call their own, they didn't run into the police or the army every day.

My neighbor, Abu R, was saying tonight that the last Intifada was concentrated in the cities, but this one has been more in the villages, because the cities are technically unoccupied, while the villages are where the army is omnipresent. Sami Awad was talking about this issue, "How do we resist from within a prison?" Though in that sense, the prison analogy is not good (in others, it is quite apt), because in prison, normally the repressive apparatus is very visible. It is more like, "How do we resist when we are on reservations?" The South Africans had their labor to withhold, but Israel is no longer dependent on Palestinian labor.

This evening, I was going to visit some friends in Deir Balut, and there was a checkpoint at the entrance to the village. A service was being checked, and when I got there, I asked the driver if he had room and he said no, though I think that he did. The soldiers asked me where I was from, as usual, and I answered in Hebrew, and then they asked why I was taking Palestinian transportation. I said in English, if you want to go to Qarawa, it is the only way to go. They didn't understand. I tried to ignore them, and one soldier asked, "Do you need any help?"
I said, "Well, if you want to help me, you could go away, because while you are here, no one wants to pick me up."

He said, "I don't know what you are talking about."

He finished checking the next car and it went through and I realized that it was Abu R, who was taking one of his employees who lives in Biddia to the Qarawa roadblock. When he saw me, he picked me up, and then he said he had thought I was with the army. I said, yes, everyone thought that, and told him about my conversation with the soldier. He laughed and said, "He can understand what you say, but he cannot do what you ask."

I thought about how it feels to be someone like him, a man of tremendous power in his community, who was, at some point, a military leader much higher than these kids who were asking for his ID, and now is sort of a leader in a nonviolent movement including hundreds of Israelis and internationals, as well as Palestinians, who's been interviewed for documentaries and European television and South African radio, and to have to give your ID on demand to any bored Israeli punk in a uniform and say nothing, if you don't want a hassle or worse. I think about how it must feel to men who are doctors or sheikhs, standing for hours at checkpoints, to have to ask Israeli women or me, who has no social power in my own society whatever, to beg the soldiers to let them go to the doctor or to work or whatever. And then I feel bad for being classist and thinking that maybe their humiliation matters more than that of an old farmer or a builder or the kids who sell gum at the checkpoints.

Last week, I went on a trip to Jenin, and we hit a flying checkpoint on the way. The line of cars was really long and didn't seem to be moving well. I got out and walked up to the front to see what was happening. There was a huge space between the cars going north and those going south – maybe 200 meters, and the soldiers were standing in the middle and really taking their time motioning cars forward from one side and then the next. I was just going to stand at a distance and watch, see if it sped it up any, but they called out to me to come, so I did. They asked me a bunch of questions (interestingly, the first one was not "Where are you from?" but "Where are you?"), and told me that they hate Arabs.

I asked, "So is that why you are here, because you hate them?" and one of the soldiers answered, "Yes, I hate them because they kill my friends." I walked away, and he called me back. I tried not to go, saying, "I don't want to talk to you, it will just hold up all these cars." He said, "It will not take long, just two words." I went back. "Two words," I said. "I don't hate all of them," he said. "Just the ones who kill us."

I said, "Okay," and turned around. The commander came forward then and made a point of telling me to go wait in the car, which I was already about to do. The line suddenly went a lot faster and people were able to wait much closer to them.

When our car got to the front, they told us all to get out. Ours was the only car they did that with. We were standing on one side of the car, and they gestured to us to move to the other side. We obeyed, and lined up and gave them our IDs. Then one soldier, not the one I had talked to before, came over to me. "What are you doing here?" "Visiting friends. What are you doing?" He said, "Visiting friends." I have to admit, that is the first time I have gotten that response. His friend called out in Hebrew, "Give her your phone number." He said, "I'm looking for a special friend." I said, "Well, you're unlikely to find one here, go home." He gave me back the IDs and we left.

Why did they do it? Whom were they hoping to humiliate, me or the Palestinians? Or both? The sad thing is, they wanted to do something to show disrespect, and to flaunt their power, but they were not really sadists, so once they had done that, they couldn't figure out anything to do with us.

On Saturday night, I encountered some border police who were sadists. Nine of them were hanging out near the entrance of the Old City, and they would call young men over and beat them. Just like that. One guy, they slapped twice and kicked once, another guy they choked and were getting ready to beat with clubs when I ran up. They made one kid take off his shoes and socks and it was freezing and wet. They had told me to get lost, but I didn't, so they took my ID and they didn't like it (copy of my passport and my IWPS ID card, in a Palestinian ID folder). I think they let it go because they don't read English well and couldn't tell exactly what the ID card was and if it was something official or not. Father M, the rector at the Hospice, came by while I was waiting to get it back, and I went to talk to him, thinking it might help. Then right before they let me go, a Palestinian man I know, who works in a drug prevention and treatment program in the Old City, happened by and said, "Are you okay? Do you need any help?"

People have been talking about the story, that Israelis are more upset about soldiers at a checkpoint making a man play the violin for them than they are about the soldier in Gaza firing a barrage of bullets into a 13-year-old girl after she was wounded. I don't think it should be either-or, people can and should be outraged by both incidents. But in a certain way, those who are more outraged about the violin incident, are the ones who correctly understand the long-term strategy of occupation. The incident in Rafah illustrates the complete dehumanization of the officer who killed the girl. The incident at Beit Iba illustrates the conscious dehumanization of the violinist – taking a man's pride and joy, his talent, the thing that gives his life meaning, and forcing him to use it as an instrument of oppression.

In an online chat with my friend N, she asks, "is it humiliating because that is the intent? or can it not be humiliating if one is not humiliated?"

The intent is definitely to humiliate. But if you are not humiliated, then you pretty much rob them of their power. They can use violence, but the violence is also primarily meant to humiliate.

My friend A told this intense story, in the interview I did with her, about an incident where a soldier said, "You're going to spend the night with me in the tower," and she decided to keep walking and leave her ID behind. And how she took the power from him. But I think about how terrified she must have been, because really, he could have killed her.

For Palestinians in the area where I live, the sheer existence of the army in their faces every day, on their land, driving their jeeps around on roads carved out of their olive groves, and the fact that these 18 year old kids can stop them and demand ID from them and ask them prying questions or make them play the violin and they can't fight back, is humiliating. Because it says that as a people, they have no power.

My friend Um F never even looks at the soldiers when she encounters a checkpoint, never takes out her ID ahead of time like others do, and almost all of the time she just walks through without stopping. A Palestinian friend of N's in Ramallah says she doesn't believe in documents (passports, IDs, car registrations), so she doesn't carry them. I don't understand how she gets around, but she does. She gets hassle, but she has never been arrested for it and she always gets to work and home again. I want to interview her about it. I don't know how long she's had this policy. Right now, she is about my age.

It's kind of like me and giving the copy of my passport all the time. Sometimes I think it is making trouble where there doesn't need to be any. But it is also subverting the occupation, which is built of rules. Because if I just give them the passport, they glance at it and let me go, and everything goes smoothly. And if I give them something they don't expect, they have to think about it. Sometime this year, I started to think, "Why do I always make so much trouble? I can just show them the passport and go on my way." Now I think, maybe that is when I started to think more like an occupied person.

Jenin Lives!

Jenin, in the north of the West Bank, hit international headlines in 2002 when Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) invaded the city and refugee camp, bulldozed hundreds of house, leaving thousands homeless and hundreds dead causing a massive humanitarian disaster. In early December, Kate and I went to Jenin to do interviews with Palestinians women’s groups and activists.

As we began our journey to Jenin, we discovered that the Border Police were at the front entrance to our village. They had stopped one of the local Palestinian buses and made everyone get off and were checking their hawiyye (ID cards). As we got there all the men were getting back on the bus and we had discovered that they had been there for about a half hour or so.

It is not unusual for Palestinian buses to be stopped for long periods of time by the IOF and having travelled on buses in the last few months, I already knew what had just passed.

Either the driver or one of the passengers on the bus would have been ordered to collect all the hawiyye (ID cards) and then take them to either the Border Police or the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) solider and wait for them to go through them. Palestinian hawiyye are Green or Orange ID cards and identify the holder as Palestinian. Israeli IDs on the other had are blue. The colour coding makes it easy for occupation forces to easily identify who is Israeli and who is Palestinian, with the colour coding of IDs yet another example of the structural and institutionalised apartheid imposed by the Israeli state.

As the hawiyye is being collected and then checked by the Border Police or soliders, in the majority of cases but not all, the rest of the men would also have had to get off the bus and wait, as they had done this morning. Sometimes they would be called up individually and checked, other times they would be told either individually or collectively to raise their shirts to prove they had no bomb strapped to their chests.

Eventually, they would be allowed back on the bus and to continue their journey. How long they would have to wait would be totally arbitrary and depend on the mood of the soldiers or the police officer conducting the check. Recently one of our other team members, J was on her way to Ramallah for her days off, when the bus she was on was stopped for three hours. When she asked what was going on, she was repeatedly told that it was not safe to travel on the bus because the ‘Arabs were all terrorists’.

Eventually, we were on our way, but we were to encounter two more flying checkpoints before we reached Jenin. At the second one, less then 20 minutes from our village and near Tulkarem, the procedure was repeated. The hawiyye and our passports collected, handed to the soldiers and then after 15 or 20 minutes, we were passed through.

It was the third checkpoint that we encountered, however, which was the most disturbing. As we neared the village of Balaa, 6 soldiers were stationed in the valley along the winding road, stopping all traffic.

As traffic banked up, Kate decided to go down to see what was going on. She later told me that when she asked what was going on and why were the IOF there, one of them replied, without censoring himself first, “because we hate the Arabs”, but then realised what he said and quickly said “only the ones who kill us”.

In front of us was a truck carrying live chickens and as its turn came to go through, the first two soldiers spoke to the driver and checked the truck and then waved him through. However, they were then halted by the second set of soldiers who also decided to recheck the vehicle.

From the hill we watched in silence. One of the other passengers in our servicee then broke the tension by saying what we all had been thinking about the pointless rechecking of the chicken truck. Provoking a weary laugh from the rest of us in the servicee, he muttered to no-one in particular, but to all of us….“what are they checking for … exploding chickens?”.

When it came our turn to pass through, we were waved through by the first set of soldiers to the second two. Here the double edged sword of being an international shone threw.

Being an international, we more often then not are able to use our positions to help alleviate some of the more over the top harassment of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces, but on some occasions the presence of internationals can also make soldiers angry and they then take out that anger on the Palestinians. We are always constantly aware that this can happen and as a result we try to gage the situation to ensure that any interactions we have do not escalate a situation unnecessarily.

As we approached the middle set of soldiers, our car was told to stop and we were instructed to get out. In the half an hour we had been waiting, no one else had been asked to leave their vehicles. It was clear from the soldier’s behaviour that Kate and I were the reason for this happening.

The young soldier checking the IDs who would not have been more then 20 or 21 years old was clearly bored and was looking to show that he could do what ever he wanted and to know doubt show the Palestinians they should not be doing any favours for internationals or even interacting with them.

Briefly checking the Palestinian hawiyee, he then focused on Kate and my passports. “Where are you from? Why are you here? Where are you going?”.

"To visit friends", Kate said. To this the young solider replied, “I’m looking for special friend’. Kate replied in a flat tone “well I doubt you will find any here, so perhaps you should go home”. Ignoring Kate’s comment, he continued to recheck our passports.

Kate, who speaks little Hebrew as well as Arabic, later told me that the other soldier, who had a smarmy grin on his face the whole encounter had said to the soldier checking out passports “give her your phone number’. After another few minutes of pointless questioning and sexist innuendo, we were finally allowed to get back into the car and waved through.

As we sat in silence in the car I felt angry, degraded, dirty and powerless. The thought raced through my head, if I felt this way after such a minor encounter, imagine how the Palestine people must feel all the time. Every single day, they are humiliated and degraded by the occupation and the security forces. In addition, to enduring their own humiliation, they must also endure the continuous and ongoing humiliation and shaming of their mothers, sisters, brothers and fathers. Every week here, you see, hear and are told stories of ritual humiliation.

Just a week earlier, the Israeli newspapers carried a disturbing photograph taken by the women from the Israeli human rights group, Maschom Watch (Checkpoint Watch). The photo, reminiscent of the holocaust, was of a Palestinian being forced to play a violin for soldiers before he was allowed to pass through the checkpoint at Beit Iba.

The week prior to that, when visiting with our friend F, her 16 year old daughter S, told me a story about soldiers at one checkpiont thought it was amusing to try and humiliate a young Palestinian man and woman by forcing them to kiss each other.

The soldiers, she said, had refused to let one young man pass through a checkpoint unless he kissed a young Palestinian woman. The young man did not know the young woman, who also just waiting to be passed through. The young Palestinian woman, refusing to be degraded or humiliated by the soldiers, told the Palestinian man that it was okay because to her he was her brother. Later the young man, apparently impressed by the woman’s dignity and kindness, went to her family to ask to marry her.

In the weeks since our trip to Jenin, one of the leading IOF Major Generals, Elazar Stern, told the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) committee for Constitution, Law and Justice that one in five soldiers (around 20% of the IOF) believed that the life of a Palestinian or Arab was worth less then the life of an Jewish person ( As a result said Stern, Palestinians were regularly degraded and humilated at checkpoints and roadblocks.

We eventually reached Jenin and we met up with Kate’s friend, Y who had arranged for us to meet with some of the local groups and families who had lost land to the wall the next day.

Y told us how he had been working to try and establish a cultural centre for the children both in Jenin city and Jenin camp. From the window of our room, he showed me the camp and where the 2002 incursions into the camp had taken place and where the IOF demolished hundreds of homes and killed dozens of innocent civilians in the process.

Y told me that in the aftermath of the incursion, he and others had organised for the children between the age of 6 and 16 years to do painting and drawing workshops as therapy in response to the trauma they had just been through. The theme which the children had been asked to draw was “a day in your life”. Many of the drawings from those sessions were now in Scotland as part of a exhibition, but he promised to bring some of the ones he still had the following day to show us.

Later that night, Kate and I went our separate ways for an hour or so and agreed to meet back at the unit. Kate, however, got lost. As I waited for her to come back (with the key to get into our room), on the stairs near our apartment, the children from the neighbouring apartment came out to see what this strange woman was doing sitting on the step. They invited me to come in and eventually I agreed. The oldest boy, 12 year M, called me over and lifted the blanket that lay across his lap to show me the plastercast on his right leg and the bandage on his left. I quickly realised he had been shot by the IOF.

Kate soon arrived and was also invited in for coffee. In Arabic, M’s parents explained that he had been shot twice. One bullet had shattered the bone in his right leg and the other had entered the calf of his left leg.

Kate asked why the soldiers had shot him and was he the only one. M told her, he had been throwing stones and the soldiers had shot him and nineteen other young boys that day. In early November, when he had been shot, the IOF had also assassinated four militants in Jenin and had regularly raid house and arrested and detained children and adults.

Later that night, at 1.30am, Jenin once again experience tanks rolling through her streets. The tanks, we were later told, had set up near the camp. A few days, later after we had left the city, the IOF entered the camp and carried out raids once again.

The next day, Y arrived at the apartment. He brought with the drawings and paintings he had told us about the night before. We sat in a circle and he passed each one to us. The paintings, he explained were done be children from his village, while the drawings done in coloured pencil were by the children from Jenin camp. The difference between the two was stark.

While many of the paintings from the children from the village carried images in browns and blacks, tanks and guns, there were also many which depicted “normalcy” with the children using green and red and other bright colours drew their parents, their house, trees, flowers and grass. In contrast, all the drawing done by the children from Jenin camp were dark, full of pain and suffering.

Dark in colour, browns, blacks, dark blue, most of the drawing showed the rolling hills of Jenin camp. The hills and streets, however, were not filled with pretty houses or trees or flowers, but instead they were populated with images of Israeli tanks carrying the Star of David flag, firing on protestors, soldiers shooting people, helicopters firing missiles at houses and buildings, as well as houses on fire, buildings exploding. As I picked up each drawing and looked at the pain that filled them, my heart just broke for the children who drawn them and the horrors they had witnessed.

Y then asked me would I take the drawings with me to Australia and do an exhibition, like the one in Scotland. I was completely dumbstruck and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the request.

I remembered seeing an exhibition in Canberra a number of years ago of paintings and drawing by Jewish children who lived and died in Theresienstadt/Terezin concentration camp and remembered how moved I had been by the exhibition and how important I had thought it was that these children’s testaments had been saved. All I could think was how now can I be responsible for such precious and important documents? How could I be responsible for the testaments of the children of Jenin and his village?

Y, however, was certain it was the right thing to do and that I should take them. And finally I agreed. R and I had been talking about doing a photographic exhibition when we got back to Australia and I had also started collecting anti-occupation posters from the various organisations and towns I had visited. I now had enough of them and thought they too could be used as part of any exhibition we did. Now, it seemed that I also had a collection of precious drawings and paintings to add, as well as a cd with photographs of the drawings that had gone to Scotland.

After carefully packing away the drawings, Y took us to meet the women from the General Women’s Union. Although they were busy organising to ensure women’s involvement in the upcoming Palestinian election, several of them took time out to talk with us. One of the women, H, who agreed to talk with us and to be interviewed by both myself and Kate, had been imprisoned in an Israeli jail.

H had spent two years in an Israeli prison because she had been an activist with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Hiyam told us that she had been involved in the social and welfare work carried out by the organisation and had been an outspoken opponent of the occupation.

H’s story, was like many of the stories, I had either read about or had heard from others who spent time in the Israeli jails. My friend M had been jailed three times during the first intifada, as a young teenager for simply throwing stones (spending a total of a 2 and half years in prison). He was lucky he told me, because he did not suffer any physical torture, only psychological. H, however, had not been so lucky.

One of the torture techniques favoured by Israeli interrogators is make prisoners stand with a dirty and smelly sack on prisoner’s head, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, to exhaust them, disorientate and isolate them. H, like many other women, was subjected to this abuse.

She went on to tell us how she was burnt with cigarettes and cigars, how she had been electrocuted and how the women had been isolated and beaten. She told us how the women were humiliated and left without sanitary products during their menstruation period. She told us how the Israelis would encourage the Israeli women prisoners in the criminal section of the prison to attack the Palestinian women political prisoners. In particular, said H, the more psychologically disturbed Israeli women prisoners were used to terrorise the Palestinian women political prisoners by letting them roam the Palestinian sections screaming, yelling and physically attacking the Palestinian women.

As she told us her story, H began to cry, the memory of it all was still fresh she told us. As I sat there and listened to her story, I too was on the verge of tears. I tried to image myself in her place, going through what she had gone through. How would I cope? Would I have the strength, both mentally and physically to get through it? What would I do?

As H told us her story, I also thought of Nidia Diaz, the El Salvadorian revolutionary, who too had kidnapped and brutalised in prison but who never gave in to her torturers. I remembered how moved I had been by her story and courage, just as I now was by H’s story.

There were really no words to be able to express our thanks to H for sharing her life with us, but we tried anyway.

With our time in Jenin almost over, Y took us to meet with a family is Suweitat, about 10 minutes from the outskirts of Jenin. The family once had 200 dunum of land (1 dunum = 1000 sq meters) but much of it now lay behind the electronic fence which made up the apartheid wall that ran through the Jenin region. As we drove onto their property, we were greeted by the two destroyed houses. The houses, now just concrete rubble and wire garters, had apparently been a “security risk” and were demolished at the time of the 2002 incursion.

Y took us to meet the family. The women were sitting in the yard, thrashing wheat. Just down the hill a little from where the family had been working was the illegal colony of Ganim, which had been established in 1985. As we looked over the ridge towards Jenin city, we could see the army and a bulldozer clearing my trees to make way for more illegal housing infrastructure.

As we sat and had tea with the family, the told us how the soldiers had come and cut their trees and destroyed their houses. They told us, how even though the soldiers said they could not go to their land to plough, decided to try and go anyway. As the children blew up the balloons that Kate had brought for them, they shared their stories with us and then took us to meet the rest of their family who were ploughing some of the land that they had been able to access.

We soon, however, had to leave and said goodbye to both the family and Y. In the servicee on the way back to Tulkarem, the other passengers in the car were quick to asked if we thought there would be peace soon. When I said, I hope so, but I am not confident, they all agreed.

My trip to Jenin was one which was a mixture of emotions: raw, disturbing, sad, heartbreaking and inspiring. Jenin - A name now so well known, however, embodies within its hills the spirit of the Palestinian people. A spirit of resilience, dignity and resistance and a determination to survive, to remain and to live.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Nablus stands in solidarity with Fallujah

For the past week, the US coalition forces have pounded the city of Fallujah in an attempt to recapture the city from the Iraqi resistance. In Palestine, the invasion and occupation of Iraq is viewed by many Palestinians as simply an extension of the US and Israel's middle policy as practiced against the Palestinian people and other Arab countries.

The Palestinian people see many parallels between the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In particular they recognised the familiar practice of collective punishment that is now being carried out in Iraq by the Coaliton forces, a practice which the Coalition Forces have adopted from Israel.

Such practice, illegal under international law, has long been used by the IOF in the Occupied Territory and is now used regularly in Iraq and includes the mass rounding up and arrest of young men (and occassionally women), the arrest of women to pressure family members and suspected supporters of the insurgents, the collective bulldozing of houses, crops, fields and buildings as punishment, as well as the raids and intimidation of families.

On Tuesday, Nov 16, the Palestinian activists in the Palestinian city of Nablus, along with international activists carried out a solidarity action in support of the people of Fallujah. Nablus, for the past several months has been a declared a "closed military zone" by the IOF, allowing the Israeli security forces to restrict the presence of international media and human rights observers as they carry out assasinations, bulldozing and razing of houses and mass arrests, including arresting children (male and female) under the age of 16 years.

Below is an email sent by international activist who have been able to reach Nablus:

Tuesday November 16, 2004
by J and A in Nablus

Palestinians and members of the ISM in Nablus displayed a message of solidarity today with the people of Fallujah. At 5:30 PM, the word “Fallujah” was set ablaze on a mountain north of Nablus, known as Jabl-an-Naar (Mountain of Fire). Written in Arabic, the word was about 30 yards long and 10 yards wide, and expressed the commiseration that the people of Nablus feel for Fallujah, another city suffering under military occupation.

Like the war against Iraq with its attacks on Fallujah, which have had disastrous effects on civilians and civilian infrastructure in the city, Nablus has also suffered from invasion by occupation forces, ostensibly to combat terrorism. One Nablus resident, Nizar Kamal, stated, "On behalf of residents of the Old City of Nablus, the massacre in Fallujah announces the death of international conscience."

The press release for the event read:

People of Nablus will light the night sky with a message of solidarity written in fire to the people of Fallujah. It is to be held at 6 pm on the northern mountain in Nablus.

Around 3 p.m. Palestinians, along with internationals, began to arrive at the site. Shortly afterwards, neighborhood residents joined to help construct the path of the fire. Other groups from the community also arrived, including volunteer medical workers. Local Palestinian television arrived before the fire and interviewed many of the local Palestinian and internationals at the site.

Building the word that would be set on fire was challenging because the landscape was steep and rocky. Spelling out the word with rope and then using that as a guide to pour sand on it proved to be a solid plan. Sand was poured and people placed barriers of loose stone around it to help keep it in place. Petrol was poured on the sand and at approximately 5:30, as darkness set in, it was set ablaze. Although there was some uncertainty about the success of the project, it was ultimately successful, as the fire burned brightly and clearly for about 15 minutes. Reports came from all over the city that Nablus residents saw the message and were grateful and moved by the action.

There is agreement that there would be an attempt tomorrow to relight the fires. However, because the early winter’s rains are beginning to fall, there is no guarantee that it can be done. If nothing else, the fire that lit up the mountain with the words “Fallujah” was an inspiration for those who witnessed and participated in constructing it.

Yasser Arafat's Death and return to Ramallah

Arafat’s Death

On Thursday, November 11, Yasser Arafat, elected president of the Palestinian people died. On November 12 his body was returned from France to be buried in the Muqata compound which had been his headquarters and prison for almost three years.

During the week preceding his death, I had also come to Al Quds (Jerusalem) to finally take some long overdue days off. Also there were three of my colleagues and friends from IWPS, two whom were there to go to other meetings and one who was spending her last day in Al Quds before she left for the United States.

All week prior to his death, we along with the Palestinians, had stayed tuned to the news waiting to hear about Arafat. I had lost count of how many times we heard that he was dead or that his death would be announced in an hour, two hours etc. All week the speculation continued. And as the Israeli and international media tried in an increasingly unbecoming manner to outdo each other to be the first to announce his death, we waited. We waited to see what would happen: how the Palestinians would react, how the Israelis would react, how the world would react.

Everywhere we went people were talking about Arafat. On Tuesday, which also was the 27th day of Ramadan, the most holiest of all Muslim days – the day that the prophet Mohammed had supposedly ascended to heaven to receive the holy Koran and scriptures – the rumour that Arafat was already dead and that his death would be announced from Al Asqa Mosque on this most holiest of nights.

As we returned in the afternoon to the old city via the rampants (the walk along the top of the old city walls) and through the Jewish quarter via the western wall (the wailing wall), we were confronted with hundreds of Israeli police and Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) pouring into the Muslim quarter. When we got back to the hostel, we heard once again that it had been announced on BBC radio that Arafat’s death would be announced in two hours - at 7pm from the Mosque. We waited and 7pm came and went and like all the other rumours and media initiated speculation it turned out not to be true, but still the IOF and police patrolled the streets and roofs of the old city. From the roof of our hostel, where we had gone to see what was going on, we had a not only a stunning view of the old city, but also the disturbing sight of IOF snipers stationed on the roofs through out the quarter.

We awoke the next day to the sounds of the Koran being read from the minarets and we knew Arafat was dead. Kate and I had planned even before Arafat's death to go to Ramallah in the afternoon to visit some friends and to interview some people, but after watching the official announcement on the television, we gathered our overnight bags and headed for Qalandia and Ramallah.

At Qalandia, the main permanent checkpoint entrance into Ramallah, it was quite as it was still Ramadan, but there were more IOF stationed around the checkpoint then normal. Despite this, however, we were able to make our way through the checkpoint without any trouble and were soon in serveece (shared taxi) into the heart of Ramallah.

As we made our way down to the Muqata (Arafat's compound), I rang RC to see whether she was in Ramallah, which she was and we arranged to catch up. When Kate and I arrived at the Muqata, a rally of around 1000 people was taking place and the media was everywhere. The rally, carrying pictures of Arafat and many people wearing the kaffeyah, then marched back to the Menara Circle in the centre of Ramallah.

RC and I stayed in contact through out the day. At one stage she had gone to the Qalandia to meet NH and rang to tell me that the IOF had began firing on the shabab (Palestinian boys) who had been throwing stones. Another friend who was on her way through the checkpoint at the time later told me that because of the international media present, the IOF were forced eventually to back off.

In the evening, I meet up with RC and NH. They were staying with a Palestinian friend of theirs in a Ramallah suburb and I was invited to stay the night, which I did. The next day, we spent the early morning watching the official funeral ceremony in Cairo on television. S, who we were staying with and her friend who came to visit, told us how angry they were at the new Palestinian leadership for not fighting to have the official ceremony in Ramallah and for not fighting for Arafat to be buried in Al Quds. They felt that already the new leadership had begun to sell out the Palestinian people.

As Arafat's body was returned to the helicopter and started to depart for Ramallah, we got ready and made our way down to the Muqata. The scene there was in stark contrast to the day previously. The day of his death had been relatively subdued and I have to admit I was quite thrown by the fact the crowds were so small. Today, however, was a different story. There were tens of thousands of people everywhere, on the walls of the compound, on the roofs of the surrounding buildings, in the trees and any possible vantage point.

Within 5 minutes of being there, we had all become separated from each other. I walked down towards the main entrance of the Muqata. Along the way, I ran into many Palestinians I had met while I have been here, as well as activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who traveled from Nablus to get there. One of them told me that they had encountered 10 mobile IOF checkpoints along the way, an incredibly high number.

Despite the crush of the crowd, within 10 minutes I was inside the Muqata. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were inside the compound, many had climbed a top of the devastated and bombed out buildings to gain a better view.

The rubble and dirt mounds resulting from the Israeli military bombardment of the compound now acted as bleachers for thousands of Palestinians, as did the dozens of car wreckages left from the Israeli bombings. Palestinians had climbed a top the devastated buildings and infrastructures in their hundreds. Huge 20 metre posters with Arafat’s image on them hung from buildings, along with giant green, black, white and red Palestinian flags. Smaller versions of Arafat’s image were carried in his honour by thousands of Palestinians in the crowd, along with the familiar and illegal (under Israeli military law) Palestinian flag.

As people waited, chants went up: To Al Quds we shall go! Martyrs in the Millions! With our blood and our soul, we will follow you! Sporadically, the militants in the crowd fired off bullets. The PA security forces repeatedly tried in vain to clear a path for dignitaries to traverse, but the crowds were too big for the cleared paths to last more then 5 or 10 minutes.

At 2.30pm, the cry went up from the crowd and everyone began too look skyward. At first I could not see anything, but soon four small specs appeared on the skyline. Four helicopters, one carrying Arafat's body.

As the helicopters began their flyover of the compound, I unexpectantly began to cry. I felt completely overwhelmed by the moment. Arafat was dead and still the Palestinians did not have a state to call their own.

In the days and weeks preceding his death, I had spoken with many Palestinians about him and how they felt. Like many Palestinians, I too had my criticism of Arafat. I had criticised him for his shortcomings and his failures, as they had. And while there were many who criticised his politics and his failings, they all, however, agreed on one thing: Arafat had been chosen by the people as their elected leader and he was the one Palestinian who had responsible for bringing the cause of the Palestinian people to the international stage and that was his greatest achievement. And for that they were grateful.

As Palestinian American Michael Odetalla said when he wrote of Arafat’s death ( ), “Yasser Arafat was by no means a perfect man…[but he made] sure the Palestinian people would not be cast aside and forgotten as the early Zionist founders of the state of Israel had hoped and worked for”.

Arafat, writes Odetalla, made sure that David Ben Gurion’s prediction, “The old will die and the young will forget”, made in reference to the Palestinian people and the catastrophe of being ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homeland, never came true. “Yasser Arafat made sure that the young would never forget” writes Odetalla.

“In a world that would have liked to see the Palestinians "just go away", he made sure that we didn't, that we were and ARE a people, complete with our own history and identity: Palestinian”.

“He forced an uncaring world to see us as a people, not just a collection of rag tag refugees. He instilled in us hope and pride, even in our darkest hours, when the rest of the world could have cared less about our plight, dreams, and aspirations. When the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir arrogantly announced to the world that "there was no such thing as a Palestinian people", Yasser Arafat was there, defiantly proving to her and the rest of the world that we exist!”

Despite whatever failings and shortcomings Arafat had, he was also the one leader that had never deserted them and like the tens of thousands of Palestinians around me, I felt overwhelmed by the sadness and loss that they felt.

As the helicopters landed, in one voice the Palestinian people began to chant, "Yasser, Yasser, Yasser" in honour of their leader. The helicopter carrying his body was soon swamped by Palestinians and it was a half an hour before his body was finally be able to be loaded onto a vehicle to be driven the short distance to the compound buildings.

I was now standing along the side of the route which the casket would traverse and as it came near the crowd surged forward to touch their leader for the last time. Just three feet from where the vehicle past, myself and some of the ISMers were caught in the crush.

As we attempted to get out of the way, I saw RC and we decided to follow the crowd towards where Arafat had been taken. We were standing talking when unexpectantly, the vehicle with Arafat's body turned around and made it way back past us. This time I could literally have reach out and touch the casket but we were more intent on trying to stay up right and not fall and be crushed or trampled by the surging crowd. At one stage, I could not move as the crowd stomped on my foot and crushed us as they tried to either reach the casket or get out of the way of the vehicle. It was only due to the fact that myself, RC and some of the activists from the ISM stayed closely together, trying to support each other to ensure we did not fall under the crowd, that we stayed upright.

As the crowd eventually began to disperse an hour or so later, I was finally able to find Kate and our other friends who she had also come down to the Muqata with. We had originally hoped to meet up earlier in the morning but due to the crowd size this was impossible. At the end of the day, we slowly regrouped made our way back to the house of a Palestinian friend, where we dinner before returning to Al Quds (we later heard that the IOF/Israeli Police had clashed with hundreds on the Temple Mount at the Dome of the Rock – primarily because the Israeli security forces had taken the stupid decision to not allow any men under 45 years of age to enter the city to pray. According to one report, there were 5000 police deployed to the area).

We sat in S’s house – internationals, Israeli's and Palestinians and we discussed the day and the sadness we all felt, but we also discussed what next: would things be different? would his death be a catalyst? what would happen? what will the Palestinian people do?

We all had our thoughts on it, but none of us had a definitive answer. But what we did know was that the occupation continues and that Israel would continue to act as the oppressor.

What we did know was that more then ever the Palestinian people today need the solidarity of all those, as Che Guevara once said, "who tremble at every injustice".

What we did know was that the struggle for a free Palestine would continue, even without the Palestinian leader they called Abu Ammar and that one day Palestine would really be free.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Wall: a land grab that creates violence

Since my last report a lot has happened over the three weeks. As you know there was the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Monday. Fortunately, Kate and I were around a kilometre away from the explosion. We had gone to Tel Aviv the evening before and were due to head back on Monday morning. However, I had gotten lost and ended up in a Tel Aviv suburb and by the time I got back, it was just after 11 am. We were inside the Central Bus station complex, which is a huge 7 storey building, at the time of the explosion (11.15 am) and did not hear it.

However, we knew something had happened, as we were delayed for an hour at roadblocks set up just outside of Tel Aviv, which was highly unusual, as generally such roadblocks do not happen in Israel proper only in the West Bank. We realised when we got back to Haris that Kate had been quite near the site of the explosion earlier that morning when she had attended an
appointment in the area.

In the week leading up to the bombing, there had been heaps of extra checkpoints and roadblocks and since the number of roadblocks and flying checkpoints has increased. The house of the family of the 16 year old boy who carried out the bombing was bulldozed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) early on Tuesday morning, which is standard IOF practice unfortunately. The response by the IOF, while being quick, has not been on the scale that it usually is, this is probably because of the situation with Arafat being ill and out of the country, that they don’t want to inflame it more.

The suicide bombing, as terrible as it was, has shown that the reasons given by the Sharon government for building the wall does not hold. Two thirds of the wall is build and the wall has been completed in the West Bank areas closest to Tel Aviv. In these areas, the wall has resulted in the complete enclosure of Palestinian cities such as Tulkarem and Qalqilia. I have now had the opportunity to visit Tulkarem and to visit twice the city of Qalqilia, both times with our international teams and each visit has been intense and emotionally distressing in someway or another for everyone. The first visit to Qalqilia, however, of course was the most intense.
I had heard about Qalqilia both before I left Australia, but also after I got here from other Internationals and Palestinians.In particular, my friend Mohammed, who is from Qalqilia had told me about the increasing difficult situation for the town of 45,000 people. Mohammed had told me about the "tunnel" which the IOF had built, which the people had to now pass through. "We are now like rats", he once said. Recently Mohammed had found work in another city, so he was not in Qalqilia when we visit, but he offered to organise for a friend (another Mohammed) to show us around.
When we arrived at the main entrance of Qalqilia (and as it turned out only entrance open into the city), it was sheer pandemonium. Cars, trucks, donkeys and carts were backed up for over a kilometer on the cityside of the checkpoint and for about a half a kilometre on ourside. One of our drivers was not keen to go through the Maschom (Army checkpoint), so all 15 of us piled out of the two cars we came in and proceed to walk through. The soldiers at the checkpoint were dumbstruck by so many foreigners entering the city. When he asked what we were doing, I responded that we "were just visiting friends". Perplexed and not knowing really what else to say, he repeated lamely what so many other soldiers I had encountered had also said to me on a number of occasions: "it’s very dangerous in there".

Mohammed organised for us to visit the Mayoral offices, where the Mayor gave us a 45 minute presentation on the effect the wall had had on the town. It was shocking to see photographs of the city before the wall was built and the subsequent destruction that came with it.

Side by side, the photographs stood. On one side stood a photograph of what once had been the main entrance to the city: immaculate streets, lined with trees and manicured median strips and shops. Next to it, a scene of destruction: the street no longer even vaguely recognisable: no trees, no grass, just sheets of tin, broken glass and wood, not a single building left
standing, all destroyed in one night.

It reminded me of the photographs that I had seen taken in the aftermath of one of Australia’s worst natural disasters, Cyclone Tracy, which devastated Darwin in 1974. Only the destruction depicted in this photograph was not natural, it was man-made, it was deliberate and it was done as an act of intimidation.

Another photograph showed green, lush agricultural fields. Its counterpart showed the land as it is today, in the aftermath of the wall: arid, devastated, scarred and no longer capable of sustaining life. The wall has all but devastated the economy of the city. Much of agricultural land has been confiscated, along with 15 of the city’s 39 wells. Unemployment is now
well over 65% of the population.

After we left the Mayoral offices, we piled into serveeces (shared taxis) and Mohammed took us too the wall. Our first stop was tunnel that the other Mohammed had told me about. When we arrived, the tunnel had been closed for two days (it and all the other entrances except the one we entered have remained closed ever since, for well over 3 weeks now).

The tunnel is 60 metres wide and 300 kilometres long, either side of it runs a 4 meter deep trench, which runs the length of the electronic fence above the tunnel and which runs till it meets the 8 metre high slaps of concrete which make up the wall. Above the tunnel runs an IOF/Border Police patrol road and on the Habala (the neighbouring village) side of the tunnel access are two no-man’s which Palestinian farmers have no access too.

The confiscation of land for Israeli military purposes, along with the IOF’s refusal to issue permits to farmers to access their land near these military zones or the wall/fences is yet another demonstration of how Israel steals the Palestinian’s land and makes it their own.

According to Israeli law (adopted from the British Mandate period), if the Palestinians don’t access this land for three years, it automatically becomes state land. It does not matter, however, that the reason they did not access their land, is precisely because the Israel Military machine prevented them from doing so by either putting up huge walls, electric fences, barbwire and refusing repeated requests for permits by land owners to access their lands.

Mohammed then took us to other sections of the wall. One of the areas, include a section of the wall which has become "infamous", at least here in Palestine. It is the section of wall, which I recognised immediately from many of the anti-wall posters in our house and elsewhere. On the wall in front of me, the site of many anti-wall protests was grafitti in Spanish, English and other languages.

One section the graffiti said "Hasta La Victoria Siempre", while another said "Welcome to the Jewish Shame". And another "the new wailing wall". As I walked up to the wall to read the graffiti and to touch the wall, the anger in me swelled and I wanted to cry, but I held back my tears Mohammed told us how a nearby girl’s school was regularly targeted by the IOF. From the huge watch towers in the wall near the school, the IOF regularly fire off tear gas at the school, forcing the girls to leave their class rooms and the school to be closed on a regular basis.

Our last stop was what had once been the main entrance of Qalqilia. As I mentioned we had seen photographs of it in the Mayoral presentation: immaculate, clean and inviting but now it was a desolate, dusty and arid. On both visits to the city, I approached the barbwire to take a photograph near one of the watch towers in which we could see soldiers moving about.
On my second visit there, Mohammed had joked with me that the soldiers would be taking our photograph and they would show them to me as I left the country (you are questioned/interrogated both entering and leaving Israel). I joked with him, that maybe if it was a nice photograph of us, that I should ask them if I could have a copy.
Despite our light hearted banter, I found both my visits to Qalqilia incredibly hard. I had to seen the wall before, but my first visit to Qalqilia especially brought the impact and devastation of the wall home to me and I had to fight back the tears several times. At times, I had to walk away from our group and to take some deep breaths. I did not want to cry in front of Mohammed or our any of the Palestinians who had accompanied us, for as Internationals we can come and go and we can go home at anytime but for the Palestinians this is an every day reality. As horrible as it was, I knew that solidarity is what the Palestinians need, not my tears.

The loss of the three Israeli lives in Tel Aviv on Monday was a terrible thing and it was strange to know that we were so close to the site of the bombing. But as Monday’s bombing has shown, the wall will not stop suicide bombings. It will not bring an end to violence. Instead, the wall will only increase the violence. This is because the wall is not about security but about annexing more of the Palestinian lands and resources. It is about dispossessing the Palestinians people once again of their land and their heritage. It is about continuing the illegal military occupation of Palestine and continuing 50 years of illegal oppression and repression against the men, women and children of Palestine.

The wall is part of the Israeli state terror campaign. A campaign, that seeks to dehumanise and collectively punish the Palestinian people. A campaign, that has resulted in over 3300 Palestinians killed (700 of them children) and 53,000 Palestinians wounded in the last four years alone. A campaign which has resulted in thousands of Palestinian homes demolished, tens of thousands of dunums of land stolen, thousands of Palestinian olive trees groves cut and burnt to the ground, 700 Palestinian schools destroyed or damaged and over 7000 Palestinians jailed, many indefinitely and the vast majority without charge or trail or on spurious grounds.

It is Israel state terrorism, repression and dehumanisation of an entire people which breeds individual terrorism. As longs as the illegal military occupation of Palestine continues, suicide bombings, unfortunately will continue to happen and lives on both sides of the wall will continue to be devastated.

Olive harvest and visit to destroyed Palestinian 48er village

Despite the fact that the Gaza offensive continues, my past week to 12 days has been relatively peaceful, however, our minds are never far from what is happening just a mere hundred or more kilometres away from us.

October is olive harvest month and the IWPS, along with other international solidarity organisations such as the ISM and Israeli peace groups spend much of the month working with Palestinian villagers and their families to try and ensure that the crop is harvested safely.

Helping to co-ordinate olive harvest for the IWPS (and our three international brigades from the USA, Great Britain and Austria/Germany) is one of the main assignments I have agreed to take on here. While we do assist in a hands on way by participating in the actual picking, this is not our primary task. Our main task is to work with the villages to help coordinate an international presence to try to help ensure that Palestinian farmers and their families not harassed or attacked by settlers or the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) while they are trying to harvest their crops.

Much of the land on which the olive groves are located has either been expropriated by the illegal settlements, which means that the families need to try and gain access to their land which is now inside the settlements or located just outside the settlements fences and gates. In addition, huge swaths of olive groves have also been lost behind the illegal Apartheid wall and farmers need to gain access their land, which is either behind the wall or located near it.

To gain access to their land, Palestinians have to apply for permits from Israel, however, even if they do this and are granted permits there is no guarantee that they will be able to pick. The IOF may decided, for reason often only known to them, not to open the gates, or to deny them access to their land or they may only issue permits to one member of the family and not the rest.

So far this year, the IOF have been reasonably well behaved in the Salfit region, at least compared to previous year, however, in the Nablus area they have been extremely belligerent and declared today that the farmers now only have 3 days to complete their harvest (many farmers have not even started). Yesterday, five internationals, including RC and NH were detained for 5 hours for the ‘crime’ of assisting with the olive harvest in a closed military zone. They were, however, released unharmed and on the condition that they would not enter what the Israeli’s call Samaria (the northern part of the West Bank) for the next two weeks.

In Salfit (where we are located) it has been a different story so far and our primary problem with the IOF here has been bureaucratic, with them not always opening the gates at the assigned times or they have closed them early. On our first day of picking in Mas’ha they tried to stop Israelis or Internationals from entering the settlements as well as entering back into Palestine, but after several phone calls and an hour of debate, we have been able to get through. While the IDF tend to take bureaucratia to a new level, it is often the settlers who pose the most danger, particularly those in the more ideological/religious settlements.

Settlements, like Israeli society, are divided into religious settlements and secular settlements. Many of the secular settlements are made up of poorer Jewish immigrants and workers who primarily move to the settlements to take advantage of the huge monetary incentives and subsidies provided by the government. The religious settlements are those populated by the fundamentalist right who believe that the land was given to them by god and the Palestinians must be driven out so as to ensure that Eretz Israel (greater Israel) is established.

Picking in settlements has its problems, but it is picking near the religious/ideological settlements is the most dangerous, especially for Palestinians, as well as the Israeli activists (as they seen as traitors by the settlers). Yesterday, I received a phone call from one of the villages we are working with telling us that they had been attacked by settlers and their harvesting equipment stolen and some of their groves had been burned by settlers. We later heard that 3 settler youths had been detained, but Israel is much like the old American south before the civil rights movement, where whites could basically do what they like to Negros, including murder, and get away with it.

In Israel settlers or Israelis are rarely charged with assaults, attacks or the murder of Palestinians or if they are they receive minor penalties. Just last week, a settler shot and murdered a Palestinian taxi driver, his sentence – if you can call it that – was house detention. The reason for the proclamation of the 3 day only period for harvesting in Nablus is because settlers (or some reports say the soldiers) attacked and shot a Palestinian farmer in the neck, killing him and now the IOF in that region has declared that the olive season "threatened the lives of Israeli settlers".

Today, I picked in the village of Marda, which comrades may be surprised to hear has a small Venezuelan community. Apparently, they are Palestinians who had immigrated to Venezuela but returned after the first intifada with Venezuelan citizenship. I have not had the opportunity to discuss Chavez with them yet, but it is definitely on my list of things to do. When there are no hassles from the IOF or the settlers like today, picking can be quite fun and can be quite therapeutic as it can be, as one of our team members put it, almost "zen-like". You are usually quite dirty by the end of the day and exhausted but you get to hang out with ordinary Palestinian families and talk with them, joke and share meal with them.

One of the other great experiences that I got to be part in was when a number of us from IWPS spent the afternoon with an Israeli activist group called Zochrot. Zochrot means, "Remembering" in Hebrew and they work to raise awareness about Al Nakba (the catastrophe of 1948) amongst Israelis. Their hope is that by trying to raise awareness amongst Israelis of what happened to the Palestinians that they can broaden public awareness and support for the Palestinian right of return. They do this by documenting what happened, by working with Palestinians to teach and commemorate the historical injustices committed against the people of Palestine, including conducting commemoration tours and documenting the history of the destroyed villages.

Along with around 100 Israelis and Palestinians we visited the remains of the village of Al Lajun ( The land on which the village of Al Lajun existed is now occupied by the Megiddo Kibbutz. The tour of the village was conducted by refugees from the village who told us how Al Nakba had affected their families and their lives. The tour was very moving, we visited the residential area of the village, as well as the market areas. The only evidence left of this once thriving Palestinian village was overgrown stones, as well its graveyard and mosque. After the destruction of the village, the state of Israel moved quickly to plant trees to disappear the existence of the village. In the 80s, the Kibbutz started to use the graveyard to dump rubbish and the villagers mounted a legal action to stop it (which they won). The only standing building left is the mosque but it is located inside the kibbutz and permission to visit it is genera! lly denied, just as it was denied on the day we visited.

The Megiddo area has been the site of many historical battles between the tribes and nations of Assyria, Egypt, Canaan, Hittite, Judea, Rome, Greece, Persia and Babylon. The fields of Megiddo which surround where the village once existed is the location for, according to the New Testament of the bible, the site of Armageddon or where the masses of troops will gather for last battle between good and evil.

Today, Megiddo is also the site of the Israeli military prison where Palestinians from the West Bank are housed. I had not realised that the prison was directly across the road from the remains of the village and words cannot really describe the complete shock I felt as the prison suddenly came into view as we passed it in the bus on the way to the village.

My first thought was that it looked exactly like the Nazi concentration camps that Jews and political prisoners were murdered in during WWII and I wondered how the majority of ordinary Israelis could not see that this and be disturbed by it as much as I was.

My second thought was for the prisoners inside the camp, many of them like Rabia, the 19 year old son of our neighbours, who was being detained in the prison under horrendous conditions. Rabia was arrested just before I arrived, as he was crossing from Palestine into Jordan to go to a conference in France. When he was detained, the Israeli authorities accused him of working with terrorists. When he told them he work with Israeli peace activists, apparently the response from the military was "that is even worse"

Just a little way up from the prison at the Megiddo Junction, however, there was a much more inspiring and positive site. Bat Shalom had erected their annual Sukkah for Peace to mark the Sukkot holidays, which is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles and is the Jewish holiday, which celebrates peace and happiness. For three days, the Sukkah or peace tent play hosts to Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and organisations and includes educationals, movement discussions, action planning and a vigil. We briefly visited the tent, but were unable to stay for more then 15 minutes unfortunately, but it was great to see so many people there.

Touring Israel and visit to Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem

Every two weeks we are due a 3 day break, however, Stacey (another IWPS woman) and myself decided to wait four weeks instead and take 5 days off altogether so we could spend a solid amount of time travelling. We decided to hire a car in Tel Aviv and after making a short stop at the Australian Embassy to vote, we headed for old city in Jaffa to have lunch with one of the Israeli activists we had meet at the Budrus demo.

Old Jaffa is like the Arab quarters of other Israeli cities. It is poor but also very colourful with bustling souqs and markets and great cheap food. After having a wander around the souq and trying out my haggling skills, we had lunch at a wonderful café in a former mosque overlooking Jaffa beach. We had planned to make our way up the coast that afternoon, but were convinced to stay the night. We spent the rest of the afternoon down at the beach watching the most incredible sunset, eating icecr! eam and drinking beer. It was hard to believe sitting there that there people being killed in Gaza, just 40 minutes away.

Sitting on the beach at Jaffa, I felt a sense of beauty and contentment, as well as a sense of relief, as well as feeling of sadness and anger. Beauty and contentment because Israel/Palestine is an extremely beautiful country. Relief because it was nice to be able to sit on a beach and just hang out with people and de-stress. Sadness and anger because just 60 kilometres, 45 minutes or so away from this beautifully serene place, Sharon’s army was murdering and wounding children indiscriminately, destroying countless lives, homes, schools and olive groves. This mixed bag of feelings was something I was to experience a number of times over the next few days as I travelled around.

It is so hard to describe Israel/Palestine as it has a beauty of its very own, one which is very different from Australia and from Europe. Israeli cities are incredibly westernised and as Stacey said to me, "if you ever wondered what a city in America looked like, you just have take a look around here" and while I suppose they have their own kind of attractiveness, it was the old cities, the Arab quarters of the cities which to me were the most beautiful.

Our first stop along the Mediterrean Coast was Ceasara, which was build by Herod the Great in 1 BC in honour of Ceasar Augustus. In Ceasara, as I sat on the carved steps of the hippodrome looking out over the ocean, I had the sudden (if not belated) realisation of this is exactly what Apartheid looks like, at least from the side of the oppressor.

As we had wandered around the ruins of the ancient city, we did not see a single Palestinian or Arabic person, although the site was filled with tourists and Israelis enjoying their holiday long weekend. I also realised that for a great many of the Israelis here, Palestinians or Arabs (as Palestinians are called by most Israelis) did not even figure on their radar except as "terrorists".
During my four weeks here, I have been fortunate enough to meet some great activists from the radical Israeli left (many of them anarchists) who work closely with Palestinians, who travel frequently to the West Bank and are active in the opposition to Zionism and the Israeli state. However, during this time, on my visits to the Israeli cities, I have also met what you could call "ordinary Israelis", whose hatred, ignorance, prejudice and stereotyping of Palestinians and Arabs is astounding. These Israelis, like many of the countrymen and women, have been taught that "Arabs" hate them, that they want to kill them and that "Arabs" are inferior in everyway to Israelis or Jews. Their ignorance of what their country and military does to Palestinians and the connection this has to the militant suicide bombings is not only astonishingly but also frightening.

There is little or no compassion amongst these Israelis for the devastation they are causing or any comprehension that they have become the oppressor. In their minds they are still the victims and while I see the trappings of a police state and oppression everywhere I go, they are completely oblivious to it or the irony that they have become what they had once despised.

As Dorothy, a wonderful 70 year old Israeli activist I have become friends with (and whose husband is a holocaust survivor) recently commented to me, "I use to wonder how the Germans could say that they did not know what the Nazis did to the Jews, but now I understand. Our people don't want to know what we are doing to the Palestinians. They chose to live in ignorance and hatred because if they really acknowledged what we were doing they could not live with themselves".

Dorothy and her husband, Israel are both active in the peace movement. Israel, along with his immediate family, fled Austria and the Nazis (although much of his extended family perished in the concentration camps). Israeli arrive in Palestine in 1936. He was an engineer in the army and fought against the British, as well as in the 1948, 1967 and 1973 Israeli wars. They both had travelled and lived overseas for much of their life and it was only when they moved back to live in Israel permanently that they had their "political awakening" in 2000.

In Haifa later that night, this sense of Apartheid was reinforced, as the Israeli hosts of the hostel we stayed in told us we should be careful about going to and staying in the old city in nearby Akko (Acre) because it was particularly dangerous for women, especially at night. This warning reinforced once again other conversations I had with different "ordinary" Israelis I had meet, which revealed that Israeli Zionist world view of Arabs and Palestinians is dominated by ignorance, stereotypes, racism and western cultural imperialism.

Haifa is one of the biggest Israeli cities on the coast and is a wonderful mix of just about everything, as well as all three of the dominant religions as well as a couple of extra ones. The centre of Haifa is dominated by the Ba’hai gardens – 19 immaculately terraced gardens that extend from the summit of Mt Carmel down to the German Colony and overlook the bay of Haifa. Ba’hai as a religion was founded in Iran and is a 19th century split from Islam and there apparently 5 million followers worldwide. The gardens are stunningly breath! taking; our first glimpse of them was unexpected as we turned up Ben Guiron Street to find our hostel. From the top of the Gardens there is an equally stunning view of Haifa Bay.

Despite the protestations of our Haifa Hostel hosts, we decided we take the "risk" of visiting and staying in the old city of Akko or Acre as it was called during historical times. Of all the places we visited during our break, I have to say Acre was by far my favourite (closely followed by the Galillee).

Old Acre is a testiment to the Crusades. It was the capital of the Crusader Empire during the 10th and 11th century and the old city. It is dominated by the remnants of the Crusader Citadel, which remains in very good shape despite the fact that it is around 1000 years old. In the 18th century, the city withstood a 60-day siege by Napoleon Bonaparte, who had to retreat unable to fully breach the walls. During the British Mandate prison, the Crusader Citadel was also used to house the Jewish Irgun and Haganah prisoners. The old city was abandoned by the zionists living in its walls in the 1930s when Palestinains demonstrated against the increase in Jewish immigration to Palestine,growing zionist influence and disputes of access to holy sites.

We spent the evening in (and returned there the next morning) the Marina area of the old city. We had dinner at a restaurant that was on a terrace, which had a stunning view overlooking water and out into the Bay where you could see Haifa lit up and we later went for a wander along the top of the walls and had a wine/coffee at one of the little bars near by.

Our final day was spent in the Galillee region, where we visited the Nazareth and the Sea of Galillee. The Sea, once again, is just beautiful and I would have loved more time to stay there, but we made the most of what we had. Unfortunately, we missed out visiting the archeological digs at Capernaum (the main town of Jesus’ ministry in the Galillee) but we did get to take a look around St Peter’s Primacy (where Jesus appeared to Peter after the resurrection to tell him to carry on his teachings) and Tabagh which is where the miracle of the multiplication of the Fishes and Loaves is suppose to have taken place.

We then head up to the Mountain of Beatitudes where Jesus apparently gave the Sermon on the Mount. By the time we got there, we were in for a beautiful sunset over the Sea and the surrounding mountains, which was pretty spectacular (I also decided to get up at 5am the next morning to watch the sunrise over the Sea. Our hotel was right on the shore and so from our room we had a bird’s eye view of the sunrise over the mountains surrounding the Sea.

That evening was spent in Tiberius on the shores of the Sea of Galilee which is an overwhelmingly Jewish city and as it was Sabbath nothing was open till 7pm, but then there were people everywhere. On Sabbath here, unlike Sunday in Australia, everything literally closes down. You are lucky if you are able to find anything open and you will find very few Israelis on the streets. Visiting an overwhelmingly Jewish city is lesson in pure contrasts to the West Bank. In a physical sense, it is like night and day. As I mentioned Jewish cities are highly westernised and I often feel like they quite sterile compared to the hustle and chaos of Palestinians cities.

Reluctantly the next morning we left the Galilee and headed back to Tel Aviv and then to Jerusalem to meet up with our Boston team who, were here to help with olive harvest, to go to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity (where Jesus was supposedly born) and Aida refugee camp. In 2002, the Church of the Nativity was under siege for about a month when Palestinian militants sought refuge there. For weeks, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF)surrounded the Church and fired on one of the holiest sites in Christianity with little regard for life of Clergymen or respect for another people’s religion. In contrast, no a single shot was fired by militants from the church during this time.

After our visit to the Church, we headed for Aida Refugee camp. On the way, we passed Rachel’s Tomb, which Madonna visited in her much touted tour. The Tomb, which has religious importance to all three religions is in Occupied Territory, but has now been annexed behind the Apartheid Wall. The Tomb is now surrounded by concrete and barb wire and no-one except Israelis (and Madonna) can gain access to it, including visiting Christian pilgrims from overseas.

As we got out of the serveeces (taxi) at Aida, we noticed a strange smell in the air. We quickly realised that it was teargas. As we moved up the hill past the International Continental hotel bizarrely built on the doorstep of the camp and which was now abandoned, we saw children running. The boys told us that there were "Jesh" (Army) down the street. As we moved down the street, four or five boys were lined up throwing stones and we could see that other boys were located in another area also doing the same. Amongst the ensuing chaos our contact at the camp, tried to quickly explained the situation and the history of the camp. In the camp there is a mural which was designed by the children and painted with the help of internationals. The mural which runs along a long wall depicts the history of the Palestinian people and their struggle. It includes a depiction of Al Nakba and the dispossession of the Palestinians, as well as the first and second intifada. The mural was very beautiful and quite moving.

We decided to walk pas the army jeep in the hope of internationals would get the army to move on. As we passed the jeep, I was stunned to see that there was quite a ring of stones around it, which meant that it had been there for sometime and that the "shabab" (young boys) had been throwing stones for some time. The standoff between the boys and the army continued for another hour or so, with the army firing intermittently sound bombs and tear gas. Our presence, however, seemed to be completely ignored by the IOF, while the shabab continued to t! hrow stones and as it is IWPS’ not interfere or try to stop any such activity by the Palestinians (while we are a direct, nonviolent organization we have no right to dictate to the Palestinians how to carry out their resistance) we could do little else but record and monitor the situation. The presence of the army for such a long period and in such a standoff served absolutely no military purpose other then as an act by the military to reinforce that they could do this in order to remind the residents of Aida that they were under occupation.

Unfortunately, because the Boston team was also in transit to their next olive picking location, the members of the house team were not able to remain to monitor the situation for longer then an hour. As we left the camp, myself, Stacey and Soha (a regularly vistory to IWPS) had to walk threw the Maschom (checkpoint in Arabic) and once again we were visibly and physically reminded of the occupation and the oppression that ordinary Palestinians must content with every day.

The resistance of the shabab in the camp, however, showed that Palestinians, despite the harassment and intimidation of the soldiers, would never take the occupation lying down and that they would continue resist.

Harassment as Military duty in Israel

I thought I would send you a copy of this article from Ha'aretz on the IOF harassment of Palestinians at checkpoints etc. It gives a very good overview of what happens every day to the Palestinians and the harassment they have to put up with.

The Hawara checkpoint that Hass mentions in her article is very close to where we live and we go there semi-regularly to do checkpoint watch. It is the checkpoint which Palestinians need to pass through to get into Nablus. Internationals are denied passage through this checkpoint as the area has been deemed a closed military zone. The Hawara checkpoint was the first place that I did checkpoint watch at after I arrived in Haris.

Generally we try to facilitate the passage of Palestinians and intervene when they have been made to wait, sometimes for extended lengths of time under the pretext of "processing" and "checking" their "huwiyye" (identity cards). The confiscation of a "huwiyye" is a major crisis for Palestinians because it restricts their limited ability to travel even more and if they travel without them they can be detained and arrested for simply not having them.

In the case of Internationals, while we don't have to have a huwiyyea, all foreigners are suppose to carry their passport with them at all times. If you don't you can risk arrest (one of our team was detained for half a day a few weeks ago because she forgot to take her passport with her to Jerusalem). Like Palestinians to have your ID confiscated, even for a few hours, is a major problem (although of course it is worse for Palestinians).

To try and avoid handing over our passports, we carry photocopies of it, often in plastic sleeves which Palestinians use for their Huwiyye. Recently Kate had some "IWPS Identity cards" done up with our photos, but I have not had to use mine yet, so I am not sure how effective it is yet.