Sunday, December 30, 2007

Peace and Human-Rights Volunteers needed in Palestine in 2008

•Are you a woman who is interested in working for international justice?

•Are you willing to accompany farmers while they harvest their olives in the fall?

•Do you want to support Palestinian non-violent resistance?

•Are you able to spend two weeks to three months in the rural West Bank?

International Women's Peace Service

The International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) is a team of international women based in Haris, a village in the Salfit governorate of the West Bank, which provides accompaniment to Palestinian civilians, documents and non-violently intervenes in human rights abuses, supports acts of non-violent resistance to end the military occupation of the Palestinian Territories – particularly Palestinian women’s resistance – and opposes the Wall.

Our project is run entirely by long-term and short-term volunteers. We are currently seeking new volunteers who ideally have experience in Palestine and/or with non-violent direct action and political activism in their home countries, as well as some competence in Arabic. Computer and technical skills are also useful. Volunteers are welcome to apply from their home countries or from within Palestine.

The role of IWPS volunteers includes:

•Living and working in a village alongside the Palestinian people, gaining a first-hand understanding of their problems;

•Observing and providing written and photographic documentation of human-rights abuses, both for use of the project and for use in your home country following your term in the house;

•Accompanying farmers to their fields, especially during the olive harvest;

•Responding to emergency calls requiring mediation, intervention or care, in coordination with the house team;

•Providing non-violent intervention in human-rights abuses;

•Engaging in acts of non-violent civil resistance alongside Palestinians, in coordination with the house team;

•Assisting in the development of village profiles in Salfit in order to document the long-term effects of the military occupation;

•Communicating with independent media and international press.

Want to find out more?

You can find out more about IWPS and what we do by viewing our website at, where you may also download our volunteer information kit.

Contact us by email at:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in Occupied Bethlehem

Dear friends and supporters,

The festive season is once again upon us and many of us will be spending time with our loved ones and friends. For many of us, this is a time of reflection and celebration. For those of us who are religious, Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Christ and to celebrate; for those who are not so religious but come from a Christian background, we have been taught that this time of year is a time of joy, celebration of family and renewed hope for our loved ones and people around the world.

During this time, many of us in Australia (whether we are religious or not so religious) will sing songs of joy remembering a little town called Bethlehem on the other side of the world. For many of us, our image of Bethlehem is a peaceful little rural/pastoral village, awash with shepards and sheep. The Bethlehem that we know and imagine is the one we see on the front of Christmas cards or the one we read about in the bible or heard about at church services. Today, however, the real Bethlehem is very different. While it is a town of incredible beauty, it is also a city under siege and occupation.

Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Christ, is also part of Occupied Palestine.

As part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the residents of Bethlehem – both Christian and Muslim – suffer each day under the brutal and illegal Israeli occupation. In Bethlehem, the town of the Christ’s birth, there is no freedom of movement, there are checkpoints and curfews and there are constant invasions by the Israeli military.

In this beautiful city, the Palestinian residents, like their brothers and sisters in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories suffer home invasions and home demolitions, leaving families without shelter or comfort. The residents of Bethlehem –whether Christian or Muslim – like their brothers and sisters in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza – are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without charge or trail. Their brothers, sisters, son and daughters, teenagers and young men and women, their fathers and mothers are taken in the dead of night (and often in broad daylight) to Israeli prisons, where they are interrogated and are often tortured.

Throughout this beautiful city, there is razor wire, steel cages, Israeli occupation soldiers and an ugly concrete apartheid wall, 8 metres high (28 feet) – three times the height of the Berlin Wall, topped with watchtowers and snipers nests - dividing families and communities, stealing land and water resources. The illegal wall, now three quarters built, cuts Bethlehem residents off from 70% of their land.

In Beit Sahour, where Shepard’s Field is located (the place traditionally attributed with where the angels announced to the Shepards the birth of the Christ) thousands of dunams of Palestinian agricultural land has been confiscated and stolen. On some of this land, the Apartheid Wall has been built, the rest of it has been annexed to become part of the illegal Israeli settlements that surround Bethlehem. In the last few weeks, despite all the pomp and ceremony of the Annapolis conference, Israel announced that it would expand the illegal settlement around Bethlehem, such as Har Homa, further.

In the rest of the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, Israel continues to also demolish homes, steal and annex land, carry out mass arrests, restrict freedom of movement, impose curfews and carryout home invasions. In the first two weeks of December alone, more than 30 Palestinian were killed by Israeli occupation forces, while another 34 were injured. Israeli occupation forces also arrested 84 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children, razed 155 dunams of Palestinian agricultural land, invaded and terrorized 41 Palestinian communities in the West Bank and carried out several invasions in the Gaza.

In Gaza, Israel has imposed a total siege, illegally carrying out collective punishment against 1.4 million Palestinian civilians, cutting of their electricity, gas and water supplies.

As a result of the Israel blockade, which has been sanctioned by the US and Europe, Palestinian hospitals are reporting zero stock availability for 90 drugs, including pediatric drugs and anti-biotics, as well as shortages of chronic disease drugs, cancer treatment drugs and kidney dialysis drugs and IV glucose solution. More than 15 patients have died at the Gaza borders due the refusal of Israeli security forces to allow them to access medical treatment in the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan or Israel. Doctors have warned of a looming epidemics of typhoid and hepatitis.

Fuel, which is needed for just about everything, including cooking, running hospitals, schools, purifying, sterilizing and pumping water, running garbage collection trucks, ambulances and ordinary vehicles is increasingly expensive and scarce. 80,00 workers are now jobless, their families going hungry, due to the Israeli blockade which has forced the closure of hundreds of factories in the wood, clothing, food, construction and agricultural industries.

In this season of joy and goodwill to our fellow human beings, please remember the struggle of Palestinian people for human rights, freedom and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In 2008, please consider how you can join the campaign for a free Palestine:

It can be as simple as writing letters to your local paper or your local poltical representative in support of the Palestinian people's right to justice and freedom and/or joining a Palestine solidarity group in your town/city and/or making a donation to aid the Palestinian people under siege in Gaza.

Palestinian Red Crescent Society (Gaza Appeal)

Break the Siege - Free Gaza Campaign

Palestine Relief Fund Australia

You can also become part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign:

Palestine BDS Campaign:

Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott

It could also include considering joining the international struggle by coming to Palestine as part of one of the solidarity organisations based or working in solidarity with the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories (or make a donation to assist their work).

International Women’s Peace Service

International Solidarity Movement

Anarchists Against the Wall

Whatever you chose to do, it DOES make a difference.

Merry Christmas (and Eid Muburak) to all.

For an end to the illegal Israeli occupation and justice and freedom for the Palestinian people in 2008!

in solidarity, Kim

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brothers and Sisters in Struggle: the joint struggle against Israeli apartheid and occupation

Bil'in 2 years of struggle

Four weeks ago, Y, the brother of one of my Israeli friends was shot in the head with a rubber coated steel bullet by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). He was attending the weekly demonstration against the Apartheid Wall and the illegal Israeli occupation in Bil’in village in the Occupied West Bank. Y had marched, along with other peaceful demonstrators, towards the apartheid wall. The IOF, as usual, began to violently attack the peaceful and unarmed demonstrators by firing teargas, sound grenades, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition. Y and a group of others were separated off from the main section of the rally and targeted by the IOF. It was here that an IOF soldier took aim at his head and fired - deliberately, methodically and in violation of IOF regulations and Israeli and international law.

The IOF then began firing a constant barrage of teargas making it impossible for medical aid to get to Y immediately. It was only after sometime that other demonstrators were able to get to him and drag him to safety and to get medical aid for him and two others (both Palestinians) who had also been shot by the IOF in the leg and thighs.

My friend’s brother is not the first person to be shot or injured by the IOF at Bil’in or in the OPT. Every week, the IOF open fire on peaceful demonstrators throughout the Occupied West Bank and Gaza. Every week, the IOF shoot, with impunity, unarmed Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza. Every week, they take directly take aim at innocent people, in direct violation of not only international law but also Israeli military regulations and Israel state law.

Demonstration at Bil'in

In 2000, a report issued by the Israeli based Physicians for Human Rights revealed that the IOF consistently violated their own regulations on a regular basis. According to IOF regulations, a solider must only use a weapon in the event of immediate "danger to life," and when it is impossible to effectively defend one's self from the assailant other than by the use of the weapon. In their report, PHR noted that the IOF “used live ammunition and rubber bullets excessively and inappropriately to control demonstrators, and that based on the high number of documented injuries to the head and thighs, soldiers appear to be shooting to inflict harm, rather than solely in self-defense”.

PHR's analysis of fatal gun shot wounds in Gaza revealed that approximately 50% were to the head revealing that IOF soldiers were specifically aiming at peoples' heads. In addition, PHR noted that there were numerous head and eye injuries as a result of “rubber and rubber coated steel projectiles” [ie. Rubber coated bullets] revealing the “frequent misuse of these weapons, such as firing at a range of less than 40 meters and firing at the upper part of the body”. PHR went on to note that events on the ground revealed that the IOF were not following their own regulations. Instead, they were “allowing soldiers to fire when they are not acting solely in self-defense”. PHR noted that while the IOF could construe stone throwing, for example, as a “danger to life”, regulations state that soldiers must only use weapons to strike the assailant and not others, and should not cause loss of life to others or grave bodily harm. IOF regulations also prohibit soldiers from opening fire on and towards women and children.

According to PHR, while the IOF use pure rubber bullets or “non-lethal” weapons for riot control against Jewish citizens in Israeli, it use “rubber coated steel bullets” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These rubber coated steel bullets can be just as lethal as live ammunition. While there have been no deaths reported as a result of pure rubber bullets, there have been dozens of deaths recorded in the OPT, as a result of “rubber coated steel bullets”.

Y was lucky.

The rubber coated steel bullet, while penetrating and fracturing his skull, did not penetrate deeply enough to kill him, He has, however, continued to suffer debilitating headaches, nightmares and post-traumatic stress. Despite all of this, Y is determined to go back to Bil’in. He is determined to rejoin the non-violent demonstrations. He is determined to oppose the occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinian people that is being carried out by the Israeli government in his name.

My friend K, along with his brother Y, are just two of the many hundreds of Israelis, both young and old, who have taken a stance against their government and the illegal and brutal Israel occupation. They are just two of the young Israelis, who each and every week go to the Occupied Territories choosing to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The solidarity between the Palestinian residents of Bil’in village, internationals and the anti-occupation and anti-Zionist Israelis who each week trekked to the village has become an inspiring model for joint popular struggle, not only in Palestine but also around the world. The importance of this joint struggle was recounted by Basel Mansour, one of the leaders of the struggle against the wall in Bil’in. In speech in September to mark the Bil’in’s partial victory of succeeding in getting the Israeli high court to move a small section of the wall, Mansour praised their Israeli partners in the struggle saying:

“You came to us without considering the consequences -- the Zionist occupational government attempts to implant the deceptive and distorted idea that the Palestinians are your enemy and want to kill you. By way of this shared journey, we proved the opposite and together we demonstrated the truth -- that Israelis can stand beside Palestinians and live with them in peace and security, and even struggle with them against injustice and occupation, on the fundamental basis that this occupation is an enemy of humanity”.

You succeeded in overcoming the army's roadblocks in order to arrive here through a difficult mountainous path and were vulnerable to its shooting attacks. In this way many of you were wounded by bullets that originated from the unmerciful occupation army -- and not from Palestinians, who the occupation attempts to distort and portray as vicious animals that want to devour Israelis or throw them into the sea.

You were braver than your fearful government. You participated in the struggle actively and in every way -- morally, physically, in the courts and in the media. In the battlefield, you were on the frontlines, calling with us for freedom, in your belief that only the manifestation of justice will guarantee the creation of peace and security for our two peoples, and not the building of walls and the expanding of weapons warehouses.

You have been real partners -- awake with us late at night, in confronting the almost daily invasions of village homes by the army; together with us you opposed many attempts to arrest, and you yourselves were injured and arrested -- and you conveyed the true picture to the Israeli society. You disputed the positions of the government and the army in every arena -- until the entire world was a witness to this special connection that was created on the land of Bil'in, that united the conversation and the meeting between cultures, creeds and religions. A connection like this must be victorious, history must immortalize it.

Honorable audience, one of the biggest difficulties in this campaign was how to organize and manage the connection with the Israelis in solidarity, after the Palestinian people have always suffered injustice from the Zionist occupation. This was done while Palestinians aspire to lives of freedom, respect, and culture, and the mobilization of the most amount of Israelis possible and international representatives to stand up to the injustice. Once the Israelis in solidarity understood all of this, they became dedicated to the work and became real warriors that earned the trust of all. They contributed much by revealing the true face of the occupation -- its tactics, its lies and its organized terror against Palestinians -- in opposition to those that attempt to normalize and whitewash the occupation.

These people were always willing to take upon themselves whatever was asked of them by the Popular Committee, and more than this, often taking the initiative, offering ideas and suggestions. In this way, they demonstrated that they were true fighters -- not only fans or friends, or cogs in the machine of the occupation. They are heroes in the nonviolent campaign of the brave”.

(the full text of speech can be found at:

Bil'in Victory Celebration, September 2007

For the past two and half years, the villagers of Bil’in and their Israeli partners have been one in their struggle against apartheid and occupation. Today, they continue their struggle. Not only in Bil’in but they have now mounted a new joint campaign which has become known as “443”.

This campaign is an audacious attempt to highlight the apartheid nature of the Israeli state by blocking and shutting down illegal Israeli bypass roads.

443 is just one of the Israeli bypass roads. It runs between the city of Lod, through the occupied West Bank, connecting Lod to a number of the illegal Israeli settlements built in the Occupied West Bank and eventually to Jerusalem. On this busy highway, only Israeli plated cars are allowed to travel. No green plated vehicles allowed! (Israelis have yellow plated cars, while Palestinians from the OPT must use green plated cars, similarly Israelis carry blue ids, while Palestinians carry green ids). These roads are usually are constructed as overpass roads above Palestinian roads and Palestinians are prevented from traveling on them, supposedly in the name of “security”.

Bypass roads such as 443 are constructed on stolen Palestinian lands, where Palestinian olive and fruit groves and villages once stood. These ancient groves and villages are destroyed in order for the apartheid road to be built.

In late October, the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and the International Solidarity Movement and other internationals joined forces again with the Palestinian leaders of the anti-wall and anti-apartheid struggle in Bil’in. They along with Palestinians from surround villages began the first action in their new campaign – to shut down 443 for the first time. Armed with the element of surprise and carrying a long pipe barrier with the wording “Caution Apartheid Road”, more than 70 demonstrators were able to make it onto the apartheid road close it down for an hour or more.

443 Demonstration - 25 October 2007

Despite being attacked by the IOF and Israeli border police, the demonstrators were jubilant. Over the next few weeks, word spread around the villages near 443 and more and more people came to join the Internationals, Israelis and Palestinians from Bil’in village.

Three weeks after the first demonstration, I was able to make it to 443. On the day I attended more than 120 peaceful demonstrators came to participate - the majority from the surrounding Palestinian villages. This time, however, we did not have the element of surprise and as we marched to bypass road amongst a sea of Palestinian flags, the IOF were already stationed at the entrances leading up to the highway. Barbwire and barriers had been erected to prevent us accessing the bypass road above us. Many of the demonstrators remained at the road blocks determined to confront the IOF. After some time, the IOF dressed in military riot gear began advancing on the demonstration. As I looked up to the bypass road, I could see Israeli snipers with their guns trained on us. Some of the IOF began to pick up rocks and began to hurl them down at us. Some of the young Palestinian men came to check if myself and the Israeli activists were okay. We assured them that we were.

As we fell back to the tunnel that ran under the apartheid highway, the IOF began firing of more teargas and sound bombs. The noise was deafening as it echoed through the tunnel. As I approached the tunnel cautiously, I could see teams of IOF soldiers running up the hillsides, weapons raised, hunting the young unarmed teenagers who had joined the demonstration to demand an end to the occupation of their homeland. We paused as the soldiers ran by. They ignored us, to intent on finding their young quarry. As I made my way into the village, a local woman welcomed me and asked me to come up on to her balcony, worried that I would not be safe on the street. It is always hard to refuse Palestinian hospitality, but even more so in situations like this. So from her balcony, I could see the IOF gathering and the Israeli anarchists arguing with them.

I soon discovered that a young boy from the village had been detained, along with one of the Israeli activists. For an hour, the IOF and the Israeli anti-occupation activists refused to budge, each holding their ground. The activists attempting to negotiate the release of the two detainees more worried about the young Palestinian boy as they knew that the situation would be more dire for the young boy, then for their comrade. As this took place, the sound grenades and tear gas exploded through out the village behind me. The IOF continued to terrorise the village, despite the fact they were in absolutely no danger.

443 demonstration - 23 November 2007

After an hour and half, it was agreed that the Israeli activist and the young Palestinian boy would be released but they would have to be first taken to a nearby settlement. As the detainees were driven away in the border police jeeps, the Palestinians and the Israeli activists made final plans for the day and for upcoming actions.

Over the next few months the campaign around 443 will intensify, bringing more and more Palestinians and Israelis into joint struggle together. This more than anything else is a threat to the Israeli Zionist state. Israelis and Palestinians working collective, with respect and in solidarity with each other is a powerful weapon, one that the Israeli state tries repeatedly to undermine through fear campaigns and demonisation of the Palestinian people.

It is in this joint struggle that the real seeds of peace can be found. Real peace will come not through the machinations of Olmert and the Israeli state or by Abbas and the selling out of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance. It will only come when Israeli apartheid and occupation ends and justice for the Palestinian people is enacted. Real peace will not be found in the hollow words bleated at Annapolis or Sharm el Shaik or at any of the other fake peace festivals. The real seeds of peace are being planted today in the fertile lands in Bil’in, Umm Sulummuna and elsewhere throughout the West Bank, where the Palestinian people and Israeli anti-occupation and anti-Zionist activists come together, as brothers and sisters in struggle. As the joint Israeli and Palestinian struggle for justice and human rights flourish, so will the prospects for a real just peace.