Neil Rogall reports in his third update from the occupied West Bank.
Yesterday was the international day of Solidarity with Palestine: the anniversary of the UN resolution to partition Mandate Palestine. Two schools were attacked that morning including the secondary school in Abu Dis we visited on Monday. – the Jawarhalal Nehru school. This was a training exercise for the IDF. The JN school was invaded by the army, tear gas canisters were fired into the school before the students arrived. The only person there was the housekeeper who was beaten up. When the students arrived the army forced the school students into the gas filled classrooms. A student was injured by a rubber bullet, another with a tear gas canister. A teacher was beaten up by the army. We sat in the headmaster’s office as worried parents turned up to find out if their sons are safe.
Driving north to Ramallah, we pass settlements barely separated from the road except by checkpoints and armed security. On the low hills new settlements are being built despite Israeli ‘promises’ to the ‘international community’. Army jeeps are parked off the highway. Water pipes lead from both sides of the highway to the settlement stealing the Palestinians means of survival. An Israeli factory extracts rocks from the hills to take to 1948 Israel and to export. Huge electricity cables for the settlements hang low over Bedouin villages that have no electric power. Everywhere Israeli army camps, everywhere settlements, everywhere the wall and fences carving up the land. There are now 700,000 settlers in the West Bank, some third generation. This drive alone shows up the myth of a Palestinian State on the West Bank. It will never happen.
In Ramallah, the PA’s ‘capital’ full of fancy shops and Abbas’s security forces we visited NGO’s. The young woman at the Palestine Research Center explained to us that the reason Israeli soldiers are so trigger happy with Palestinians is because the soldiers constantly fantasise they are under threat. A young boy puts his hand in his pocket to take out a mobile phone is imagined by the soldier as being a gun so the boy is killed.
She explained how the Israelis ridicule women’s role in the struggle by claiming their resistance is simply because they are divorced and unhappy. She then described a recent instance of the reality. A Palestinian woman arrested at a checkpoint was taken to a police station in West Jerusalem and raped. When she took it to the courts the Israeli authorities denied such a policeman with her description ever existed.
Our last visit was to Addameer prisoner support organisation founded in 1992 as a response to the growth of the Palestinian prison population in Israeli jails. Most Palestinians are arrested in raids by the army between 12 midnight & 4am. They invade a house, split up the family in different rooms, strip search them, destroy property, steal money and computers, blindfold and arrest them with the help of attack dogs. If the arrests are to be made in area A which supposedly the PA controls, the IDF ‘co-ordinates’ with the Palestine Authority. Those arrested can be held for 75 days without charge , 60 of them without a lawyer. Prisoners can be tortured if the IDF believes it will ‘save lives’. Trial is in a military court where there is a 99.74% conviction rate. 12 year olds are tried as adults for throwing a stone. Either private companies or the Palestinian Authority run the jails for Israel funded directly by US aid. The cells are wildly overcrowded, vermin infested and prisoners have to pay for their food and clothes at inflated prices. All in all this is a very profitable Neoliberal prison system.
There is also a system of administrative detention without charge. People can be imprisoned for years and years without even a charge or a trial as long as the order is renewed every 6 months. In the case of one prisoner for 19 years in total all without charge . It is a system aimed at grinding down Palestinians.
The Palestine Authority is utterly complicit in this, providing at best a padded cell for the Palestinians. In fact the PA has just passed the electronic crimes law. It is now illegal to post anything online that threatens the ‘stability’ ( i.e. any criticism) of the so called Palestinian State. As the head of the Advocacy section of Addameer insisted the PA is running an occupation within an occupation. And he concluded ‘Israel and Palestine are one place not two and the Israelis allow the PA to call it Palestine sometimes’.